ETOBICOKE, Ont. -- With a Stanley Cup ring on his finger and a Jack Adams Award on his resume, you'd figure that of all people, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma wouldn't be the one that in August is bothering with 17-year-old prospects and rule changes that may never see the light of day.
But that's just the thing with Bylsma -- coaching kids and testing out new ideas is not a bother to him even now, when his free time is dwindling as NHL training camp nears.
He eagerly helped out the coaches at the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. last week and is just as happy to be here this week coaching prospects and challenging his mind at the 2011 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp.
"When you don't go as far in the playoffs as you might like or you have in the past, you're not as protective of your downtime. This summer, downtime was a little bit too long for my taste and to give up some days in August is more than acceptable." --Dan Bylsma
"When you don't go as far in the playoffs as you might like or you have in the past, you're not as protective of your downtime," Bylsma told NHL.com Wednesday. "This summer, downtime was a little bit too long for my taste and to give up some days in August is more than acceptable."
Going to Lake Placid was a no-brainer for Bylsma, who has been looking forward to working with USA Hockey in any capacity ever since he was a player. He wasn't good enough then, but now he's one of the brightest American coaches around.
"For me, there is a great deal of passion and energy and I get jacked up about going to Lake Placid and being with those kids," he said. "And it was the first time for me to wear the USA Hockey on my jacket. I took it home and I'll be wearing it proudly."
Penguins GM Ray Shero told NHL.com that Bylsma was asking him a lot of questions about how to get involved with USA Hockey when he came to the Pittsburgh organization as a minor league coach. Shero, who helped Brian Burke select the Team USA roster for the 2010 Olympics, spoke about Bylsma with USA Hockey executive Jim Johansson.
"He had him on the radar," Shero told NHL.com. "And now, of course, they've got him involved."
Bylsma is eyeing the Olympics in 2014 -- provided the NHL allows its players to attend in Sochi, Russia, he wants to be the head coach.
2011 NHL RDO CAMP
Experiments look to restore power to PP
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"I'd be more than willing to be a part of a staff, but my goal isn't just to be a part of a staff," Bylsma said with a smile. "At least, the written goal is not just to be part of the staff."
He probably never had a written goal to be a coach at a Research, Development and Orientation Camp, but he signed on for that one because, well, why not?
Bylsma is here this week cutting his coaching chops by guiding 36 of the top 17-year-olds in North America as they test out various rule changes in front of a cadre of hockey's most important executives. The potential changes being looked at here are forcing Bylsma to use his experience and knowledge in order to find ways manipulate the rules so they can play to his team's advantage.
"There are things we want to try to get better at and things we want to investigate, so our summers are spent doing that," Bylsma said. "That Junior Camp and this RDO Camp is an opportunity for me to coach at different levels, coach in different situations and try to learn a little something and get better.
"For example, I would have pulled the goalie with three and a half minutes left if I could have gotten him off. Why? Just to do it. It's not really standard operating procedure in the National Hockey League, but I've done homework on it, I've ready statistical analysis on pulling the goalie and I would have liked to get him off the ice much earlier than I would have if this were an NHL game."
After a few minutes of talking to him, it became obvious that Bylsma's mind was racing with other ideas as well. In fact, it was his idea to pull his goalie late in the second period when his team went on a power play.
The reason? In that particular session, the team on the penalty kill was prohibited from legally icing the puck.
Bylsma took the risk that a two-man advantage would give his team plenty of attack time without the fear that the opposing team would be looking to score the home run goal. After all, if the shorthanded team missed the net, it would end up coming back as a faceoff in their end.
It backfired when one of Bylsma's players fell down, creating a 2-on-1 and an easy shorthanded goal into the empty net.
"We had a guy fall down and so on, but having watched it once, I'd try it again," Bylsma said. "If in the third period you need a goal, I think I would do it for sure. That's a situation where you can stretch the thought process and try different things that you just don't get the opportunity to do in an NHL game."
Bylsma also usually doesn't get to trade stories and maybe even some tactics with another NHL head coach like he is doing this week with Phoenix's Dave Tippett. He rarely gets to be around all of the power brokers in the game, including various League and club personnel, all the way up to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
Plus, as Shero pointed out, Bylsma should have a unique take on some of the rules changes being tested because he will be in the dressing room or on the bench with the players as they talk about what it was like to play under the rules.
"I'm pretty sure he'll hear it when kids come off talking about the rules. He'll hear what they think and know what happened," Shero said. "For instance, the guys that get tired during 3-on-3 in overtime and there is an offsides and they can't change off, how do they feel about that? It's really good to get that feedback directly because last year I came back and said, 'Here is what they did.' To have him be hands on is good.
"It's beneficial for Dan, it's beneficial for the Penguins and it's beneficial to me."