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GM Shero fired by Penguins; Bylsma coach for now

by Wes Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins fired general manager Ray Shero on Friday but have retained coach Dan Bylsma, Penguins president David Morehouse announced Friday during a press conference at Consol Energy Center.

Assistant general manager Jason Botterill was named interim GM, and Morehouse said he is a candidate for the full-time position. The announcement came three days after the Penguins were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Second Round after holding a 3-1 series lead.

Morehouse said the search for a new GM has begun, but Pittsburgh is not specifically targeting anyone other than Botterill. The new GM will evaluate Bylsma and the rest of the coaching staff before a decision is made on their future in Pittsburgh, Morehouse said.


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"The new GM will be charged with overseeing and revamping our hockey operations with the goal of returning the team to championship form," Morehouse said. "Part of his initial duties will be to evaluate our hockey operations department, including the coaching staff, and make decisions in the best interest of the franchise moving forward.

"Our ownership group led by Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle felt that it was time to move the franchise in a new direction. Like our fans, they have been very disappointed with our early exits from the playoffs. They made this decision because we believe new leadership can help us get back on track to achieve our goal of winning the Stanley Cup."

The Penguins were eliminated by a lower-seeded team for the fifth consecutive season since winning the 2009 Stanley Cup, which was the reasoning behind the decision.

"We feel it is time to move our franchise in a new direction," Lemieux and Burkle said in a joint statement. "We share the disappointment of our fans that we have not had success in the playoffs over the past five seasons. We believe that new leadership in the general manager's office will bring a new approach and new energy, and help us return to championship form."

Morehouse said upper management was "constantly evaluating the organization" and ownership made the decision after the season ended Tuesday to fire Shero. Morehouse said the Penguins do not think a full rebuild is necessary for them to return to the Stanley Cup Final.

"We've had success in the regular season. We have a good team," Morehouse said. "This is a lot different than a team that needs to have a complete overhaul and a revamping, that has missed the playoffs for consecutive years. We're a team that's a good team that has high expectations and want to get better."

Morehouse said there is no time frame to hire a general manager. He said he would like to make the decision quickly but is comfortable with Botterill handling things through the 2014 NHL Draft, which will be held June 27-28.

"We want to do it as quickly as possible to have the new GM to do the evaluation process as fast as we can, but we're not going to rush it because of the draft," Morehouse said. "With Jason Botterill and with our scouting staff in place and [assistant to the general manager] Tom Fitzgerald, we have a group in place that can take care of us for the draft."

Shero replaced Craig Patrick as GM in May 2006. Under his guidance the Penguins qualified for the playoffs in eight straight seasons, won two Eastern Conference titles and the 2009 Stanley Cup. Shero became known for his aggressive approach to the NHL Trade Deadline, which resulted in him acquiring Marian Hossa, Bill Guerin and Jarome Iginla, among others.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Penguins had the second-best record in the NHL during Shero's tenure as GM (373-193-56), trailing the San Jose Sharks (371-179-72).

"Ray Shero is a good person who has run the Penguins with class and dignity and made many positive contributions to the Pittsburgh community," Morehouse said. "Ray led us to the Stanley Cup in 2009 and will always be part of the Penguins' history and the Penguins' family because of that achievement.

"We thank Ray for his work and we wish him and his family nothing but the best."

One of Shero's biggest moves was replacing coach Michel Therrien with Bylsma late in the 2008-09 season. Bylsma was in his first season as a coach at any level, with the Penguins' American Hockey League team, when he was promoted. He guided the Penguins to 18 wins in their final 25 games then to their third Stanley Cup.

In his five full seasons, Pittsburgh never finished lower than second in its division, and he won the Jack Adams Award as the League's top coach in 2011. The Penguins have won three playoff series since winning the Cup.

In 401 regular-season games, Bylsma is 252-117-32. He is 43-35 in 78 Stanley Cup Playoff games but 27-27 since winning the Cup.

Ownership made the decision to replace the GM before deciding on further changes, which means Bylsma remains with Pittsburgh but it is not certain if he will be the coach at the beginning of the 2014-15 season.

"We have not fired Dan Bylsma," Morehouse said. "I don't think there's an element of weirdness. What we're trying to do, we're trying to do it systematically, and what we wanted to do is first address the situation at the top and the leader of the organization, that is the general manager.

"This is not a complete rebuild. This is a team that has had a level of success. What we're trying to do is get from good to great."

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