Last season the Penguins suffered 350 man-games lost – including missing significant players like Sidney Crosby
(41), Evgeni Malkin
(39) and Jordan Staal
(39). Despite having a depleted lineup, the Pens finished tied in points for the Atlantic Division title, thanks to the enormous efforts of two men: head coach Dan Bylsma and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury
Fleury was named Team MVP – and was arguably the NHL MVP – after recording 36 wins, .918 save percentage and 2.32 goals-against average while carrying the team. Bylsma steered the club to 49 wins and 106 points (both ranking second in franchise history) while being named the NHL Coach of the Year (Jack Adams).
Both men received additional honors Sunday, as Fleury and Bylsma were named co-winners of the 2011 Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year award.
“I’m very flattered,” Fleury said. “I’m very happy. There has been a lot of great athletes from Pittsburgh (to win the award). It’s definitely an honor to get it.”
The Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year award, which will be presented March 12, 2012, is Pittsburgh’s oldest and most prestigious award with past winners like Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, coach Bob Johnson, Sidney Crosby
(twice) and Evgeni Malkin
“The history of the award is truly amazing with the likes of Arnold Palmer, Mario Lemieux and some other great athletes,” Bylsma said. “It’s a pretty special award and I’m pretty honored to be winning with Marc-Andre.”
Bylsma was the leader on the bench who provided a calm resolve for his team. But the players have to execute. And Bylsma says its only right that he share the award with the team’s MVP of last season.
“It’s fitting that at least one player gets it with me considering we had last year with some of the injuries that we had and our team playing well together,” he said. “Marc-Andre, our team MVP, really buoyed us in that run of games without ‘Sid’ and ‘Geno.’ It’s fitting to have a player up there with me.”
“You can see with Dan winning it too, I think that says a lot about our team,” Fleury said. “It’s a team sport. We have to do it together for the guys to get success.”
Fleury is having another team MVP-type season on the current campaign. The Stanley Cup-winning netminder has appeared in a personal-best 20 straight games while posting a 24-12-2 record, .914 save percentage, 2.24 goals-against average and two shutouts.
And once again, Bylsma is leading the team through the adversity of losing 240 man-games to injury and a six-game losing streak. The club has turned their season around and won its last five games.
As custom, the two will have to give a speech at the event, something Fleury is not looking forward to.
“I’m looking forward to the night, but not talking,” he said. “Dan’s really good at talking though so I’ll just hand him the mic.”
“I’m not totally going to let him do that,” Bylsma joked. “But I do think I’ll have a little fun with Marc-Andre up there. Maybe a little French/English we’ll do up there.”