Dan Bylsma has a pretty simple philosophy in life, as well as work.
“I’m a passionate person and energetic person,” Bylsma said. “I believe you need commitment, passion and a high energy level. That’s how I approach life. We have a great challenge that we should enjoy. We should bring all that energy to the rink (Monday).”
Bylsma, who was named Penguins interim head coach Sunday, will be behind the bench for Pittsburgh’s matchup with the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Monday at 2 p.m.
General manager Ray Shero tapped Bylsma to take over the Penguins, who are five points behind the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, and lead the club to a postseason berth.
“That’s our goal,” Shero said. “It’s been uphill battle. This is a resilient group. I’m looking for Dan to come in with the coaches here to rally the troops. We’re looking to make some progress here and make a push. “
“To have an opportunity to coach a team with this much talent and this much possibility is a great chance for me,” Bylsma said. “I look at the players and the roster and I look at a group that can win games right now. We need to do that starting (Monday) on the Island. We can do this but the players have to believe that we can do this. That’s the approach that we’ll take.”
Bylsma, who played nine NHL season with Los Angeles and Anaheim from 1995-2004, joined the organization in the 2006-07 season as an assistant to Todd Richards in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Penguins' American Hockey League affiliate. Bylsma assisted the Baby Penguins to a 98-49-5-8 record, an AHL East Division and Eastern Conference championships and a Calder Cup Final appearance in the past two seasons.
When Richards accepted a job as an assistant coach with the San Jose Sharks, Bylsma became his successor.
“I’ve seen his work in Wilkes-Barre and we’ve been fortunate to have great coaches come up from there,” Shero said. “Dan is a very bright guy. He is very good with the players, demanding, firm and a guy that’s fair. I’m excited for him and the opportunity. I’m thankful for him to do this on an interim basis and let's see where this takes us.”
Bylsma, 38, was in the midst of his first season as head coach of the Baby Penguins. He led the team to a 35-16-1-2 record, including an active eight-game winning streak. That all changed when he received a phone call from Shero.
“I got a call from Ray and he wanted to talk on my office phone,” Bylsma said. “That five minutes was a whirlwind. I want to be a coach. I’ve had some good mentors. I anticipated being a head coach in the National Hockey League. I’m looking forward to letting the guys get out the door and playing a passionate game and seeing what they can do.”
So for now, Bylsma’s only focus is putting together a strong finish and getting the Penguins into the playoffs. And he believes that the team has the talent to get there.
“Teams should be forced to deal with our speed and skill and we need to be an aggressive group,” Bylsma said. “With the strengths we have, we should be able to go into buildings and make teams deal with the quality of players we have at every position. We’re going to try to get the guys on their toes and going, bringing passion and work ethic to game. If we focus on playing back to our strength and get away from the situation it’s been for a while here, you’ll see a team that can compete and be a contending team.”