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Well Deserved

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
LAS VEGAS, NV – Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma wasn’t the only person nervously anticipating the announcement of the Jack Adams Award winner as NHL coach of the year at the 2011 NHL Awards in Las Vegas.

“I think it was tougher thinking about how disappointed my son would be if they didn't say ‘Dan Bylsma,’” he said, referring to his son Bryan.

Fortunately for Bryan and his father, presenter Donny Osmond announced that Bylsma was indeed the 2011 Jack Adams Award winner.

“It was a little nerve racking for my first chance to get an award of this magnitude,” Bylsma, 40, said. “It’s an honor to receive the award. There wasn’t enough time to thank the media. I know the media has voted on this one, so it’s a privilege and quite an honor.”

Bylsma poses with his newly-acquired hardware. (Credit - Getty Images)
Bylsma, who led the Penguins to a Stanley Cup championship in 2009, oversaw one of the most successful seasons in Penguins’ history despite facing severely adverse circumstances. Pittsburgh suffered 350 man-games lost due to injury, including 119 from the team’s top-three offensive scorers in Sidney Crosby (41 games), Evgeni Malkin (39) and Jordan Staal (39).

Despite the decimated roster, Bylsma steered the Penguins to a 49-25-8 overall record, 106 points and home-ice advantage in the first round. Pittsburgh’s 49 wins and 106 points were both the second-best marks in franchise history.

“This award is really just an indication of what the players did and what our team did throughout the year, throughout that adversity, and fashioned our team into what was still a very good team,” Bylsma said.

Bylsma, who edged out fellow finalists Alain Vigneault of Vancouver and Barry Trotz of Nashville, will now have his named etched alongside NHL greats Scotty Bowman, Pat Quinn, Pat Burns, Glen Sather, and of course, Fred Shero, the original winner and late father of Penguins general manager Ray Shero.

“I actually heard that Ray was trying to downplay me to the media to keep his dad as the only winner that he knew,” Bylsma joked. “But looking back at the names and seeing some of the other coaches and seeing that it did start with Fred Shero, I was hoping to be able to get my name on there and be a part of that history dating back to when Ray Shero was about a 10-year-old boy.

Bylsma onstage accepting his award. (Credit - Getty Images)
“I looked at the names and looked at the coaches that have won multiple awards. Pat Quinn is on there. That one struck a nerve with his great career as a coach. Scotty Bowman is on there. But going back to Fred Shero, it did bring a smile to see the history and a lot of pride and humility seeing the other coaches that have won this award. And now that my name will be next to them, it’s pretty humbling and special.”

Coach of the year has become a trending instance in the Penguins organization. John Hynes, head coach of Pittsburgh’s top minor-league affiliate, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, won the Louis A.R. Pieri Award as the American Hockey League’s outstanding coach this past season. Hynes earned the honor in just his first season as a professional head coach.

On Wednesday, the Penguins became the first organization to boast both the NHL and AHL coach of the year since 1992, when Toronto’s Pat Quinn and St. John’s Marc Crawford won the acclaim for the Maple Leafs organization.

Bylsma began his coaching career just seven years ago and he’s already won a Stanley Cup, a Jack Adams Award and has become one of the most successful coaches in Penguins history.

So what’s left for him to accomplish?

“Well, I look at Scotty Bowman and see his handful of rings, and I still think there’s a lot to do,” Bylsma said. “It’s such a challenge every day with the team and the players. It’s been seven years since I started coaching but it feels like it’s gone by in a flash. It’s exciting. It’s invigorating. I have a lot of energy and passion to keep it going, so I’m going to try to prove to you that there is more to do.”


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