From tilted-head looks with eyes somewhat crossed at a questioner stating the obvious, to answering a radio reporter’s question with a non-verbal answer, the new coach in town has a way of keeping those around him on their toes – and you know he knows it – and loves it.
Dan Bylsma is now 15 games into to his “new gig” as head coach of the Buffalo Sabres and from this vantage point, it’s been a lot of fun.
Of course the beauty of this game and this job (and sometimes being behind the scenes) is seeing how others are viewing what you are viewing.
Take Rob Ray for example. He played for six different head coaches during his NHL playing career and has now witnessed a few more as an analyst. He also has a pretty good perspective of it all since he’s parked between the benches for almost every game.
Here’s what he’s seeing from Dan Bylsma in the early stages of this season:
- He cares. Pulling Linus Ullmark at home versus Tampa Bay after only one period was not easy. But he wanted to make it very clear that the goalie knew – and the team knew – why the move was being made.
- His communication during the game is exceptional. He’s constantly coaching to guys on the ice and on the bench. And that verbal instruction – helping players learn the game as you are going through it – is so valuable.
- His ability to fire players up and calm players almost simultaneously is another skill.
- If it’s not working, change it. Clearly his willingness to change lines means he’s not going to sit around and hope that guys are going to figure it out. And an important skill that helps make these transitions smoother is his impressive ability to read which players are “going” early on, especially those in his bottom six among the forwards.
- And he’s using his whole bench. A perfect example was in Brooklyn: Sam Reinhart was on the fourth line, but he wasn’t going to end up with 4:27 of ice-time. Instead, it was closer to 10 and he scored the game-winning goal.
I wish I could tell you how many times he’s made us laugh in his daily media sessions to date. But not necessarily because of something he said. Sometimes his non-verbal expressions have been his best.
Take a moment to take a look back at how it all began for Dan Bylsma on the first day of Training Camp in our latest episode of "Beyond Blue & Gold."