Over a year ago, following a splurge of high profile trades which loaded up the team for a Stanley Cup run, the Penguins' motto was "all in."
Today, it could be changed to "all out" ... some in?
The Penguins today fired general manager in the wake of a second-round playoff exit to the Rangers and a fifth consecutive playoff season which failed to result in a Stanley Cup title. Head coach Dan Bylsma and the coaching staff have been retained. Earlier reports from various media outlets including the Post-Gazette had reported Bylsma was fired as well.
Speaking with media today, team president David Morehouse said the new general manager would evaluate the head coaching position as well as all aspects of the franchise's hockey operations.
A replacement for Shero have not been named. Assistant general manager Jason Botterill will assume the general manager duties on an interim basis. Botterill is a candidate to assume the full-time position.
Hired in the spring of 2006 to succeed Craig Patrick, Shero took over a team filled with potential but short on results a year after the 2004-05 lockout ushered in a salary cap for a franchise struggling to compete with team possessing deeper pockets. Within a year, he turned a lottery team into a playoff contender. Within two years, he turned them into a Stanley Cup contender. Within three years, he turned them into a Stanley Cup champion.
In his eight seasons, Shero oversaw 622 regular season games had a 373-193-56 record and directed the Penguins to the Stanley Cup in 2009. He was named the league's general manager of the year in 2013.
Part of that success in 2009 was due to the promotion of Dan Bylsma in February of that season. Replacing former head coach Michel Therrien on an interim basis, Bylsma took over a club struggling to stay in the playoff race. When Bylsma took over the team, it was in 10th place of the Eastern Conference. When the regular season ended, they were in fourth place. When the postseason ended, they were standing on the ice of Detroit's Joe Louis Arena celebrating with Stanley Cup.
In the following five seasons, the Penguins rolled through the regular season with a a level of success the franchise had never seen. But in each of the following five seasons, the Penguins were eliminated by lower-seeded opponents.
The final straw - for Shero at least - was the team's loss to the Rangers in Game 7 of their second-round series despite holding a 3-1 series lead at one point.
Bylsma holds virtually every coaching record of note for the franchise. Having coached exactly 400 regular season game, he has a 252-117-32 mark. In 78 postseason game, he has a 43-35 record. In 2011, he won the Jack Adams Award as the league's top coach.
EN Says: This is ... unexpected.
It seemed like today was going to be a pretty clean sweep. Both Shero and Bylsma seemed destined to be relieved of their duties. Actually, if anything, Bylsma seemed more likely to lose his job than Shero.
"The new GM will be charged with overseeing and revamping our hockey operations with the goal of returning the team to championship form. Part of his initial duties will be to evaluate our entire hockey operations department including the coaching staff and make decisions in the best interest of the coaching staff moving forward."
When pressed about why Bylsma was not fired, Morehouse explained:
"What we're trying to do is we're trying to do it systematically. What we wanted to do is first address the situation at the top and the leader of the organization is the general manager. .... It's not a complete rebuild. This is a team a team which has had a level of success. What we're trying to do is get from good to great. We're in the top quarter of the league in everything we do. A lot of teams would like to be where were are. However, we do have high expectations and we want to get to it. We don't need to just clean house right away. We think we can do this systematically and we can make adjustments and we can get where we need to get. "
The firing of Bylsma may be academic. A new general manager, even if it's Botterill, may immediately dismiss him and his staff in order to bring in his own coaching staff. Regardless, retaining Bylsma, even if it's temporary, does not benefit in terms of trying to find a new job around the NHL if he is eventually fired. Life's not fair and this lack of a move isn't fair for Bylsma as well as any other staff members who may be fired.
That said, Bylsma's situation might not be as dire as it seems. The Post-Gazette's Gene Collier tweeted this:
Just asked Mario Lemieux if there was chance Dan Bylsma could keep his job: "Certainly," said #Penguins owner, "that why we didn't fire him— Gene Collier (@genecollier) May 16, 2014
Regarding Shero, the team had clearly slipped from the level it was at in 2009. It failed to advance beyond a conference final in the five subsequent seasons after winning the Stanley Cup.
The team has failed to draft or develop much up front at the forward position during his time as general manager. Additionally, the team's salary cap forced Shero to find cheaper alternatives for supporting roles while star players accounted for more and more of the team's payroll. Often times, those cheaper alternatives did not offer the same impact as their predecessors.
This offseason was bound to be interesting. Today, it got a tad bewildering.
(Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)