Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Dan Bylsma should win Coach of the Millenium

If you disagree, Mr. Bylsma would like to have a word with you.

When Dan Bylsma took over the tenth-place Penguins in 2009 and lead them to a Stanley Cup Championship, fans coined the phrase "Byls-magic" to describe the teams tremendous turnaround.

That was completely retarded. There's nothing particularly "magical" about winning a Stanley Cup when you have players the likes of Crosby, Malkin and Fleury along with supporting cast members like Orpik, Gonchar, Staal, Kunitz, et al. Superstars that play in a system that maximizes their talent usually end up winning a few of these things.

The fact that Bylsma has this Penguin team, who have played long stretches this season without Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Chris Kunitz, Brooks Orpik, Mike Comrie, Arron Asham, Mark Letestu, Eric Godard, etc; two points back of the Flyers for first place in the division and first in the East: THAT'S magical.

One can point to the 1302477093 straight games that the Penguins won in November-December as the main reason for the Penguins being in the position they are now, and it's a pretty decent argument. However, the fact that the Penguins have a winning record without Crosby and Malkin (and were it not for a couple of overtime heartbreaks, that record would be even better) proves that Bylsma's system, as a whole, works. He's got his players believing that they can win no matter who is missing from the lineup. Once Crosby and Malkin went down, this team could have packed up and called it a season, and no one would have blamed them. Hell, a lot of people expected it.

Yet here we are. 260 plus man games lost later (and Crosby's should count double). Not only are we still in the picture, we're fielding a team that others don't want to meet in a seven game series.

Lead by Bylsma, this bunch of fill-ins, cast-offs and nobodies (key cogs like Mark Letestu and Chris Connor weren't even drafted, and 22 defensemen were taken ahead of Norris candidate Kris Letang) have recaptured the hearts of Penguin fans by exemplifying what Pittsburghers pride themselves on: fighting through adversity with guts and determination, only to come out stronger on the other side. Is this Penguin team as fun to watch as they were in November? No. But are they more relatable? No doubt. Who didn't feel an immense satisfaction when Dustin Jeffrey, who has been back and forth from Wilkes-Barre so often this year that Ray Shero has his name on speed dial, smoked the Bruins in overtime? Who didn't throw a Jersey Shore fist-pump when Tyler Kennedy buried the Avalanche with an OT goal of his own?

This team can do damage in the playoffs for one reason: they want it more than other teams. In a season unlike any in recent memory, Coach B has instilled an insatiable hunger in the belly of this team.

And I certainly wouldn't want to be on the menu.

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