The Pittsburgh Penguins fired general manager Ray Shero on Friday, but have kept on head coach Dan Bylsma for the time being. The decision was made after the New York Rangers eliminated the Penguins from the second round of the playoffs despite being down in the series 3-1.
During Shero’s tenure as GM, the Penguins had the second-best record in the NHL (373-193-56) just behind the San Jose Sharks (371-179-72). Shero acquired big name players Marian Hossa, Bill Guerin, and Jarome Iginla at the trade deadline, qualified for the playoffs for eight straight seasons, earned two eastern conference titles, and won the Stanley Cup in 2009.
But sometimes being “good” just isn’t “good enough.”
Since winning the Stanley Cup in 2009, the Penguins have been eliminated from the post-season by a lower seeded team for five consecutive years. This is unacceptable considering that they have two of the world’s best players – Sydney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin – locked into their system for the next eight to ten seasons.
The Penguins have the makings of an elite hockey club, but they are missing that final piece that will put them back on track as a serious cup contender.
“We’ve had success in the regular season. We have a good team,” said Penguins president David Morehouse. “This is a lot different than a team that needs to have a complete overhaul and a revamping, that has missed the playoffs for consecutive years. We’re a team that’s a good team that has high expectations and want to get better.”
The Penguins have named former assistant general manager Jason Botterill as interim GM during this transitional period. Botterill is a candidate for the full-time position, and will lead the team heading into the 2014 NHL draft.
“We want to do it as quickly as possible to have the new GM to do the evaluation process as fast as we can, but we’re not going to rush it because of the draft,” Morehouse said. “With Jason Botterill and with our scouting staff in place and [assistant to the general manager] Tom Fitzgerald, we have a group in place that can take care of us for the draft.”
Moving forward, Morehouse has decided to replace the GM position first, and work his way down the leadership ladder. For Bylsma, this means that he may want to keep his employment options open, because he may or may not be behind the Penguins bench to start the 2014-15 season.
“What we’re trying to do, we’re trying to do it systematically, and what we wanted to do is first address the situation at the top and the leader of the organization, that is the general manager,” said Morehouse.
Hopefully this managerial decision is the right call, because the clock is ticking for this underperforming franchise. Looking back, the Pens appeared to be a team that would win championships. They have two superstar centres in Crosby and Malkin, and the complimentary guys surrounding them to do great things. Players like James Neal, Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang, and Marc-Andre Fleury could be stars anywhere else, but they are in the Pens system supporting the leagues best.
Morehouse believes that aside from a change in leadership, a full rebuild is not needed for the Penguins to regain championship form.
“This is not a complete rebuild. This is a team that has had a level of success. What we’re trying to do is get from ‘good’ to ‘great’.”
So let’s figure it out, Pittsburgh. The pieces are there, but the opportunity itself is disappearing. It’s time to buckle down and perform, and it’s time to live up to expectations.
It’s time to win.