Florida Panthers v Pittsburgh Penguins

Bylsma goes on the record (a bit) for first time since Pens firing


Dan Bylsma might have some hard feelings after being let go by the Pittsburgh Penguins this summer, but he certainly didn’t air those grievances during his first newspaper interview since that happened. Instead, he pretty much raved about what once was to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Rob Rossi.

“I think we were a model,” Bylsma said. “We had stability, great stability. From ownership, from within the organization, with our players. I was fortunate to coach in a stable situation, and I shared that vision with my general manager — and I coached for a great general manager.”

Bylsma deemed former Penguins GM Ray Shero either the best in the league or at least one of the top three. It’s easy to see why he looks back at his time pretty fondly (at least on the record), as many seem to forget just how much that group accomplished, even with series injuries in just about every full season involving the Bylsma – Shero combo.

Some other interesting takeaways:

  • He also told Rossi that he knew right away that Pittsburgh’s Game 7 defeat at the hands of the New York Rangers would mark his last time behind the team’s bench.
  • Most importantly, it doesn’t sound like he’s in a rush to find a new job, and he doesn’t believe that the Penguins intentionally stalled to keep him from getting a new one (say, with their noted rivals the Washington Capitals).
  • It’s understandable that Bylsma doesn’t want to merely take the first opportunity he receives. Rossi points out that he’ll receive $4 million from the Penguins during the next two years, giving him plenty of leeway to save up and enjoy the less stressful life that comes with being a TV analyst.
  • One intriguing theme from his former players was that Bylsma seemed to keep them on their toes with different strategies and tweaks, sometimes in the same game. That may or may not defy certain criticisms of his strategies (although obviously he might have handled the Penguins differently than the U.S. Olympic team anyway).

However you may feel about the Penguins’ postseason disappointments, it’s a bit confounding that Bylsma didn’t end up with one of the league’s 30 head coaching jobs. Then again, from the sound of things, maybe he’s looking for the right fit.

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and, subsequently, the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.

Brandon Sutter didn’t have the greatest preseason

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When Brandon Sutter was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks, GM Jim Benning called the 26-year-old a “foundation piece for our group going forward.”

Sutter was quickly signed to a five-year extension worth almost $22 million, more evidence of how highly management thought of the player.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Benning was asked the following question:

“What does it say that you made the trade for Sutter, you called him a ‘foundation’ player, and it took him until the final night of the preseason to find a spot (with the Sedins) on the wing, which isn’t his natural position?”

Here was Benning’s response:

“Well, [head coach Willie Desjardins] wants to try that out, he thinks that’s going to be a good fit. At various times, the Sedins played with wingers with speed, with [Ryan Kesler], who could get in on the forecheck and had a good shot. Sutter brings some of those qualities, too.”

While all that may be true, Sutter was not signed to play the wing; he was brought in to play center, specifically on the second line. He finished the preseason with zero points in five games. And as mentioned, he’ll start the season on the wing, not his natural position.

Meanwhile, youngsters Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19, had outstanding camps and are expected to start the regular season (tonight in Calgary) centering the second and third lines, respectively.

Though Sutter did finish the preseason with 12 shots on goal, up there with the most on the Canucks, it’s fair to say he did not look like a “foundation” player.

“I haven’t seen him play his best,” Desjardins said last week. “I see a guy who’s big and a good skater and who understands the game real well, but just hasn’t got that involved.”

Now, we are only talking about the preseason here. New players often take time to get comfortable. Perhaps playing with the Sedins can provide Sutter with some confidence.

“I know he’ll be there and I totally believe that,” said Desjardins.

But it hasn’t been the best start, and if it wasn’t for the encouraging play of the youngsters, it would be a far bigger story in Vancouver.

Related: Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado