I’m not a fan of middle-of-the-season firings either, but ESPN’s Scott Burnside is too generous, IMO.
This is a man who took a Penguins organization that was adrift, aimless, shiftless — and those were the team’s good qualities — when he arrived in December 2005. And he kicked butt.
Remember when kicking butt was a good thing in Pittsburgh?
Remember how he kicked the Penguins’ butts from laughingstocks in 2005-06 to 105 points in 2006-07 and then kicked their butts right to the Stanley Cup finals last season?
So, you ask yourself, did Therrien suddenly become a dunderhead in the time between Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals and the start of this season?
No. But he became an easy scapegoat.
Actually, lots of people thought he was a dunderhead before. To me, Michel Therrien will always be the coach whose Canadiens squad blew a 3-0 lead (and 2-1 series lead) in Game 4 of the second round of the 2002 playoffs against the Hurricanes. That happened because of a five-on-three brought on by Therrien himself, who earned an unsportsmanlike conduct call for whining. The Canes took it to overtime, and when Therrien failed to put out two good centers for a key defensive draw, Jeff O’Neil won the face-off easily to set up Niclas Wallin’s goal.
What’s more, Burnside then says this:
The fact that Shero turned the reins of this talented, underachieving team over to the team’s AHL coach from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, a journeyman forward who managed 19 goals in 429 NHL games, suggests one of two things: a heartfelt belief Therrien really wasn’t the guy despite his successes, or Shero needed to do something, anything, to jolt this team into the playoffs, and this was the simplest plan of action.
But, erm…. that’s exactly how Michel Therrien got hired! Ed Olczyk was panic-canned, and the Montreal pariah Therrien, rebuilding his career in Wilkes-Barre, was the nearest available coach.
Also, since when does it matter how many goals a coach scored as a player? Michel Therrien “managed” zero goals in zero NHL games. And Dan Bylsma (who I am rooting for because our paths crossed briefly in Cincinnati) is a longtime hockey educator who has already spent four years behind the bench as an assistant, including one year in the NHL.
The irony in all of this is that last year, the dismissive thing to say about Michel Therrien if you didn’t rate him as a coach was, “anyone can win games with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.” Apparently not.