Bylsma Has Opportunity to Re-establish Himself in Buffalo

Twitter @buffalosabres

Twitter @buffalosabres

Yesterday, the Sabres officially hired Dan Bylsma as their new head coach. This hiring has received a vast amount of positive feedback from Sabres’ fans and media. Pete Jensen of NHL network stated via twitter that the move “brings accountability and speeds up rebuild.” While I agree that this move is an upgrade for the Sabres as it adds credibility to the organization and will help expedite the rebuild, I am still skeptical that Bylsma is the coach to lead the Sabres’ to a Stanley Cup championship. Personally, I was not the biggest Bylsma fan during his tenure with Pittsburgh. His teams always played great in the regular season regardless of injuries, which is impressive-- Looking at Bylsma’s regular season statistics, you cannot question what he accomplished. However my concern with Bylsma is his recent coaching in the playoffs.

The Penguins won the Stanley Cup just three months after Bylsma was promoted to head coach in 2009, and Bylsma pushed the right buttons as he beat both Bruce Boudreau and Mike Babcock in game sevens during that playoff run. In 2010 Jaro Halak caught fire and stole a series away from the Penguins. In 2011 both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were injured for their series loss against the Lightning. All things considered Bylsma did a fine job in his early years.

But specifically, the three series I have issues with Bylsma’s coaching are 2012 vs. the Flyers, 2013 vs. the Bruins, and 2014 vs. the Rangers.

The 2012 series vs. the Flyers was one of most fun series to watch I can remember. Yes, the goaltending was horrendous but what stands out most from that series is the intensity the fierce nature of the Pens-Flyers rivalry. Unfortunately for Bylsma and the Pens, that style favored the Flyers. The Penguins could not match the physical game of the Flyers, which is okay.. they were not built to, but instead of sticking to a skillful game plan, the Penguins got drawn into a physical series and ended up losing their cool. Crosby was front and center as the Pens took multiple dumb and undisciplined penalties. The Penguins played like a bunch of jackasses and got their butts kicked. It was embarrassing. Bylsma had ZERO control of his team. This was most evident in the final minutes of a lopsided game 3 loss when James Neal took a cheap shot on then 19 year old Sean Couturier, and Craig Adams dropped his gloves and went after Scott Hartnell who did not want to fight. Embarrassing.  

The 2013 series vs. the Bruins was another poor coaching performance from Bylsma. His team got swept by the Bruins and scored two goals the entire series. The Bruins were a talented team, but the Penguins effort was feeble. They were easy to play against and Boston had their way.

In 2014 vs. the Rangers the Penguins blew a 3-1 series lead as they lost the final three games. Once again the Penguins appeared to be easy to play against, as Alain Vigneault made the proper adjustments to shut down the Pens as the series progressed. The Penguins managed just three goals the final three games and it is safe to say they were outcoached in the series.

In 2014 Bylsma also coached Team USA in the Sochi Olympics. The tournament started out great for the USA squad, but their final two games of the tournament were more reminiscent of watching the previous two Sabres’ seasons. USA did not score a goal in the medal rounds as they first were handled and shut down by Canada’s rock solid defense, and then flat out embarrassed in the bronze game against Finland. This Finland loss is very concerning to me. The USA was far more talented than the Fins but they lost 5-0 and their effort was completely absent. It was tough losing to Canada and knowing that there was no chance at gold, but the fact that Bylsma allowed his team to throw in the towel and not even provide an ounce of effort against Finland does not sit well with me. Both embarrassing and shameful.

So needless to say, I am skeptical of what Disco Dan can provide long term for the Sabres franchise.

But I am also optimistic. The Sabres have a bright future filled with young talent. Bylsma is regarded as a good teacher, and appears to be the right man to develop the Sabres’ youth. I will go as far as to say I expect the Sabres to contend for a playoff spot this year with a few personnel additions and Bylsma at the helm. Long term, I am hopeful that Bylsma can learn from his previous coaching mistakes and become a better coach. He should have a more rounded roster to work with in Buffalo and this should benefit him matchup wise in playoff series. In the words of Greg Roman, I want to see Bylsma make the Sabres a “nightmare” to play against. Despite having an impressive coaching résumé, Bylsma is currently associated with his recent playoff/olympic failures. By becoming the head coach of the up and coming Buffalo Sabres, Bylsma has the opportunity to re-establish himself as a great coach.