Thankfully, for myself and likely for the Penguins themselves, my fix is only my opinion. I have no particular qualifications and freely admit that I am like everyone else not named Ray Shero ... just fumbling around in the literal dark looking for answers.
To begin, it seems apparent that the ownership and executive management of the Penguins has a plan and they are going to stick to it. They know more than I do by a margin that makes my knowledge seem completely inconsequential, I realize ... a reality that does nothing to temper my opinions. It's hockey, after all, it inspires opinions.
I appreciate, respect and admire the loyalty the Pens organization shows their people. It is a rarer commodity in sports than we may realize. It is a good thing that they didn't react spontaneously, like they'd been burnt, after the ECF. There was no dismantling and, as noted in the first part, barely a change beyond those that seemed necessary to everyone not blinded by their own allegiances and hopes.
Fine. We can all respect that, I think.
Come on, you knew there had to be one.
But, sometimes loyalty has to be tempered with knowing when to cut one's losses, with the ultimate responsibility to ice a team that can, in theory, win. How long would it take to let loose even Crosby if he went, say, down the Theo Fleury path? Not too long, one presumes. Long enough, one hopes.
If one believes that the Bylsma system simply needs some tweaking, in both roster and application, and that it was close enough to successful that it deserves another run, then Bylsma's extension makes sense. No sense in throwing out the baby with the bathwater, as the saying goes. The regular season could only have been better by a point or two. They almost won the President's trophy. The only team better was the one that won the Cup. So, the Bylsma system works in the broad sense.
If you do not believe this, if you simply believe his failures of this playoff run ARE the end result and not some form of penultimate result, then nothing said will change your mind. Nothing will make sense to you except firing the bum.
If you believe that Bylsma's system could work, then you're probably sitting in a wait and see mode, willing to give him the one more chance that Shero so publicly gave him.
The rest of the ideas for the fix are dependent upon this first issue.
Let's start by assuming Bylsma should have been shown the door, told nicely that his services were no longer required and a nice, harmless press release issued. The coach fix is simple, then. Hire a new coach.
If we assume Bylsma should have been retained then the fix is just as simple to type but much harder to put into action. The system needs adjusting. Safeties and valves need to be put into place, alternate plays and schemes designed to offset the one game style the Pens seem unable to crack: the trap. We all hate the trap, let's face it. Even teams who play it can't love it. It's like an eagle fying at a low altitude all the time.
But it's there and it needs to be accounted for.
And the coach has to be willing to waver in his conviction in the face of certain defeat and get off his high horse and mingle in the mud with the trappers. Beat them at their own game. Make them forecheck deep in your zone, shorten your passes, dump and chase, get heavy, big bodied wingers to protect your centers and let them dance into the scoring zone with some protection. Don Cherry would tell you to get some muscle, to be sure. I think I agree with Grapes on this one.
Simple, right? Keep the coach, tweak the system and tweak the roster. Tweak is the key word here, indicating as it does minor but important changes.
I can understand that and even support it. Bylsma and Shero clearly have an understanding of what broke and have agreed on how it is to be fixed. Bylsma is well respected by the players, the media and the fans. If Shero does not believe it was coaching error or does but believes it whatever went wrong is fixable and won't happen again, I will defer to the man who should know.
If something similar happens next year, no one and nothing will convince me that it was smart to keep this coach.
But there is one "tweak" they are attempting that is more than a tweak. This one requires a earth shaker, in my opinion.
If Bylsma is to be kept, and he is, then the decision to retain Marc Andre Fleury is as perplexing as an origami crane to the uninitiated.
I mean ... it boggles my mind.
By all accounts Fleury is a beloved team mate, a stellar human being, a stand up guy, a true team player and a community leader. Apparently he's great in the locker room.
But he has never been, not even when they won the cup, a truly great goalie. Oh sure, he's had great moments, saves that were best described as brilliant. But he has never cracked the top ten in goalie statistics and even Vokoun looks better on paper than MAF.
The team has lost faith - you can see it in their play, I don't care what comes out of their mouths. The fans have lost faith - even some of my favourite stalwart MAF supporters have turned the page and wonder why the team has not.
How many, they ask, playoff meltdowns, will he have to have before the team finds a better solution? The answer seems to be at least one more.
As a long time fan I feel vaguely dirty for suggesting it - I have become as attached to the Flower as anyone - but he needs to go and in my opinion should have been bought out. There were good goalies on the market who would have been happy with $5 million a year. LOTS of them. Emery and Bernier come to mind.
To me the fix was either fire the coach and unload Marc Andre Fleury or just unload Fleury and go from there.
Keeping them both seems ... stubborn to the point of self destruction.