There’s a lot on the line in Tuesday night’s Game 7 between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Rangers: a berth in the Eastern Conference Finals; questions about Pittsburgh’s core, which is 4-5 in playoff series since their 2009 Stanley Cup, and now a loss away from a 3-1 collapse; Sidney Crosby’s reputation as a game-breaker, which has taken a hit over these playoffs, what with all the games he hasn’t broken.
And, most importantly, for our purposes here in Vancouver, Dan Bylsma’s job. If the Rangers win, Bylsma more than likely hits the open market. From the Post-Gazette:
Yet Bylsma will take the hard fall if the Penguins lose tonight at Consol Energy Center. Who says life is fair for an NHL coach? No sport treats its coaches with less respect than hockey.
But in other ways, Bylsma would deserve to take the fall. It’s true, he led the Penguins to 109 points in the regular season — their second-biggest number in franchise history — despite losing 529 man-games to injury. It’s also true he would be hired by another club in about 3½ minutes. He’s that highly regarded around the NHL.
He is, and he would. And wouldn’t you know it, the Vancouver Canucks are in the market for a coach.
Needless to say, the Canucks are likely cheering for the Rangers, and not just because the Blueshirts are directed by ex-head coach Alain Vigneault and they still have feelings for him. If Bylsma’s available, without a doubt, the Canucks are tying up his line. He’s got everything they’re looking for: name recognition, a Cup ring, cachet, and, most importantly, a reputation for coaching a fun system.
This matters to the Canucks. As Trevor Linden said in his letter to the season-ticketholders the day John Tortorella was dismissed, the team is “committed to making it exciting to watch Canucks games throughout the season.” As we discussed when it happened, that’s why Tortorella and Gillis had to go. The Canucks are desperate to appeal to their fanbase, who got bored of the Alain Vigneault-era Canucks. Linden’s primary task was to put a face and a name to a new era: The Trevor Linden era. Oooooooh.
But in order for this era to seem like a new era, the new coach needs to tick off a lot of boxes when he comes riding into town — boxes a guy like Barry Trotz won’t tick.
Trotz is a smart and accomplished guy, who made something out of nothing for years in Nashville. He’d have more pieces in Vancouver, of course, and one imagines his system would be very different. But even if you promised the fanbase that he’d be installing a different style, the skepticism would still be there and the pizzazz of the hire would go undelivered. As Jason Botchford said, ”If everything else is getting a fresh start, including the president, GM and core, so too should the head coach. And there is nothing fresh about Barry Trotz.”
Jim Jamieson and Ed Willes said much the same in Tuesday’s Province roundtable. “Trotz is a solid career coach but he has the feel of yesterday’s man and this organization is trying to rebuild and rebrand itself,” Willes explained.
Basically, Trotz doesn’t gel with the rebrand. Bylsma, on the other hand? He does.
Not that this makes a lick of sense when you really think about it. The Canucks would be hiring a guy that just got “outcoached” by Alain Vigneault to spearhead a rebrand from the team of the Alain Vigneault era. But nevermind about that. Nothing about the fan expectations for Vancouver’s head coach have ever made sense, and since the Canucks are effectively letting the inmates run the asylum by allowing the fans to dictate what this team does now, a paradoxical hire really does seem fitting.