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Blog Entry

Easy way out

Posted on: February 16, 2009 7:24 am

The Pittsburgh Penguins fired coach Michel Therrien because it was the convenient thing to do. Things go bad, you blame the coach especially one that is reputedly not all that popular with the players.

Sometimes it even works, but in this case Therrien isn't the problem. And having a new voice behind the bench isn't going to salvage what has become a disappointing and embarrassing season for the organization.

The reality is the Penguins are nothing like the young team Therrien molded into a Stanley Cup Finalist last spring. They still have two of the game's greatest players in Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, but both are still very young and not ready or capable of being the kind of leader that lift teammates up by the boot straps.

More important, their supporting cast has been missing, often in action.  Pittsburgh's inability to re-sign sniper Marian Hossa in the summer left a gaping hole in the offense, one that Miroslav Satan and Ruslan Fedotenko haven't done a very good job of filling despite playing along side the superstars. But the bigger problem has been the departures of gritty players like Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts and Jarkko Ruutu whose contributions didn't always appear in the scoresheet. Those are the guys who got down and did the dirty work for Pittsburgh last season and that type of sandpaper is the biggest thing missing from the Penguins game this season.

So they blame the coach. Therrien had to struggle through half the season without two of his best offensive defensemen -- Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney -- and without the ability to turn to a Ty Conklin, who stepped in so brilliantly last season when starting goalie Marc Andre Fleury was injured.  Whitney returned around Christmas and Gonchar came back Saturday night just in time to watch Fleury turn into a sieve in Toronto when the Pens allowed six unanswered goals to lose to one of the league's worst teams.

That debacle became the tipping point and the coach took the hit. It's a time tested tradition in hockey, one that sometimes creates a miracle but only if the right players are in place. That's not the case in Pittsburgh and Therrien is taking the fall for it.


Category: NHL

Since: Feb 16, 2009
Posted on: February 16, 2009 3:23 pm

Easy way out

The Hossa deal in it self was not stupid, however if you give up a lot for a player you must make sure he stays for at least 1 or 2 more seasons. When you 'rent' a player you don't pay the price Shero paid for Hossa.

With regards to Malone; why take a gamble on Satan & Fedotenko when he could have resigned Malone, a home town kid who was one of the better players during the playoffs. Besides, Shero had the money since Hossa didn't resign.

When a team has just played in the Stanely Cup finals it shouldn't be too hard to pick up a decent experienced backup (or keep the one you got!) at a reasonable price. Would you have gone with Sabu as your backup to another young starter? Once again I Think Shero overpaid to right his own wrong when he acquired Garon, I just hope this gamble does pan out...

Since: Feb 5, 2008
Posted on: February 16, 2009 2:06 pm


First, did you even watch the game against Toronto, Goldstein?  No?  Ok, then don't comment on MAF and call him a "sieve".  I defy you or anyone else to tell me which of those 6 goals were his fault or ones he "should have had".  In fact, he made one of the best saves I have ever seen and I have been watching hockey for over 30 years.  Granted, MAF isn't having a good year overall and is giving up too many rebounds, but don't criticize his play for a game you obviously didn't watch.

Second, did you watch the Finals last year?  Did you see Babcock outcoaching Therrian at every move?  Granted, the Wings would have won no matter who was coaching, but it was not good.

Why wasn't Pittsburgh able to resign Hossa?  Well, one of the two reasons he gave for wanting out was Therrian!

Supposedly Roberts and Orpik are also at odds with Therrian.  See a trend here?

If you watch the Penguins, Therrian changed lines constantly so the team couldn't have any continuity.  Last year in the Finals he stuck with offensive and defensive game plans whether they were working or not.  Good to keep lines together, bad not to change strategy based on game situations.  That's part of the reason why the Pens always blow leads and get worse as the game goes on.  Coaching.

The only thing I can agree with is that the Pens are a much lesser team this year.  Part of the reason they are a lesser team, though, is because Therrian is the coach.  They did lose a lot of grit and players who do the little things.  Satan is a poor excuse for a hockey player.

I will also agree that injuries have hurt them, but please don't bring up Whitney as a key injury - the Pens are better without him on D.

Since: Jan 17, 2007
Posted on: February 16, 2009 1:49 pm

Easy way out

I would say that this is the right move.  They want to get to the playoffs.  With the bottom of the East being so close...maybe the infusion of a new coach means 1 or 2 more wins...those 2-4 points could be the difference.  It isn't the only move that they have to make...but because it's the first, doesn't mean it's all they will/should do.  In the best interests of the club, it was the right decision.  If he's been losing the locker room anyhow, then it would only be a matter of time.

Since: Oct 17, 2006
Posted on: February 16, 2009 1:25 pm

Easy way out

It is way too early to say whether or not this is a good move.  If the Pens make the playoffs (really the only recognizable goal for this team now) it was a good move.  If they miss the playoffs, then we can have all the discussions and debate.  The fact of the matter is that this is a team that has not been able to string together wins and get on the winning track for months.  Whether there are other factors, like free agency and the roster, history has shown that bringing in a new coach can jumpstart a team (look at the post-Dungy Buccaneers) and I like that the organization is not willing to just give up and accept a short season. 


As for the free-agency/Hossa situation, Shero made a great move for a guy that helped propel the team into the Finals.  While they were unable to sign him, they were in the contention until the last day.  The Pens made their offer, but Hossa made a Borque-esque decision to roll the dice and go to the favorite to win the cup.  As for a backup plan, this was not the strongest free agent market in history.  Besides that, is anyone really saying that Colby Armstrong (who is certainly missed) or Erik Christianson are the answers to the current problem?  Shero's biggest mistake last year was not re-signing Conklin.  Conklin won a lot of games, and he is repeating his performance for the Red Shirts right now.  In regards to Roberts, Hall, Malone, Ruutu, Laroque... this is the salary cap era.  Each of those guys went to other teams that needed to fill a spot and had extra money.  Malone, who is nearing thirty and is, at best, a twenty goal scorer, is making nearly $5 million a year.  That is a lot of money to pay a guy who had one good season.

Since: Jan 5, 2009
Posted on: February 16, 2009 1:18 pm

Easy way out

I agree with most of the sentiment here.  The Penguins look just plain lazy to me.  Bringing in a "player's coach" is only going to make them lazier.  When they play hard, they are great, but most of the losses this year can be pointed directly to them not playing hard.  Losing high work-ethic guys and replacing them with laid-back, lacksidaisical players (Satan, Fedetenko) is why they are in this mess.  Therrien was their only saving grace.  I hope this move wakes them up, because it has a 50/50 chance of making them absolutely aweful if they lose their discipline.

I see where the new guy wants to open it up (I think in the NHL, that is code for allowing the guys to not play defense).  Uuughh....

Since: Sep 1, 2006
Posted on: February 16, 2009 12:19 pm

Easy way out

The Hossa deal was stupid? Were you saying that when it happened or are you just saying it now? I'll guess the latter. Hindsight is 20/20. It was a good deal at the time and Hossa was saying the entire time he'd love to resign so that sure isn't Shero's fault. Still, every GM has to take a gamble..if it wasn't for Shero acquiring Hossa, the Pens might not have been in the Cup finals. And he let Malone go so he's a bad GM? Jeez, you're impossible to please. Are we suppose to pay every FA what they want? Ever heard of a salary cap? And we couidn't add a quality goalie. Again, ever heard of the salary cap? Sabu was expected to be a quality backup, and Shero certainly can't predict the future.

Since: Feb 16, 2009
Posted on: February 16, 2009 11:44 am

Easy way out

The only thing that surprises me is the fact that Ray Shero is still around after the stupid moves he made during the trade deadline (Hossa should only have been added with a new deal in place) and during the off season (letting Malone go and not adding a quality goalies) which has let to the current demise in the Pens fortunes...

Since: Sep 12, 2008
Posted on: February 16, 2009 10:48 am

Easy way out

Is it just me, or do NBA and NHL teams fire their coaches at a much faster rate than other sports?  Melrose was let go by the Lightning after what, 20 games into the season?  I lost track of how many NBA coaches got fired this season too.  I think that all just means lack of organization at the top.  Most owners and execs have no idea how to run a professional sports franchise in those too leagues, so they just go after the coach when things are bad.   

Since: Sep 1, 2006
Posted on: February 16, 2009 10:24 am

Easy way out

Have any of you watched Pens games this season? MT was horrible and I thought he needed to go two years ago. Our PP was around 15th in the league yet Whitney gets back so he benches Goligoski (our PP qb) and under Whitney (not cumulatively), we are dead last in the league in PP. Not only that but GoGo was our best offensive defensemen and he sends him to the AHL? And MT can't keep a line together for more than 2 shifts...anyone ever heard of team chemistry? And Malkin and Sid get far less icetime than they should. MT was good for bringing out the best in third line players, but we now need a coach who can bring out the best in everyone. MT needed to go so this was not a bad move and it was far from "blame the coach." The Pens have a few other problems but MT WAS the main problem. 

Since: Dec 1, 2008
Posted on: February 16, 2009 10:23 am

Easy way out

No I have to agree with the move the Pens made.  If you can't be a successful coach with the talent on this team then to don't deserve to have the job.  A fresh face and a fresh voice is exactly what this team needs right now.  A deal at the trade deadline would be great too but a fresh look behind the bench was also needed. I understand that Therrien took this team to the Stanley Cup Finals last year but even I could have done that with the talent on this team.

A lot of the players in the locker room did not like Therrien's style.  Defenseman Brooks Orpik was one of them along with many other players.

This was a move that needed to be made if they wanted to salvage their season and make it into the playoffs.  This team can contend with anyone and they are in desperate need of a spark.  Maybe this move is that spark.

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