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.