Everybody knew the stakes were high for the Pittsburgh Penguins going into Tuesday's Game 7 against the New York Rangers. They might turn out to have been huge.
The widely held assumption was that Dan Bylsma was coaching for his job. If the Penguins advanced, he could be sticking around for more years. If the Penguins lost and blew their 3-1 series lead, well, he'll probably be looking for a new job.
So when the Penguins lost 2-1, it was such an assumption that Bylsma was asked about it after the game, about the "inevitability" of his future. "I haven't contemplated what the price is going to be," was Bylsma's answer. That's what he says but it sounds like somebody who knows the situation, too.
Well Bylsma's not alone in having a very hot seat right now. According to Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, general manager Ray Shero is in serious jeopardy, too.
Penguins ownership will consider a sweeping overhaul that could include terminating general manager Ray Shero in addition to Dan Bylsma and the members of the coaching staff, multiple sources told the Tribune-Review. Ownership specifically is concerned about a perceived lack of accountability for players, overall team toughness and unproductive drafts, the sources said.
The sources also said Penguins ownership might not want to undergo a complete front-office shakeup with only about a month before the NHL Entry Draft.
No decisions have been made, and they will not be rushed, the sources said.
Let's not count Shero out yet but that's doesn't sound too good. There are six weeks between now and the draft so if the ownership group led by Ron Burkle and Mario Lemieux do decide to go for the full shake-up, it would likely be much sooner rather than later.
Both Shero and Bylsma do have reasons for being under some heat. The Penguins have had loads of regular-season success but it hasn't been there in the playoffs. With Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in their prime years, the Penguins haven't won a game in the conference finals since winning the Stanley Cup in 2009.
The salary cap constraint has been a big part of it, same for injuries, but the Penguins have had such a disparity between their top six and bottom six and now they have a lineup that is getting well up there in age.
Certainly there is a danger in making sweeping changes with a team that is obviously not that far off -- you don't have the regular-season success they have had without at least being close. There is an equal risk that your franchise goes backward instead of the other way around but the continued lack of playoff success isn't going to sit well forever, especially with that Cup getting further and further in the rearview mirror.
No matter who is in charge, this is going to one crucial summer in Pittsburgh.
Tuesday night's game could turn out to be more than a tough Game 7 loss, it could be a franchise-altering one.