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2 posts from June 19, 2014

June 19, 2014


TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Dan Bylsma is one of two finalists for the Florida Panthers vacant coaching spot alongside Montreal Canadiens assistant coach Gerard Gallant.

Although Bylsma, 43, is well known to hockey fans, here is a short bio on the former Penguins coach.

On June 6, Blysma was fired after six seasons with the Penguins -- a tenure that included a Stanley Cup during his first season in 2009.

The postseason disappointments that followed, which included a second-round series loss to the Rangers last month, led to Bylsma falling out of favor in Pittsburgh.

The coach of Team USA at Sochi, Bylsma led the Penguins to the playoffs in each season he was with the team.

Byslma joined the Penguins during the 2008-09 season when the team was struggling after reaching the Stanley Cup Finals the summer before.

Pittsburgh went 18-3-4 under Bylsma after going 27-25-5 under Michel Therrien -- now the coach of the Canadiens.

In 2009, the Penguins beat Philadelphia, Washington and Carolina in the Eastern Conference playoffs before beating Detroit in a rematch of the 2008 Finals lost by Therrien's team. The Stanley Cup was the third won by the Penguins and the first since 1992.

The Penguins, despite having two of the game's top players in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, have failed to reach the Finals since.

In the past five years, the Penguins have been eliminated from the playoffs by a lower-seeded team.

In 2011 and '12, Pittsburgh was a fourth seed and lost to the fifth-seeded Flyers and Lightning in the opening round. In 2010, the Pens were knocked out in the second round by the eighth-seeded Canadiens. In 2013, the top-seeded Pens lost to Boston in the east finals.

This year, Pittsburgh -- which won the new Metropolitan Division -- beat rival Philadelphia in the opening round before taking a 3-1 series lead on the Rangers. New York roared back to win the next three games and eventually went on to the Stanley Cup Finals.

That's not to say Bylsma didn't enjoy great success in Pittsburgh aside from the 2009 Stanley Cup. He left Pittsburgh as the winningest coach in Penguins history.

Days after the Game 7 loss to the Rangers, general manager Ray Shero was fired but Bylsma kept his job for a little bit longer.

The Penguins said it would be up to the new general manager whether or not Bylsma would be retained. It appeared Jim Rutherford (who informed Bylsma that he was fired hours before publically being introduced as the new GM) had little to do with a decision made by ownership to fire Bylsma with two years left on his contract.

Florida GM Dale Tallon contacted Bylsma two days after he was fired and held his first interview with him not long afterward.

A native of Grand Haven, Michigan, Bylsma spent four years at Bowling Green University before turning pro. He made his NHL debut as a winger with the Los Angeles Kings in 1995 and spent parts of nine seasons with Los Angeles and Anaheim in a pro career that spanned 12 seasons.

Bylsma began his coaching career in 2004 with AHL Cincinnati and was an NHL assistant with the Islanders in 2005-06. Bylsma moved back to the AHL as an assistant in 2006 and was in his first year as head coach of the AHL's Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins when he was tabbed to replace Therrien on Feb. 15, 2009.

Four months later, the Penguins were hoisting the Stanley Cup and Bylsma was the toast of Pittsburgh.

In 2010-11, the Penguins were wracked with injuries yet the team stayed in playoff contention despite being without Crosby and Malkin for extended periods of time. Bylsma's makeshift lineup earned a fourth-seed in the playoffs and he was named the NHL's coach of the year.

The Pens were in 78 playoff games under Bylsma and went 43-35.

In contrast, the Panthers have appeared in a total of 38 playoff games (16-22) during their 19 seasons. Florida, which has been to the playoffs four times and only once since 2000, has made it out of the first round one time in 1996.



TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Florida Panthers are apparently close to hiring a new coach and one man deep in the running is Montreal Canadiens assisant Gerard Gallant.

Here's a closer look at Gallant:

Gallant, 50, was coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets for parts of three seasons from 2004-06. The Jackets, not far removed from their expansion years, went 56-76-6 with four ties during his tenure.

The Panthers have been searching for a coach ever since letting interim coach Peter Horachek go in April.

General manager Dale Tallon has said he is looking for a coach with vast NHL coaching experience.

Gallant, former Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma and former Colorado and Los Angeles coach Marc Crawford are the finalists to become the 13th coach in franchise history although word is the job is now between Gallant and Bylsma.

Although Gallant doesn't have extensive head coaching experience in the NHL, he played 11 seasons with Detroit and Tampa Bay before becoming a junior coach in 1995.

Since turning to coaching, Gallant has been a head coach in Columbus and at the Canadian junior level. Gallant has also been an NHL assistant for seven years with the Blue Jackets, Islanders and Canadiens.

In his three years of coaching the Saint John, New Brunswick, Ice Dogs of the Quebec junior league, Gallant's top player was current Florida winger Jonathan Huberdeau.

Under Gallant's watch, the Sea Dogs won the Memorial Cup with Huberdeau in 2011. Huberdeau became the third-overall pick of the Panthers a few weeks later. Gallant was the Canadian Hockey League's coach of the year in two of his three seasons with the Sea Dogs.

After this past season, Huberdeau -- the NHL's rookie of the year in 2012 -- said Gallant was one of the most influential coaches in his career.

"He really helped me a lot,'' Huberdeau said in April. "He played in the NHL and had a passion to win. He was great with the young guys, always gave them a chance. I think that's important for a coach. He related very well with all of us.''

Gallant is very close to former Panthers coach Doug MacLean as both hail from Summerside, Prince Edward Island in Canada.

Gallant's first NHL job came when he was hired in Columbus by MacLean -- then the team's president and general manager -- in 2000 to be an assistant under Dave King for the Blue Jackets' inaugural season.

When King was fired in 2003, MacLean took over coaching duties. In 2004, MacLean replaced himself by promoting Gallant midway through the season.

After a 5-9-1 start to the 2006-07 season, ownership ordered MacLean to fire Gallant. MacLean was let go at the end of that season as well. Gallant spent the next two seasons as an assistant with the Islanders before moving on to the Sea Dogs. Gallant has spent the past two seasons with the Canadiens and has been a big part of Montreal's recent success.