Let’s be clear about this: head coach Dan Bylsma is not the only reason the Pittsburgh Penguins are no longer alive in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
But that may not be enough to save his job.
In their five post-seasons since winning the Stanley Cup in 2009, the Penguins have been eliminated in Game 7 of the second round, Game 7 of the first round, Game 6 of the first round, Game 4 of the third round and Game 7 of the second round.
In those season-ending games … drumroll, please … Sidney Crosby has zero goals, zero assists and a minus-6 rating.
And then there’s goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. In his 44 playoff games since hoisting the Stanley Cup over his head in 2009, Fleury has a goals-against average of 3.17 and a save percentage of .884.
Those numbers may be enough to push Fleury out of Pittsburgh, but probably not before Bylsma is shown the door.
“Our goal, our ultimate goal, is to win the Stanley Cup,” Bylsma said in his post-game news conference following Tuesday night’s 2-1 loss to the underdog New York Rangers. “And we haven’t done that in five seasons.
“… I haven’t contemplated the price that it’s going to be or anything towards the future yet.”
If that future is bleak in Pittsburgh, could it be brighter somewhere else?
Like in Washington, where owner Ted Leonsis says the Capitals need a “new voice?”
A little more than a year ago, Bylsma, 43, was considered one of the top coaches in the NHL, becoming the fastest coach in league history to get to 200 wins last April and being named head coach of the U.S. Olympic hockey team.
But when the Americans failed to medal in Sochi and looked disinterested in their 5-0 loss to Finland in the bronze medal game, many began to wonder about Bylsma’s decision-making and motivational skills.
Should he have gone with goaltender Ryan Miller in the Olympics? Did he put together the right line combinations for a team loaded with offensive talent but struggled to score goals?
Those questions will undoubtedly arise now that the Penguins are staring at another summer of change.
Could Bylsma have come up with more balanced forward lines than the ones he used against the Rangers, who made better use of less talent?
Those could be some of the questions Bylsma faces if he is fired by the Penguins and hired by another NHL team.
But Bylsma may not be the only casualty in Pittsburgh. If his assistant coach, Jacques Martin, is also dismissed, he may throw his hat into the ring of available head coaches.
Martin, 61, has 17 years of experience as an NHL head coach, guiding the St. Louis Blues, Ottawa Senators, Florida Panthers and Montreal Canadiens. His teams have been to the playoffs in 12 of those 17 years, twice getting to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2003 with the Senators and 2010 with the Canadiens.
Considered a defense-first coach, Martin has coached 1,294 games in the NHL and has a career record of 613-481-81 with 119 ties. His teams are 50-62 in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Would the Caps consider Bylsma or Martin if either or both are let go by the Penguins?
And, if so, how might that change the coaching landscape for Barry Trotz, who would probably love to put his stamp on the offensive firepower of the Penguins after years of playing defensive hockey in Nashville?
Trotz told the Nashville Tennessean that he is beginning to analyze the teams that have reached out to him, but indicated he would like to see a general manager in place – the Capitals and Canucks remain without one – before making a decision. Trotz said he doesn't expect that process to begin until late May or early June.
"You look at all the possibilities objectively and sort of go through the positives and negatives of every one,” Trotz said. “It has to be a fit with the people you work with. It has to be a fit for my family, and it has to be a fit in terms of what I'm looking for in terms of working with someone.
“I think the relationship part is pretty key, and in some situations, whoever the general manager is – if they want me – having a relationship with the general manager in terms of a dialogue and communication that's pretty good. That's what I had with David [Poile] in Nashville, was a lot of communication, so … I think it's really important."