After another premature exit from the playoffs, the Pittsburgh Penguins have started housecleaning after firing General Manager Ray Shero. Earlier reports had Coach Dan Bylsma getting his pink slip, but he’ll be “evaluated” by owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle. Jason Botterill will take over on an interim basis while a search for a new general manager. The new general manager will decide Bylsma's fate when he takes control.
This shakeup comes as the result of another early ouster from the Stanley Cup playoffs. This time the Penguins had their season ended with a loss to the Rangers on Wednesday night. Pittsburgh had a seemingly insurmountable three games to one lead before the Rangers rallied to win game seven.
Penguins President and CEO said the firing of Shero wasn’t on the loss to the Rangers.
''This is a decision that's been in the works for a long time since we've won the Cup,'' Morehouse said. ''We wanted to get back to the Stanley Cup finals and we haven't and we're going to make some changes.''
The playoff run was capped by the offensive struggles of Sidney Crosby and the rest of the star offensive players not performing. The Pens had a harder-than-advertised series first round series against a plucky Columbus Blue Jackets squad before losing to the Rangers.
This isn’t the first time the Penguins lost a 3-1 series lead as they were eliminated in the 2011 playoffs by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Once is unusual, but twice seems to be a problem.
Pittsburgh lost three games at the CONSOL Energy Center in the conference semifinal, and did not do Marc-Andre Fleury any favors despite him doing a lot better than against the Blue Jackets. The Pens also had trouble clearing the defensive zone after Fleury stymied the Rangers in games two-four.
Pittsburgh has always had success in the regular season after winning another division title. The Penguins did hoist the Stanley Cup in 2009, but have gone 4-5 in playoff series since then. Last year, Pittsburgh was swept in four games by Boston in the Eastern Conference final.
Shero came into the organization in 2006 and was tasked with trying to give Sidney Crosby the talent that he needed in order to bring the Cup back to Pittsburgh. Shero and Bylsma put together a roster that got the Penguins back to the Stanley Cup in 2008 and finally over the top in 2009.
The Penguins now face a murky future after another disappointing season, and have to replenish their roster with draft picks and some free agents. An interesting statistic that came up was that draft picks be Shero since 2008 has been 240 games. Shero also tried making moves for big names at trade deadlines, but some of those deals may have left the cupboard a little bare for a future run.
Both Pittsburgh and Shero could be better off. Pittsburgh still has plenty of talent to reload and make a run at the Stanley Cup in the East. It’s also a great spot to land for potential free agents. Heck, who wouldn’t want to play with talented guys like Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Shero has his pick of open jobs. (Washington comes to mind.) He’s had proven success at putting together a roster.
Whatever the case, things have gotten interesting in the Steel City.
Dan Mount is an NHL writer for TJRSports.com and covers the Rangers, Devils and Islanders for NYSportScene.com. He is based out of Watertown, NY and can be reached on Twitter @DanMountSports.