Ray Shero’s firing is looked at as a stunning development from some on the outside of Pittsburgh, but it’s been something Penguins ownership and Team President David Morehouse have been looking at for a while now.
With Ownership’s firing of Shero, they were basically saying this isn’t Nashville.
“It’s not just about this season, we’ve had five consecutive seasons of underachieving hockey in the playoffs,” Team President David Morehouse said Friday.
While Shero talked up regular season success and parity throughout the league last summer after the Penguins collapse against Boston, fans should love the type of mindset from this ownership group that winning four playoff series in the last five years is unacceptable.
From poor drafts to Shero’s reckless spending, a lot of factors played into the decision but in ownership’s eyes, Shero’s inability to adjust to how the NHL has changed over the last five years was a big concern in their eyes about going forward with him, and Shero going away from targeting character and grit guys left ownership dumbfounded I’m told.
Sources say ownership feels too many players on this roster are “gutless” and trust me those guys are going to be shipped out.
Early in Shero’s tenure, he targeted character, grit guys like Jarkko Ruutu, Gary Roberts, Billy Guerin. Shero signed Matt D’Agostini last summer to play on the third line. That’s all you need to know there.
Shero also changed for the worst on his stance with older players. He went from not willing to give Sergei Gonchar a deal beyond two years in 2010 to going four years to a then 34 year old Rob Scuderi last summer. Shero fell into the trap that a lot of GM’s do now in giving three to four year contracts to non-core players hitting their mid to late 30’s, something he was against early in his tenure as GM.
Why Shero felt the need to give Craig Adams, then 36 years old, a two year deal last summer is mind boggling and the Penguins were lucky that Dan Cleary, another washed up player in his mid-30’s, declined a two year offer from the Penguins when free agency began last July after management had the likes of Sidney Crosby calling Cleary and trying to recruit him to Pittsburgh.
Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle did not speak nor were seen during yesterday’s press conference. Both should have been present and spoke, but hey I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.
The team, though, granted interviews to the columnist Gene Collier of the Post-Gazette and Dejan Kovacevic of the Tribune-Review afterwards with Burkle and Lemieux.
These interviews gave great insight into why Shero was fired and what type of team the Penguins are looking to become:
The Q & A with Mario, Burkle is posted on the Trib’s Website
Here’s what stood out for me from those interviews:
1. Speed, Character, Grit: “You need speed because the game has changed a lot over the last five years, so you need speed,” Lemieux said via Gene Collier. “You need speed, you need grit, and I think you need character to win championships. “Character is the most important. We have the other elements. It’s a matter of surrounding them with people of character to complement them. I think it’s been missing a little bit this year. “In the playoffs, to get to the ultimate goal, you need character.” What also stood out with Lemieux in these interviews is how he talked about the Penguins not having the right type of grit on the power play.
2. Way Montreal is built: Lemieux mentioned to Kovacevic that the way the Montreal Canadiens are built is the way the Penguins would like to be built. “Look at Montreal, the way they’re built,” Lemieux said. “They have smaller forwards, but they’re all speedy, and they’ve got grit, and they’ve got character. That’s probably what we’d like to have. I think that’s where the league is going now. But of course, you need the grit and character along with the speed. If you have those, you’ve got a pretty good chance at being successful.” — Now go find a Therrien type coach and Carey Price in goal.
3. Younger, Character, Grit: One key takeaway I got from the Kovacevic Q & A is how Ron Burkle mentions the Penguins “had more grit and character when we had all our kids up.” It’s 100% true. Anyone remember that game against Toronto on December 16 at home when the Penguins won 3-1? The team played with passion, intensity, structure, all those key factors. Here were some players in the lineup that night. Philip Samuelsson, Brian Dumoulin, Simon Despres, Harry Zolnierczyk, Zach Sill, Jason Megna, Chris Conner. In his interview with Kovacevic, Lemieux also mentioned the Columbus Blue Jackets as having a “good mix” of young and older players.
4. Reckless Spending: Ron Burkle was a driving force in pushing Ray Shero out and Shero spending Burkle’s money recklessly clearly didn’t help Shero’s cause to stay.”We fell into spending to the cap just because it was there,” Burkle said via Tribune-Review. “We don’t have a driven reason to spend to the cap just to do it. That’s foolish.” Burkle is spot on about that. Even little things like during training camp when the Penguins were right up against the cap and Shero signs Chuck Kobasew. A spot that should have been used for a young player like Zolnierczyk. Friday was so bizarre that you even had Burkle ripping Shero for only getting a 4th round pick for Mark Letestu.
5. Bylsma: Why is Dan Bylsma still the coach? No one really knows but after planning to fire him as of Thursday afternoon, there was a reconsideration from one key member of the Penguins brass I’m told. “Absolutely,” Lemieux told Gene Collier that Bylsma could remain the coach. “He’s a good coach. You look at his record in the regular season, in the playoffs. If he was fired today, there’d be a lot of teams lined up for him. He’s done a lot of good things for the organization and he’s been a great asset. A new GM will come in, evaluate the hockey operation, and we’ll go from there.”
Here’s a quote from Lemieux to Gene Collier I’m sure fans won’t like: “Look at Detroit, they don’t win the Cup every year, but Babcock is still coach.”