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February 24, 2020
Setting the Standard
by Michael Paul Dell, Editor-in-Chief
The Pittsburgh Penguins surprised most everyone, firing Ray Shero but leaving Dan Bylsma's fate to the new general manager. Don't kid yourself. Bylsma is solid gone. Think of it as a gang initiation. The new GM has to whack someone to become a Penguin.
The press conference itself was also super deluxe peculiar. Owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle didn't even bother to show up. Dave Morehouse, the team president and CEO, sacked Shero. Lemieux and Burkle did sit down for an interview with Dejan Kovacevic, and they faced all the tough questions, but it's pretty weak they left the public execution to Morehouse.
I fully expected the Penguins to retain Shero. The easiest thing in the world would have been to fire Bylsma and keep Shero. And, as their lack of press conference participation may indicate, Lemieux and Burkle aren't scared to go the easy route. Lemieux's biggest flaw as a player was being overly loyal to friends. Google Dan Quinn. Firing Shero was in no way an easy decision.
Shero joined the Penguins in 2006 and engineered the franchise's renaissance, guiding the team to two consecutive Stanley Cup Finals in 2008 and 2009. He captured the sport's top prize that second year. I also believe he built teams capable of winning the Cup in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. This season was really the only one in which he failed to construct a championship-caliber roster. And he failed miserably.
I would have kept Shero. But I'm not privy to management's internal discussions. Everyone involved could have come to an agreement last year that Bylsma would get one more chance with the understanding failure would mean Shero's job. And I have no problem with Shero getting fired. His drafting ineptitude and salary cap mismanagement have decimated organizational depth. His blind loyalty to Bylsma was maddening. So while I don't necessarily agree with the move, I understand.
Shero's firing sends a clear message to everyone in the organization. The last five years? Not good enough. To borrow a phrase from Mike Tomlin, "The standard is the standard." If Shero could go, no one is safe.
But one man's devastating personal loss is another man's opportunity. With that in mind, I would like to officially announce my candidacy for the general manager position of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Let's not get bogged down with nonsense like "qualifications" or "experience" or "willingness to leave the house." Instead, let's focus on what I can do to bring Stanley back to the Steel City.
I have a 632-point plan for excellence. Some points are rather esoteric and involve certain activities illegal in most civilized societies. But just as the Colonel never published his original herbs and spices, I must keep my managerial secrets under wraps. Those gems are for Lemieux's eyes only. But I am willing to share 11 of the 632 points. A little taste to create the addiction.
1. Bring back Pittsburgh black and gold. Enough of this Vegas gold bullshit. In these parts, gold is yellow. Embrace the yellow. Be the yellow.
2. Letrade Letang. His contract and recent health scare will make him difficult to move, but he needs to go. Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot are the future. My team is their team.
3. James Neal will never play another game in a Pittsburgh Penguins sweater. Neal embodies the arrogance and sense of entitlement that has tarnished the franchise. The culture change starts with Neal's ticket out of town.
4. More Ice Girls. Lots more.
5. I guarantee this team will be difficult to play against. The bottom six forwards will be ex-cons and/or former Catholic school teachers.
6. Even more Ice Girls.
7. No more ridiculous rock music during play stoppages. I will bring back the glorious hockey organ. And the organist will be a direct blood relative of Vince Lascheid. If no such relative exists, the organist will be a chimp of my choosing.
8. Free gum.
9. Marc-Andre Fleury will wear his yellow pads. Embrace the yellow. Be the yellow.
10. Crosby and Malkin will kill penalties. Our best players will be on the ice in all situations.
11. Conversely, Rob Scuderi will be on the ice in as few situations as possible. Pretty much only when other dudes are sick or hungover.
And I've got 621 more where those came from. There is no "off" position on the genius switch.
Your move, Pat Brisson.