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Hard to be shocked by Therrien firing

Dan Di Sciullo, NHL Editor

Dan Di Sciullo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Any questions regarding what kind of expectations the Pittsburgh Penguins front office had for their franchise were answered with the firing of head coach Michel Therrien this past Sunday night.

Less than a year ago, Therrien led Pittsburgh to a thrilling run to the Stanley Cup finals, where the club fell to Detroit in six games.

The youthful Penguins' arrival on hockey's biggest stage came earlier than expected, and Therrien was rightfully given a large share of the credit for getting his team to the final round of the postseason.

So far this season, the Pens have seemed to collapse under the weight of the expectations that come with winning a conference title. Pittsburgh disappointed with a mediocre 27-25-5 record under Therrien this year, and if the season ended today, the club would finish outside of the playoff picture.

With Therrien gone, the Penguins will now charge 38-year-old Dan Bylsma with the task of getting the club back to the postseason and, after making his debut against the Islanders on Presidents' Day, he will have just 24 games left to do so.

Despite the fact that Pittsburgh has clearly underachieved this season, many folks will point to the Therrien firing as just another unfair and shortsighted dismissal of an NHL head coach. And, in many respects, axing Therrien at this juncture isn't fair, but it's also not at all shocking.

It's clear that NHL coaches aren't built to last. General managers are given time and the benefit of the doubt to build a team, while head coaches are disposed of quicker than Bernie Madoff can empty out an investor's bank account.

Therrien is the fifth head coach to have been given a pink slip this year, and even though the regular season is nearly three-quarters of the way finished, it's unlikely that he'll be the last coach to get the sack.

Speaking of general managers, Pittsburgh's Ray Shero is likely years away from losing his job, as he was only hired by the club following the 2005-06 season. It's just a simple fact of life in the NHL that GMs are judged on a larger body of work than coaches, who are expected to keep teams sharp on a day-to- day basis - Therrien was clearly unable to do that this season.

It seems as though Therrien's expertise may be a tad outdated for the Penguins at this time. He was praised at the start of his tenure in Pittsburgh for his club's more team-oriented defensive style, but that strategy hasn't been working as of late.

Bylsma now has a chance to prove himself worthy of the Penguins' job on a full-time basis, if he can get Pittsburgh to play the way Shero and his bosses feel it should.

But, Bylsma should know even if he turns the Pens around and gets them deep into the playoffs this year, that a head coach in the NHL is only as good as his team's most-recent performance. That may not be fair, but it has become the cost of doing business.

ROLLING DEVILS WELCOME BRODEUR BACK TO PRACTICE

When the Devils lost their franchise goaltender Martin Brodeur for 3-to-4 months to an elbow injury back in early November, most people, including myself, thought that blow would be too much for New Jersey to recover from. It seemed to many that his absence would keep the team from making the postseason this year.

Fast-forward to the present, and the Devils have not only survived without the future Hall-of-Famer, but they've been able to thrive with Scott Clemmensen handling the lion's share of the goaltending duties. New Jersey is holding a sizeable lead atop the Atlantic Division, and is now considered to be serious contender for the Stanley Cup.

While Clemmensen and his backup Kevin Weekes have shown themselves to be more than capable of holding down the fort, the Devils are getting closer and closer to having Brodeur back on the ice.

The four-time Vezina Trophy winner practiced this past Saturday for the first time since suffering the injury on November 1 and, if all goes as planned, Brodeur is expected to return to game action in a week-to-10 days.

With Clemmensen playing the way he has been, the Devils will likely work Brodeur back into the rotation gradually, but there should be enough time to get him 100-percent ready by the time the playoffs roll around.

New Jersey head coach Brent Sutter has stated that he won't use Brodeur until the team returns from its upcoming three-game road trip. That means, at the earliest, Marty will be back between the pipes in the club's home test against Colorado on February 26.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Dan Di Sciullo at ddisciullo@sportsnetwork.com.
Dan Di Sciullo


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