Saturday, June 29, 2013

Dan Bylsma Named Head Coach of 2014 U.S. Men's Hockey Team. Can He Lead Them to a Gold Medal?

                (1.) Can Dan Bylsma lead Team USA's first Gold Medal in Men's Hockey since 1980?

     Team USA has officially announced Pittsburgh Penguins Head Coach, Dan Bylsma, as the man to (hopefully) lead team USA's Men's Hockey to Gold. Already Bylsma is receiving plenty of doubt from many hockey fans in general, including fans of the team he coaches the Pittsbugh Penguins, and justifiably so. Ever since winning the Stanley Cup in 2009, Bylsma has only lead the Penguins past the 1st round twice (advancing to conference semi-finals in 2010, and conference finals in 2013). I myself have my doubts as Bylsma has been coaching arguably the two best players in the world (Sidney Crosby & Evgeni Malkin, whom he very well could match up against in the 2014 winter games in Sochi) and has had a hard time establishing and matching the success he has had in the regular season into the postseason.

     Despite his under performance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs the past few years, Bylsma did have to coach quite a bit of the time without his star players and/or a healthy lineup. In 2010, Jordan Staal was injured in Game 1 of Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Montreal Canadiens which left Bylsma without his best two way player for the the next two games. Though Staal would return, he was left hampering for the rest of the series which saw Pittsburgh fall in 7 games to the Canadiens. 2011, despite blowing a 3-1 series lead over the Tampa Lightning in the 1st round, Bylsma was still without his two star players Crosby &Malkin (both whom were most likely to miss the entire playoffs that year regardless of how far Pittsburgh advanced). 2012 & 2013 saw Pittsburgh eventually be exploited for it's poor defensive play as they were eliminated by the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins respectively. Yes, Bylsma is not known for his in game adjustments, but the fact remains he is still a great head coach. As evident, Bylsma led the Penguins to a tie in the Atlantic Division with the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010-11 season with the same number of points. (albeit Philadelphia won division via tiebreaker.) The following season saw Bylsma lead the Penguins to only its second ever 50+ regular season wins in franchise history. Bylsma has been dealt with some bad cards, but he has been able to make the best of it in each instance and with the right players in 2014, Bylsma should have no problem in getting the best out of each of his players. Exactly which players though will be under Bylsma's tenure for the 2014 Winter Olympics, is anyone's guess.
     Lets take a look at the the names of players that are being thrown around to represent team USA in 2014 with Bylsma under the helm.

     Centers: Joe Pavelski, Ryan Kesler, Paul Stastny, David Backes, Derek Stephan, T.J. Oshie, Brandon Dubinsky

     Left Wings: Zach Parise, Bobby Ryan, Dustin Brown, Max Pacioretty, James Van Riemsdyk

     Right Wings: Patrick Kane, Phil Kessel, Jason Pominville, Ryan Callahan, Blake Wheeler, Kyle Okposo

     Defenseman: Jack Johnson, Ryan Suter, Keith Yandle, Matt Carle, Brooks Orpik, John Carlson, Kevin Shattenkirk, Dustin Byfuglien, Paul Martin, Ryan McDonagh

     Goalies: Jimmy Howard, Ryan Miller, Jonathan Quick, Craig Anderson, Cory Schneider

UPDATE: 1/1/14 Official Team USA Roster per

    Forwards:  Zach Parise (Captain), Ryan Kesler, Patrick Kane
                     James Van Riemsdyk, Joe Pavelski, Phil Kessel
                     Dustin Brown (Assistant Captain), David Backes, Ryan Callahan
                     Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny, T.J. Oshie
                     Derek Stephan, Blake Wheeler

    Defenseman: Ryan Suter (Assistant Captain), John Carlson, Ryan McDonagh, Kevin Shattenkirk, Paul Martin, Justin Faulk, Cam Fowler, Brooks Orpik

    Goalies: Ryan Miller, Jonathan Quick, Jimmy Howard

     Though nothing is set in stone yet, as anything can happen between now and next February, Bylsma will have a roster loaded with talent. One thing Bylsma will do is make constant changes to the lines during the games by switching players around from one line to the next. Bylsma will also be able to tire down an opposing team's first line with a star studded 4th line, (Bylsma has implemented this strategy in his coaching game in Pittsburgh where he puts out his 4th line against the oppositions 1st in order to wear them down, which has seen it's share of pros and cons) that not only consists of tough physical grinders, but players who are capable of producing high offensive numbers. Which is more than your typical 4th line during league play.

     Bylsma likes to play a fast paced game by using the stretch pass to cause mismatches that will create space and produce quick and effective scoring chances. Bylsma also likes dumping the puck into the opposition's own zone and put them on their heels by bringing the pressure with solid checking and toughness in hopes the other team will create a turnover in its own end. If Bylsma is able to use all of his strengths to his advantages and limit the number of mistakes to put his team in the best position to win, I can see Bylsma leading Team USA to a medal, perhaps even gold! The only questions that remain now are, who will be playing under Bylsma, and can he lead team USA to a medal?

     Prediction: Winner in Bronze Medal Game

     Feel free to let me know what you think of Dan Bylsma being chosen to coach team USA's Men's Hockey in the 2014 Winter Olympics and what players you see making representing the U.S.

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     Sources: (1.)


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