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Saturday, August 17, 2013

How The Hiring of Jacques Martin May Impact The Pittsburgh Penguins

                          (1.) Will Jacques Martin defensive coaching strategy be the perfect combination for the Pittsburgh Penguins high scoring offense?

     Dan Bylsma has been one of the most successful head coaches in Pittsburgh Penguins in the history of the franchise. Bylsma took over midway through the 2009 season as head coach when the Penguins were struggling to stay in playoff contention. The Penguins entered that season as the defending Eastern Conference Champions after reaching the Stanley Cup Finals. (losing to the Detroit Red Wings in 6 games) Despite receiving a three year extension, then head coach Michel Therrien, was given the axe. The Penguins called up Bylsma from Wilkes Barre/Scranton to serve as an interim coach (eventually going on to become head coach). Bylsma would lead the Penguins to its 3rd Stanley Cup title in franchise history, by redeeming themselves of the previous years Stanley Cup Finals against Detroit, beating them in 7 games.

     Bylsma already has 201 regular season wins, and is only 2nd to Eddie Johnston's (who had two separate tenures as head coach) 232 wins in the history of the Penguins organization. With success though comes high expectations. Especially when you sports world class players such as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Despite his winning of the Stanley Cup in 09' and the success in the regular season, Blysma has had trouble matching that success in the playoffs. In 2011 and 2012, the Penguins were knocked out of the first round. In 2013, even after loading up with big talents at the trade deadline (Jarome Iginla, Brendan Morrow, Douglas Murray, Jussi Jokinen) the Penguins season ended in disappointment, being swept by the Boston Bruins in four games. 2010 saw the Penguins enter the season as the defending Stanley Cup Champions and looked to be the favorites to recapture Lord Stanley. Especially after the heavily favorited Washington Capitals were upset in the first round by the Montreal Canadiens, whom the Penguins would end up playing in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. Montreal though would again shock everybody, beating the Penguins in seven games. Game 7 was also the last game ever played in the Mellon Arena.(As the Penguins would open up the New Consol Energy Center the following season) Then head coach of the Montreal Canadiens Jacques Martin, used his defensive minded approach to upset the Penguins. The Penguins have had trouble in the defensive department the past few years in the playoffs, so they went out to find someone to match Dan Bylsma's high offensive attack with an equally effective defensive minded coach. That man ended up being none other than...... Jacques Martin!

     Bygones be bygones though, as Martin is now one of the good guys and the impact he could have, may make the Penguins a more well balanced team. Kris Letang, who is one of the best offensive defenseman in the league today, struggles on the defensive aspect of the games by committing costly turnovers and overcommitting on defense that lead to many scoring opportunities for the opposition. With Martin now on board, he will be able to gel his defensive scheme into Letang's gameplay and improve his performance all around. Letang though is not the only one who could surely benefit from Martin's coaching style. Even superstars such as Crosby, Malkin, James Neal, and others, will be able to polish their defensive games and become better two-way players by matching their offensive abilities with an equally effective defensive gameplay.

     Pittsburgh has had no trouble in the scoring department, and now with the hiring of Jacques Martin, the Penguins hope to have an equal balance of offense and defense.

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