Dan Bylsma didn't lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stanley Cup this spring, as he did two years ago. But in many ways his performance behind the bench this season was even better than it was during the Penguins' run to the 2009 Cup.
Bylsma led the injury-ravaged Penguins to a 106-point season and a playoff berth. His work in getting the Pens to the playoffs despite playing large portions of the season without stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin was recognized on Wednesday when he won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's coach of the year.
The Penguins finished 49-25-8 -- the second-most victories and points in franchise history. They did it despite missing key contributor Jordan Staal during the first half of the season, then losing Crosby to a season-ending concussion in early January and Malkin to knee surgery not long afterwards.
That impressed members of the NHL Broadcasters' Association enough for Bylsma to edge Barry Trotz of Nashville and Vancouver's Alain Vigneault for the honor handed out at the NHL Awards ceremony at the Palms Casino Resort.
"This award is really just an indication of what the players did and what our team did throughout the year, throughout that adversity, and fashioned our team into what was still a very good team," Bylsma said.
Bylsma and the Penguins lost Crosby for the season after he sustained a concussion on Jan. 5. Malkin played only 43 of Pittsburgh's 82 games, none after Feb. 4. Staal missed the first three months of the season with injuries and illness, and a year-long parade of other injuries meant that Bylsma was often dressing a lineup loaded with players who had been playing at Wilkes-Barre, the Penguins' AHL farm team.
He gave all the credit to his players.
"The players did an amazing job to keep on going with the injuries and through some of the down times and kept expecting to win — and did," Bylsma said. "If you looked at our roster at the beginning of the year and said, 'There's your lineup,' I don't think anyone would have given us a chance. But that group of guys expected to win, even going into the playoffs, and felt like we could win 16 (postseason games)."
Unfortunately for the Penguins, they won only three -- Pittsburgh lost in seven games to Tampa Bay in the opening round after taking a 3-1 series lead.
"It's been seven years since I started coaching, but it feels like it's gone by in a flash. It's exciting," Bylsma said. "It's invigorating. I have a lot of energy and passion to keep it going, so I'm going to try to prove to you that there is more to do."