The Florida Panthers wasted little time in reaching out to ex-Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma as part of their ongoing coaching search after newly hired Pittsburgh General Manager Jim Rutherford fired the 2011 Coach of the Year on Friday morning.
No definitive plans for an interview with Bylsma have been made, but Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon called him shortly after he was let go to touch base, according to a team source.
The source added that the Panthers will speak to some of the top candidates again, such as Tom Renney, Ron Wilson, Gerard Gallant, Bill Peters, Marc Crawford and a "dark horse," Panthers assistant coach John Madden.
The lack of urgency to meet with Bylsma could have to do with the freshness of his dismissal as well as Tallon's familiarity with him. Tallon was on the U.S. Olympic hockey team's advisory committee who hired Bylsma to coach Team USA in the recently concluded Sochi Olympics. The Americans finished a disappointing fourth after a 4-0 start.
Bylsma, 43, had a 252-117-32 record as head coach of the star-studded Penguins, winning the Stanley Cup in 2009 after he replaced Michel Therrien in midstream. He made the playoffs in all six seasons, and won the Jack Adams coaching award in 2011 when he guided the Penguins to a 106-point season despite playing without injured superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for most of the year.
Known for his motivational skills and media-friendly manner, Bylsma's lofty precedent set in his first season created high expectations which he couldn't meet. Although the Penguins topped 100 points in four of his six seasons and would've done it again in 2013 if not for the lockout, Pittsburgh never made it back to the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Penguins were just 4-5 in playoff series since winning the Cup, with each loss coming to a lower-seeded team. The proverbial straw came last month when Pittsburgh blew a 3-to-1 series lead and a home Game 7 to the Rangers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Penguins GM Ray Shero was fired shortly afterward, while Bylsma was left hanging. He has two years remaining on his contract, and is believed to be a front-runner for the Hurricanes' coaching opening.
Madden is a surprising candidate, but his Stanley Cup pedigree, knowledge of the game and close ties to Tallon has him in the mix. Madden won three Stanley Cup titles as a center, including two with the Devils and the third with the 2009-10 Chicago Blackhawks after Tallon signed the then 36-year-old for his much-needed experience.
Madden, 41, finished his sterling career in Florida in 2012 after Tallon signed him in midseason to help the young Panthers snap their 11-year playoff drought. The Panthers hired him as a scout the following season but when Kevin Dineen was fired in November, Tallon made Madden an assistant coach with Brian Skrudland.
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