Dan Bylsma on disco, hip-hop, Jack Eichel, online job searches (Puck Daddy Interview)

Dan Bylsma on disco, hip-hop, Jack Eichel, online job searches (Puck Daddy Interview)

Buffalo Sabres coach Dan Bylsma still would not officially divulge the origins of his ‘Disco Dan’ nickname..

"The secret and how I got it is not coming out,” Bylsma said in a phone interview with Puck Daddy.

Though the beginnings of 'Disco Dan' have been mentioned by others, Bylsma has kept the exact story a secret.

But putting two and two together, it did not come from any sort of hip-hop music.

That’s because Bylsma admits he’s not a fan of that genre. In fact he hadn’t heard of D.J. Kool’s “Let Me Clear My Throat” before it was played as the Sabres’ new goal song.

“I don’t know what hip-hop is, let alone a fan,” Bylsma said.

So much for the latest attempt to get Bylsma to spill the beans.

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There’s always been a coolness factor with Bylsma. He was the hip, young coach who guided the Pittsburgh Penguins to the 2009 Stanley Cup. And now he’s the guy in charge of resurrecting the Sabres out of the ‘tank’ era and into the Jack Eichel era.

After a slow start he’s done pretty well. The Sabres are 8-9-2 and have gone 5-3-2 in their last 10 games. They’re not a playoff threat this year, but Bylsma is playing a long game with the group. There’s a multi-year plan rather than a ‘win-now’ feel like he had when he coached the Penguins.

We talked with Bylsma after he finished a practice in Dallas – where the Sabres will play the Stars on Saturday – about his team, rookie Jack Eichel … and Bylsma’s personal LinkedIn profile.

Q: Why are you on Linkedin if you’re an NHL head coach?

BYLSMA: Why am I on LinkedIn? I’m really not on LinkedIn any longer. But I was on LinkedIn for really no other reason than a few friends all over the United States it was my one connection to them. So that’s really why.

I mean you’ve won a Stanley Cup and coached a US Olympic team. I can’t imagine you need LinkedIn to land a job.

(Laughs) No good reason.

Sidenote: It appears Bylsma hasn’t updated his LinkedIn profile in some time. It says he’s still the head coach of the Penguins.

What do you think about the Sabres’ new goal song?

I’d like to hear more of it.

Are you a hip-hop fan?

I don’t know what hip-hop is, let alone a fan. I know we had to play down and pick the goal song. I know it’s gotten a lot of play. All I can say is I’d like to hear more of it.

Can I please get you to divulge why your nickname is ‘Disco Dan?’ 

No. All I can say is it’s traveled with me for a long time. From how hockey works and the LA organization and even before that to Anaheim to coaching in Anaheim, it’s kind of followed me all around. It stuck, but the secret and how I got it is not coming out.

But it’s not from a hip-hop song then?

No, you are correct.

What’s its like coaching Jack Eichel? Is there pressure with coaching him like ‘don’t mess this up’ because he’s such an important future asset for Buffalo?

I think there’s a lot of attention given to Jack. There’s a lot of attention given to his situation. There’s a lot of people with expectations for how good he’s going to be. They’ve given adjectives like ‘prodigy’ and ‘generational’ and I think I have had some experience in coaching star players and players that have that cast upon them. I think the great thing for the Sabres and the great thing for me is Jack doesn’t feel that. Jack doesn’t feel those expectations. Jack doesn’t carry those expectations around with him. He’s trying to learn and grow and develop as a player and doesn’t carry that with him on the ice.

Are there any similarities to how Sidney Crosby, who you coached with the Penguins, and Eichel carry themselves? Both were in the spotlight for a while before their NHL debuts.

The similarities are the outside scrutiny and the outside dissection of the player and the outside expectations. Those are similar. You’re not dealing with a player. You’re coaching a player. And you’re helping a player and I think the experience I had in Pittsburgh has helped me bring that and I brought that to the Sabres. It’s helped me with the Sabres and helped me coach Jack.

He’s playing about 19 minutes per-night. I’d assume you wouldn’t play him that much if you didn’t think he earned it? 

That is correct.

It’s not so much given to him based on his expectation or based on his potential. He has earned the right to play that much and in those situations. I’ve added, he’s now a guy on our penalty kill and that’s because he’s earned it. He’s one of our better penalty killers and that’s not something I did early on this season. It’s something he’s earned. We’re putting him on the ice because he has earned it.

It seems like recently the team has made some strides. Do you see it the same way?

Coming to the Sabres, I think you look at the last couple of years and the last two years in particular where they were 29th and 30th in virtually every category in the league. You’re really looking at a vastly different team than that and that was one of the exciting things about coming to Buffalo is there was going to be a significant amount of changes, a significant amount of growth and a young team, a team that’s going to grow and develop together. That was what was really exciting about the summer for the Sabres. Looking at the draft in particular, you get Jack Eichel, you make a trade for Ryan O’Reilly and add Robin Lehner. You get Jamie McGinn and you’re looking at a roster that has eight new people added to it and our old guys are 24 years old. In our captain Brian Gionta and Josh Gorges, we have one or two guys older than that, but the vast majority of the team is a young team and a team that has potential to grow together.

How have you tried to fix the losing culture with the team?

I think that was a big concern coming in because there hadn’t been a lot of success. They didn’t know what winning looked like and frankly last year there was a lot to talk about with where they were going to finish, how low they were going to finish and getting the opportunity to pick first or second. It was a big concern and really part of our growth and development is getting the culture of winning and what we need to do and what we have to do to win.

You also had a lot of injuries early on. Was it hard fitting in the new pieces with a constantly changing lineup?

You’re trying to establish and implement a standard and an expectation for how we’re going to play and that had its challenges with the fact that you have injuries to significant pieces of your team, like Zach Bogosian getting injured and not being there for training camp and into the season. You see Evander Kane get injured for a good portion of time in the first 20 games, so you want to feel like you’re establishing and implementing a standard, and you kind of have a newness to your team through some injuries and a guy like Jake McCabe getting an opportunity and guys coming back. We haven’t felt like we’ve had our entire group together yet but that’s part of the process as well.

Do the injuries in some ways give you a better sense of what you have? With some of the guys who maybe wouldn’t have been in those roles? 

I think when you’re developing and when you're building I think you expect to have injuries. You expect to have key people out at certain times. It’s a little bit – Zach Bogosian is a guy who’s going to play a big part of that and he’s been on the sidelines and not being able to participate the first 40-45 days.

How have you changed as a coach since the end of your time in Pittsburgh?

I did quite a bit of looking at the game and analyzing the game and coming from a distance the last year and year and a half when I was not a coach in the league, I think it’s helped me. And certain aspects of how I would like our team to play and I think it’s apparent and I think it’s apparent in the way I’m coaching and apparent in the way I’ve approached things, but you’re coaching two different teams and two different situations so I certainly am different than I was a year and a half ago but it’s also a different situation and a different team.

The expectations feel different in Buffalo in that you’re not a Stanley Cup favorite, whereas with the Penguins it was always the goal.

Last night we were playing the St. Louis Blues and we were in the heat of competition and the moment and it feels absolutely no different. We’re trying to win and we’re trying to win right now and we’re in the process of developing and the process of developing a team that has the ability and expectation to win and to be a winner every day, and that’s not any different than my coaching before.

You went to Bowling Green State. How did that prepare you for pro hockey because it seems like a lot of people involved in the NHL went to Bowling Green State

All over, all over. Everywhere from broadcasting to general manager, management, coaches and players. Bowling Green, you take a great deal of pride with Bowling Green and the development I had there as a person and a player and a hockey player and it’s a factory for pushing people into the NHL in a lot of different areas.

There were some great players, and some people have gone on from playing and some to management, and general managers and assistant GMs. It’s pretty impressive.


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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!