The coach of the U.S. men’s hockey team in the 2014 Sochi Games was going to be one of three men.
Peter Laviolette of the Philadelphia Flyers had his chance in the 2006 Turin games, where the U.S. was eliminated in the quarterfinals. John Tortorella of the Vancouver Canucks was an assistant on the silver medal-winning team from the 2010 Vancouver Games. Dan Bylsma of the Pittsburgh Penguins lacked the international experience of the other two, but had the advantage in the charisma and temperament departments.
According to Kevin Allen of USA Today, Bylsma will coach the U.S. team in Sochi.
Bylsma has led the Penguins to five straight playoff appearances and three 100-point seasons. He's the winningest playoff coach in Penguins history and has the best regular-season winning percentage in team history. He won the Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2009, and the Jack Adams Award for coach of the year.
Why did he get the Olympic gig despite a lack of international hockey coaching? Partially because of Tortorella’s infamous temper, apparently.
From Kevin Allen:
Usually, the Americans appreciate international experience, and it appeared that Tortorella had an edge over Bylsma because he had previously been involved at the world championships and Olympics. Both Bylsma and Tortorella are Stanley Cup winners.
But Tortorella damaged his public image this season with hostile news conferences while with the New York Rangers and a cursing incident during an NBC interview. It had to make him a less attractive candidate. One reason why the NHL allows it players and coaches to go the Olympics is to help grow the game. Tortorella's behavior this season didn't help him.
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We’re going to go ahead and hope that Tortorella’s mouth and contentious relationship with the media aren’t determining factors in Bylsma getting the gig, because it’s rather shameful if that’s the case. Oh, man, he cursed on national television; that totally should supersede the fact that he has international coaching experience that Bylsma lacks and that his system is more in tune with the roster the U.S. plans to construct than Bylsma’s is, right?
That said: Bylsma’s been on track for this job since 2010. As a players’ coach, one could easily see him fitting well with the group expected to represent the U.S. in Sochi. As an ambassador for USA Hockey, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone better.
The other bit of news from Allen: GM David Poile will have Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero as associate general manager and Anaheim Ducks consultant Brian Burke as director of player development.
Burke, you’ll recall, was the GM of the 2010 team but was not invited back to that position because of some cockamamie rule about the general manager needing to be a current one in the NHL.
He may not be spearheading the effort any longer, but it’s great to see Burke remain a part of the Olympic
team, given the job he did three years ago.