The Pittsburgh Penguins were always going to be speaking to the media Sunday, but most assumed it would be in advance of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final. Instead, after a stunning sweep at the hands of the Boston Bruins, game day became locker cleanout day, as the club faced tough questions about their postseason failure, and their future.
Marc-Andre Fleury, who lost his starting job in Round 1 and never gained it back, was asked if he felt like the coaching staff still had faith in him.
"I don't know. I haven't talked with Dan yet," he responded. "You should ask him. Not me."
Simply doing as they were told, the media put the question to Dan Bylsma. The Penguins' coach was asked to define what a franchise goaltender should do, as well as whether he felt Marc-Andre Fleury was that for the Penguins.
"I'm not sure the definition of franchise guy," Bylsma said. "He's our number one goalie. He's the number one goalie for this franchise and he will be going forward. We were in a situation where Tomas Vokoun went in the net and won the third and fourth games of a series for us and continued to play in our net, but Marc-Andre Fleury is a guy who's gonna come back to our team and he's gonna be the number one goalie. And he's gonna be our franchise goalie."
"He's gonna be this franchise's goalie."
Having listened to the audio several times, I can confirm that that final sentence ended there, and not after the prepositional phrase to get bought out. This was a vote of confidence.
It's hard to believe, especially after Tomas Vokoun was handed the reins midway through the Penguins' series with the Islanders, and remained in the starter's role for the duration of the Penguins' run. Even after Fleury drew back in during a blowout versus the Bruins, Bylsma went right back to Vokoun. Could Bylsma seriously be considering going back to Fleury next season after he didn't appear to seriously consider it this postseason?
Maybe. But it's important to note that this won't actually be Bylsma's decision -- both because he doesn't make the personnel moves, Ray Shero does, and because one of those personnel moves might be his own dismissal. (Especially after giving Fleury a vote of confidence.)
Shero won't be speaking to the media until Wednesday, and one can assume he needs the extra few days to make some tough decisions about Bylsma and Fleury.
That in mind, it doesn't make much sense for Bylsma to declare a course of action on next season when there's no guarantee he'll be steering the ship. Better to bite the tongue for now.