Penguins make coaching change

Friday, December 16, 2005

PITTSBURGH -- Former player Eddie Olczyk was out and disciplinarian Michel Therrien was in as the Pittsburgh Penguins' coach Thursday, and a couple of minutes of practice quickly revealed the differences.

There were no sloppily run drills, no casual puck shooting, no scrimmages that looked like pickup games. It was time for hockey boot camp.

It was culture shock for a team that has long prided itself on developing creative players and not systems. But the Penguins' 8-17-6 record was an even bigger shock to a franchise convinced it has Stanley Cup-contending talent, and it brought down a coach who had no previous coaching experience and, for much of his short career, looked like it.

"Losing is always depressing," Penguins forward Ryan Malone said, "but we've been embarrassing."

Since Olczyk moved from the TV booth to behind the bench in 2003-04, the Penguins are 31-68-14 with losing streaks of 18 games and nine games. They played so badly while losing eight of their last nine, with losses of 5-0 to Minnesota and 3-0 to St. Louis.

General manager Craig Patrick, who hired Olczyk without a search nearly three years ago, called the recent losses "disturbing," but said they reflected the laissez-faire attitude and indifference the Penguins have shown all season and can no longer tolerate.

Therrien coached 10 of the current players at the Penguins' Wilkes-Barre/Scranton farm club. He will instal the same system he used to get Wilkes-Barre off to a 25-1-2-1 start, the best in AHL history. That system stresses possessing the puck, protecting the goaltender and playing tight defense -- all of which the Penguins do poorly.

"We need to have a winning attitude, and do what winners do to win," said Therrien, who has a three-year contract. "There's a price to pay, and it's part of my duty to make sure those guys pay that price."

More cap room

The salary cap for NHL teams will rise next season, from the current $39 million to between $40 million and $45 million, commissioner Gary Bettman said on Thursday at the end of a two-day league owners meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz. Bettman projected overall revenues slightly exceeding $2 billion.

-- The Associated Press

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