PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins fired coach Michel Therrien on Sunday, less than a year after he led the team to the Stanley Cup finals.
Dan Bylsma, coach of the team’s AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, was installed as interim coach with 25 games remaining in the season.
Even with Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, who rank first and second in the NHL in scoring, the Penguins have struggled to a 27-25-5 record this season. They’re in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, five points out of eighth and the final playoff spot.
The Penguins lost to the Detroit Red Wings in six games in last year’s Stanley Cup finals.
The firing came a day after the Penguins blew a 2-0 lead in a 6-2 loss in Toronto. The Maple Leafs scored five times in the third period.
Pittsburgh has just one road win since Dec. 26.
“We believe we need a change in direction and, with 25 games remaining in the regular season, our goal remains to finish strong and qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs,” general manager Ray Shero said. “Dan Bylsma is one of the bright young coaches in the game and has done an exceptional job as the head coach in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season.
“We also would like to thank Michel Therrien for his significant contributions to the Penguins organization.”
The 38-year-old Bylsma (BYLE-smuh) will coach his first game with the Penguins against the New York Islanders on Monday. In his first season as head coach of the AHL team, the Baby Penguins were 35-16-1-2.
He played nine NHL seasons as a right wing with Los Angeles and Anaheim from 1995-2004.
Therrien became coach of the Penguins in December 2005, after 2½ seasons at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, replacing Eddie Olczyk. He engineered the club’s turnaround from a struggling franchise to a Stanley Cup contender. He was a finalist for coach of the year in 2006-07, after the Penguins improved by 47 points over the previous season. That ranks as the fourth-best turnaround in a season in NHL history.
Entering this season, Therrien and the Pens were 94-51-19 over the last two seasons.
Despite injuries to Crosby and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, Therrien and the Penguins went 47-27-8 for 102 points last season, their second straight 100-point season. Pittsburgh won its first division title since 1997-98 and earned its first Cup finals berth since 1991-92.
Therrien, coach of Montreal from 2000-03 who led the Canadiens to the playoffs in 2001-02, is the fifth NHL coach to be replaced this season and second this month. Ottawa fired Craig Hartsburg two weeks ago.
The Penguins reassigned assistant coach Andre Savard within the organization, and Tom Fitzgerald, the Penguins’ director of player development, joined the staff as an assistant coach.