Coach Therrien getting credit as Pens surge
By The Associated Press
Sunday, February 18, 2007
The Pittsburgh Penguins have gone from a team with the worst record in the NHL's Eastern Conference a year ago to the team with the third-best record this season.
The players credit coach Michel Therrien, and say he should be considered for the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year.
"Any individual award, you look at it after the year, but I think up to this point he definitely has put himself in a great position," said center Sidney Crosby, who leads the league in scoring. "He's been great with us, especially with the young team we have. It seems like our learning curve has moved pretty fast, and we're not done learning yet."
The Penguins were among the NHL's worst teams when Therrien was promoted from the team's American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in December of last season.
The Penguins went 14-29-8 after he took over and finished with the second-worst record in the league. Pittsburgh earned roughly the same number of points per game under Therrien as under his fired predecessor, Eddie Olczyk, last season.
This season, the young Penguins were improved at 18-17-7 through Jan. 10, but have been the best team in hockey since. Pittsburgh's current 13-0-2 stretch has not only lifted moved the Penguins from outside playoff contention into fourth place in the conference, it is earning Therrien attention, too.
"Look at how he's developed these young guys," veteran winger Mark Recchi said. "And with the great attitudes and work ethic these young guys have, it makes it easy for Michel to keep teaching them and prodding them along and helping them."
Therrien has repeatedly said he isn't worried about winning any individual honors for the job he's done. He said after practice Saturday that he doesn't even allow himself to sit back and take pride in his own performance.
"I'm not (looking at) it that way at all," he said with a laugh. "It's crunch time. I want to make sure we're well-prepared for the next game. The players have got to respond. We've got no choice but to keep coaching, even when things are going well for us."
Therrien surely has benefited from Crosby, who is a year older and wiser, and from the addition of rookie of the year candidates Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal, defenseman Mark Eaton and role players Jarkko Ruutu, Dominic Moore and Ronald Petrovicky.
The team has benefited as much from new general manager Ray Shero's roster-building as from coaching. But that hasn't diminished the contribution of Therrien.
"He's done a great job. He knows how to manage," defenseman Ryan Whitney said. "He has a feel for the way we as a group of guys has to play to win. It is tough to ignore the success we have had."