From the Bench in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to the NHL
When the Columbus Blue Jackets announced on May 14 that they were removing the “interim” tag from Todd Richards’ title as Head Coach, he became the third person to move on from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins bench to a full-time coaching position in the National Hockey League.
Here is a look at the coaches in Penguins history that have gone on to be a head coach inthe NHL.
Richards was an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Admirals for four seasons, including a Calder Cup Championship in 2003-04. On August 3, 2006, he was hired as the head coach of the team Milwaukee swept in that Calder Cup Final – the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
In his first season with W-B/Scranton, Richards led the team to a 108-point total and a second place finish in the East Division behind the Hershey Bears. The next year, Richards’ Penguins squad skated to the East Division crown at 47-26-2-4 and would go on to reach the 2008 Calder Cup Final, where they fell in six games to the Chicago Wolves.
Richards went on to join the San Jose Sharks as an assistant coach for the 2008-09 season before being hired as the head man for the Minnesota Wild the very next year. He was the second head coach in team history and the first Minnesota native to hold the job.
Richards was fired after two seasons with the Wild, but joined the Blue Jackets organization as an assistant for 2011-12 and was later named interim head coach on January 9, replacing Scott Arniel. Columbus went 16-14-1 over its final 31 games under Richards, including wins seven of the last 11.
The longest tenured coach in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins history, Mike Yeo was an assistant with the team from 2000-06 under Glenn Patrick and later Michel Therrien. When Thierren was promoted by Pittsburgh during the 2005-06 season as a mid-season replacement for outgoing coach Eddie Olczyk, Yeo would resume his duties at the NHL level under Therrien the following year.
With Therrien and Yeo behind the bench for the Penguins, the team made the Stanley Cup Final in 2008 – its first since 1993 – though they would succumb to the Detroit Red Wings in six games.
When Dan Bylsma was tabbed from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton next season to replace Therrien, Yeo stayed on to help guide the Pittsburgh to it’s third-ever Stanley Cup.
Yeo lasted one more year with the Pittsburgh Penguins and – after 10 years as an assistant – was announced as head coach of the Houston Aeros during the summer of 2010. Success came quickly for the first-year head coach as the Aeros went 46-28-1-5 during the regular season and won two Game 7s during their march to the Calder Cup Final.
Though Houston would fall in six games to the surprise-champion Binghamton Senators, the Minnesota Wild thought enough of the man who led their AHL-affiliate to promote him to head coach on June 17, 2011.
In his first NHL season, Yeo led the upstart Wild to a 35-36-2-9 record.
Dan Blysma’s head coaching career in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last 54 regular season games, but he forever etched himself into history books of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Previously an assistant coach under Todd Richards for two years, Bylsma took the reins for the 2008-09 season after Richards departed for Minnesota.
It did not take long for an opportunity to rise in Pittsburgh and even less time for Bylsma to take advantage. With Michel Therrien being let go 57 games into the season, Bylsma took over and led the Penguins to a 18-3-0-4 record down the stretch to finish tied for second in the Atlantic Division.
What ensued was a storybook run for Pittsburgh as they gutted out series wins against Philadelphia and Washington before sweeping the Carolina Hurricanes to reach the Stanley Cup Final against the Detroit Red Wings. The everlasting image of the series will forever be Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury robbing Nicklas Lidstrom in the final seconds of Game 7 to preserve a 2-1 victory and allow Pittsburgh to hoist the Cup for the third time in team history.
Bylsma’s Penguins have since gone on to compile a 147-78-13-9 record over the last three seasons and earn an Atlantic Division title in 2011.