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Penguins fire Therrien

February 15, 2009 - John Mehno

Sunday night's coaching change was almost inevitable after Saturday's horrid collapse in Toronto. The Penguins turned a 2-0 lead into a 6-2 loss against the Maple Leafs, a non-playoff team.

The Penguins are looking dangerously like a non-playoff team, too, and whatever buttons Michel Therrien was pushing weren't working. It became apparent earlier this year that the players had tuned him out and that his whip-cracking style was more of an annoyance to the team than anything else.

Give Therrien credit for restoring order after the ill-fated Ed Olcyzk experiment and for getting players to adhere to a defensive-oriented system. They went to a sixth game of the Stanley Cup final last year. But things weren't working this year. The defense was weaker because Ryan Whitney and Sergei Gonchar had long-term injury issues. The offense lost Marian Hossa and Ryan Malone. The Penguins lost the presence of Jarkko Ruutu. Players imported as replacements flopped, and Therrien took the fall.

Home playoff games are worth more than $1 million each to the Penguins, and their budget will take a big hit if they miss the postseason or exit after one round. They'll have to pay off Therrien's recently-extended contract, but that's an expense they were willing to absorb to try and salvage the season.

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