October 13, 2010
Pens coach knew Brent was good
By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency
PITTSBURGH -- When Dan Bylsma made a passing reference to Maple Leafs centre Tim Brent on Wednesday morning, he must have been chuckling on the inside.
"When you add two goals from Tim Brent in your first two games, it's going to help you get a good result," the Penguins coach said of the Leafs' third-line centre who has gone from near anonymity to the talk of his hockey crazy town.
What may have sounded like sarcasm to those unaware of their relationship, was more likely admiration.
Perhaps more than Ron Wilson or Brian Burke or any of the other hockey honchos that have led to Brent being a Leaf, Bylsma is perhaps the biggest reason he is in the NHL.
Rewind three years ago to when both men were in Wilkes-Barre with the Penguins AHL farm team, putting in the hard time necessary to make it to the big show.
Brent quickly became fond of Bylsma and his hockey intelligence. Bylsma took it upon himself to teach Brent some of the finer points in the game that might get him to the NHL one day.
In a mostly unheralded NHL career, Bylsma played 429 games primarily for Anaheim and Los Angeles, scoring just 19 goals.
But he was a willing role player, an assignment Brent has accepted with verve so far for the Leafs.
"The guy led the league in blocked shots for years and was a great penalty-killer, so he was someone I could look up to and pick his brain," Brent said prior to Wednesday's game against the Pens.
"He was one of those guys who focussed on the little things that he did well and made himself an NHL career by doing it. That's something I obviously looked at it."
Once Brent showed a proficiency and enthusiasm at the art of being a defensive centre, Bylsma went to work to help the process.
"Things like blocking shots in a proper way, different checking positions, things like that," said Brent, who also played under Bylsma in Cincinnati in the 2004-05 season.
It worked well for both men in that 2007-08 season which saw the Wilkes-Barre Penguins make it to the AHL's Calder Cup final.
That got Bylsma even higher on the Penguins radar and, when things went sour with then-coach Michel Therien midway through the following season, Bylsma was promoted as interim head coach.
The condition on that title didn't last long, of course, given that the Penguins were Stanley Cup champions mere months later.
"I respect Dan so much," Brent said. "He's an unbelievable coach and a great person. He's one of those guys you could talk to and at the same time learn so much from."