Last Saturday, Mike Johnston was sacked as head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins after leading them to a 15-10-3 record this season. Mike Sullivan has since been recruited to lead the Pens.
Mike Sullivan has since been recruited to lead the Pens.
NHL.com reported General Manager Jim Rutherford had the following explanation for Johnston’s dismissal.
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"Really, over the last couple of games, I saw a team that did have more fight in their game and did have more will to win, but I look at this snapshot over the first 27 games and felt that we've underachieved."
Speaking to PensTV, captain Sidney Crosby says that he and the players are to take the brunt of the blame as it is they who have been under-performing.
"It's never a great situation, obviously, as players. We take full responsibility. The coach is the one that takes the fall, but ultimately, it's on us. So, we've got to be better. There's no question the expectations are high.”
A new era in Pittsburgh
As an NHL head coach, Mike Sullivan has led the Boston Bruins to the top of their division, back in 2003-04. During his two-season stint at Boston, he secured a 70-56-31 record.
Sullivan has already started to enforce his new policy in an attempt to create a new team identity. He says that the team primarily revolves around speed and skill – mostly down to having superstars Crosby and Evgeni “Geno” Malkin – but he wants to create a better team ethic in Pittsburgh.
The new Penguins head coach had this to say, to NHL.com, about his plans for the team:
"What I'm going to try to do with this group is we're going to try to define a team game. We're going to try to define what it means to play the right way, down to the details.
“We're going to work on that daily. We're going to come to the rink every day and try to get better. That's what I told them.”
Emphasis on team play to boost Crosby
Since “Geno” and Crosby were drafted, in 2004 and 2005 respectively, the Penguins have only won the Stanley Cup once – in 2009. Considering that the pair
Considering that the pair are arguably the best two skaters in the league, and have had decent players around them, just two finals and one cup win in 10 seasons must be very frustrating for the fans.
A new look to the Pittsburgh team is long overdue, given their lack of cup success in recent times. The team should focus more on a team effort rather than relying upon Malkin and Crosby every game.
This is not to say that the duo should receive reduced ice time, but players scoring on the lower lines would help to release some of the pressure on them.
Last season, Crosby flourished alongside hard-working forwards like Patrick Hornqvist and Chris Kunitz, and ended the season averaging 1.1 points per game. During this campaign, however, he averages just 0.7.
Sullivan should employ a greater team ethic within his team but, the key to his success lies in revitalizing Sidney Crosby.