Saturday, December 12, 2015

Penguins Fire Mike Johnston, Replace Him with Mike Sullivan

The Penguins have fired head coach Mike Johnston and replaced him with Mike Sullivan.

More: Sullivan Has Taken Winding Road to Pittsburgh Bench

"I felt it was time for a coaching change because our team has underachieved," general manager Jim Rutherford told the Penguins website. "Our expectations are much higher with this group of players."

Sullivan, 47, was in his first season coaching Pittsburgh's American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, where the Penguins are 18-5-0-0 and leading the Atlantic Division. He coached two seasons with the Boston Bruins, winning a division title in 2003-04 and going 70-56-31.

"We have some areas that we have to be a lot better with," said Rutherford in a press conference. "We have to have more will to win."

Rutherford says that Jacques Martin and Rick Tocchet will be on the Penguins bench to help ease Sullivan into his role with the Pens.

Rutherford hinted that the performance of the Penguins power play was one of the biggest issues leading to Johnston's firing. He also made it clear during the above 15-minute presser that he felt that the players were not being held accountable for their mistakes and shortcomings in Johnston's system. When asked by a reporter when he made the decision to fire Johnston, Rutherford said that the ball really started rolling after consecutive losses to Columbus and New Jersey on November 13 and 14.

"I really saw poor efforts," said Rutherford of the weekend. "Losing a game is one thing--we're gonna go back and forth with the parity in the league, winning and losing games--but it's about the night's work that we put in in trying to win that game. That weekend to me was a real low point. That's when I started thinking about it."

Rutherford hinted that he likes the overall makeup of the Penguins but feels that they could benefit from the addition of a puck-moving defenseman. He even went so far as to blame himself for not providing Johnston with enough talent on the blue line this season.

"Everybody is looking for the same thing," said Rutherford. "I won't stop looking. I'll try to get that type of defenseman."