Mike Johnston’s tenure as Coach of the Pens is over. (Bryan Heim/Portland Winterhawks/Canadian Press)
On Saturday morning, Pittsburgh Penguins Head Coach Mike Johnston was relieved of his duties along with assistant coach Gary Agnew. Johnston, hired in June 2014, was unable to take this team filled with stars back to the top of the league, so the axe fell.
The Pens are kind of stuck in the middle of the Metropolitan Division, and were recently passed in the standings by the Devils, which likely prompted the move (although it’s been building for some time). Overall, Pittsburgh was 58-37-15 under Johnston.
General Manager Jim Rutherford revealed that Mike Sullivan will be taking over the head coaching job. Sullivan was previously working behind the bench as the Head Coach for the Penguins’ AHL affiliate team, compiling an 18-5 record. He has NHL coaching experience, having been the Head Coach for the Boston Bruins from 2003 to 2006 and was also an assistant coach for eight years.
There are at least some Penguins fans that will miss Johnston (see video below).
This move by Rutherford seemed inevitable since the Penguins have significantly underperformed for Johnston. Pittsburgh is currently fifth in their division and ninth in the conference after managing to barely squeak into the playoffs last season with 98 points. Since Johnston took over, the Penguins have seen a notable dip in their offensive production.
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With so much firepower up front, it’s almost unbelievable that the Penguins have had such a problem scoring. A team that boasts talents like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Kris Letang shouldn’t be 27th in the league in scoring and averaging a mere 2.4 goals per game. Johnston’s firing was clearly just a matter of time, especially after Rutherford voiced his disagreement with Johnston over how he was using Daniel Sprong.
This move should benefit the Fantasy owners of underperforming Penguins such as Crosby, Kessel and Patric Hornqvist. With Johnston gone, there’s a good chance Pittsburgh starts scoring more goals and its players start picking up more points. This season, Crosby has only managed 19 points in 28 games and Kessel has just 17 points in 28 games. Now with a new coach behind the bench, this high-powered pair might be able to start scoring more. It would behoove a shrewd Fantasy owner to make a low-ball offer to the owners of these players.
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below what you think of this move by the Penguins.
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