The Pittsburgh Penguins are not happy with their current place in the standings, and on Saturday morning made a change that seemed to be more inevitable with each passing day.
The Penguins announced that coach Mike Johnston, as well as assistant coach Gary Agnew, have been fired.
Johnston will be replaced by Mike Sullivan who had been coaching the Penguins’ AHL team in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
“I felt it was time for a coaching change because our team has underachieved,” general manager Jim Rutherford said in a team statement announcing the move. “Our expectations are much higher with this group of players.”
In recent weeks Rutherford has sounded increasingly frustrated with the performance of the team, repeatedly referring to them as underachieving and openly questioning some of the lineup decisions, including the lack of ice-time for rookie Daniel Sprong, the team’s second-round draft pick in 2015.
Johnston replaced Dan Bylsma at the start of the 2014-15 season and had a fantastic start to his NHL coaching career as the Penguins stormed out of the gate to a 22-6-4 record and were one of the highest scoring teams in the league. But as injuries started to mount, particularly on their defense, the offense hit a wall and the team needed a win on the last day of the regular season just to secure a spot in the playoffs.
Through their first 28 games this season the Penguins are 15-10-3 and are in ninth place in the Eastern Conference. Their 67 goals are 27th in the league, a surprising spot for a roster that has Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel.
As for Sullivan, he was in his first year as a head coach at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton after replacing John Hynes when he was hired to be the new coach of the New Jersey Devils. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has an 18-5-0 record so far this season.
After losing in a shootout to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night the Penguins return to the ice on Monday against the Washington Capitals for Sullivan’s NHL coaching debut.