Mike Sullivan Pittsburgh Penguins

Players who have been in the NHL for several years have probably shot by a coach or three. The Pittsburgh Penguins are no different. The most recent pink NHL slip – Gerard Gallant in Vegas – served as a reminder.

First of all, it was a reminder of what the penguins have in coach Mike Sullivan, who was part of the early discussion about the Jack Adams Award for coach of the year for how he led the penguins through a dizzying series of injuries to stay with the best handful of teams in the competition.

“It’s a team thing,” said Penguins defender Kris Letang. “Coach and players must all be together. The message can be as good as (can be, but) if the players don’t want to do it or don’t buy it, it usually doesn’t go well.

“I think it’s just the fact that we have good chemistry with our coaching staff. They let us understand why we play this way. They show us the success that we have. I think that’s why we believe in it and we believe in it in what Sully brings us. “

It may be hard to remember, but after last season there were at least a few murmurs that Sullivan could find his way to the warm seat if the penguins started badly, and that Mike Vellucci could be an easy replacement after being hired as coach and general manager of the branch of the American Hockey League in Wilkes-Barre / Scranton.

At the moment, a change in coaches seems far from anyone’s radar.

But you never know what could happen.

Even with the high turnover among coaches in the NHL, the Gallant firing caused some shock waves. That could serve as a different reminder for the penguins and any other team.

The Golden Knights were fifth in the tight Pacific Division, but only three points off the lead, one point behind second place, and were tied for a wildcard spot in the Western Conference.

Gallant, the first coach in the history of the Vegas expansion franchise, led the team to the Stanley Cup final in his first season.

But the Golden Knights had lost four times in a row – a strand that began with the Penguins’ 4-3 win in Vegas on January 7 – and may not have played as well as management had expected, so the club decided to push the eject button to press.

The resignation of Gallant was the seventh coach change this season, which is not far beyond half. Mike Babock in Toronto, John Hynes in New Jersey, Bill Peters in Calgary, Jim Montgomery in Dallas, Peter Laviolette in Nashville and Peter DeBoer in San Jose have also disappeared. DeBoer replaced Gallant.

“It’s a reality of how competitive the company is,” Sullivan said. “There is pressure to win in every city. It just seems like in today’s game, there is increased pressure on everyone involved in the company – whether they are managers, scouts, coaches, players. I think that that is the nature of the business and how it has evolved.

“These guys are all very good coaches and they are well prepared and I know how invested they are in trying to help their teams win. It is an indication of how high the stakes are and the pressure involved in winning in every city in the competition. “

Sullivan was hired in December 2015, promoted from Wilkes-Barre / Scranton to replace Mike Johnston. The Penguins went into tears and won the Stanley Cup in 2016 and again in 2017. That Sullivan already got a little bit of a blink after the team was swept in the first round of the play-offs by the New York Islanders last spring speak to the NHL culture.

Mike Sullivan was the second coach in less than ten years to rise from Wilkes-Barre / Scranton as a replacement for the season and guide the Penguins to a major turnaround with the Stanley Cup as the highlight. Dan Bylsma did that in 2009, replacing Michel Therrien.

That does not mean that it is a simple process for players.

“As a player, you don’t feel comfortable with it. You have to turn the page and focus on what the new coach should focus on,” said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, part of those three recent Cup teams. fully prove again. There is a feeling process there.

“You can see that St. Louis did it last year, and they ended up winning. They could do that fairly quickly. You can now see teams doing a bit more. It is never easy to continue. “

The Blues were in last place in November 2018 when Craig Berube replaced Mike Yeo and led to a huge turnaround, including the 2019 Cup.

Although things look strong and stable with the Penguins, they know at a certain point that things can change and that players have to adapt.

“It’s a different kind of wake-up call for the boys. Something is not clear,” Letang said about what leads to many of the layoffs. “It is clear that it is easier to change one coach than 26 boys. Usually It is a shock, but at the same time it creates a new challenge for everyone in the room. It is a chance to prove what you can do to a new coach. Maybe he sees it differently than the old coach. it is also always a new start. “