Yesterday, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced the firing of head coach Mike Johnston. In just his second season in Pittsburgh, Johnston and his squad had high expectations this season, but to this point they have somewhat disappointed, going 15-10-3.Pittsburgh currently stands at ninth in the Eastern Conference with 33 points, just behind the New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators and Boston Bruins. There is obviously plenty of time for improvement, but with the talent that the Penguins brought in, they should be near the top of the conference.
In the offseason, Pittsburgh brought in star winger Phil Kessel to help out Sidney Crosby and give the Penguins a deadly one-two combo on the first line. The addition of an elite goal scorer in Kessel to go along with an elite playmaker in Crosby should be one of the leagues best duos. However, both have gotten off to extremely slow starts. Crosby only has 19 points in 28 games, and has a +/- rating of -6. On the other hand, Kessel has just 17 points and has only found the back of the net nine times in 28 games. Kessel has always been an inconsistent player and a detriment to the locker room, but his performance this year has been downright shocking. The only star player who seems to be playing to their full potential at the moment is Evgeni Malkin.
Malkin is off to a solid start to his campaign. 26 points in 28 games seems low for the Russian center, but when considering the fact that the rest of his team is underperforming, his play has been excellent. His season has been highlighted by a four point performance against the Minnesota Wild.
Evgeni Malkin has also turned into a leader on this squad. In mid-November he called out his team for their poor play and poor chemistry. The next night he had his four point performance against Minnesota. At the time of his comments, the Penguins were 10-7. He called out his teammates for not playing hard and not playing the right way. Malkin also said they had no team chemistry, which comes with time being together.
All in all it has been a very disappointing season in Pittsburgh up to this point. The play of Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury in net. This team was expected to be one of the higher scoring teams in the league, but as of the moment, they rank 26th in goals per game. They are actually scoring more than their opponents, but it hasn’t shown up in the win column yet.
Mike Sullivan will take over for Johnston behind the bench. He was a Bruins head coach and was coaching the AHL affiliate for the Penguins. He brings in plenty of head coaching experience and knows the system that the Penguins play in. The players never seemed to like Mike Johnston, maybe they’ll take more of a liking to a respected for head coach in Mike Sullivan and make a push towards the playoffs.