Joe Starkey: Penguins' coaching moves raise some questions

By Joe Starkey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Hockey

PITTSBURGH - If "ugly" was the word to describe the Penguins' recent coaching purge, then maybe "nice" is the word for the reformation.

First of all, new/old assistant coach Todd Reirden is a nice man. Maybe too nice, if you heard him insist Wednesday that Jack Johnson is a "nice third-pairing D-man."

I'm all for nice. As the great Frank Burns once said on "M(ASTERISK)A(ASTERISK)S(ASTERISK)H(ASTERISK)," "It's nice to be nice to the nice."

What I'm curious about, however, now that Reirden and Mike Vellucci - promoted from the minors - have been named Mike Sullivan's newest assistants, is this: Who's going to push back on Sullivan? Anyone?

Rick Tocchet could.

Who's going to drop the hammer on players? Who's going to be the NOT nice man, other than Sully himself - and I would imagine his booming voice gets old from time to time. GM Jim Rutherford keeps complaining about his team's lack of energy and edge. Which assistant is going to push those buttons?


Seems to me this staff still needs a guy cut from the Tocchet cloth. Maybe that will still happen. It also seems curious that goaltending coach Mike Buckley escaped Rutherford's purge, but more on that in a minute.

First, Reirden, because he's the biggest story here. He experienced success with some of these players. He also experienced failure. The years 2010-14 were not exactly a golden age for Penguins postseason success.

I like Reirden and respect him. I think he's a good coach. But I thought Sergei Gonchar and Jacques Martin were good coaches, too. The question is, who are the best fits for this team at this particular time?

On one hand, Reirden has a track record of orchestrating power play success. He helped the Capitals win a Cup as an assistant in 2018, and the Penguins finished in the top five in each of his final three years under Dan Bylsma (although they went just 7 for 49 in the 2014 playoffs, before both lost their jobs).


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