The defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins have been slumping all season.
The Pittsburgh Penguins now officially look like the team head coach Mike Sullivan took over two years ago, not the one he steered to two consecutive championships. The normally-steady hand of Sullivan is starting to shake – changing line combinations far too frequently. This is a clear indication that Sullivan is running out of ideas on how to get this team playing like it should. The best way out of this right now is better coaching.
Teams Reflect the Coach
I have had a small smattering of amateur ice hockey coaching experience. Therefore, I know nothing about what it takes to coach in the NHL. However, I do know that most teams tend to take on the persona of the man in charge. Look at any John Torterella-coached team and you can guess what kind of guy he is. Much has been made out of the fact that Sully was an assistant for Torts but look at their teams playing styles and it is clear that Sully is no Torts – and that’s a good thing.
However, this Pens team has lost the edge. They no longer have that “we are coming right at you” attitude that made them champions. Right from the start of his tenure as Pens head coach, Mike Sullivan exuded a strong confidence. Both in himself knowing what it takes to win, as well as in his players, fearlessly putting fresh faces in a position to succeed.
Time to Coach Back To Basics
The Penguins need Mike Sullivan circa 2015. He needs to get stronger – perhaps start yelling a bit. He needs to become a bit more unwavering in demanding players adhere to the Penguins system. That means benching anyone who won’t play the right way. He needs to settle down the line changes (Hey Mike, you know what these players are capable of, you know their tendencies. Think it through, work out the lines you know should be the best and stick with them). When lines change too much, players know the ship is listing.
Demand what you need from the players. Look, it’s an old adage – dance with the girl that brought you to the dance. Or if you prefer, if you are going to fail, at least fail your way. It’s better to be confident and strong and come up short, than it is to appear confused and weak. Ask Mike Johnston.
In Sully We Trust
If the little rant above sounds harsh, it’s because I want to see the Pens succeed as does every fan. I still think the Pens have the talent behind the bench and in the front office to at least put up a better fight than they have been showing. That’s all any of us really are asking for. If there is any one person who can make a sea change here it is not some new player via trade. It’s not even Crosby or Malkin or Letang. It’s Head Coach Mike Sullivan.
Let’s Go Pens – before summer.