Mike Sullivan Has Been Very Unimpressive
After eight games, the Pittsburgh Penguins sit at 3-5 with just six points, placing them last in the Metropolitan Division. Yes, the season is still very early; however, in a loaded Eastern Conference, there is no room for error. Also, the Penguins are headed in the same direction as last season, and with a short championship window due to a loaded but aging roster, the Penguins cannot mess around.
All five of the Penguins’ losses have been sloppy, especially against bad teams such as the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues. It seems like the Penguins cannot go on a solid winning streak as they keep on trading wins and losses, which this team can simply not afford to do. They won two games in a row against the Washington Capitals and Calgary Flames and then followed that up, losing the next three.
Change Up The Lines
One of the most infuriating things about head coach Mike Sullivan is his ability to rarely change up the lines. Rickard Rakell, who the Penguins traded for in the 2021-2022 season, has been severely underwhelming. Fresh off of his best season since the 2017-2018 season, where he had 28 goals and 60 points, he has no goals and just one assist this season. Sullivan should find a way to light a spark under him, whether it is changing him in the lines or even scratching him if necessary. However, the preferable option would be to change him in the lines, either decreasing his ice time or letting him play with one of the best playmakers of all-time in Sidney Crosby, so he can get his confidence up.
Scratch The Terrible Players
Anybody who has watched every or most of the Penguins games this season would tell you Chad Ruhwedel and Jeff Carter have been the worst players on this team so far. Ruhwedel’s last two games were better as he was a +2 against the Colorado Avalanche and had an assist in the loss against the Ottawa Senators; however, excluding those games, he has been miserable.
Carter is one of the worst Penguins players on this team and also was last season. He lost his touch and is no longer a good skater. His -16 last season was the worst in his career since the 2019-20 season. This season, Carter is one of the three forwards with no points, joining Matt Nieto and Noel Acciari.
Sullivan needs to freshen up the depth chart and bench his struggling guys, and get some new guys out there. Either those guys do well with their new given opportunity, or hopefully, it lights a fire under Ruhwedel and Carter, and they play better.
Sullivan Should Be On The Hot Seat
This is his ninth season as the Penguins head coach. Sullivan is the winningest head coach in Penguins history with 340 wins and came in and won back-to-back Stanley Cups in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 season. However, after that, the Penguins, despite making the playoffs almost every year since then, have only made it to the second round once.
With an aging core of Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and now Erik Karlsson, the Penguins need to win now, as they do not have much of a future. Last season was the first time the Penguins missed the playoffs since the 2005-06 season. New general manager Kyle Dubas is committed to winning, and he may have to let go of Sullivan in order to deliver that promise.
If Sullivan Is Fired, Who Should Be #1 Target?
If Sullivan actually is fired, the #1 candidate to take over is Gerard Gallant. Gallant, in his first year with the Vegas Golden Knights in their inaugural season, took them to the Stanley Cup Final. The past two seasons, he took the New York Rangers to back-to-back 100+ point seasons before shockingly being fired. However, the Rangers’ struggles in the postseason, more specifically last season, were on the players and not him.
Gallant would be a solid coach for the Penguins, and he would be the type of coach that rejuvenates this team and brings them back into championship contenders.
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All stats courtesy of Hockey-Reference.