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Pens’ coaching search goes on — Mike Johnston a candidate?

Jun 24, 2014, 1:25 PM EDT

Jim Rutherford Getty Images

Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford has “reached out to a couple of guys” that were not on his original list of candidates to become Pittsburgh’s new head coach.

Calling them “very good candidates” in an interview with the Post-Gazette, Rutherford understands that fans have become impatient with a process they were led to believe last week was close to ending.

“I guess people get anxious,” said Rutherford. “They want news sooner.”

It’s believed the Penguins wanted to hire Willie Desjardins to replace Dan Bylsma; however, Desjardins chose Vancouver instead.

The Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers have also hired new coaches recently, with Bill Peters going to the former and Gerard Gallant the latter.

One possible candidate for Rutherford is Mike Johnston. The Portland Winterhawks (WHL) coach interviewed for the Canucks’ job, and might have been John Tortorella’s replacement in Vancouver if not for the availability of Desjardins.

“He has done an excellent job the last five years with Portland,” Canucks GM Jim Benning said a short time ago. “They play an up-tempo, skilled game…. He coaches the style we want our team to play.”

  1. girouxsalem89 - Jun 24, 2014 at 1:31 PM

    “Please for the love of god someone coach this team of prima donnas, anyone?”

  2. njadvocate111 - Jun 24, 2014 at 1:40 PM

    Shero would have had Kesler on a plane by now. If Bylsma couldn’t get them to play how he wanted, I’m sure a guy who has been coaching Junior for the last 7 years will be able to rally the troops. You can say “they went for their guy and missed”, but the reality is that the window is closing and they have less direction now than they did at the end of game 7 with the Rangers.

    • hockey412 - Jun 24, 2014 at 1:53 PM

      Right – because those players on the ice really need that direction right now. What with no players being on the ice until fall. I think Malkin is off fishing somewhere as usual…looks like the window is wide open, bub.

      Shero had his chance at Kesler already, and he did not get him on the plane. But I’m sure you know exactly what you’re talking about, right?

      Bylsma got them to play the way he wanted. What Bylsma wanted was not good enough against better coaches. But I’m sure you know exactly what you are talking about, right? Actually Bylsma even had the grit in his line-up that he needed….but refused to play them.

      But hey, fans, as long as we just get someone in there QUICK to appease the fans, all is well. Doesn’t matter if it’s the right guy, right? I like the fact that they have interviewed a lot of people and seemingly passed on a few. It shows that no matter what the fans think, they are looking for the guy that fits. Who cares what a bunch of over-opinionated under-educated fans think.

      • jtowme - Jun 24, 2014 at 2:11 PM

        Right…rush to judgement and end up with the same rotating door the Caps have. Better to hire the right guy than to hire just to shut up the critics.

        As far as grit…I’m a fan of Engelland and was very disappointed that Disco Dan never played him. Of course that’s what happens when you aren’t able to think on the fly or vary from the game plan.

      • njadvocate111 - Jun 24, 2014 at 2:32 PM

        I’m sorry, did you say Byslma got them to play the way he wanted? Getting bounced 5 years in a row to lower seeds? Losing more playoffs series than they have won since they won their last cup? Oh thats right, Byslma got them to play how he wanted, he just didn’t know that what he wanted wasn’t good enough? Or is it that the style of play changes in the playoffs and its not something you can just turn on. I think thats a much more reasonable explanation than what you spewed. Shero did put an offer in at the deadline, than the Canucks refused, are you going to tell me he wasn’t a good GM now? Please enlighten me!

        I know you pride yourself as the # 1 comment section poster, but the reality is that the window is closing, whether Malkin is fishing, swimming or learning to count. My comment was in regards to the work that needs to be done, going about it backwards and screwing your old whipping boy in the process. But to each his own, enjoy the regular season success.

      • hockey412 - Jun 24, 2014 at 3:25 PM

        Hmmmm…well, no. You said that Shero would have had him on the plane, correct? Well, he had his shot to get him on the plane, and he didn’t get the guy. Not sure how you jump to the rest of those conclusions.

        Byslma wasn’t a bad coach. First and foremost let me just say that. And one hell of a guy. But yes, he should, at some point, understand that what he wanted them to do wasn’t getting the job done, and he needed to change up his strategy…make coaching adjustments. All Bylsma could change was the lines….and he was changing lines STILL in the playoffs, almost every game. What he wanted was for his style to work…but it wasn’t. This year I’d agree to a certain extent that there was also a drop in energy level, also. You could feel the wind being sucked out of the team. Time for a change. To that end they let Bylsma know right away they may not keep him – they made that public knowledge. Vancouver knew he was available…Florida too….Carolina too….they passed. So….how did they screw him? Washington and St. Louis were the only gigs taken at that point.

        Plenty of work needs done, agreed…but not on the ice. They said July 1. Not everything works out the way you need it too, and not all situations are the same. Columbus got beat in round one and the entire coaching staff got extensions….Pens have it different, and let the GM go after round 2. Tighter timeline, and they haven’t rushed into something stupid.

        I don’t pride myself in being the #1 commenter by any stretch, and I really enjoy plenty of other people’s points of view. Just not yours, this time.

      • phtjoey - Jun 25, 2014 at 9:26 AM

        Well said 412. Really no need to have a coach in place by draft day. Too bad they’re back to square one though, but, that’s all part of the process. Getting a coach out of junior may not be the best way to go though, but others have failed coming out of the AHL. If Johnston is as good as they say he is, then why not bring him in as an asst. with a veteran HC? Pierre Creamer went to Pitt after a glorious career in the junior and a 3 year stint in the AHL. However, his stint in Pitt was short lived. On the other hand, Michel Bergeron made the jump to the NHL directly from junior, but as an asst. for a few games into the season before the GM handed him the reins.

    • har21441 - Jun 24, 2014 at 2:08 PM

      Shero would have had Kesler on a plane by now. That’s the problem. The Pens have strength down the middle, but have cap issues and no depth on wing.

      So yes – Shero would have committed a 5 mil cap hit for a new third line center. And Bylsma would have tried to fit him on a top six line on his off wing. And that is why both are gone (and continue to be unemployed)

      …and I do not understand what the hurry is to find a coach. Yes, there is a draft coming up – but I’m fairly sure that Rutherford, Hockey Ops, and current assistants are capable of drafting their best choice of player (that most likely will be two years from playing in the pros anyway) when their pick is up. And it’s not like there are any other big name coaches available, or any other teams looking for coaches.

  3. puckoff70 - Jun 24, 2014 at 1:55 PM

    Tortarella is the only man for the job.

    • chanceoffleury - Jun 24, 2014 at 7:41 PM

      For the love of god, no! If that’s what it comes down to then just hand the team over to Crosby and Malkin and let the horses run.

      I mean, most might look at that situation and see disaster written all over it, but let me assure you that you are only a short-term thinker my friend. The Pens finishing in last place means the odds are in their favor for the McDavid sweepstakes. Then wah lah! They solve their 3C Problem, still have Brandon Sutter to exchange for Crosby to finally get his legit top line winger, and Mike Babcock is no longer under contract with the Red Wings (presumably).

      Okay, so I’m not saying this is the best Plan A to go into the season with, but what I AM saying is that my pipedream is more developed and ready to be put into effect than whatever the Pens have going on right now. Hopefully this is all part of some weird plan that I am not understanding at all at the moment, but will all come together on June 30th at approximately 11:59pm.

  4. notan9ner - Jun 24, 2014 at 2:35 PM

    torts will get those fairies blocking shots

  5. edmonddantes21 - Jun 24, 2014 at 2:45 PM

    Puckoff I somewhat agree with you. The pens play an uptempo style already and where has that gotten them? Especially against defensive teams like the Bruins and Rangers? That’s why Bylsma failed at Sochi playing an uptempo style with America’s best athletes. Stupid. But this team needs to commit to a defensive style if they want a cup. Remember the last team? Gonchar Jordan Staal Max Talbot Orpik Craig Adams. I could go on but they need depth too. Guys who play a 2 way game are needed because if you tell any penguins fan Fluery is between the pipes again you’d better have some guys in front of him at least for them to feel somewhat comfortable. Torts is crazy seriously and hiring him is a risk. You either get an elite defensive style or you get a guy who really wears on his players and the media the more the seasons go on. Crosby isnt the guy you want to be mentally drained as the captain. In fairness to Torts though he has never had guys with this much offensive skill set to compliment his smothering defensive style. It could actually work

    • puckoff70 - Jun 24, 2014 at 3:01 PM

      I was just poking fun at the Penguins and Torts. The pens could do better with anyone else but I honestly believe they need to shake the apple cart. Someone has to go to send a message to the players that no ones job is secure when they don’t produce to their capability. Bylesma was only part of the problem.

  6. tmoore4075 - Jun 24, 2014 at 3:23 PM

    “I guess people get anxious,” said Rutherford. “They want news sooner.” Well when you basically said you had your guy, they kinda expect things sooner.

  7. jazzyherb - Jun 24, 2014 at 7:25 PM

    Byslma did such a great job with team USA also

  8. adamdep211rukus211 - Jun 25, 2014 at 3:42 AM

    Rutherford sucks so far

  9. raleighcaniac - Jun 25, 2014 at 9:37 AM

    Glad he left Carolina. He was anchor around our teams ability to improve. As a result of his dementia we will be paying Eric Staal just over 9m this season and his equally underperforming brother Jordan 6m. 15m tied up in two under performers. Enjoy Pittsburgh. He’s about to steer your franchise into the shoals…

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