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Inside the Penguins Hiring David Quinn; Already Challenging Sullivan

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Pittsburgh Penguins news. David Quinn joins coaching staff.

LAS VEGAS — It was a process. The Pittsburgh Penguins did not immediately fire associate head coach Todd Reirden after the season, which saw them miss the playoffs for the second consecutive year due in part to an abysmal power play that converted fewer leads than a door-to-door encyclopedia salesperson.

A few weeks after the Penguins concluded their portion of the 2023-24 NHL season, the move was made. It took several more weeks to fill the vacancy, which ultimately went to a person who used to borrow coach Mike Sullivan’s ID in college to presumably visit the fine establishments surrounding Boston University.

The pair have been close ever since, but that’s not why Penguins president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas hired Quinn.

There were rumors of disagreement between Sullivan and Penguins president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas. While Sullivan didn’t address that potential, he peeled back the curtain just a bit in describing the process. On June 12, the Penguins hired former New York Rangers and San Jose Sharks head coach David Quinn, who was teammates with Sullivan under legendary coach Jack Parker at Boston U.

“There were there were lots of emotions (involved in the decision to fire Reirden). What I will tell you is that Kyle and I went through a process … Ultimately, we decided on Quinney. But we went through a pretty extensive process,” Sullivan said. “We built a profile on what we were looking for in that person. We went out and put a list together of potentially who might best fit that profile. Then, we went through an interview process and spoke to a number of different people before we made the decision about who we thought was best. And so we both feel comfortable with the process that we went through.”

In the Penguins press release that day, Quinn’s duties included overseeing the defenseman. Friday at the NHL Draft at Sphere, Sullivan clarified that Quinn would also run the power play.

God help him,

“(Quinn) is going to run the power play. He and I have had initial discussions (and) he’s in the process of watching our group right now,” said Sullivan. “He’s in the process of having discussions with some of our players who participate on the power play. But certainly, we have decided on a course of action as far as how it’s going to work. And we’re in the beginning stages of it right now.”

Quinn was terminated after just two seasons behind San Jose’s bench. However, in Year 1 of Quinn’s tenure, current Penguins defenseman Erik Karlsson was the centerpiece of the Sharks team and exploded for 101 points, winning the Norris Trophy.

That wasn’t the primary reason Quinn got the job either, but it didn’t hurt.

The Push Back

Pittsburgh Penguins new assistant coach, David Quinn

Parsing the vagueries, Dubas made a shrewd move. Who else could push back or disagree with Sullivan as hard as Quinn?

According to Dubas, Quinn is already challenging the status quo.

“The key thing for me with (Quinn) is it’s very clear to me that he’s very much his own person, and he’s going to be because of the relationship,” said Dubas. “I think the positive is he’s been disagreeing and pushing back on (Sullivan), and (they’ve been) challenging each other for a long time. And I think when you have two people that have that strong of a relationship, they can push back on one another.”

It was natural to assume Quinn would be a top candidate for the job. His relationship with Sullivan and subsequent hiring would appear to be the hockey norm, a buddy-buddy job offer. However, with competitive people, it seems Dubas was able to effect change by giving Sullivan something he probably wanted.

And perhaps needed.

And how much worse could the Penguins’ power play get? Last season, it converted at only 15.2%. Only two teams were worse, and those teams had selections at the top of the 2024 NHL Draft.

After Dubas and Sullivan spoke before the first round of the draft at Sphere Friday, it seemed like a win-win-win. And the Penguins definitely need a few more wins.