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Penguins and Mike Sullivan: The Rumors



Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan

Mike Sullivan is the Pittsburgh Penguins’ head coach.

It seems that is news, as rumors and innuendo have picked up since the Penguins missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year. Fueling speculation is the vocal contingent of fans who would happily gobble up news reports and opposing opinions.

Sullivan is the second longest-tenured coach in the NHL, behind the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Jon Cooper. He was promoted to the Penguins’ bench in December 2015, after just a few months with the organization where he was coaching the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the AHL. Sullivan took over for the professorial but ineffective Mike Johnston and did so with gusto, leading the Penguins to the 2016 Stanley Cup championship.

And the 2017 championship. But that was seven years ago, and the fans are restless.

Spend 10 seconds on X or our comments section if you don’t believe plenty of fans disagree with president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas, who has unequivocally backed Sullivan.

Make no mistake, there has not yet been any credible report that Sullivan is on the market, even as coaching vacancies are piling up as fast as Matt Rempe’s penalty minutes.

The first public discussion began last week when Sportsnet 590 radio host and former Hockey Night in Canada panelist Nick Kypreos said the rumor of Sullivan going to New Jersey wouldn’t die.

It was far from a report despite some portraying it as such.

Tuesday, ESPN analyst Kevin Weekes merely tweeted this.

Again, this isn’t exactly a breaking bombshell. Weekes hasn’t clarified what he was referring to or what that meant. We can assume, but nothing more.

Also, on Wednesday, the Penguins’ business operations took a big hit with significant changes and terminations at high-level positions.

Of course, with so much outside conjecture and noise, even the most knowledgeable can begin to doubt the stated fact that Sullivan would return as Penguins coach.

On Wednesday’s 32 Thoughts podcast, reporter Elliotte Friedman offered no report or further insights specifically regarding the Penguins but acknowledged that the noise from the outside is causing other teams to pay attention.

“I think there are teams looking for coaches that are like, ‘What happens if Mike Sullivan is available? Is he available? Is there any chance he doesn’t want to stay in Pittsburgh?’ And if the answer is yes, just like (Jon) Cooper, there are teams that would want Sullivan,”

Friedman said he, too, believed it was a “slam dunk” that Sullivan was returning even as he discussed the fallout if things changed.

On Tuesday, Daily Faceoff reporter Frank Seravalli reported that Sullivan and Dubas were having high-level discussions about potential changes to the coaching staff.

Read more: Kingerski: Absolutely Time for Changes Behind the Penguins. Bench.

“My understanding is there have been discussions internally in PIT with varying levels of intensity about the future of the coaching staff as a whole (relating to assistants) that has contributed to the noise,” Seravalli tweeted.

On Wednesday, Servalli updated his reporting with the term “power struggle,” indicating his sources believed Dubas wanted changes to the coaching staff and Sullivan was resisting.

It would seem only logical that some changes could come after the Penguins’ power play finished 30th and was no better at the end than the beginning.

However, there’s been nothing indicating Sullivan’s job is in trouble. It would also seem quite logical that a coach and president/GM are discussing, perhaps even arguing over changes. In 2020, former GM Jim Rutherford cleaned house around Sullivan by removing or not renewing assistants Jacques Martin, Mark Recchi, and Sergei Gonchar.

Perhaps the situation could mushroom into something larger. Perhaps it is much ado about nothing. After missing the playoffs despite a Hart Trophy-caliber season from Sidney Crosby, a lack of changes would be stunning, if not malfeasance.

For now, the only changes with direct reporting are tertiary moves surrounding Sullivan and not direct. In other words, it’s all rumor and speculation.