The message from the summer was clear. And the message at the beginning of training camp was loud and clear. Of course, when Mike Sullivan delivers a message, both keywords, loud and clear, are appropriate. The Pittsburgh Penguins would undergo a cultural transformation, and there wasn’t a question about it.
The results also speak loudly. Sullivan won the Professional Hockey Writers mid-season Jack Adams (coach of the year) voting. The Penguins gritted their way to the fourth-best record in the NHL over the first 50 games despite playing a majority of the season without Sidney Crosby.
When a team overachieves, the coach usually gets the credit. And Mike Sullivan has.
“It’s a team thing,” Penguins defenseman Kris Letang told PHN before the All-Star break. “Coach and players have to be all in together. The message can be as good as (can be, but) if the players don’t want to do it or they don’t buy into it, usually it’s not going to go well.”
However, Sullivan imprinted his brand well before the injury list became a conveyor belt. For example, the preseason story, “Penguins Recognize Change.”
The story was from mid-September, but what was predicted has come true because coach and players agreed it would.