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Penguins Make David Quinn Hire Official; Inside Scoop on Pens’ New Assistant

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Pittsburgh Penguins new assistant coach, David Quinn

The Pittsburgh Penguins officially hired David Quinn to replace associate coach Todd Reirden Wednesday. As part of the announcement from Penguins president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas, Quinn will oversee the defensemen.

After two seasons with the San Jose Sharks but finishing with the worst record in the NHL this season, San Jose gave Quinn the boot as their head coach. Now, he’ll join coach Mike Sullivan’s staff.

Quinn was also the head coach of the Team USA 2022 and 2023 World Championship teams and the 2022 Olympic Team.

“David Quinn brings a wealth of coaching and developmental experience across the highest levels of professional and international hockey,” said Dubas. “Quinn has a long track record of helping elite defensemen reach their full potential, and we look forward to the impact he can make on our defensive group and our entire program. Coach Quinn’s experience, character, energy, and enthusiasm make him a great fit for Coach Sullivan’s coaching staff.”

Quinn, 57, will join assistants Mike Vellucci and Ty Hennes. Conspicuously absent from the Penguins’ press release was a mention of overseeing the power play.

To the primary point, Reirden lost his job partially, if not primarily, because of the tanking Penguins’ power play, which converted just 15.3%. The man advantage finished ahead of only two other teams (Philadelphia, Columbus), and more than a few fingers pointed to the perpetual power play struggles as one of the biggest reasons the team missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

Reirden out. Quinn in. The defensemen might be happy because Quinn has a couple of Norris Trophies in tow. He helped current Penguins defenseman Erik Karlsson win the Norris with San Jose in 2023, and he helped Adam Fox of the New York Rangers to win the trophy in 2021.

Two Norris trophies for Quinn’s defensemen in three years is a clear pattern.

“David is a good communicator who I believe had an excellent relationship with Karlsson in San Jose,” our colleague Sheng Peng of San Jose Hockey Now told us. “He was an integral part of Karlsson’s Norris Trophy season insofar as opening things up, allowing Karlsson to play a more offensive style that suited Karlsson’s strengths.”

And that’s a big reason Quinn might be the best person for the job, regardless of his close relationship with Sullivan. Of course, Quinn and Sullivan have been professionally and personally close since they were teammates at Boston University from 1986 to 1988.

“He’s a good bet to get a lot out of Karlsson, and he was a pretty good defenseman himself in his heyday,” Peng concluded.

The Penguins have another elite offensive defenseman, Kris Letang, and one wonders if Quinn’s inclusion on the Penguins staff will also lead to a change in style, the defensemen becoming more of the focal point of the offensive attack.

The personnel and now the coach might make it more feasible.

The Pros and Cons of a Friend

Sullivan frequently reminds us that players are human. So, too, are coaches. Quinn may well have more leeway or power to push Sullivan in different directions, or Sullivan may trust Quinn just a little more to take him in different directions.

Quinn might be a fresh set of eyes that can deliver some bad news, too. Sullivan has been behind the Penguins’ bench since December 2015 and has been with the core three since then, too.

That’s a figurative eternity for hockey coaches.

Conversely, having a close friend in the bunker might insulate Sullivan, fortifying wrong paths or mistakes because of a supportive consensus.

The Penguins have not yet made any personnel moves this off-season, which began following Game 82 on April 17, but perhaps with the NHL Draft just 16 days away and the start of the NHL free agent frenzy on July 1, resolving the coaching vacancy will jumpstart the roster change which Dubas said was necessary following the disappointing regular season.