The Pittsburgh Penguins ownership has been through a rapidly closing championship window with a successful coach before. More details emerged from the events this week, which led to the dismissal of assistant coaches Mark Recchi, Jacques Martin, and Sergei Gonchar.
It was a clean sweep around head coach Mike Sullivan, and that wasn’t a coincidence.
In 2014, Mario Lemieux and co-owner Ron Burkle admitted they let former Penguins coach Dan Bylsma stick around for one, or even two years too long. The Penguins were swept in the Eastern Conference Final in 2013, then squandered a 3-1 series lead to the New York Rangers in Round One in 2014 before Penguins ownership gave the order to end Bylsma’s tenure.
On Thursday morning, there was a phone call between Penguins owners Lemieux and Burkle with senior Penguins management. A few details have been provided to Pittsburgh Hockey Now by a team source familiar with the call.
On the call, the ownership mandated significant changes.
Our source, who was not on the call, paraphrased the conversation as the Penguins hockey operations were “allowed” to keep head coach Mike Sullivan, but the others would not be back.
The Pittsburgh Penguins ownership is not happy with the growing trend of playoff failure. The Penguins have deficit spent in each of the past two seasons and the flameouts not only caused embarrassment but cost the Penguins millions in revenue. Because of the lost revenue, sources told PHN this week there is a question if the Penguins will spend to the cap limit next season.
There was a similar report in a national media outlet.
The Penguins power play under Recchi has regressed both statistically and schematically and the team finished under 20% this season in 16th of 31 NHL teams.
The power play was a primary focus of concern in the Penguins Qualifying Round loss to Montreal. Reasons for Martin’s and Gonchar’s dismissal were not provided to PHN, but the desire for a clean slate and shakeup was undeniable.
As PHN attempted to confirm the above or gain additional details, an interesting tidbit emerged. To be clear, the following is interesting but has not been mentioned as a reason for Recchi’s termination.
Another team source with direct knowledge reported that Recchi and Penguins captain Sidney Crosby “didn’t always see eye to eye.”
The pair agreed to move past issues that occurred when Crosby was a rookie, and Recchi was a veteran player on the 2005-06 Penguins team, but that doesn’t mean all was forgotten, by either Crosby or Recchi.
For those not familiar, Recchi was one of the veterans who had a row with Crosby during Crosby’s rookie year and reportedly treated the rookie harshly. Veterans felt the new face of the NHL was immature. However, then head coach Eddie Olzyck firmly sided with Crosby. Olczyk confronted the veterans.
The Pittsburgh Penguins fired Olzcyk soon after. Recchi publicly downplayed the locker room stories when he re-signed the following season. While there is no talk of the pair having an especially complicated relationship, it wasn’t warm, either.