Merry Christmas! The day after Christmas, the Penguins announced that they have given Mike Sullivan a contract extension, making him the man behind the bench through the 2019-2020 season.
This news comes out just barely past one calendar year as the Penguins coach, when Sullivan took over as the head coach last season on December 12th after Mike Johnston was fired after a lackluster start in which the Penguins were playing flat, especially offensively. Sullivan, aided by a couple of moves by GM Jim Rutherford, led the Penguins to a 33-16-5 finish, placing 2nd in the Metropolitan division, and of course, leading them to the franchise’s fourth Stanley Cup.
Sullivan has gained the respect of his players, colleagues, front office, and ownership, as the Penguins have had continued success in their curtain call season. The Penguins are currently 22-8-5, and their 49 points is 1 less and 2nd place to only divisional foe Columbus, who holds the NHL’s best record. Sullivan’s stars are performing: Crosby is 3rd in points and has the league lead in goals and points-per-game, Malkin is 2nd in points (3 points behind league-leader Connor McDavid), and Phil Kessel gives the Pens three players in the top 8 in scoring. Sullivan has also handled a very tough goaltender situation incredibly. He’s found a balance of when to play Fleury or Murray and it hasn’t hurt the team’s ability to win a lot of games. Murray’s been the better goalie, but Sully still hasn’t hesitated to use Fleury, who’s given the Penguins some stellar performances.
Sullivan has done more than what anyone associated with the Penguins could’ve expected him to do. It’s not just the results on paper or in the trophy case. He’s enlivened Penguins hockey in his players and in the fans. Merry Christmas Sully! You’ve earned this one!