Sullivan to return as Penguins coach; three assistants out

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The Pittsburgh Penguins made changes to their coaching staff on Wednesday, but announced coach Mike Sullivan will return for a sixth season.

Mark Recchi, Sergei Gonchar and Jacques Martin will not return to the Penguins as assistants next season. Their contracts expired at the end of June, but were temporarily extended for the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.

“We are in the process of conducting a review of our organization because we have underperformed in the playoffs the last few years,” Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said in a statement. “We just thought we needed to change the dynamic of our coaching staff. We have very high standards here in Pittsburgh, and we want to continue competing for Stanley Cups. The message to our fans is that ‘We are not rebuilding, we’re re-tooling.'”

Recchi was hired as player development coach on July 18, 2014, before being named assistant on July 11, 2017. Gonchar accepted a development coaching position on Oct. 27, 2015, and was named an assistant on July 12, 2017.

Martin became an assistant when Sullivan was hired as coach on Dec. 12, 2015, after previously serving as an assistant under former Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma; Martin was hired for that post on Aug. 9, 2013.

Recchi, who was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame on June 26, 2017, won the Stanley Cup three times with Pittsburgh, as a player in 1991 and as development coach in 2016 and 2017. Gonchar also won it three times with the Penguins, as a player in 2009 and as development coach in 2016 and 2017.

“We want to thank Sergei, Jacques and Mark for their many contributions to the Penguins over the years, and wish them well in their future endeavors” Rutherford said. 

The changes come one day after Rutherford said he was considering changing the coaching staff following a loss to the Montreal Canadiens in a best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers series. Pittsburgh was eliminated after losing 2-0 in Game 4 and surrendering a two-goal lead to lose Game 3, 4-3 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, the Eastern Conference hub city.

The Penguins have lost nine of their past 10 postseason games since defeating the Washington Capitals 3-1 in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Second Round on May 3, 2018.

“I also have to review what’s happened here at the end of the last two seasons,” Rutherford said Tuesday. “There’s been a pattern in both seasons. … My concern is when things don’t go our way, then we start to fizzle out. We don’t have that same drive and determination that we should have and that we need to have.”

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