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Pens introduce Mike Johnston, Rick Tocchet comes off impressive

After missing out on Bill Peters and Willie Desjardins last week, GM Jim Rutherford feels he got the right guy.
“I feel very strong we got the right coach,” Rutherford said. “He brings great experience.”
Rutherford said Mike Johnston fits key areas he was looking for in being able to make adjustments and play a puck possession game.
“The style of play, guy capable of making adjustments during games, that’s probably his strongest suit,” Rutherford said. “Guy who coached teams in tournaments and in order to be successful in those tournaments, you always have to make adjustments.”
For the Penguins there will be a comfort level with Johnston from the standpoint of a playing style as Johnston is a strong believer in an uptempo offensive system. They’re not making some 360 and hired a Dale Hunter type coach.
“My basic framework of the system is puck possession, puck management, tempo and pace,” Johnston said.
“We want to give our players as many options as possible. I’m more inclined in teams I’ve coached over the years, to really play a pace game. I want to play a pace game. Certainly like core of players here, defense and forward to play that style of game. Think Pittsburgh was built on the makeup of that style,” Johnston said.
One difference I believe we’re going to see in Johnston’s style compared to Bylsma is less reliance on the stretch pass as Johnston is more of a believer in support.
Meanwhile, just like how GM Jim Rutherford is believed to feel about this group, Johnston likes the core of this team. “The core group is exactly where I want it. There’s a lot of teams in this league that would like to have this core group,” Johnston said.
Johnston called the Penguins group of centers “tailor-made” for his system.
A primary focus for Johnston and his coaching staff will be entrenching the mindset into this team that everything they do is built towards the playoffs. “Everything we do is setting the table for the playoffs,” Johnston said when it comes to incorporating good habits from day 1 in training camp.
Rick Tocchet will be Johnston’s top assistant, while Jacques Martin is expected be much less involved as a 3rd assistant coach/consultant role.
The Penguins will look to hire one more assistant coach, though, it remains to be seen if Johnston will have the authority to make that hire himself or ownership will be making the hire. Johnston was asked if he had the authority and he was vague and appeared a bit uneasy.
It’s likely the hire will be someone with a defensive minded background to work with the defensemen.
Nonetheless, it’s Tocchet who is being brought on to be the bad cop and presence in the room to the unknown and soft spoken Johnston.
Tocchet who held a media scrum after the press conference was very impressive. He talked about the need for players to have the attitude you need to have in the playoffs where if get knocked down, you get back up.
The Penguins have longed been plagued by getting rattled by the opposition and it has started with the core players.
“When you’re in the playoffs, you get knocked down, you get back up,” Tocchet said. “Love this story, saw Toews get hit in the face, didn’t look at referee, he didn’t go down. Continued to play. Why Chicago successful. Not saying they don’t have that attitude here, just little details I like to see in a player…..LA down 2-0, many times they didn’t panic, not a lot of bitching on the bench. End result is because of these little things from their leaders.”
What’s a growing theme from this coaching staff is winning 6-1 games in the regular season isn’t the important part.
“Honestly who cares in December, 6-1 games, pad stats, it doesn’t really matter,” Tocchet said. “It’s really April, May.”

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William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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