Penguins clean house with Mike Sullivan’s top assistants

Mike Sullivan will return for the 2020-2021 season. That was always a given as Sullivan begins the start of a new four year extension that pays him over $3.To read this insider news, subscribe to get “Inside Access”!

But, a message has been quickly sent by Penguins’ GM Jim Rutherford.

Rutherford today announced the team will not renew the contracts of top assistants Jacques Martin, Mark Recchi and Sergei Gonchar.

As Sullivan’s message has gotten stale, it’s a complete cleaning house of Sullivan’s staff that was driven by the General Manager, not the coach.

“We just thought we needed to change the dynamic of our coaching staff,” Rutherford said in a released statement. “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 retooling.”

Without fully naming the coaching staff, much of what Rutherford said in Tuesday’s end of the season press conference was an indictment of the coaching staff.

“There’s been a pattern in both seasons,” Rutherford said. “My concern [hide] is when things don’t go our way, we start to fizzle out. We don’t have that same drive and determination that we should have and that we need to have,” Rutherford said of the team showing the same patterns in losing to the Islanders and Canadiens the last two postseasons.”

“There’s a few challenges here. Aside from change in the make of things, different ideas, different approach, younger, determined players, it’s probably fixing the power play. Usually when you’re trying to fix the power play, you’re searching and you’re saying, we’ve got to go out and find a player or two. We’ve got enough guys on the power play that can be successful. It’s so frustrating to watch us go time and time again and not get good scoring chances……You don’t have to be around hockey long to watch the group of guys that we have on the ice and just be puzzled as to why that can’t happen. There’s a number of things that we have to try to change.”

Those comments were a bad sign for Mark Recchi…..

The biggest dynamic with the sweeping changes to Sullivan’s staff is the loyalty powerful people in the organization had to specific individuals.

Jacques Martin who was pawned on Dan Bylsma’s staff way back in 2013-2014, had a great admirer in owner Mario Lemieux as Martin was always a favorite of Lemieux’s. Mark Recchi had longed been a favorite of Rutherford’s on a personal and professional level, while Mike Sullivan has been said to have had a ton of loyalty towards Recchi who played a major factor behind the scenes in the Penguins hiring Sullivan in the summer of 2015. [/hide]

Despite being a Hall-of-Famer, Recchi is said to have struggled to garner X’s and O’s respect from the core players and that was often a challenge for Recchi, sources say.

While he was well liked by players, sources say S[hide]idney Crosby never embraced Recchi’s coaching qualities and ability to the extent he did towards Rick Tocchet and some believe that had a trickle down effect.

Early reaction from a couple NHL sources is the most surprising news of the firings being Sergei Gonchar who was being groomed to eventually replace Jacques Martin as the top defensive assistant and prior to this series, there were rumblings of that being the organizations likely plan after this season as contracts for Martin and Gonchar were set to expire.

Mike Sullivan has the luxury of a four year contract that keeps his seat from being hot but Jim Rutherford certainly fired some warning shots today with the dismantling of his staff.[/hide]