Kukla's Korner Hockey
from John Mehno at the Times Online,
Tocchet's inclusion on the staff was apparently mandated by ownership, part of the organization's stated goal to increase its level of grit after five years of playoff disappointment. Tocchet's hiring appeared to be non-negotiable, and it reportedly became a deal breaker for at least one potential coaching candidate.///
But it's an awkward fit, especially with a rookie head coach who doesn't have the name or NHL history that Tocchet does. Tocchet is close to Mario Lemieux. He watched playoff games from the owner's box this spring. Isn't it disconcerting to know your assistant plays golf with your boss?
What if the players take Tocchet's message more than Johnston's? Pascal Dupuis did an interview on 93.7 The Fan and said his reaction to the hiring was to do a Google search on Johnston. He'd obviously never heard of him. There isn't a player in the locker room who doesn't know who Tocchet is.
What happens if the players look past Johnston to hear what Tocchet has to say? If Tocchet becomes their go-to guy, doesn't Johnston then become an empty suit, a head coach in name only? The situation has the potential to be uncomfortable.
from Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,
It's easy to say good riddance to James Neal. He badly underachieved for the Penguins in the postseason. He is a hot head who often took retaliatory penalties that put his teammates in bad spots. He is a dirty player who occasionally tried to hurt people and was suspended three times, including last season for kneeing Boston's Brad Marchand in the head and in the 2012 playoffs for charging Philadelphia's Claude Giroux. He wasn't especially popular in the team room because of his arrogance and surly personality....
It's a shame Neal didn't do more here in the postseason. It would have made it a lot easier to overlook his character flaws. But he hardly was alone among the Penguins in wilting under the bright lights. He had two goals in 13 playoff games this spring, one more than Crosby. He didn't get a point in the four-game sweep by Boston in the 2013 Eastern Conference final, same as Crosby. He had 11 goals and 11 assists in 38 postseason games for the Penguins, meager production for a player with his skills. There aren't five players in the NHL with a quicker release or better shot. Neal scored 40 goals in 2011-12, playing with Malkin, and had 27 last season despite missing 23 games because of injury or suspension. He should get 40 goals again -- perhaps a few times -- before his career is done.
By trading Neal, Penguins new general manager Jim Rutherford believes he successfully took the first step toward changing the culture of the team room. He talked repeatedly of the character and grit that Hornqvist and Spaling bring and said they will make the club tougher and better prepared for the playoffs.
from Set Rorobaugh of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,
At the conclusion of the NHL draft today, Botterill (assistant GM) held court with the media and addressed the team's salary cap, how they'll proceed with free agency and the team's depth on the blue line:
On the team's salary cap space:
"I think the good situation that we’re in right now is that it’s not that have to move players. We want to bring young players into our organization especially on defense here. It’s going to be a situation where we have to make some decisions on free agency. You want to go after your top players but there’s also going to be cap restraints there. But it’s not as if we have to move players out because of our salary cap situation now."
Can you be aggressive in free agency with limited cap space?
"I think you can always be aggressive [with] different roles. Are you going to be going for top-end forwards and defenseman? No. But if you’re being aggressive going for specific needs, I think that’s what we’ll be doing for sure on July 1."
from Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal,
Neal can score but people say he isn’t a life of the party kind of guy. The feeling in some quarters is he thinks he’s better than he is, too, also he’s been suspended for some foolish stuff. Everybody gets traded in this game but Neal–a scorer in a league where teams crave scorers– has been dealt twice and he’s only 26. From Dallas to Pittsburgh, and now from the Penguins to the Predators, where they’re also trying to get more offence, although they still need a centre for Neal. Hello Paul Stastny, if they can afford the unrestricted Colorado Avs’ playmaker and he might have a hankering to play with Shea Weber on defence, as well.
Neal’s a one-shot scorer. “Exactly,” said Preds’ GM David Poile.
Hornqvist is a better skating Tomas Holmstrom. “Exactly,” said Poile.
Scores his goals 10 to 15 feet from the net. “Closer than that,” laughed Poile.
“He can get 30 goals if he plays with Malkin. This might be one of those trades that turn out for both teams.”
The Pittsburgh Penguins are expected to introduce Mike Johnston as their new head coach.
It is scheduled to start at 12:30pm ET and you can watch it below...
added 12:37pm, Penguins press release on Mike Johnston is below the video...
The Pittsburgh Penguins are expected to introduce Mike Johnston as their new head coach at a news conference at Noon et/9am pt, according to TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger.
Johnston has worked the last five seasons behind the bench with the WHL's Portland Winterhawks, leading them to a berth in the Memorial Cup tournament in 2013.
Prior to joining the Winterhawks in 2008, he worked with the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks as an associate coach.
from Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review,
He isn't anticipating the new coach will have the team's high profile, unrestricted free agents at his disposal.
Rutherford said on Monday that unrestricted free agents Matt Niskanen and Jussi Jokinen, in particular, will likely play elsewhere next season.
Niskanen and Jokinen increased their respective values by having excellent 2013-14 seasons.
“I've talked with them,” Rutherford said. “I think both players would like to return. But they're also coming off good years. It's time for them to hit free agency and get their big contracts. With that being said, we'll see what happens leading up to free agency.”
Rutherford declined to comment on defenseman Brooks Orpik, another unrestricted free agent.
Rutherford has said on numerous occasions that he'd like to have a coach in place when the free agency period opens on July 1. If that doesn't happen, dealing with players and agents could become problematic.
from Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,
Right now, it appears as if Rutherford, 2½ weeks into the job, doesn't have a clue what he's doing. Even worse, it looks as if everyone in the team's management has no clue.
It's stunning, the long, hard fall taken by the Penguins front office since it fired highly-regarded general manager Ray Shero May 16, sloppily dismissed coach Dan Bylsma three weeks later, hired Rutherford, a retread from the Carolina Hurricanes, and was turned down by its first choice to be the new coach. We are talking about an organization that had been regarded as the best in hockey, one of the best in sports. People wanted to work for Lemieux and co-owner Ron Burkle because they treated their employees with such class. Crosby took less money to stay here. Other players wanted to come here to play with Crosby and Evgeni Malkin because they believed it gave them their best chance to win a Cup.
Now the Penguins have to settle for Rutherford, who failed late in his long, distinguished career with the Hurricanes and was pushed aside for new general manager Ron Francis?
And Rutherford can't find a coach after reportedly being turned down Friday by Calder Cup-winning coach Willie Desjardins of the American Hockey League's Texas Stars?
People around hockey are laughing at the Penguins. It's as if the organization has become a joke.
added 8:32am, from Mark Madden of the Times Online,
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
Email Paul anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org