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Pittsburgh Penguins hire Mike Johnston as head coach

Sidney Crosby will be coached by Mike Johnston next season.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The final NHL head coaching vacancy has been filled. The last job to get filled is, fittingly, the last one to go on the market. The Pittsburgh Penguins have replaced Dan Bylsma with Mike Johnston.

Bylsma had a fine run with the Penguins, including winning a Stanley Cup, but the team fired him anyway. Johnston is going to have a lot of talent to work with, but he also is going to have to do quite well to achieve what Bylsma did. He was well thought of enough to get to coach Team USA at the Olympics. He's not a guy who was holding Sidney Crosby and company back, to be sure. Maybe a change was needed, but I don't think so. That doesn't mean Johnston can't be as good of a head coach, of course, and perhaps he will be even better.

Johnston does not really have any high level head coaching experience. From 2008 until now, he has been the coach and GM of the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL. He had success there, sure, but they are a junior league team. That's the extent of things, though, so this is a major step up. Apparently Johnston has an up tempo attack, which I like, and which intrigues me with the talent at hand for him in Pittsburgh.

However, from 1999-2006, he was an assistant with the Vancouver Canucks, and then from 2006-2008 he was an assistant with the Los Angeles Kings. So, he does have NHL experience. Several years of being an NHL assistant combined with six years as a junior league head coach is a decent enough track record. We simply don't know what he will do as an NHL head coach. We do know that Rick Tocchet, who used to play for the Penguins and has head coaching experience in the NHL, will be an assistant to Johnston. That could, possibly, not work out. Sometimes when an assistant has more experience than the head coach, there can be a battle of wills. I am reminded of the Brooklyn Nets, wherein they had to basically kick Lawrence Frank to the curb to keep him from undermining Jason Kidd.

Well, now every head coaching job is filled. We had a couple retreads, especially if you include Gerard Gallant, but there were also a couple first timers. So, business as usual, I suppose. Now we get to see what these coaches do going forward. Once their rosters are set, of course.