The Pittsburgh Penguins finally found their new bench boss.
Mike Johnston was named the Penguins’ head coach Wednesday afternoon. TSN’s Darren Dreger reports Johnston’s contract is for three years. Assistant coaches Tony Granato and Todd Reirden were let go, and the club announced former Penguins player Rick Tocchet has been hired as an assistant. Johnston eventually will add another assistant to the coaching staff.
This will be Johnston’s first crack at being an NHL head coach. He has spent the last five seasons as the head coach and general manager of the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winterhawks. Before that, Johnston was an assistant with the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks.
Johnston turned the Winterhawks into one of the WHL’s elite franchises, with Portland winning the 2013 WHL championship before losing in the Memorial Cup final. Portland reached the WHL final in Johnston’s final four seasons.
Johnston also was considered for the Vancouver Canucks’ coaching gig, but they hired Willie Desjardins.
Johnston takes over a Penguins team that’s coming off another fine regular season but another disappointing playoff showing. Pittsburgh ran away with the Metropolitan Division with 109 points — second only to Boston in the Eastern Conference — and looked to be in command of its second-round series with the New York Rangers. However, the Penguins coughed up a 3-1 series lead and ultimately lost Game 7 at home to the Rangers. That loss cost general manager Ray Shero and head coach Dan Bylsma their jobs.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@pdxwinterhawks