The Pittsburg Penguins will not renew the contracts of assistant coaches Sergei Gonchar, Jacques Martin, and Mark Recchi, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford. “We want to thank Sergei, Jacques and Mark for their many contributions to the Penguins over the years, and wish them well in their future endeavors” Rutherford said. The search for new assistants to work under head coach Mike Sullivan will begin immediately. “We are in the process of conducting a review of our organization because we have underperformed in the playoffs the last few years,” Rutherford said. “We just thought we needed to change the dynamic of our coaching staff. We have very high standards here in Pittsburg, and we want to continue competing for Stanley Cups. The message to our fans is that ‘We are not rebuilding, we’re re-tooling.” The contracts of Gonchar, Martin and Recchi expired at the end of June but were temporarily extended for the playoffs. NHL.com
Considering all three of these guys contracts ended in June it’s really no surprise to see them all let go. The Penguins were booted from the Qualifying Round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in 4 games. They lost to the 12 seeded Montreal Canadiens. It was an embarrassing playoff performance by Pittsburg, a run of the mill playoff performance for Toronto, but a disappointing end for Pittsburg. The Penguins have gotten used to a certain level of success that the team feels it hasn’t reached the last two years. Last year they were swept by the Islanders, the underdog, this year the biggest underdog of the Qualifying Round bested them in four games in a five game series. Their star forwards aren’t getting any younger either. Sidney Crosby is 33, still an elite talent, but he is getting older. Same goes for Kris Letang who is also 33 and Evgeni Malkin who is 34. They guys aren’t ancient, but they’re no spring chickens either. If the Penguins want to win with this group of players for a fourth time the window is closing. The upper management must be thinking something similar with this amount of coaching upheaval.
While the loss to the Canadiens was embarrassing for the Penguins letting go of the three assistant coaches wasn’t in bad faith or because they had failed as coaches. Head coach Mike Sullivan and the rest of the Penguins organization has wished them well. It’s a new era in Pittsburg, whether or not it brings along another Stanley Cup only time will tell.