Boston Bruins: Penguins Can Serve As Example For Bruins

(June 3, 2016 - Source: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)
(June 3, 2016 - Source: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America) /

Boston Bruins: Penguins Can Serve As Example For Bruins After Winning The Stanley Cup Once Again

All it took was one coaching change and the Pittsburgh Penguins were off to the races.

After a 15-10-3 start, Penguins General Manager Jim Rutherford was not pleased with the product that the team he helped construct was putting on the ice. In response, he fired then-head coach Mike Johnston and hired then-AHL head coach Mike Sullivan, who was 18-5 with the Penguins’ affiliate, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

After a coaching change, some very smart acquisitions such as Justin Schultz and Carl Hagelin, as well as some smart call-ups in the form of Bryan Rust, Conor Sheary, and Matt Murray, the Penguins went on a tear, ultimately finishing the regular season 33-16-5.

That helped propel them to win the Stanley Cup.

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But the Cinderella story that was the 2015-16 Penguins should mean a lot more to the Boston Bruins than just another team that wasn’t them to win Lord Stanley’s Cup.

The Penguins should serve as a model that the Bruins need to follow to get back to being a playoff contender. Actually, they should have followed this model a long time ago.

When the Pens fired Johnston and hired Sullivan back on December 12, they were 15-10-3. At that time, the B’s were 15-9-4. Many took issue at how conservative Johnston was, while many take the same issue at Bruins head coach Claude Julien.

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Johnston was fired; Julien was not.

Julien’s coaching background is much more illustrious than that of Johnston’s. But still, the Bruins were coming off of 2014-15 — a year in which they missed the playoffs — while the Penguins had made the playoffs with Johnston as their head coach that same year.

At that time, there was really no need for the Bruins to fire Julien and the same could be said for the Penguins firing Johnston as well: there was really no obvious need to do it.

The difference lies in the aggressiveness of the General Managers and their respective front offices.

The Bruins had first-year GM Don Sweeney; The Penguins had lots of experience in Rutherford.

Rutherford knew that with the right head coaching-hire, he could easily jump-start the team, and that’s just what he did. Sweeney didn’t know when to fire the coach at any point during the season, let alone early-on like Rutherford did.

Even though Sweeney worked behind ex-Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli for a number of years, he never really saw the proper time in which one fires a coach and hires another.

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As a result, Rutherford just brought his team a Stanley Cup while Sweeney sits at his office at TD Garden, wondering why his team didn’t even crack the playoffs.

Going forward, Sweeney must take notice of the revelation that just took place in Pittsburgh. It’s essential that he sees just how great of an impact the firing of a coach can have on a team. For the Pens, Sullivan came right in and whipped some slumping veterans into shape and revitalized a team in free-fall.

Sweeney must also take notice at the belligerence necessary to turn a sinking ship around. One must go with the hot-hand — like the Penguins choosing to ride rookie Murray instead of longtime goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

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If the Bruins start next season off struggling, hopefully Sweeney thinks back to the 15-16 Penguins and the model they used to mold a Stanley Cup-winner. Hopefully Sweeney learns from the successes of the 15-16 Penguins and uses that to aid his own.