Crosby Not Worried Penguins Are Still Without Coach
LAS VEGAS -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are in limbo as new general manager Jim Rutherford continues to search for the team's next coach in the days leading up to the 2014 NHL Draft and the opening of free agency July 1.
It can be an uneasy time for anyone associated with the Penguins, but one member of the organization who isn't concerned, at least not yet, is captain Sidney Crosby.
Crosby has been monitoring all the changes going on in Pittsburgh from afar and is quick to point out that it's still only June, that training camp doesn't open until September, and certainly by then the Penguins will have a new coaching staff and a new plan of attack.
"I don't think you have to get too dramatic about it," Crosby said Tuesday from the red carpet at the 2014 NHL Awards. "It's still early. There's lots of time left. When camp comes we're going to be ready, the coaching staff is going to be ready, and I'm sure that Jim will have a good idea of what he wants, how he sees our team playing. The coaching staff will be the same. I think it'll be a regular camp, some learning to do with whatever happens. But I think, that being said, we know we have to be better."
The last part has become clear as day to Crosby in the wake of the Penguins' meltdown in the second round of Stanley Cup Playoffs, when they blew a 3-1 series lead and lost to the New York Rangers in seven games.
Since that loss he has watched the Penguins hierarchy change as general manager Ray Shero and coach Dan Bylsma were fired.
Crosby said he felt change was inevitable after the way the Penguins lost in the playoffs, but it doesn't make it any easier to take and ultimately the players bear the brunt of the responsibility even though Shero and Bylsma were the fall guys.
"It wasn't very easy," Crosby said. "A couple of weeks after it was pretty difficult. It stung for a long time."
The Penguins are the only team in the League without a coach, but that likely will change soon. Rutherford has said he wants to have a new coach in place before the free-agent signing period opens at noon ET on July 1.
There are several names still churning in the rumor mill, but Tuesday several media reports indicated that former NHL assistant coach Mike Johnston is the front-runner for the job. Johnston is the coach and general manager of the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. He was an associate coach with the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings from 1999-2008.
"With Jim there, we'll find out I'm sure shortly with who is going to be our new head coach," Crosby said. "There will be a lot of excitement, a lot of anticipation, and we'll have to find a way to be better."
Crosby said one way the Penguins can be better is by enjoying the process of the entire 82-game season more than they have in recent years. He said they have been too focused on the high expectations of doing well in the playoffs instead of relishing the winning they have done in the regular season and letting that serve as preparation for what they ultimately will face if and when they get to the playoffs.
"It's about building things each game, having the playoffs in mind, but not looking to race to game 82 and thinking about the expectations that come in the playoffs," Crosby said. "I think you build more and you appreciate things a little more when you enjoy that stuff a little bit."
Maybe the Penguins will be able to do that under a new coach, whoever it may be. They will definitely get a fresh start, which Crosby said could be good for the team.
"After going through all this it's something that will hopefully help us, give us a bit of a boost," Crosby said. "Sometimes changes need to be made and we all understand that. I'm sure, Ray and Dan, if anyone understands that it's them. It's part of hockey. We all understand that. It doesn't make it any easier, but at the end of the day maybe this is something we can build from, get some momentum and hopefully find a way to have some success.
"I'm excited to get to camp and get things going."