Was extending Mike Sullivan four more years the right move?


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Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan – MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

The Pittsburgh Penguins recently inked head coach Mike Sullivan to a four-year contract extension. Was that the right call? We dig into that and more with our latest round of Penguins analysis.

• Extending Sully: Penguins bench boss Sullivan recently earned a four-year contract extension, one that will presumably make the two-time Stanley Cup champion among the game's highest-paid coaches. Sullivan has traversed a bunch of S-curves during his career, going from Bruins wunderkind coach to John Tortorella's right-hand man to Baby Penguins leader to Penguins savior. Sullivan boasts a career .637 points percentage in Pittsburgh, which ranks behind only Dan Bylsma (.668) all-time and places just ahead of Scotty Bowman (.628). With 174 regular-season victories, he could soon surpass Eddie Johnston (232) and Bylsma (252) for the all-time record. And, if the Penguins turn in a strong 2019-20 season and avoid another Islanders-style disaster, he could snatch the franchise's all-time playoff wins record, too (he has 38, which trails only Bylsma at 43). Of course, the frequent mentions of Bylsma drive home how quickly perceptions of NHL coaches can change. Sullivan will always have a special place in Pittsburgh. But if he can eke out another Cup as Sidney CrosbyEvgeni Malkin and Kris Letang get older, Sullivan will reach a level of reverence so far reserved for only Chuck Noll among Pittsburgh coaches.

• So long, Cullen: Matt Cullen has finally -- we think -- decided to retire, ending a 21-year NHL career defined by championships, leadership and longevity. With 1,516 regular-season games played, Cullen ranks 16th on the NHL's all-time list and second among American-born players (Chris Chelios is first for U.S.-born skaters at 1,651 games). Cullen skated a grand total of 22,991 minutes during the regular season (21st all-time). He's also one of just nine NHL skaters to play more than 200 games after his 40th birthday (222), and one of only 12 to rack up more than 70 points while doing it (73). Now that Cullen is retired, Boston's Zdeno Chara (42) is the game's ultimate graybeard. Unless someone signs Jaromir Jagr (hey, a guy can dream, can't he?)

• Shorty problem solved? The 2018-19 Penguins gave up an infuriating number of short-handed goals (15, tied with the Bruins for the most in the NHL and up from just three shorties allowed in 2017-18). You could make the case that Pittsburgh alleviated part of its short-handed goal problem by trading Phil Kessel. Though a lethal scorer with the man advantage, Kessel did have the third-most power play giveaways (21) among all NHL skaters in 2018-19. He committed 4.7 giveaways per 60 minutes of ice time on the power play, up dramatically from 2.5 in '17-18, 2.1 in '16-17, and 1.46 in '15-16. That said, Kessel wasn't the only one who was a little careless with the puck on the PP. Evgeni Malkin's giveaway rate on the power play climbed to 3.4 per 60 minutes from 2.5 in '17-18. Even the captain slipped up a little--Sidney Crosby had 3.1 giveways per 60, compared to 2.6 the previous season. Fixing the team's short-handed goal problem requires collective improvement from the team's stars, not just one trade.

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