Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan has signed a three-year contract extension through the 2019-20 season, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford.
"Mike did the best coaching job in the NHL last season," Rutherford said. "He continues to be a terrific coach and we are happy to give him a well-deserved extension."
Since taking over a Penguins' team that sat outside of a playoff spot when he was hired on Dec. 12, 2015, the 48-year old Sullivan has:
*Guided his club to the franchise's fourth Stanley Cup championship last spring.
*Helped author one of the best in-season turnarounds in franchise history, directing the Penguins to a 33-16-5 finish after taking over last year.
*Made sure his team hasn't suffered a Cup hangover thus far this year, as the Penguins currently own the NHL's second-best record, one point shy of league-leading Columbus.
A native of Marshfield, Massachusetts, Sullivan transformed the Penguins' identity in his first season behind the bench, instilling the motto 'Just Play' into his players. The result was his club posting the league's second-best record and becoming its highest-scoring outfit from the day of his hiring until the end of the season.
That turnaround not only catapulted Pittsburgh to the NHL's fourth-best overall record last year, but it served as the springboard to a dominant playoff performance after the Penguins won eight of their last nine, and 14 of their final 16 games entering the postseason.
By going on to win the Stanley Cup, Sullivan became just the sixth American-born head coach in NHL history to guide his club to a championship, and only the fourth coach to win after taking over at midseason.
Sullivan's Penguins went 16-8 during their magical ride through the playoff field, equaling the franchise record for home playoff wins with nine, while playing with a dramatic flair that included a team-record four overtime victories.
This season, Sullivan has the Penguins sitting at 22-8-5, which has them in the thick of the race for the Metropolitan Division title, a feat made even more impressive when considering that five of the NHL's top-eight teams right now reside within the Metro Division.
Overall, Sullivan is 55-24-10 behind the Penguins' bench. Only the Washington Capitals have accumulated more points (124 to 120) among NHL teams during that span.
Two early trademarks of Sullivan's teams are the ability to come back from multi-goal deficits, and they have been nearly impossible to beat in consecutive regulation games.
Incredibly, the Penguins have recorded 14 of their 55 wins (25%) under Sullivan when trailing by two or more goals at any point within that contest. This season, the Penguins own the NHL's best winning percentage when trailing after both the first and second periods.
Since dropping the first four games of Sullivan's tenure in regulation, the Penguins have a streak of 85 consecutive games played without back-to-back regulation losses. That number swells to 109 if you factor in the playoffs.
One of the keys to Sullivan's success has been giving his superstars the offensive freedom to display their talents.
Sidney Crosby leads all NHL players in both goals (54) and points (104) in 81 games played since Sullivan's arrival.
Crosby (1st, 1.28), Evgeni Malkin (3rd, 1.11) and Kris Letang (6th, 1.01) all rank among the NHL points per game leaders during that same time span.
Rutherford promoted Sullivan to head coach in Pittsburgh last year following an 18-5 start to Sullivan's first year behind the bench of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, Pittsburgh's top farm club.
The year before joining the Pittsburgh organization, Sullivan earned a Stanley Cup ring with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2014-15, serving as a player development coach.
Sullivan began his NHL head coaching career with the Boston Bruins from 2003-06, winning a division title his first year. He later spent seven straight years as an NHL assistant coach with Tampa Bay, the New York Rangers and Vancouver from 2007-14.
Sullivan has coached for Team USA several times at the international level, including serving as an assistant coach at this year's World Cup and in the 2006 Olympics, and he was the head coach of the 2006 World Championship team.
Before beginning his coaching career, Sullivan skated in 709 NHL games over 11 seasons, totaling 54 goals and 136 points.