Defenseman David Warsofsky played 13 games under Mike Sullivan with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before getting called up to Pittsburgh on Nov. 19, so he knows better than anyone else in the room what Pittsburgh’s new head coach is like.
“He is very knowledgeable,” Warsofsky said of Sullivan. “I think he knows the game maybe better than anyone I’ve ever met. He has a good way of getting his point across, especially to some older guys and some professionals who kind of might be stuck in their ways. At every level he has coached at, I think he can really get through to those guys at a professional level and be respectful about it. He seems to always get his word through.”
After the team’s first practice under Sullivan on Sunday at CONSOL Energy Center, we spoke with a number of other players and got their thoughts on the coaching change.
ON THE COACHING CHANGE… SIDNEY CROSBY: It’s never a great situation. Obviously, as players we take full responsibility and the coaches (are) the ones who take the fall, but ultimately it’s on us. We’ve got to be better. There’s no question the expectations are high and we understand that. We basically have to be better. It’s pretty clear-cut. I think today, we were just getting to know Mike (Sullivan) a little bit and we’ll see as things go along here. It’s only been a few hours, so we’ll see kind of what adjustments and things we change here.
MARC-ANDRE FLEURY: I think for me, for the players, it’s always tough to see your coaches get fired and always feel responsible for them losing their job, but it is what it is. We’ve got to look forward and I think Mike (Sullivan) will be good for us. He’s got some jump, some emotion. He’s been around for a long time now, so he knows the game well. So it should be good.
ON IF THIS CAN SPARK THE TEAM… DAVID PERRON: That’s what we’re hoping. I think in the end, it’s the players that play and we have to take some of the blame, too, a lot of it. We have to play better. I think (Sullivan) wants us to go out there, work hard and be inspired by our play. Really show it out there on the ice by playing the right way and then the offense will take care of itself with the guys we have here.
ON THE MESSAGE FROM SULLIVAN… CROSBY: “Just to get better. Just to make sure that we’re all attentive and make sure that we’re working together. It’s only been one practice. I’m sure there will be things we have to go over. But just to work together out there.
PHIL KESSEL: I think Mike wants us to work hard. Battle. Play with passion. I don’t think he wants to change a lot. Just some little things and get things going.
CHRIS KUNITZ: The way he came in and explained himself is he wants guys to be responsible, respectful of the way you’re doing things. Respect your teammates. They’re going to give us the best opportunity to give us the information that we need to go out and work. At the end of the day, it’s the players that need to go out there and work and do the systems and play hockey. For that, it’s something that you’ve got to come prepared to go every day and work hard and that’s what he wants to see.
PERRON: (Sullivan and Jim Rutherford) talked a little bit. Jim talked about what happened and Mike kind of introduced himself, his philosophy. He’s going to keep doing that over the next few weeks; I’m sure he’s going to keep talking about his philosophy and some of the tweaks he’s going to do in the system. It’s tough to see guys go yesterday, we spent a lot of time with them, they’re great guys. But they know it’s the business part of it and they know we have to move forward and have a good year with Mike Sullivan now.