Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan signed a four-year contract extension with the team. He spoke with the media after, and the following is a transcript of that call.
On the extension process
Jim (Rutherford) and I had conversations since the end of the season that we would discuss this possibility. Jim is a great communicator. He's talked to me about this whole process. We both had a comfort level on where it was at. Jim had discussions with my agent over the last couple of weeks, and ultimately it got done today. I was never in the dark. Jim is a really good communicator.
On relief of it being done
I'm so appreciative to Ron Burkle, Mario Lemieux and our ownership group, as well as David Morehouse and Jim Rutherford for showing the confidence in me to try and continue to lead this team. Any time that someone like myself has an opportunity to establish a little bit of stability with my job it is a great help from my standpoint. And I'm grateful of the opportunity that I've been given with this Pittsburgh Penguins organization. It really is a unique organization. They do it right. And it starts with the leadership of our ownership and it goes down from there.
On free agency
I can only speak for myself. I knew through this whole process that I wanted to coach the Pittsburgh Penguins. I have so much respect for the group of people that I get to go to work with every day. We have a great group of players. Jim Rutherford is a great general manager to work for. It really is a privilege to coach this team, and to coach in this organization. For myself to be able to sign an extension it helps me as far as my own personal aspirations to be part of this Pittsburgh Penguins organization. It was never really something that I really considered or thought of. I just knew that I wanted to be the coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
On coaching longevity
I believe that it takes time to build relationships with people. When you do build relationships then you can establish trust with the players. It can only help the coaching staff and the players to meet some of the challenges that this league inevitably presents. It's certainly my job to inspire this group and bring out the best in them. I'll continue to try to evolve myself as a coach, and I'll challenge my staff as well to evolve as a staff in more ways than one, in looking at the league and best practices, in looking at how we play and if we need to change in order to maximize this group of players that we have, continuing to build relationships with our players that is so critically important to working together to accomplish a common goal. I believe the more time that you have with people to establish those relationships and establish that trust the more opportunity is presented in front of you as a group. That's how I look at it. I'm really excited abou the opportunity in front of us.
On team chemistry
We allow them to maximize the group. It's the responsibility of everyone involved, including myself as the head coach, to work toward that goal. I can look back on our Stanley Cup championship teams, those were teams that had that chemistry that's essential to winning. We felt as a group that we didn't come together the way that we should have or could have to maximize the potential of our group. It's not any one person or two people's fault. It's the responsibility of everyone involved to make sure they're making a positive contribution in that regard. Part of what excites us moving forward is the enthusiasm that some of the players Jim has acquired have expressed to us both privately and also publicly about how excited they are about the opportunity to become a part of the Pittsburgh Penguins organization, and become part of a group that has a chance to win a Stanley Cup. We're really excited about the enthusiasm.
On Jim entering Hall of Fame
Jim is so deserving of being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. When you look at his accomplishments and what he's been able to do as far as building Stanley Cup championship teams, he did it in Carolina and on two occasions again in Pittsburgh. I think that speaks volumes for how good he is at what he does. He's a great manager. He's a great person to work for. He communicates so well. He empowers people. When you work for him you feel empowered to do your job. And he offers great leadership. I couldn't be happier for him and for that Hall of Fame induction.
On the recent acquisitions
We're all very much on the same page as far as assessing our team and looking at ways we need to improve and get better so that we can once again try to challenge for a Stanley Cup. That's the ultimate goal. Jim takes our feedback, as he does with his whole hockey operations department. We're all in the loop as far as what Jim's trying to accomplish and how he's trying to improve our team. When I look at some of the moves that he's made in this offseason - we talk about three things: we want to get younger, we want to get faster and we want to become a team that's more difficult to play against. When you look at some of the players that Jim's acquired, they check a lot of those boxes. We're a faster team. We're harder to play against. I think the enthusiasm and energy that these guys have already shown with the opportunity that's in front of all of us, but in particular their circumstance in coming to the Pittsburgh Penguins and being a part of this team, I believe that energy and enthusiasm is contagious. That alone is going to benefit us when we go back to training camp.
On replacing Phil Kessel on PP
We have a lot of options on our power play. We certainly have capable people. You look at our team, we had a guy like Jake Guentzel for example that was playing on the second power play and he was our leading goal scorer. Jake is a guy that we know can play on that first unit and be very productive. We have the ability to use two defensemen if we like with Justin Schultz and (Kris) Letang, that are two right-handed shots. Alex Galchenyuk is an interesting player that has shown an ability to score goals and can really shoot the puck. We have a lot of options that we can try to explore and put combinations together and help that first power-play unit continue to be successful.
On team needs
I think Jim has done a great job as far as addressing some of the needs that we felt were important as far as improving our team. We've always talked about surrounding our core guys with the right people that gives them the opportunity to be at their best and we can play to our strengths. Some of the moves that Jim has made, although they're not blockbuster deals, we believe they're real smart, prudent moves that can help our team improve and get better. I'm excited about the group of players that we have. We believe we have a group that has the potential to be a very competitive hockey team. Now the challenge is for all of us to come together and bring that to fruition.