The Pittsburgh Penguins and coach Mike Sullivan agreed to a three-year contract extension Monday that will carry him through the 2019-20 season.
"Mike did the best coaching job in the NHL last season," Jim Rutherford, the Penguins' executive vice president and general manager, said in a statement. "He continues to be a terrific coach, and we are happy to give him a well-deserved extension."
Sullivan, hired midway through the 2015-16 season, guided the Penguins to a Stanley Cup crown and has posted a 55-24-10 record overall. Pittsburgh currently sits second in the Eastern Conference with 49 points.
Sullivan, 48, previously coached the Boston Bruins for two seasons more than a decade ago. He spent the next stretch of his career as a top assistant with various franchises, joining the Penguins last June as the head coach of their AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton franchise.
“What I like about coaching is that it’s not unlike being a schoolteacher,” Sullivan told Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It’s a teaching profession. It’s managing people. It’s trying to break the game down in a way that individuals and the group can comprehend.”
It doesn't hurt that Sullivan ascended into a job featuring perhaps the NHL's best collection of talent. Centers Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby sit second and third, respectively, in the league's points race. Right winger Phil Kessel is tied for eighth. Crosby's 24 goals are five more than any other player heading into Monday.
“He’s very detailed, whether that’s being on time or as far as details of our game, work habits and practices, things like that,” Crosby told Mackey. “He takes details really serious. I think he expects a lot out of us, and I think that’s a good thing.”
The team news release notes that Crosby leads the NHL in points per game since Sullivan took over. Malkin is third and Kris Letang is sixth.
The life span of an NHL coach can be short, but it appears the Penguins have found a guy who pushes their talent to play to their strengths. Pittsburgh has simplified its offensive game plan to play quick, and the result has been one Stanley Cup and a chance at another this spring.
With Sullivan's contract standing as the only potential distraction, it was smart to get it done now.
Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter.