Penguins Coach Sullivan Finally Making Some Changes

Mike Sullivan, head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, is currently in unfamiliar territory. The Penguins snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 4-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Nov. 9, the longest losing streak of his coaching career. Pittsburgh clearly has faith in their head coach, which they proved a couple of months ago by giving him a three-year contract extension. However, the team’s current record of 6-6-2 has fans a bit unsettled. There were some questionable decisions that contributed to their recent skid, but it seems they have started to turn things around at least for now.

Kasperi Kapanen Extension

For the most part, the Penguins had a good offseason, but the decision to extend forward Kasperi Kapanen’s contract was not one of the highlights of it. The team gave him a two-year extension with an average annual value (AAV) of $3.2 million. Their cap space issues combined with his less-than-mediocre play last season left most people confused as to why he would be returning.

Fast forward to this season and, unfortunately, fans have seen much of the same from Kapanen. Although he did show an early spark with one goal and four assists through the first five games, his play over the last seven games has been embarrassing. Sullivan finally made the decision to scratch him in the game against the Capitals, but it is hard not to wonder what might have happened if this had been done sooner. 

Kasperi Kapanen Pittsburgh Penguins
Kasperi Kapanen, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It will be interesting to see what the Penguins do with Kapanen moving forward. It may be time to seriously consider their options. Obviously, parting ways with him would be an admission that re-signing him was a mistake, but keeping him on the team could be an even bigger one. It is highly unlikely that the Penguins would be able to trade him, but they still have the option of sending him to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and putting him on waivers. It is still pretty early in the season, however the Penguins should not wait any longer to address this issue.

Defensive Pairs

Brian Dumoulin is one of the top defensemen in franchise history. However, it is obvious that he is no longer the same player. He has been skating on the top pairing with Kris Letang for almost a decade, but it was clear early on this season that he could no longer handle that level of competition.

Related: 3 Players the Penguins Should Call Up From the AHL This Season

This was painfully clear in the game against the Boston Bruins on Nov. 1. The Penguins lost 6-5 in overtime after leading for most of the game. By the third period it was obvious that Dumoulin was worn out. He was sluggish on the ice, and made some costly turnovers. His speed used to be one of the best things about his game, but it is clear that he can’t keep up with top minutes any longer. He was replaced by Marcus Pettersson for the game against the Capitals, a decision that probably should have come a lot sooner. Pettersson has earned a spot on the top pairing and should remain there.

Change is Good

Kapanen and Dumoulin have been two of the most glaring issues so far this season. However, the Penguins are still working on finding the perfect combinations. Sullivan has an abundance of talent on the roster, and he cannot be afraid to shake things up. The Penguins are set to face the Montreal Canadiens on Nov. 12 and are hoping to keep their two game winning streak alive.