Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan will be the head coach of the United States hockey team in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China. Frank Seravalli of The Daily Faceoff tweeted the news on July 26. He has been the head coach of the Penguins for the last six seasons and has a sufficient coaching résumé to be qualified as the next head coach of the Team USA’s men’s hockey team.
Sullivan’s History with U.S. National Teams
Sullivan, who originates from Marshfield, Massachusetts, has a history with U.S. national teams as a player — he was a member of the 1988 U.S. national junior team and on the roster of the 1997 U.S. men’s national team. He was an assistant coach for the U.S. men’s team in the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy, and served as the head coach of the 2007 U.S. men’s national team at the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Men’s World Championship in Moscow and Mytischi, Russia.
According to Sullivan’s official biography on the Team USA Hockey website, he served as an assistant coach for the 2008 U.S. men’s national team at the IIHF Men’s World Championship in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada and served as an advanced scout for the 2015 U.S. national junior team. He served as an assistant coach for Team USA in the World Cup of Hockey that took place at the formerly known Air Canada Centre, now known as Scotiabank Arena, which is located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Sullivan’s NHL Coaching History
In addition to his history with U.S. national teams and coaching internationally, Sullivan has an extensive coaching résumé in the NHL and the American Hockey League (AHL). He was the head coach of the Providence Bruins of the AHL during the 2002-03 season. According to his official biography on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ official website, he was the head coach of the Boston Bruins from 2003-06 and coached the team to clinching the Northeast Division during the 2003-04 season.
Sullivan was an assistant coach for the Tampa Bay Lightning from 2007-09, the New York Rangers from 2009-13 and the Vancouver Canucks during the 2013-14 season. During the 2014-15 season, he was in charge of the development of forward prospects as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks’ player development staff. He was named the head coach of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in June 2015, but was the coach for only a few months as he was promoted to the head coaching position of the Pittsburgh Penguins in December 2015, replacing Mike Johnston. The organization was struggling at this point, but he managed to turn the team around during the 2015-16 season as they won the Stanley Cup by defeating the San Jose Sharks in six games. The team followed up its championship season by winning the Cup again in 2016-17, defeating the Nashville Predators in six games.
Coaching Legacy with the Penguins
Sullivan’s early success as the head coach of the Penguins has helped his case to be one of the best in the history of the franchise. When he was named to the position during the 2015-16 season, the black and gold were in the midst of a disaster of a season and in desperate need of a spark. He turned the team’s mediocre season around and led them to the first of back-to-back Stanley Cup championships.
Sullivan and the Penguins have struggled in the postseason since the Stanley Cup Final victory in 2016-17, as the organization has only one series victory and three consecutive seasons with no wins in the playoffs. However, he has the respect of the players and has done a good job keeping the team competitive despite the plethora of injuries that have plagued the franchise during his tenure as head coach. He has coached in 589 NHL games and has a record of 321-187-15-66 with a 44-38 record in the playoffs.
Why Sullivan is the Right Coach for Team USA
Sullivan is a coach that pays attention to many aspects of the game and encourages his players to do the same. When he is home watching a hockey game, he can break down the mistakes a defenseman made that led to a goal. In an article about his background, playing and coaching career, he recognizes the value of connecting with all of his players, no matter if it is players on the first or fourth lines. He places an emphasis on controlling what he can control and turning a negative situation into a positive. He was a healthy scratch during a portion of his playing career with the Phoenix Coyotes and assisted the coaching staff by watching the games from the press box and evaluated the players’ performances with his coaches. He became involved in coaches meetings and shared his observations with the rest of the staff.
The Penguins head coach requires his players, even elite ones such as Sidney Crosby, to block shots, hurry back to the defensive zone and help with the defense or backcheck. Emphasizing the significance of playing a two-way game is vital to why Sullivan is a good coaching choice for Team USA, because it can lead to success due to creating opportunities on offense through defensive play. He mentions to his players the importance of winning faceoffs and gaining control of the puck in the corners that go unnoticed but can lead to scoring chances.
He also explains to his players why he is making a decision, such as talking to goaltender Matt Murray why he was benching him in favor of Marc Andre-Fleury during the 2015-16 Eastern Conference Final between the Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning. Proper communication is another example of why he is an excellent choice for the head coaching spot of Team USA, because it allows players to maintain motivation to make improvements in their individual games to be better.
Sullivan has a good coaching history and a background with the U.S. national teams, which makes him qualified to be the head coach of the Team USA men’s hockey team in the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics. He has the potential to reach the most seasons as head coach of the Penguins and ranks among the organization’s top coaches in winning percentage. The success he has had throughout his coaching career along with the respect he demands from his players are reasons why he is a good choice as head coach of the U.S. men’s hockey team in the Winter Olympics. The NHL has not yet confirmed its participation in next year’s Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, China.
Matt contributes content about the New York Rangers and the Montreal Canadiens for The Hockey Writers. Matt has covered the Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils, and the Pittsburgh Penguins during his time writing for THW. For interview and podcast requests, follow Matt on Twitter which appears at the end of his articles.