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Winterhawks' Mike Johnston headed to the big show

Winterhawks' Mike Johnston headed to the big show

The Pittsburgh Penguins have named former Portland Winterhawks coach Mike Johnston as their new coach.

Johnston, who was introduced at a Wednesday afternoon news conference, will receive a three-year contract according to media reports.

"As a career coach, you aspire to get to these positions," Johnston said. "It's been my goal, it's been my dream."

The Penguins had been without a coach since firing Dan Bylsma on June 6.

"Mike comes to Pittsburgh with great experience at all levels of hockey," Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said. "He has terrific knowledge of the game and proven leadership ability. His coaching style is going to be a good for the players we have here with the Penguins -- it's an up-tempo style, but it begins from deep in the defensive zone. We're very excited to have him."

Former Penguins forward and Tampa Bay Lightning coach Rick Tocchet has also been named to Johnston's staff.

"He thinks out of the box, and that's what I like," Tocchet said of Johnston.

Assistant coaches Tony Granato and Todd Reirden will not return. Assistant coach Jacques Martin will remain with the club in a yet-to-be-determined capacity.

Goaltending coach Mike Bales and video coordinator Andy Saucier will remain in their current roles.

Johnston has been the coach of the Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League since early in the 2008-09 season. In his first full season he led them to the biggest turnaround in team history in 2009-10, improving the team by 48 points.

The Winterhawks went to the WHL Final in each of the past four seasons and made the Memorial Cup Final in 2013, losing to Halifax. Johnston was suspended for the remainder of the 2012-13 season on Nov. 28, 2012, as a result of player benefits violations committed by the team.

The Winterhawks' 2013-14 roster featured 10 players already drafted by NHL teams, including Penguins 2012 first-rounder Derrick Pouliot.

Prior to coaching Portland, Johnston served as an associate coach in the NHL for the Vancouver Canucks (1999-2006) and Los Angeles Kings (2006-08).

After making the Stanley Cup Final in 2008 and winning the Cup in 2009 after Bylsma took over as coach during the season, the Penguins have suffered a serious of disappointments in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, most recently a seven-game loss to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Second Round after they held a 3-1 lead.

"Everything we do [from day one] is setting the table for the playoffs," Johnston said.

 

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