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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Penguins Name Mike Johnston Head Coach

After a long, exhaustive (and exhausting) search the Pittsburgh Penguins have named a new coach.  Connected to the team since early in the week Mike Johnston, the head coach and general manage of the WHL's Portland Winterhawks, will replace Dan Bylsma as coach.

In becoming the 21st head coach in Penguins history Johnston makes his return to the NHL ranks.  From 1999 until 2008 Johnston served as an Assistant and Associate Coach of the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings.  The connection between the two stops: Rumored coaching hire Marc Crawford was head coach at every stop.

From there Johnston made it to the WHL's Portland Winterhawks where he was named Head Coach and General Manager.  The Winterhawks website lists his credentials:

When Portland Winterhawks owner Bill Gallacher sought to revamp the Winterhawk's hockey operations, he turned to Mike Johnston, who brings nearly ten years of NHL experience to the organization as the team's General Manager and Head Coach.
After taking over early in the 2008-09 season, Johnston and his staff led the Winterhawks to the biggest turnaround in team history in 2009-10, improving the team by 48 points. The Winterhawks made the playoffs for the first time in four years, knocking off Spokane in overtime of Game 7 in a thrilling series.
Following the season, eight Winterhawks were taken in the 2010 NHL Draft, tying a franchise record.
Prior to coming to the Winterhawks in 2008 he spent the previous two seasons with the Los Angeles Kings as Associate Coach. Prior to joining the Kings Johnston served as Associate Coach with the Vancouver Canucks from 1999-2006, where he played a major role in the team's development. In 2004, after a second consecutive 100-point season and a third straight campaign with more than 40 wins, the Canucks captured the Northwest Division championship - the first division title for the franchise since the 1992-93 season.
In addition to his NHL experience, Johnston has an extensive history of coaching at the international level. Most recently, he coached Canada's entry in the 2009 World Under-18 Hockey Championship. In May of 2007, Johnston was an Assistant Coach for Canada at the World Championships in Moscow where Canada - for the first time in 73 years - went undefeated (9-0) in winning the gold medal. This was Johnston's second World Championship after winning in Helsinki in 1997 and his fourth medal at that level (bronze in 1995 and silver in 1996).
Internationally, Johnston worked for Team Canada for five seasons from 1994-99 serving in the capacity of General Manager and Associate Coach and finally Head Coach for the 1998-1999 season, and was an Assistant Coach at the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan. In addition to the championships at the senior level Johnston has won three gold medals as Head Coach for Canada at the prestigious Spengler Cup Tournament and two World Junior Championships as an Assistant Coach in 1994 and 1995.
A career coach, Johnston initially started at the College and University level in Canada. He coached college hockey in Alberta for five seasons before becoming the Head Coach of the University of New Brunswick from 1989 - 1994, winning two McAdam Division titles, and finishing with three first place finishes and an overall record of 77-44-6. He was named the 3M Coach of the Year in 1994 and won the Telegraph Journal Coach of the Year Award in 1993.
Born in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Johnston holds a Master's degree in Coaching Science and he recently co-authored the book “Simply The Best - Insights and Strategies From Great Hockey Coaches.” Johnston has presented at major international conferences in Russia, Austria, Switzerland, Finland, and Sweden.
Johnston, known for his uptempo style of play, seeks to get the most from his offense and his defense.  Widely publicized he seeks puck movers, players who will cycle, not waste chances with the puck, and funnel shots onto the net.

Overall his Winterhawks teams have seen great regular season success as well as postseason success, winning the Ed Chynoweth Cup in 2012-13.  The odd note about that championship win is Johnston was not coach at the time.  Johnston was suspended and saw his team fined $200,000 plus draft picks for giving his players improper benefits.  Read the full story here, via The Sporting News.

The Penguins are set to announce the hiring, a three year deal according to TSN's Darren Dreger, at noon.  Stay tuned to Pens Initiative for a link to watch and listen.

UPDATE: You can read the official release from the Penguins here.

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