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Pittsburgh Penguins coaching change: Jim Rutherford loses his cool

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The Pittsburgh Penguins fired coach Mike Johnston, but it reflects more on GM Jim Rutherford than Johnston himself.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

All things considered, Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford laid down the law last week when he told Josh Yohe:

"We have underachieved. We’ve definitely underachieved. We’re in a position where we shouldn’t be right now, and we know it. I am going to have to take a look at few things. Something needs to change."

If that's not a GM about to fire a coach when he gets the chance to, then I've never heard it.

Apparently, now former Pens coach Mike Johnston ran out of the end of his rope today after losing a 3-2 shootout to the Los Angeles Kings.

Johnston takes the fall for the Pens going 15-10-3 this season. Worse, they're 27th in goals per game at 2.36 per game this season, despite having significant offensive talent.

That's not good. For a team with Sidney Crosby (who has only 19 points in 28 games this season), Phil Kessel (who has only 9 goals in 28 games) it's tough for Johnston. Both Crosby and Kessel had point-blank goal scoring chances last night. Neither scored. But beyond last night, neither were in a place to exceed.

No doubt Johnston was not flawless. He played Rob Scuderi a lot. He didn't like to play Daniel Sprong (even after Rutherford called him out). He switched from an aggressive puck-possession system to more of a "defensive first" one that relied on Marc-Andre Fleury.

But what really seems unfair is Gary Agnew, the assistant coach who was also fired.today. Given his caliber of defensemen,, it's difficult to see how he could have done better. Ian Cole has regressed quite a bit this season, but so to has Brian Dumoulin advanced. And Ben Lovejoy is having a solid season. Plus Kris Letang and Olli Maatta have been hurt for 9 out of the team's 28 games. Agnew got totally screwed, for not much of a good reason. Is Agnew a good coach? Maybe, maybe not, but he was given a weak defense, and unsurprisingly they played weak.

Rick Tocchet survives, as the lone member of the coaching staff, despite the fact he's supposed to oversee the power play which has been terrible. I'm the last person to like to talk about the country-club environment, but the fact that Agnew gets fired, and Tocchet gets retained is just horrible. Tocchet has a lot of power play talent, and he's run it into the ground.

We'll see if newly promoted coach Mike Sullivan can turn the tide. He's got no head meaningful, great coaching experience, but led Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to a great start.

Unfortunately, the Pens bigger problem looks like their general manager, Jim Rutherford, who has officially pressed the panic button. Maybe with cause, maybe he could have been more patient for a while longer, but now all the pressure turns to GMJR. He fired Johnston, his coach, and now the Pens future performance are tied to him more than ever.