Mike Sullivan All-In On Penguins Winning It All Again

If the Penguins aren't again hoisting the Stanley Cup next June, it won’t be because anyone doubted such an outcome was possible.



Embed from Getty Images

Mike Sullivan is already contemplating a “Three-peat.”

Given all he and the Penguins have achieved since December of 2015, why wouldn’t he?

“Our message will be very similar going into this season,” the head coach confirmed. “Why not?”

Sullivan made that declaration this week at Allegheny Country Club, in advance of the Penguins reporting for training camp on Friday.

The occasion was the team’s “Summer Sticks” golf outing that annually precedes the Penguins’ return to the ice.

The event’s guests of honor –– the Maurice “Rocket” Richard, Prince of Wales and Conn Smythe trophies and, of course, the Stanley Cup –– silently but emphatically confirmed the plausibility of Sullivan’s contention.

The Penguins, remember, weren’t supposed to win last season, either, given that no team in the NHL had repeated since the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings.

The Penguins won again, anyway.

“This group of players has been through so many experiences and provided all kinds of evidence that they’re capable,” Sullivan continued. “There were a lot of people last year when we were going into training camp that were telling us that we couldn’t repeat. History was against us, statistics were against us, but these guys found ways to compete and bring their best effort every day and we ended up repeating with back-to-back championships.”

That had never been done in the NHL’s salary cap era.

But a three-peat has only been managed five times previously, the last time being the New York Islanders’ run of four consecutive Cups, the last of which was won in 1982-83.

Mario Lemieux’s Penguins couldn’t do it.

Even the Wayne Gretzky-led Edmonton Oilers couldn’t win three in a row while dominating the NHL to the tune of five Cups in seven seasons from 1983-84 through 1989-90 (Gretzky was in Los Angeles for the last one). 

Sullivan’s aware of the history but undaunted in his belief that it has no bearing whatsoever on the present.

“People are telling us that we can’t,” he acknowledged. “The way I look at it is we have a core of players that are in the prime of their careers, we have a surrounding cast of players that are real competitive guys and we believe in this group that we have.

“They’ve shown an ability to play their best when the stakes are high and they know how to win.”

The group isn’t what it used to be now that Chris Kunitz, Nick Bonino, Trevor Daley and Matt Cullen have joined the ranks of those who will be attempting to end rather than extend the Penguins’ run.

As for the returnees, Sullivan didn’t have to tell them twice a third consecutive championship is manageable.

Consider:

  • Justin Schultz: “We showed it last year. Once you get into it, we have that taste, we know what it feels like and we want to win it again. It’s as simple as that.”
     
  • Matt Murray: “We know we have the team here and the staff here and we can be successful no matter who’s in our lineup. We’re a confident group and we have a heck of a lineup here once again this year.”
     
  • Kris Letang: “The main guys, the key guys are still the same. We have the same core group. The younger guys have more experience, so it’s just going to help our team.”

If the Penguins don’t win it again this season, it won’t be because anyone doubted such an outcome was possible.

For Sullivan, the only at-times unfathomable aspect of what’s been taking place is how a guy who was summoned from the minors in the middle of a going-nowhere season two seasons ago could find himself in such a position in the first place.

“Sometimes, I just pinch myself,” he admitted.

Then he contemplates winning it all.

Again.
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

True Grit: Homestead Mayor Betty Esper Just Won't Back Down

True Grit: Homestead Mayor Betty Esper Just Won't Back Down

Homestead’s first and only woman mayor has worked tirelessly for her hometown during her 35-plus years in public office. As she faces reelection unopposed next month, the 84-year-old contemplates her role as the symbol of a gritty town fighting its way back.
Photo Essay: Silence on the Cell Block

Photo Essay: Silence on the Cell Block

A look inside the now-empty penitentiary on the banks of the Ohio.
Made in Pittsburgh: 5 Great Ideas

Made in Pittsburgh: 5 Great Ideas

Modern-day creation in Pittsburgh doesn’t just involve physical products; we also have a knack for hatching new ideas that can solve problems in innovative, unexpected ways. These locally based thinkers are applying big thoughts to bigger problems.
Restaurant Review: Scratch Food + Beverage is King of the Hill

Restaurant Review: Scratch Food + Beverage is King of the Hill

The Troy Hill neighborhood spot matures into a casual destination restaurant.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Hyperloop One Could Change How You Spend Your Weekends

Hyperloop One Could Change How You Spend Your Weekends

Hyperloop One plans to use high-speed pods that travel in low-pressure tubes to whisk people and freight at 700 miles an hour, cutting the travel time from Pittsburgh to Chicago to less than an hour.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Meet the Federal Galley Chefs

Meet the Federal Galley Chefs

We have the lowdown on who is cooking what in the new North Side food hall from the operators of Smallman Galley.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Read on for some under-the-radar ideas on how you and the kids can survive a rainy day this summer.

Comments


King Arthur's Sword Turns a Spot in Baldwin Into an Entertainment Destination

King Arthur's Sword Turns a Spot in Baldwin Into an Entertainment Destination

IQ Escape's new South Hills escape rooms elevate Crafthouse Stage & Grill and Legacy Lanes.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Encouraging Start Only a Start for The Steelers

Encouraging Start Only a Start for The Steelers

The season's first two victories were notched against mediocre competition. Eventually, the degree of difficulty is going to ratchet up considerably.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
#Gottahaveit: Take It To the Hoop

#Gottahaveit: Take It To the Hoop

Robert Hallett, Goldsmith, handcrafts the jewelry in his Oakmont shop.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Kingsman Sequel Leans Into the Crazy (And Turns Out Fun)

Kingsman Sequel Leans Into the Crazy (And Turns Out Fun)

Reviews of "Kingsman: The Golden Circle," "Friend Request" and "Brad's Status," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Furs We Favor for a Pittsburgh Winter Wedding

Furs We Favor for a Pittsburgh Winter Wedding

Tying the knot when it will be cold outside? These Pittsburgh brides combined warmth and elegance by choosing fur.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Explore New and Historic Homes at Doors Open Pittsburgh

Explore New and Historic Homes at Doors Open Pittsburgh

The public “behind-the-scenes” event gives participants access to some of the city’s more iconic buildings — and some of Pittsburgh’s most interesting residences.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Tuition Increases at the University of Pittsburgh

Tuition Increases at the University of Pittsburgh

School trustees voted this week to increase tuition for in-state and out-of-state students.

Comments