The Mike Johnston Era came to a merciful end and the Mike Sullivan Era started off better than anyone could have expected.
The 2015-16 Pittsburgh Penguins came into the season with low expectations of a Stanley Cup and many media pundits were wondering if Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the rest of the Penguins core had any left in the tank after several years of disappointing playoff exits and some subpar play under head coach Mike Johnston.
After nothing much happening for the team on the ice, and without much fight left in them, Jim Rutherford was quick to pull the plug on head coach Mike Johnston in favor of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach Mike Sullivan.
That move couldn’t have gone any better for the Penguins. It’s been a while since then and things haven’t gone so great lately, so here’s a quick recap of how the 2016 season ended for the Penguins:
The 2015-16 Penguins team was much different from years past, aside from the obvious coaching change. There was a clear shift in team makeup from a team that was tough to play against and willing to fight on any given to night to a team that could skate circles around its opponent and not worry about what the opposition may be doing to disrupt the Penguins from creating offense.
That’s the phrase that paid in 2016. Fighting was a thing of the past. The Penguins were regularly towards the top of the league in fights in the early 2010s. But with the change in philosophy came a change in fighting. And you’ll see a dramatic change in the next few recaps as the Penguins went from nearly 30 fights per season to less than ten each year in their back-to-back Cup runs in 2016 and 2017.
So this one will be short and sweet. Enjoy the better times.
Fighting may be steadily disappearing from today’s game, but it’s still one of the most unique and influential aspects of hockey. Just ask Max Talbot (circa 2009) if fights actually make a difference in a game. Fighting may not be common these days, but they still exist for a reason.
11/27/15 – Evgeni Malkin vs Jack Johnson
Yeah, you read that right. Jack Johnson and Evgeni Malkin threw down before Jack brought his talents to the 412.
Sergei Bobrovsky swallowed up a loose puck and a disagreement of sorts breaks out between Columbus and Pittsburgh, nothing out of the ordinary when these two teams meet. Malkin comes to the net with authority and Jack Johnson stands his ground for the Jackets.
As the two players continue to engage while shifting away from the net, the gloves come off and nothing really noticeable happens until it looks like the scrum is over. However, Johnson continues to engage Malkin despite the referees attempting to separate the two, which results in an angry Geno. Angry Geno is a scary Geno, and Jack Johnson got the worst of this exchange as Malkin unleashes a flurry of fists upon Johnson before the referees separate the two future teammates.
And this was about the most exciting fight for the Penguins this season.
12/14/15 – Nick Bonino vs Taylor Chorney
Just like when the Blue Jackets and Penguins meet, when the Capitals and Penguins meet, there’s a high probability a fight could break out. And that probability became true when future Penguin Taylor Chorney goes a little too far on future champion Nick Bonino. Chorney cross-checks Bonino in front of his own net and Bonino doesn’t take too kindly of that and the two players find themselves in a fight seconds later.
Once again, not the most memorably fight, but the crowd loved every second of it as you can hear in the video clip above. Neither side really put too much of a dent in the other side, but Bonino lands the heaviest shot while also wrestling Chorney to the ice.
We’ll chalk this one up as a Penguins win.
2/24/16 – Scott Wilson vs Landon Ferraro
There weren’t too many good ones to choose from this season, but this one probably takes the cake for the Penguins this season. It was also the highest ranked fight out of the ten total fights for the Penguins that season, coming in at an underwhelming 5.26.
It was a pretty even fight, and neither side really came away as the loser in this one. The slow-mo replay looks as if Wilson got the advantage, but Ferraro came away with the win on hockeyfights.com, with 37.6% of the vote to Wilson’s 25.6%.
And that’s about all this season had in terms of fights. Fortunately it ended in glory, and nobody will complain about the few number of fights when your season ends like this: