Penguins re-sign Therrien
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When the Penguins' season ended in early June, coach Michel Therrien and general manager Ray Shero quickly agreed on one thing -- because of the shortened offseason after the club's march to the Stanley Cup final, contract talks between them should wait.
Shero and his staff then set about handling the entry draft and a whirlwind free agency period.
With that dust pretty much settled after a couple core young players were locked up and new players were brought in to replace those who signed elsewhere, Shero and Therrien had a chance to address the coach's future.
It didn't take long.
"We started talking the last week or so. It was really friendly," Therrien said yesterday after the Penguins announced he had signed a three-year contract.
The contract, believed to be in the range of $1 million or slightly more per season, runs through the 2010-11 season, which is scheduled to be the team's first in the city's new arena. The deal replaces one in which Therrien had one year remaining for more than $700,000.
"I think he's happy; we're happy," Shero said. "It's a way to repay him for his hard work and success.
"Results are always the most important factor. It's also about trust and supporting each other. The general manager-coach relationship is important."
Shero two years ago inherited Therrien, 44, who was promoted Dec. 15, 2005, from the club's American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to replace Eddie Olczyk.
Despite Therrien's 94-51-19 record in his two full seasons with the Penguins, there has long been speculation that Shero would at some point bring in his own coach.
"When the manager doesn't hire the coach, it's easy to say that," Shero said. "But going into our third year together, the results have been there."
After Therrien took over from Olczyk, the Penguins were 14-29-8 the balance of 2005-06 and finished 29th in the 30-team overall standings.
A year later, Therrien was a finalist for the Jack Adams Trophy as league coach of the year after the team's 47-point improvement. The Penguins qualified for the playoffs but lost to Ottawa in five games in the first round.
They came back this spring to sweep the Senators in the first round of the playoffs en route to the final, where they lost to Detroit in six games.
Therrien said he never gave a thought to finishing his previous contract and looking at other opportunities next summer.
"I wanted to be here a long time," said Therrien, who has coached some of the Penguins dating to their time in Wilkes-Barre. "The last two years, the progression with that young team was amazing. It's good to get an opportunity to work with those guys and a guy like Ray Shero. It's fun to work with a guy who's got a vision."
Therrien is one of several new or newly re-signed NHL coaches, and his terms seem to be in the same ballpark.
Mike Babcock, who led Detroit past the Penguins in the Stanley Cup final, signed a new deal worth $1.5 million annually, and Columbus gave Ken Hitchcock an extension at $1.33 million a season. Ron Wilson was hired by Toronto at $1.4 million per season.
Babcock and Hitchcock signed for three years, Wilson for four.
"It's reflective of what's going on in the league," Shero said.
Therrien is not widely considered a players' coach. He has been criticized for calling players out publicly and benching them -- even shifting defensemen Brooks Orpik and Ryan Whitney to wing for brief stints last season and charging Whitney with costing the team the game in a loss at New Jersey in February.
That doesn't mean the players don't appreciate Therrien's coaching.
"We learned about him and about hockey," forward Max Talbot said of the team's long playoff run. "It's a team, and the coach is part of the team. He definitely deserves [the contract].
"He's not just [sending out] the lines. He created a system. Obviously, he surprised a lot of people with what he did and with what our team did. Mike was definitely a big part of that.
"I've been with him for three years now, since the AHL. You can see the improvement, not only in the standings, but in consistency."
The Penguins have taken to Therrien's system, in which he demands responsible defensive play while allowing his talented group of players to prosper offensively.
Although the Penguins lost veterans such as wingers Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts, Jarkko Ruuto and Georges Laraque to free agency, they brought in forwards Miroslav Satan, Ruslan Fedotenko, Eric Godard, Matt Cooke and Janne Pesonen, and re-signed defensemen Orpik and Mark Eaton.
In addition, they have captain and top player Sidney Crosby and Whitney locked into long-term contracts and this summer reached extended deals with 2007-08 leading scorer Evgeni Malkin and No. 1 goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
"It's going to take some adjustment for the new players," Therrien said, "but I'm looking forward to the next season. We were two games away from the Stanley Cup. You get that taste. You want another chance as quickly as possible."
First Published July 19, 2008 12:00 am