The Pittsburgh Penguins have found a pair of names to replace the outgoing assistant coaches and both come with considerable experience. Todd Reirden and Mike Vellucci will be the new assistants for head coach Mike Sullivan, while goaltending coach Mike Buckley has also received a two-year extension. Penguins GM Jim Rutherford, who recently fired Jacques Martin, Sergei Gonchar and Mark Recchi, released the following statement on the move:
I am pleased to add Todd and Mike to our coaching staff, and believe they will compliment Mike Sullivan’s coaching style. Todd is a Stanley Cup winning coach with a decade of NHL experience as both an assistant and head coach. Mike brings championship experience at both the AHL and OHL level, and is very familiar with how we function as an organization.
Reirden will be responsible for the team’s defensive group and power play unit, while Vellucci will oversee the forwards and penalty kill.
Both men come with considerable experience with the other members of the organization. Reirden, who was recently removed as head coach of the Washington Captials, spent four seasons as an assistant with the Penguins between 2010-2014. Those years followed a stint as head coach of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, Pittsburgh’s AHL affiliate.
Vellucci has that same connection, having served as head coach (and GM) of the baby-Penguins in 2019-20. That’s not where his experience with Rutherford ends, however. In fact, if you go back through Vellucci’s career in hockey, Rutherford is almost everywhere. Before he joined WBS, the 54-year old Vellucci was with the Carolina Hurricanes organization, where he served as assistant GM, head coach of the AHL affiliate and director of hockey operations. He was hired for that job just after Rutherford departed, but it was because of the long connection he had with him and then-Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos. Karmanos also owned the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL, which Rutherford oversaw and Vellucci served as head coach and GM. Even before that the two were intertwined, meaning Vellucci comes as no surprise on the bench for Pittsburgh this season.
Because of the promotion for Vellucci, the Penguins have begun a search for the next head coach of their AHL affiliate.