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Johnston knows how to coach

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Thursday, June 26, 2014, 1:01 a.m.
 

Granted, he wasn't the first choice ... or the second, but Mike Johnston is now the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

I'm hoping some of those who think the Penguins scraped the bottom of the barrel actually caught portions of his introductory press conference.

Johnston has coached alongside some of the best in the business, serving as an assistant with the Canadian national team.

He's coached the likes of Chris Kunitz, Jonathan Toews, Martin Brodeur, Wayne Gretzky, Jarome Iginla ... the list goes on.

He doesn't have NHL head coaching experience, but you have to start somewhere. Why can't it be the place where two of the best players in the world hang their skates?

Don't underestimate the significance of Rick Tocchet being hired as Johnston's top assistant. A month or so ago, I tabbed him as my choice for the head coaching job, but I'll gladly take him being behind the bench in any capacity.

I liked that Johnston mentioned he sees the regular season as preparing for the playoffs. That's something that was missing under Dan Bylsma's regime. Make adjustments when the games don't mean quite as much, instead of not making any adjustments at all when everything is on the line.

So far, Johnston has said all the right things. He knows there's pressure to win here in Pittsburgh, probably the most in any NHL city. It's Stanley Cup or bust, and that's the way it should be.

• Now that the coaching search is over, what do you do about the slew of free agents on the team?

Matt Niskanen is all but gone. Jussi Jokinen is going to command a lot of money. I wouldn't mind seeing the Jokinen-Evgeni Malkin-James Neal line stay intact, but many argue that playing with Malkin and Neal made Jokinen this season. I agree.

Beau Bennett returns next season if he can stay healthy, and Pascal Dupuis will be back to his spot on the Crosby line. With a continuous flow of young defensemen ready to arrive, Niskanen won't be that big of a loss. Yes, he did have a breakout season. He scored a lot of key goals, but with the salary cap situation the way it is, I just don't see him coming back.

• The J. Budd Grebb Memorial Summer Basketball League is back in action at the Mechanic Street Playground in California. There's a lot of new faces on the court this year. And don't be fooled, while some of the new players might not have a lot of height, they can bring it on the court.

My impressions from the first round of games on Tuesday: Belle Vernon Area coach Kyle DeGregorio has a pretty talented group of freshman ready to make some noise. The Girls' Division kicks off next week and will feature a lot of young talent as well. I'm disappointed though that there are some schools in the area that have no representation in the league. There are no Frazier boys or girls on teams. There are no Ringgold girls. It's nice to see the freshmen-to-be getting out there and working on their development on the court. Both leagues should be entertaining to watch. The boys play Tuesdays and Thursdays, with the girls playing Mondays and Wednesdays.

• Some Sellewtions as we roll towards the weekend.

1. For whomever ends up with the No. 1 pick in today's NBA Draft, a two-word Sellewtion: Jabari Parker. And I'm not saying that because I'm a die-hard Dukie. I think he's the most well-rounded player in the draft. If the Cleveland Cavaliers stay in the No. 1 spot, they will probably screw it up again. Most importantly, could Parker be the reason for me to care about the NBA and watch it more consistently? Probably not, but I may pay more attention.

2. Freeze pops. They can take your mind off anything.

3. If you think you are a sporting superstar, own it. But don't force feed your lack of general knowledge to others. There are reasons you are where you are in life. Someone wise taught me that. Not that I always follow it, but we all know others that should.

4. Have a great weekend and live each day to the fullest!

Jeremy Sellew is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jsellew@tribweb.com or 724-684-2667.

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