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Johnston’s system is ‘less strict’ than Bylsma’s

Mike Johnston

Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Johnston, center, shows the team what he wants them doing during the first day of NHL hockey training camp, Friday, Sept. 19, 2014, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)


Interesting quote from Penguins forward Beau Bennett, buried right at the bottom of a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story on the Pens’ preseason, which kicks off tonight at home versus Detroit.

Bennett was asked about the system of his new coach, Mike Johnston, compared to the one his old coach, Dan Bylsma, employed.

“It’s less strict,” Bennett said. “It’s more, ‘Let your talent and let your poise and patience take over.’

“You have to trust that instead of, in your mind, dumping the puck at a certain point, or having to put it in one corner or the other all the time.

“It’s nice having a little more freedom, in that regard, especially for the creativity that’s on our team.”

Certainly, the Penguins have the kind of top-end talent (see: Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin) that should thrive in a high-tempo, puck-possession system that rewards creativity. But do they have the depth? Management is hoping the additions of forwards like Blake Comeau, Steve Downie and Nick Spaling will help in that regard.

Those three players have a combined cap hit of just $3.8 million. And given the Pens boast three of the NHL’s top 20 cap hits (Crosby, Malkin and Kris Letang), it’s no secret that Pittsburgh needs its lesser-paid, bottom-six forwards to perform, regardless of the system.