Hlinka to be fired?

After the Penguins lost the Eastern Conference Championship last season to the Devils the Penguins returned to their practice facility south of Pittsburgh to clear out their lockers and leave for the off-season.

At that time Mario Lemieix had asked Ivan Hlinka to improve his English during the off-season so he could better communicate with the players. It has been reported that Hlinka has not improved his English and the Penguins organization is none to happy with him.

The question now is not “If” Hlinka will be fired but rather “When”. The Penguins will stay within the organization to replace him whenever it happens and the obvious choice is Herb Brooks. The major issue here is that Brooks is the coach of the U.S. Olympic team and will not be able to take over behind the bench until the Olympic games have ended. He is the top choice for the position so the Penguins will need to put someone in charge in the interim.

The easiest scenario is to place Eddie Johnston behind the bench until Brooks becomes available to take it full time. Johnston is a favorite of Lemieux so it appears evident that he will get the nod.

Brooks, who last coached in the NHL for the Pens, left the game as a coach because of the issues surrounding Jaromir Jagr. The two did not get along and Brooks retired from coaching. Now that Jagr is gone Brooks may be interested in returning to coaching. The Pens have a cast of young players and a great deal of talent at the minor league level and Brooks likes that type of makeup.

It may not take long for the Pens to make the move and replace Hlinka with Johnston in preparations for the return of Brooks. It is a move that cannot sit for long since the season is just around the corner. The Pens may be working out the specifics with Brooks and Johnston at this time and once they are complete the firing of Hlinka will be imminent.