Mike Sullivan’s professional coaching career begin with the Providence Bruins in 2002. It followed an 11 year stint with 4 NHL teams--Sharks, Flames, Bruins, and Coyotes. A product of Boston College High School and Boston University, Sullivan was originally a 4th round draft pick of the NY Rangers in 1987 (69th overall).
Mike’s involvement with coaching actually began in Phoenix as he neared the end of his playing days and was increasingly a healthy scratch. From his seat in the press box Sullivan became an astute observer of plays, players, and strategies. Before long he was making penalty-killing and line-up suggestions to Phoenix’s head coach Bobby Francis who, incidentally, was the Jack Adams Award winner that season.
Sullivan lasted one season in Providence--not because he couldn't win, but because he did! He was promoted to bench boss of the Boston Bruins to start the ‘03-04 hockey season. The Bruins failed to make the ‘03 playoffs under Robbie Ftorek the former Devils coach. Sullivan turned things around immediately. The team put up 41 wins and finished first in the NHL’s Northeast Division. In the ‘04 playoffs, however, the team was elimated by the Canadians after holding a 3-1 series lead. That result was largely due to leading scorer, Joe Thornton, being hampered by a rib cartilage injury
The following year there was no hockey. The NHL’s entire 04-05 season was cancelled due to labor problems. When hockey finally resumed in ‘05-06, the Bruins struggled out of the gate. Several key players had, in the interim, jumped ship. The departees included Serge Konchar who signed with the Pens. As a corrective measure the Bruins gambled on a mega-trade that sent team captain Joe Thornton to San Jose for Marco Sturm, Wayne Primeau, and Brad Stuart. The deal was a flop. The Bruins finished last in the Northeast Conference. GM Mike O’Connell was fired and the new GM, Peter Chiarelli, thought that Sullivan needed to go too.
Sullivan hooked up with the US Olympic team in ‘06 as an assistant. He took another assistant coaching job with John Tortorella in Tampa in 07. He followed Torts to New York in '09, and to Vancouver in ‘13. When he and Tortorella were both fired by Vancouver in ‘14, Sullivan joined the Blackhawks as a player development coach. In 2015 the Penguins called. Sullivan was invited to take the helm in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He immediately guided the Pen's AHL team to a .763 win percentage. Half-way into the 2015-16 season Sullivan replaced Mike Johnston as coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins. All Sullivan did next was win the Stanley Cup. In 2016-17 it was an encore.
From his many years of experience as a player and a coach Mike Sullivan learned a lot about winning and losing. We know he prefers winning and that regard, we are pleased to honor him with the 2018 Bob Prince Award.