Johnston's hiring wraps up a tenuous coaching search that stalled and restarted multiple times. The team fired former Stanley Cup-winning head coach Dan Bylsma on June 6, the same day they hired Jim Rutherford as their new general manager. Rutherford targeted Bill Peters, a Detroit Red Wings assistant coach, but Peters decided to take the head coaching gig in Carolina instead. Then Pittsburgh went after Willie Desjardins, the coach of the AHL's Texas Stars who spurned Pittsburgh to take what, at face value, seems like a more diffcult job as head coach of the Vancouver Canucks.
That had everybody scratching their heads: why does nobody want to coach the Pittsburgh Penguins?
But the Penguins seem to have found their man in Johnston. He took over the Winterhawks in 2008 after a stint as an associate coach with the Los Angeles Kings. Prior to LA, he worked as an associate coach with the Canucks from 1999-2006. He's also worked at the international level, serving as an assistant coach for Team Canada at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympic Games, and from 1994 to 1999 was the general manager of the Canadian national team.
Johnston played an offensive style in Portland that would seem to fit in well with the Penguins' crop of superstar offensive players.
In 2012, Johnston's Winterhawks were sanctioned heavily by the Western Hockey League for violating rules on benefits for players. They were fined $200,000 and forced to forfeit first round draft picks for a whopping five seasons, plus their entire stock of picks in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft.