PITTSBURGH, April 15 (UPI) -- The return of Mario Lemieux may be uncertain, but Rick Kehoe will no longer be behind the bench for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
After failing to make the playoffs for the second straight year, the Penguins fired their coach on Tuesday.
Kehoe had been with the Penguins for 29 straight years as a player, scout, assistant coach, and head coach, and will continue to work for the Penguins in another capacity, according to Penguins General Manager Craig Patrick. He will continue to work for Patrick and team owner Mario Lemieux, who is not expected to play again next season for the financially-strapped franchise.
Kehoe compiled a record of 55-81-14-10 in nearly two seasons as head coach.
"Rick battled through some difficult circumstances the last two seasons and did a very good job," Patrick said. "However, our organization is moving in a new direction and we needed to make a change."
Lemieux missed 15 games because of a chronic back condition, and has hinted toward retirement, although he has yet to make an official announcement. He led the Penguiins with 28 goals and 63 assists in 67 games.
Because of payroll constraints, Lemieux authorized the trade of star winger Alexei Kovalev to the New York Rangers in an eight-player deal in March, when the Penguins were still mathematically alive for a playoff berth. They finished with the second-worst record in the NHL at 27-44-6-5, ahead of only Carolina.
The Penguins made the playoffs 12 straight seasons from 1990-91, when they won the first of two straight Stanley Cups, to 2001-02, but Ivan Hlinka was fired and replaced by Kehoe four games into the following season. Pittsburgh went just 28-37-8-5 under Kehoe, finishing with a 10-game winless streak (0-9-1).
This past season, the Penguins won just twice in their last 22 games (2-18-2).
Kehoe played 11 seasons with the Penguins, and ranks third on the club's all-time scoring list with 636 points. Upon retiring in 1985, he joined the Penguins' staff as a scout, and worked in that capacity for two seasons.