TIOPS DAILY FIVE
*Rumblings, Musings, Opinions*
1. Those with their jobs on the lines are said to be on pins and needles this week in the Penguins organization. Many are expecting Ron Burkle to flex his muscles and make sweeping changes once again. Burkle was the primary figure in firing Ray Shero after David Morehouse tried to push for it all the way back to June of 2013.
A source says Burkle is furious over what transpired at the trade deadline after two players ownership wanted, Jaromir Jagr and Mark Letestu, were not pursued and the cap situation of playing shorthanded has been one of the tipping points. There is going to be a pretty big shakeup in the front office.
The Penguins play with Burkle’s money and turned the organization over to a GM they were forced to settle on after Pat Brisson, Pierre McGuire and Julien Brisbois declined the job and turned the team over to a head coach who while is a great guy and hockey mind, has as expected fit the profile of an unproven coach who is over-matched at nearly every corner.
Should sweeping changes happen again, can this ownership group be trusted to get it right? They had no plan last off-season except for the long shot play of luring Pat Brisson to the organization and it’s led to the debacle they’re in now.
2. Mike Johnston is Jim Rutherford’s guy, so it’s far from surprising that Rutherford gave Johnston a vote of confidence yesterday. “He’s done a very good job with what he’s had to work with,” Rutherford told the Tribune-Review on Wednesday. “Given all the injured players and difficult circumstances, we’ve been very happy with the job that Mike and his staff have done getting the team to the cusp of the playoffs.”
“I’ve heard that term because I follow sports, but I don’t like it. You can say you give a guy a vote of confidence, but it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans,” Rutherford said. “He’s done a good job under difficult circumstances and still has gotten us to 96 points and given us a chance to get into the playoffs here in the last couple of games.”
Rutherford cited injuries in his comments. Last season the Penguins dealt with the same issues if not worse when it came to losing core players and they had a head coach that the players could no longer stand.
GAMES MISSED (2013-2014 Regular Season)
Kris Letang – 45 Games
Pascal Dupuis – 43 Games
Paul Martin – 43 Games
James Neal – 23 Games
Evgeni Malkin – 22 Games
Beau Bennett – 61 games
That list doesn’t include Olli Maatta who played the final four months with a torn labrum.
As Team President David Morehouse explained last May in firing Ray Shero, they didn’t make changes to become a fringe playoff team.
“This is about a team that we want to achieve higher, and we think can achieve higher with some changes,”David Morehouse said last May. “This is something that we’ve been talking about not just as a result of one game; not just because of the way players are playing or certain players are not playing. This is a decision that’s been in the works for a long time, since we won the Cup. We wanted to get back to the Stanley Cup Final and we haven’t. So we’re going to try to make some changes to make sure we can at least give it a shot to make it happen.”
3. When Rutherford conducted the Penguins coaching search last summer, he was obsessed with finding the next Jon Cooper , those close to the situation say. He was fixated on Bill Peters, Willie Desjardins and than during the second official coaching search after Peters and Desjardins didn’t want the job, his focus was on Mike Johnston and then Todd Nelson to a lesser degree. Although some veteran coaches like Ron Wilson were in the mix, that was only keep Rutherford’s bosses happy.
That type (unproven coach) of hire always made sense if this was going to be a patient situation which it’s not, and is never going to be as long as this ownership group is here.
Ken Laird on Triblive Radio yesterday said it best, the Penguins went to “Med Express” for their coaching hires, while others went to the Cleveland Clinic. Washington went out and got Barry Trotz, Nashville hired Peter Laviolette. The Rangers two years ago went out and got Alain Vigneault.
4. Pirates GM Neal Huntington yesterday on 937 The Fan when explaining the Travis Snider trade said the Pirates are in “Win-Now Mode” but not “Win at all cost mode,” indicating that while Snider was a helpful role player last season, the trade gave the Pirates an opportunity to keep adding arms to their system.
It’s very difficult to win a Championship in any sport and while I never want to compare the Pirates with the Penguins, but a “win at all cost mentality” is why the Penguins are a old team with cap problems and in the situation they are right now.
It’s about a year or two late but the Penguins mindset moving forward even with two generational players close to being 30 years old needs to be — Having a “win now mentality” but not a “win at all cost mentality.” —
Let’s see them actually backed their words up and go younger for once.
Nearly every move the Penguins have made since the summer has been a “win at all cost mentality” from signing Christian Ehrhoff, trading a first round pick for David Perron, moving a 23 year old defenseman for a 31 year old third pairing defenseman and so on.
Rutherford has played right into Ray Shero’s playbook from previous seasons.
5. The Steelers have been bracing for a three game suspension for Le’Veon Bell, so the news coming out of today isn’t a surprise to them. Bell has no chance of winning his appeal, aside from the additional game check fine. Bell’s actions will come back to hurt his team a year after the incident. The Steelers boast one of the NFL’s toughest schedules and are a top contender to play in New England for the start of the season in the NFL’s kickoff game.
Regardless, the Steelers will start week one on the road with the Pirates playing at home during the weekend of September 13.
Other than Oakland, there’s not one cupcake game for the Steelers.
Steelers 2015 Schedule: Home | Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Oakland, Arizona, San Francisco, Indianapolis
Away | Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Kansas City, San Diego, St. Louis, Seattle, New England