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Insider Only Mentor/Consultant? Doubts are out there about Jim Rutherford’s true power as GM

The question right now regarding the Penguins is how much power does Jim Rutherford actually have on personnel decisions?
One thing former GM Ray Shero would always say is that he would gather opinions from his staff but ultimately he makes the final decision whether they agree with it or not.
The way the front office structure sets up with Jason Botterill, Tom Fitzgerald and Bill Guerin all in prominent roles, and David Morehouse being much more involved in the day to day hockey operations part of team, there are lots of doubts around the league that Rutherford truly has the ability to shape this roster how he might want.
Rutherford’s clause in his contract is not believed to give him full control like Shero had in his contract for the start of the 2010-2011 season after Ken Sawyer left the organization.
The sense seems to be that it’s going to be a “team effort” on personnel decisions among Rutherford, Morehouse, Botterill and others, though, I’m sure there will be situations where Rutherford has to make a gut call but pretty unlikely he’s going to have the ability to make critical decisions that the majority of the group might not be for.
After Mario Lemieux went on the record to Gene Collier of the Post-Gazette on May 16 saying things like “absolutely” Dan Bylsma can remain the coach and “a new GM will come in, evaluate the hockey operation, and we’ll go from there,” regarding Bylsma, the Penguins have come off as nothing but classless when it comes to their handling of Bylsma. One thing people will like about Jim Rutherford is he’s honest, which he was when it came to being asked about Bylsma.
“What ownership wants here is a complete change in direction, one with the general manager and one with the coach,” Rutherford said on Friday. “We met with Dan this morning and told him. And the timing of it is good. He’s a good man and a good coach. I really don’t know him very well and I only talked to him briefly this morning….. “I took the information from the people that were here. I didn’t have several meetings with Dan to get to know him and evaluate him or take his side of the story. I took the information over the last week with a couple of meetings I had and we agreed making a change, was a change we had to make.”
Although time wasn’t on the Penguins side, even Trevor Linden in Vancouver did a proper evaluation on John Tortorella who was a lunatic last season and everyone knew there was no way Linden could bring him back. Linden reportedly met with Tortorella at least three times and Linden didn’t fire him until 22 days on the job.
That’s a true evaluation.
A consensus from talking to league executives is there was nothing wrong with the Penguins not firing Bylsma immediately after the season on May 16 with Shero, but they clearly should have fired him a week or few days before officially hiring a GM if they were never going to give that GM the opportunity to do his own evaluation like they said a new GM would.
The Penguins are at the point where they needed to bring a veteran executive in as GM but one with the ability to truly make a mark on shaping this franchise the next several seasons and a team around him that has a history of being strong talent evaluators.
With the same front office supporting cast intact, is Jim Rutherford nothing more than a mentor/consultant for Morehouse, Botterill & Co?
Ownership felt the Penguins had a management problem with the front office and coaching staff but only with the people at the top (Shero, Bylsma). That is how they’ve attacked the problem as I’m hearing it’s quite possible at least two assistant coaches are back next season. To some it screams nothing more than a personal and power issue, especially when it comes to Shero.
The lack of fresh eyes is somewhat concerning with this hire as Rutherford will not be bringing in his own people when it comes to prominent roles in the front office, those are taken, and he will not be on the job long at all.
Rutherford’s contract is only for three years but here’s a contract tidbit regarding a key member of the front office.

According to a source, Jason Botterill has not only received a bump in pay, there is an agreement and clause in his contract where he will not take another job for the next two years.
That’s when it could become decision time and Rutherford steps into a lesser for the final year of his contract.
Another thing to watch is Rutherford’s health. Some in Carolina say they’ll be surprised if he can physically handle the GM role for the next three years.

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William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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