TIOPS DAILY FIVE
*Rumblings, Musings, Opinions*
1. No matter how embarrassing it would look for Penguins ownership to fire a new coach and general manager after one season, owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle want to get things right, and if that means parting ways with Mike Johnston and Jim Rutherford after the season, they will do it without thinking twice, Inside Pittsburgh Sports has learned.
Barring a dramatic turnaround and the Penguins making a serious Stanley Cup run, Mike Johnston’s future with the team is over, and Jim Rutherford’s future is said to be 50/50 at best.
“Jim made his bed with Mike,” a high ranking source said. “Everything will be on the table.”
Penguins ownership is not sold that Rutherford isn’t the right guy, but they also aren’t sold that he’s the right guy for the job after just one season.
From the mangling of the cap, his unwillingness to pursue players that ownership wanted, to friction with some of the Shero leftovers, to his trade of Simon Despres for Ben Lovejoy that also raised a red flag with ownership, the view of Rutherford has soured greatly in the past couple months.
One thing you don’t hear from those above Rutherford is that the Penguins cap situation is Jason Botterill’s fault.
The Penguins in not firing Ray Shero after the lockout shortened season, Penguins ownership is said to have felt they delayed the inevitable by a year that pushed them back.
They don’t want to make that mistake again and if they determine Rutherford just isn’t the right guy for the job, they will make a change.
“They want to get this right,” a source said.
The injury excuse is only going to go so far for Rutherford.
2. The mood in the Penguins locker room this weekend in losses to Columbus, Philadelphia seemed to have caught some of the non-local media by surprise, especially those that covered the Flyers game.
Randy Miller of NJ.com
also wrote of the Penguins upbeat mood.
[“The mood in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ dressing room wasn’t what you’d expect after yet another loss to the Flyers, a 4-1 Easter Sunday setback that continued a nosedive that could cost them playoff hockey. Concern they’re a bad week away from flushing away another season of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in their prime?”
“There was none of that.”
“Lose all four games this season and eight in a row overall to the Flyers? “Players weren’t griping about that. Incredibly, Penguins players were upbeat after falling to 3-8-1 over their last 12 games.”]
To those who are around the team often it wasn’t a surprise. This team truly believes all of a sudden in the playoffs things are going to come easy for them, that’s if they make it.”
The Penguins talked up their shot advantage but that game immediately turned with the Winnik penalty late in the first period. It was typical Penguins.
3. The advance analytics crew and some of the fan blogs will continue to tout the Penguins strong puck possession numbers and being unlucky until they’re blue in the face. A lack of identity and a flawed system built on having six Kris Letang’s isn’t something a computer can tell you but these numbers can’t be debated.
— 19 regulation wins and a 2.36 goals per game average in their last 56 games –.
This is a results business and the Penguins don’t score goals because they don’t have players that can finish. They’re not unlucky, they just have players that can’t finish.
Another thing the advance stats don’t show
— This team just doesn’t have a clue on how to win —
They are mentally weak.
The human element and eye test can give you those answers.
One positive thing this season could do for the Penguins moving forward is when Evgeni Malkin is out of the lineup, the Penguins get greatly exposed on how poor of a roster it is after the top four to six players.
That Arizona game just over a week ago, when Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist weren’t on the ice it was like truly watching two rebuilding teams.
Problem is Jim Rutherford, if he is kept, thinks this roster is so much better than it is.
4. It’s rare you see expectations for a team being higher from the outside but that’s the case with the Pirates. As the World Series talk continues from the national media, in Pittsburgh there is a lot of optimism on the Pirates taking that next step, but expectations are a bit more tempered.
The upside and ceiling for the Pirates is huge if everything goes right, but that rarely happens. There are still quite a few important what if scenarios, from Gerrit Cole emerging into a No. 1 starter, to Gregory Polanco meeting expectations, among others, that will dictate whether the Pirates take that next step to winning the division and being a World Series team.
In the NL Central it remains the St. Louis Cardinals division until the Pirates or another team shows otherwise and the demise of the Cincinnati Reds might be a bit too exaggerated and the rise of the Chicago Cubs might still be a year away.
5. Charlie Morton starting the season on the DL was something everyone saw coming. The velocity was down and Morton remains one of the Pirates biggest question marks and one of the Pirates highest paid pitchers. If Gerrit Cole takes that next step and become a true ‘Ace’ and Francisco Liriano pitches like the Liriano from 2013, than maybe whether the Pirates get anything from Morton or not will even matter but the Pirates will likely need to be on the hunt for another veteran pitcher between now and August.
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