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Insider Only Latest Pens Buzz: Jim Rutherford drove the bus in new coaching hires

Latest Pens Buzz

Mike Sullivan has the security of four years remaining on his contract and being owed over $13.5 million. but one thing has been clear since the Penguins exit in the qualifying round……

Penguins GM Jim Rutherford is driving the bus once again.

Rutherford orchestrated the sweeping coaching chances immediately after the four game ouster to the Canadiens and it become clear in the organization from that point the looming coaching hires were going to be Rutherford driven.

And that’s what has played out.

The Penguins on Wednesday officially hired Todd Reirden and Mike Vellucci as assistant coaches. Reirden, 49, returns to the organization after six years with the Capitals and will coach the defensemen and power play. Vellucci elevated from WBS head coach, will coach the forwards and handle the penalty kill.

Mike Sullivan was involved in the process as to what Rutherford’s plans were and who he was interested in, but Sullivan was not involved from the standpoint of being able to go out and hire his own guys.

Doesn’t mean the staff won’t work well together but that’s just the facts of the situation.

Vellucci’s close ties to Rutherford always made him a top candidate to join the staff. Rutherford has viewed Vellucci as an NHL head coach in waiting and this was always likely going to be a no-brainer move. Some will say elevating Vellucci makes sense and matches the Penguins thinking of wanting to get younger, but let’s not forget who’s in the General Manager seat. If the Penguins are contenders, Rutherford’s not going to stop come deadline time of going the Patrick Marleau type route. The Penguins are not going to have a bunch of 22, 23 year olds coming up from Wilkes Barre to play prominent roles. There is a feeling, though, in the organization that Vellucci won’t be afraid to challenge Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

Reirden was also strongly Rutherford driven.

As soon as Reirden was fired, Rutherford pounced in making a full-court press of Reirden who is also very highly regarded by Penguins’ ownership.

During the summer of 2014 when the Penguins let Dan Bylsma and his staff hanging for weeks before officially being fired, there was a prominent member of the ownership group who believed Reirden deserved a legitimate shot at the head coaching position and after it was something Rutherford was not comfortable doing, there were discussions behind the scenes of trying to get R Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

Although Dan Bylsma would tell anyone who listened privately that he was the brains behind the Penguins power play success during Reirden’s previous stint in Pittsburgh, one thing Reirden figures to do from the start is at least have the X’s and O’s respect of Sidney Crosby and other core players as Reirden was very well respected by Sidney Crosby in particular. That was a major problem with Mark Recchi during his stint as assistant coach. He was just looked at as a puppet for Mike Sullivan by the players.


— One of the talking points within minutes of the Penguins making the Reirden hire official is that the hire was Kris Letang driven as the Penguins made a point to include Letang in the press release.

Whether it was much of a factor or pretty much none at all depends on who you talk to. Letang was in the prime of his career when Reirden was here in his previous stint. He’s now 33 years old and the last three seasons or so have shown his best days are not coming back.

A pretty good consensus in the organization is that Letang is what he is at this stage of his career. No coach is coming in and getting him back to that top 10-15 defenseman status he carried during the Bylsma era. It’s just not happening.

There’s members of the organization much more intrigued of the hiring in the positive impact Reirden can have on John Marino, Marcus Pettersson. Reirden who is a workaholic, is a great teacher with younger defensemen whose arrow is still pointing up like Marino and Pettersson’s are. Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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