PENGUINS INTRODUCE JIM RUTHERFORD
Jim Rutherford was officially named General Manager/Executive Vice President this afternoon and head coach Dan Bylsma was officially relieved of his duties. The Penguins assistant coaches have been retained for now but Rutherford has granted them permission to speak to other teams.
Rutherford called the position a “dream job”.
“This is a job that most GMs would like to have,” Rutherford said. “And I was very lucky and very fortunate at this point in my career that I’ve been given this opportunity.”
“Jim has proven himself to be one of the finest executives in our sport, a man who always conducts himself with class and dignity, and we’re excited to bring him to Pittsburgh as our general manager,” co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle said in a joint statement. “He has a wealth of knowledge and experience that few can match, and he will offer fresh ideas and a new perspective to our organization.”
Promoted today also included Jason Botterill being named Associate General Manager and Tom Fitzgerald and Bill Guerin being promoted to assistant General Managers.
The Penguins have a new General Manager but it’s more of the same when it comes to the supporting cast of the GM as Botterill, Fitzgerald and Guerin all prominent individuals under Ray Shero, remain in place and now have more prominent roles in the organization.
Rutherford admitted that his term here is “probably 2-3 years”, furthering the thought that there was a clear power struggle between Shero and Penguins ownership as Rutherford is looked at as a short-term fix until ownership is ready to hand the job over to Botterill, Fitzgerald or Guerin.
“We have two or three guys here who are close to being general managers,” Rutherford said. “I know I am mentoring them.”
Rutherford did mention that he feels he has complete control over personnel decisions.
Team President David Morehouse said the Penguins spoke to 22 candidates and interviewed 9 candidates. It’s no secret in league circles that many of those candidates would have wanted to overhaul the front office and supporting staff.
One key positive to come out of today’s press conference when it comes to the front office structure is that Rutherford is going to have Bill Guerin much more involved with the NHL club and the players. Rutherford spoke glowingly of Guerin and said Guerin is going to be his “go-to-guy” when it comes to speaking to the players, similar to how he groomed Ron Francis.
“It’s been a bit of whirlwind the last three weeks. We just have to get together, communicate, get things straighten out,” Assistant GM Bill Guerin said of his new role/front office structure. Guerin found out about his new position today when he was on his way to Kenny Wood.
“We’re going to work together to get back to our winning ways,” Guerin said.
— Dan Bylsma was done wrong, there’s no question about that. He didn’t deserve to stick around but Rutherford admitted he obviously didn’t do a true evaluation of Bylsma as he didn’t meet with Bylsma multiple times and let him give his side. Rutherford says he went off what he was able to gather from those in the organization in that a change was needed. “We determined it was time to go in a new direction with the coach,” Rutherford said. “Met with Dan this morning. He’s a good man and coach.” Bylsma has his sights set on the Florida Panthers job.
David Morehouse said he “doesn’t regret anything” in how the Penguins kept Dan Bylsma in limbo, saying they went through the process systematically.
— As for hiring a new coach, Rutherford said a new coach doesn’t “necessarily” need to be in place by the draft but it’s important to have one by free agency. Rutherford noted “free agency” might not be too “exciting” this year due to cap issues.
Rutherford said a coach has to be able to adjust to the personnel, which was a clear knock on Dan Bylsma and even Ray Shero who built the Penguins roster based on Bylsma’s system. Rutherford said it’s important to have a “coach that can make proper adjustments,” and Rutherford in his opinion from “a far”, says Penguins couldn’t make adjustments against certain teams.
The thinking from some in the know is that the Penguins strategically decided not to fire Bylsma at the same time with Shero, so it didn’t look like Sidney Crosby played a part in it.
— One growing theme in the organization is not everyone was on the same page from players to coaches. “You need somebody that knows the game well, how to adjust,” Assistant GM Bill Guerin said of a new coach. “It doesn’t just take a head coach. We have to get back to everybody on the same page. Being able to buy-in and believe.”
— Which player figures to benefit the most by the hiring when it comes to getting a long-term deal?
There’s a good chance it will be pending RFA Brandon Sutter who Rutherford is very high on. Rutherford on vision of the team: “Key is down the middle.” — That’s a similar philosophy to Ray Shero.
One area that will likely be a focus for Rutherford is the bottom-6 depth. Rutherford said “our supporting cast has to be improved,” specifically mentioning the 4th line has to be improved. Rutherford pointed out that the plus/minus of some supporting cast players is a problem.
— On the Penguins character issues, Rutherford said the room to his understanding is “too quiet” and they need more vocal guys.
— Rutherford said the Penguins are going to bring analytics into the organization”, one reason being he didn’t think the Penguins were “up to speed” on them under Shero.