TUESDAY’S PENGUINS BUZZ
Penguins GM Jim Rutherford met with the media today for his end of the season press conference and while Rutherford admitted the Penguins “fell short of expectations”, he felt this team was really close at the trade deadline.
“We got to the trade deadline, we decided our team was pretty close,” Rutherford said. “We wanted to add some experience. We made the two deals, adding Cole and Lovejoy. I believe those deals helped us in the short-term.”
Ben Lovejoy said on Sunday he was told when the Penguins traded for him that he was being brought in to play a top-4 role, but he didn’t expect to play 27 minutes. Rutherford went that route in defending Lovejoy, though, near the end of his press conference, he admitted that was one trade he questioned.
“One move we questioned at the time was trading a young defensemen for a veteran defensemen,” Rutherford said. “But we wanted a right shot and have a lot of young D.”
“Lovejoy played a couple games where he played 27 minutes. With that being sent I thought our defense played reasonably well,” Rutherford said.
Rutherford thought the Penguins were a Stanley Cup team after the California trip. He cited the losses of Kris Letang and Christian Ehrhoff being too much for the Penguins to handle.
“Those [Letang and Ehroff] were huge losses for our team that we couldn’t overcome down the stretch.”
“For the most part our team competed well,” Rutherford said. Rutherford felt throughout the year they were able to fill the voids for players like Pascal Dupuis for the most part, citing the acquisition of David Perron, who Rutherford said “scored big goals”, but not able to get the past the loss of Letang.
The biggest takeaway from today is Rutherford believes this team is still very close and injuries is what derailed the situation.
“If we had a healthy team, I’d feel very comfortable with the moves [made] by the team.”
Rutherford on his job security: “I have had 100% support from ownership from the day I got here to 20 minutes after our final game. I now plan on staying for about 12 years. Overall I haven’t been here a full year, I have a better lay of the land. I have a much better handle on the team and I don’t know, how long I plan on staying here. I certainly plan on staying here [for next season].”
Rutherford on a struggling power play: “It was affected by injuries at the end. I don’t believe that our power play shoots the puck enough. Too often we try to make the perfect play.”
“Based on talking to players yesterday, they are aware of what changes need to be made on the power play. It can be fixed because we have the players capable.”
Rutherford on Mike Johnston: “I think Mike did a really good job. Had really good communication with the players and based on my meetings with players [yesterday], that was confirmed. I feel very comfortable that we’re going in right direction.”
Rutherford praised the Penguins ability to defend under Johnston said.
“I don’t believe we gave up as many quality scoring chances. Even Fleury talked about it [yesterday], he liked how he [Mike Johnston] tightened things up.”
“Mike’s getting use to these players, how it works, dealing with superstar players. Overall he made adjustments when necessary. He dealt with tough situations at times. When you look at the playoffs and adjustments needed to be made, we played in a low scoring series, we played in a series that had great goaltending for both teams. For most part we created pretty good scoring chances.”
One area that didn’t add up is Rutherford saying Johnston made the Penguins a more disciplined team. Here was his explanation.
“There was a long period of time and I think we got better at this in the last month when Mike clamped down on discipline. They were much more disciplined. I really think we were a team that was able to win in all ways. If we got into physical game, if we got into higher scoring games or lower scoring games, that was a credit to players who really adjusted to how there career has gone.”
What was a bit alarming from Rutherford today is he feels the Penguins were putting the puck in the net at a good rate until the final month of the season. They averaged under 2.40 goals per game over their last 65 games.
“We have guys who are capable of scoring,” Rutherford said.”
Rutherford received a lot of soft-ball questions until he was asked about a follow up in regards to the power play in how Rutherford praised Johnston in how he got the Penguins to change but we’re again talking about the Penguins trying to make the perfect play, notably on the power play.
“Both the coaching staff and the players have to take some of the responsibilities,” Rutherford said. “We don’t get 100% of the things right….overall I said Mike did a good job.”
Rutherford on young players: “They will put themselves in position to have a chance to be here,” Rutherford said when asked about the likes of Kapanen, Sundqvist. “One thing I don’t want to do is lock into one-way contracts that blocks these guys out. Wilson, Rust, Ebbett not as young, but he’s a good player. I just want to see Kapanen, Sundqvist, adjust to North American game. They will be given a very good opportunity to make the Penguins next year.”
“We’d like to get more speed and we’d like to get some of those young forwards started. “We have guys who are ready to go.”
Rutherford’s best comment of the day was not blocking young players with vets on one-way contracts. We shall see. We’ve heard that tune for so many years and it never plays out that way.
Rutherford on Sidney Crosby: “I’m so proud in what he did in becoming that all-around player.”
Rutherford admits making mistake on Beau Bennett: “We made a mistake on Beau Bennett in far as development wise. “When [he] was getting close to being a waiver player, we should have sent him to Wilkes Barre to play a lot.” He’s not consistent enough, he’s not strong enough, but he’s a talented player. Last three weeks thought he was starting to move in the right direction. I believe he’s going to be a good NHL player [at some point].”
Bennett is a restricted free agent and his future with the team is unclear.
Rutherford on finding more skilled wingers: “It’s not a great free agency crop.”
“I do believe we need to continue to look for these players. To try to get a little more skill, one or two more wingers, is something that’s been a goal of this franchise for a while and continues to be. We will start looking and see whats out there trade wise.”
Rutherford on buy-outs: Rutherford said he has the full authority to buy players out.”I have full support from ownership to do what’s necessary. We’ll keep all options on the table in that regard. But, I don’t want to suggest I’m giving up on some of these older players. Everything will be in the mix in trying to make the team better.”
MALKIN WILL PLAY IN WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Evgeni Malkin, as expected, will play in the World Championships
“He sprained his ankle. Came back sooner than more players would and continued to play on an ankle that wasn’t 100%,” Rutherford said of Malkin’s struggles.
Why Malkin practiced every day at full strength on a bad ankle remains mind boggling.
“I do believe Geno’s going to play for Russia. He’s committed to his country,” Rutherford said.
Rutherford also said Patric Hornqvist had a broken rib but he was believed to be talking about the injury happening in March against Detroit.
The press conference ended with Rutherford being asked about his incident with Rob Rossi.
“I feel that I was having a one-on-one conversation. I’ve had those before, and that’s where those were left.” Rutherford said Gary Bettman and his “minister” advised him not to do that again, so he probably won’t.