Inside Pittsburgh Sports


— There’s been some interesting reactions from those with other NHL clubs regarding the Penguins, Sergei Plotnikov. One consensus I received is that Penguins GM Jim Rutherford going public that Plotnikov wanted to go back to Russia after being phased out of the lineup and admitting that it didn’t go over well with Mike Sullivan, is seen as Rutherford basically throwing his head coach under the bus and shows a true disconnect between the GM and coach.

Another view is the Penguins have botched any attempt to try to pump up Plotnikov’s trade value.

“Whether that was the case [Plotnikov asking out] or not doesn’t affect the decisions we make as a coaching staff,” Sullivan said after Friday’s practice. β€œIt’s my responsibility to put players in the lineup that we think give us the best chance to win. And that’s the criteria we use, regardless of all that other stuff. Everybody’s going to take control of their own personal lives or their personal situations, and that’s their privilege and their obligation. I understand that. But my responsibility as the head coach is to put people in the lineup that can help us win.”

Plotnikov not being the 12th or 13th forward when this group is fully healthy is understandable, he doesn’t deserve to be, but after all the injuries and he’s pretty much not even the 17th or 18th on the forward depth chart, it’s been obvious that there was more to the story than the typical Sullivan line of putting the best lineup on the ice as possible to win.

Plotnikov is in exile with Sullivan because of personal feelings Sullivan has towards Plotnikov than anything else.

The Plotnikov situation has been botched from the start when Rutherford became infatuated with thinking Malkin wanted to play with a Russian and then got duped into believing Plotnikov was a top-6 player, at worst top-9 player.

That said Sullivan has put management in a tough spot. There was no reason not get him in the lineup every once and a while to try to get something for him even after his request.

There is also now a concern in the organization of how the handling of Plotnikov will hurt the Penguins chances of signing European players moving forward. Plotnikov’s Russian agent is telling people the Penguins promised Plotnikov a top-9 role.

Meanwhile, Plotnikov’s North American agent Mike Luit received permission to try to make a trade over three weeks ago and with Plotnikov now being a healthy scratch for 20 straight games after today to go with the Russia stuff now out there, why would anyone give anything up for him?

Penguins are trying, though.

— Always subject to change but as of this morning the Penguins were not involved in substantive trade talks for Edmonton’s Justin Schultz. Schultz has been discussed internally.

— The Penguins over the last week have been shopping To read this insider news, subscribe to get “Inside Access”!