Penguins GM Jim Rutherford held a pre-Eastern Conference Finals presser this morning and touched on a number of subjects. Here are some highlights:
— Sometimes in a coaching search, the second or third choice ends up becoming the best choice at the end of the day. When the Penguins initially went into their search for a new Wilkes Barre coach last summer, the job was Todd Nelson’s if he wanted it.
Nelson chose Detroit and the Penguins would end up hiring Sullivan whose close ties to other coaches in the organization played a big part.
Rutherford said today Rick Tocchet went “to bat” for Sullivan and it’s been widely known that Mark Recchi also gave a glowing recommendation of Sullivan.
When Rutherford hired Sullivan in the summer he knew there was always the possibility Sullivan could be behind the NHL bench.
“You always as a General Manager anticipate there could be a change,” said Rutherford.
One of the great things Sullivan has done is transform the Penguins into winners again from a mental standpoint. Yes, the Penguins won a lot of games in the past but they always seemed to have this losers mentality when it came to dealing with adversity. It’s like when things got tough, they expected to lose.
“The thing I like the most is that he [Mike Sullivan] wins,” Rutherford said of Sullivan. “He treats his top players like he treats his depth players. All of the players respect that.”
On making the coaching change in December, Rutherford said today that in training camp he could see there wasn’t something right with this club.
“There was something about this team that wasn’t right,” Rutherford said. “We weren’t playing the [type of] style to make us successful. We had to change.”
“When we made the coaching change, there was an immediate change between players and the coach.”
Good thing Rutherford didn’t go with Randy Carlyle who the Penguins kicked some tires on in the weeks prior to firing Mike Johnston.
— One glaring issue with this hockey club that was obvious to everybody was how slow the Penguins were.
“Coming out of training camp, I knew we had to get quicker,” said Rutherford.
The character in the room with the likes of Matt Cullen, Trevor Daley and others is something Rutherford said can’t go unnoticed.
“We were very fortunate the guys we added were real character players,” said Rutherford.
Rutheford even indicated the character in the Penguins room is very similar to the type of character the 2006 Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes had.
— Rutherford is almost always honest even if it’s not the politically correct thing to say. The Pascal Dupuis situation, Rutherford was spot on in that it ended up being a “good fortune” Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"