On the flip side, my respect of the Penguins organization has jumped immensely after falling to an all-time low when it had been reported that they had interviewed Pierre McGuire twice for the position. I can assure you that had he been hired, I'd have Ebayed all my Penguins stuff. And I seem to have a lot of it.
With Rutherford at the helm, there's a good chance that the Penguins will get a little tougher. Some of the players who haven't performed as well as they should have may get moved or remain unsigned. The interesting part, though, will be the knowledge of the Hurricanes' organization and the possibility of trading away one of their high-priced forwards.
Could you imagine Jeff Skinner playing alongside Kunitz and Crosby? Or Eric Staal?
Look, it's all fantasy right now. No one is suggesting that the Hurricanes are trading anyone, especially if the tone of that interview is any indication. The rumors are out there, but only the future knows what trades will be made. In the interim, Rutherford has a pile to do to get this organization ready for the draft. Evaluations will be made, scouts will be spoken to, and decisions will be made. The decision to come to the Penguins? Apparently not hard.
According to NHL.com,
Rutherford said he met with Penguins owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle and president David Morehouse on Saturday. He received a phone call Thursday from Morehouse, who asked what his position was with the Carolina Hurricanes and if Rutherford was interested in running another NHL team.Atta boy, Morehouse. Distance yourself from McGuire as fast as possible. His name had better never come up again. Deal? Deal.
"Obviously the fact that it was the Pittsburgh Penguins, it didn't take me long to say yes," Rutherford said.
Morehouse said Pittsburgh never offered the GM position to any candidate other than Rutherford.
"We had an original list of 30," he said. "We talked to 22, we brought nine into Pittsburgh and then we brought four back as finalists. There were some really good candidates in the mix, but Jim Rutherford's resume was tough to top."
The flip side of the coin was that with the Rutherford hiring, the Penguins finally completed the long-awaited task of firing Dan Bylsma. Bylsma, who was the winningest coach in team history at 252-117-32, leaves having won a Stanley Cup, but had only made the Eastern Conference Final once since that time despite having two of the world's best players. Rutherford commented on this.
"The coach is going to have to adjust to the style of players that we have," Rutherford told reporters. "With the talent level of the Penguins, the Penguins can play whatever way you want. But certainly, with the teams that we ultimately have to compete with, we're going to have to have a coach that can make the proper adjustments during a game or during a certain period of time during the regular season or during a playoff series.
"Obviously the Penguins can go and they can score and they can score in bunches, but based on looking at the Penguins from a distance, because that's where I was, I don't think they could make the proper adjustments against certain teams."
Clearly, there's no timetable for a coach to be hired with Rutherford just settling in, but they're going to need a coach who can drive this team and push the players. While I'm not suggesting Mike Keenan by any means, this team might do well with a coach similar to Darryl Sutter and his sarcastic ways. He's a very focused man who can be a taskmaster, but he's got a great sense of humor and a keen eye for recognizing talents, especially hidden talents.
This is a new era for the Penguins, and it's starting off well with the hiring of a respected man in the hockey world who knows the game well. The NHL Draft and the hiring of a coach are the next priorities, and these will begin to define the Jim Rutherford era in Pittsburgh.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!