Although I addressed the topic at some length yesterday, any talk of who will coach the Pittsburgh Penguins next season is premature.
In case anyone’s forgotten, the general manager’s seat is open and precious little information has leaked out of Penguins headquarters since Ray Shero was released from his duties last Friday. Yes, hockey agent extraordinare Pat Brisson stated Monday that he had not pursued the job, but other than that, there hasn’t been much chatter from reporters on the local or national levels.
The paucity of information may be because general manager isn’t as visible of a position as head coach, at least among most NHL fans. Be honest, had you heard of Ray Shero before he was hired in the summer of 2006? I know I hadn’t, although I wasn’t following the sport as closely as I do now.
That’s why laying out a huge field of candidates for the Penguins’ GM position is a bit of a fool’s errand. What we can project is what type of person Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle are seeking to pilot the hockey operations department.
Judging from their recent comments, and the recent high visibility of team president/CEO David Morehouse, I’m guessing the next Pittsburgh GM isn’t going to be an established name.
It’s telling that Lemieux and Burkle made themselves very available to the Post-Gazette and Tribune-Review immediately following Friday’s press conference. That was the move of two gentlemen seeking to control the message, with the help of communications expert Morehouse. (For more, take a look at the Pensblog’s perspective on the rise of the former high-level political operative.)
I’m guessing the shape of the Penguins in the future will be dictated more by the ownership, with Morehouse often functioning as the mouthpiece. To that end, any GM candidate with a vision that runs counter to the Lemieux/Burkle thought process isn’t going to have much of a chance. That tilts the scales in favor of someone willing to be subordinate in hockey matters.
Although the individual talent the Penguins possess has to be enticing, this GM job won’t be for everyone. It’s looking like the direction of the franchise will be at least partially dictated by the ownership, and that will limit the field of aspirants.
With all that in mind, interim GM Jason Botterill is a feasible candidate for promotion, as long as he can describe how his plan deviates from that of his former boss. Hiring Botterill likely wouldn’t please many fans who desire more of a drastic change from the previous regime.
However, as I’ve written here, that change has likely already happened with Lemieux, Burkle and Morehouse asserting themselves as the true leaders of the franchise. For better or worse, the Penguins will go as those three decide they go.