Less than four hours after TSN’s Bob McKenzie tweeted that the Pittsburgh Penguins had hired Jim Rutherford as their new general manager, another Canadian reporter dropped the news that has seemed inevitable for the past three weeks.
According to Louis Jean of Quebec-based television network TVA, Rutherford’s first official move was to fire Dan Bylsma after five-plus seasons as the team’s head coach. The Penguins confirmed the move around 1 p.m. Friday while also introducing Rutherford to the media at Consol Energy Center.
Bylsma has been dismissed despite claiming the Stanley Cup in 2009 and being the winningest regular-season coach in franchise history; his final record in Pittsburgh rests at 252-117-32. However, the Penguins’ past five playoff exits have left management wanting more, especially after squandering a 3-1 series lead to the Rangers in this year’s second round.
Rutherford told the press Penguins owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle “want a complete change of direction,” further explaining the decision to replace former GM Ray Shero in addition to Bylsma. While Rutherford admitted to not knowing Bylsma well before dismissing him, he had strong criticism for the coach’s inability/unwillingness to change on the fly.
“The new coach is going to have to adjust to the players we have,” Rutherford said. “We’re going to have someone who will make the proper adjustments in a game, in the regular season and in a playoff series. Looking from the outside, I don’t think this team could do that.”
Rutherford said the new coach, whom he hopes to have in place by July 1, will decide on whether to keep assistants Jacques Martin, Tony Granato and Todd Reirden. Penguins CEO David Morehouse reiterated that the organization “didn’t want to make a hasty decision” on Bylsma and that ownership has “no regrets” with the way the situation was handled.
Rutherford, 65, was blunt in his opinions on how his predecessor constructed the team, especially in terms of judging player talent and personality.
“Our supporting cast has to be improved,” he said. “Having some players who are a little more vocal is probably needed. It’s a quiet (locker) room.”
The 65-year-old former NHL goalie also displayed a progressive side during his first public appearance as Penguins GM, detailing how he hopes to bring the hockey operations department into the new age of hockey analysis.
“It’s something I’ve gotten used to over the years,” Rutherford said. “I want to bring analytics into the organization. I don’t think we’re up to speed here. The analytics aren’t always right, and (people) aren’t always right. It’s a great sounding board.”
As a final twist in the day’s news, Rutherford revealed that he plans to be in charge for two or three years before handing control to one of three subordinates who were promoted Friday. Jason Botterill rises from assistant GM to associate, while Bill Guerin and Tom Fitzgerald will be assistant GMs.
“(Botterill’s) input will be taken very seriously,” Rutherford said. “He’s been here a long time, he’s a very sharp guy, and he knows the league. I’m looking forward to restructuring the organization a bit. We have a few guys who aren’t far away from being general managers in this league.”
Keep it here on City of Champions for more Penguins coverage as they search for a new coach while preparing for the NHL Draft later this month and the start of the free-agency period in July.