Fantasy Impact: The Pittsburgh Penguins have found their general manager. And it took Jim Rutherford all of five minutes to hand Coach Dan Bylsma the pink slip.
Rutherford, who won 44 games for the Penguins as their goaltender in the early 70s, had been the general manager of the Carolina Hurricanes/Hartford Whalers for the last 20 years. He stepped down from the Hurricanes earlier this season – a wise move for a wealthy man of 65 years of age. Retire and enjoy the family and your money! Wait, what?
That’s right – he decided to get back to work. Five weeks was enough of a retirement. Sick of the family already! Some people are just plain ol’ insane, I guess.
Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Rutherford is now the GM of the Penguins, a team that boasts the two best centermen in hockey, along with some pretty good complimentary wingers and a group of prospect defensemen that are the envy of the league outside of Phoenix. But he also inherited the most injury-prone team in the NHL – Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, James Neal, soon-to-be-gone Brooks Orpik (free agent) and Beau Bennett are each quite prone to injury and this past season you can add Pascal Dupuis, Olli Maatta and prospect Derrick Pouliot to that list.
Rutherford has a reputation for being pretty loyal to his players, almost to a fault, sticking with them for years after a decline was apparent. But he’s also not afraid to pull the trigger, over the years landing players such as Rod Brind’Amour, Gary Roberts, Sandis Ozolinsh, Mark Recchi and Doug Weight. He did win a Cup, but it was a one-shot deal. But he earned it – considering that he made a splash near the Deadline (acquiring Recchi and Weight) to get the final pieces needed.
Carolina hasn’t made the playoffs in five years. Has the game passed Rutherford by? Is he an upgrade to Ray Shero? It says here that he is not an upgrade – but he’s a change. And a change is what the Pens needed. A new perspective that should push a couple of players out and bring a couple of players in. Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t. But it’s something.
One change already made was the removal of Dan Bylsma as head coach. The writing was on the wall for this one no matter who became GM. The players were tuning Bylsma out and it says here that any coach they bring in, as long as it’s not a terrible re-re-re-tread, will have an impact and push this team