When we think of the Pittsburgh Penguins, we think of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Marc-Andre Fleury (who has rejuvenated his career), high power offense, long playoff runs, MVP candidates, Art Ross trophies and lots of Stanley Cups. Sadly, in recent years, that has not materialized. Crosby’s numbers have been on the decline; from 104 points in the 2013-14 season, to 84 points last year and this season has only 6G, 13 A, 19Pts in 28 games played.
On May 16th, 2014, the Pittsburgh Penguins franchise took a turn for the worst. The club fired General Manager Ray Shero. Prior to his arrival in 2006, the team had not made the playoffs for four straight seasons. Here are some on ice highlights of Shero’s time as the Pens GM. The club finished 1st or 2nd in their division every season (8 consecutive years), the Pens have been in the playoffs every year since his arrival. Combine that with the Penguins playing the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup finals back-to-back years in the 2008-09 season and the 2009-10 season, winning their first Stanley Cup since 1991-1992 thereafter. Not to mention his successful draft record, which stocked the prospect cupboard for the club for many years to come. This is crucial for making trade deadline deals without affecting your current roster in an attempt to win the Cup.
On June 6, 2014 the club fired head coach Dan Bylsma and brought in new GM Jim Rutherford, what a big mistake! Rutherford, who was previously GM for the Carolina Hurricanes, has not done anything to help better his team since winning the Stanley Cup in 2005-06. Since then, they have only made the playoffs once and were bounced in the second round to none other than the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008-09.
Since taking over as Pens GM, I do not believe he has made one move to better his club. His first blunder was a less than lateral move trading away sniper James Neal for Patric Hornqvist. This is nothing against Hornqvist, but Neal was a proven sniper and had lots of success playing with the Pen’s star Evgeni Malkin. After that he traded away one of their better prospects Simon Desires, who proved his worth during last seasons playoff with the Anaheim Ducks, to bring back Ben Lovejoy to the club. He then mortgaged away even more of the club’s future by trading away their third line centre Brandon Sutter to the Vancouver Canucks. Although none of those moves compare to his two big moves which saw the clubs first round draft picks for consecutive years vanish. The clubs 2015 first round pick was traded to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for David Perron, who was playing most of the season on their third line, and a package deal which brought in Phil Kessel from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for prospects and their 2016 first round draft pick.
If a hockey fan like me can tell that their offense has not been the problem for their lack of scoring, but rather their defense who can’t get the puck to their forwards; why can’t Jim Rutherford? I do not see the Penguins turning their franchise around until their is a change of guard in in the GM position. You never want to see someone lose their job, but Jim Rutherford is no longer able to be a General Manager in the NHL. They need to get some high caliber defensemen to help them turn the club around. However, with an empty prospect pool and no first round draft picks in the past 2 years, it may be quite some time before the Penguins get back on the road in the right direction.
Spark Sports Analyst