I would just like to start off this piece by offering my condolences to Todd Nelson. Todd Nelson for those who don’t know is the head coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins. Pretty good gig. So why condolences? Nobody died. No, Todd was the interim coach of the Edmonton Oilers last season. Had a real good 2nd half of the season, and looked to be a serious candidate for the job in Edmonton, and perhaps coach Connor McDavid. But Craig MacTavish declined to name a coach, then the draft lottery happened. So Todd moved on from the Oilers and he had a lot of options, including the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins gig. He chose Grand Rapids instead. Had he gone to the Penguins, he would likely now be coaching Sidney Crosby. That…that’s not good luck.
So I have mentioned this before on twitter, but now I’m going to write about it. Anyone else notice the Penguins are completely ruining the prime of Sid Crosby and Evgeni Malkin’s careers? The big panic in the hockey world when the Oilers won McDavid was that they would ruin him. Completely warranted too. But the Oilers, whether it was through the league placing a call to Daryl Katz, or perhaps McDavid’s agent Jeff Jackson, whoever it was I don’t think it was any coincidence that it was that following Monday that the overhaul of the organization began.
But the same hasn’t happened in Pittsburgh. If anything, they had a good situation with Ray Shero running the show. Jim Rutherford is awful. I always hear about how he is one of the best people in hockey, and all those years he was in Carolina talk was that players were treated like absolute gold. That’s terrific, but that’s not the number one job of a GM. The number one job of a GM is to win. Now sometimes that simply can’t be right away, but over a certain amount of time, you better win.
Please, do not be the moron who points out to me how his team won a Cup in 06 and also made a trip to the final in 02. 06 was a messed up season and I truly believe that was the worst team to ever win the Cup. Three of the four rounds in the playoffs they needed major injuries occurring to the team they were playing to shift the momentum in their favor. And 02 they were just as lucky. Getting the Devils coming off back to back trips to the final, the Habs upset the Bruins that year and so Carolina got home ice being the #3 seed (even though they were 8th in the conference in points that season, what a division the Southeast was), and then they got the Leafs who were coming off two absolute wars against the Islanders and Senators.
Jim Rutherford wasn’t some brilliant architect of a GM in Carolina. No, he got lucky a couple of times. The guy was the GM of a team that missed the playoffs in 15 of 20 seasons. 15 of freaking 20!!! Kevin Lowe thinks that’s embarrassing!
So what do the Pens do? They hire him, just because he’s a good guy. Pens CEO and President David Morehouse didn’t like Ray Shero, so I would venture a strong guess that he simply wanted a guy easier to work with. Great. You won’t win, and you’ll piss away the best player in the games prime, but at least things will be easy for you Dave.
Why did it not raise more eyebrows when Rutherford publically admitted before last offseason that he wanted to build this team on the wings? Excuse me? So in a league that is dominated by great goaltending, strength down the middle, and D core’s, Jim wants to build on the wings. And not just that, but he acquires a bunch of one dimensional wingers like David Perron (this time last year), Phil Kessel, ships out a real good two way centre in Brandon Sutter, his top D-man is PURELY a PP QB, and on top of all this he had a coach in Mike Johnston trying to have this team play an air tight defensive game. This my friends is the definition of an organization with no plan. Why in the hell did they trade James Neal? At least Neal had size and proven chemistry playing with Malkin, not to mention Neal is a lot more of a power forward. A year after trading Neal they go pay a bigger price for Kessel than what they got back for Neal. None of it makes sense. Just a complete mess.
So now they turn to Mike Sullivan. What a track record he has. Does Jim ever sit there and wonder why Sullivan hasn’t been hired, or really even considered for a head coaching gig since being fired from the Bruins after the 05-06 season? I’m going to GUESS there is some reason.
And I said this a year and a half ago, Willie Desjardins turned down the chance to coach Crosby and Malkin. The Pens offered him the head coaching job and he turned it down to go to Vancouver to coach a team that was clearly in decline. THAT should have been the tip off to the rest of the hockey world (not me, because I’m awesome and called it at the time…take that people who dislike my antics) that something was seriously wrong in Pittsburgh.
So some might ask why Sid is struggling? I think it’s a combination of things, mainly that he knows full well the mess the organization is in. It’s all mental with the guy right now. I’m sure some of it is knowing with Sutter gone and the depth at center that made them a powerhouse in 08-2012 no longer there he is putting more on himself to do a lot of heavy lifting defensively. The PP being complete shit doesn’t help, which is a coaching issue. That much talent to work with and Mike Johnston’s power play was 15.6%, 27th in the league. Are you KIDDING?!
The Pens better fix this REAL quick, because if they don’t they’re going to ruin what could have been a damn glorious career for one of the best talents we’ve ever got to see. Although if your a Leafs fan, you hope this shit show continues the remainder of this season, because your team owns the Pens 1st rounder. Remember when you all bitched about the return you got for Kessel? Won’t suck so bad if that pick ends up top three now will it?
Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups