Disco Demolition Night, Rutherford Signed as GM
Around 11:00 am this morning, the Penguins summoned the local media to bring all their 2009 Stanley Cup DVDs to the press room of CONSOL Energy Center to blow up the tenure of Dan Bylsma as Penguins head coach and the addition of former Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford as the new GM.
In addition to the GM spot filled and the Head Coach vacancy, it was also announced that Assistant GM Jason Botterill was promoted to Associate GM and Tom Fitzgerald and Billy Guerin are now Assistant GMs in what appears to be a transition period to groom a future GM of the Penguins.
Truthfully, I was not enamored at the early talk this morning of Rutherford being the General Manager. I admit that I haven't been a fan of his work in Carolina, especially when considering that in the last 12 years he has reached the playoffs only two times. In fact, I admit that I would have even been more willing to go with Pierre McGuire as GM over Rutherford.
However, after viewing his press conference from this afternoon, I have softened my stance a little bit. I am pleasantly surprised that a man of his age, both in general and his long tenure of years in the National Hockey League, is looking to make an analytics hire. In truth, it is a little bit surprising for myself that the Penguins organization seems to be a bit lacking in the 'Moneyball' ways as I may have naively believed that the previous front office leads were a bit more into such statistics and analyses than they actually were.
Additional things that I did like from the presser was the admission that the depth of the team needs worked on. It is not a secret that the bottom six needs some work and if an outsider can see that, it quite underscores how much of a weak point it was this past season.
Adjustments by the coaching staff is another thing mentioned by Rutherford as a pressing need. It is incorrect to suggest that Bylsma never adjusted, as the average fan doesn't know an adjustment unless it were to work. Bylsma has adjusted at least minor aspects quite often in his tenure as coach. Examples are the varying looks of the "Neal play", which there were multiple variations pending on looks and adjustments from the opposition, to minor forechecking tweaks that led to Maxime Talbot's first goal in Game 7 of the 2009 finals.
At some point the minor tweaks won't always be enough and a full Plan B is needed as teams in recent seasons have had playoff success against the Penguins by clogging the middle and keeping the shots from the outside. Being in attendance at both Game 5 and 7 in the Rangers series, I can't express just how many times I knew when the Penguins where making east-west passes and just how just about every time the Rangers were ready for what was coming. The inability of the Pens to throw any true wrinkles in their attack played just as much of a part in the final three games of the series as Henrik Lundqvist's performance did.
Belief in what you're doing is all well and good until it becomes complacent and stubborn. In the 2008 finals, Michel Therrien stated that no team will dictate what the Pens will do. Unfortunately after two decisive losses in the opening pair of games in Detroit was Therrien forced to make adjustments. By then, the Pens needed to win four of five games and in the next four, were only able to go 2-2 to lose the series in six.
While far from a perfect coach, it is still a shame that Bylsma's been dismissed at Penguins coach. Such is the wake of such large, and possibly unrealistic orgainizaitonal expectations, being unfulfilled. I had always seen Bylsma as the coach of the Penguins for 10+ years even with the short shelf life that NHL coaches often have. But he will bounce back and likely quickly and I do wish him nothing but the best.
Just as Steve Dahl's lost job began the end of Disco the music genre, Ray Shero's firing eventually spelled the end of Dan Bylsma as a Penguin. Now exactly where do we go from here is a grand unknown.