Pittsburgh Penguins hire Jim Rutherford as GM

JimRutherfordTalk about out of left field.

For weeks rumors had been circulating about who the Pittsburgh Penguins would hire as their next General Manager.  Names like Julian BrisBois and Jason Botterill were floated around as potential front runners.

So when the team announced that former Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford had been hired instead, needless to say it left many more than a little surprised.

Rutherford has been with the Hurricanes since their move from Hartford in 1997.   In that time, the Canes have gone to the Stanley Cup Final twice, including a win over Edmonton in 2006.

And while they went all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals again in 2009, they have missed the playoffs completely 11 times, and made them just five, including the last five years in a row.

It’s a puzzling hire to say the least, and it raises more questions than it answers.

For one, it seemed as if Rutherford would be retiring from hockey altogether after this year, so for him to jump on probably the hottest GM spot available was pretty unexpected.

What’s more, he’s 65 years old.  If the Penguins wanted young blood in the system, this seems a bit counter-intuitive to that.

Another school of thought is that Rutherford didn’t want to be part of major franchise overhaul in Carolina given his age, and his talk of “retirement” was more just him wanting to escape his current situation and not the game altogether.

Then again, maybe, given his age, his position as GM will not be a long term one and he’s  just holding a spot until they Penguins find the guy they really want. It’s all speculation at this point, but the way the team has kept things quiet throughout the whole process, speculation is really all we have to go off of.

Make no mistake, Pittsburgh is a hell of a lot more appealing as a hockey market than Carolina is or ever will be.  Rutherford was constantly hamstrung by money problems while with the Canes.  He won’t have that problem in Pittsburgh.

One serious point of contention Rutherford critics have brought up is his less-than-stellar draft record. Since 2000, just eight of his 95 total draft picks have gone on to play more than 200 games in the NHL.  What’s more, five of those eight picks were drafted 11th overall or higher.

Overall, I think it’s an OK decision,  nothing more, nothing less, and it’s hard to make any serious judgements before he even gets a foot in the door.

Rutherford did some good things in Carolina, however he also had more than his far share of failures.  But the Penguins are team with a lot more already in place the the Hurricanes, and, like I said before, he will have a lot more resources at his disposal behind the helm of the Penguins.

One things is for certain, however: whomever GMJR hires as head coach will make or break him before he even gets off the ground in Pittsburgh.  Now that Dan Bylsma has fired, Rutherford’s replacement will be the first heavily scrutinized decision of his tenure.