Earlier this morning, the Pittsburgh Penguins finally ended their coaching search when Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford made a deal with Mike Johnston of the WHL‘s Portland Winterhawks. This is just one of the many great decisions Rutherford has made for the organization.
When the Penguins made the choice to fire GM Ray Shero at the end of the season, the move came as a shock to a lot of fans. When the Penguins hired Rutherford as their new GM, that move came as even more of a shock.
Rutherford spent 20 years as the GM of the Carolina Hurricanes until he stepped down from the position earlier this year. Rutherford helped build the Hurricanes, but managed to help them earn a Stanley Cup title only once. It seemed like a bold and almost ignorant decision by the Penguins to hire 65-year-old Rutherford, but it’s beginning to look like a smart move.
The first positive change that Rutherford brought to the Penguins was firing Stanley Cup-winning coach Dan Bylsma. One of Bylsma’s coaching flaws was being too buddy-buddy with his team. An ideal coach shows leadership, discipline and knows when to put his foot down. Bylsma was doing none of them. Another one of Bylsma’s coaching flaws was not being able to adapt to the game, most notably in playoff games. Bylsma would start changing lines almost in a panic. He would move people around constantly who weren’t used to playing with one another, and it would result in one giant mess on the ice.
Rutherford made another great decision when he hired Jason Karmanos as the Penguins’ vice president of hockey operations. Karmanos has been hired to integrate in-depth analytics to the team. Now, just a few days before the 2014 NHL Draft, the Penguins have obtained an exciting new coach.
Johnston has had experience being an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Kings and the Vancouver Canucks, before he became the GM and head coach of the Winterhawks. Johnston has been with the Winterhawks since 2008 and has led his team to the finals four different times. Johnston sees what the Penguins need in a coach, and one of those things is Johnston’s signature up-tempo coaching style.
Johnston will be accompanied by Pittsburgh favorite Rick Tocchet, who has been named the new assistant coach. Tocchet was a member of the Penguins when they hoisted the Stanley Cup in 1992. He has experience in being an assistant coach, and he will be able to help deliver roughness to the team that the Penguins desperately need.
So far, Rutherford has exceeded expectations of the new general manager and everything seems to be coming up Milhouse for the Penguins.