After a long search process, the Pittsburgh Penguins hired a general manager. They settled on the veteran front office man Jim Rutherford. Rutherford was the general manager of the Carolina Hurricanes for over 20 years before accepting the same job with the Penguins. One would think he is the biggest beneficiary from this situation, but he is not.
While being introduced to the media on Friday, Rutherford admitted that he would most likely be on the job with the Penguins for only two or three years. It was evident hearing this that he would be grooming the next general manager while trying to fix the Penguins problems. Rutherford also did not deny this.
Also while being introduced to the media, Rutherford made plenty of promotions. He promoted assistant general manager Jason Botterill to associate general manager while promoting Bill Guerin and Tom Fitzgerald to assistant general manager. With Rutherford grooming the next general manager when he leaves in two or three years, it is likely that one of these men will be the next man to take that job. More specifically, it is likely that Bill Guerin is the man that Rutherford is grooming for that position.
Rutherford had a lot of kind words about Guerin when he was asked about his role with the team. Rutherford said that Guerin would be his go to man when he needed to get the pulse of the players.
When asked to clarify that role and if anyone had filled that role for him in the past, Rutherford replied by saying, “(Ron Francis) did it with us (Carolina) for a few years. A lot of times, the communication with the players, it wasn’t me going directly to a player. It would be ‘Ronnie.’ They had a trust level with him. It’s the same with Bill. Not long ago he was a player. I would suspect here that the players like him. It becomes a trust level. But if you’re going to deal with issues, not that the players are going to make decisions or run the team, but they have to speak up. They may have a personal problem going on, they may not be feeling good. There’s so many things that happen that we all forget about when we watch a player play for a month and say ‘What’s wrong with this guy?’ Well, there’s usually a reason. Having a guy around the players a little bit more that’s not the boss I think makes it easier for the players to communicate.”
Ron Francis is an interesting name to mention because when Rutherford stepped down as the general manager in Carolina, it was Ron Francis that took over for him in that role. So if Guerin is going to be serving in the same role under Jim Rutherford, it is logical to think that Guerin is the front runner for the job after Rutherford steps down in Pittsburgh.
It is too much of a coincidence to ignore. Jim Rutherford groomed Ron Francis to take over for him in Carolina. Ron Francis served as the man that found the pulse of the players in Carolina. Bill Guerin will be serving the same role underneath of Rutherford in Pittsburgh. And Jim Rutherford is grooming another general manager to take over for him after two or three years. Following that logic, Guerin is the obvious and sure bet to take over for Jim Rutherford when he steps down in Pittsburgh. The only way to be positive is to wait it out. We will all know for sure when the Penguins name a new general manager in two to three years.
All quotes and information was obtained from a transcript of Jim Rutherford’s introduction as General Manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins.