PITTSBURGH (93.7 the Fan) – As frustrated as Penguins fans are, their general manager is as upset with his team and says he will make changes.
“My concern is when things don’t go our way we start to fizzle out,” general manager Jim Rutherford said. “We don’t have that same drive and determination that we should have and that we need to have. Based on that, I’m looking at everything now.”
Rutherford added it was particularly frustrating to not have the drive and determination in an elimination game.
“It was so disappointing in game four to see where we were at and you are waiting for the desperation from the drop of the puck,” Rutherford said Tuesday. “It didn’t come in the first period. It didn’t come in the second period. It was even worse in the third period. There is something wrong.”
The Hall of Famer wondered if players didn’t want to be there and said of two of the most disappointing players, defensemen Jack Johnson and Justin Schultz, who combined to be a minus 8 in the Montreal series.
“I know everyone picks on Jack and they have for a long time, I think in that pairing, Justin Schultz had a lot more to give,” Rutherford said.
A lot said about the Pens goalie situation with Matt Murray starting the first three games and Tristan Jarry the last. Rutherford wouldn’t get into their contract status, they are both restricted free agents.
“Tristan had an exceptionally good first half, made the All-Star team,” Rutherford said. “Matt was the better goalie in the second half. My assessment of our goaltending in the playoffs, our goalies were good. I can’t point the finger at the goalies. The problem we had was the goalie on the other end (Carey Price) was great.”
Then there is the power play.
“Usually when you are trying to fix the power play you are searching and you are saying you’ve got to go out and find a player or two,” Rutherford said. “We got enough guys on the power play that can be successful. It’s so frustrating to watch us go time and time again and not get good scoring changes, let along goals.”
“At a critical time of the season, we had a 5-on-3 for a minute and a half and don’t get really any good chances. Man, you don’t have to be around hockey long to watch the group of guys we have on the ice and just be puzzled why that can’t happen.”
So what is the fix? Rutherford said there is still good hockey left in their core players and is not actively trying to trade anyone in that group. He did say they would listen to “an amazing trade”.
“Going younger, where guys are eager to prove themselves to get to a certain point in their career,” Rutherford said. “But doing it cautiously so we can transition on the fly and still be a contending team.”
Rutherford said the team’s owners are committed to being a Stanley Cup contender next season, however we know the NHL salary cap will stay flat for next year, meaning no additional room to add any with a significant salary.
He earned the nickname ‘Trader Jim’ for his deals to help secure championships in 2016 and 2017, but this could be his biggest challenge yet as Pens general manager.
“We recognize that that window starts to get smaller and smaller and it’s getting to that point,” Rutherford said. “But, we also recognize that it’s still open and still doable.”