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May 31, 2014
by Rob Rossi


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Marshall: Evaluating Tristan Jarry

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Note from Rossi: Jesse Marshall, a local hockey blogger, has agreed to share his unique brand of analytical insight on this blog. His contributions will appear on an as-we-think-of-it basis. Enjoy.

 

>> RISK OF JARRY SELECTION

When the Penguins drafted goaltender Tristan Jarry with the 44th overall selection in the 2013 NHL Draft, they weren’t picking a young player with a large body of work.

The science of drafting goaltenders in the modern league is by no means exact. It’s risky business and even the most well groomed prospects can fall apart completely. It’s even riskier when you are taking a young player who appeared in a mere 41 games through his first two seasons with the Edmonton Oil Kings.

Jarry sat on the bench as Calgary Flames prospect Lauren Brossoit backstopped the Oil Kings to two straight WHL final appearances against the Portland Winterhawks the last two seasons – one of which matriculated into a Memorial Cup appearance. At the time he was drafted, Jarry was coming off a season for which he posted an 18-7 record and made it into only one of the Oil Kings playoff appearances. The Penguins were selecting a goaltender that had a high pedigree with a lack of performances to back it up.

When I spoke with scouts leading up to the 2013 draft, there were a few primary thoughts that made it into the discussion about Tristan Jarry. The first was a slight sense of apprehension about his lack of a starters’ grind. The second was his pedigree and ability to track the puck. The third was that the Oil Kings were losing several key players and a run at a third straight WHL final could potentially be more difficult with an exodus of talent forthcoming.

Fast forward a year, and Jarry is a Memorial Cup champion who has quelled any questions about his ability to handle a large workload on a roster that was perceived as diminished. He posted a 16-4-1 record in the WHL playoffs with a 2.19 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. This season was a grueling on Jarry. He racked up more minutes in net than any goaltender in North America, including the NHL. Jarry logged 5,268 minutes and at the time of his Memorial Cup victory that was 658 minutes more than New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.

Prior to his time with the Oil Kings, Jarry studied with an academy called Optimal Reaction Sports, which places a focus in a trademarked school of thought called Head Trajectory. Head Trajectory trains goaltenders to track the puck in a way that eliminates delays in reaction. If you had the chance to watch Jarry this season, you probably walked away impressed with his quick legs and lightning-fast glove.

Jarry’s ability to play the puck is already at a professional level. His reflexes are fast and his ability to make second saves is also top-notch. Perhaps there are some improvements to be made in pucks that sneak in via the routine route, but make no mistake – Jarry has exhibited all the tools to become a starter at the NHL level.

It’s a selection that could work perfectly for the Penguins as Marc-Andre Fleury approaches his 30s.

 

Jesse Marshall is co-founder of Faceoff-Factor, a site that breaks down the Penguins by using nontraditional methods such as the study of advanced statistics. Read his work at www.faceoff-factor.com. Follow him on Twitter @jmarshfof

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May 26, 2014
by Rob Rossi


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Rossi: Pens prefer new GM to excel at scouting/development.

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Memorial Day weekend may prove the last stretch of quiet before an onslaught of chatter surrounding the Penguins’ general manager search.

CEO David Morehouse held conversations with several potential candidates last week, but talks are expected to progress toward formal interviews this week.

Morehouse is said to have spoken with the following people:

  • PAT BRISSON – one of the NHL’s most powerful agents, including the representative for Penguins captain Sidney Crosby
  • JASON BOTTERILL – the Penguins’ interim GM and the assistant GM under Ray Shero for the last five seasons
  • JULIEN BRISEBOIS – Tampa Bay’s assistant GM
  • DAVE POULIN – Toronto’s vice president of hockey operations

Morehouse is also said to have spoken with his NHL contacts about – and possibly directly with – the following potential candidates:

  • NORM MACIVER – Chicago’s assistant GM
  • RICK DUDLEY – Montreal’s assistant GM
  • JEF GORTON – New York Rangers’ assistant GM
  • DON SWEENEY – Boston’s assistant general manager
  • PAUL FENTON – Nashville’s assistant general manager
  • GEORGE MCPHEE – Washington’s former GM

Shero was fired May 16. Morehouse said then he would not comment publicly during the process to find a replacement.

As of the middle of last week, the Penguins were said to target having a new general manager within two weeks. They want to provide the new general manager time to make a decision on head coach Dan Bylsma before the NHL Enty Draft on June 27-28. Bylsma has two years remaining on his contract, and Penguins ownership is said to be growing comfortable with the potential for him to return for next season.

Morehouse said the new general manager would determine the statuses of Bylsma, his assistants and all members of the hockey operations department.

Morehouse is spearheading the general manager search, though majority co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burke have relied on their trusted league colleagues regarding potential candidates. That group is said to have included Montreal GM Marc Bergevin, Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke, Tampa Bay owner Jeff Vinik, and Brisson.

Penguins ownership is said to prefer the new general manager to have a successful background in scouting and development, believing the franchise needs to improve most in those areas.

 

Thanks to all who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the United States of America; be EXCELLENT to each other,

Rossi

 

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May 23, 2014
by Rob Rossi


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RE: GM search update, and Bennett’s woe

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A quick update before the Memorial Day weekend likely slows the Penguins’ search for a new general manager…

 

>> CEO David Morehouse is said to have staged talks with several candidates and plans to pick up conversations next week. However, no formal interviews are said to have taken place.

 

>> The Penguins are said to prefer wrapping their GM search within 2-3 weeks.

 

>> Candidates said to be on ownership’s radar include: interim GM Jason Botterill, Lightning assistant GM Julien BriseBois, Maple Leafs VP of hockey operations Dave Poulin, Rangers assistant GM Jeff Gorton and Blackhawks assistant GM Norm Maciver.

Botterill is said to be very much in contention to replace former GM Ray Shero because ownership believes Botterill and Shero have different philosophies when it comes to the type of hockey team to build and style to play.

 

>> ICYMI, the latest on the Penguins’ injury-plagued week: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/6160496-74/maatta-penguins-surgery

Shoulder surgeries are tough on defensemen, who already take a lot of punishment by retrieving pucks. Though recovery prognostications of 4-6 months likely mean Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot will be playing hockey before the calendar year ends, keep in mind both defensemen will miss an entire offseason of training. Pouliot is 20 and Maatta 19. This summer was going to be big for their physical development, and now it is going to be lost to rehab sessions.

As for winger Beau Bennett, who had a second wrist surgery within seven months – look, the Penguins will hope for the best with their first-round pick from 2010; but Bennett has been operated on a lot for a 22-year-old player. He has played 166 hockey games – in college and as a pro – since he was drafted four years ago. Injuries have already limited his development, and this past season was basically a lost cause.

Two years ago, Bennett was viewed as a top-six forward in-waiting. Now he will have a new GM, one that may be less impressed by a young player that cannot stay healthy. This latest wrist surgery may limit Bennett for what should prove a pivotal training camp in his young career.

 

Be EXCELLENT to each other, and thank a veteran (as you always should),

Rossi

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May 22, 2014
by Rob Rossi


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Rossi: With interviews soon, Pens’ GM targets emerging

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Look for the Penguins’ general manager search to kick into another gear very soon, as ownership is expected to start conducting formal interviews – perhaps later this week.

As of Thursday there was no final list of candidates.

The Penguins are expected to formally interview interim general manager Jason Botterill and seek permission to interview Tampa Bay assistant general manager Julien BriseBois.

Botterill and BriseBois, both 37, are viewed as up-and-coming potential management stars. As noted here a few times already, Penguins ownership is high on Botterill and does not believe he is too close ideologically with Ray Shero, who hired him seven years ago. Also, ownership is tight with its Tampa Bay counterpart, which makes looking at BriseBois – especially given his reputation – an obvious option for the Penguins.

Some personnel with clubs currently still playing are also potential interview candidates for the Penguins:

*Jeff Gorton (New York Rangers assistant GM)

*Norm Maciver (Chicago assistant GM)

The Penguins could interview those candidates during the respective NHL conference final series, or wait until those wrap next week.

Toronto vice president of hockey operations Dave Poulin is also said to interest the Penguins. Poulin, 55, played 13 seasons in the NHL. He was brought to Toronto by former general manager Brian Burke, and has run the Maple Leafs’ AHL affiliate for most of the last two seasons.

 

>> The Penguins are said to prefer having a new general manager in place within 2-3 weeks. That would give the new general manager time to make a decision on head coach Dan Bylsma and the assistants before the NHL Entry Draft, which is slated for June 27-28.

Nobody within the Penguins expects Bylsma to be retained, but that decision will be the new general manager’s to make.

 

>> The Penguins will know more about Olli Maatta’s status soon, but the summer is already off to a lousy start for him and the other Penguins’ top young defenseman: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/6154455-74/penguins-shero-pouliot#axzz32SWK6nLX

 

Be EXCELLENT to each other,

Rossi

 

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May 22, 2014
by Josh Yohe


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Yohe: Losing Niskanen could cripple Penguins

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Greetings, hockey fans.

 

Matt Niskanen, anyone? Hear me out.

 

This is what we know about the Penguins’ current defensive unit.

 

= Kris Letang is coming off a fairly strong postseason. His best hockey of the season actually came after he sustained a stroke in January. Good for him. Still, during the past eight months, Letang has endured a stroke, an elbow infection, a significant knee injury, a broken hand and an injured foot that, according to his agent, isn’t broken. His new contract kicks in on July 1 and with it comes a pretty heavy no-movement agreement. Is Letang’s value, because of the injury, strong enough to make him legitimate trade bait? No, not at $7.25 million for the next eight years. And really, don’t you have to wonder how healthy he’ll be able to stay? Letang has also endured numerous concussions in his career, among many other minor injuries. Do you trust him to stay healthy?

 

= Paul Martin is coming off a magnificent season. What a hockey player. He was easily the Penguins’ finest defensemen during the 2013-14 season. So, what else do you need to know? Well, he’ll be 34 before the next postseason arrives and he’ll be a free agent in about 13 months. Those are two pretty significant items. Oh, he also sustained a broken leg and broken hand during last season. Do you trust him to stay healthy?

 

= Rob Scuderi is coming off a dreadful season. You all know this. He’ll be 36 in December and still has three years left on his contract. Also, the Penguins can’t use an amnesty buyout on him because his most recent contract was signed following the latest CBA. Ouch.

 

= Brooks Orpik, among the finer warriors in Penguins history, probably isn’t coming back. He is an unrestricted free agent this summer and will be 34 in December. Also, he suffered a pretty serious knee injury in Game 4 against the Rangers. His body is starting to break down.

 

= Olli Maatta enjoyed a wonderful rookie season. He’s also scheduled to have shoulder surgery this week. The Penguins aren’t going to make a timetable for Maatta until following the operation, but it sounds fairly serious. Shoulder surgeries aren’t easy for hockey players to return from. Maatta is young, of course, and the odds say he’ll be fine. But still, you wonder if he’ll be ready for the beginning of next season and you wonder about his form next season.

 

= Deryk Engelland is an unrestricted free agent. You know, he’s not a great player by any stretch, but he’s perfectly serviceable, adds a physical edge and can help on the fourth line. Someone is going to give Engelland a decent contract this summer. I doubt it will be the Penguins.

 

= Robert Bortuzzo enjoyed a nice season. He’s limited offensively, but if you like your defensemen physical and sound defensively, he’s your guy.

 

= Simon Despres’ confidence level is always in question. The coaching staff never figured out how to handle Despres at the NHL level. Is this Despres’ fault or the fault of the coaching staff? I don’t know, honestly. There’s probably plenty of blame to go around. Would you trust him at the NHL level next season? Probably not.

 

= Brian Dumoulin is playing really well for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton right now and has an NHL future. But his NHL experience is so, so limited.

 

= Scott Harrington is another guy having a really good year in Wlkes-Barre. He has an NHL future too. But how many rookies do you want on next season’s roster?

 

= Derrick Pouliot? He just had shoulder surgery and probably won’t be ready for action when the season begins. Even if he improves quickly, Pouliot was probably set to start the season at the AHL level anyway.

 

What’s my point, you ask? My point is, specifically regarding the 2014-15 season, the Penguins could be in a world of trouble if they don’t re-sign unrestricted free agent defenseman Matt Niskanen.

He is going to command plenty of cash, and understandably so. He’s a hot commodity. Niskanen isn’t a great player, but he’s a good one. There’s something to be said for having a right-handed, mobile, strong two-way, 27-year-old defenseman who is one of the truly good people in the game on your team.

Letang and Martin are both wonderful players, but very little data suggests that either will come close to playing 82 games next season. Letang, in particular, has dealt with serious health problems. Martin is older than you think.

Orpik? He’s almost certainly gone. Engelland? Same thing.

Scuderi was brought here to be a top-four defenseman and to play with Letang. He might not even be a top-six defenseman any longer.

Bortuzzo is a legitimate NHL defenseman but still in the 5-6 mold as opposed to a clear top-four guy.

Maatta’s injury sounds serious. Pouliot’s, too. Harrington might not be ready yet. The same thing goes for Dumoulin, and really, do you want multiple rookie defensemen on the blue line at the same time if you’re interested in winning a championship next season?

For that matter, do you trust Despres?

All of this brings us back to Matt Niskanen. Or, as I prefer to label him, Matt Ni$kanen.

Once such an extraordinary strength on paper, the Penguins’ blue line is in shambles long before next season begins.

Niskanen can make things better. He’s not a guy you want to overpay. Those who fall in the “good but not great” category often make more money than they should at the NHL level. But Niskanen brings much to the table. He’s legitimately good, he’s durable, he’s young, but he isn’t too young. Although Niskanen will never be a top-two defenseman, I believe he is a reasonable answer as a top-four defenseman. He’s good on the power play too, which is no small thing, since the Penguins rely heavily on special teams.

What has become disturbingly clear during the past couple of days is that the Penguins, for all of their organizational depth on defense, might not have many answers on the blue line next fall.

Signing Niskanen soon – even if you have to overpay him slightly – would solve a lot of defensive problems, especially in the short term.

I realize that the Penguins are oozing with young defensemen, but you can’t bring all those guys up at the same time. You don’t want multiple rookies on your blue line, especially near playoff time. The NHL just doesn’t work that way.

Niskanen can be a bridge from the Orpik era on the blue line to the Maatta era.

And judging by so many things – health, free agency, bad luck, youth, old age – Niskanen is starting to look like a necessary bridge.

- Yohe

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May 21, 2014
by Rob Rossi


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Rossi: Gorton, BriseBois mentioned as good fits for Pens

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This being a first go at a general manager search, one aspect has become clear. A lot more names are floated than it seems are being considered for the Penguins’ vacancy. As of Wednesday morning, there was no indication Penguins ownership had settled on a list of candidates to replace Ray Shero, let alone conducted formal interviews.

Of course, it has only been about a week since the Penguins were eliminated from the playoffs. Other teams have taken almost a month on their general manager searches.

 

>> Perhaps, though, cross Boston’s Jim Benning off the list. TSN reported Wednesday that Benning will take over Vancouver’s hockey operations department and become the Canucks’ general manager: http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=452733

 

>> Shero remains quiet since his dismissal, but Katie Carrera of the Washington Post reports the Capitals have reached out to Shero: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capitals-insider/wp/2014/05/20/capitals-enter-fourth-week-of-general-manager-search/

Also, in that report, the Capitals are interested in Boston’s Don Sweeney and Nashville’s Paul Fenton.

Some thoughts to ponder:

If Sweeney heads to Washington, leaving the Bruins without GM Peter Chiarelli’s two assistants, would Shero perhaps join the Bruins in an advisory role? He and Chiarelli are good friends, and Shero’s son is headed to Boston College to play hockey. Taking an advisory role would allow Shero to stay in the NHL and wait on another opening while collecting his general manager’s role salary from the Penguins. It would also give the Bruins some insider information on the Penguins.

If Fenton heads to Washington, could Shero join the Predators in an advisory role? His mentor, David Poile, is the general manager with Nashville. Or, could Shero head to Nashville with the understanding he will become the general manager, say, after Poile’s potential last season before taking a different role in that organization?

Those are just some thoughts regarding Shero, who is sure to have options.

 

>> One name that keeps popping up regarding the Penguins is Rangers assistant general manager Jeff Gorton. Something to consider: He was Boston’s interim GM before the Bruins chose Chiarelli – largely because Shero picked the Penguins in May 2006. During his interim run, Gorton orchestrated the trade that brought Tuukka Rask to Boston.

Gorton is mostly behind-the-scenes with the Rangers, but he is viewed by people within the NHL offices as a rising star – very much in a manner similar to what was said about Chuck Fletcher before he left the Penguins during their 2009 Stanley Cup run to take over the Wild.

 

>> The other name that keeps getting dropped, though perhaps because the good relationship between Penguins and Lightning ownership is well known, is Tampa Bay assistant GM Julien BriseBois.

If the Penguins really like what current interim GM Jason Botterill does well – manage the salary cap, negotiate contracts, and scout – but believe Botterill is too close a link to the Shero era, BriseBois would make a lot of sense. Botterill and BriseBois are both young and viewed as up-and-comers that are ready to lead an NHL franchise.

 

 

Be EXCELLENT to each other,

Rossi

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May 20, 2014
by Rob Rossi


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Rossi: Pens likely to keep nudging Brisson

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Technically, the Penguins’ general manager search started Friday, but it still has not intensified.

NHL super agent Pat Brisson pulled his name from consideration on Monday, telling the Tribune-Review and many other outlets he wishes to stay in his current role as representative to many stars such as Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews.

Still, the Penguins are not done pursuing Brisson – and the interest of ownership is said to be real, specifically from Ron Burkle.

The Penguins believe Brisson is interested in a role with a team, but is hesitant to leave Southern California and a lucrative agent business. Those close to him have said Brisson does not want the Penguins’ GM job, but is open to working for the Penguins.

Keep in mind, too, that Brisson was somebody ownership thought worth a look during the search that landed Shero eight years ago.

Expect the Penguins to keep trying to sell Brisson on a role within the organization. If not as the next general manager then perhaps as Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations, which would find him working with a GM that focuses more on scouting and the salary cap – and likely a coach with significant say in player personnel matters.

Also, it is said Brisson might covet being President of the Penguins. Currently, CEO David Morehouse is holding that role. However, only a few years ago, there was a management structure that featured Ken Sawyer as CEO, Morehouse as president and Ray Shero as GM.

The Penguins are said to be open to a non-traditional management structure depending on the candidates for GM. Only Morehouse, though, will report directly to ownership.

 

>> The Penguins’ last GM search did involve Burkle and majority co-owner Mario Lemieux, but it was led by Sawyer, who had 14 years experience as the NHL’s chief financial officer. It’s the same dynamic this time around, only Sawyer’s role is being filled by Morehouse.

There really is no rush, because ownership is confident that interim GM Jason Botterill can steer the organization right up to and through the NHL Entry Draft if necessary. Also, it is believed Botterill will remain with the organization in some capacity – or at least it will be his choice – even if he does not land the full-time gig. He is a candidate, Morehouse said.

 

>> The Penguins are one of three teams looking for GMs. The others are Vancouver and Washington.

As of Monday, Boston assistant general managers Jim Benning and Don Sweeney were being mentioned in conversations around the league as candidates expected to get serious consideration for the vacancies. Benning is believed by some to be the favorite with Vancouver.

Sweeney is on Washington’s radar, per Chuck Gormley of CSN Washington: http://www.csnwashington.com/hockey-washington-capitals/talk/plenty-questions-surround-caps-gm-search

Within the hockey community, there seems to be no feel for where the Penguins want to go with the next general manager. Mostly, there remains lingering shock that Shero was fired.

Will DePaoli of Inside Pittsburgh Sports first reported Brisson as a possibility last week, and now reports Rick Dudley on the Penguins’ radar: http://insidepittsburghsports.com/story/rick-dudley-among-shortlist-of-potential-gm-candidates-emerging-on-penguins-radar/65226/

A name gaining traction as a dark-horse candidate to land a GM opening is New York Rangers assistant GM Jeff Gorton. Also, as the Trib reported on Friday, Tampa Bay assistant GM Julien BriseBois intrigues the Penguins.

Ownership is said to favor emphasizing drafting and development when it comes to the next GM.

 

>> Nobody still with the Penguins, from coaching staff to hockey operations employees, is sure how the franchise’s hockey side is expected to run efficiently right now. Nobody is permitted to speak (on the record) with the media, though. There is a lot of frustration among remaining employees – mostly because everybody is being kept in the dark. Words used to describe the current situation are strange and uncomfortable.

 

>> Head coach Dan Bylsma is said to have expressed his displeasure to ownership about the situation that finds him employed but unlikely to be retained. Ownership is said to have understood his concern, but remained unwilling to let him out of his contract.

Bylsma wants to coach somewhere next season. He is said not to be interested in another job with within the organization. His salary, over $2 million, would seemingly make him overpaid for anything other than head coach or team executive.

 

Be EXCELLENT to each other,

Rossi

 

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May 17, 2014
by Josh Yohe


40 comments so far - add yours!

Yohe: In defense of Shero

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Greetings, hockey fans.

In the past 24 hours, I’ve heard much criticism thrown in Ray Shero’s direction. Some of the criticism has come from fans, some from Penguins ownership. I’ve heard that Shero drafts poorly, that he didn’t have long term vision, that he’s left the Penguins in a bad spot regarding the salary cap. I happen to believe Shero did a far better job during his tenure as Penguins general manager than many care to acknowledge.

First, let’s take a look at his drafting record. It was undeniably questionable, especially when you consider how few forwards have made their way to the NHL from Shero’s draft classes. That’s fair. But let’s not act like Shero drafted a bunch of stiffs. Did you watch Olli Maatta play this season? Not a bad pick. By all accounts, Derrick Pouliot is going to become a terrific NHL player. Scott Harrington had a terrific season in Wilkes-Barre, and many believe he will be NHL-ready next season and a strong NHL player for a long time.

Also, don’t criticize Shero for the selection of Simon Despres. He’s a great talent, and Shero did well to find him with the final pick in the first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Maybe the Penguins coaching staff should have done a better job with Despres, whose physical gifts are quite evident.

Don’t blame Shero for the selection of Beau Bennett, either. Shero can’t predict a player’s health. Bennett is very clearly a talented player who might still blossom into a good NHL player.

Shero’s draft record isn’t great. In particular, the Penguins have struck out mightily in later rounds. Is this Shero’s fault, or are the Penguins in need of a revamped scouting staff? You be the judge. But the fact is, the Penguins never have a high draft pick. On the one occasion that they did – the Jordan Staal trade made that possible in 2012 – they selected a player in Pouliot who the organization absolutely loves.

And really, was Ray Shero’s job ever to concern himself with the long term, with the future? Absolutely not. When the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009, it became clear that the future had arrived. And, it had. Shero responded by giving the Penguins a roster to compete for a Stanley Cup from 2010-2014. And that’s exactly what he did.

Injuries to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin made the 2011 postseason a lost cause for the Penguins. However, starting in the 2011-12 season and going through this past campaign, Shero gave the Penguins exceptional lineups. In fact, the 2011-12 and 2012-13 Penguins were, in my opinion, the most talented teams in hockey. They should have at least reached a Stanley Cup Final during that stretch, if not won a championship. Jussi Jokinen was a healthy scratch on last season’s team, which illustrates just how talented that team was.

You can thank Ray Shero for that. He did what he was supposed to do. Shero looked at the Penguins, recognized that being aggressive during Crosby and Malkin’s prime years was prudent, and went for it. Did he fail? I guess you can say he did, because no more championships came to the Penguins. But I would strongly suggest that the players and coaching staff failed even more. Did Shero sacrifice some of the future to load up the Penguins during the past few years? Yes. Would he have been roundly criticized had he been more conservative, opting against loading up for recent championship runs? Yes.

Historically speaking, Shero should be remembered fondly. He made some mistakes in free agency – Rob Scuderi, in particular, was given far too much money over far too many years – but also made some strong decisions. His trade record is exceptionally good. Shero did remarkable work in bringing the likes of James Neal, Matt Niskanen, Marian Hossa, Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz to Pittsburgh. Even last season, he gave up little while acquiring Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, Douglas Murray and Jokinen.

Shero wasn’t a perfect general manager. No such thing exists, of course. All things considered, I’d argue he was one of the five best general managers during the past decade. If you think replacing him will be easy, you’re wrong. That he was always an honest, good person only adds to the curious feel of the past few days.

-          Yohe

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May 17, 2014
by Rob Rossi


7 comments so far - add yours!

Rossi: A Good Man Is Hard To Find (PIttsburgh)

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Rejean Shero always seemed like a really good man.

That is a dangerous presumption to make in this business, because reporters only get to see so much. There is always a lot more that we don’t know than we do about the people and situations we cover.

However, something happened four years ago that provided pretty compelling evidence that Shero was made of the good stuff.

The Penguins’ Stanley Cup defense season had just ended, and Shero’s mother had just passed. Disappointment met tragedy, and it was a lousy match.

At the funeral home, Shero was shown support by a small group of friends, family and colleagues – but it was a couple of Penguins players who stood out. Actually, they were soon-to-be former Penguins, and Shero had explained that to these men only a few weeks prior.

The players were Ruslan Fedotenko and Mark Eaton. They were veterans, family men themselves, but also impending free agents. After the season, Shero had told both men they were not in the Penguins’ plan going forward.

That must always be a tough conversation to have, probably tougher when having it with guys for whom a person is forever linked. Eaton was the first free-agent Shero had signed with the Penguins. Fedotenko was one of a couple he brought to Pittsburgh for the Stanley Cup run in 2009.

Eaton and Fedotenko’s time with the Penguins was over by the summer of July 2010; but there would be other summers, ones with title team reunions – and those summers would offer a brief reminder to everybody associated with that 2009 Cup team that history was theirs.

Or, to put it another way, everybody associated with that Cup team was forever a family, as Rejean Shero’s late father, Fred, probably would agree.

Still, hockey is a business, and Rejean Shero had to move on from Eaton and Fedotenko to move the Penguins forward. So he did.

Maybe it says more about those two men that they showed up at Shero’s mother’s viewing only a few weeks after he told them their time with the Penguins was over. Probably, though, it says everything about Shero as a boss and a man. Respect is earned, and it was shown to Shero on that day four years ago.

Ray Shero was fired Friday.

There is a lot of spin regarding his tenure coming from the Penguins organization, which is owned by men a lot more ruthless than a fan base cares to acknowledge. That is a good thing for the fan base, because cold, unemotional and ruthless assessments by owners are what distinguish the great franchises from ones that are just around.

The Steelers have won more than any NFL team in the Super Bowl era. For the most part, when it came to personnel moves, Dan Rooney was ruthless.

Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle want to win. They have spent a lot of money on players and for players, and their careful assessment is that the Penguins need different types of players, maybe some better players, to win again.

It has been five years since the Cup, and clearly Penguins ownership has pegged that silver chalice as the definition of winning. So Shero lost his job, even if he is a good man.

Keep this in mind, though.

Lemieux and Burkle have owned the Penguins since September 1999. Their only tangible on-ice success came with Shero running the hockey side of the franchise. Sidney Crosby is in Pittsburgh because a lottery ball bounced the Penguins way in 2005. The other stars of the Crosby era – specifically Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury – arrived because ownership had allowed the franchise to bottom out completely.

That was a smart business decision, by the way. It was cold, unemotional and ruthless.

It was very corporate, and so are the Penguins in many, many ways. That is why they will probably win again with a new general manager. The game of hockey is a business, and the Lemieux and Burkle, for all their riches, really want to win.

Still, they won with the general manager they just fired – and that is something everybody should remember a day after a seemingly good man lost his job because his teams did not win everything enough.

Shero brought the Penguins into the modern era at a time when their records were kept on legal pads in filing cabinets. He created the hockey operations department from scratch and turned it into something that, until this season, Penguins brass boasted about being best in the league.

Shero’s first order of business upon signing Eaton in 2006 was to order flowers sent to Eaton’s wife. He wanted the Penguins to be the organization that treated players like family. It was not a novel concept, and Shero never sold it as one.

It was Shero who repeatedly said he cared only about Crosby the person during the captain’s concussion saga. There were a lot of agendas, within and outside of the Penguins, during that period of time from January 2011-March 2012, but Shero had only one – doing right by Crosby.

Shero was gracious, respectful and never lied.

That last part is especially impressive, but hockey is a business full with liars. Hockey, as somebody within it once perfectly explained, is a dirty, disgusting, disgraceful business, and we all sacrifice part of our soul to be a part of it.

There will be a lot of stories about Shero over the next few weeks, many assessing the work he did with the Penguins.

The read here is that he was a really good general manager.

The view here is that he was a lot better man for the Penguins – certainly, the type of person who will not easily be replaced.

 

>> LINKS TO #TribHKY COVERAGE

WHO’S THE BOSS? A look at the Penguins’ power structure:  http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/6124069-74/morehouse-penguins-general#axzz31yoU6zCi

WHO’S NEXT? Possible candidates for the next GM: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/6126256-74/job-penguins-current#axzz31yoU6zCi

WHO SAYS? Columnist Dejan Kovacevic’s Q&A with Penguins ownership: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/6129439-74/lemieux-burkle-team#axzz31yoU6zCi

WHO STAYS? Josh Yohe on the in-limbo coaching staff: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/6124075-74/bylsma-morehouse-staff#axzz31yoU6zCi

WHO UNDERSTOOD? Jason Mackey finds a puzzled public after the events of Friday: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/6124073-74/bylsma-shero-cushing#axzz31yoU6zCi

WHO THINKS? Dan Bylsma is coming back. Not Kovacevic. His column: http://triblive.com/sports/dejankovacevic/dejancolumns/6101769-74/lemieux-burkle-coach#axzz31yoU6zCi

WHO-A? An A-1 story written with Kovacevic on where the Penguins are headed: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/6126219-74/shero-general-penguins#axzz31yoU6zCi

 

Be EXCELLENT to each other,

Rossi

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May 14, 2014
by Rob Rossi


10 comments so far - add yours!

Rossi: The next 48 hours…

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Things are busy here on the Penguins beat, so until we have something to report, on behalf of the entire #TribHKY team I just wanted to thank everybody for reading.

Please keep doing so on what promises to prove a pivotal next few days, weeks and months.

Our coverage from Game 7…

 

>> Ownership is considering big changes for the Penguins: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/pensgalleries/6097941-74/penguins-series-games

 

>> Josh Yohe reports on the stars that failed to shine (again): http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/6101581-74/penguins-rangers-neal#axzz31bxkPyyQ

 

>> Jason Mackey writes about “King” Henrik’s Game 7 coronation: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/6101585-74/rangers-lundqvist-penguins#axzz31bxkPyyQ

 

>> Chris Adamski looks at the role of the first game in Game 7, and Round 2: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/6101788-74/rangers-goal-penguins

 

>> Columnist Dejan Kovacevic identifies the Penguins’ big need going forward: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/6101580-74/crosby-team-penguins#axzz31bxkPyyQ

 

Be EXCELLENT to each other,

Rossi

 

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