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Jim Rutherford describes how he built his 2016 Stanley Cup champions

Trevor Daley. Phil Kessel. Carl Hagelin. He brought them all in, and all became key.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Jim Rutherford is the reigning NHL GM of the year.

Of course, he took a Pittsburgh Penguins team that had been languishing, more recently from a first round loss, and finally got them not just back to the Stanley Cup Final, but to another victory: the first in seven years.

And he did it after a not-great first half of the season, one that saw his Penguins underperforming.

In a piece for the Players' Tribune, Rutherford shares some of his philosophies and insights with us. Trevor Daley, Phil Kessel, and Carl Hagelin weren't a part of the Penguins in 2014-15 - but in 2015-16, they all joined the team, and all ended up being key players.

Ones with great emotional resonance, as it turned out, too. Turns out that Hagelin and Patric Hornqvist are best friends, so the Hagelin acquisition had an extra layer of awesomeness to it. Rutherford thought Kessel was a good guy; turns out, he learned he's actually a great guy. (Who can score goals. Both are important.)

And then, Daley. From how the Penguins identified him as a trade target, to his incredibly emotional end of the season: and how Rutherford was there, on the blue line, as the team he assembled skated around with the Stanley Cup.

In Rutherford's own words, this is what the win came down to:

The answer isn’t to follow along with the trends. The answer is to figure out the best identity for your team.

He did just that. And the Penguins won the ultimate prize.