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Penguins GM Jim Rutherford rips team, a look at who he was talking about

Which players were in the cross-hairs of the Pittsburgh GM? We break it down

NHL: St. Louis Blues at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

On his radio show, Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford was in a foul mood last night, pre-Capitals game where Pittsburgh would lose their fifth straight game. A sampling of his finest quotes:

“What I’m seeing I don’t like. Nobody likes it. We’re trying to figure out what’s gone wrong here.

“Has this team been together too long? It’s something I always have to watch for. When do you have to make those changes? The players are doing everything they can to tell me now’s the time.”

“We’re not playing with any energy or determination. We’re just trying to get through the games. These other teams are coming and outworking us. They deserve to beat us. In some of these games, they probably deserve to beat us worse than the score indicates.

“At a young age, guys win Stanley Cups and a lot of guys go their whole career and they don’t even get close to it. We’ve got some young guys that won a couple, then they get bigger contracts and then they kind of settle in. They forget what got them to where they are today.”

“Then we have some guys on the team who are working toward a contract next offseason. So they maybe change their game. They maybe think scoring more goals or getting more points is what’s going to get them more money. They get away from their game, what their role is. I see that happening with some of the guys on both ends of my point here.”

“It’s almost like the guys come to the game and say, ‘Let’s just let the top guys do it. Let Sid and Geno and Phil and Letang carry us and well just get through the game and move on to the next game,’ and forget about the work ethic it takes or forget about the role they play.”

“The two years we won the Cup, we were playing at times the way we’re playing now, but between (Marc-Andre) Fleury and (Matt) Murray, they were phenomenal in goal and they were hard to score against. That’s not what we’re getting now. We’re getting inconsistent goaltending.”

That pretty much scorches the earth on every player not named Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Kris Letang.

Rutherford tends to be direct and shield little, so let’s break it down.

“We’ve got some young guys that won a couple [Cups], then they get bigger contracts and then they kind of settle in”

Who this could apply to: Justin Schultz, Brian Dumoulin, Bryan Rust, Olli Maatta

Who he’s probably referring to more specifically: Rust and Maatta

Tough to blame Schultz for getting hurt, and Dumoulin has been a rare bright spot all around the ice while playing 21 minutes a night. This barb definitely seems more directed at other sources, probably most specifically Bryan Rust. Rust has but one goal and two assists in the first 14 games.

Surely when signing the 25-year old to a four-year $3.5 million per season deal last summer Rutherford must have been anticipating a huge season this year for Rust and having him locked in at a reasonable rate and not having to go through the arbitration process next summer with a player having leverage and being closer to unrestricted free agency. Adjusting for injury, Rust has been on pace the last two seasons for 40-45 points and 15-20 goals. The Pens have gotten practically nothing out of him so far this year.

“Then we have some guys on the team who are working toward a contract next offseason. So they maybe change their game. They maybe think scoring more goals or getting more points is what’s going to get them more money”

Who this could apply to: Jake Guentzel, Carl Hagelin, Riley Sheahan, Matt Cullen, Juuso Riikola, Chad Ruhwedel

Who he’s probably referring to more specifically: Guentzel?

Not really sure that guys like Hagelin or Sheahan are really chasing points (if so, they’re doing a terrible job of it) and Cullen, 42, is likely not worried about next year given the issues he’s been having this year. So that leaves Guentzel as the most realistic person to be aiming this bullet at. Not sure how accurate it is either, but interesting to hear Rutherford’s perspective and analysis of what could be going on. Guentzel has 5 goals and 4 assists so far this season, but only 1 goal in the last nine games- has he changed his game in a negative way lately?


Daniel Sprong, who the Pens are reportedly now interested in trading, was not spared either

“We hoped Sprong would be in the top-nine,” Rutherford said. “He hasn’t jumped ahead of anybody on the right side so he’s playing on the fourth line. It’s not ideal.”

Sprong got a chance in training camp in the top line, but didn’t show much and was quickly relegated to the 4th line. He was a healthy scratch last night. Who knows how this ends, but likely not very good.


Rutherford pointed out HOW the Pens were losing recently in low-effort blowouts to Toronto and New Jersey were just as troubling as THAT they were losing. Understandable. In that regard though, the Pens did really well last night in Washington even if they did lose the game in the last minute+ of regulation.

5-on-5 shot attempts were 70-29 Pittsburgh. Scoring chances were 39-15 Pittsburgh. High danger scoring chances were 21-6 Pittsburgh. If they play like that on most nights, they will win, and probably easily. They were foiled and spoiled by a great goaltending performance by Braden Holtby and some bad luck that hitting the posts four times resulted in zero goals.


But, Rutherford isn’t one to stand around and wait for long. The NHL trade market can be tight but his agitation is clear. Would this team consider trading a core member like a Maatta? Or move a youngster like Sprong? If results and effort don’t improve drastically and quickly, that could be a possibility moving forward.