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Catching lightning in a bottle leads to the Hockey Hall of Fame

June 26, 2019, 9:12 AM ET [1 Comments]
Ryan Wilson
Pittsburgh Penguins Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Yesterday the NHL announced its 2019 Hall of Fame class. The Penguins will be represented by none other than Jim Rutherford. Pittsburgh’s general manager is a winner of three Stanley Cups. This was a forgone conclusion the moment he won a Stanley Cup in two different locations. Tommy Gorman is the only other GM to win in two different locations. He won back to back years in 1934 and 1935 with the Chicago Blackhawks and the Montreal Maroons.

Rutherford has had a long career as a builder. He started in 1994 with the Hartford Whalers. You could say Rutherford was a master of catching lightning in a bottle. In his 19 seasons with the Whalers/Hurricanes his teams missed the playoffs 14 times, including the last five on the job. It took the Hurricanes another four years to climb out of the mess that was left behind before they made the playoffs again this year. The last three times he made the playoffs in Carolina were an Eastern Conference Finals loss, a loss in the Stanley Cup Final, and a Stanley Cup Championship in 2006 coming out of the lockout.

He was hired by the Pittsburgh Penguins and given a roster an incoming general manager could only dream of. His first season in Pittsburgh started rocky with salary cap issues, playing with only five defenseman (an issue he scoffed at earlier in the year) and needing to beat the Sabres on the final game of the regular season to make the playoffs. In the next year he put in his best work with the Penguins. He acquired Phil Kessel, Nick Bonino, Justin Schultz, Trevor Daley, Ian Cole, Matt Cullen, and Carl Hagelin while cutting a lot of dead weight. It led to the first back to back titles of the salary cap era. Since then he has bailed on the approach that led him to those titles and has used up a lot of assets in the process.

The Penguins are currently sitting in a tough spot with limited salary cap space, moveable assets, and futures. He’s upset some of the stars on his team by publicly offering them up in trades. He is in a position where he will be forced into making some bold moves. If he isn’t careful things are going to start looking like the majority of his Hall of Fame run in Hartford/Carolina. If lightning strikes does he have any more bottles?

Thanks for reading!
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