Penguins GM Jim Rutherford rips team, says roster changes may be coming
WASHINGTON – Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford is taking his team’s early season losing streak very seriously.
Rutherford gave a scathing assessment of his team’s recent performance on his bi-weekly radio show that aired Wednesday night on 105.9 FM, wondering aloud if roster changes would be required to snap the team out of its four-game skid and uneven start to the season.
“Has this team been together too long? It’s something I always have to watch for,” Rutherford said. “When do you have to make those changes? The players are doing everything they can to tell me now’s the time.”
No area of the team was spared from Rutherford’s critical eye.
He took the team’s younger players to task.
“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,” Rutherford said. “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 he turned his attention to the players in contract years.
“Maybe they change their game,” he said. “Maybe they think scoring more goals or getting more points is what’s going to get them more money. So they get away from their game, what their role is.”
He said he’s not satisfied with his team’s goaltending.
“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,” Rutherford said. “That’s not what we’re getting now. We’re getting inconsistent goaltending.”
He lamented a lack of secondary scoring.
“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,” Rutherford said.
He said the Daniel Sprong situation is not working out as intended.
“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.”
He noted that Monday’s call-ups of Zach Aston-Reese and Garrett Wilson served to send a message.
“Once they start coming, I don’t need to tell anybody. Actions are louder than words,” Rutherford said. “This will be the first move of a few if we don’t get it going.”
Rutherford said he didn’t see any players available on the open market that could help his team’s defense and he said the preference is always for the players in the room to work out their problems on their own. Still, the threat of roster changes was a theme he went back to on several occasions.
“We have the players that can work through it,” Rutherford said. “Sometimes they can. Sometimes they can’t. I wonder if this group’s been together too long and if we need to change it up, but that’s what I’ll watch for here in the next few games.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at [email protected] or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.