Penguins CEO on playoffs: ‘It’s where we belong’
His star players are nearing age 30, his team possesses few blue-chip prospects or draft picks, and the Penguins came dangerously close to missing the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in nine years.
But CEO David Morehouse said he is pleased with the Penguins’ regular season and optimistic about their future.
The Penguins clinched a spot in the postseason with a 2-0 victory Saturday in Buffalo.
“It’s where we belong,” Morehouse said. “It’s where we want to be. It’s where we’ve been. And it’s where we’ll continue to be.”
Morehouse played a significant role in the organization’s overhaul last summer. He gave a vote of confidence to coach Mike Johnston, his assistants and the management team, led by general manager Jim Rutherford. If the Penguins failed to qualify for the playoffs, Morehouse said, another round of sweeping changes was not imminent.
“Absolutely not,” Morehouse said. “We never even had discussions about people’s jobs. I don’t speculate about that stuff, anyway. But we are where we are, and we like where we are. Once we get some guys back and get some rest, we look forward to playing the Rangers.”
Although the Penguins scuffled to a 4-9-2 finish to the regular season, Morehouse defended his coaching staff. The Penguins are playing without three of their top four defensemen: Kris Letang, Christian Ehrhoff and Olli Maatta.
“Given all the difficulties we’ve been through this year,” Morehouse said, “we’re very happy to be where we are. Everyone has done a good job given the obstacles that we’ve had to go through. We’re just looking forward to going to New York now.”
The Penguins will go to New York with an abundance of defensemen, now that the regular season has concluded. In the latter stages of the season, they played with only five defensemen because of a combination of injuries and salary-cap issues that prohibited the Penguins from adding defensemen from the AHL.
“It wasn’t mismanaged at all,” Morehouse said. “I would have been happier with six defensemen. But we had injuries. We’ve dealt with all of the issues and now we’re in the playoffs.”
The banged up Penguins will be underdogs in the first round of the playoffs against the Rangers, who finished the regular season with the NHL’s best record.
Although the Penguins still must pay former coach Dan Bylsma and former general manager Ray Shero millions through next season, Morehouse said the organization wasn’t stressing about missing the playoffs from a financial standpoint. They earn a significant amount of money for each home playoff game and are assured of at least two in the series with the Rangers.
“We don’t usually make decisions based on that,” Morehouse said.