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Penguins GM Rutherford happy in Pittsburgh | TribLIVE.com
Penguins/NHL

Penguins GM Rutherford happy in Pittsburgh

John Harris
| Tuesday, April 28, 2015 10:15 p.m
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford admits to being disappointed in the way things played out, but he is confident the team will rebound.
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Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford speaks to the media during a news conference Tuesday, April 28, 2015, at Consol Energy Center.
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Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Penguins General Manager Jim Rutherford speaks to the media during a news conference Tuesday, April 28, 2015 at Consol Energy Center.
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Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford, speaking during a news conference Tuesday, said the team needs to get more experienced players on two-way deals so it can have flexibility with its top prospects.
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NHLI via Getty Images
Patric Hornqvist (72) of the Pittsburgh Penguins poses for his official headshot for the 2014-2015 season Sept. 18, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.

Jim Rutherford isn’t going anywhere.

The Penguins’ general manager said last summer he intended to be in Pittsburgh for “two or three years,” and Rutherford, 66, doesn’t sound the least bit interested in retirement.

He came to Pittsburgh to win a Stanley Cup and has unfinished business.

“I now plan on staying for about 12 years,” Rutherford said, drawing plenty of laughter.

Then he turned serious.

“I enjoyed it,” he said. “But I’m like you guys. I’m like the fans. I’m disappointed.”

Rutherford played for the Penguins four decades ago. He said he enjoyed his first year back in Western Pennsylvania and hinted the job will come easier in his second season.

There is a sense of familiarity now.

“I have a better lay of the land,” he said. “I have a much better handle on the team. I don’t know. How long do I plan on staying here? I don’t know. But I certainly plan on being here as we speak, going into next season.”

It was an unorthodox season for Rutherford.

His team started in strong fashion, but then dealt with health ailments that ranged from cancer to blood clots to mumps to concussions.

Through it all, Rutherford said he developed a feel for his players on a personal level.

Equally important, Rutherford made it clear he believes in his coach.

Mike Johnston had never been an NHL head coach when he was hired at age 57 last summer and didn’t possess any history with his new boss. Rutherford said he came away impressed with the coach.

The general manager also said private conversations he had with players following the season indicated the locker room is united behind the soft-spoken coach.

“Mike is getting used to these players and how they work,” Rutherford said.

“He’s dealing with superstar players. He made adjustments that needed to be made. Overall, I think Mike and his staff did a good job.”

The Penguins flirted with missing the postseason in the final week of the regular season.

Never once, Rutherford said, did job security enter his mind. He said his daughter made him aware of a couple of articles that “disappointed” Rutherford.

Other than that, Rutherford didn’t pay attention to anything negative that was said about his work, even though some calculated risks left the Penguins with only five defensemen for a stretch.

“I have had 100 percent support from ownership,” Rutherford said, “even 20 minutes after our final game. If ownership thinks there is a better way of doing things, I understand that. I’ve had a long, good career.”

Rutherford doesn’t question his work and thinks the best could be yet to come with this team.

He would like to be the man calling the shots when more playoff success comes.

Rutherford admitted he occasionally questioned himself — the Ben Lovejoy-Simon Despres trade forced him to second-guess — but he believes in the direction of the franchise.

If anyone wants to criticize him, Rutherford doesn’t seem to mind.

“I don’t see a whole lot or hear a whole lot,” he said. “So, fire away.”

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

Categories: Penguins
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