The Pittsburgh Penguins named a new general manager on Friday.
It wasn’t Jason Botterill — but it might as well have been.
He’s the real winner here.
And it probably isn’t even close.
While Jim Rutherford, 65, a gentleman who most recently worked for Carolina, was steered in and introduced as the man to replace Ray Shero as the Penguins’ general manager, the words that he spoke — and the arrangement with which he will work under — seems as if he’s nothing more than a placeholder for the 37-year-old Botterill.
Don’t you think the writing is on the wall? Appears pretty simple from where I sit and, you know, that might not be a bad thing for anyone involved.
Botterill had been serving as the interim general manager with the Penguins since Shero was shown the door a little less than a month ago and is widely considered one of the bright, young front office minds in hockey. In simultaneous form with Rutherford being named general manager here in Pittsburgh, Botterill was elevated from his old tag of assistant general manager to associate general manager.
The title is just a change in one word — but it means a ton.
Here’s the thing, however, Botterill’s new tag might as well be “Deputy In Waiting To The General Manager Job When Mr. Rutherford Has Had Enough.”
Let’s not kid ourselves one smidgen here — that’s precisely what all this appears to be. If I was Rutherford, I’d rent in Pittsburgh and not buy; and the way he’s talking, he even knows it.
So often, these introductory press conferences are full of innocuous glad-handing, one repetitive cliché after another and a bunch of platitudes the newly-hired person tosses the way of people who helped him get there. Not this time, there was some actual meat to what Rutherford said.
Nothing, however, should have served to make Botterill perk up like how forthcoming Rutherford was about a possible timeline on how long he plans to stay in Pittsburgh.
“I feel that we have two or three guys here that are very close to becoming general managers,” Rutherford said. “What I will do is give them big roles and a lot to say and a lot of input in my final decisions. But at the same time, I know that I am mentoring them. Nobody knows what’s going to happen but I would suspect this term for me is probably two or three years here. And it’s going to be up to the ownership as to who replaces me. But certainly, I will get to know these guys better. I would recommend what goes on in the future … especially Jason. He’s been here a long time. He’s a very bright guy and he knows the game. I know he’s getting very close.”
Barring a major screw-up either professionally or personally, Botterill just has to sail through the next few years doing his job and it would appear he’s already the clear-cut favorite, of not already-tabbed, to be next in line.
Some will say that Jim Rutherford was the big winner on Friday as he secured the GM job here in Pittsburgh. Sure, he won — and good for him.
But the biggest winner was Botterill, who has pretty much already been named his successor.