Jim Rutherford resigned as Pittsburgh Penguins general manager just seven games into a 56-game season. It was stunning, unanticipated and, given the circumstances, unheard of in the National Hockey League, especially given the work Rutherford did to retool this team.
His motivations are a mystery. His future is as unpredictable as it is for the team. Let it never be said Jim Rutherford doesn’t know how to pull off a shocking transaction.
“He’s a true Pittsburgher. He says what he means and he means what he says,” said Penguins CEO David Morehouse on Wednesday.
On Tuesday night, Rutherford said he was done and he meant it, as evidenced by the reiteration of his intentions the following morning, when Morehouse checked to see if the 71-year-old architect of back-to-back Penguins Stanley Cups had reconsidered.
He had not.
“It’s a personal decision that Jim made. Shocking? I’m not sure shocking is the right word. I think he’s accomplished a lot here. I think he still has things he wants to do,” said Morehouse.
Things that apparently don’t involve the Penguins. Reports are that Rutherford plans to wait out the end of his contract in the summer and then reevaluate his career. It could end in retirement. It could continue with a team other than the Penguins.
As the franchise scrambles to understand what just happened, the clock at which the Penguins have been staring is now ticking at ear-pounding decibels. Sidney Crosby is 33. Evgeni Malkin is 34. They have one postseason series win between them in the last two seasons. If the window hasn’t closed — and there’s evidence that it has — who is the right person to prop it open?