Pittsburgh Penguins assistant GM Bill Guerin is ready. He may not have the polish of a 10-year assistant GM on the business side or have yet encountered every situation to learn his lesson. But Guerin does have hockey IQ by the truckload. He skated with Carter Rowney and knew the kid had “it.” There are Penguins decisions we believe he would have done differently, and in hindsight, he was correct.
Minnesota, hire Bill Guerin.
Former Minnesota Wild GM Paul Fenton spent decades in the second chair and still wasn’t ready for the bright lights. Sometimes, you have it, or you don’t. The finer details can be delegated to others. The best GMs have a sense of players and their fit. Guerin has that.
Since he walked into the Penguins locker room after being acquired from the New York Islanders for the 2009 Stanley Cup run and bellowed to Sidney Crosby, “Nice sweater,” Guerin has been a force in the Penguins organization.
From player development, to recently GM’ing the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, and Penguins assistant general manager, Guerin has been growing into the GM role. He’s not been perfect. The WBS Penguins missed the playoffs last season. However, the roster turnaround this summer has been quick and striking. From Finnish goalie Emil Larmi, who may be someone Pittsburgh gets to know, to the cast of borderline NHL players like Joseph Blandisi and actual NHL prospects, WBS should be far more competitive.
Dominik Simon graduated from the AHL to be a regular contributor on the NHL roster last year. Teddy Blueger will be this year.
But that’s not why Guerin will make a good NHL GM.
It’s been the decisions which PHN believes Guerin would have made if he were the Penguins GM over the past couple of seasons. Based on sources’ input, we believe he would have been more aggressive with the Phil Kessel situation last summer, and probably with a higher return than the Penguins received this summer. We believe the Penguins defense would not have four defensive defensemen or have struggled to find a right-side defenseman last season.
Those are things we believe Guerin would have done differently, and in hindsight, been better for the Penguins. It is impossible to know exactly what Guerin would do in the big chair, but we believe he is ready for it.
He’s been learning from a unique GM, Jim Rutherford. Rutherford is a horse trader if ever there was, and Guerin has seen first hand how it can benefit a team. Marcus Pettersson, Jared McCann, and Nick Bjugstad were outstanding acquisitions which came from flipping less desirable assets.
Guerin would be a throwback to hockey-sense GMs. He probably isn’t a Kyle Dubas wunderkind type who seemed to know how to be a general manager before he was 30-years old. But Guerin is only 48. He should not be too set in his ways to accept innovation and adaption of the game. He’s been an immensely popular figure not only around the Penguins but in other NHL stops, too.
Trusting multiple reports that Guerin has already interviewed with Minnesota, just as he did last season, Minnesota should give Guerin the opportunity. He’s ready for it. He certainly wants it. And Minnesota needs a complete overhaul. It won’t be a quick tweak or a little bit of hope.
Similar to the path of Jason Botterill who was the Penguins assistant GM then took over the top job in Buffalo, Guerin would likely have some growing pains which an experienced GM would not. That can’t be helped. The only way to avoid a bad move is to make no moves.
Perhaps Minnesota is shy after hiring Fenton for his first gig which went horribly wrong. But Guerin isn’t the type to treat people poorly. And it is highly unlikely he would create a negative culture; he is one of those positive type people.
Just in case Minnesota will ask, I say hire Bill Guerin.