Did you hear that former Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford and Mike Sullivan were at war? Did you know that Rutherford wanted to trade Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and the cotton candy guy who used to take off his shirt, but Mario Lemieux figuratively slapped the cuffs on Rutherford?
Did you also know these wild spun theories are absolute trash?
Hey, if the Chinese government interfered with voting machines and green berets stormed a storage facility in Germany, while simultaneously old Venezuelan adversaries who are long dead conspired to alter the U.S. Presidential election anything is possible, right? Surely the wily and crafty Jim Rutherford had several trades on the launchpad ready to bring the Pittsburgh Penguins an unprecedented fourth, fifth, and sixth Stanley Cup in the salary cap era.
Welcome to our world, I suppose.
If only Rutherford weren’t feuding with the head coach. If only the Penguins ownership weren’t more concerned about jersey sales. And that’s why Rutherford resigned. Am I right, or am I right?
Ok, enough sarcasm.
It’s time to listen to facts and reason, but unfortunately, the truth isn’t nearly as sexy and fun as the yarns being spun to explain what is somewhat unexplainable.
I must absolutely confess Rutherford’s resignation was a “Holy Sh*t” moment. In fact, my phone blew up with those exact words from at least two colleagues and several friends.
Now some hard truth. Do you think a trade the scope of which would involve Malkin could be kept under wraps? Malkin would have to approve it, too. The last time a team kicked the tires on Malkin, we knew it.
But, let’s assume a few people could keep the secret. Everyone involved, including Rutherford, not only denied it but dismissed it with denigration.
You’ll notice not a single legitimate reporter, from Elliotte Friedman at Sportsnet to Darren Dreger at TSN, had a whiff of such a trade.
Let’s take the denials one step further. Most GMs in the league have dabbled with trades that ownership or team presidents scuttled. It’s not a reason to quit with only a few months remaining on a contract, especially from a team that has your back.
It’s not just implausible; there’s zero chatter that it was legit. None. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero. Bubkis. Bunk.
Why do I feel your keyboards already banging out angry replies? Be careful about believing what you want to be true, rather than the simplest reasons.
Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford decided to walk away. Perhaps there was something he didn’t like. Rutherford’s mistakes were beginning to pile up, and one of his Houdini-like escapes seemed less and less possible.
Update: There was clearly something he didn’t like, but the public theories are don’t line up. What did happen was longtime assistant Jason Karmanos was fired. Dale Tallon was widely believed to be ready to accept a senior advisor or assistant role, then it didn’t materialize.
Rutheford used the Mark Madden radio show on the Penguins flagship radio station to call rumors that he resigned over trying to trade a star “farfetched.”
In his resignation, he cited personal reasons.
Look, I’ve covered fishy situations in which parties issued denials that smelled worse than the fish dumped into the back of my minor league GM’s car one summer. If you’re objective, you can tell. There’s a huge difference between rejecting truth and rejecting a story because the denials are disconnected doublespeak.
The time to trade Evgeni Malkin was the summer of 2019 when Florida came calling with a hefty package. But it can’t be overstated what happened in the wake of the discussions.
Multiple outlets, including Pittsburgh Hockey Now, reported the internal conclusions: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang should be allowed to retire with Penguins if they choose.
That fact was restated by all involved, again, this week.
Malkin is scuffling this season. There isn’t a doubt, and the Penguins big man owned up to it on Thursday night.
It may seem like a lifetime ago, but that was Evgeni Malkin carrying the Penguins last season with 74 points (25g, 49a) in just 55 games. Malkin’s admission that his conditioning was affected by COVID restrictions holds water; he’s not the only veteran slow to reach his optimal game.
What’s with the vitriol towards Malkin? It’s a bad look.