Whether Kyle Dubas becomes the next Pittsburgh Penguins GM or it’s Steve Greeley, Mathieu Darche, Jason Botterrill, or anyone not named Ron Hextall, the process has been belabored, dragged out, needlessly meandering and a sign that, despite owning multiple sports franchises, Fenway Sports Group had no idea where to start.
FSG has owned the Penguins for nearly two years. In that time, its executives didn’t evaluate the team’s front-office structure to determine its efficacy. Nor did they begin building bridges within the community they had paid $900 million to join.
Wake me up when it’s worth a billion?
When FSG cleaned house on April 14, firing GM Ron Hextall, assistant general manager Chris Pryor, and president of hockey operations Brian Burke, it was the beginning of examining the Penguins’ structure.
“There’s no parameters or set format for what we’re going to hire. I think we’ve learned in all of our sports endeavors that these jobs are not one-person, two-person jobs,” FSG co-head Dave Beeston said that day. “They are entire department-wide. And so we’re focused on building a hockey-operations machine.”
Compare the FSG process without parameters to that of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who fired Dubas less than two weeks ago.
With a structure in place, they moved quickly. President Brendan Shanahan knew what he needed and, more importantly, knew where to find it: Toronto hired former Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving Wednesday.
Perhaps Shanahan’s process was the old-guard way of quickly hiring someone already in the club. Treliving, who reportedly split with Calgary in a power struggle over his desire to remove coach Darryl Sutter (which the organization did anyway a few weeks later), is a highly regarded and respected GM.
Toronto isn’t getting a retread, but an experienced hand who has navigated tough situations, including losing star winger Johnny Gaudreau to free agency. He then was confronted with the looming possibility of the same happening with Matthew Tkachuk.
As PHN has detailed throughout the Penguins’ GM process, FSG has sought the counsel of numerous entities and sources during the search. From the Boston Red Sox president to other candidates, we can confirm FSG was not shy about asking for advice or enlisting help.
The scuttlebutt around FSG offices in Boston was that owner John Henry also consulted former Boston Red Sox GM and Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein earlier in the process.
Monday, we reported that even the has NHL offered guidance, at least for the president of hockey operations position. And we have been told that FSG solicited input from job candidates for positions outside of hockey.
They didn’t begin at Square One; it seems they were asking directions to find Square One.
FSG owned a team — nay, it owned a business — but didn’t yet know its operations well enough to begin a swift replacement process. Nor did the ownership ingratiate itself into the community to learn.
Credit to the hockey community for tossing a few lifelines instead of boat anchors.
However, the NHL Draft is less than a month away. Free agency begins one month from tomorrow. The Penguins have significant decisions to make which will affect their franchise’s immediate future and competitiveness.
Free agents like Tristan Jarry and Jason Zucker are waiting to begin negotiations. The draft is always a prime spot to complete trades, but talks can take weeks, if not months, leading up to the gathering. Yet there isn’t anyone to begin those processes.
The time to evaluate staff and positions is before casting out people.
At the risk of chest-thumping, colleague Dave Molinari listed six possibilities for the GM position the same day the Pittsburgh Penguins fired Hextall. A couple of days later, this space listed four.
Between the two of us, we correctly listed the four or so finalists.
It’s been a long process for FSG that isn’t yet complete. It’s a process that should have started long before the urgency born of actual terminations. Call it inexperience.
And it’s hurting the Penguins.