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Penguins Owner FSG Speaks After Firings, but Answers Elusive



PIttsburgh Penguins, Fenway Sports Group, Dave Beeston

The Pittsburgh Penguins are without a GM, assistant GM, and president of hockey operations. Hours after Penguins owners Fenway Sports Group cleaned house following the worst regular season in 17 years, FSG co-head Dave Beeston spoke publicly for the first time since the group acquired the team in November 2021.

Beeston and Penguins director of business operations Kevin Acklin were seated together for the 15-minute press conference.

Friday morning, FSG terminated GM Ron Hextall, AGM Chris Pryor, and president of hockey ops Brian Burke. The Penguins and new owners now have a clean slate to chart their own course.

Questions were asked.

Few answers were given.

Beeston, who appeared nervous, especially during his opening remarks, dutifully filled the chair on a vitally important day. However, Beeston tried to avoid specifics and details.

There isn’t a timeline for a new GM; FSG will begin the process immediately.

Beeston could not say if the hockey operations head would be hired first or even if the position would be filled.

“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,” said Beeston. “They are entire department-wide. And so we’re focused on building a hockey operations machine.”

What went into the decision to move on from Hextall and Burke after just two years?

“I think that the way we’ve thought about our hockey operations, generally, is we want to be forward and proactive,” Beeston said. “Ron, Brian, and Chris were great and served a great role. We are all disappointed with how the season ended, but we’re focused on the future and moving forward.”

Coach Mike Sullivan is part of the Penguins’ transition team. One would assume he is safe moving forward. However, he wasn’t given a vote of confidence or confirmed.

“I think the answer to that is we think Mike Sullivan is one of the best coaches in the NHL. He was extended last season, and then once we bring in a new hockey operations leader, he or she will be responsible for evaluating the coaching staff,” said Beeston. “And we think Mike is terrific.”

A few concrete answers emerged from the first public comments. FSG will do everything possible to ensure Sidney Crosby never wears another jersey.

The Penguins core, Malkin, Letang, and Crosby, have been together for the 16-year playoff streak and the miss in year 17.

Crosby’s contract expires in two years, and he wouldn’t be the first star player to move on near the end, but FSG was firm they won’t let that happen.

“It’s very important that Sidney Crosby never plays a game in another uniform other than the Penguins.”

And the press conference concluded with a question many fans have asked. Will minority owner Mario Lemieux play a more active role in the future.

Both Beeston and Acklin publicly supported Lemieux’s decision to spend significant time away from the organization since the sale but also expressed hope Lemieux would return to provide guidance next season.

Lemieux did speak with Acklin and FSG Friday morning. Both men openly encouraged Lemieux to get involved.

“I talked to Mario this morning after the news broke. He talked to ownership as well, to Tom (Werner, FSG co-owner) directly. He was at a game a couple of weeks ago … So, to today’s point, he earned some time on the golf course when he sold most of his interests. But, you know, he still cares about the team. And obviously, we’d love to see more of him at the arena. And that’s something we’ll keep engaging with all the time.”

The Penguins face another summer of uncertainty. The upheaval has already begun.

FSG Structure:

Beeston is not necessarily the decision maker or the oversight. As he explained, John Henry and Tom Werner are the decision-makers, as they are for the rest of FSG properties, including the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool FC.

“Fenway Sports Group — John Henry and Tom Werner are the principal and chairman of the company, and they’re responsible for the oversight of the Penguins like they are for other teams and other assets that we have,” explained Beeston. “The way we operate is that John and Tom are responsible for the business and the sporting side. So Kevin (Acklin) reports through John and Tom, and the new hockey operations leader, whoever we hire, will also report through Tom and John.

“I’m based in Boston. They’ve asked me to take on sort of a more day-to-day role in Pittsburgh. And so I’m working with Kevin and the entire team in Pittsburgh on a daily basis.”