Penguins fire Dan Bylsma, name Jim Rutherford new GM

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PITTSBURGH - The Pittsburgh Penguins have fired Dan Bylsma and hired Jim Rutherford as their new general manager.

The announcements were made Friday afternoon at a news conference at Consol Energy Center.

The 65-year-old Rutherford played goalie for the Penguins in the 1970s before spending 20 years with the franchise that began as the Hartford Whalers and became the Carolina Hurricanes.

Bylsma won a franchise-record 252 games behind the bench but failed to produce a bookend to the championship he captured with stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in 2009. The Penguins were just 4-5 in playoff series since raising the Cup, with each loss coming to a lower-seeded team.

Pittsburgh's latest defeat came last month when the Penguins fell to the New York Rangers in seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Rutherford said he would like to have a coach in place before free agency begins July 1. He also said he agreed to the position only because he believes the Penguins are close to becoming a Stanley Cup champion. Their last championship occurred in 2009, when they defeated Rutherford's Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference final.

“There is no feeling like winning the ultimate prize,” he said. “I feel like we can do that here.”

Rutherford will be joined in the front office by Penguins holdovers Jason Botterill, Tom Fitzgerald and Bill Guerin. All three received promotions and will work closely with Rutherford, who said he only intends on staying in Pittsburgh for two or three years.

“There are two or three potential general managers here,” said Rutherford, who said part of his role will be mentoring the three men beneath him.

Rutherford, whose Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup in 2006, said a new coach must be able to alter his plan in the middle of games and playoff series, a criticism Bylsma often received.

Although Rutherford was quoted in a statement that announced Bylsma's dismissal, the general manager also acknowledged that he has barely spoken with Bylsma.

“What ownership wants here is a complete change of direction,” said Rutherford, who said he is satisfied in the level of power he will enjoy with the Penguins.

Rutherford noted that he will oversee some philosophical changes in the organization and seems particularly interested in using advanced statistical data to his new team's benefit.

“I don't think we're up to speed here in the use of analytics,” he said.

Bylsma is free to look for work elsewhere, and job openings remain in Florida, Carolina and Vancouver.

Rutherford announced that Bylsma's assistants, while still under contract with the Penguins, are free to pursue other work.

Rutherford spoke at length about the Penguins' roster and said star centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin need to be surrounded by superior talent.

He also stated that, from what he was been told, the Penguins locker room is a quiet one and that some character players should be added to the mix.

In an interview with the Tribune-Review last month, co-owner Mario Lemieux said the Penguins require more “grit and character” in their lineup.

Penguins CEO David Morehouse introduced Rutherford, a former Penguins goalie, at a news conference.

“He exemplifies class and dignity,” Morehouse said.

Channel 11's news exchange partners at TribLIVE and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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