Following the Pittsburgh Penguins announcement that they had hired Jim Rutherford as their new General Manager, I spoke with many people who were very excited. The unusual thing is that it wasn’t Rutherford that they were excited about, but the promotion of Bill Guerin to Assistant General Manager.
It is a strange thing for someone to be excited about an Assistant GM, but Guerin and his new responsibilities are more than enough reason for Penguins fans to be thrilled.
One of the major character flaws of the 2013/14 Pittsburgh Penguins was that there was no player-to-player accountability. There was no vocal leader calling out a player coasting on a backcheck, or chewing out a teammate for taking a stupid penalty. Media members called it one of the quietest locker rooms that they have ever been in.
Now they have Bill Guerin to talk to, just not in the way that they are used to.
During Bill Guerin’s tenure as a player with the Penguins he was well-known to be a great teammate who would encourage his peers as well as being very blunt with anyone needing it. He would call it like he saw it with anyone from a fourth liner to Sidney Crosby. Guerin’s leadership was instrumental to the Penguins winning the Stanley Cup with a young team in 2009. It would be hard to find any player, coach, fan, or anyone that knows the game that did not respect him.
Rutherford has assigned Guerin as part of his duties to be a sort of player liaison between the players and management. This is part of the reason that the Penguins hired Rutherford. He will utilize his staff to the fullest, and what better way to bridge the gap between the team and players than adding Guerin’s presence to the mix.
Rutherford stated that if a player is underperforming they may have a personal problem, or may have another issue. Who better to talk to them than number 13? Billy Guerin has the respect of the players, and will help with the attitude problems that were a huge issue this past season. The players will not see Guerin as a management spy. He can integrate himself into the locker room in a way that Rutherford or Associate GM Jason Botterill could not.
From the way he spoke, eyes lit with excitement, Guerin is excited about the opportunity. The players will love it. The fans already love it. This new role will have a far-reaching positive impact on the organization as a whole. The only way it could be better is if he could lace up the skates again.
Hey, if an owner can double as a player, why couldn’t an Assistant GM be a player as well? Just kidding.
Or am I…
Greg Thornberry is Editor-in-chief/Penguins writer for Pittsburgh Hockey site www.hypeduphockey.com