Penguins Update: Rutherford Pulls Two Shockers – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Update: Rutherford Pulls Two Shockers

Just when you thought it was safe to toss your old Ben Lovejoy jersey, GM Jim Rutherford pulled off two buzzer-beaters at the trade deadline.


Seeking to improve the Penguins’ defense for the postseason, JR swapped rugged Robert Bortuzzo and a 7th-round pick in the upcoming draft to St. Louis for sturdy Ian Cole. He followed up by dealing talented but green Simon Despres to Anaheim for ex-Pen Lovejoy.

Here’s a quick summary.

The AcquiredA former No. 1 pick, Cole established himself as a steady stay-at-home defender with the Blues. In 54 games this season the Michigan native tallied four goals and nine points, along with a sparkling plus-16. For his career he’s a plus-40.

His advanced stats this year are solid as well—a 6.8 Corsi/60 and a 5.5 Fenwick/60 at even strength.

Steel City fans are familiar with Lovejoy. “The Reverend” broke in with the Pens back in 2008 and skated in 95 regular-season games for the black and gold before heading west two years ago. The Dartmouth grad blossomed in Anaheim, teaming with Cam Fowler on the Ducks’ top pairing.

Heady and mobile, Lovejoy was singled out by Sidney Crosby during his earlier stint in the ‘Burgh as the toughest defender to beat in practice.

The DepartedThe Pens sacrificed some youth and skill, not to mention size and aggression.

A decent skater for a big man, Bortuzzo carved out a reputation for edgy, physical play. His effectiveness waned after losing two fights to Devils dynamo Jordan Tootoo on December 29. In 24 games since, “Bortz” was minus-9 with a lone assist.

Sprung from former coach Dan Bylsma’s doghouse, Despres played extremely well through the early going. The 23-year-old was surprisingly tough, too, dishing out a team-high 184 hits and dropping the mitts five times. Following a rough patch in January/February (minus-7 in seven games) his confidence wavered. The rangy defender appeared to be more tentative in recent weeks.

The Take“We felt to have a good run in the playoffs we needed more experience and that’s why we made these two deals,” Rutherford explained during a press conference.

Cole and Lovejoy should be an upgrade over Bortuzzo and Despres—at least in the short run. Only time will tell whether the latter fulfills his considerable promise.

Organizational depth no doubt influenced the trades. Waiting in the wings at Wilkes-Barre, Brian Dumoulin and rugged Reid McNeill may eventually replace the twin towers on the Pens’ backline.

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  1. pen's 4ever's Gravatar pen's 4ever
    March 4, 2015 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    Just plain dumb, after taking it all in the last couple of days. Well I’m still pissed at JR, puck possesion and blah blah my ass. We now the smallest d in the east and the weakest, Erhoff and Scuds now delivering the hits in the playoffs??
    We have a team with two center superstars and a bunch of third liners, except for Hornqvist.
    JR said he is not worried about toughness in the playoffs?? Tell that one to Fluery as the D can’t move guys in front of the net during a PP or mad scramble.
    Pen’s don’t make it past first round..again

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      March 5, 2015 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      I hear ya’ pen’s 4ever. Initially, I tried to keep an open mind about the trades. Like you, the more time I have to let things sink in, the more unsettled I feel.

      Rutherford is correct in asserting that fighting tapers off in the postseason. But if anything, the intensity of physical play gets amped up. Remember the Columbus series last spring? The Jackets had at least two games with over 50 hits. If we play the Capitals, we’ll see more of the same.

      Plus, a lot of guys who don’t normally play tough get a whole lot braver, knowing they won’t be challenged to fight. We saw that last year when Marc Staal crosschecked Sid in the neck without fear of retribution.

      There’s an intangible benefit to having size and toughness in your lineup that JR and Company have totally ignored. It allows your skill players to relax and just play their game, knowing they won’t have to deal with a lot of crap. To draw a real-life analogy, if I’m walking down an alley and I know there’s trouble lurking around the corner, I sure as heck would like to have a tough friend by my side. It’s human nature.

      Worse yet, the Pens have gone all in for puck possession at a time when the league appears to be shifting back to a grittier, defensive style. Or at least a more balanced style. Which translates into more obstruction and less penalties being called. Not conducive at all to our fly-boy game.

  2. Rob's Gravatar Rob
    March 4, 2015 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    At first I wanted to drive down to St. Barnabus Villiage and kick Rutherford’s wrinkled ass! I was thinking the trades he made were setting the Pens up more for a possible “Miss Congeniality” sash instead of a cup! Last season the most noticable part missing from the Pen’s Playoff run was grit. I remember shouting from the rafters “More gritty! Less Pretty!” And now it looks like Rutherford has taken us to “pretty”!

  3. March 4, 2015 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Strange trades from Jim Rutherford. I thought that the backend was fine.

    Bortuzzo has been struggling ever since Tootoo gave him a few beatings, but I thought that the criticism of his game was a bit much. Never thought too much of Ian Cole. I knew that he played for Notre Dame; that’s about it. Would have rather had a draft pick or a forward in return, but it’s not a big deal. I do think that Reid McNeill (that you mentioned) can easily replace Bortuzzo. Has made some huge strides since his days on Barrie/London. Turned into a solid shutdown defenseman for Wilkes-Barre. Won’t back down from a scrap either; and is good at it ever since Leblond gave him lessons.

    The Lovejoy/Despres trade is what got me palming my face. Simon Despres was one of my favorite players. His size along with his skating ability reminded me of Jay Bouwmeester. He did have flaws in his game such as consistency and the bad decisions that he would make with the puck. Ben Lovejoy has improved significantly since leaving Pittsburgh; Bruce Boudreau’s system was more suited to his game. That being said, I’d wouldn’t trade Despres for him. Simon has more upside and provided grit/size. Lovejoy is a better player now, although that will change soon.

    Overall, I am not impressed with this trade deadline. Seeing what Buffalo got for Chris Stewart makes me even more sour about the Daniel Winnik trade. The backend got softer, they lack a defenseman who is capable and willing to clear the crease. The forward group is still soft. Not entirely sure if this roster got any better. I am not impressed with the upper management. They are ignoring the fact that their team frequently gets manhandled (e.g. hits, scrums, fights). Teams like the Kings, Jets, Ducks, Bruins, Caps, Isles, and Blues understand this.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      March 4, 2015 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

      Very well written, Chris. You pretty much hit the nail on the head in terms of expressing the concerns and feelings of lots of Penguins fans.

      I think many of us wish we could hit the rewind button and somehow undo Monday’s deals.

  4. 55 on point's Gravatar 55 on point
    March 3, 2015 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    The Despres deal leaves me cold. I’m with Phil Krundle on this one, re: polishing the turd. To trade a first round pick, one with an upside still to be fully realized, for a guy you originally traded for a 5th-round pick (that’s only marginally better than a bag of pucks), is… Is like remarrying the woman you gladly would have gnawed off your arm to get away from. This is the prime example of doing the same thing year after year and expecting different results, all the while still waiting for that top six forward. We all know what the definition of that is.

    I’m glad they like Puliot. I’m happy they like Harrington, and whoever else they like. I’ll never understand why they didn’t like Despres. Perhaps instead of getting tired of waiting for him (Letang still sucked four years in, too, and just as bad as Despres ever sucked), they simply should have tired of disliking him.

    On the plus side, though, I’m now happy for Despres. Maybe he’ll get to skate for someone who actually likes him. I hope he becomes the player he is capable of becoming.

    But, meanwhile back at the ranch, the stage is now set for the yearly lament, after watching Sid and Malkin get pushed around, cross-checked, held, tripped and high-sticked for several weeks: “They bombed again in the playoffs because they lack grit and toughness.” And, if that early exit comes to pass, you know they will be the first words out of every media mouth in the city, immediately after they blame Fluery, that is.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      March 5, 2015 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      Hey 55 on Point. Great comments, as always.

      I don’t know about you. But I’ve kind of been in a state of shock since these last two trades. While I like Lovejoy, it’s hard to figure out what Pens management didn’t like about Despres. I can’t imagine Rutherford making this trade without conferring with everyone in the organization, at all levels. So it must have been an organizational decision to trade him.

      The only obvious flaw I saw in Simon’s game, aside from some confidence issues, was a tendency to make a glaring error once in a while. I’m not talking every other shift. More like every few games. My guess is the Penguins wanted someone they deemed more reliable (Lovejoy) for the postseason.

      A shame, because Despres’ upside seems to far outweigh any downside. I would rather have parted with Dumoulin, who isn’t physical and seems to cough the puck up when pressured, or Harrington, who looked pretty ordinary during his cameos. But Bob Murray’s no dummy. The Ducks’ GM knew who he wanted.

  5. March 3, 2015 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    The Penguins and Rutherford can polish the Despres trade turd all they want, it will still be a turd. You don’t have to be Nostradamus to see what is going to happen. The Ducks will give Despres a chance to play a serious role and will build his confidence. He will become one of the top defensemen in the NHL. Of this, I have no doubt.

    To trade a young 23 year old player that is showing tons of promise for a player that is 8 years older that the Penguins shipped out for the same reason is ridiculous.

    The Penguins organization needs to take a hard look at their development process and start to question why only one regular player on the roster (Marc-Andre Fleury) has played more than 10 games in the WBS farm system.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      March 4, 2015 at 9:36 am | Permalink

      I would like to have been a fly on the wall during the negotiation process. Not that it matters now, but I wonder if Rutherford initially offered Brian Dumoulin, or Scott Harrington, or even Beau Bennett, but was rebuffed by Ducks GM Bob Murray.

      It’s hard to imagine JR offering Despres right off the bat. Then again…you never know.

  6. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    March 3, 2015 at 5:54 am | Permalink

    Ian Cole should be a ” steal of a deal ” for JR and company.A real plus for our D corps now, and in the future.Much in the same way as Blake Comeau. He too has a good future with the Pens as a third line winger.
    However,the Lovejoy for Despres trade is one that makes very little sense to me. We traded away the only two players over 6ft- 4 inch,220 pounds, on our roster,and replaced them with 6 ft 1 inch ,200 pound,older players.
    We now have an old,small and soft team that had better” win it all this year”,because with all the draft picks gone, and the lack of skilled depth in our minor system,we are in real trouble moving forward.
    What we needed to get was another large, skilled winger for Geno who played with an edge to his game… and another FACE OFF specialist who could win the big draws when needed to.For a puck possession team, we do not win that many face offs against the elite teams in the league.In a seven game series,that weakness becomes a serious problem.
    Final point,… In all fairness to JR, he has done a good job with what he inherited from his predecessor.JR did not cause the problems the Penguins have. That honor belongs to Shero.
    When a star player like Jarome Iglina comes into a locker room,and says there are” egos” in the room, and goes on to Boston and had the season he did last year..This raises a few questions? Players from other teams wanted to come to Pittsburgh and play with our stars..Not anymore.
    Today,after this trade deadline, there are at least five teams in the East that can beat us in a Physical,seven game series.Two years ago, only Boston could do that.The Rangers, Islanders,Capitals,Boston,Montreal,Tampa Bay ?, all could give us trouble. I forgot Detroit. We had better win it all this year !

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      March 3, 2015 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      Hey Jim,

      I must confess to being a little numb. Honestly, I didn’t see either of these trades coming.

      I really don’t know much about Cole, other than what I’ve read and can glean from his stats. He appears to be a solid citizen with a bit of an upside. Of course, Bortuzzo brought size and toughness to the mix—at least until he got manhandled by Tootoo. For about a month afterward he shied away from scrums and pileups and only recently seemed to get his mojo back. Bortz was error-prone, too, which was probably why he was available.

      Like everyone else, I have more difficulty swallowing the Lovejoy for Despres deal. Not that I have a problem with Lovejoy—I think he’s a really good defenseman. Smart, mobile, good with the puck. But it seemed awfully early to give up on Despres. You just don’t find defensemen with his combination of skills and physical attributes very often. I do feel Simon regressed a bit in the New Year after an outstanding first half, but he’s only 23 and still developing. I guess that’s why he was traded—Rutherford wanted more of a sure thing.

      I’ve been harping all year long on the need for the Pens to add size and toughness. They went completely in the opposite direction. All in for puck possession. I’m not suggesting we’ll be nearly as good, but we’re constructed along the lines of the Detroit team that beat us in the Finals in ‘08. We can only hope to move the puck as crisply and quickly as those Red Wings did.

      By contrast, the Capitals got meaner and more competitive by adding Curtis Glencross and Tim Gleason. And, as you suggested, they’re not the only team that could give us fits in the playoffs. We don’t match up well with the Rangers or the Islanders…or at least haven’t up ‘til now.

      We’ll see how this all plays out.

      • Levi's Gravatar Levi
        March 3, 2015 at 10:57 am | Permalink

        That’s the same Tim Gleason that Malkin skated circles around in 2009, 5 years ago. Just to give a different take on the whole “size and toughness” approach.

        Alas, I agree with the confusion toward the Despres deal. However, a lot of people wrote this season off because… new coach – new GM – new system, going to need some time to figure the team out. Well, maybe not so much. Seems like GMJR is going for it all and if that’s the case, sending out Despres for a more experienced (say what you will, but especially playoff experienced) player seems like a legitimate move.

        • Levi's Gravatar Levi
          March 3, 2015 at 11:09 am | Permalink

          *And by 2009 I mean in the ECF.


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