The Pittsburgh Penguins have matched the shock value of Jim Rutherford’s departure in naming his replacement.
As first reported by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Brian Burke will exit stage left from the the television studio he’s called home for the last few years to take the President of Hockey Operations job in Pittsburgh, and serve above Rutherford’s replacement at the general manager position, Ron Hextall.
The team soon confirmed the news.
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 9, 2021
As a former star netminder with the Philadelphia Flyers, Hextall’s hiring is juicy in itself, but his appointment is clearly secondary to news that Burke is traversing back into the executive world.
Burke — who was once signed by the Flyers in his brief playing career — was one of the loudest, most polarizing executives in a decades-long management career that included ups and downs in stops with the Hartford Whalers, Anaheim Ducks, Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs and Calgary Flames. He’s also had plenty of experience at the international level, working at many stages for USA Hockey.
It appeared that his executive career had come to an end in 2018 when he left the Flames to take on a broadcast role with Sportsnet.
In many ways, Burke’s hiring is the major shakeup hinted at following Rutherford’s departure. It was a decision that left the franchise to address its uncertain future perhaps ahead of the schedule. With Burke and Hextall in the fold it presents a window into their thinking.
Burke’s previous disinterest in rebuilding a roster from scratch would suggest that the Penguins are looking to re-tool around Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, not make preparations for life after the two superstar centres.
It’s a challenge that should, and obviously has, piqued Burke’s interest — for the fact that this is one of the most high-profile positions in hockey and a realistic foundation to improve his management legacy.
And it also serves as a reminder of one of Burke’s most famous quotes from his executive career, when he was asked about Pittsburgh and its success in the Crosby era.
Brian Burke on the Penguins in 2012. He was right! pic.twitter.com/RyChCy1dJL
— Sean Gentille (@seangentille) February 9, 2021
Nine years later, the opportunity became available to Burke. And he took it.
This should be interesting.
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