PITTSBURGH - Not only did the Pittsburgh Penguins hire a new general manager, it looks like they set up a succession plan.
Jim Rutherford, a Penguins' goalie in the days of Bugsy Watson and Eddie Shack, got the job just after his long reign as Carolina's GM ended. Rutherford's name didn't even surface until just a few days before the announcement was made.
It looks like Rutherford is here to hire a coach and to train deputy Jason Botterill to take over the GM job, probably sooner rather than later. Apprenticing under Rutherford will give Botterill a chance to get a perspective other than Ray Shero's on running an organization.
The Penguins think highly of Botterill and don't want to lose him. This plan gives him time to learn the job more thoroughly. It wouldn't be a big surprise to see the 65-year-old Rutherford ease into an advisory job after a season or two, allowing Botterill to take over.
The Penguins threw such a blanket over the process that Rutherford's hiring came as something of a surprise. Everyone got sidetracked over the Pierre Maguire debate. But as things are structured, it makes sense. Hire a guy who is looking to close a long career on a positive note.
Rutherford still has the ability and energy to take on the challenge for the short term, and he gets to leave a lasting imprint on the organization by mentoring his successor.
It would be nice if Penguins ownership could come out of the bunker once in a while and explain its thought process.
David Morehouse serves as the spokesman, but the money men obviously have final authority. Mario Lemieux seems to enjoy being a recluse and making all public appearances strictly on his terms.
But a lot of customers have money and emotion invested in the Penguins and deserve at least a perfunctory level of transparency from the organization.
From the archives
If you want a giggle, Google Rutherford's old hockey cards. He had long rock-star hair and a droopy mustache, quite a contrast from his current grandpa look.
So long, Dan Bylsma. It was always convoluted.
School is still in
The Pittsburgh Pirates gave Starling Marte a six-year, $31 million contract extension a few months ago. Their return so far has been a lingering headache.
Marte has been sitting on the bench lately, thinking about the talk Clint Hurdle had with him during the team's California trip.
According to Hurdle, he let Marte know that his sometimes disinterested approach isn't acceptable. Hurdle revealed this on his pre-game radio show. His decision to make their conversation public probably speaks to the frustration Hurdle feels about Marte's play this year.
Except for a surge when he was dropped to a lower spot in the order, Marte has been one of the Pirates' biggest disappointments.
If things don't get better, you wonder if there might be a shock treatment - a minor league demotion when Gregory Polanco is called up.
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org