The GM of the Penguins pulled off another Stanley Cup championship for the Pens franchise and his personal resume, yet I wonder if Jim Rutherford is lucky or good.
In his 20 years as GM of the Hartford/Carolina franchise he did win a Stanely Cup right in the middle of his tenure. That 2005-06 Hurricanes team had young talent at center and in goal with Eric Staal and Cam Ward. Then Rutherford made many excellent moves in the 2005-06 season to add veterans, win their division, and build a playoff caliber squad. That year Jimmy made every move I hoped the Buffalo Sabres would make and Carolina edged Buffalo in the Conference Finals. However, in the decade before and the decade after, his results are not very inspiring – finishing with more than 40 wins only 3 times. They did make the Stanley Cup Final one other year in 2001-02, but that was a lucky result and they bowed out meekly to Detroit in 5 games.
Now he has the Stanley Cup in his trophy case again this year with the Pens. There are a number of moves that worked out well, including replacing his coach mid-season. However, he picked the previous coach and that was clearly a mistake. So we will wait and see if the performance we saw once Mike Sullivan took over is the permanent level and Rutherford can get the Jimmy hat trick or was it just a big run for 6 months that will fall by the wayside.
Of course it is easy to say, for many of the franchises in the league, that one Stanley Cup would erase many years of falling short. When looking at sustained excellence though, it is clear that his teams have no pattern of repeating high performance levels.
Is Jim Rutherford a Hockey Hall of Famer who has achieved what the vast majority of GM’s have not?
Or is he very fortunate to have had two seasons in which every move turned to gold and won him the silver chalice?
I still can’t figure it out, but I would take one Buffalo Sabres Stanley Cup and live off that high for quite some time.