Penguins assistant general manager Tom Fitzgerald appeared on TSN 1050 in Toronto today. He discussed the state of the franchise after a pretty busy offseason.
Here is a partial transcript.
On the team's ability to draft and develop prospects:
There is a mandate for us. It's to compete for the Stanley Cup year in and year out. That's our culture. That trickles down to all of our prospects. When we draft them, we draft them for a reason, because of the criteria that are given to our scouts of what we want in players. With that being said, we are a cap team. You do need young talent to come up. You need short money to be inserted into your lineup. It's a must. Developing, it doesn't change for us. The grassroots for our organization is the draft and developing these kids and having them understand what it's like being a Pittsburgh Penguin. And fight for spots. We tell our kids, we want you to come into camp believing you can fight. If you can take Craig Adams' job, then we'll give it to you.
On Jim Rutherford taking over as general manager:
Well, Jim Rutherford is the general manager now for a reason. We fell short on our expecations that we set out for every year. Jim has come in and put his stamp on our team. He's put his stamp on our group. At the end of the day, he knows we have good players. Stars have to align. You have to stay healthy. You have to get good goaltending, good team defense and you have to have offense at certain times. You can't go dry in the playoffs. You can't do that and think you're going to have success. Jim has come in and has just allowed everybody to do their job. But I'm guessing on Thursday when we have our opening meeting, his message would be that we want to win.
On trading James Neal this offseason:
When you give up a 40-goal scorer or come to a decision that we need to build depth and moving a high-contract guy, you add a couple of pieces that could help us with our depth. That was one of things we felt we had to address from our previous playoff performances was our depth just wasn't there. We get straddled with a couple of injuries and we didn't have the guys to come up and fill. Our guys who did come up played well but we put too much expecation on them to be the saving grace of our franchise. James Neal is a character kid. Got along well in the room. We had to shed some money. He's a valuable piece. He'll be real tough to replace. Forty goals. But we like to think we can do in in groups and manufacture goals in different ways.
On the team's used of advanced statistics:
We use it as a tool for sure. We're all hockey guys. Our eyes aren't painted on. We watch players play. But then there's another side of it that can give you value of what that player has done. What that player has made. Why is he a player that we should go after because of shot attempts, gets to scoring areas... Whatever those analytics say, we use. But our eye also tells us.... There are other avenues the analytics that I've come to know this past summer that you could use it for salaries. Is a guy overvalued, undervalued. Things like that. We use it as a tool. At the end of the day, you still need to know players by watching players.
Again on advanced statistics:
That's, quite honestly, what Jim Rutherford brought to our organization with [vice president of hockey operations] Jason Karmanos. These guys want to do something different. If you ignore it, then shame on you. We can use it. I'm learning from it. I'm not going to sit here and tell you guys I have all the answers or think I know all the answers. I have no idea. I'm still learning all that stuff. But I think the most important thing is we're all willing to learn because if it can benefit on the ice, we're all going to benefit from it.
Was the decision to allow former defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik motivated by the team's depth at the position or the salary cap:
I would say the latter first. We have some good young defensemen in our organization and they need a chance to play. And financially, you knew what those two guys were going to get if they hit the open market. So [we were] out of it. But we felt very strong, and still do, that we have good young prospects that can come up push. Like I said, being a cap team, you need the lesser salaries. You need these kids to come up and contribute. The one thing they do bring is a lot of energy. A lot of freshness. A lot of newness. And that trickles through a locker room. That's what these guys are going to get an opportunity for.
On Marc-Andre Fleury:
We value him as an elite goaltender in the National Hockey League. He had a great year last year. He had a disappointing 2012 playoffs. But he wanted to improve. He did some things back home. He had a great year. And you know what? He had a real good playoffs for us. He really did. He played strong in the playoffs. We trust him. I'll just leave it at that. He's a [darn] good goalie. We consider him an elite goalie in this league.
On new head coach Mike Johnston:
Mike might be a rookie head coach in this league but he's been in this league for a while. He got a chance to run his own organization [with the WHL's Portland Winterhawks]. See the business side of it making decisions, managing, coaching. We feel very fortunate that Mike was available or was interested in our job opening. Mike's a puck possession guy. He's going to let guys carry the puck through the neutral zone. I think there's some similiar attributes Mike has as a coach compared to Dan [Bylsma]. He wants our [defensemen] very active. I think our guys will enjoy how Mike wants to play. Does it translate from junior to the NHL? Coaching's coacing. And if you can coach junior kids a certain way then you should be able to coach NHL kids the same way.