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Penguins Morehouse: 'We don't need to just clean house right away' - 05-16-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins president David Morehouse (right) spoke with the media today concerning the firing of general manager Ray Shero and the fate of head coach Dan Bylsma. He is the transcript:

Opening statement:

I want to thank everyone for coming on short notice. We’re announcing today that Ray Shero has been relieved of his duties as general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The search for a new GM has already begun. Ray Shero is a good person who has run the Penguins with class and dignity and made many positive contributions to the Pittsburgh community. Ray led us to the Stanley Cup in 2009 and will always be part of the Penguins’ history and the Penguins’ family because of that achievement. We thank Ray for his work and wish him and his family nothing but the best. Our ownership group led by Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle felt that it was time to move the franchise in a new decision. Like our fans, they have been very disappointed with our early exits from the playoffs. They made this decision because we believe new leadership can help us get back on track and achieve our goal of winning the Stanley Cup. The new GM will be charged with overseeing and revamping our hockey operations with the goal of returning the team to championship form. Part of his initial duties will be to evaluate our entire hockey operations department, including the coaching staff and make decisions in the best interest of the franchise moving forward. Jason Botterill, who has been our assistant general manager, will serve as interim general manager during this time period and oversee our scouting staff as they prepare for the NHL draft. Jason will also be a candidate for the general manager position. Before I take your questions, I want to say a few things to our fans. We believe we have the greatest fans in hockey. Your support and passion for the Penguins is part of the very fabric of the organization. And your support at for Game 7 [against the Rangers] here both in at Consol Energy Center and outside for the big screen. We want to make sure you know we appreciate your support and we’re determined to do everything we can to make this a championship organization.

What was the timeline on making this decision:

“We’re constantly evaluating our organization both on the hockey side and the business side and we’re always looking for ways to improve. At the end of each season, we get together and we talk about ways we can improve. So this is a process that has been going on for a long time. And after the season was over, we had some meetings and the ownership group got together and made the decision.”

On retaining the coaching staff:

The decision is to have a new GM come in and do a complete evaluation to evaluate the hockey operations department including the coaching staff.

How did the 2013-14 season impact this decision:

It’s not just about this season. We’ve had five consecutive years of underachievement in the playoffs. However, this isn’t a complete overhaul. We’ve had success during the regular season. We have a good team. It’s a lot different than a team that needs a complete overhaul and a revamping. We’re a team that’s a good team. We have high expectations and we want to get better and the ownership group thought the change was necessary at this point.

What accountability do the players have for this:

We look at the players too. That’s going to be part of the evaluation process. We look at everything. There is not one answer to getting us to the next level. We think there’s a lot of different things that need to be looked at. What we’re starting with is the leader of the hockey operations department and from there we will start making other decisions based on what the new general manager, who will be part of the decision-making process, has input.

On Sidney Crosby’s performance:

We’re disappointed in our performance in losing in the second round of the playoffs. I’m not going to single out anyone’s performance or any one individual thing that happened. And it’s not just about this year’s performance. We want a team that can achieve higher with some changes. This is something that we’ve been talking about not just a result of one game or how players are playing or certain players are not playing. This is a decision that’s been in the works for a long time … since we won the [Stanley] Cup. We wanted to get back to the Stanley Cup finals and we haven’t. So we’re going to try to make some changes to make sure that we can at least give it a shot to make it happen.

Did Shero ever have moves vetoed by upper management:

There was never a case where moves that Ray wanted to make was vetoed by upper management. And never did upper management or ownership tell Ray what players to go after. And Ray would tell you the same thing. Ray had complete autonomy. We have very good ownership group here. We’re very lucky. He was given free reign.

Is there a specific time frame to do this, possibly before the draft:

“I have a specific … we have a specific time frame. We want to do it as quickly as possible. We want to the GM to come in and do the evaluation process as fast as we can. We’re not going to rush it because of the draft. We think that we have with Jason Botterill and with our scoring staff and [assistant to the general manager] Tom Fitzgerald, we have a group in place that can take care of us for the draft.”

Are any players untouchable in this organization:

“I’m not going to talk about what players or individual moves. We’re going to leave that to the new general manager when they come in and we’ll make those evaluations as we move forward. Right now, what we’re doing is we’re making a change at the top of the hockey department and we’re changing the general manager.”

Is there anyone in mind as a replacement:

“First of all, Ray Shero is a great guy. I said that in the remarks earlier. We all have relationships with him and he’s done some really good things here. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to get to the level we want to and ownership wants us to get to. … We don’t have anyone in particular in mind. We have a large group of people in mind and we think that we’ll get more people interested now that we’ve announced that we have an opening. We think we’ll have a lot of interest but we have no one in particular that we’re looking at other than Jason Botterill who is a candidate you all know.

Is there a new style of play within the league which needs to considered with this move:

I’m going to leave that up to Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle and the general manager but I don’t that think the rule changes necessarily have changed the way we want to play. I think we have to have a team that’s hard to play against. We want to have a fast team. We want to have a tough team. We want to have a team with character. That hasn’t changed.

Did any specific aspect of Shero's job - drafting, salary cap management, etc. - play a larger role in this decision than the others:

No. There wasn’t one specific thing. This is just over time, not getting to the level we need to get to.

To be clear, Dan Byslma has not been fired:

That’s correct. We have not fired Dan Bylsma.

Is it weird that he has not been fired:

"I don’t think there’s an element of weirdness. What we're trying to do is we're trying to do it systematically. What we wanted to do is first address the situation at the top and the leader of the organization is the general manager. .... It's not a complete rebuild. This is a team a team which has had a level of success. What we're trying to do is get from good to great. We're in the top quarter of the league in everything we do. A lot of teams would like to be where were are. However, we do have high expectations and we want to get to it. We don't need to just clean house right away. We think we can do this systematically and we can make adjustments and we can get where we need to get. "

Will you personally have any input on who the head coach is:

I think the new GM is going to have, along with ownership, they’re going to evaluate the situation and make a determination as it regards to Dan Bylsma and the coaching staff and as it relates to the person we hire, it has no relation whatsoever.

If another team is interest in Bylsma, is he allowed to entertain offers:

"Well he’s under contract and no other team is not allowed to entertain. But I have complete confidence that if Dan is indeed not the coach here, he’ll be picked up somewhere else. He’s a great coach."

(Photo: Darrell Sapp/Post-Gazette)

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