Pens GM's

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Pens GM's

Postby longtimefan on Fri Jan 04, 2019 12:53 pm

I've wanted to do something like this for a long time. The problem is it can be a mammoth project, or too short to do justice. Obviously, a lot of it is only my opinion, and from a large volume of memory. I was 8 when I started to follow the Pens in 1968. so I have at least a bit of first hand knowledge about each of the teams GM's. Some of it may be interesting to younger fans, and older fans will be able to supply their own memories.


I'll periodically try to give explanations about why I rate each GM where I do. They've had 10. My criteria is who was most important to the organization, both on and off the ice. I'm sure there will be some disagreement. :)


1) Craig Patrick- For a lot of reasons. Credibility being #1. Not being afraid to bring on Bob Johnson and Scottie Bowman, people very capable of taking his job.

2) Jim Rutherford- The old GM who was greeted with great skepticism, who took an underachieving team wasting what should be a golden era with two generational talents. He's now a HOF shoo in with 2 Cups in his first four seasons. He's an experienced hand who doesn't mind new ways. Experience. Cam Ward getting hurt in 2006-07 and not having a backup who could get them to the playoffs. Ward had won the Cup, so they rid themselves of their #1, Martin Gerber. Conventional wisdom was that MAF should be traded after the 2016 Cup. JR always hedged. Thank God he did!

3) Eddie Johnston- The guy who had the guts to tear it down. After many years of squeezing into the playoffs, or just missing, EJ made no bones about the team not having any talent. He was hired as coach, but promoted to GM when Bastein died in a car crash. There had been a public call for EJ to take over anyway. He was vocal, and tore the team down to allow him to draft Mario. It led to the lottery. Easily his #1 accomplishment was his absolute refusal to consider any deal involving Mario's rights. He held fast. Built around Lemieux. Then got fired by an impatient, brash owner.

4) Jack Button- He's the hardest to place, and the one who most likely is to illicit a "who" from most of you. Some old timers though should have fond memories of Button behind his tinted glasses. He wasn't the GM for a full 18 months. His record during that time was remarkable, taking a completely moribund franchise to on the cusp of possible contention. Then the team went bankrupt. Button was left to be the team's face throughout, until a new owner was found. New ownership quickly fired Button. The record really was incredible for a very short run. If you want to check out the team he assembled, look at the 1974-75 Pens.

5) Ray Shero- I personally was disappointed overall with Shero's tenure. He was given two generational players. He did win a Cup. That's why I have him here. Probably the #1 accomplishment was having the guts to bring in Hossa. It didn't win a Cup, and Hossa spurned their offer after the season, but it thrust the Pens into a legitimate contenders role ever since. I wasn't impressed with his drafting. Even taking Staal has to be questioned, with Toews, Backstrom, and Kessel all available. His pick of Pouliot was a huge miss. However, he did lead them to a Cup. That's the ultimate goal.

6) Jack Riley- He was first. He also served two stints. He put the team together. To the point he wouldn't allow their colors to be black and white for fear they'd look like a bunch of nuns! He also lamented the choice of "baby blue" as a primary color. He also did colr on TV in the '70's, and most recently was a video replay judge at CEC before he passed away. He truly remained a Penguin for life.

7) Baz Bastein- Somehow he managed to keep them competitive through a very bleak time. The team was saved from bankruptcy, but not without a huge cost. I remeber the "Jim Hamilton" farm system. He was the only player not on the big league roster under contract. The main reason he was hired was his folk hero status from his days a both a player and coach for the Hornets. He had a great relationship with the press. Which mattered at a time the Steelers and Pirates were dominant in their sports. He kept them relavent because the writers kept them relavent. Eventually, his biggest contribution by hiring EJ in a bit of a coup. And brought a real hockey guy into the organization.

8) Red Kelly- Kind of back their, and my memories were of him taking the 1970 team to the semi finals. It led to his promotion. Unfortunately, the death of Briere sent the whole thing spiraling for years. He never was a GM again. His name certainly did give the team some early credibilty. And he almost got us to the Finals. But that was as a coach. Not much as a GM.

9) Wren Blair- He got the job by being part of a group that bought the team. They fired Button. Then dissolved the farm system. Still, the team was decent on the ice. Until he started trading guys in their mid 20s' for guys in their mid thirties. He had huge handicaps, but he precipitated the downward spiral. He only rans ahead of Esposito because he didn't have a Mario handed to him.

10) Tony Esposito- Young Eddie Debartolo's choice to replace EJ. His dad had just turned over the reigns. The other influential guy in the organization was Paul Martha, who pushed for Patrck. Unlike PAtrick, Espo was afraid to bring in people who could replace him. Mike Keenan was the hottest coach around, a free agent, and campaigned for the Pens job. He hired Gene Ubriaco instead. He alienated Lemieux, with contentious contract negotiations until Eddie Sr took over. He had Lemieux and Coffey handed to him. He was horrible.

So that's my list. IF there seems some interest, I'll expound a bit over time. Just something a little different and fun to debate. 50 years is a lot of history.
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Re: Pens GM's

Postby LimerickPensFan on Fri Jan 04, 2019 2:14 pm

Interesting stuff. Also interesting that you are the same age as I am (born in March 1960). From one old fart to another. :fist:
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Re: Pens GM's

Postby brwi on Fri Jan 04, 2019 2:16 pm

longtimefan wrote:3) Eddie Johnston- The guy who had the guts to tear it down. After many years of squeezing into the playoffs, or just missing, EJ made no bones about the team not having any talent. He was hired as coach, but promoted to GM when Bastein died in a car crash. There had been a public call for EJ to take over anyway. He was vocal, and tore the team down to allow him to draft Mario. It led to the lottery. Easily his #1 accomplishment was his absolute refusal to consider any deal involving Mario's rights. He held fast. Built around Lemieux. Then got fired by an impatient, brash owner.

Grandpa Munster then also greatly helped the Pens with the Francis/Ulf trade when he was in Hartford. Carolina fans fondly remember him because his incompetence destroyed the Whalers and had a lot to do with them being relocated.

His shining achievement of helping the Pens deliberately tank in in order to draft Mario is something anyone could have done. Not budging on trading Mario's rights when it was not all that certain that Mario would actually play for the Pens did take some guts at least.

Better than Esposito, but barely. More negative marks for also being a pretty bad HC. Great guy and all, but a pretty bad GM.
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Re: Pens GM's

Postby Jim on Fri Jan 04, 2019 2:21 pm

brwi wrote:
longtimefan wrote:3) Eddie Johnston- The guy who had the guts to tear it down. After many years of squeezing into the playoffs, or just missing, EJ made no bones about the team not having any talent. He was hired as coach, but promoted to GM when Bastein died in a car crash. There had been a public call for EJ to take over anyway. He was vocal, and tore the team down to allow him to draft Mario. It led to the lottery. Easily his #1 accomplishment was his absolute refusal to consider any deal involving Mario's rights. He held fast. Built around Lemieux. Then got fired by an impatient, brash owner.

Grandpa Munster then also greatly helped the Pens with the Francis/Ulf trade when he was in Hartford. Carolina fans fondly remember him because his incompetence destroyed the Whalers and had a lot to do with them being relocated.

His shining achievement of helping the Pens deliberately tank in in order to draft Mario is something anyone could have done. Not budging on trading Mario's rights when it was not all that certain that Mario would actually play for the Pens did take some guts at least.

Better than Esposito, but barely. More negative marks for also being a pretty bad HC. Great guy and all, but a pretty bad GM.


From what I recall, Johnston was told to trade Francis or he (Johnston) would be fired.
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Re: Pens GM's

Postby Henry Hank on Fri Jan 04, 2019 2:23 pm

I think Shero deserves more credit. He obviously was given a pretty nice foundation, but he was able to shape that into a championship team which wasn't a given. The team stagnated for a while afterwards - though still as a perennial contender. It gets overlooked that he also left Rutherford a good foundation, including having oversaw the drafting of guys like Murray, Guentzel, and Rust who have played very important roles in the recent championship teams. His fatal flaw was sticking with Bylsma too long.
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Re: Pens GM's

Postby longtimefan on Fri Jan 04, 2019 2:55 pm

Jim wrote:
brwi wrote:
longtimefan wrote:3) Eddie Johnston- The guy who had the guts to tear it down. After many years of squeezing into the playoffs, or just missing, EJ made no bones about the team not having any talent. He was hired as coach, but promoted to GM when Bastein died in a car crash. There had been a public call for EJ to take over anyway. He was vocal, and tore the team down to allow him to draft Mario. It led to the lottery. Easily his #1 accomplishment was his absolute refusal to consider any deal involving Mario's rights. He held fast. Built around Lemieux. Then got fired by an impatient, brash owner.

Grandpa Munster then also greatly helped the Pens with the Francis/Ulf trade when he was in Hartford. Carolina fans fondly remember him because his incompetence destroyed the Whalers and had a lot to do with them being relocated.

His shining achievement of helping the Pens deliberately tank in in order to draft Mario is something anyone could have done. Not budging on trading Mario's rights when it was not all that certain that Mario would actually play for the Pens did take some guts at least.

Better than Esposito, but barely. More negative marks for also being a pretty bad HC. Great guy and all, but a pretty bad GM.


From what I recall, Johnston was told to trade Francis or he (Johnston) would be fired.


He was. He also lamented the fact that Bastein's final trade swapped our first with Minnesota's. He was on record that he would have drafted Lafontaine over Lawton who went first. GM's have a shdlf life, and some good ones don't get to see things through. He knew it would take years. Remember they had a one player farm system not long before his arrival as coach. For years, the Pens would try to satisfy the fans by squeezing into the playoffs. EJ went the other way, and made it clear. The Francis trade was ordered by the Hartford front office over a contract dispute. If you recall, Francis held out to start the next season. At the time, many pundits were lauding EJ getting a 100 point center and a very highly thought of young D.


As far as here, he did a great deal more than bringing in Mario. He continued building with high picks, and using the players obtained to upgrade his roster. His biggest add was obviously Coffey, which was a milestone in the team's history. Announcing they were prepared to compete. He did a nice job of building the team up, but DeBartolo was getting frustrated that the team hadn't made the playoffs. Even though some of it was circumstantial, because they had the points, but in the wrong division. So he turned everything over to Jr.

The Pens seemed to be a goaltender away. Steve Guennette had a couple of good games, and people were leary of EJ trading Joseph and Simpson to obtain Coffey. They said he was mortgaging the future. At the deadline, he agreed to a deal with the Oilers. Our first and Guenette for holdout goaltender Andy Moog. Glen Sather blasted JR in the paper. The Oilers had a jersey with Guennete's name already on it. Andy Moog would end up the losing goaltender when the Pens defeated the Bruins to reach the finals in '91 and '92 both. He was a pretty good goaltender.After the near miss, Jr fired EJ. He had taken them to the cusp, and had a pretty seet goaltender lined up. Eventually, the saved pick became Darrin Shannon, wwho was used along with Doug Bodger to bring in Barrasso. Who knows what would have happened, but EJ had a top notch goalie acquired. Jr nixed it.


In terms of his coaching, he was nothing but a figurehead when he replaced Bowman. But he was an entertaining and manipulative coach of a team bereft with talent. He lost in the first round his first two seasons. To the #2 seed Blues in 2OT, then to the Isles in the middle of their dynasty. He also revolutuionized the PP in the early '80's when the Pens were setting records. All he really did was institute a lot of picks. He worked with what he had, but I agree his coaching record is wanting. In terms of his importance to the franchise, you may be right that anybody could have destroyed the team. But others had that chance. Why didn't they? Partly because they feared they wouldn't be given an opprtunity to see things through. And they would have been right.
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Re: Pens GM's

Postby longtimefan on Fri Jan 04, 2019 3:12 pm

Henry Hank wrote:I think Shero deserves more credit. He obviously was given a pretty nice foundation, but he was able to shape that into a championship team which wasn't a given. The team stagnated for a while afterwards - though still as a perennial contender. It gets overlooked that he also left Rutherford a good foundation, including having oversaw the drafting of guys like Murray, Guentzel, and Rust who have played very important roles in the recent championship teams. His fatal flaw was sticking with Bylsma too long.


I agree with your points, but it should also be pointed out that his Cup team was littered with Craig Patrick draft picks. It's not easy to win, no matter the foundation. He was able to find some gems in the draft, no doubt. But I was disappointed with his work in the early rounds. He made some great deals. Hal Gill and Bill Guerin being big parts to the team.

He also swung and missed a bunch though. Which happens to everybody. He changed his focus at some point though. He went from favoring a physically punishing team, to a much softer team. Which didn't fit his original persona. At the beginning, he went after guys like Ruutu, Cooke, Larauque, Roberts, Godard. The change came when he brought Bylsma in.

Perhaps his greatest fault in my eyes was not moving on from Bylsma. He won a Cup, then hitched his future to a coach with unprecedented regular season success. Whose teams would fail epically season after season in the playoffs. Although I was thrilled at the time, I am left wondering what 2013 would have been like if he hadn't reshaped a roster that was dominating the lead. He tried to add quick grit with Iginla, Morrow, and Murray. In that case, they just got a lot slower.

Perhaps I'm being a bit rough on him, but I thought he could have done better with the hand he was dealt. He did put together a Stanley Cup roster. I'm not sure he should have fallen on his shield for Bylsma.

He also blew the PR game big time when he told Jagr he'd have to wait to see what Tyler Kennedy was going to get before he could offer Jags a contract. That's on a different level, but it was agitating.
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Re: Pens GM's

Postby longtimefan on Fri Jan 04, 2019 3:13 pm

LimerickPensFan wrote:Interesting stuff. Also interesting that you are the same age as I am (born in March 1960). From one old fart to another. :fist:


December of '59 for me. It makes this discussion a little rough with so many younger fans.
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Re: Pens GM's

Postby Henry Hank on Fri Jan 04, 2019 3:53 pm

I agree with your points, but it should also be pointed out that his Cup team was littered with Craig Patrick draft picks.


The same argument goes against Rutherford, though. His Cup teams had as many Patrick/Shero players as they did his own. Shero was responsible for more players on the 2009 team than Rutherford was on at least the 2016 team.

I don't disagree that Shero's tenure was tainted by his later years. I think overall it was a somewhat disappointing period because they should have won more than one Cup. But, I have a hard time saying he did a bad job when he shaped one team into a champion, kept them perennially near the top of the league the rest of the time there, and left many pieces that Rutherford was able to benefit from. Patrick's teams did not have the same staying power, though there were financial barriers that the guys after him didn't have to deal with.

At the end of the day, I find it hard to make a list where the top three aren't Patrick, Rutherford, and Shero.
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Re: Pens GM's

Postby longtimefan on Fri Jan 04, 2019 4:54 pm

Henry Hank wrote:
I agree with your points, but it should also be pointed out that his Cup team was littered with Craig Patrick draft picks.


The same argument goes against Rutherford, though. His Cup teams had as many Patrick/Shero players as they did his own. Shero was responsible for more players on the 2009 team than Rutherford was on at least the 2016 team.

I don't disagree that Shero's tenure was tainted by his later years. I think overall it was a somewhat disappointing period because they should have won more than one Cup. But, I have a hard time saying he did a bad job when he shaped one team into a champion, kept them perennially near the top of the league the rest of the time there, and left many pieces that Rutherford was able to benefit from. Patrick's teams did not have the same staying power, though there were financial barriers that the guys after him didn't have to deal with.

At the end of the day, I find it hard to make a list where the top three aren't Patrick, Rutherford, and Shero.


I respect your opinion. All the Cup winning GM's relied on players from a previous era. Patrick with Johnston's, Shero with Patricks, and Rutherford from both of his predecessors. The difference in my mind is that Shero took over a team with great young talent, and did mold them into a Cup team. JR took a team in a lot of disarray, and aging stars, and managed to right the ship quickly. It's all a matter of opinion and perspective. I struggled with where to place Shero. Logic says in the top three because of the Cups. I just feel EJ's contributions are largely overlooked, and I know that Jack Button's story is seldom told. My opinions are not right or wrong. They're just mine. I do respect other well thought out points of view.
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Re: Pens GM's

Postby penny lane on Fri Jan 04, 2019 6:12 pm

I give Gm Shero credit and Thanks for not trading Fleury after, well a few play off disappointments. I am sure he felt the pressure to do so. He needed to intervene when blysma used Iginla wrong.
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Re: Pens GM's

Postby MayorofD6 on Fri Jan 04, 2019 6:17 pm

Great to hear input from long time fans like me.

Trying to remember which GM made the great trade for Barrasso. This move gave the Pens a solid goaltender for a decade and two Cups. Barrasso was the missing link. I thought it was Esposito but not sure.

The Moog trade to the Pens story is absolutely true. So close to having a great goalie plus he was still very young when the trade was proposed.
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Re: Pens GM's

Postby MayorofD6 on Fri Jan 04, 2019 6:22 pm

Great to hear input from long time fans like me.

Trying to remember which GM made the great trade for Barrasso. This move gave the Pens a solid goaltender for a decade and two Cups. Barrasso was the missing link. I thought it was Esposito but not sure.

The Moog trade to the Pens story is absolutely true. So close to having a great goalie plus he was still very young when the trade was proposed.
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Re: Pens GM's

Postby FLPensFan on Fri Jan 04, 2019 7:09 pm

Jim wrote:
brwi wrote:
longtimefan wrote:3) Eddie Johnston- The guy who had the guts to tear it down. After many years of squeezing into the playoffs, or just missing, EJ made no bones about the team not having any talent. He was hired as coach, but promoted to GM when Bastein died in a car crash. There had been a public call for EJ to take over anyway. He was vocal, and tore the team down to allow him to draft Mario. It led to the lottery. Easily his #1 accomplishment was his absolute refusal to consider any deal involving Mario's rights. He held fast. Built around Lemieux. Then got fired by an impatient, brash owner.

Grandpa Munster then also greatly helped the Pens with the Francis/Ulf trade when he was in Hartford. Carolina fans fondly remember him because his incompetence destroyed the Whalers and had a lot to do with them being relocated.

His shining achievement of helping the Pens deliberately tank in in order to draft Mario is something anyone could have done. Not budging on trading Mario's rights when it was not all that certain that Mario would actually play for the Pens did take some guts at least.

Better than Esposito, but barely. More negative marks for also being a pretty bad HC. Great guy and all, but a pretty bad GM.


From what I recall, Johnston was told to trade Francis or he (Johnston) would be fired.

Johnston was definitely told to trade Francis at all costs. The owner wasn't happy with contract negotiations, and started going public and bashing Francis. It got really bad, and the owner finally said trade Francis or you won't have a job here anymore.
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Re: Pens GM's

Postby brwi on Fri Jan 04, 2019 7:19 pm

Jim wrote:
brwi wrote:
longtimefan wrote:3) Eddie Johnston- The guy who had the guts to tear it down. After many years of squeezing into the playoffs, or just missing, EJ made no bones about the team not having any talent. He was hired as coach, but promoted to GM when Bastein died in a car crash. There had been a public call for EJ to take over anyway. He was vocal, and tore the team down to allow him to draft Mario. It led to the lottery. Easily his #1 accomplishment was his absolute refusal to consider any deal involving Mario's rights. He held fast. Built around Lemieux. Then got fired by an impatient, brash owner.

Grandpa Munster then also greatly helped the Pens with the Francis/Ulf trade when he was in Hartford. Carolina fans fondly remember him because his incompetence destroyed the Whalers and had a lot to do with them being relocated.

His shining achievement of helping the Pens deliberately tank in in order to draft Mario is something anyone could have done. Not budging on trading Mario's rights when it was not all that certain that Mario would actually play for the Pens did take some guts at least.

Better than Esposito, but barely. More negative marks for also being a pretty bad HC. Great guy and all, but a pretty bad GM.


From what I recall, Johnston was told to trade Francis or he (Johnston) would be fired.


This is true. Francis and HC Ley were at odds and one had to go. Or EJ would. Those were the days :D
Dallas mgt sounds like they may be heading in the same direction with Benn or Seguin.
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Re: Pens GM's

Postby LimerickPensFan on Sat Jan 05, 2019 1:54 am

brwi wrote:
Jim wrote:
brwi wrote:
longtimefan wrote:3) Eddie Johnston- The guy who had the guts to tear it down. After many years of squeezing into the playoffs, or just missing, EJ made no bones about the team not having any talent. He was hired as coach, but promoted to GM when Bastein died in a car crash. There had been a public call for EJ to take over anyway. He was vocal, and tore the team down to allow him to draft Mario. It led to the lottery. Easily his #1 accomplishment was his absolute refusal to consider any deal involving Mario's rights. He held fast. Built around Lemieux. Then got fired by an impatient, brash owner.

Grandpa Munster then also greatly helped the Pens with the Francis/Ulf trade when he was in Hartford. Carolina fans fondly remember him because his incompetence destroyed the Whalers and had a lot to do with them being relocated.

His shining achievement of helping the Pens deliberately tank in in order to draft Mario is something anyone could have done. Not budging on trading Mario's rights when it was not all that certain that Mario would actually play for the Pens did take some guts at least.

Better than Esposito, but barely. More negative marks for also being a pretty bad HC. Great guy and all, but a pretty bad GM.


From what I recall, Johnston was told to trade Francis or he (Johnston) would be fired.


This is true. Francis and HC Ley were at odds and one had to go. Or EJ would. Those were the days :D
Dallas mgt sounds like they may be heading in the same direction with Benn or Seguin.

Segin sure seems intent on proving the guy right by suddenly improving his performance after he was called out.
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Re: Pens GM's

Postby LimerickPensFan on Sat Jan 05, 2019 1:56 am

penny lane wrote:I give Gm Shero credit and Thanks for not trading Fleury after, well a few play off disappointments. I am sure he felt the pressure to do so. He needed to intervene when blysma used Iginla wrong.

I guess my problem with the teams under Shero was the total meltdown once they hit the playoffs. I honestly think he made too many changes at the trade deadline. He had a team playing well and he decided he needed to change it. That's one of the reasons I get so impatient on this board with all of the suggested changes. We have a good team. Why change it?
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Re: Pens GM's

Postby ziggo on Sat Jan 05, 2019 2:23 am

I haven't seen a mention yet the youngest player to score 50 goals and 100 points at the time. The death of Michel Briere seemed to cast a pall upon the franchise until they drafted with the 8th pick in 1974, Lucky Pierre LaRouche. The top three lines had 20 or more goals with 4 guys having 30 or more. Of course they couldn't prevent many goals either with 2nd year goalie Gary Inness who had replaced a traded guy named Jim Rutherford. They didn't get pushed around much though with Colin Campball leading the way with 172 PIM and Battleship Kelly and Bob Paradise each topping 100 PIM. Management felt the need to improve upon that acquiring Dave '' the Hammer " Schultz the next year :D.

Of course we all know the sad ending in the playoffs as the upstart Islanders came back from an 0-3 deficit to win 4 in a row.
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Re: Pens GM's

Postby Humperdink on Sat Jan 05, 2019 7:09 am

Great post. Been following the Pens for quite awhile as you have longtimefan as I am three score + 6 years old. My favorite pickup in all those listed above was Ulf. I loved Ulf and what he brought to the team.
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Re: Pens GM's

Postby longtimefan on Sat Jan 05, 2019 10:46 am

ziggo wrote:I haven't seen a mention yet the youngest player to score 50 goals and 100 points at the time. The death of Michel Briere seemed to cast a pall upon the franchise until they drafted with the 8th pick in 1974, Lucky Pierre LaRouche. The top three lines had 20 or more goals with 4 guys having 30 or more. Of course they couldn't prevent many goals either with 2nd year goalie Gary Inness who had replaced a traded guy named Jim Rutherford. They didn't get pushed around much though with Colin Campball leading the way with 172 PIM and Battleship Kelly and Bob Paradise each topping 100 PIM. Management felt the need to improve upon that acquiring Dave '' the Hammer " Schultz the next year :D.

Of course we all know the sad ending in the playoffs as the upstart Islanders came back from an 0-3 deficit to win 4 in a row.


That was Jack Button's only full seasn as Pens GM. My ranking of him 4th ahead of Shero should tell you something about my feelings for that team. It's when I went from being a hockey fan to a hockey fanatic. He replaced Riley in January of 1974, and went to work on the roster immediately. It was the age of the Broad Street Bullies, and Button reacted accordingly. After acquiring Ron Stackhouse for Jimmy Rutherford (yeah, that JR) :D, he made the deal with the Blues to bring in Battleship Kelly and Steve Durbano. The team went into the Spectrum and beat the Flyers shortly before the 1st of their 2 cups. There's also a famous photo after the Pens beat the Blues in the first game at home after the deals, with Kelly and Durbano clasping hands as they took a curtain call as co #1 stars. The Pens played well down the stretch, although they missed the playoffs.

That summer, Button drafted Larouche, and continued resphaping the roster. They had the 9 20 goal scorers, and Stackhouse had 15 from the blueline. They had the 3rd best offense in hockey. They also gave up a lot of goals, with Inness and Michele Plasse splitting time in the regular season. They were one of the greatest home teams in franchise history, going 20-5-10. They sucked on the road, accumulating only 29 points. It's worth noting the 89 points was the team record until the President Trophy season. The first two Cup teams were 88 and 87 point teams.

Losing to the Isles pushed them into bankruptcy. Which was a total shock. No one from ownership ever made an appearance to speak about it publicly. Jack Button took the mantel as spokesperson for the team. Then, the new group installed Wren Blair as the GM, and fired Button. He was GM for only 117 games, and produced a winning percentage of .543. Only Shero and Rutherford are higher. There are several articles about that '74-'75 season online. It made a huge impact on the team's history.

Dave Schultz actually was brought in '77-'78 to sell tickets for a moribund franchise. Kelly left the previous summer as a free agent, the team was spiraling, and the Steelers and Pirates were making it difficult to carve out a niche. But it all goes back to the BK, which stopped Button's progress in its tracks. I always have wondered what he could have done if he had had the chance to build on that team. However, he was not perfect. He only ever had two 1st rounders, using one on Larouche. Maybe he picked Gordie Laxton in the midst of the bankruptcy out of spite. :D It was his last player personnel move.
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Re: Pens GM's

Postby longtimefan on Sat Jan 05, 2019 10:59 am

MayorofD6 wrote:Great to hear input from long time fans like me.

Trying to remember which GM made the great trade for Barrasso. This move gave the Pens a solid goaltender for a decade and two Cups. Barrasso was the missing link. I thought it was Esposito but not sure.

The Moog trade to the Pens story is absolutely true. So close to having a great goalie plus he was still very young when the trade was proposed.



That would have been Esposito, giving up Shannon and Bodger. Barroasso had fallen out of favor for attitude problems. (stunning, huh) The Pens needed that piece. EJ had secured it with the Moog deal, but Jr got involved for about a year and a half. That's how long Espo got. He made bad deals for guys like Andrew McBain and Jim Kyte. He drafted Jamie Heward as a defenseman, even though he was listed as a forward, without ever seeing him play. Including on tape. He got into a public spat with Mario over his contract. He shunned Keenan for his home town buddy Ubriaco. The Barrasso deal is his best accomplishment, but his tenure was tumultuous at best. I remember the standing ovation Craig Patrick got the night he replaced both. The fans universally despised Espo. Can you tell from my tone that I still do. :)
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Re: Pens GM's

Postby brwi on Sat Jan 05, 2019 11:38 am

longtimefan wrote:
That was Jack Button's only full seasn as Pens GM. My ranking of him 4th ahead of Shero should tell you something about my feelings for that team. It's when I went from being a hockey fan to a hockey fanatic.

Pretty much the same here at 10 yrs of age. That and being able to watch or listen to every game at that time.
That summer, Button drafted Larouche, and continued resphaping the roster. They had the 9 20 goal scorers, and Stackhouse had 15 from the blueline. They had the 3rd best offense in hockey. They also gave up a lot of goals, with Inness and Michele Plasse splitting time in the regular season. They were one of the greatest home teams in franchise history, going 20-5-10. They sucked on the road, accumulating only 29 points. It's worth noting the 89 points was the team record until the President Trophy season. The first two Cup teams were 88 and 87 point teams.

That was a very good team that couldn't play much team defense and also had crappy goaltending, a trend that would continue for a LONG time.
Losing to the Isles pushed them into bankruptcy. Which was a total shock.

That was about the lowest it gets, getting padlocked out of your team's building and it appearing that even relocation might not happen, the franchise would simply cease to exist. And what happened with the Isles.....arrgh. Howard Baldwin would later be proud of that ownership!
No one from ownership ever made an appearance to speak about it publicly. Jack Button took the mantel as spokesperson for the team. Then, the new group installed Wren Blair as the GM, and fired Button. He was GM for only 117 games, and produced a winning percentage of .543. Only Shero and Rutherford are higher. There are several articles about that '74-'75 season online. It made a huge impact on the team's history.

I thought Blair was also part owner(or representing receiver or creditors?)) during the time of bankruptcy and DeBortolo buying the mess.
Going to have to go back and do some reading as it's been a long time. All of that stuff and then losing to the Isles after being up 3-0 made that first Cup victory absolutely amazing and worth the bizarre ride to get there.
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Re: Pens GM's

Postby longtimefan on Sat Jan 05, 2019 1:33 pm

brwi wrote:
longtimefan wrote:I thought Blair was also part owner(or representing receiver or creditors?)) during the time of bankruptcy and DeBortolo buying the mess. Going to have to go back and do some reading as it's been a long time. All of that stuff and then losing to the Isles after being up 3-0 made that first Cup victory absolutely amazing and worth the bizarre ride to get there.


Blair was part of ownership. Along with Al Savill and Morris Belzberg. They bought the team out of receivership from Equibank. The bank executive handling the transfer was Tony Liberati, A gentleman I had the privolege of talking to at length a few years ago. He's a name that is in the background, but it wouldn't be hard to make the case he was the most valuable person in keeping the team in Pittsburgh.

The new ownership group didn't have the deepest of pockets. They dissolved the minor league system completely. Plus Blair dismantled the team. At some point, it was apparent new investors had to be found to keep the team afloat. At the time, Liberati was handling the account of Debartolo's Youngstown empire. Liberati made a call to Ed Sr., and told him he had a helluva tax write off for him. Debartolo was at his height, having recently gifted his son the 49ers. Debartolo jumped in. Ultmately, the amount of capital he infused gave him majority ownership. For Liberati's troubles, he was name the CFO of the Debartolo corporation.

Liberati's story did not end there. He had become a trusted ally and friend of Lemieux. Enough so that he was the person Chuck Greenburg and Mario turned to when they began thinking about putting together a group to bid on the Pens. The biggest obstacle was having a true money man who could stand up to scrutiny by the league. In other words, solvency. Liberati pitched the idea to a business associate from California named Ron Burkle. He arranged a meeting between Mario and Burkle. The story goes it lasted less than an hour. The rest, as they say, is history.

Liberati still can be seen in the background if you know who he is. He was traveling to Baltimore the day after I met him to help open one of the first Austin's Room's outside of Pittsburgh. The next day, he was scheduled to golf with the governor. What a life. :) Not to mention the five Stanley Cup and 5 Super Bowl rings in his collection. It's a name no one knows. Yet, his connection to the team goes back to the Equibank receivership in 1975. He gave us Debartolo and Burkle. He gave the Pens solvency.
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Re: Pens GM's

Postby brwi on Sat Jan 05, 2019 2:45 pm

Spoiler:
longtimefan wrote:
brwi wrote:
longtimefan wrote:I thought Blair was also part owner(or representing receiver or creditors?)) during the time of bankruptcy and DeBortolo buying the mess. Going to have to go back and do some reading as it's been a long time. All of that stuff and then losing to the Isles after being up 3-0 made that first Cup victory absolutely amazing and worth the bizarre ride to get there.


Blair was part of ownership. Along with Al Savill and Morris Belzberg. They bought the team out of receivership from Equibank. The bank executive handling the transfer was Tony Liberati, A gentleman I had the privolege of talking to at length a few years ago. He's a name that is in the background, but it wouldn't be hard to make the case he was the most valuable person in keeping the team in Pittsburgh.

The new ownership group didn't have the deepest of pockets. They dissolved the minor league system completely. Plus Blair dismantled the team. At some point, it was apparent new investors had to be found to keep the team afloat. At the time, Liberati was handling the account of Debartolo's Youngstown empire. Liberati made a call to Ed Sr., and told him he had a helluva tax write off for him. Debartolo was at his height, having recently gifted his son the 49ers. Debartolo jumped in. Ultmately, the amount of capital he infused gave him majority ownership. For Liberati's troubles, he was name the CFO of the Debartolo corporation.

Liberati's story did not end there. He had become a trusted ally and friend of Lemieux. Enough so that he was the person Chuck Greenburg and Mario turned to when they began thinking about putting together a group to bid on the Pens. The biggest obstacle was having a true money man who could stand up to scrutiny by the league. In other words, solvency. Liberati pitched the idea to a business associate from California named Ron Burkle. He arranged a meeting between Mario and Burkle. The story goes it lasted less than an hour. The rest, as they say, is history.

Liberati still can be seen in the background if you know who he is. He was traveling to Baltimore the day after I met him to help open one of the first Austin's Room's outside of Pittsburgh. The next day, he was scheduled to golf with the governor. What a life. :) Not to mention the five Stanley Cup and 5 Super Bowl rings in his collection. It's a name no one knows. Yet, his connection to the team goes back to the Equibank receivership in 1975. He gave us Debartolo and Burkle. He gave the Pens solvency.

:thumb: Thanks longtimefan! That really filled in some gaps in my memory from long ago. Fascinating stuff that I only knew about half the details of. Had no idea about Liberati's incredible story that continues on today.
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