In shocking, but somewhat expected news, the Penguins announced the firing of President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke, General Manager Ron Hextall, and Assistant General Manager Chris Pryor Friday morning.
These firings are a direct result of Pittsburgh’s underperformance and shocking exit this season, including back-to-back losses to lottery teams to end the season. The Penguins finished the season 40-33-11 and missed the postseason for the first time since 2005-06, which was centre Sidney Crosby’s rookie season and the season before Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang became regulars and formed the trio the team has centrally thrived with for 16 seasons.
The Penguins have relieved President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke, General Manager Ron Hextall, and Assistant General Manager, Chris Pryor of their duties, it was announced today by Fenway Sports Group.
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 14, 2023
Penguins Fire Top Front-Office Executives
Pittsburgh entered the season off of four consecutive first-round losses, with lower but still active playoff expectations. In past seasons, the Penguins dealt with some of the worst injury luck in the sport; however, the Penguins largely avoided injury issues this season. Unfourtantely, the Penguins encountered a much more fundamental issue hampering the team’s play which affected the team’s defence and its more deficient nature this season. Pittsburgh’s defensive core, similarly aged to the entirety of the team (as the NHL’s oldest team), not only struggled to handle rush play and limit controlled entries but possessed a stark inability to progress the puck up ice. For the Penguins, the opposing forecheck often and easily disrupted the defence, limiting the overall impact of the elite offensive momentum generated from the Penguins own excellent forecheck and possession sustainment on the other side of the ice.
Another glaring issue with this Penguins team lay in their depth-scoring and generation. Aside from trade deadline acquisition Mikael Granlund, the bottom six production capped at just 29 points. In a season in which Sidney Crosby had 93 points, a season in which Evgeni Malkin had 83, and a season in which Jake Guentzel scored 36 times, the Penguins were ultimately stymied by their own depth.
Future for the Penguins
As the NHL’s oldest team with a limited prospect pool depth, the Penguins and their next front office as designated by Fenway Sports Group will be faced with a slew of issues and deficiencies to address. The future of this team is seemingly in major question, despite any insistence from the ownership group that contention for the Stanley Cup is the franchise’s ultimate commitment. Ultimately, the Penguins must accept the glaring new era of the franchise is approaching; their glorious 16-year run is fading to the sunset, and they must recognize and act accordingly to this fact.
Main Photo: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports