Some people might say that title was a stretch. Some people would be wrong. Never a bad excuse for a Marcy Playground reference.
The Penguins announced their shiny new front office today:
The Penguins have named Ron Hextall as general manager and Brian Burke as president of hockey operations.
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 9, 2021
The Hextall rumors had been swirling for a couple of days, so the announcement was not all that surprising and has generally been well-received by the fanbase and media. Which means it will be a disaster.
Hextall grew up a Pens fan; his Dad played center for the team from 1969 – 1974. Pittsburgh Dad most likely already has some terrible video up about it.
Ron’s most recent assignment in Philly from 2014 – 2018 is seen as mostly positive. His perceived strength is long-term roster construction. He was there when the team drafted Carter Hart, Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov, Joel Farabee, Nolan Patrick, Travis Sanheim, Oskar Lindblom and Nicolas Aube-Kubel. Not too shabby.
We’ll see how he handles a team that markets itself much differently (win-now). Or maybe Mario & Co. are dumb like a fox and this is a proactive rebuild move.
Either way, the team could have done much worse. The only better option was Pierre McGuire, but he was probably out of their price range.
Now let’s fry that big fish.
In a move that stunned everyone, the team also brought on Brian Burke as President of Hockey Operations. In this role, which is basically made-up depending on the organization (Senior VP of Hockey Ops, etc…), BB will apparently serve as senior advisor to Hextall and report to President/CEO David Morehouse.
Your reaction went one of three ways:
- LOVE IT. Includes: Me, Pittsburgh-area barbers, Men’s Big and Tall stores, and hair gel salesmen.
- HATE IT. Includes: Mostly everyone smarter than me, and everyone who hated Jim Rutherford.
- CONFUSION. Checking the Twitter account to make sure you weren’t being Rick Rolled
Look, the move is certainly bizarre. Burke’s brash, quick-trigger, no-bullshit style seems to be in direct contrast to Hextall’s.
Burke’s most recent hockey ops role was in Calgary and he was woof. His history as a GM is….colorful. Some notes:
- Vancouver: Drafted the Sedins + Ryan Kessler
- Anaheim: Won the 2007 Cup with a punishing lineup that included names like Selanne, Niedermayer, Perry, Getzlaf, Kuntiz, Penner, and Pronger. I think I’d rather put my face out with a campfire than play those fuckers.
- Leafs: Shit show. His most famous move is probably overpaying for Phil Kessel. The two 1st round picks he sent to Boston resulted in Dougie Hamilton and Tyler Seguin’s washboard abs. Have to think the women of Toronto will never forgive Burke for that one.
Don’t forget the story about him fighting the Oilers Kevin Lowe for offer-sheeting Dustin Penner. Hilarious.
Bottom line: Burke is the kind of old-school “hockey man” personality that progressive, analytic-driven hockey types tend to gravitate away from. Some people were quite upset. That’s fair.
Others were a little more measured. Check this thread from Galaxy Brian Geoff (make sure to congratulate him on his new handle):
what if Burke is only there to be a buffer between morehouse and hextall- to keep morehouse in check and tell him to go away?
— geoff (@geoffwithano) February 9, 2021
i look at it this way: if JR had some sort of issues with those above him, but not with the owners, it makes sense for the owners to bring in someone 1) they know and trust and 2) who doesn’t seem to put up with bullshit.
— geoff (@geoffwithano) February 9, 2021
As for me, here’s my thoughts:
All seriousness, Burke will rub some people the wrong way but a guy that well-connected is perfect for *that role*.
Can he stay within it? ‘Nother story.
Team is gonna be fun to follow no matter what. Inject BB’s media pissing contests straight into my veins.
— Gooey (@GooeyHockey) February 9, 2021
Look – I get that Burke’s schtick is a little played out.
But it’s not like he’s ALWAYS avoided speed / skill (Kessel) and not like he hasn’t shown the ability to get results.
I also think people tend to severely underestimate the impact of having an extremely well-connected / respected / tenured person like him within the camp. The hockey community is tiny. Burke has relationships all throughout the game, both in the media and throughout other organizations.
While you, me, and CorsiLover6969 might not speak old man hockey language, Burke does. You’re telling me he can’t add value when negotiating with someone like…I don’t know….Jim Benning?
Let’s just relax and hope for the best case:
I can't imagine a situation where Burke can step on Hextall's toes in decision making. Perhaps I'm guilty of already assuming that's the case. Burke's experience in building out a hockey operations department will certainly be welcome.
— Jesse Marshall (@jmarshfof) February 9, 2021
In any scenario, the team will be extremely fun to follow as long as he’s in the fold, which is all we might have to be thankful for once 87 and 71 ride off into the sunset. NOTE: Reports are both guys signed off on Burke.
Here’s betting Burkie challenges some DK Pittsburgh Sports writer to a duel by April Fools Day. Or does this to Letang at Center Ice. Go Pens.
Brian Burke cuts off Kris Letang’s hair on national tv Brutus the Barber Beefcake style
— 𝙹𝚊𝚜 (@j_a155) February 9, 2021
Tell me I suck on Twitter @GooeyHockey