You learn from your mistakes and Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford did just that this week, following a feud with rival club Columbus Blue Jackets.
Rutherford addressed his recent comments about the Blue Jackets in a new interview. The feud started off when the Pens GM made some controversial statement about his new player Jack Johnson and his relationship with his former club. signed a five-year, $16.25 million contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins on the opening of free agency season on July 1st. It has an annual average value of $3.25 million.
During the press conference announcing the signing of Johnson, who played the last six seasons with the Blue Jackets, Rutherford was asked about the Blue Jackets scratching Johnson last season and hinted there were some reasons not related to the defenceman’s play that explained why he wasn’t always part of the lineup.
“I don’t think he had a bad year,” Rutherford said at the time during the press conference. “He was a healthy scratch at the end of the season. I know the reason why. It wasn’t because of how he was playing.”
You have to believe it did not take long for Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella to fire back at Rutherford in an interview with Aaron Portzline of The Athletic.
“To have a general manager question our decision-making from three hours away, he must be a [expletive] magician,” Tortorella said.
On Thursday, Rutherford dialled back and offered some apology to Tortorella and the Blue Jackets organization.
“I have nothing but respect for the Columbus Blue Jackets,” Rutherford said to Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “They’ve got a good city, a good franchise, a great owner and [president of hockey operations] John Davidson to run the franchise. I feel bad that it either come out the way it did or it upset people; that certainly wasn’t my intent. They have a very good franchise there, and it’s very well run.”
However, Rutherford did not offer a clear explanation on what he meant in his original answer on the playing status of Johnson.
“I don’t think that’s going to do anybody any good at this point,” Rutherford said. “We feel comfortable with the homework that we did on this player.”
Let's hope the rivalry can leave the front office and get back to the ice where the Penguins and Jackets will battle it out next season.