Pittsburgh Penguins general manager spoke Wednesday about the state of the team - and how if their play doesn't improve soon, a major trade could go down.
That news made the rounds over the last couple days, but there was no specific mention of what Rutherford could be looking at doing. There's been talks of trading Ian Cole, finding a better third line center, and more.
The Athletic's Jesse Marshall took a deeper dive on what's plaguing this team and pointed to the culprit: the bottom six.
This isn't a surprise, but he presented some concerning statistics regarding their usage and possession metrics that reveal just how bad they've been.
"While the Penguins, as a team, have allowed more goals than they've scored this season, the primary culprits of their poor goals-for share is coming from the rotating cast of fourth line characters," Marshall writes. "All of Ryan Reaves, Carter Rowney, Tom Kuhnhackl, and Greg McKegg have goals-for percentage of under 35%. To translate, that means of all the goals scored with a combination of that tandem on the ice, 65% of them are going in the Penguins net."
In layman's terms, they're just bad.
Compare this to the four lines that they rolled in the previous two years - with Nick Bonino and Matt Cullen centering the 3rd and 4th lines, and you see where the issue is. Mike Sullivan was able to send out 4 lines with nearly equal ice time, causing chaos for opposing teams, as each line was capable of generating offense.
As Marshall points out, this allowed for Malkin and Crosby to have their ice time managed better and have more energy, as well as better matchups in games.
Now the top 6 is exclusively relied on for offense, and it isn't working.
So what does Rutherford have to do? Yes - he needs a better 3C. Riley Sheahan isn't cutting it. But it's bigger than that, the bottom two lines both need to be reconfigured to provide the four-line punch that gave the Penguins two consecutive Stanley Cups.