There is a price that comes with winning, and the Pittsburgh Penguins are paying up this offseason in a big way. Winning teams get picked apart by the rest of the league. It’s the circle of life, and in a way, it’s kind of beautiful.
The highest-profile offseason losses for the Penguins have so far been the players. Marc-Andre Fleury now lives in Las Vegas; Chris Kunitz wears a lightning bolt jersey. Trevor Daley is with the Red Wings, and Nick Bonino is a member of the 2017 Stanley Cup runner-ups.
But perhaps the most devastating losses to the Penguins organization are happening behind the team. The Penguins’ front office is being ransacked. Those losses may not be as immediately obvious as the player trades, but over time they have the potential to have the most impact on the makeup of the Penguins organization.
Losses Within the Staff
The biggest loss within the Penguins’ staff so far has been Jason Botterill, the former associate general manager. Known as a salary cap expert, he was a key part of piecing together each of the Penguins’ three championship teams since 2009. The Penguins credit him with bringing head coach Mike Sullivan to the team in the middle of the 2015-16 season. Since that hiring, Sullivan has yet to lose a playoff series.
Botterill accepted a job as general manager for the Buffalo Sabres this June, just after his third Stanley Cup. Botterill will likely be inclined to draw other members of the Penguins’ staff to Buffalo; that’s worrying for the Penguins, especially considering the Sabres have spent the past few months eyeing the staff in Pittsburgh.
Randy Sexton, the former Penguins director of amateur scouting, is one of the crew members that followed Botterill to Buffalo. Sexton had been scouring for gems in Penguins prospect pools since 2010. He was directly responsible for drafting some familiar names, including Matt Murray, Olli Maatta, and Bryan Rust.
It’s possible that the Penguins will be losing their assistant coach, Rick Tocchet, as well. The Coyotes are considering hiring him for their vacant head coach position.
Last but not least, the Penguins have lost goaltender coach Mike Bales. His guidance can be credited with giving Fleury’s career in Pittsburgh a happy ending. Bales’ transition to Carolina was the Penguins’ decision in order to promote Murray’s preferred coach, Mike Buckley. Nevertheless, the change highlights the shakeup that the Penguins are going through post-Cup win.
Impact of Penguins Staff Losses
It’s hard to say what impact these core staff members leaving will have on the organization. If rumors are true and Botterill pulls other members of the staff along to Buffalo while Tocchet heads to Arizona, the Penguins will lose an entire quarter of their staff. And, perhaps most unfortunately—with the exception of Tocchet’s rumored departure to Arizona—the Penguins are losing all these staff members to competitors within the Eastern Conference.
These losses will be keenly felt. Many of these men were key in subtle ways to the Penguins’ last two championships, serving as the brains behind decisions, from the hiring of Sullivan to the drafting of Murray to the salvaging of Fleury’s career. The Penguins’ staff is cashing in on the prestige of having guided their team to back-to-back Cups. Because of that, the organization is losing some sharp hockey minds—as well as handing over people with intimate knowledge of the Penguins’ inner workings to conference rivals.
Julia Stumbaugh is a student at the College of William & Mary.