The Pittsburgh Penguins announced on Friday that they have relieved President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke, General Manager Ron Hextall, and Assistant General Manager, Chris Pryor of their duties. Fenway Sports Group has noted that new voices are needed to lead this core of players and a search for new hockey operations leadership will begin immediately. The Penguins missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2006 this season.
John Henry and Tom Werner issued the following statement regarding the executive changes:
“We are grateful to Brian, Ron, and Chris for their contributions to the organization over the past two seasons, but we feel that the team will benefit from new hockey operations leadership. While this season has been disappointing, we believe in our core group of players and the goal of contending for the Stanley Cup has not changed.”
Brian Burke commented on his departure and noted: “I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked in this passionate sports town. Thank you to FSG, Mario Lemieux, David Morehouse, management and coaches, and especially to our great group of players. Best of luck to the Penguins and their incredible fan base in the future.”
During this transition, managerial duties of hockey operations will be shared among Director of Hockey Ops, Alec Schall, WBS General Manager/Manager of Hockey Operations, Erik Heasley and Hockey Ops Analyst, Andy Saucier. Head coach Mike Sullivan will also assist during the transition.
The firings come as no surprise given the way the fans have felt about this management team for some time. There were chants of fire Hextall at recent home games and their questionable approach at the NHL Trade Deadline angered supporters who couldn’t understand what the mandate of the team was.
The window to win for this group including Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang is closing quickly. If the team can’t provide support for these aging stars, they stand no chance of being competitive. The tenure of both Hextall and Burke will be remembered by multiple trades and signings that failed to work out and questionable decisions when it came to the team’s salary cap.
Coach Mike Sullivan is under contract through the 2026-27 season so it seems unlikely he’ll be fired, even though a new manager might want to consider a new coach. Sullivan has the support of the Penguins’ most influential players so he is likely safe for the time being.
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