June 6, 2014 / 6:20 PM / 5 years ago

Penguins fire coach Bylsma, hire Rutherford as GM

(Reuters) - Jim Rutherford was named general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday and the former Carolina Hurricanes GM wasted little time putting his mark on the team as he announced the firing of head coach Dan Bylsma.

Mar 27, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma (top left) reacts to linesman Scott Driscoll (68) after a Penguins goal was disallowed for goal tender interference against the Los Angeles Kings during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Kings won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Penguins, who fired general manager Ray Shero last month following the team’s early exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs, had promised to overhaul the team’s operations in a bid to return to championship form.

“Dan is a good man and a good coach, but I thought we needed a change in direction moving forward,” Rutherford told reporters during his introductory news conference.

“I have no doubt that he will go on to be a head coach in the National Hockey League and have success. The search for our new head coach will begin immediately.”

Bylsma, a former NHL coach of the year who led the Penguins to a Stanley Cup championship in 2009, came under fire after Pittsburgh blew a 3-1 series lead to the New York Rangers in the second round of the playoffs.

It marked the fifth consecutive season that Pittsburgh, who boast a powerful lineup and was considered a contender for the Stanley Cup this year, were eliminated from the playoffs by a lower-ranked opponent.

Bylsma, who was coach of the U.S. men’s hockey team that finished fourth at the Sochi Olympics, coached the Penguins for five-plus seasons, compiling a record of 252-117-32.

Rutherford was the general manager of the Carolina/Hartford franchise for 20 years before stepping down from that position earlier this year.

He built a Carolina team that won three division crowns, two conference championships and made two appearances in the Stanley Cup Finals, including the franchise’s only championship in 2006.

“There’s no feeling like winning the ultimate prize. And I believe we can do it here,” said Rutherford.

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Gene Cherry

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