With latest hire, Penguins' focus on analytics heightens

| Thursday, June 12, 2014, 10:54 a.m.

The Penguins' next coach will have an affinity for analytics, general manager Jim Rutherford said Thursday.

Interviews are scheduled to begin next week. That is also when the latest member of Rutherford's hockey management team will arrive in Pittsburgh.

Jason Karmanos was announced Thursday as the Penguins' vice president of hockey operations, joining associate general manger Jason Botterill as co-No. 2s on the hockey side.

“Both Jasons are right next to me,” Rutherford said.

Karmanos, 40, said he has known Rutherford since childhood. Until the past season, Karmanos had spent 15 seasons as Rutherford's assistant general manager with Carolina.

Peter Karmanos, Carolina's majority owner, fired his son a few days before training camp.

He was not available for comment Thursday, but Peter Karmanos said in a news release last year that his son's firing was a “family matter.”

“I was fired by my dad for reasons that had nothing to do with my job performance,” Jason Karmanos said Thursday. “It was disappointing on so many levels, and never in a million years would I have envisioned this scenario.”

Karmanos joins a hockey operations staff that is large by traditional NHL standards. It includes Rutherford, Botterill and assistant general managers Tom Fitzgerald and Bill Guerin.

Rutherford has said he is mentoring Botterill, Fitzgerald and Guerin with the idea that one of them could replace him in two or three years.

Karmanos said he has spoken with Botterill, Fitzgerald and Guerin.

With Carolina, Karmanos took the lead on analytics, contract negotiations and salary-cap management and also worked as a scout. He was to the Hurricanes what Botterill has been to the Penguins. Their paths even crossed during trade talks between the clubs.

“I do know Jason pretty well,” Karmanos said of Botterill, a finalist for the Penguins' general manager job. “I have a ton of respect for what he's done.”

Karmanos and Botterill will report directly to Rutherford, who will make the final call on hockey matters, including some that will be presented to the executive committee for final approval.

Penguins ownership endorses the concept of its hockey side relying more on analytics/advanced metrics analysis. CEO/president David Morehouse mentioned analytics when introducing Rutherford as general manager last Friday.

However, Karmanos said the Penguins were not behind the analytics curve under previous general manager Ray Shero.

He noted that Botterill and director of player personnel Dan MacKinnon had “worked extensively with analytics and a particular consultant.”

“We had the same deal in Carolina,” Karmanos said. “It's not like I'm bringing in analytics. This is not a complete culture change at all.”

Karmanos said he expected to work with MacKinnon regarding analytics with the Penguins.

Karmanos also said — and Rutherford confirmed — the Penguins' next coach would incorporate analytics into his decisions, as will members of the hockey operations staff.

“Quite honestly, it hadn't reached that level yet in Carolina,” Karmanos said. “It's something I'm really excited to be a part of here, that total integration of analytics from management to coaching staff.”

John Hynes, the coach of AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, is the only confirmed candidate to replace Dan Bylsma, who was fired by the Penguins last Friday.

Bylsma's assistants remain under contract but are permitted to seek employment elsewhere. The new coach will choose his assistants, Rutherford said.

A new coach will be in place before the start of free agency on July 1, Rutherford said.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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