Dunlap: Rutherford Had More Power With Sprong

Colin Dunlap
December 04, 2018 - 6:45 am
Daniel Sprong vs. Sabres

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan)- There is something I don't get in all this "Daniel Sprong never got a real chance" narrative that keeps getting blabbed about and bounced around. 

And it seems simple to me. Man, is it simple. 

We know the story of Sprong by now --- he was shuttled off to Anaheim in exchange for defenseman Marcus Pettersson, a 22-year-old who the Penguins are hoping will bolster their blue line. 

Sprong had taken up residence in various press boxes around the NHL, making his way solidly into the ranks of a healthy scratch time and again even as guys such as Derek Grant and the struggling Bryan Rust got games. All the while the 21-year-old Sprong was relegated to coach Mike Sullivan's doghouse, deep to the recesses of Sullivan's doghouse in much the same space we once saw Ian Cole. 

But this was different. 

And this is the part I don't understand. 

On numerous occasions Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford spoke very publicly about Sprong needing to get more of a chance. Sprong didn't score in 16 NHL games this season, but Rutherford was insistent he could thrive. Rutherford talked about how he'd like to see the second-round pick showcase his talents with players on this roster with like skill, but how it was impossible to get a true gauge on Sprong playing alongside fourth line guys who didn't match his game.

Sprong would get sent to the AHL, score a point a game and then come back to the NHL only to play with the Cullens and Sheahans of the world as opposed to the Crosbys and Guentzels. 

It didn't make much sense. ​It was puzzling and felt like it bordered on sabotage, to be honest. 

It seemed personal to Sullivan.

And all the while the general manager would publicly lament. 

Well, how about this ... 

Why didn't Rutherford simply ever walk into Sullivan's office and say "Daniel Sprong is playing for the next [fill in number of games] and he's playing in the top six for those games." 

Rather than wonder what could have been and, in a sense complain about it publicly, I'm puzzled as to why Rutherford didn't hammer down a heavier hand in the Sprong situation. 

I mean, after all, he is the boss of Mike Sullivan.

One man answers to the other --- and it ain't Rutherford answering to Sullivan. 

General managers, in the past and in various sports, have stepped in and been impactful and at times even authoritative about playing time. I just wonder why that didn't happen here --- I wonder why Rutherford never went that route. 

It seemed to me all along Rutherford and Sullivan had two different ideas for Daniel Sprong, but the man with the veto power (Rutherford) never was forceful enough to use it. That's the big head-scratcher in all of this. 

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