Lemieux begins cleaning house.

In surprise move on Tuesday, mario Lemieux and team president Tom Rooney, relative of popular Pittsburgh Steeler president and owner Dan Rooney, have decided to part ways.

Conflicting reports in todays pittsburgh tribune review and post gazette have made this penguin fan wonder about why this was done. The pittsburgh post gazette is reporting today that Mario fired Rooney-upholding his comments weeks ago that everyone in the organization is going to be evaluated based on their performance- while this article in the trib clearly makes it seem like this was a mutual decision.

Here is the article that was in today’s tribune review. (Again, this is the whole entire article I give them full credit).

Penguins, Rooney part ways as front office reorganizes

By Karen Price


Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Exactly one week after Penguins general manager Craig Patrick first publicly uttered the word “rebuilding,” Mario Lemieux announced major organizational changes in the front office.

The Penguins announced Tuesday that Lemieux Group LLC president Tom Rooney stepped down after four years at his current post. Lemieux Group LP president Ken Sawyer will take on Rooney’s marketing and communications responsibilities. Sawyer will also maintain his responsibilities for the financial and legal operations of the group as well as the efforts to build a new arena.

Patrick’s role and responsibilities will not change.

“I just felt it was important to make the changes now,” Lemieux said after the Penguins lost, 5-1, to the Detroit Red Wings last night. “We have a long way to go still, but we have to start somewhere and that’s why I made the changes (Monday). At the end of the year, we’re going to sit down and really evaluate the whole organization top to bottom. (Sawyer and Patrick) are going to be accountable for what’s going to happen over the next couple years. They have a lot of experience; they’ve been around for a long time in the NHL. I have a lot of confidence that they can turn this around.”

Based on what Lemieux said and Sawyer repeated, more changes will probably be made.

“We’re going to look at every aspect of what we do — the goal is nothing less than being first rate, first class in every element without exception,” Sawyer said.

This is not the first time that Lemieux has called for a review of the team’s operations, but as Patrick put it, he is now emphasizing it. The change came with just two and a half weeks remaining in the season.

Rooney was responsible for the day-to-day business operations of the Penguins, including overall responsibility for ticketing, marketing and corporate sales. He also oversaw operations of the team’s minor league affiliates in Wilkes-Barre and Wheeling.

Sawyer, a Montreal native, was chief financial officer of the NHL from 1979 to 1993. From 1993 to 1999, when he joined Lemieux Group, he was a financial consultant to a number of sports teams including the Penguins.

In separating themselves from Rooney, the Penguins sever ties with one of the biggest names in Pittsburgh sports. His uncle, Art Rooney, founded the Steelers and his cousin, Dan, is now president of the franchise.

According to the news release, the organization and Rooney “mutually agreed on his departure,” effective immediately. Rooney had no comment yesterday other than to say he was “stunned.”

“I have to evaluate the franchise every year and see where we’re going, and I have to make some tough decisions sometimes,” Lemieux said. “That was a tough one. We all like Tom; he’s a great guy. We all love him but sometimes I have to make tough decisions. It was a tough one yesterday.”

One of Sawyer’s directives over the months ahead is to establish an “overall strategic plan” for the Penguins, who recently slashed the team payroll to about $25 million. They are about to miss the playoffs for the second year in a row after 11 consecutive years of postseason play. The Penguins lost 1,600 season ticket holders this year and have averaged 14,813 at home games (87.4 percent capacity), down about 1,000 from last year.

Sawyer said yesterday that the Penguins are not in financial danger, but that they do have to be smart about how they spend their money.

“We are going to lose some money this year but it’s manageable; we may lose money next year and the year after that but it will be minimal,” he said. “We’ll get through the next couple years. I can’t stress strongly enough that this team is well-financed, our debt is very moderate and we’ve been running this team in a fiscally prudent manner from day one four years ago. No one should in any way interpret that that we are concerned short term, other than don’t expect us to go out and get a bunch of free agents.”

After reading this article it makes me think that nobody else in the organization is save, including GM Craig Patrick. I think more changes will come, perhaps Wilkes-Barre Scranton coach Glenn Patrick and director of scouting Greg Malone.

With this in mind, I am interested in reading your comments on this subject-

We have seen numerous coaches fired this season, now Lombardi looses his job in San Jose.

When a team fails on the ice, who holds the ultimate responsibility? Should it be the coach? The general manager, owner?

Perhaps–maybe even the players?