New Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford expects Sidney Crosby will be "just fine" in the Stanley Cup Playoffs next year.
Rutherford, named Friday as the replacement for Ray Shero, addressed Crosby, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and defenseman Kris Letang in an interview with 93.7 The Fan.
Crosby had one goal and eight assists in 13 playoff games before the Penguins were eliminated by the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Second Round after holding a 3-1 lead in that series. Crosby did not have a point in the final three losses.
"Well, the obvious, he didn't have the production that he usually does," Rutherford told the "Starkey and Mueller" show Friday. "But as we know in sports, different times, different games, different series, things change and players don't perform the same way year after year.
"He's a guy that is under the microscope all the time, every move, and he's the best player in the game, and of course people expect a lot from him. But that's in the past now; we have a new season coming, he'll continue to be the best player, and I'm sure when he gets to next year's playoffs he'll be just fine."
Rutherford also said he expects good performances from Fleury going forward after the goalie rebounded from a subpar 2013 playoffs to post a 2.40 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in 2014 against the Columbus Blue Jackets and Rangers. The statistics were almost identical to the 2.37 goals-against average and .915 save percentage he had in the regular season.
Fleury is entering the final season of his contract and can become an unrestricted free agent afterward.
"The one thing I'll say about Fleury is this past season was the best season, the most consistent season he's had over several seasons, probably over three or four seasons," Rutherford said. "Other than a couple of goals in the Columbus series, I thought his playoff series performance was fine, his regular season was fine and from an ability point of view he's a very, very good goalie.
"Going back a couple years, I think the mental part of the game was difficult for him, and certainly it seems that whatever he did in last offseason has strengthened his position, and I see him as a guy that'll build off of last season and be as good or better next year."
Rutherford praised Letang's preparation and ability to play big minutes when asked if he sees the defenseman as a franchise centerpiece player. Letang signed an eight-year contract with the Penguins prior to this season and returned to play April 9 after having a stroke in late January.
Rutherford's first move as GM was to fire coach Dan Bylsma. He said he has a "relatively short list" of coaching candidates but will not start the interview process until a week from Monday because of GM meetings and other out-of-town Penguins business.
Shero was fired as general manager May 16.