Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford is furious with the way things have gone during a five-game losing streak, but remains confident the pieces are in place for a turnaround.
"Am I disappointed? Yes. Makes me sick, actually," Rutherford told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Sunday. "More sick than I've ever been in my career when I've managed a team. I feel for the fans. I feel for everybody."
The Penguins (15-14-3) reside in sixth place in the Metropolitan Division. They might be without captain Sidney Crosby for their game Monday against the Columbus Blue Jackets; Crosby did not practice Sunday and is day-to-day because of a lower-body injury.
Pittsburgh's inconsistent play cost coach Mike Johnston his job on Dec. 12, when he was replaced by Mike Sullivan. The Penguins have been outscored 15-4 in four consecutive losses since the change.
"The fact of the matter is we have a good group of guys here," Rutherford said, "and we can still make this thing work.
"It looks like we're never going to win a game again and we're buried. We're not. Somehow we have to figure out how to get a point here, a point there, until we get everybody back. We're very much still in everything. The bottom line is you gotta make the playoffs to win a Cup, and this team can do it. This is a team that won nine out of 10 at one point this year."
The Penguins were expected to contend following the acquisition of right wing Phil Kessel from the Toronto Maple Leafs during the offseason. Kessel has nine goals and nine assists in 32 games.
Should things continue to falter, Rutherford said he doesn't expect to do something drastic to his roster, at least in the near future. Pittsburgh traded defenseman Rob Scuderi to the Chicago Blackhawks for defenseman Trevor Daley last Monday.
"Now's not the time to get down and start talking about major changes," Rutherford said. "When we get everybody back, if we can't get it going, that may be a whole different story."
Crosby, who had 84 points (28 goals, 56 assists) in 77 games in 2014-15, has 22 points (six goals, 16 assists) in 32 games this season. Rutherford isn't disappointed in his captain's play, but knows he's capable of more.
"We can win games," Rutherford said. "We can't win a championship (if it doesn't change). [Crosby's] playing better than people think he is, but not at the level that we're going to need him to play to get over the hump."
Rutherford, who turns 67 in February, said he didn't expect to be in Pittsburgh long-term when he replaced Ray Shero as general manager in June of 2014. But he said Sunday he's determined to help the Penguins turn things around.
"I would say these last three weeks have been the toughest on me in my career, for me to handle personally," Rutherford said. "As for an exit strategy, I don't have one. As long as I've done it and where I am in life, I can go today.
"But the one thing I've never been in my life is a quitter. Somebody may tell me it's time to go, and if they do, that's fine. But as for me, quitting's not in my DNA, and it wouldn't be the right way to teach my son how to live his life.