“I have nothing but respect for the Columbus Blue Jackets,” Rutherford said to Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “They’ve got a good city, a good franchise, a great owner and [president of hockey operations] John Davidson to run the franchise. I feel bad that it either come out the way it did or it upset people; that certainly wasn’t my intent. They have a very good franchise there, and it’s very well run.”
The controversial comments came out of a press conference on July 1 announcing the Penguins had signed defenceman Jack Johnson, who played the last six seasons with the Blue Jackets.
Rutherford was asked about the Blue Jackets scratching Johnson last season and suggested there were some reasons not related to the defenceman’s play that explained why he wasn’t always in the lineup.
“I don’t think he had a bad year,” Rutherford said at the time. “He was a healthy scratch at the end of the season. I know the reason why. It wasn’t because of how he was playing.”
Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella was not pleased with what Rutherford said and responded in an interview with Aaron Portzline of The Athletic.
“To have a general manager question our decision-making from three hours away, he must be a [expletive] magician,” Tortorella said.
Thursday’s interview was the first time Rutherford had addressed the subject since Tortorella’s interview. When asked by Mackey whether he wants to clarify what he meant in his original answer, Rutherford declined.
“I don’t think that’s going to do anybody any good at this point,” Rutherford said. “We feel comfortable with the homework that we did on this player.”