Courtesy of Point Park University

Vellucci: ‘I’ve proven it can be successful’

Mike Vellucci didn't lobby for the job.

Might not necessarily even have wanted it, for that matter.

But when Jim Rutherford offered Vellucci, who had been hired as coach of the Penguins' American Hockey League affiliate in June, a chance to take on the general-manager duties that Bill Guerin had handled before being named general manager in Minnesota last week, Vellucci didn't balk.

Probably because he's already proven that he's quite capable of filling both jobs. After all, Vellucci was coach and general manager in Charlotte last season, when the Checkers won the Calder Cup.

"I've proven in the last couple of years that it can be successful, if it's done the right way," he said today.

Although Vellucci said that his long-term goal is to coach in the NHL and that he had been looking forward to working with Guerin, he noted there are some obvious benefits to having a GM-coach.

"I'm going to know the players, not just (see them) from up in the stands," he said. "I'm going to know how they act and react on the bench. I'm going to know how they play in tight moments, loose moments, what kind of character they have. I'm going to know, inside and out, from being on the bench. I'll be able to communicate that to Jim and the rest of the staff.

"Sometimes when you're coaching, all you worry about is wins. You don't really care about anything else. But when you're doing a dual role ... I think the dual role is perfect. I think it works out great. I know I have to develop (players) and at the same time, would like to win, because that's a big part of developing."

Vellucci is going from a team that won the AHL title to one that failed to qualify for the playoffs for one of the few times in franchise history. Nonetheless, he spoke optimistically of the personnel he expects to have in Wilkes-Barre, and said he is familiar with most of those players because of the time he spent as an assistant GM with the Checkers.

"I know all of (the Penguins') draft picks from the last five years. I've scouted them, I've seen them," he said. "The last two years, coaching in Charlotte, I knew what their team has had. I'm familiar with the guys coming in. I’m familiar with the older guys who have already been there. That part is going to be easy.

"We do have younger guys coming in, which is great. Then Billy did an awesome job of surrounding them with some older veterans. We had a lot more draft picks in Carolina the last several years, with not making the playoffs (between 2009 and 2019). We had a lot of higher picks and a lot of draft picks, with trading off players (to contenders at the trade deadline).

"Obviously, Pittsburgh being so successful ... has always had to draft (later), and probably not have as many picks. Charlotte has a lot more high-end draft picks, but that doesn't (necessarily) mean better players. It just means higher-end draft picks."

Vellucci said he was with the organization's other coaches at Nemacolin for Mike Sullivan's annual get-together for the group last week when Guerin was hired in Minnesota. He was mentioned immediately as a leading candidate to take on Guerin's duties, but said the position wasn't offered to him until today.

"I didn't approach them," Vellucci said. "We just talked. This morning, (Rutherford) called and asked if I was interested in doing it and I accepted. It's nothing different from what I did the past several years in Charlotte. I'm excited for the opportunity. I think it's going to be a pretty seamless transition."

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