The Pittsburgh Penguins have fired president of hockey operations Brian Burke, general manager Ron Hextall and assistant general manager Chris Pryor, the team announced Friday.
The decision to fire the trio comes after the Penguins failed to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in 16 seasons. The last time the Penguins didn't reach the postseason was the 2005-06 season, which was captain Sidney Crosby's rookie campaign.
Pittsburgh's 16-year streak had been the longest active postseason run among MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL teams. That also includes its qualification-round loss in 2020 -- the year the NHL expanded the playoffs to 24 teams because of COVID-19.
Coming into the final week of the regular season, the Penguins appeared to be in a strong position to extend their postseason streak. Their final two games were against the Chicago Blackhawks and the Columbus Blue Jackets, two teams vying for the largest odds to land the No. 1 pick in the NHL draft lottery.
Pittsburgh sealed its fate Tuesday night with a 5-2 loss to Chicago, which ultimately paved the way for the Florida Panthers to join the New York Islanders in capturing the final wild-card places. The Penguins lost their regular-season finale Thursday to the Blue Jackets to finish 40-31-11 and one point behind the Panthers.
Both Burke and Hextall were hired by the Penguins in February 2021 after previous GM Jim Rutherford stepped down for personal reasons. The Burke-Hextall era came in with the belief that they could help position the team and its older core of stars featuring Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang for one more Stanley Cup run. Instead, the Penguins reached the playoffs in their first two years with Burke and Hextall only to be eliminated in the first round in 2020-21 and 2021-22 before missing the playoffs this season.
As the club seeks new leadership, the interim managerial duties will be shared among director of hockey operations Alec Schall, Wilkes-Barre Scranton GM and manager of hockey operations Erik Heasley and hockey operations analyst Andy Saucier. The Penguins also said that two-time Stanley Cup-winning coach Mike Sullivan, who just finished his eighth season with the club, will assist during their transition.