Greetings, dear readers! Due apologies for not blogging in a while. There have been some technical issues with the old laptop. As the old saying goes, “The newer the version of Internet Explorer, the more problems that are presented to me.” Actually, I just made up that saying. Anyway, I couldn’t get onto the blog site because of the latest IE upgrade. So, the kindly folks at the Trib IT department have downgraded my IT, and now the blog is back. If only I had something to report.
= Oh, wait, there is some news on C Sidney Crosby. According to GM Ray Shero, he has started the off-ice offseason workouts he was cleared for last week. Camp Crosby is guardedly optimistic that the worst of times is behind him on this concussion front. We’re about a month away — maybe six weeks, actually — from the next big step. If Crosby, as is his custom, is going hard for on-ice workouts in mid to late July, that is going to be the best sign yet that he’s gearing for a normal training camp.
= Speaking of Shero, he said he has no intention of waiting until C Dustin Jeffrey is healthy before signing him to a new contract. Jeffrey is recovering from surgery to repair a torn right knee ligament, but the plan is to get him a new contract this month. Jeffrey, like RW Tyler Kennedy, is a restricted free agent.
= I’m taking some step backs from comments I made about Kennedy recently, when I said on a few radio shows he would be traded by or at the NHL entry draft. I still think that’s highly possible, but I know that coach Dan Bylsma believes Kennedy’s production last season — career highs with 21 goals and 45 points — was not a fluke. Don’t rule out the Penguins finding a suitable replacement for Kennedy, whom they believe is going to be at least a $2 million player next season given the comparables, then qualifying Kennedy and going to arbitration to see what he actually gets in that forum. If it’s too high a price, they would walk away. However, if Kennedy goes to arbitration and is at or around $2 million on a cap hit, I get the sense the Penguins would lean toward keeping him for another season even if they find a suitable replacement. As Shero said, “I’m not looking to get rid of him.”
The question for Bylsma and the coaching staff — and, really, Shero and the management team — is whether Kennedy is a legit top-line power-play guy. If he is, he is worth more than $2 million. I don’t get the feeling the Penguins have figured out yet if Kennedy would be on their top PP if the season started today.
= About the power play: Don’t be surprised if neither Crosby nor C Evgeni Malkin are on the half wall next season. Each player has worked that spot before, but I’m hearing that coaching staff has other ideas for both guys regarding the man-advantage attack. I’m intrigued, are you?
= Not saying the Penguins are down on D Matt Niskanen, but I doubt it would take a lot for another team to snag him this offseason.
= Malkin, by the way, is really motivated right now. Word was passed to me by several of his friends that he is looking at this upcoming season as a defining one to date for his NHL career. He wants to be “back in the conversation” about the world’s best player, I’m told. His rehab, according to Shero, has gone very well — and nobody within the organization anticipates the surgically repaired right knee being a problem when camp opens in September.
And when camp opens in September, don’t be surprised to see this line: James Neal-Jordan Staal-Malkin.
= UFA updates: Not a lot to report. As expected, the Penguins and C Craig Adams reached terms this week. Word is that C Max Talbot and RW Pascal Dupuis are asking for term the Penguins don’t want to match — four years for Talbot, three for Dupuis. As for C Mike Rupp, there is a growing sense that he believes the open market will be very kind to him financially. Shero is adamant about keeping all three players, but he is in no position to overspend by even $100,000 on any of these guys. Even if the cap goes to $62 or $63 million, the Penguins will be up against it.
Finally, a personal note:
I’ve been lucky enough to have two great veteran mentors in my career: Bob Hertzel and Alan Robinson, both well-versed reporters who could and can churn out copy with the best of ‘em, not to mention sniff out a story fast.
Dejan Kovacevic was never a mentor, so much as the guy I wanted to be as I grew up in this business. His passion, approach and skill are things I’ve admired and envied — even as he kicked me around for a year while we were competitors on the Pirates beat. Especially then, actually.
We met more than a decade ago, at a place across the river. I learned a lot then by watching Dejan work the Penguins beat. From him I learned that beat boys must take ownership of the product — not simply report and write, but set a tone and work all ends, from how the story looked on a page to what kind of tool the Internet could be for taking a pulse of the audience to making it all make sense by making sense of it all first.
As most of the readers know, I’m a Bruce Springsteen nut. Since Tuesday night, when I sat in Dejan’s living room as we took in the moment that was him joining the Trib as a sports columnist, I’ve been looking for the best Boss line to make sense of what Dejan joining this team means to me.
I’ve finally found the passage:
We’ll move with the city in the dark/You got to walk it, talk it, in your heart/There’s nothin’ to lose it’s a heartache/The deck’s stacked/So put your foot to the floor, darling/Tonight we’ll blow off the doors, baby/We’re gonna even the score/And honey we won’t look back…
A sincerely gratifying welcome, my friend. This is going to be fun.