TribLIVE
Blogs | Sports | News
Chipped Ice

« Font size »
Decrease | Reset |Increase

First-day back (thoughts on Crosby, Staal, Orpik and Tangradi).

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Well, dear readers, Monday marked my first day with the club after missing the start of camp while battling through an unknown illness. Consol Energy Center was refreshingly cold and catching up with some of the media regulars was nice, but the real thrill was getting back into the room and around the players. Anyway, some observations:

= C Sidney Crosby (concussion) showed some promising signs in a controlled scrimmage and a following practice. He once again donned a white helmet to signify his non-contact status. At one point during the scrimmage — more on that later — Crosby dashed into the offensive zone and around a defensemen before getting a puck on net. Hardly full speed — the scrimmage that is — but Crosby looked to have his hockey faculties about him. Of most interest to me were the conversations he shared on the bench with RW Steve Sullivan, whom I’m told thinks the game as a superstar such as Crosby would. Encouraging stuff, and word from Crosby’s teammates was that he “looks comfortable” now that he is back around the Penguins’ family-style setting. I’m not sure he’ll play in the opener at Vancouver, but I’m not sure I’d bet against it, either.

= C Jordan Staal said his brother, Rangers D Marc Staal, didn’t really know how bad his concussion was during the offseason. Marc Staal didn’t accompany the Rangers on their trip to Europe because of lingering concussion symptoms. Scary stuff, indeed. As for the Penguins’ Staal, Jordan looks to be in wonderful condition — and in this space I will predict a standout season from him, including offensive consistency on the point-production end. A lot of criticism came Staal’s way last season, and at the risk of being again labeled a “Jordan Staal Apologist,” might I remind everybody that his assignment last season was to serve as a No. 1 center for the first time in the NHL about two weeks after his first significant hockey action in eight months — over the course of which he had underwent four surgeries. A big-bodied player such as Staal needs an offseason and training camp to find his legs. (Most players do, actually.) His big crime was not scoring like Crosby or C Evgeni Malkin while filling roles vacated by their absences. His defensive play — his bread and butter — never dropped off, and the leadership experience he gained from having to carry the offensive load for the Penguins late last season could prove worth its weight in Silver this season. My point, and indeed I won’t make it again for a while: Staal was wrongly ripped last season considering the circumstance, and only a fool would write him off as a potential offensive force in this league.

= D Brooks Orpik didn’t practice Monday, and thus per policy he wasn’t made available to speak. Coach Dan Bylsma didn’t rule out Orpik, who is recovering from abdominal surgery, being ready for the opener at Vancouver. Noteworthy, though, is that Bylsma didn’t go so far as to suggest he was expecting Orpik for that game — or even that trip through Western Canada. If Orpik can’t go on the trip, I wonder who the Penguins would carry as a seventh defenseman. My choice: D Brian Strait.

= Candidly, the Penguins’ exhibition game Tuesday night at Kansas City against Los Angeles is probably the biggest of LW Eric Tangradi’s career. His play without the puck will be watched closely by coaches. Tangradi, the Penguins’ top prospect only two years ago, needs to show he can skate well enough to play in this system. He hasn’t shown that yet, and if he doesn’t against the Kings the bet here is he won’t get too many more chances in this camp.

= Bylsma said there are “probably” two rounds of cuts coming this week. He also said the games this weekend at Chicago and Detroit will be mostly for guys on the roster, to establish lines, etc. Translation: Kansas City might be the last stop for many of the guys who took the ice Monday.

= I don’t think there is a lot of benefit to keeping D Joe Morrow past the game at Kansas City. Sending him back to the WHL on a high note would be how I handle him given his stellar camp. Something to build on being my thinking. That said, I’d not be shocked if he stuck around to the final cuts. I don’t think he makes the team — though, Orpik’s status does leave open the possibility of some wonderful hot-stove action on that topic — but I can say there are people who’ve been at every camp session who do think Morrow is as close to NHL-ready as any young defensemen the Penguins have brought to camp in the post-lockout era.

= The Malkin Twitter account — @malkin71_ — is real, dear readers. I suspect we’re in the process of being introduced to the side of “Geno” that I’ve long known has existed — the funny, sharp, and very human side of a player far too few in the local media have taken the time to really know. He’s something else, as his Tweets have proven. The one from Sunday night with his screen shot of the Steelers game, as if to prove he was watching, so fits the mold of “Geno” I’ve come to know over the last five years. He’ll be Vincent Chase B-I-G by the end of the season. (Note to self: “Entourage” references are so over… until the movie)

= Good to be back, though still not at a daily pace. Thanks to my man Josh Yohe — and a hat tip to Trib high-school guru Chris Harlan, who filled in over the weekend — for picking up the slack.

 

Cheers,

Rossi

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi is the lead sports columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has been called many names, but “Rossi” is the one to which he most often responds. He joined the Trib in November 2002 and was promoted to the columnist role in July 2014. Previously, he had covered the NHL’s Penguins (2006-14) and MLB’s Pirates (2006), while also working on beats associated with the NFL’s Steelers (2005-06) and the NCAA’s Pitt (2004-06). He has won national and local awards for his coverage of youth concussions and athletes’ charities. Also, he is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association executive committee and the Pittsburgh chapter chair. Raised in Crafton and Green Tree and a graduate of West Virginia University, he has covered a Super Bowl, All-Star Games in baseball and hockey, the NCAA basketball tournament and over 100 Stanley Cup playoff games, including the Cup Final twice. Oh, and his sports reporting has led him to brief chats with Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen; so that’s pretty cool. He is a regular contributor on TV with WPXI, Root Sports Pittsburgh and TSN. Also, he is the authorized biographer of Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.

Comments

  1. Nathan says:

    Some Jordan Staal numbers:

    points per game:
    06/07 – 0.52
    07/08 – 0.34
    08/09 – 0.60
    09/10 – 0.60

    First four seasons – 327games, 168pts = 0.51 ppg

    Last season:
    42games, 30pts = 0.71 ppg which is 83rd best out of the 891 players that played at least one game last season.
    http://www.nhl.com/ice/playerstats.htm?fetchKey=20112ALLSASAll&sort=avgPointsPerGame&viewName=points&pg=3

  2. Chris says:

    “unknown illness” Even hockey beat writers don’t disclose injuries. Good to see you back.

  3. Andrette says:

    Hey, Welcome back! Hope you’re feeling better. Always appreciate this blog:)

  4. James Thompson says:

    It would be great to see Sidney back on the ice on opening day, considering how much we missed him in last season’s playoffs.

  5. SABU SAYS says:

    Welcome back Rob. good to have some decent hockey journalism again.

    This fan base kills me. I wasnt aware of critcism towards Staal last season. Probably the same bunch of geniuses that were critical of MAF..and were dead wrong. Staal is a checking shut down centre…and to expect him to suddenly become crosby or malkin is assinine.

    Maybe at the trade deadline, we can get some better informed fans.

    I know what theyre going to start on next…Just because he skates good and makes a good pass, in no way is that Morrow kid NHL ready. He would have his head given to him defensively..and his confidence subsequently crushed if he would stay here.

    Is it me or is there a problem here with guys going under the knife? Now Orps is the latest. Maybe its coincidence but Talbot wasnt right for a whole season (he may never be like he was but thats okay now)…they didnt get Staal right initially, Shouldnt Jeffrey be ready as well? Maybe this medical staff needs a re-evaluation.

  6. yinzer says:

    I too welcome you back Rob. It is hard to believe that anyone would need to apologize for J. Staal’s play. Are these the bandwagon folks that watch a handful of games a year just to proclaim they are a Pens fan?

    Enough pleasantries. Now on to SABU’s comments. The problem with these guys going under the knife has more to do with timing of the injuries and/or surgeries than with the medical staff. Orpik didn’t have his surgery until mid-summer (July 20th). The typical recovery time is 6+ weeks to get back to normal activities, but varies per athlete. Jeffries ACL surgery was a couple months (April) after Malkins (February). Malkin was quoted as saying his knee is approx 90% at this point and that is after 7 months. Typical recovery time for an ACL is 6+ months, which puts Justin well on schedule. Staal’s injury not being right initially? The last I checked it is not often medical professionals are held responsible for infections that prolong recovery and cause follow-up surgery. While it was great for Jordan’s warrior mentality to play through that injury, it most likely didn’t help the recovery process either.

    Can we all remember here that these guys have played a lot (emphasis on a lot) of hockey and logged a lot of minutes over the past few years. While this is great for us the fans, it does not give the players’ bodies a lot of time to heal and rest.

  7. Fenn says:

    Rob, welcome back.

    Nathan, thanks for those Jordan Staal stats. I, too, am weary of so-called fans who bash Jordan because he isn’t Crosby or Malkin (or even his brother Eric). Pretty much no one can be. He’ll thrive simply because he’s healthy again, and because Sid and Geno both are back (or soon will be), allowing Staal to do what he does as well as anyone and better than most, which is play shutdown defense and pounce on every opportunity he creates, without feeling like he has to go out and score the game-winner on every shift.

  8. RELENTLESS_FORECHECK says:

    Well, you hinted at the gravity of Eric Tangradi’s situation, Rob, and now he’s been cut. His stock has clearly fallen within the organization, but is it a question of fitting in Bylsma’s system or is there a concern that he lacks the tools to compete in the NHL? More to the point, is he a project still worth investment or is it time the Penguins moved on?

 
Other blogs
Sports: Rob Rossi | Steel Mill | Chipped Ice | Bucco Blog | iPreps | Pitt Locker Room | Penn State Sports | Trailing Off
News: This Just In | Trib List | ICycle  


» Top TribLIVE.com Sports
» Top TribLIVE.com News
» Top TribLIVE.com Breaking News