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Dejan Kovacevic's Blog

Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

Wakeup Call: Branching out

Some sporting thoughts before sunrise …

>> In covering the NHL Entry Draft and writing several pieces from Minnesota over the weekend, I’ve added hockey to the very early column portfolio that also includes much on the Pirates and one on the Steelers.

Which reminds me of something I’ve wanted to share for a bit: My initial objective here is to write columns that are timely and relevant, but also while branching out a bit and getting more into football and basketball than in the past. Baseball and hockey obviously won’t require as much of a deep-dive. I do feel it’s important, even now with baseball in full swing, to tackle other topics, even if those sports are out of season. (If anything’s actually out of season anymore.)

On that note, this is the last of my draft-based columns related to the Penguins, this one on plans for their power play that Dan Bylsma described to me over the weekend. I take his plans a step further, as you’ll see in this graphic, and propose my own personnel to fit that plan.

I would love to hear your own variations on this. To me, it’s the dominant issue for this team, getting the most out of the talent it has with the man-advantage.

>> I see the NHL is proposing a major realignment in response to the Winnipeg addition, and it sounds great to me: Two eight-team divisions in one conference, two seven-team divisions in the other, none of this nonsense where a first-place team gets a No. 3 seed even if it has the eighth-best record, and Detroit, Nashville and Columbus get their wish of moving to the East.

Sure will be nice not to have to look at the NHL standings and need an interpreter.

>> Whether or not Jose Tabata is hurt for an extended period — doesn’t sound like he will be — the Pirates’ front office owes it to this manager, his coaching staff and players to step up and acquire some offense.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because I called for exactly that two weeks ago. And nothing that happened since then, notably taking two of three from the best team in baseball over the weekend, has changed my thinking.

There have been internal discussions about “restructuring” the offense, to borrow Clint Hurdle’s term used Saturday. But that strikes me as being little more than shuffling players on the 40-man roster, or calling up a guy here or there. With all due respect to Alex Presley, Chase d’Arnaud and the 37 catchers being called up, they’re not likely to be the answer. This team needs a real bat, and it probably will need to spend real money to get it.

>> It’s a small world, indeed: Sat in the very last row of my flight to Pittsburgh yesterday, and the guy next to me was Ashton Gibbs, Pitt’s terrific shooting guard. If you ever want comic relief before an early-morning takeoff — and smiles don’t come easily — watch basketball players try to board one of those pencil-thin regional jets.

I’ll have more on Gibbs sometime soon.

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