Some sporting thoughts before sunrise …
>> My Wednesday column stresses that these Penguins are much more about their strategy than their stars. Doesn’t mean the stars aren’t hugely important. Just means that the team still functions the same way without them.
I hope you enjoy the breakdown of Matt Cooke’s goal, in particular. I love bouncing around the locker room to get background on stuff like that.
>> Cooke was quite the sight afterward. Not many have sympathy for him after some of the stupid things he did last year, but it was easy to get the sense that the crowd was in an immensely forgiving mood in his first home game since the long suspension. The roar for Cooke during pregame introductions was dwarfed only by those for Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
“It’s pretty special,” Cooke replied when asked how he felt. “I was overwhelmed.”
>> I’m not inclined to get into much more analysis of the Penguins’ performance last night, if only because it was their fourth game in six days, and this across three time zones. There were times last night when you could see the Panthers — who are awful but were playing just their second game — h ad the fresher legs, and that makes for poor comparison points.
That said, Joe Vitale continues to get things done at both ends. I was hearing a little bit from readers after the weekend games in Alberta that maybe he was being overused. Maybe he isn’t.
>> If you haven’t seen this yet, from Jeremy Roenick on Versus late last night …
>> Mike Tomlin buried Bryant McFadden deeper than Jimmy Hoffa in his news conference yesterday, at least in terms of McFadden’s place on the Steelers’ depth chart. It’s very clear right now that he’s behind William Gay and Keenan Lewis.
Remember that one the next time someone cites a “lack of accountability.” This same coach yanked James Farrior, the team’s unquestioned leader, off the field in the season opener.
>> Charlie Morton’s injury absolutely, unequivocally will affect the Pirates’ offseason pitching plans, no matter Neal Huntington’s firm denial on that count to our Rob Biertempfel last night.
How could it not?
In fairness to the GM, there’s really not much else he can do but deny that. He’s not going to come out and say, “Well, yeah, we’re more inclined now to give Paul Maholm $10 million.” There goes any semblance of a bargaining position for the team.
But be sure that losing Morton, who had a nice, full season, will impact the plans. None of Brad Lincoln, Rudy Owens, Jeff Locke or anyone else at the Class AAA level is ready to push for a fifth-starter job with this team. There simply must be another starter added, especially if Maholm’s option is bought out.
>> That said, best of health wishes to Morton, one of the better humans one could possibly hope to encounter on this trail.