Some sporting thoughts before sunrise …
>> The chat is today at noon, usual time, usual place, usual weapons ordinances.
>> It’s ironic and unfortunate that, just as hockey is thriving in its second boom, just as the Pittsburgh area is No. 1 in the U.S. in TV ratings for NHL games, the Wheeling Nailers are being sold and might be getting moved.
I won’t pretend to know the inner workings of the franchise, its situation at the Wheeling Civic Center or what might be compelling the Brooks brothers to dump the team when they have so many other sports holdings, including a stake in the Texas Rangers. But I do know that there long has been a solid, if not overwhelming, base of support for a franchise that’s made it there for 20 years now. The Nailers are the only game in town, and that applies to their work in helping the community programs.
As you might guess, there’s a Save the Nailers Twitter account.
Could the Penguins get involved, given that this is their ECHL affiliate?
Or even the Pirates’ Bob Nutting, a lifelong resident of that area?
The reports last night made it sound too late, but that wasn’t certain. What is certain is that losing both of the ECHL’s franchises from our region — the historic Johnstown Chiefs, basis for the classic “Slap Shot” also were lost in the past decade — would be a blow for the entire hockey family here.
>> No ECHL franchise has sent more players to the NHL than Wheeling. The full list.
>> Marcus Gilbert might move to left tackle, as he told a national radio outlet. He said the Steelers’ coaches told him that during his exit interviews.
Assuming Gilbert works — shows up for meetings and stuff — and performs as he did down the stretch, that sounds like a worthwhile move. It’s the critical position in protecting Ben Roethlisberger’s blind side, and it’s well past time the team found a younger player to handle it.
But you’d hope that doesn’t mean Max Starks is being ruled out. Been there, done that, and it wasn’t pretty.
>> Exceptional opportunity tonight for the Penguins at the Garden to get back that swagger they built up in late December by beating the Sabres, Blackhawks and Jets. Buffalo and Winnipeg aren’t great, obviously, but both were hot at the time. The Rangers are good and hot. And they’ve got Henrik Lundqvist.
The only negative in the current three-game winning streak is that, of 12 goals, all but one has been scored by either Evgeni Malkin or James Neal. That was Richard Park’s nice effort in Tampa.
More is needed.
Joe Starkey has a revealing column in today’s Trib about Matt Cooke, who unquestionably is one of those supporting guys who needs to produce way, way more than he has of late.
Pascal Dupuis is another. And that’s no knock. Dupuis was superb in effort and execution the other night against Carolina, but he hasn’t scored in nine games now.
>> I’ll be spending the later part of the afternoon with the Pitt basketball team, still 0-6 in the Big East with ESPN’s mega-production “Game Day” coming to the Pete on Saturday.
>> By the way, not sure how many would realize this, but the Pitt women also are 0-6 in the Big East, coming off that outrageous 120-44 loss to No. 2 Notre Dame a couple nights ago. Neat piece on Agnus Berenato’s reaction yesterday.
It has to end sometime, right?