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Dejan Kovacevic's Blog

Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

Wakeup Call: Operation Shutdown

Some sporting thoughts before sunrise …

>> My Friday column is about Jamie Dixon and the cross-purposes of being a college coach.

>> This will be the last full Wakeup Call until Jan. 30. I’m taking all of next week off, my first real break since coming over to the Trib, and I’m under orders to take it seriously. So, no columns, no chat, no blog, no Twitter, no radio or TV … I’m told I’m not even allowed to glance in the general direction of the BlackBerry. We’ll see how that goes.

At any rate, I’m still going to see Penguins-Canadiens tonight and Pitt-Louisville tomorrow and probably will tweet stuff from both of those. I’ll also be on KDKA-TV’s Showdown on Sunday night.

Here on the blog, I will put up vacation posts — not much on them at all — just so you have a fresh space daily to discuss stuff and so that Joe has a place for his excellent links package. You’ll also see all the usual game threads.

When I return, it will be off to Indianapolis to cover Super Bowl Harbaugh all week long.

>> On that note, yes, I’m picking 49ers and Ravens. I cringe at an Alex Smith-Joe Flacco championship  matchup as much as the next guy, but that’s what will be left.

>> All kinds of theories are emerging as to why the Penguins are playing so well during this four-game winning streak that began last Friday in Florida and continued most impressively last night in New York.

Here’s mine: Because the forwards have resumed being more physical, the defensemen have resumed being more aggressive than maybe any in the NHL. Dan Bylsma’s system is predicated on puck pressure. It’s supposed to happen at all corners of the ice. When it does, the defensemen skate with a little extra hop. That leads to big hits, like you’ve been seeing from Brooks Orpik, and even to big plays like Deryk Engelland setting up the winner last night. On a three-on-one rush. In a tied game. In the third period.

I’m a big believer in Bylsma’s system. Seeing it in full bloom like this is a ton of fun.

>> Derrek Lee is considering retirement if he doesn’t get an offer he likes, according to two GMs interviewed by ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. If that sounds to you like the Pirates simply need to up the ante, don’t be so sure. Remember, they offered Lee salary arbitration, so at least $7.25 million was on the table right there. It’s wholly possible Lee simply has a place or two where he’d want to play, and this isn’t it.

>> This is the transcript of yesterday’s chat. Be good.


  1. Leah Backus says:

    You’re off until the 30th? *twitch*

  2. Patrick Neville says:

    A well-deserved break, sir. We don’t need you “dying alive.” You’ll want to be fresh for the Cup run. Or maybe the NIT.

    I agree that the Bylsma system is running strong. For a while, it seemed like the cycle was simply the team skating in circles along the boards. Yes, they controlled the puck, but there was never any real attempt to score. Now it seems like they are trying to create more, either from the point or from behind the goal with those “power moves” toward the net.

  3. butch says:

    i really think when executed correctly the penguins d men puck retrieval is effective and kind of fun to watch….it seems they get to the neutral zone in the blink of an eye

  4. Dave G in Mason, OH says:

    Enjoy your vacation, Dejan!

    While you’re gone, the Bucs will sign Prince Fielder, Malkin will have a seven-point game, and all Pittsburgh Starbucks will offer free coffee…


  5. Lurch says:

    Unacceptable! You taking a break would be like a start NFL quarterback going to the Caribbean with his hot girlfriend during the bye and not concentrating on football and then losing in the playoffs…oh wait…just don’t lose your edge, and send post cards! Have a great vacation, and don’t worry, what could possibly happen while you are gone?

  6. scapper says:

    I think some of the commenters need to convene a secret meeting to see about appointing an “interim columnist” while DK is out. And don’t worry…you can all deny later that the meeting even took place.

  7. JAL says:

    JAL’s It’s Only Make Believe Morning Links


    1- MLB Transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

    3- 2011-12 Pirates Prospects Off-Season Calendar

    4 Pirate Offseason Stats

    5 Yahoo Free Agent Tracker;_ylt=AvN8KLXkNW0TcRjzSCagLIMBbgM6?slug=jp-passan_ultimate_free_agent_tracker_baseball_110211

    6 Pirates Prospects Offseason Tracker

  8. JAL says:

    7 Pittsburgh Pirates 2012 Spring Training Tracker


    8—Pirates Prospects

    Winter League Playoffs 1/19 — Dominican Aguilas Win Second Place

    Trade Targets: Brandon Allen

    9 McEffect

    1/20 News, Notes, and Links

    10 Rumbunter

    So You Don’t Like the Pittsburgh Pirates Concert Series Lineup?

    The Pittsburgh Pirates Need a Shortstop of the Future, the 2012 Draft Has ‘Em

  9. JAL says:


    11 Seattle Times

    Are reclamation projects like Oliver Perez ever successful?

    12 Rochester Democrat Chronicle

    Jamie Moyer revitalized his baseball career with Rochester in 1993

    13 Bellingham Herald

    Gammons weaves tales of baseball, life

    14 Forbes

    MLB Grants Unusual Concessions To McCourt To Get Him To Sell Dodgers

    15 Ny Baseball Digest

    Baseball’s Next Breeding Ground: The Bahamas?

  10. JAL says:


    16 Yahoo Sports

    Baseball Statistics Should Not Be Ignored: Fan Opinion

    17 PBC Site

    Around the Horn: Catchers

    18 The Nats Blog

    Around The League: Where Have You Gone Andy Van Slyke Part I

    Around The League: Where Have You Gone Andy Van Slyke Part II

  11. JAL says:

    Steelers Blogs

    -Steelers Depot

    Ryan Clark Will Try to Change Number to 21 If Mewelde Moore Does Not Return

    -Steelers Gab

    Mendenhall Has Surgery on ACL; Team to Sit Still on Contract Extension

  12. JAL says:

    Title Song It’s Only make Believe by Conway Twitty. Went to number one in the US and 21 other countries in 1959. Twitty started as an Elvis clone but the majority of his career was in country music.

  13. John Lease says:

    I’ll hope that you are secretly helping the Pirate front office by running down some starting pitching. If Roy Oswalt signs with the Bucs in the next week, you get all the credit.

  14. Jandy says:

    I can’t come up with anything witty that hasn’t already been said. I wish there was a like button on here. Scapper’s post especially had me laughing.

    DK, enjoy yourself. We’ll all be twitching, like Leah, but we’ll survive. ::mumblegrumblemumble::

    We will miss you!

  15. TJA says:

    Dejan – Enjoy your time off with your family and have a nice vacation.

  16. Drew71 says:

    I live in Florida. LIFE’S a vacation.

    But Dejan, you made Leah twitch. Last time Leah twitched, 14 cats disappeared from the neighborhood.

  17. bdubb says:

    Funny how you mentioned the reason why the Pens are playing better with being more aggressive. That is the recipe for Pitt hoops. Got to get back to the Pitt way. I saw some of that in the 2nd half Monday.

    For D Lee to retire over signing a deal here with the prospects of being traded by July speaks volumes to me. I get he wants to play in a specific city but we all know he wouldn’t be here for the entire summer and he would more than likely be traded to a contender as, at worst, a strong right handed bat off the bench. Pirates must change that locker room culture. They need winning players. How many on this roster have been on MLB winning teams?

  18. January 20

    29 days until Pirate Spring Training

    S-l-ow-l-y I t-u-r-n, step by step, inch by inch . . . . . .

  19. diehard says:

    For what it’s worth, can we mention at some point that Duquesne’s basketball teams – both men and women – have better records at this point than Pitt?

  20. aglebagel says:



  21. Drew71 says:

    Two journalistic sources, two different perspectives.

    Trib Review headline: “Malkin lifts Penguins past Rangers, fourth-straight victory.” And the first 14 paragraphs of Josh Yohe’s story focused on Malkin’s contribution. And not just Yohe. Multiple quotes from a couple of other guys who should know. Letang and Bylsma, for instance. And some guy named Orpik. The article ends with a return to the Malkin theme. Not sure how many more paragraphs since I can’t count above 14.

    I didn’t link it because it’s, you know, here.

    Then the headline from the AP game recap from ESPN.COM: “Evgeni Malkin pads lead as Penguins top Rangers to extend streak.” PADS the lead?? Sometimes headlines aren’t always reflective of the story, but…Malkin gets ONE star (Fleury two and Letang, who was raving about Malkin, three stars). I know Malkin played. Because the story mentioned him. Thrice, I think. And was the tone different than the headline? Here, from the story: “Evgeni Malkin padded the lead with two.” One of the quotes from the story, just sort of thrown in without comment or context: “Malkin has 24 goals this season, including seven in four games.” Really. Really?? Seven goals in four games and he’s just getting a few mentions and a major league back-handed compliment?

    Did these guys watch the same game??

    I cannot give you the link because the ORIGINAL game recap DISAPPEARED. Evidently the editors, who must not be as much Ranger homers as the writer, got ahold of the piece. While the headline stayed the same, the whole ignore-Malkin theme disappeared this AM.

    “Dewey Defeats Truman”

  22. @suckmeter says:

    No twitter, except for during both games and no tv, except for the Sunday showdown. Very funny. Sucks if you stay off Twitter all week. You can easily sneak that in during your morning, afternoon & evening coffee breaks.

    Now that you’ve written a column about Pitt they are guaranteed to go on a winning streak. I’ll be at the game tomorrow night. I may say hi if I see you.

  23. Operation Shutdown, Dejan.

    Where should we forward your mail——to Derek’s houseboat on the Monongahela . . . . . . or to a van down by the river?

    Whomever it was who gave you the orders to “put down the blackberry and step away”——your editor or your wife——we applaud them. We would rather you sit out the Cleveland game (although you will be missed greatly) and heal up so that we have you at full strength for (the playoffs) the real season of sport . . . . . . Pirate Spring Training: only 29 days away!!!!

  24. JMB says:

    DK —


    Sorry my friend, but it will be the G-men & the Pats in the SB.

    It sucks to have to cheer for Brady and the Pats this weekend, but my disgust of the Ravens is a 10, compared to the Pats score of 9 on the hatred meter.

    KLAW in his chat didnt think DLee was even worth $7m, so we might be better off without Lee.

    We all know this is another throwaway season.

    The Cubs, A’s, Pirates, etc are all waiting for 2014/15. Only in MLB do teams punt away multiple seasons…and Buddy the used car man just got his contract renewed as commish…nice work if you can get it.

  25. Drew71 says:

    Man, JiMBo, talk about burying the lead. Buddy got his contracted renewed as commish…reportedly for TWENTY TWO MILLION DOLLARS A YEAR.

    Nearly a FOUR million dollar annual raise.

    Reportedly DOUBLE Goodell’s salary of about 10.9MM.

    THAT’S nice work. If you can get it.

  26. Naje says:

    While I may agree on that nasty Niners defense getting to Indy, this isn’t 2009 and this isn’t the same Ravens team or the same Patriots team.

    1. The Ravens offensive line is not very good. In 2009, they dominated games at the line of scrimmage. Now, they’re lucky to keep peg-leg Flacco upright against a Gateway H.S. pass rush.

    2. This isn’t the 2009 Brady. Remember, Brady was coming off a season-long knee injury and hadn’t played a playoff game since the Super Bowl loss to the Giants. This isn’t the same Brady who turned it over 4 times to the Ravens in that playoff game. I’d be shocked to see that type of performance from Brady again.

    3. The Ravens don’t cover very well and making Ray Lewis cover those big TE”s all over the field will be a Patriots advantage. Watch Aaron Hernandez run a trick play, some type of option pass, when he’s handed the ball this week. Those 5 rushes against the Broncos looked like a certain set-up for this game.

    4. John Harbaugh has a big, big ego… and a mouth to match. And precious little at quarterback.

  27. Karen22 says:

    Enjoy you break, Dejan! We’ll miss you, but I’m sure your family has missed you more! You be good! :>)

  28. Where Have You Gone Andy van Slyke is very complimentary of Dejan in JAL’s #18 above.

    Drew, the source I read said that Buddy was moving from $22 mill to $25 mill a year for the 2-year extension. That’s a lot of used Kias and Chevys.

    No wonder he has abandoned the lower resources (I refuse to say s____ m_____) teams! He knows on which side of the bread his ARod contract is buttered.

  29. JAL says:

    On today’s column, not sure Pitt puts more freshmen on the floor than any major program. Pitt has 5 freshmen, WVU has 8. Last game Pitt started 1 freshman while WVU start 2 freshmen every game and last game started 3. At times WVU has had 5 freshmen on the floor and often has 3 on the floor. Fore WVU freshmen rank 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th and 8th in minutes played. For Pitt the freshman with most minutes is 6th in minutes played.

  30. JohninOshkosh says:

    Blackberry? How 2008 :)

    Sometimes I feel like a fatherless child.

    Does this mean no JAL, no Groat countdown, no Leah hockey insight, no Dave G live blogging of Pens games, no Drew snarkiness, no CWalton, no …

    In the words of Paul Westerberg- “Take me down to the hospital!”

  31. JAL says:


    There will be a thread and I will do morning links, just no columns or stories from Dejan.

  32. JohninOshkosh says:

    Oh thank goodness-I love me my JAL morning links.

  33. JohninOshkosh says:

    Sorry i missed DK’s reference to you, Joe, up above. Hadn’t had my morning coffee yet.

  34. Arriba Wilver says:

    C’mon, JAL (WVU alumnus). Quit piling on. Pitt can’t crow about anything this year and you’re going to begrudge a small sampling error? Give us SOMETHING. :-)

  35. Jandy says:

    Drew ~ let’s hope this “ignore Malkin’s contributions” sparks him to score MORE, much like opposing teams’ fans booing Sid just makes him play all that much better. Losers! ;)

    #71 has been on fire lately. The people that matter know….to **** with the rest!

  36. PetroSteel says:

    He had to go!!!
    Ben doesnt listen to him or anyone else.
    Ben can be the best QB in the league but he went backwards this year.
    Ben is not smart enough to be the QB and the OC. Not many QB’s can do it.
    They need to bring someone in from the outside that can take Ben and this O to the next level. Someone that can take full advantage of all the weapons that they have.
    I like Ben as a QB. Infact, I love him as a QB. BUT, Ben is the reason we are getting a new OC.
    If this doesnt work then Tomlin is next.

  37. Lurch says:

    @ scapper
    I am putting a D on my twitter avatar in support of Dejan!

  38. CWalton_67 says:

    @scapper-thanks for a great morning laugh. Too funny.

    @JohninOshKosh- Westerberg also said “All I wanna do is drink beer for breakfast” Guess that is what we’ll have to do while DK is on break.

    @Dejan-enjoy a well deserved break. We’re spoiled here with the amount of time you dedicate to what you do and allow us to comment on it. Blackberry? No iPhone, really?

    Best thing about Evgeni Malkin is that he is truly a team player. When he says the two points for the win are more important than the two points he got, you get the feeling that this guy really means it. Genuine.

    Haven’t seen any comment on Arians retiring…interesting.

  39. pgherinfl says:

    Enjoy your time off Dejan, you’ve definitely earned it buddy!!!

  40. MrB says:

    DK – Been catching up on your posts and chat today as I’ve been enjoying my live hockey inebriation of Evgeni Malkin playing like a superstar in Tampa this past Sunday.

    While you’re on vacation please ponder this non-personal critique. Your Penn State inclusive response to a Pitt question in your chat was a cheap shot. In the future please consider answering solely Pitt questions with a solely Pitt answer and likewise for solely Penn State questions and answers.

    It’s instances like this when you decide to get “cute”, that I find you most disappointing as both a journalist and a columnist. The fact that it was a live Q&A doesn’t justify your substandard response as opposed to a written piece.

    Please try to do better in the future.

  41. PetroSteel says:

    Report: Carlos Pena And Tampa Bay Rays Agree To One-Year, $7.25 Million Deal.

  42. ski says:

    First let me say you are the best in the Burgh in what you do, there is no one close!
    I look forward to your written opinions as well as the tv appearances.

    I think the Pens are playing better because of the story you put out about Sid and the C. It seems to have brought the team together for an us versus them mentality, so brother, we owe this winning streak to you!

    Enjoy your time off, you need it.

  43. Milo Hamilton says:

    My choice for new Steelers Offensive Coordinator – Mark Whipple.

  44. Kevin says:

    No follow up “Stooge” references??

  45. jackdeloplane says:


    Consider visiting sunny SC where its going to reach 75 degrees tomorrow.

    Catch that Jandy??

    Have a well earned vaca DK.


    I saw the DK response you mentioned and didn’t see it as cute or a cheap shot, just juxtaposing two of the 3 major colleges his paper covers and how one college handled a controversial hiring situation vs the other. The readers of the chat are well informed as to the two situations and in a chat context i thought it appropriate to bring up. in a column, unsolicited? Maybe out of line, but blogs and chats are informal and opinion-based so i thought it was appropriate.

    As a PSU fan I know it probably hurts to see it brought up, but sometimes the tough times make the future victories that much sweeter. I don’t think DK has a axe to grind there, just comparing and contrasting two major stories that parallel.

  46. Jandy says:

    MrB, could you fill the rest of us in as to what response you’re talking about. Copy and paste, it might enlighten us. Maybe then we can all see what a cheap shot is?

  47. Jandy says:

    Jack ~ UGH! It’s to freeze rain tonight and tomorrow….temps to hover in the 20’s. Keep on rubbing it in friend :p

  48. PetroSteel says:

    Tom Clements should be considered: Quarterbacks coach of the Green Bay Packers and has worked with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.

  49. Drew71 says:

    “no Drew snarkiness”

    Hey. I resemble that remark, Oshker.

    PS, how did you know my last name?

  50. Kevin,
    Congratulations! Glad someone picked up on it . . . .

  51. Drew71 says:

    Chris Hoke is apparently retiring too.

  52. jackdeloplane says:


    Check out the chat transcript for the PSU/Pitt response MrB was referring to. Much ado about nothing I think.

    I don’t mean to rub it in on the weather. Its just funny down here its the “winter that wasn’t” Strange. We usually have our fair share of cold/rain and general yuck. THis year, nothing.

    Looks like Arians is doing his own version of Operation Shutdown.

    have a good one

  53. Kevin says:

    @Groat…love the Stooges!!

    Whats the general feeling about Fitchner moving up to OC? I like the idea but also believe it would be more of a “lateral” move in terms of Ben’s comfort level and calling his own plays.

    I also like Petro’s idea of Tom Clements!!

  54. Kevin says:

    Oh! By the way…enjoy the break DK. As everyone else has said, you have earned it…

  55. JohninOshkosh says:


    -Snarkiness-Is that Dutch?


    -Actually, I always thought you were a cyborg from a futuristic realm with model designation “71” as the surname.

    Sorry-late Friday afternoon at work loopiness setting in.

  56. Drew71 says:

    Close. Norwegian. My great uncle Eliot shortened it and made it famous during the prohibition. We kept the original snark.

    (Yup. Friday. And still sober. Whoda guessed.)

  57. Hey JAL, I forgot to tell you I read the article you advised yesterday on Pittsburgh media going digital. It excited me that Trib stated it will be going digital and revamping its online by March.

    Sounds like Dejan’s promise last July and at other times that “blog will soon be updated and modernized” will soon be realized!

    I actually was getting tired of Dejan talking about the “prospects” of this blog. I guess that’s what you get from the BCTIB. {Best Columnist Team in Baseball}——Always talking “prospects.”

    More interaction here would be enjoyable. Good catch, Joe, on the article.

  58. JAL says:


    Thought it was an interesting article about what is going on with the media and the web.

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