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Wakeup Call: Farewell, 86

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Brief and to the Point …

>> Hines Ward’s amazing career with the Steelers is complete. Today is columnist Joe Starkey’s turn to columnize, so I’ll stay out of the way on this one for a bit.

The one thing I will toss in, maybe the only thing that bugged me out of everything that was learned yesterday, is that the Steelers never came to Ward with a reduced-salary offer. That doesn’t bug me because I think they should have. It bugs me because it spells out in stark terms that they never had the slightest interest in bringing him back.

As I wrote a couple weeks ago, Ward deserved to know this much sooner than yesterday.

>> This won’t be popular with Penguins fans, but that hit on Kris Letang last night was legal. Eric Nystrom took the body and, from what I could discern from replays, got the chest and whipped the head back. Initial point of contact was the chest.

Do I think it should be illegal?

Yes, absolutely. But it’s not under the current rules.

One common argument I was hearing last night was that Nystrom should have played the puck rather than the body. Now, I get that this is a football town, but that’s a football rule, not a hockey rule. Nowhere does it state you have to play the puck. The puck was right there, and Nystrom delivered the hit.

It stinks that it happened. It stinks that it will keep happening until the NHL bans all head shots, even those that are not at the initial point of contact.

But it wasn’t illegal.

>> The home portion of Pitt’s basketball schedule had a surprisingly uplifting conclusion last night . I had intended to go to that but got hit with this really nasty illness.

>> For all the hype, this Sports Illustrated expose on Ben Howland sure landed with a thud.

Or maybe it’s just us. Maybe we’ll never look at any scandal again the same way after Penn State.

>> Keeping it tight today, as always on chat day. We’ll begin this week’s session at noon.

128 Comments

  1. Surprisingly, I don’t have an opinion on the hit. What’s done is done. Shanahan will punish it or not as he sees fit. What I do have an opinion about are the Pens playoff chances without Letang in the lineup. I think their chances of winning a cup without him are even worse than their chances without Sid, as in slim and none. I’m hoping that his sitting out the rest of last night’s game was an abundance of caution rather than a new injury. The Pens did get a lot of grief for allowing him back into the game in Montreal, and allowing Sid to play against Tampa last year. So we’ll have to wait and see. One bright spot was that, by the third period, I thought the rest of the D got it together and compensated well for his absence.

  2. Dejan, replays show that Nystrom made contact with Letang’s head. Nystrom was beaten to the puck and decided at the last moment to make that hit. Intent isn’t a factor here, and Nystrom has no obligation to play the puck. However, that does not give him leeway to decapitate Letang. It was an unnecessary hit that warrants further discipline.

    Also, I’m not sure how you can say it’s a legal hit because the principle point of contact was the chest, but then argue that such a hit be made illegal. By saying that, you’re basically stating that hits to the chest, currently legal, should be illegal. Furthermore, you can’t suspend a player for making a hit that results in whiplash or snapping of the head. That’s penalizing the result of the play, something for which the NHL already is condemned when issuing suspensions and discipline.

    Either this hit is legal and no further discipline is required, or it’s illegal and Nystrom should be suspended. Can’t take both sides here.

  3. Your sentence —
    “Today is columnist Joe Starkey’s turn to columnize, so I’ll stay out of the way on this one for a bit.”
    – certainly gives one the impression that you’re chomping at the bit to get something down on paper.

    I’m only making this observation because that statement indicates to me that you really enjoy writing (beyond the earning a living part).

    Not that I’m surprised (at all). It’s just the first time that I’ve been able to infer that fact so clearly from reading something of yours.

  4. This hit should be illegal because the intent seemed to be to injure. Yes, in hockey you can play the body but this hit is in a gray area because Letang didnt even really have the puck. You see that all the time, especially in races to the puck, but usually it is an early bump and both players are looking for the puck. Nystrom could have made a good hockey play and gotten a hit and ended up with the puck in the penguins zone, but he didn’t. That is where the problem lies.

  5. JAL’s You Are What You Love Morning Links

    GENERAL DAILY UPDATED BASEBALL SITES

    1- MLB Transactions

    http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/pittsburgh_pirates/

    3 Yahoo Free Agent Tracker

    http://ca.sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news;_ylt=AvN8KLXkNW0TcRjzSCagLIMBbgM6?slug=jp-passan_ultimate_free_agent_tracker_baseball_110211

    4 Pittsburgh Pirates 2012 Spring Training Tracker

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/st2012

  6. PIRATE BLOGS

    5—Pirates Prospects

    Alvarez, McCutchen Seeing Good Results with New Batting Stances

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2012/02/alvarez-mccutchen-seeing-good-results-with-new-batting-stances.html

    Robbie Grossman Versus the Ideal Corner Outfielder

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2012/02/robbie-grossman-versus-the-ideal-corner-outfielder.html

    6 Rumbunter

    2012 Pittsburgh Pirates–Who Is in the Pen?

    http://rumbunter.com/2012/02/29/2012-pittsburgh-pirates-who-is-in-the-pen/

    Videos: Pirates Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek Look Strong

    http://rumbunter.com/2012/02/29/videos-pirates-joel-hanrahan-and-evan-meek-look-strong/

    Added Wild Card Spot: Good for Pirates, Bad for Baseball

    http://rumbunter.com/2012/02/29/added-wild-card-spot-good-for-pirates-bad-for-baseball/

  7. 7 Green Weenie

    Camp Questions – Erik Bedard

    http://oldbucs.blogspot.com/2012/02/camp-questions-erik-bedard.html

    8 Hyzdu Headquarters

    Let’s Talk Prospects

    http://hyzduhq.blogspot.com/2012/02/lets-talk-prospects.html

    NEWSPAPERS and MAGAZINES

    9 Bradenton Herald

    Jason Grilli lightens clubhouse mood for fellow Pittsburgh Pirates

    http://www.bradenton.com/2012/03/01/3910205/grilli-lightens-clubhouse-mood.html

    10 Pittsburgh Tribune Review

    Bunt bangs up Pirates starting pitcher Burnett

    http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/pirates/s_784206.html

  8. 11 KDKA

    Rounding The Bases With “The Mayor” Sean Casey

    http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2012/02/29/rounding-the-bases-with-the-mayor-sean-casey/

    12 Brownsville Herald

    MLB Capsules – Overall: Commentary – The real victim in the Braun saga

    http://www.brownsvilleherald.com/sports/braun-137493-commentary-ryan.html

    13 The Biz of Baseball

    MLB.com Releases At Bat 2012 for iPhone, iPad and Android Devices

    http://www.bizofbaseball.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5615:mlbcom-releases-at-bat-2012-for-iphone-ipad-and-android-devices&catid=65:mobile-devices&Itemid=151

    14 Columbia Daily Tribune

    Collector says he followed MLB protocol

    http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/2012/feb/29/collector-says-he-followed-mlb-protocol/?sports

    15 NBC

    Running down the rosters: Pittsburgh Pirates

    http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/02/29/running-down-the-rosters-pittsburgh-pirates/

  9. Steelers Blogs

    19 Behind the Steel Curtain

    Can Football Be Saved From Head Injuries?—A Historical Perspective

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2012/2/29/2831234/nfl-concussion-law-suits-previous-injuries

    2012 NFL Draft Interviews – Blair Walsh, K, Georgia

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2012/2/29/2828689/2012-nfl-draft-kickers-steelers-blair-walsh

    Potential Steelers Draft Pick Profiles: Cordy Glenn, OG/OT, Georgia

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2012/2/29/2811789/2012-nfl-draft-mock-steelers-cordy-glenn-offensive-line

    20 Steelers Depot

    - Steelers Moving Towards the Tender Deadline

    http://www.steelersdepot.com/2012/02/steelers-marching-towards-the-tender-deadline/

    21 Steelers Gab

    Steelers Announce They Will Release WR Hines Ward

    http://www.steelersgab.com/2012/02/29/steelers-announce-they-will-release-wr-hines-ward/

  10. Pitt Blogs

    22 Pitt Blather

    Expansiopocolypse: Pitino is the Shadow Commissioner

    http://www.pittblather.com/2012/02/29/expansiopocolypse-pitino-is-the-shadow-commissioner/

    23 Cardiac Hill

    How The Other Half Lives: Q&A With St. John’s Blog Rumble In The Garden

    http://www.cardiachill.com/2012/2/29/2829947/pitt-vs-st-johns-red-storm-score-basketball-line-spread-picks-pittsburgh-panthers

  11. WVU Blogs

    24 Metro News

    Gaining Confidence For The End Of The Season

    http://www.wvmetronews.com/wvu.cfm?func=displayfullstory&storyid=51267

    25 WV Illustrated

    KJ Honors WVU Fans with Unique Haircut

    http://www.wvillustrated.com/story/17044309/kj-honors-wvu-fans-with-unique-haircut

    Former WVU Guard Alex Ruoff Rehabbing Torn ACL in Morgantown

    http://www.wvillustrated.com/story/17019624/former-wvu-guard-alex-ruoff-rehabbing-torn-acl-in-morgantown

    PENGUIN BLOGS

    26 Pensburgh

    Letang, Sullivan go down, but Penguins defeat Stars 4-3 (SO)

    http://www.pensburgh.com/2012/2/29/2834832/letang-sullivan-go-down-but-penguins-defeat-stars-4-3-so

  12. Title Song You Are what You Love, Jenny Lewis , 2010. Jenny Lewis is singer, songwriter and actress. She has appeared in a number of television shows and teen movies, including playing one of Lucy’s grandchildren on Life with Lucy. Jenny was 10 years old at that time. In 1998 she was one of the founding members of the band Rilo Kiley. She currently performs with Johnathan Rice as Jenny and Johnny.

  13. Josh Yohe wrote:
    “One thing that can’t be argued is that Nystrom made clear contact with Letang’s head.”
    C’mon Dejan, that hit was nasty. Nystrom should get 5 games for that one. But since it wasn’t Cooke delivering the hit, he’ll get nothing but a slap on the wrist. This infuriates me! Right before playoffs. Leah is right, the Pens need Tanger more now than they do Sid.

  14. From the replays it is hard to tell if contact was made to the head. Funny how people on both sides feel absolutely positive what happened. look at roenick/milbury last night. Personally think it was a clean hit that took advantage of a player in a vulnerable position if it was orpik making the hit I’m sure opinions around here would be different

  15. My only problem with this is that I just cannot believe he is not a good #4 or #5 WR. If he was really willing to take the paycut, i just cant see how it wasnt worth it. Obviously not a starter with the players they have, but if they keep 5 WRs, how can he not be worth that at least?

  16. The fact they never came to Ward with a reduced salary offer doesn’t prove they never had the slightest interest of ever doing it. It could just as easily mean they were trying to decide whether they should.

  17. I just hope this decision doens’t come back to bite the Steelers in the butt. I will miss Ward.

  18. The theory I’ve heard as to why HInes wouldn’t be a good 4th or 5th wide receiver is because those guys are expected to play on special teams.

  19. DK – I’m glad you touched on the UCLA scandal in relation to PSU, although I don’t think it’s “us” with the problem.

    SI stooped pretty low in hyping that story to be something far more than it was. I give them enough credit to think that they knew full well what they needed to do to sell this story, and it worked. The sensationalism surrounding the tragic events at Penn State last fall certainly registered in SI’s minds and this was an obvious attempt to copy that same type of emotion.

    Not that I’m one to judge, but their credibility took a serious blow on this one. The boy can only cry wolf so many times before I stop listening.

  20. Hines is done. He can’t get open anymore. Could this have been handles better? ( sooner?) Probably. But, the Steelers did get him the catches and yards he needed last year. He’s a HOFer and one of the best Steelers ever. However, you can’t be a leader from the bench. As close as the Steelers are to the cap, there are going to be bigger surprise cuts that Hines.

    Leah, I agree with you on Letang. His play since he came back was outstanding. Even made Paul Martin look decent. For the Pens to have a long run in the playoffs, they need a healthy Letang.

  21. Who says that the Steelers didnt inform Ward a few weeks back that this was coming?

    A media member who covers the Steelers was on WDVE this morning and said that the team wouldnt have brought him back if he offered to play for free. They dont think he can contribute at all and if youre a #5 WR, you better be playing special teams,

    I would be shocked if the Steelrs didnt go to Ward awhile back – told him of their plans – and hoped he would announce his retirement. Im sure they didnt want this to happen but Ward wants to keep playing. I will go on record and say that if Ward signs with another team, it wont be until after training camp and injuries hit a team hard and need a body. The NFL knows his skills eroded badly over the last 12 months.

  22. “..so I’ll stay out of the way on this one for a bit.”

    *three sentences later – links to own article on Hines Ward*

    Your self-promotion is shameless.

    (this is meant in jest … mostly)

    DK: Yikes, yeah, that does look bad. Not my intent.

  23. I simply couldn’t tell from the replays the location of the initial point of contact on the Letang hit. I also don’t think that hit was malicious in that Nystrom was not trying to injure Letang. Yes, he hit him hard, and made what looked to be a conscious decision to do so but this is what he has been trained to do his entire life. I also thought that Letang placed himself in a very vulnerable position prior to the contact. He needs to protect himself. All that said, I don’t think I like the idea of “play the puck” only. Hockey is a physical game and it should stay that way. Why can’t they just treat any shot to the head like high sticking?

    I sincerely hope to see Hines Ward absolutely torture the Steelers while wearing a Baltimore Ravens uniform next year. Preferably, while holding the Lombardi trophy high over his head saying “I’m going to Disney World, Art Rooney”. All while wearing that fabulous smile. Another in a long line of all time Steelers greats treated with indignity and discourtesy.

  24. If Letang does indeed have a concussion, it will almost certainly mean bye-bye for the regular season for him and, hence, bye-bye any chance at Stanley for the team. That hit just cast a pall over the whole game last night. Couldn’t really enjoy it after that. I was getting so charged up at the thought of Sid coming back and a healthy team making a real fun.

    Sure, he might not be concussed, but….I think we all know what news is coming. Gotta feel bad for that kid.

  25. Pirate Countdown

    2 Days Until First Spring Training Game
    35 Days Until Opening Day

    2 Days Until Premiere of DC Nation on Cartoon Network

    Thirty-five days until my wife comes running up the stairs to investigate noises, only to discover it was just the sound of my head banging against the wall.

    Cartoon Network is trying to recapture 1970′s Saturday morning cartoons, complete with short animated vignettes a la Schoolhouse Rock. My 10 year old son is excited, but not as excited as me.

    I know there are comic geeks among us.

    Countdown Comment: Farewell, Hines. It sure was fun to watch you in a Steelers uniform.

  26. Hines Ward is an all time great Steeler. And in my opinion, a Hall Of Famer. I wish him well with his life’s work. It’s time to move on with it.

  27. Dejan, I tried to make this point on twitter last night but, on your invitation, will expand on it here.

    One of the things that makes Letang great is his willingness to play on the edge, to play with 110% effort and to take risks. He takes risks with the puck, with his positioning, pinching or jumping into the play, and he occasionally leaves himself vulnerable. It was the same with the Pacioretty hit. Letang was vulnerable there because he was stickhandling across the middle of the ice. This time he reached for a puck in the corner, took a risk, in order to chip it by Nystrom. At that point, the puck was already past Nystrom and if Letang gets by him as well, the Pens have an odd man rush developing and Nystrom’s coach might not have let him back on the ice.

    Nystrom has a job to do. He has to get in on the forecheck and bang bodies. That is how he stays in the league. He has no reputation as a dirty player, no history with Letang (as far as I know) and, without checking, I believe he has really increased his offensive production since being cut by the Wild and claimed by the Stars earlier this season. I don’t think he intended to hurt Letang, he just wanted to get a piece of him after the puck was chipped.

    But my focus is on Letang here because he put himself in the position to make a play, but often when a player goes for a risky play, the cost of making a great play can be that split second where that player has to make himself vulnerable. The other team’s job is to make him pay the price and break up the play. It is the same when going for a rebound in the crease or for a wide receiver going across the middle or catching a high ball along the sideline. It is surviving that vulnerable split second and still making the play that makes a player, or a given play, great.

    Thus far in his career Letang has played with that reckless abandon that we as fans love, as long as he can stay on the ice. But most players can’t make those high risk plays, whether the risk is losing the puck or getting rung up, the risk is often greater than the reward.

    Letang could have played the body himself. Or if Letang goes into the corner upright, body against boards, he may have taken a hit to advance the puck up the boards, but it is highly doubtful he would have gotten drilled as he did. He put himself in the vulnerable position in order to try to chip it by Nystrom AND get himself around Nystrom as well.

    Look, I love Letang. I think he is a top 25 player in the league and part of the reason is that he takes risks. But he is going to have to tone it down and be more cautious.

    The NHL cannot become a league where guys can put their heads down to stick handle through the middle and, by the very fact they have the head down and are ‘vulnerable’, be rewarded with an immunity from contact. Hockey doesn’t and can’t work like that. If you go into dangerous areas, often because that is where the glory is, you have to be prepared to defend yourself.

    The responsibility cannot always be on the hitter. He has a job to do to and a guy like Nystrom simply is not talented enough to target Letang’s head on a hit like that at that speed. Does anyone think he left the bench with the intent to target Letang’s head? He is lucky to get a piece of Letang. Ask around the league, hitting a guy that can skate like that at high speed is not easy. It happens so fast and there is not a bad guy on every play or even on every play which causes an injury.

    Letang’s exuberance for the game and desire to make great plays and be a difference maker leads him into dangerous situations. He needs to balance those things better and protect himself because the team needs him healthy and on the ice.

    DK: I’m very glad you brought this here, Brian. Really good stuff.

  28. “Thirty-five days until my wife comes running up the stairs to investigate noises, only to discover it was just the sound of my head banging against the wall.”

    LOL John, priceless!

    @scapper ~ I am actually being optimistic Tanger isn’t concussed. The reason being, after the hit by Pacioretty, the Montreal doctors cleared him to play after they examined him. He ended up being concussed. I think the team had no choice but to sit him regadless. We shall see!

  29. This is my problem with the Letang hit.

    Plays like that actually DIScourage physicality in the game. Not Alexander-Ovechkin-taking-a-run-at-a-guy-from-across-the-rink physicality, but actually mucking and grinding hockey plays.

    If you think Letang put himself in a vulnerable position, then you’re saying that 90% of the extra effort, little moves that make players and teams good should be stopped. With that logic, Letang should’ve just stopped trying and let Nystrom take the puck.

    No, Nystrom knew from 20 feet away that he wasn’t going to even attempt to play the puck. You can’t tell me that players can adjust to the puck scating full speed through the neutral zone, but when they get around the boards all the sudden the game is too fast to control. It’s a matter of respect.

    It comes down to who you want to watch playing the game. The Nystroms of the world or the Letangs.

  30. DE Randy….I agree with you.
    I think Hines and everyone should’ve seen the hand writing on the wall when they did everything in their power to get him to 1,000 catches (shovel passes anyone?) at the end of last year.

    Anytime a great is let go like this, there’s always “the Steelers could’ve handled this better” or “couldn’t they have brought them back for one more year?” cries.

    The answers are ‘no’ and ‘no’. It’s never easy to release a Hines or a Franco or any great.

    That being said, I am so glad I got to see Hines for 14 years. I can honestly say that I enjoyed seeing him play more than any other Steeler WR…..and that is saying a lot.

    God Bless you Hines….but it is time to get on with your life’s work. Don’t become a Franco….retire!

    Black and Gold Foo

  31. Hines is one of the all time great Steelers and an all around great football player. Everyone knew this day was coming but it is still an awkward parting. It will be even stranger to see him in another uniform next season if it comes to that. His great career aside, it was obvious last season that age, wear and tear, etc. had caught up to him. He had a minimal role at the end and I think it would have been even less if not for the effort to get him to 1000 receptions. Thanks for the great memories hines! You’ll always be a Steeler!

  32. NMR ~ you have put into words how many of us feel regarding the Letang hit, and many others. Good job!

  33. I heard on “the fan” that reporters saw Letang actually had a noticable bruise on his chin after the game… I thought he definitely got a part of his chin on that hit.

  34. Simply put thanks Hines for giving us 14 tough years and us 30 somethings a reason to be proud like our parents of the 70′s! We will still be talking about you and your steeler contemporaries thirty years from now! See you in canton

  35. Btw, absolutely tremendous article by Joe Starkey.
    He captured Hines’ career perfectly.

  36. Dejan;

    I agree on the Letang hit. However, Mike Milbury, of all people, was violently defending the concept of “intent” as the root of how penalties are to be assessed.

    Look the NHL leaves way too much up for interpretation and the rules say nothing concerning intent, but they opened the door last year with their single-handed campaign to stop Matt Cooke.

    Cooke, to his credit, did the right thing and changed his game. However, this year the NHL has taken a step back to the wonderful “clutching and grabbing” era and is starting to take the line of ” a little is OK.”

    So which is it NHL? Get this corrected and soon! Personally, I would be, “banging the Garage door and demanding Bettman to step up,” if I was in Mario’s shoes. Some teams seem to be taking advantage of the Pens kinder/gentler approach this year and the league seems intent on letting some of it go. Perhaps I am being a bit of a homer but this is nothing compared to the whining I hear from the Flyers on a nightly basis.

  37. Post #15 seems pretty much on target to me, with several additions.

    Dejan, based on the little we know about it out here among the unwashed, it is POSSIBLE “that they never had the slightest interest in bringing him back.” But it is also JUST as possible that Arriba is correct, and the Steelers were trying to decide over the past several weeks. Maybe based on other circumstances that they thought had impact, such as getting closer to the cap line, making some progress in negotiations with Wallace, whatever. Or maybe there was some initial disagreement among the Steelers’ management team. So I cannot agree with the earlier part of your sentence, and opinion, “that it spells out in stark terms,” at least based on what I know now.

    You wrote that the Steelers “NEVER” had interest in resigning Ward. You seem sure of the situation. By comparison, I think that is POSSIBLE but I don’t know if this was long planned, or whether they CONSIDERED bringing him back before deciding otherwise. I mean that exactly…I DON’T KNOW.

    Dejan, yours wasn’t a twitter or chat comment that is written at lightning speed while multitasking (and I do not mean anything of this sentence sarcastically but as a compliment); in THIS setting I find that you choose your words carefully…so that raises a sincere question on my part: are you AWARE of something specific that indicates that the Steelers never considered it, or is it your opinion that they never did? Opinion is FINE – that’s sorta the role of a columnist – but when I read things as firmly stated as “spells out in stark terms…never had the slightest interest”, frankly it sounds like someone who believes they KNOW. So I’m asking. Do you?

    DK: They never made a contract offer, Drew, even one for the vet minimum. That means this wasn’t about money or the cap as much as it was about Ward’s ability to play. Ward’s dropoff didn’t exactly sneak up on anyone.

  38. @NMR—there’s always figure skating…

  39. You two obviously missed Blades of Glory.

    Obviously.

  40. Good point Arriba, that does add to it and i never thought of that.

  41. @CWalton – Flawless argument…*rolls eyes*

    Thanks, Jandy

  42. There’s a saying that fans root for the name on the front of the jersey, not the back. Hines was the exception. I don’t like this move. I find it hard to believe that having him on the team next season would have hurt the Steelers.

    Instead, we are left with the prospect of watching Hines coming back to Heinz to catch passes and level vicious blocks AGAINST our team and maybe FOR the Ravens, Browns or Bengals. This is not a pretty thought.

    For now, the Steelers have three WR’s (not counting people like Derrick Williams). I will try to withhold judgement while we wait to see how Steelers’ management decides to fill out the receiving corps. But I don’t see how Hines Ward would be worse than some marginal free agent (which is all they can afford), or middle-round-draft-pick rookie.

    He, and we, deserved better.

  43. Sorry Jandy, Tanger isn’t more important than Sid. Its the first time i’ve ever disagreed with you

    The door isn’t completely shut on Hines. If the Cap number comes in higher than expected, they could sign him at the vet min. i doubt it, but I won’t believe it until I see Hines in a Charges uni.

  44. From the replays I saw in slomo, he caught him right on the chin. Was LeTang in a pecurious position? Yes. And the point of the rule is to avoid contact with players in pecurious positions. It was clear to me from the replay that he was tracking the puck, realized he was beat, and at the last moment changed course. by the time he is changing course LeTang is already extended. It was somewhat of a bang/bang play. Did he target the head? i dunno. But he didn’t simply hit him in the chest causing whiplash. His forearm made contact to the chest. his shoulder hit his chin. I doubt he gets suspended, but I could see it going either way.

  45. Jandy…love your optimism, and what you said makes sense. Here’s to your assessment being spot-on.

    Now we’ll just wait for the honest and forthright update on Letgang’s condition from the team…oh wait.

  46. @Jack ~ hey friend, don’t be putting words in my mouth. :P
    I said AT THIS POINT, the Pens need Tanger more than they need Sid. This is a viable opinion in that…
    1) They are scoring, and are at fourth in their division in the playoff race.
    2) When Tanger went down last night, the defense struggled.
    3) When Tanger went down, the Power Play sputtered. (and it has been doing very well of late).

    RIGHT now, Sid being out of the lineup has been compensated for. Replacing Tanger will be immensely difficult (RIGHT NOW).

    To be sunny here this afternoon (drizzly this morning) with a high of about 45. I bet you get 80 today…right? :p

  47. scapper, yeah I know, right?

    AJS, I know you meant to say “precarious” right?
    (I’m trying to look good cuz that JohninOshKosh is REALLY good) ;)

  48. @DK–

    Ward gets cut, but the US defeat Italy…

    and not one word… ok, here’s one:

    disappointed.

    DK: Hit with a vicious strain of the flu last night, Paul. I was lucky to be awake for even an hour or so.

  49. Checking in from Richmond, VA.

    Since I was the last post in yesterday’s blog, I figured I’d repost some of my comments in the active discussion, updated a bit.

    Regarding UCLA – The SI article on UCLA doesn’t paint a really great image of Ben Howland or the program in general. While many may say, it happens everywhere, it’s still not the type of pub you want for your program. FWIW, I wanted to find out some additional info on one Reeves Nelson and googled him. Geez, quite the tattoo progression over a few short years there. That sleeve filled out nicely. And that’s about it.

    Regarding Hines – I wish him well. Top performer for the Steelers all through his career and perhaps the most feared WR when it came to laying a block. I’ll miss seeing his big smile after making a tough catch or even better one of his huge blocks.

    Regarding Letang hit – interesting for me to see on the NBC Sports Network (Vs. was much shorter to type) how Jones and Milbury were all up in arms about the hit postgame about how the Dallas player was at fault and then Roenick had to make a huge fuss about how Letang need to learn to take a hit. Come on. Just when it seemed like things were getting on track to have a team pulling into the playoffs hitting on all cylinders, this happens. Hope that it’s not another 20 games out of the lineup. They need him on the blue line…

    I think that their long term run in the playoffs takes a bit hit with him out. Put it this way, I think they get further with him than without him…

    I’m out.

    R.

  50. The UCLA story didn’t do anything for me. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear the same thing happened at Pitt this year. Maybe not the guys intentionally injuring each other thing, but those guys are rock stars on campus.

  51. WOW! This site today is full of sorrow and anguish with Hines getting cut and Tanger getting crushed. [by the way, I was watching the game and I thought the hit was unfortunate but not illegal.] And then, worst of all, Naje mentions SOCCER!

    This place needs some “Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy!!”

    I’ve been critical of Pedro not playing winter ball, but . . . . . .
    1/ He looked in great shape, and much more “proportionate” to his body type than the other Spring Trainings I have been to.
    2/ He appeared to be quicker laterally at 3rd than when I have seen him up close in the past.
    3/ Pedro has what has always appeared to be a “distant” personality in his dealings with others. This year I actually heard him laugh! He seemed to be enjoying “playing” baseball. He joked around with others around the batting cage, where I was standing only 12 feet away. Neil Walker got him laughing a couple times.
    4/ It is/was only batting practice . . . . . but, man, does he crush that ball!! He at one time hit 8 out of 11 swings over the fence (5 in a row), including one pitch when the coach called out, “Don’t swing——my bad!” on a pitch way down and away. Pedro took a step in and golfed the pitch over the left field fence. The dude can hit some moon shots! I know it’s a different dynamic when speeds are changed and twists are put on the ball . . . . . . . . but no one else out there was hitting shots like he was in batting practice, including supposed power hitters such as Rod Barajas, Nick Evans, Jake Fox, Garrett Jones, Starling Marte, and Casey McGeheeheehee. Impressive!
    5/ Most importantly, by far . . . . . Pedro was wearing his hat in a normal way, not over his ears!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  52. @Groat, #5 on your list might be the most promising Pirate’s news I’ve heard this spring.

  53. @Skip

    Loved Hines as much as the next guy, but I don’t recall any plays this past season that made opposing teams cower in fear from Ward’s offensive prowess on the field – in fact, I don’t recall many plays that involved Hines in them at all this past season, especially in the second half of the season. No recent historical precedent to believe that he has what it takes anymore to play at the elite level he once did.

    Any team that signs him will find out the same, unfortunately.

  54. @G2M2S, The ears are no longer being held captive by the oppressive hat? That’s great news. Thanks for the first-hand observations for those of us who will not be at spring training this year.

  55. Seriously? AJ Burnett has fractured orbital bone – out 4 to 8 weeks? Just great.

  56. DK-
    Was in the blog and you looked like you were swamped with questions… not wanting to hammer on Agnus Beranato, but would like to know what you think about….

    Michael Bradley…? To me, a poor-man’s Pirlo… he played very well against Italy yesterday in case you haven’t seen or read….

  57. For everyone wondering, the Pirates won’t know how long Burnett will be out until after the surgery tomorrow. As a frame of reference: James Harrison broke his orbital bone on October 2nd, had surgery on October 5th, and played on November 6th. And he strikes other human beings with his head.

  58. Though only a friendly still big to beat Italy anywhere, let alone in Italy

  59. @ Milo & De Randy ~ I would be willing to bet Burnett is good to go very, very soon.

  60. How can you take any sport seriously that calls one of it’s games a “friendly” ?

  61. Milo,
    Would you rather they call it an exhibition? A preseason game? A cactus league or grapefruit league match-up?

  62. @Groat

    Love the reports from down south!

    I know you previously haven’t exactly spoken glowingly of Pedro, so it’s great to know that you see a change.

    It seemed like Pedros problems were between his ears, or hat – whichever was the outer layer. I’m no psychologist, but a change in demeanor could affect his conditioning, confidence, and hopefully the ability to hit curveballs…:)

  63. @Naje

    Yes, come to think of it I would. Something more American would please me greatly. The Steelers are heading down to Baltimore for a “friendly” ? Montour visits Sto-Rox in a “friendly” ? Please.

  64. 100% illegal hit. Nystrom did not go for the puck and instead hit Letang in the head. It would have been a lot worse if Letang didn’t move at the last second. The remarks about “Letang could have started an odd man rush” are BS.

    The area behind the net where defensemen are skating one way, and opposing forwards are skating at high speeds in the opposite direction is a dangerous area, especially as it involves sharp turns and quick changes of direction. Given the reckless play by many players, the NHL should institute an automatic suspension for irresponsible hits like we saw last night.

    Yes, you can grind behind the net, you can lay solid body checks, but as an opposing foward, you can’t come flying in, not go for the puck, and clip someone’s head.

  65. Milo

    It no different than some sports calling games exhibitions and others calling them pre-season. What they do in international soccer is much different because the players are in mid-season condition.

  66. @JAL

    I was just having some fun with you guys. But seriously, do they have any off-season over there ?

  67. NMR,

    I agree with you wholeheartedly about demeanor/attitude having much to do with one’s play. Maybe Pedro’s a ‘laugh-a-minute’ at other times, but I had never witnessed more than a cursory smile from him in others years I have been at Pirate City.

    I was amazed to see him genuinely smiling and relaxed, and when he laughed out loud, it was so different than I had personally seen or heard or expected . . . . .

    although JaxBucco could be right that Pedro is much more able to be himself now that his ears are not being held captive!!

    I hope it’s not just a “friendly” thing, but Pedro wore a normal hat 9 straight days.

  68. Milo, please try to contain yourself ;X

  69. Milo

    The leagues have an offseason, the big one running from August to May. Top players do not much off time because they also play on the national team so they are in area tournaments and/or world cup qualifying. US team has games scheduled into June and players like Clint Dempsey will be starting their league season in August.

  70. No supplemental discipline for Son of Nystrom. I’ll just have to take solace in the fact that I’m in lock step with Mike Milbury on this. I think I need to start this day over.

  71. Milo ~ I saw that coming. Shamahan is turning into quite the joke. What with Gregson allowing his army to overlook all the clutching and grabbing t slow down the game, the NHL is becoming what it was before the lockout. A Garage League!

  72. @Jandy. Thanks, as always.

    One thing I have learned from this blog is that folks definitely have opinions about soccer. From a strictly crass marketing angle, I can see why Dejan should run a soccer column. Hate it or love it, people will read about it. Soccer is kinda like an opinionated talk show host-almost as many people listen because they hate the guy as those who like what he has to say.

  73. This ruling brought to you in part by the Jeremy Roeneck Foundation.

  74. OshKoshb’Gosh ~ kinda like Mike Milbury and Jeremy Roenick! Those two had me howling last night.

  75. Best thing the Pens can do is play clean hockey and take the Cup =)

  76. Milo–
    Offseason is May through August… but training begins in mid/late July… thus, you see a bunch of “exhibition/friendlies” here in the US in recent years with top teams from the European leagues playing either a US pro team or another foreign club team.

    This summer, though, the European Cup will be played in June and early July… it’s a great event….2008 winner Spain was beginning to show their dominance that year and parlayed that into a 2010 World Cup championship. Just fyi…

    I get bored with American sports at times… too predictable and too watered down.

  77. I think everybody saw the writing on the wall for Hines, its unfortunate. I only hope that he doesn’t end up in a Ravens uniform, I see it happening.

    No comments about AJ Burnett’s eye? Broken from a bunt??!! Isn’t that why he has a glove? Where was he standing? geez

    DK, I know you talked earlier in the week or last week about an ideas for an article. Is there any chance you can do a one-on-one with Clint Hurdle on strickly hitting. I can’t get enough of listening to him talk about those things. Its such a HUGE difference from what we are used to hearing from in the past. You can tell this guy knows what he’s talking about and is passionate about that part of the game……..or, he’s a real good salesman.

  78. @Ryan:

    I think AJ was bunting himself and the ball went off his own bat. I figured it was serious when they flew him to Pittsburgh.

  79. @Ryan

    He actually bunted the ball into his own face.

  80. Oshkoshb’gosh,

    “I can see why Dejan should run a soccer column. Hate it or love it, people will read about it.”

    Well, I won’t! I also won’t read about motorcross and who wins medals at the X-games. They may all be somewhat athletic events, with outstanding individual moments, but I have no desire to waste my time watching or reading about such.

    They say “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” If Dejan produces a column about THAT sport on Monday as he has suggested, I will be growing fonder on Monday!

    I’d much rather focus on important things——like how Pedro is wearing his hat!!

  81. Groat:

    Yet you waste your time reading my blog posts!

  82. ::cue for another Milo Bomb::

  83. @Jandy

    I think I’m out of ammo.

  84. Milo {not the horribly bad baseball announcer},

    Good get on the Burnett video!

  85. Milo, time to reload, think 5 hour energy drink!

  86. Anything in Oshkosh, Wisconsin has to be more exciting than “the sport that must not be named!” Watching the wheat fields grow is more exciting.

    By the way, don’t forget in your countdown: 10 days until Dejan’s clock is wrong!

  87. that does make more sense……….but talk about bad luck.

  88. Ryan, better to do it now and get it over with than on opening day ;)

  89. All, this was found by a buddy of mine out here in California…

    http://sacramento.craigslist.org/cto/2850566214.html

  90. Ryan, now that’s wild lol!

  91. Groat:

    No wheat fields to watch around here, although a lot of that wheat is used down the highway a piece in factories that make beverages some of us have been known to enjoy.

    Not sure of the proper metaphor here. Perhaps watching cheese mold?

  92. Watching beer ferment.

  93. So who starts opening day now??

  94. b’gosh——Watching cow pies harden?

    North Cali-forNEEA Ryan, very, very good question!
    Of course, it’s way too early to worry about it . . . . but it can’t be Morton and it can’t be Burnett, and I can’t imagine it being McDonald.

    Bedard?
    If Correa makes the rotation now, I could see Hurdle starting him to boost his confidence, stating that he was our “All-Star pitcher.”
    I’d prefer Karstens start the 3rd game, rather than going up against Aces.

    Correa, then Bedard, then Karstens, then JMac, w/ Morton ready by the time we need a 5th starter later on?
    And, I’m still rooting for Brad (don’t call me Mike) Lincoln!

  95. I would go with Bedard to open.

  96. So long Aaron Smith. You will be missed.

  97. The Steelers have informed Aaron Smith he is next. I guess James Farrior will have to wait until tomorrow. It’s like they’re taking guys out of a game one at a time so they can get their standing ovation separately. Aaron Smith was every bit the player Hines was. Just didn’t always look for the camera like Hines.

  98. Talk about two guys who defined what it means to be a ‘Steeler’. Sad to see it happen, but I completely understand why it had to be done. Smith always said it would take someone else to tell him it’s over…

  99. sorry, to see aaron go, but he hasn’t played a full season for like 3 years.

    Groat, agree with you on pedro’s hat, could someone please tell him to
    wear it like a ballplayer.

  100. Matchups, JAL.

    I like Bedard more to beat Cliff Lee than Roy Halliday.
    I want to at least get a split in the first two games.

    And, I don’t want Bedard on the track to have to face every #1 Starter as the season progresses. That’s why I like Bedard and Karstens to be #2 and #3.

    Let Correa start Opener and pitch his way into staying in rotation or forfeiting to Lincoln. Burnett takes that spot when he arrives.

  101. Bedard would probably be my vote as well, however I could see Hurdle sticking Correia there because of how well he started last year. But you know he’s going against Timmy. First 2 games of the season will be difficult. I hope to be at game 2 of the series though.

  102. DK-From yesterday’s blog, occassionally was meant when you can and that to me, is the best part of the blog, that you do respond “when you can” to the questions or comments made.

  103. @Ryan

    I’m confused at your post. If by Timmy, you mean Lincecum, then I think the match ups for Frisco would be Pirates 3-4 or even 4-5 depending on how Hurdle handles the Dodgers home opener. Interestingly, the Pirates have three home openers in 8 days. That is a lot of standing around for the players for ceremonies.

    Hope you get to the game, tho. Would love to see that stadium.

    BTW- a lot of outstanding hockey posts today. Dang, you people know your hockey.

  104. Meant 3-4-5 or 4-5-1. Three game series.

  105. AT&T Park is the 2nd best park in all of baseball.

    Yes by Timmy I mean Lincecum. Yes, i was confused, the Giants home opener is againts the Pirates, I had my dates wrong…

  106. My opinion of the Letang hit. I don’t think Nystrom had the intent of hitting Kris illegally as the play developed. He did appear to be trying to get the puck, until Letang chipped it by him. His stick was out in position of where the puck would’ve been. And yes, he probably would’ve drilled Letang along the boards as he should. However, Kris probably expected that so cut up the ice after the chip in order to avoid the hit. Then, to my view, Nystrom saw a chance as Letang’s head went lower, and he appears to turn and target getting a shot in on Kris and yes in my opinion aiming for his head. Yes, I think he caught Kris’ chin, but I never saw a definitive angle.

    Something else no one is mentioning is that right after they returned to the game from the 1st intermission, both Doc and Edzo were commenting that they did not think it was an illegal hit or that Nystrom caught Kris’ head.

    I believe intent was there from Nystrom and that he targeted Kris’ head. But unfortunately unless a player confesses there is no way of knowing their intent.

  107. I know we are WAY ahead of ourselves, when the first Spring Training game is still 2 days away—

    but my rotation is: Correa in Home Opener against Halliday, Bedard against Cliff Lee in game #2, and Karstens in Game #3. Day off (2nd one) for travel has McDonald in game #4 (Home Opener for Dodgers), then because of previous off days Game #5 returns Correa and Game #6 Bedard. Game #7 (Giants Home Opener) starts Karstens, followed by JMac in Game #8 and finally Charlie Morton or Brad Lincoln closing out Giants in #9.
    Return to top of Rotation for #10 against Diamondbacks, etc.

    I don’t see Burnett ready until mid-April at best, and if Correa falters after 2/3 go-rounds, AJ pops right into that spot in the rotation.

  108. Can you guys please stop talking about the Pirates pitching oponents to start the season, a.k.a future numbers 1-5 in Cy Young voting. It’s making me sad inside.

  109. Sorry, NMR. Just excited about baseball season, I guess. I’ll go watch TV now!

  110. Cannot understand your distress, NMR!!

    Pirates are on pace to face Roy Halliday, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Ian Kennedy during their first 10 games.

    WINS ALL!!

  111. Hope springs eternal, alright!

    The worst part is that I would not miss a single one of those games if they were at PNC.

    There is still nothing in sports that matches the art of watching a true ace in person. TV doesn’t come close to capturing the command and movement that you get from a decent seat at the yard, which luckily costs about $12.50 in Pittsburgh.

    But alas, not only will we be forced to watch from afar, but also stay up until 1:00am EST to do it!

  112. dk who’s next to go?
    86, 91, 68.

    51??, 50??, 98????

    DK: That’s the subject of tomorrow’s column, which will be up on our site tonight at midnight.

  113. Chris Kemoeatu

  114. DK, Sorry you’re feeling punk.
    Hope you are re-energized tomorrow.

    If you are having trouble sleeping, watch some soccer. Z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z

  115. One more soccer insult and I am going to start doing nothing but soccer morning links. Just people don’t like the game is no reason to it it and those of who appreciate it. This is an all sports blog and soccer is sport and it has a lot more action than football games.

  116. Not typed well–Just because people do not like the game is no reason to insult it and those who appreciate it..

  117. JAL:

    Best for your blood pressure to let some things go. For whatever reason–Soccer is a polarizing issue. I suspect there are European or Brazilian or just about everywhere else sports bloggers who take jabs at baseball and hockey.

  118. I for one would love to see American football adopt the clock never stops thing soccer has going for it. Took a European girl to a football game in college. After about twenty minutes she said to me in her delightful accent, “Why is the clock always stopped and why do they just stand there?” I didn’t bother taking her to a baseball game.

  119. JohninOshkosh

    Good point on letting it go. Good story about the girl, it must be a surprise to someone used to constant action–no time outs, minimal injury stops in most games, brief goal celebrations.

  120. Let Europe have their soccer and their socialism. I’m happy with American football and Capitalism. Although our President and Goodell have both drifting the wrong way.

  121. JD

    Not just Europe, South and Latin America, Africa, and the Far East. US has soccer too.

  122. Jal- True, soccer is everywhere. Even here. It doesn’t mean I have to like/watch/read about it. Sure, they are great athletes, but so are triathletes. Soccer and triathlons have the same viewership appeal to me.

    Nothing personal, I played the game from 5th-8th grade. My son played for a few years. I think what turned me against it was the “PC” idea they had of not having winners and losers. Everyone participated and got their medal. Yea!! Group hug!

  123. JD

    That has become too common, the idea that everyone gets a medal.

    Right, don’t have to like, watch, or read about anything. The goal of the morning links is to let everyone pick whatever they want to read, or nothing. Your choice.

  124. Keep up the good work, Jal. If you ever decide to start the day with a Friendly, unobtrusive Rush post (the Canadian power trio) I might even check out DK’s Godforsaken soccer column.

  125. I am an outspoken proponent of changes to hockey which protect it’s finest players. Yet, I am literally astounded by the opinions of those who would fundamentally change the game by eliminating checking. Only those who have never actually played the game at any level beyond high school think “play the puck” is a way to curtail the current epidemic of head injuries. Numerous changes, including larger ice surfaces, removal of hard plastic from elbow and shoulder pads, better helmet technology, elimination of head shots, and penalizing players who place themselves in vulnerable positions should be considered to change the culture of those who play the game. Even all that will not eliminate concussions. Head injuries will be be part and parcel of any game which permits/encourages physical contact between large men moving at high speed. And while I don’t want to see anyone injured, speed, grace and physicality are f the primary reasons that true hockey fans love this game. So keep rolling your eyes, NMR, but find another sport to watch. Ballet would be a good one for you.

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