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Wakeup Call: Already the best?

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Brief and to the Point …

>> My Monday column makes the case for Evgeni Malkin as MVP. And it does so without breaking a sweat. Your views on this are welcome.

>> The Penguins’ blowout of Boston yesterday has to come with a whole bucket of salt. The Bruins very clearly were a tired team, having played the previous afternoon. And Claude Julien’s decision to start Tim Thomas a fifth consecutive game looked bad even before all those pucks started going past him.

That said, all these Penguins do is beat the better teams in the East without Sidney Crosby. Just imagine how Thursday might look in New York.

>> Almost as much as that, I’m looking forward to seeing how Dan Bylsma rolls lines today at practice. The biggest advantage to having Crosby wait the extra few days to play is there will be three full days of practice with his new linemates.

I’m on record as to who I think those should be.

>> One of those, Pascal Dupuis, now has 18 goals, including that tidy breakaway move yesterday.

I teased Dupuis that he’s actually pulled off that backhand move more fluidly in the past, and he was gentleman enough to concede that poor Marty Turco hadn’t played in the NHL in a year. It’s a totally valid point. But nothing should take away from the fine season Dupuis is having.

Let’s remind: This was a throw-in in the original Marian Hossa trade with Atlanta.

>> So Pitt’s going to some made-up, third-rate tournament after being rejected by the NIT. That rejection spurred Ashton Gibbs last night on Twitter to complain with one word — “Unreal …” — as if it somehow mattered.

When discussing this awful season at some point down the road, remember that as the low point.

The final order of the APSE winners came in yesterday. They’re here. I took fourth, and I’m blown away beyond words — for real — at just being on that list. The result a month ago was simply who made the top 10. This breaks it down into top five, then honorable mention.

I work with some excellent people at the Trib, and I’m so grateful they believed I could do this. (Man, I’m starting to sound like Sally Field. I need to shut up.)

Anyway, for those who asked at the time (and I didn’t have the answer), the three columns submitted were the no-autographs column, Crosby’s return column and the baseball sticking it to the Pirates column.

>> I’m leaving tomorrow morning for Bradenton, where I’ll cover the Pirates for 10 days. I’ll do all the usual columns — all baseball — in that span — plus a couple of features I’m hoping you’ll like.

>> I’ll make my weekly appearance on TribLIVE Radio today at noon.

49 Comments

  1. Don’t you really mean Dupuis was “packaged” along with Hossa? ;-)

  2. Dejan, the Hart is suppose to be about “player most valuable” unfortunately it becomes twisted into a repeat award of the Art Ross. I don’t think Malkin is the Pens real MVP. He is the scoring leader, and he is playing offensely at a very high level.

    However, most nights watching the Pens I ask: would I rather have Malkin out there on the ice or Fleury? Malkin has looked great, as did Sid last year before he was blindsided during the winter classic. But the Pens still racked up the wins last year with out either Malkin or Sid, and easily made the playoffs. Because Fleury is the Pens true MVP.

    If the Pens have Malkin, Sid, Letang etc. but loose Fleury for the rest of the year to injury, do you really think they win the cup? Fleury doesn’t have the best stats, but he sure is the Pens Hart.

  3. @Deb – agree. All season I’ve been saying Fleury is the MVP of this team. This is not to disparage what Geno has done, but I think everyone has fallen in love with his point production.

    Game in and game out, it is Fleury who has kept this team in contention. I think he at least deserves to be in the conversation.

  4. I’m not qualified to judge MVP candidates as I limit my fandom to the Pens and do not deeply follow the rest of the NHL.

    That stated, I was at the Pens second visit to Tampa and that was certainly an MVP performance by Malkin. He was dominant the entire game and when a big lead was squandered, he simply raised his game another level and completely took over

    He has done that on more than one occasion this year and that is the mark of a league MVP in my book.

  5. Geno for MVP! Deb has some really great points, and I agree with her. BUT…(that darn BUT goes in there a lot) DK has a huge point. MVP’s are RARELY given to goalies. That said….it should go to Geno hands down.
    He took the past offseason to get himself into the best possible shape, he worked on technque, worked on faceoffs, worked on shoot outs…and WOW, what a terrific job he did. You could say he took a leaf from Sid’s page. He worked on all those fine little points of the game he was defficient at. And I love the end result.
    Love the article DK :)

  6. JAL’s Devil With The Blue Dress/Good Golly Miss Molly 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

    5 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates Spring Training Broadcast Schedule

    http://blogs.piratesprospects.com/williams/2012-pittsburgh-pirates-spring-training-broadcast-schedule/

  7. Geno for MVP, indeed.

    Along those lines, I think we need to prepare for some of the most inane fan chatter in memory. (Not on this blog, but on the radio and in the express lanes at Giant Eagle.) Sid will come back and the Pens will lose 3 of 4. After winning 9 straight, the odds say that’s about to happen. But a segment of the fanbase will immediately begin blaming Crosby’s return for the losses, and we’ll be treated to theories about how he has ruined the chemistry, how he needs to be traded, how he is a detriment to the team, how he is overrated, etc.

    Go ahead and laugh, but I assure you it’s coming.

  8. NEWSPAPERS and MAGAZINES

    11 Tribune-Democrat

    Pirates’ Correia sharp in narrow loss to Rays

    http://tribune-democrat.com/sports/x1511612030/Pirates-Correia-sharp-in-narrow-loss-to-Rays

    12 Examiner

    Pirates Spring Training notes 3-11-12

    http://www.examiner.com/pittsburgh-pirates-in-pittsburgh/pirates-spring-training-notes-3-11-12

    13 Seedlings to Stars

    Hanson Fever

    http://seedlingstostars.com/2012/03/11/hanson-fever/

    14 Sarasota herald Tribune

    Orioles starter Eveland leaves room to improve

    http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20120311/ARTICLE/120319904

    15 Forbes

    Billionaire Steve Cohen Is Baseball’s Most Important Man

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikeozanian/2012/03/11/billionaire-cohen-is-baseballs-most-important-man/

  9. PENGUIN BLOGS

    26 Pensburgh

    Nine is better than eight- Neal, Malkin help Pens thump Bruins 5-2

    http://www.pensburgh.com/2012/3/11/2863198/nine-is-better-than-eight-neal-malkin-help-pens-thump-bruins-5-2

    Soccer(football)

    27 Sky Sports

    Rooney fires Red Devils top

    http://www.skysports.com/football/match_report/0,,11065_3495720,00.html

    28 World Soccer Daily

    World Soccer Daily: 10 stories you need to read, 9th March, 2012

    World Soccer Daily: 10 stories you need to read, 9th March, 2012

  10. Title song Devil With a Blue Dress , Mitch Ryder, 1966. One of three hits he had with the Detroit Wheels. Mitch Ryder still tours and released a new album this year. Theme this week is the top 7 songs on the KDKA Aces of the Air sound survey, October 31 1966. This song was number 6, up from number 9 the week before.

    Number 7 was Walk Away Renee by the Left Banke

  11. @ JAL ~ Devil with a blue dress, blue dress on, devil with a blue dress on! WOW, more memories :)

    @scapper ~ regarding the upcoming inane comments, nothing would surprise me!

  12. Come on down Dejan!!! We had a little rain yesterday but the weather will be great for the rest of the week. I really wish I could get out of the house and catch the Pirates while they are down here.

  13. “The final order of the APSE winners came in yesterday. They’re here. I took fourth, and I’m blown away beyond words — for real — at just being on that list. The result a month ago was simply who made the top 10.”
    A congrats to you, DK, from the heart. This is well-deserved.
    *YOU* are our Hart MVP candidate :)

  14. Again, Dejan, congratulations on the APSE recognition and honor. Well deserved and so cool! And, have fun in Florida…we’ll look forward to your views and thoughts on the Pirates. Baseball is back…oh, what a great time of year!

  15. DK, first off CONGRATS! Second, you are absolutely correct about Malkin being the MVP. I think what is getting missed here by some of the commenters is that there is a specific award for the goaltenders in this league because they are so important to the team. If a team does not have a good goaltender then they are going to struggle throughout a season. The fact is NHL goaltenders are the most important person on the ice because they have arguably the hardest job. But they have an award to acknowledge that fact. Malkin has done things this year that have literally been unbelievable. He is playing with a team mentality and allowing himself to relax and play the game the way he sees it and not force it. Much like the dominance of Mario in the past Malkin can take over a game in a way that looks effortless but is the product of his insane ability. Once again congrats, I knew there is a reason I followed you over from your previous paper!

  16. DK…..have a safe trip and don’t get sunburned.

    One last word of advice……stay away from Drew!
    :)

  17. Bigtime congrats, DK. Well deserved. Was a pleasure to re-read all three columns this morning.

    For my second prediction of the day, I say you’ll take top honors next year…if you submit the long promised (or is it “threatened”?) soccer column.

  18. As a Rangers fan, I’m not looking forward to what could happen Thursday.
    Gibbs should be happy he’s still playing anywhere in March.
    Looking forward to your Pirates reports.

  19. Chosen in the same group as Sally Jenkins, now that’s pretty good.
    Well deserved.

  20. Congrats DK on the award WELL deserved. We are lucky to have you in Pittsburgh! Part of what makes you great is that I disagreed somewhat with your positions on two of the columns but still enjoyed the articles immensely. They caused me to consider sides of the issues that I had not previously. In my opinion the sign of a great writer.

  21. How the mighty fall–last year I saw Pitt and Butler play at Verizon Center in the NCAA tournament. This season both are playing in the CBI.

  22. I see that Robert Morris will be playing in the CIT. Is the championship game in Crafton ?

  23. Brad Lincoln will miss his outing today with calf tightness. Kyle McPherson is also out with a dead arm. That pretty much describes the majority of their pitching staffs over the last 20 years.

  24. No question Malkin is the MVP. I’m not sure that is even an arguable point!

    In regards to today’s column, I said yesterday as I FINALLY got to watch a Pens game how blessed (and I don’t use that word often) Pittsburgh has been since 1984 when Mario arrived on the scene. DK’s opening – “It’s almost obscene how spoiled we’ve become with extraterrestrial-level hockey in our city.” says it ALL!

    @Milo – I played in a championship game (all-star game that is) in Crafton as part of the CIT back in 1980!! Not sure Robert Morris can handle that level of competition though! (kidding, of course – no offense to RM fans here).

    @scrapper – I second the motion on the amount of “inane chatter” we are about to be bombarded with – helmet’s on everyone.

  25. #Geno4Hart

  26. Thanks to all for kind words. (And warnings about Drew being in Florida.)

  27. Dejan,

    Great column on Geno, and while its not surprising that I certainly agree with you (A Pittsburgh fan agreeing that Malkin is league MVP? Never heard of that (: ), I felt that some of Geno’s stats could be debateable – especially since there was no reference to other players or teams. Not all of them of course – but it was absolutely brought home by referencing how often players on non-playoff teams get the Hart, and also how often goaltenders get the honor – hardly ever. I think if you combine Lundqvist and Stamkos together, historically either of them have a combined 4 out of 50 chance of getting it, while Malkin has all the rest (Lemieux in 88, Hasek twice in the 90′s) ? That was quite an eye opener, for me at least.

  28. Also, wanted to get your thoughts on a quick friendly Twitter “discussion” I had with Peter Taglianetti yesterday (he’s a great Twitter follow – @PeterTags)

    @PeterTags: Sid not playing, if Pens win today I would not play Sid even at Rangers Thurs. As long as they keep wining, let him practice. #pens #nhl

    @mattheworres: @PeterTags Sorry Tags, must respectfully disagree. A fully healthy Crosby is never to be scratched. Ever.

    @mattheworres he may be symptom free, but full speed practice he only had a few practices, give him a few more

    @PeterTags Good point, big difference between cleared and healthy. Its what were told, but that’s not always true.

    Tags made a good point, and one that is certainly easier for a former NHL player to make, too. Curious for your thoughts, and everyone else, as well.

  29. Geno for MVP and Fleury for Vezina. Fleury has the 2nd most wins in the NHL but gets no love from the national media who always worry more about GAA and Save Percentage than actually watching the players play. That’s how Roberto “No Stanley Cups Here” Luongo always gets nominated.

  30. I think the Gibbs twitter, along with the other twitters from the team complaining about the lack of support (“true fans”) when they went through their one hot streak, pretty much sums up what the problem was this year. It was a lack of the character and self reflection that the teams of the last 10 years had. I don’t put that on Jamie Dixon. And I won’t miss Gibbs. Too bad he can’t take Dante Taylor with him.

  31. By the way, another good day for Jack Nicklaus yesterday.

  32. The Blog held hostage by Eastern Standard Time – Day 1.

  33. @Milo

    LOL

  34. @ Milo ~ I was waiting on that ;)

  35. @mattygabe ~ Only Sid knows for certain how he feels and if he is ready. It’s my humble opinion the team wanted him to get a few more team “contact” practices under his belt before they put him back in.
    I guess we’ll find out by Thursday. Bring on the Rags!

  36. Can’t wait for the features from Bradenton, Dejan. I always felt that’s when you’re at your best. It’ll be good to see you do some baseball ones again.

    Here’s an idea – Now that the Pirates got McLouth back, what’s the prognosis for the three guys they got back in that trade? Is it time to fully evaluate that trade, or is it still too early? Will Jeff Locke and Gorkys Hernandez ever contribute to big league club outside of September mop-up appearances?

    DK: Thanks, Dan, but if you think I’m doing better features than columns, then I’m failing miserably in your eyes!

  37. 2 = Days Dejan’s Clock Has Been Wrong

    I agree with Dejan that Malkin should be NHL Hart winner.

    I agree even more strongly with Deb and with SD [San Diego? Strong Deodorant? Super Duper Dupuis? Some Donkey? Soccer is Disappointing? Superior Dejan? Supercilious Dejan?] that The Flower is the most important player on Penguins concerning their winning ways and therefore the MVP of Penguins.

    A goalie is NOT like a pitcher who plays only one out of five games. Fleury will play over 60 games this season, a vast majority of the Penguin wins. He will play in almost as many games as Geno. Fleury also covers the times that Gino makes that dumb drop pass he likes that sends the opponent on a breakaway and those too-many-times Gino takes an unnecessary minor penalty and leaves the Pens shorthanded. Pens might be scrambling for a playoff spot instead of making a run at #1 Seed without Fleury.

    Despite Dejan’s avowed prejudice against naming any goalie the Hart winner, Fleury is almost without question the most indispensable Penguin and therefore the Penguins Most Valuable Player.

  38. @ G2M2S ~ SD could also be Squat Diddley, which is what the Pens would have without The Flower. ;)

    Yes, The Iron Flower is more indepensible, but Dejan is talking about the HART TROPHY, which is awarded to a player and this player isn’t NORMALLY the goalie. Hence the Vezina.
    So, OTHER THAN FLOWER, GENO is So Distinctly (SD again) the Hart MVP (as long as he doesn’t blow it, of course)

  39. Jandy,

    Good call on the “Squat Diddley.”

    Pens would have Squat Diddley without Fleury.

    We await a response from the original SD on his/her confirmation. {I think SD truly may stand for “Soccer is Disappointing.”}

  40. Amen, G2M2S on your last line.

  41. Bucs lose 4 – 1.

    I KNOW it’s only Spring Training . . . . . but I’d be a lot more comfortable if they were not 3 – 7!

    And . . if they were not striking out so much: Worley struck out 8 Bucs in first 3 innings = starters.

  42. @Groat

    The Buccos strike out way too much for my liking. The geekdom will say it’s the same as any other out, but it’s not when a well placed ground ball or fly ball will get a runner over. That’s when a strikeout will kill you, and it’s where the Pirates really suffer.

  43. Very astute, Ken the Divine Nerd! (does that mean you are an Angel w/ thick glasses?)

    K’s are killers! No chance for errors, miss-throws, advancement, breaking the confidence of the defense.

    Also a K breaks down the batter’s confidence, as the batter doesn’t get a hard contact or even a soft contact. Since “domination” is a key factor in baseball, a K is a TOTAL LOSS!

    This Pirate team can’t stand for many Total Losses.

  44. “DK: Thanks, Dan, but if you think I’m doing better features than columns, then I’m failing miserably in your eyes!”

    Not a chance, and besides, who cares what I think when the APSE is trumpeting your parade! I’ve just always enjoyed a good feature compared to a column or a game story. They are the window into who these guys are that we watch on TV every night. And when you have a true craftsman at the wheel of the article, they are always the most enjoyable parts of a newspaper.

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