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Dejan Kovacevic's Blog

Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

Wakeup Call: Plenty of room for 87+71 on power play


BRADENTON, Fla. – Brief and to the Point …

>> My news story for the day is that the Pirates are discussing using Neil Walker at cleanup.

The floor is yours on this topic this morning.

>> My notebook focuses on the return of Joel Hanrahan’s slider, and I have this from Clint Hurdle


>> Sidney Crosby retakes the ice tonight on the Garden’s ninth floor, and I’ll find more interesting than anything to see how the Penguins use him on what’s been a highly effective power play without him.

Our Josh Yohe covers the specifics in his game advance today.

I don’t buy the idea that Crosby and Evgeni Malkin can’t coexist any more than the people quoted in that story. But I also don’t think it’s necessary to reinvent the wheel: Malkin can stay on the right boards, and Crosby can work down low. From there, they can switch off and do the same on the left side to avoid being too predictable.

Crosby’s best work always has been down low. This isn’t some dramatic adjustment.

>> So Calvin ‘Megatron’ Johnson collects $132 million to stay with the Lions, the day after Vincent Jackson hits it huge on the open market, as well.

You might not like it — and some of your responses yesterday suggest you don’t — but that’s the going rate for receivers now. And either the Steelers get Mike Wallace done before this season, or they can fully expect him to walk.

I’m a proponent of keeping Wallace, I really am. But more than $10 million per for a speed guy?

The reason that should raise a red flag is that a speed guy is one seemingly minor injury away from losing most of his effectiveness. Every step counts with a deep guy. Every half-step counts. Strain a hamstring, and that’s lost.

>> Pitt set itself up for the joke, then took the punchline.

>> Our chat will have to be delayed until Monday. Was going to try it from Fort Myers today, but I’ve got some one-on-one stuff lined up in the clubhouse that can’t wait. And first pitch is 1:05 p.m.


  1. Dan1283 says:

    DeSean Jackson got 5 years $51 million today too. And to a lesser extent, I heard Robert Meachum got 4 years $28 million.

    I think the Steelers will keep Wallace for this season under the tender offer. No team is going to give up a first round pick and the relatively cheap tab with guarenteed years of control that comes with it for a pricey receiver like Wallace. So Wallace plays out the year, and either his peformance slows down or injury hits and his price goes down, allowing the Steelers to do a long-term deal, or he has another fantastic season and the Steelers let him walk in free agency next year.

  2. RRRwx says:

    I don’t believe the Steelers think Wallace has that much value in the grand scheme of things. It may end up coming down to Wallace or Brown. If Brown has another terrific year the Steelers will be in the same situation next year. I doubt both can be kept without having to make great sacrifices in other areas. This is the reality of the cap, and what happens when teams, with money to play, with go on a spending spree. Who knows what next season will hold for either receiver.

    I would not be opposed to seeing the Pens allow Malkin or Crosby to spend some time on the 2nd pp unit. Obviously one or the other would spend less time on the #1 unit. May help in the grind known as the NHL playoffs.

  3. David W. Hannen says:

    I don’t know if the stats back me up or not, but I want Walker batting 3rd in the line-up. It just seems to me that is where he is at his best. Plus he will never provide the homers for a clean-up guy. With Cutch in front of him when Walker is at 4th there will be less men on base for him to bring home. My main reason for wanting Walker at 3 is because I think McCutchen, while good batting 3rd, can be the best leadoff hitter in baseball. Thoughts?

  4. Jandy says:

    Why should the Pens put all the firepower on ONE PP unit? History has shown that Sid and Geno do NOT do well together on the PP. The same unit doesn’t always score/stay out the entire 2 minutes. Put one or the other on the 2nd PP unit and you still have that chance to convert. It’s clicking the way it is, don’t fix what isn’t broken!

  5. JAL says:

    JAL’s Good Vibrations Morning Links


    1- MLB Transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

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

    4 Pittsburgh Pirates 2012 Spring Training Tracker

    5 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates Spring Training Broadcast Schedule

  6. deb says:

    Last season, in 41 games played, Sid had 10 powerplay goals. Malkin has achieved this number only after 61 games played this year. Seems fans (and especially Trib reporters) have forgotten how effective Crosby has been at scoring goals and carrying the team.

    Don’t forget, Malkin has an increase in assists this year because the Pens added a real deal scoring winger. James Neal is a sniper and Neal leads the Pens in powerplay goals with 14. So the reasoning being banded about it could be argued that Neal is behind the powerplay surge of success more than Malkin?

    Sid got him self to 66 points in 41 games +20 rating by Jan 1 last season without the help of a legit scoring winger. Took Malkin till the end of Feb to reach 66 points this year, with a lightsout scoring winger.

    All this is said not to bash Malkin, who I think is playing great, but to put some context on the misconception that Malkin is playing so great, and Crosby may not need to get legit playing minutes or powerplay time as he might disrupt such a spectatular run.

    While Rossi has been lobbying fans via twitter to bring Malkin MVP signs to games, and Yohe has been on radio yapping about how Sid’s going to have to adjust himeself and fit in, and shouldn’t have powerplay time, and DK has been writing about how Malkin is MVP, not Fleury, (which apparently a few fans at least felt Malkin was NHL MVP, but Fleury was Pens MVP??????)

    I would suggest that the pens Powerplay doesn’t run thru Malkin or Neal. Without Letang the last 6 games, the Pens powerplay has been 1 for 19.

    Not exactly cup winning numbers.

  7. JAL says:


    12 Utica Observer Dispatch

    March joins Marauders’ team

    13 New Jersey Herald

    AP Newsbreak: No expanded replay in MLB this year

    14 Pittsburgh Business Times

    Pirates to offer dynamically priced seats

    15 Desert Sun

    Philadelphia searches for first base substitute

  8. JAL says:

    Steelers Blogs

    20 Behind the Steel Curtain

    Second Round Prospects Talented and Deep in 2012 NFL Draft

    Wide Receivers Steal Headlines in Day One of Free Agency

    Report: Bears TE Kellen Davis to Visit Pittsburgh in Free Agency Trip

    21 Steelers Depot

    - Report: Tomlin and Colbert All Over Michigan State FS Trent Robinson at Pro-day

    22 Nice Pick Cower

    Most Surprising NFL Free Agency Move

  9. deb says:

    The point being, that given the statistics, it would suggest that the powerplay that would find best success is the one with Letang quaterbacking it…which negates the argument of Malkin and Sid each having their own powerplay.

  10. JAL says:

    Pitt Blogs

    23 Pitt Blather

    Breaking Down a Disappointing Year

    24 Cardiac Hill

    2012 CBI Tournament: Pitt Vs. Wofford – Survive And Advance

    WVU Blogs

    25 Metro News

    Gonzaga’s Mark Few Looks At WVU

    26 WV Illustrated

    Freshmen Guards Making Impact For Gonzaga

    WVU NCAA Tournament Interviews

  11. JAL says:


    26 Pensburgh

    The Growth and Value of Kris Letang

    3/14 Penguins Power Rankings


    27 Sky Sports

    Ivanovic fires Chelsea through,,11065_3475741,00.html

    28 World Soccer Daily

    World Soccer Daily: 10 stories you need to read, 14th March, 2012

  12. JAL says:

    Title Song Good Vibrations , Beach Boys, 1966. Beach Boys are the most successful American group of the rock era. They had 36 top 40 hits with Good vibrations being one of their 4 number 1 hits. The 3 living original members (Brian Wilson, Mike Love, and Al Jardine) with long time member Bruce Johnston and David Marks, who was with the band in 1962/63, are touring this spring. They will be in Pittsburgh on May 11. Theme this week is the top 7 songs on the KDKA Aces of the Air sound survey, October 31 1966. This song was number 3, up from number 5 the week before.

  13. JAL says:

    Neil Walker at cleanup, why not? Pedro Alvarez has the power to be a cleanup hitter but for now he has to start hitting and is probably more comfortable lower in the order. Jones/McGehee could bat cleanup and probably will some games. Walker does produce runs and while he might not hit many 3 run run homers he could hit bases clearing doubles.

  14. bdubb says:

    How about the Eagles signing Jackson for 5 years and $51m? This guy quit on so many plays and at times he quit on the team and yet he was rewarded. There are so many times I am glad for the way the Steelers run this team. They mean bend a little on Big Ben but for the most part either you are all in or you are out. Jackson would never have been re-signed here. Heck, he wouldn’t have seen the field after many of those times he just quit or alligator armed passes. Not hard to see why the Steelers consistently compete and the Eagles are consistently a disappointment.

    I am glad the Pitt fans didn’t show up. And if Pitt wins this how do they celebrate it? The only thing this tournament helps is JJ Moore and maybe John Johnson (if he gets enough minutes). What a joke

  15. Jandy says:

    I’m not the Penguins coach (and there is a reason why I’m not) but the PP was clicking very well, until Letang went down. That speaks volumes in itself. Also, as I said above, the PP in the past has literally sucked (10 on a 1-10 scale) with both Sid and Geno on the same unit. The first PP unit should remain intact for now. Sully, Tanger, Malkin, Neal, and Kunitz. If they fail to score, throw out the second unit. Sid, Staal, Cookie, Duper (interchangeable) and Niskanen or Martin. I’m liking Niskanen a lot out there. Duper can switch with Vitale or Asham. Those guys go to the net.

    But that’s just my humble opinion. ;)

  16. LuckyNKentucky says:

    I like Mike Wallace, I really do, but I’m not in favor of breaking the bank for him or any other speed guy. Speed guys are out there, really, if they look and the Steelers have a knack for doing that. Linebackers, quarterbacks, o-line, even backs–go ahead and pay them, but not a speed guy. They’ve got him for this year, almost certainly. If the market stays this ridiculous and he has a great year, let him walk. I’m with bdubb on his entry.

    Neil can be a great option at cleanup among others. DK’s article proves that statistically. I can think of some other clutch second basemen for the Bucs over the last few decades-Maz, Dave Cash, Stennett. Maybe none were cleanup material but clutch.

  17. JAL says:

    Pirates reassign or option a bunch of players. Most were clearly destined for minors. Biggest is d’Arnaud to AAA. That takes him out of the middle infield battle. Others are Jeff Locke, Duke Welker, Mike Crotta, Robbie Grossman, Logan Kensing, Rudy Owens, Ramon Cabrera, Anderson Hernandez, and Tony Sanchez.

  18. LuckyNKentucky says:

    That’s a pretty strong nucleus for Indy right there. Many more to venture to the Hoosier state.

  19. radio wave says:

    As a Rangers fan, I’m worried about this one. NHL’s version of March madness.
    I assume that there were no “surprises” in this mornings Pirates roster cuts.
    I’m still interested to see who gets the backup middle infielder position.

  20. JAL says:


    they are not all going to Indy. Locke, Owens, and d’Arnaud to AAA, Welker to AA, the rest to minor league camp so they could end up at various levels.

  21. LuckyNKentucky says:

    True. Good point. What about Grossman? Is he penciled for Altoona? Two years in high A have really helped him. I saw him a couple years back in low A. Liked him then.

  22. Jandy says:

    Altoona Curve ballfield is 15 – 20 minutes away from my home. I gotta get hubby to go to a game or three with me this season. I’ll know some of the names and backgrounds, this is cool. Keep it comin, guys :)

  23. JAL says:


    Probably will be Altoona for Grossman.

  24. Milo Hamilton says:

    With the Penguins on a 9 game winning streak, it got me to thinking. I sure hope they don’t continue this streak and win like 17 in a row or something because it would sure kill their chances in the playoffs.

  25. Jandy says:

    Milo, I was thinking the same thing! Yet I hate to rain on the parade.

  26. CWalton_67 says:

    @Jandy–we’re in the minority, but I agree with you regarding the Pens PP. I see no reason to alter the current successful mix, especially with Letang coming back. Deb is correct in that he has been the real key to the success of the PP as constituted. And we know that Sid makes every single player around him better. He could easily lead a PP unit as you outlined above to success. Imagine a scenario in which the first PP goes off the ice, and either Geno or Sid hops over the boards for the final minute. And neither has to be number one. Put the one on the ice for the beginning of the PP that is most rested.

    I think Neil Walker is a terrific story, and a pretty good ballplayer, but he hits in the eight spot on any team which has any real chance to compete. And while I think he’ll be fairly successful as a run producer, the fact that the Pirates are giving him a legitimate shot at clean-up tells you everything you need to know about their chances of breaking the streak this year.

    Also, Josh Yohe with a nice little piece this morning in the chipped ice blog. Very well done. Don’t miss it.

  27. LuckyNKentucky says:

    Jandy and Milo,

    Obvious brain saturation at my age, but I’m not following. How would a 17-game streak kill the Pens’ chances in the playoffs? Hidden vigorish, like Bob Prince used to say (law of averages) or what?

  28. Milo Hamilton says:

    I was being sarcastic. Need the sarcasm button.

  29. Milo Hamilton says:

    People still blame the season ending 17 game winning streak in 1993 for them losing a series a month later. Which game(s) should they have lost that would have made it better ?

  30. LuckyNKentucky says:

    I thought maybe it had something to do with who they’d play in the first playoff series. I need the Easy button, not the sarcasm button. You’re right, though. The year Hurdle and the Rockies rode that 20-game or whatever streak to the WS, they got swept.

  31. LuckyNKentucky says:

    I’m not an avid enough hockey fan to remember that 17-gamer back in 1993, although we still lived there then. I agree, which game should they have lost that would have made it better?

    Earl Weaver had a knack at leading the Orioles into the playoffs on long streaks, but the Pirates broke that nonsense up in ’79.

  32. Jandy says:

    Lucky, the 1993 season is something us die hards don’t ever forget. :(
    Also, the law of averages, or the hockey gods, whichever you want to call it, will catch up to you sooner or later. I’d like to lose a couple now…but not tonight…we need the win against the Rangers…then win later when it counts.

  33. LuckyNKentucky says:

    Thanks for the insight. I still like hockey’s playoff structure better than baseball, football and who cares about the NBA. 16-12 in the playoffs can win the Cup, right? Second season and all that. It’s a great time of year in sports.

  34. jeffsbar says:


    “Neil Walker is a terrific story, and a pretty good ballplayer, but he hits in the eight spot on any team which has any real chance to compete.”

    I do not think that is a fair or accurate statement, but that is my opinion. I believe that even if he starts the season as the clean-up hitter, it’s only a matter of time until he drops to sixth in favor of Jones/McGehee and Alverez.

    Looking at projected starting lineups for teams that should contend like Philly, Atlanta, Milwaukee and St. Louis; I think they would all like to have Walker’s bat in their lineup and I have no doubt he would not be hitting in their eighth spot.

  35. Kenerdivanis says:

    I hate to be a pessimist, but what’s the over/under on how many games Sid will play before he has to sit out for some reason or another?

  36. Jandy says:

    K-nerd. I wish I knew. I guess time will tell. If our boys can keep the Rangers’ goons clean, then his chances for staying longer improve ;)

  37. Jandy says:

    Letang DEFINITELY playing tonight against the Rangers. YES!

  38. scapper says:

    Kenerdivanis… smart*** brother, knowing I have tickets to this Sunday’s game in Philly, emailed yesterday asking me, “Didn’t you tell me you had tickets to Sid’s farewell game on Sunday?”

  39. Jandy says:

    OOOhhHhh!!! K-nerd, that’s not nice…Looks like #5 and #45 will be busy cleaning up the ice with Orange Shirts ;)

  40. CWalton_67 says:

    @Jeffsbar–agree he probably won’t last there long and will move down in the order. And I’m not criticizing him either. He’s proven to be a clutch player in the past and I’m glad he’s a Pirate. That said, a guy with a .240+ BA and averaging 12 homers per year is no better than a 7 spot on a good team. Will he improve his numbers? Yes, I think so. Again, not bashing Neil at all, but this team is going to struggle to score runs if the history of it’s current lineup is any indication. Having the 2nd baseman with those type career hitting numbers batting clean-up is an ominous indicator a major league ball club.

  41. diehard says:

    To answer your question from yesterday about the Crosby-Cooke-Kennedy line. Yeah, right here, hand raised (seriously). Two guys with some ability to put the puck in the net who are also the premiere stick-up-for-your linemate guys on the team. I didn’t actually think this was going to happen, but I’d been hoping for it. Yes, seriously. If Lemieux could make a line work with Rob Brown and Bob Errey, I think Crosby can make this one work too.

  42. JohninOshkosh says:

    Kind of looking forward to the Harvard/Vandy match up. A bunch of very bright kids playing hoops. Maybe they should just compare their math/verbals from their SAT’s to determine the winner. Hope they don’t forget their sharpened number 2 pencils (I know, I’m not that old, I know the kids take their SAT’s on computers these days).

    Its the kind of match up that makes March fun.

  43. LuckyNKentucky says:

    Vandy is a perennial choker in the tourney. This year should be no different. Too bad Stanford was in the NIT, you could throw them in that “bright kids” mix, John.

  44. Kenerdivanis says:


    It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Vandy lost to Harvard. I think they may have already peaked.

  45. LuckyNKentucky says:


    If you had seen them after they beat KY in the SEC tourney final, you’d have thought they’d won the national championship. Their home games shouldn’t count in their overall record with that ridiculous floor they play on. How can you coach from under the hoop?

    I hope Harvard does beat them.

  46. MarkV says:


    16-12 and win cup = .571
    15-4 and lose cup = .789 Now that would really hurt!
    Wonder how many losing teams actually had a better winning percentage?

  47. JohninOshkosh says:


    You seem to be following these things-I just got home from work. Is it a sellout at Consol Energy for these games. I just saw the highlights of the Badger game and there were a lot of empty seats in New Mexico.

    BTW-What do you know, my cable system gets a channel called TruTV. Never heard of it until this week.

  48. LuckyNKentucky says:


    That would be a good study for a stats geek. For us bottom-liners, I’ll take the .571 and the cup. Like when the Steelers won SB 40 from the wild card slot.

  49. JohninOshkosh says:

    Gonzaga flies across country and really takes it to WVU in the first half. Sometimes that west coast anonymity plays to your advantage because Gonzaga looked pretty good.

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