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Dejan Kovacevic's Blog

Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

Wakeup Call: ‘Really good players’


Brief and to the Point …

>> My Wednesday column questions the wisdom of Mike Wallace taking on the Steelers.

>> There’s an accompanying video with the column over on the right. It is sooooooooo worth your click, if only to watch Mike Tomlin scanning the room while Kevin Colbert talks. It’s like he’s waiting to see which reporter is the first to pull out the heavy firearms.

Seriously, go do it. I’ll wait right here.

>> Ray Shero had all kinds of interesting things to say in the Penguins’ end-of-season affair yesterday at Consol, but forgive me if I couldn’t get past this answer when Shero was asked about the future of Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek:

“I appreciate the question, but both players are really good players in this league. They’ve proven that over the course of their careers. Paul Martin, over the last 20 games of the regular season, was a plus-13. They’re good hockey players. When we talk about defense, we talk about defense as six guys on the ice. Over the course of six games, that failed us terribly. Over the last 11 games of the regular season, actually, failed us. You take a look at the previous 12 games, and we were 11-0-1 and gave up 20 goals. This team is capable of doing that, and we didn’t do it at the right time.”

And this was how Shero concluded that same sequence: “All the decisions we have moving forward will be made over the next couple of months. We’ll see what happens.”

You can look at that as the GM being blind to having signed two bad defensemen. Or the GM knowing he blew it but also aware that he needs to keep up their value for possible trades.

If the Penguins are fortunate, it will be the latter.

>> Of all the exasperating statistics to paint the Pirates’ miserable offense in the early going, this one was the king: Through 15 games, they had exactly one multiple-run hit. That was Neil Walker’s two-run single April 14 in San Francisco.

No, really.

Well, make it two now.

Andrew McCutchen’s two-run double off the center-field fence in the seventh inning sparked that 5-4 victory over the Rockies last night, and I can tell you it had a cathartic effect on the clubhouse afterward. Lots of smiles, laughter.

“I think you could see some of our guys starting to relax,” Clint Hurdle said. “It’s like they can take a deep breath and just get around to having some quality at-bats.”

On deck: Scoring more than five runs in a game. Still hasn’t happened.

But then, the Pirates haven’t given up more than five, either.


  1. Leah Backus says:

    Well, yeah. He’s not going to come right out and say, “We know they suck. Someone please take their expensive contracts off our hands.” Still, M&M were great in the latter half of the 2010-11 season. I still have no idea why we didn’t see that from them this year. Nagging injuries, maybe? Hard to say.

    DK: Yesterday was the day those things get disclosed. Martin had concussion-like symptoms from a playoff hit. Otherwise, there was nothing.

  2. Leah Backus says:

    DK– If they were going to try to move them, would they disclose such things? I don’t know how it works. And a concussion. Huh. That makes me a little more irritated with Schenn’s “hockey play,”

  3. pipecock says:

    They may not be scoring a ton of runs, but the Pirates have definitely been getting more hits recently. They had I believe 11 last nite to CO’s 6?

  4. Jordan @jsaunders_ says:

    As Leah said, the most mindnumbingly insane thing was how defensively sound and tough to play against this team was last year. It was nearly the exact same team.

    That being said, I do believe this team needs a big, mean shutdown guy instead of Martin. And the entire team needs to remember that they can block shots, especially in the playoffs.

  5. Leah Backus says:

    Jordan– I have a theory. I don’t think Z was ever quite 100% after his concussion. I think he was actually the weaker of the pair, but because he doesn’t make as much money, people didn’t latch onto him as the problem like they did with Martin. Backing me up on this is the fact that Martin did much, much better paired with Letang. (Part of that is that anyone would do better paired with Letang, but I also noticed that Orpik did worse paired with Z.) I don’t know. I’m still not convinced that the personnel is the problem here. I think it’s the system in conjunction with the current climate of obstruction in the game.

  6. Sean Campbell says:

    I don’t think the Pens lose the Flyers series if Letang and Orpik played together as the shutdown pair on Giroux’s line. Regardless, the other lines would have scored more, but maybe not if they didn’t get momentum from the top line scoring. Hmm…

  7. SD says:

    I was confused by something Sid said at his presser today. He was asked about his health and why he wasn’t going to the Worlds. He said he took a couple of big hits the last two games and he said “I would have liked to feel a bit better after them” but then said he had no symptoms. I guess I’m not understanding what he meant – was he shaken up? Was he feeling “off” after the hits but didn’t have any obvious symptoms? It just raised a red flag for me because I didn’t think he looked himself after Geno ran him over.

  8. Cari says:

    I think it’s a combination of not wanting to lower their trade value by admitting that they’ve been disappointing, and not wanting to trash the players in public in case we do get stuck with them for another year (or more). They’re not going to feel motivated to improve if the GM turns on them in public.

    SD — that struck me too. “I would have liked to feel a bit better after them” implies something concussion-related to me. I believe him that he didn’t have a big concussion setback and that it’s not serious, but the statement did concern me.

  9. NMR says:

    “Martin had concussion-like symptoms from a playoff hit. Otherwise, there was nothing.”

    Wait, what?

    I thought we were done trivializing concussions in Pittsburgh? How exactly does one take the ice with concussion-like symptoms?

    DK: I mean previously.

  10. Thundercrack says:


    Any truth to the rumor that the Rockies’ bench coach is actually managing the teams during this 3 game series, while Jim Tracy keeps his eye on the Pirates’ on-deck circle?

  11. Don says:

    I think the problems that Martin and Michalek have are similar to the ones we saw with rob scuderi and joe melichar. Obviously Martin and Michalek came in with a muc higher pedigree, but scuds and melichar were awful together. People seem to forget the player that scuds was before his cup winning shot blocking folklore. Those two were terrible and fans called to get rid of at the very least one of them. That worked out for the Pens. I think this will too.
    And for the record, I am a huge Paul Martin supporter. Would love to watch a game tape with any one that thinks he was the biggest problem on the Penguins this year.

  12. JAL says:

    JAL’s Flying Purple Eater Morning Links


    1- MLB Transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

    3 Go Buccos- Pirate News (from external sources)


    4—Pirates Prospects

    Pirates Rally Off Rockies Bullpen in 5-4 Win

    Pirates Notebook: Pirates Will Make History by Using 26-Man for Doubleheader

  13. JAL says:


    11 CBS Sports

    Colorado vs Pittsburgh Game Preview

    12 Denver Post

    Rockies’ bullpen falters against Pirates in 5-4 loss, wasting two homers by CarGo

    13 Chicago Tribune

    Pirates Team Report,0,6176499.story

    14 Bangor News

    Ex-UMaine player Lewis hoping to move up in Pirates organization

    15 Daily American

    Take me out to the ballgame

  14. JAL says:

    Steelers Blogs

    20 Behind the Steel Curtain

    Assessing the Steelers’ Drafting Success During the Kevin Colbert Era: The Final Word

    How What We Don’t Know Influences Our Debates

    21 Steelers Depot

    - Might the Steelers Trade Up in the First Round?

    22 Nice Pick Cower

    Steelers 2011 Draft Revisited – The Other Cam

  15. JAL says:

    Pitt Blogs

    23 Pitt Blather

    “Run (1. Ray 2. Isaac 3. Rushel), Run!”“run-1-ray-2-isaac-3-rushel-run”/

    24 Cardiac Hill

    Pitt Basketball: 2012 Preseason NIT Dates Announced

    WVU Blogs

    25 Metro News

    VIDEO: Gold And Blue Domination

    26 WV Illustrated

    Big 12 Coaches Discuss WVU

  16. JAL says:


    27 Pensburgh

    Smile-Worthy Moments from the 2011-2012 Season


    28 Sky Sports

    Breath-taking Blues reach final,,11065_3504877,00.html

    29 World Soccer Daily

    World Soccer Daily: Stories you need to read, April 24th 2012

    29 Daily Telegraph

    Striker David Ngog boosts Bolton’s EPL survival bid in 2-1 win over Aston Villa

  17. JAL says:

    Title Song: Flying Purple People Eater 1958, Sheb Wooley. The 1950s was an era old, new, and humor songs. Prior to the 1950s music was pretty unified with jazz, swing, and country co-existing on the charts. The 1950s started the long splintering of popular music into parts. This humorous song was number 1 from June 14 1958, when it took over from the Everly Brothers All I Have to Do is Dream, until July 26th 1958 when Elvis took over the top spot with Hard Headed Woman, one of his lesser known number 1 hits. Sheb Wooley was better known as an actor, this was his only hit song. He was in High Noon, Rawhide, and was a regular on Hee Haw and The Muppet Show. He also had some hit songs on the country charts

  18. Cocktailsfor2 says:

    Sweep the doubleheader, and the the Bucs are .500!

    That’d be sweet! It wouldn’t shut up the crybabies and grousers, but it’d be sweet!

  19. Jandy says:

    I’m not trying to be a conspiracy theorist or anything, but I’m leaning toward a locker room issue being the biggest problem. Still, M & M definitely underachieved compared with last season. I don’t envy Shero.

  20. Jandy says:

    @ Don, Scuderi terrible? What games were YOU watching.? He was a very good stay-at-home defenseman.

  21. Jandy says:

    JAL ~ thanks for the smile! One-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people eater! LOL! Good stuff =)

  22. TJA says:

    Nice win for the Bucs last evening. I think the batters will relax and the hits will eventually come. That being sure is frustrating to watch when you get guys on and cannot get them home. My question (all of 16 games into the books): Does anyone think if this struggle does continue with the hitting that Gregg Ritchie will have a target on his back? These players, coaches and mangers know a whole lot more about
    hitting than I ever will, but man…it is sure painful to watch some days.

    Sweep today!!

  23. Don says:

    I’m not arguing that he turned into one, jandy. But watching him and Melichar was painful. They had all of the flaws that Martin and Michalek are crushed by fans for.

  24. Jandy says:

    Don, Letang was painful to watch when he first came up too. =)

  25. Sarcastic Sword says:

    I dont like the new format of the website.

    With the previous version, when I printed out your column, the font was just right and could be read in decent light. Now, the font is ridiculously small and I have to copy and paste your column into a word document and then print it.

  26. JAL says:

    Sarcastic Sword

    Have you tried using the “larger text” “smaller text” tabs at the top of the article? Don’t know that would help but worth a try.

  27. Milo Hamilton says:


    I think you make a great point about Michalek. I don’t think he ever fully recovered from that concussion either. And Kris Letang’s play never returned to a high level after his two (at least) concussions. I think back to Jordan Leopold a few years ago. He was playing very well until he got lit up by Andy Sutton in the playoffs. He returned after missing only 5 games but clearly wasn’t the same.

  28. Scott says:

    Don, you’re exactly right. Melichar and Scuderi together were the worst D pairing in the history of the NHL. People went ballistic when the Pens re-signed Scuderi, but a couple years later he turned out to be an integral piece (the piece) of a Stanley Cup championship. It’s amazing how players get better like that.

    Sergei Gonchar, even, was HORRIBLE his first year with the Pens. He was a human hooking penalty. His failures helped lead to the firing of Craig Patrick. And he improved dramatically.

    Shero is absolutely correct about Martin and Michalek. I don’t know how you can declare those signings a failure after one bad year. Dejan, did you miss the entire 10-11 season? They were a shutdown pair who frustrated opponents. Obviously, they had awful seasons this past year. But they both have solid track records. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them get it back next year.

    That said, I would still try to trade them to make room for the younger, cheaper guys like Strait, Despres and Morrow. But if we’re stuck with one or both of M&M next year, it doesn’t necessarily spell disaster.

  29. hockeymonster says:

    @Scott and re:scuderi/melichar

    Those guys were youngsters when they struggled and in the case of scuderi you could tell right away that his hockey IQ was very very high. I always liked melichar but from what i remember he had major shoulder or injury problems. He and Roszival made a decent pairing for a while. 7 and 4 are significantly older and seemed to regress while making much more money in a salary cap era than scuds and melichar. Pens need to make sure that if Staal or anyone else for that matter absolutely must be traded its not cuz of the contracts for 7 and 4. I agree they have the track records in place to possibly make them tradeable but it wont be easy. We may have to include TK to entice a team to take martin. I dont mind michalek but at 4M? Anyone notice that shero mentioned shea weber out of left field yesterday? Maybe he’s finally listening to the monster :)

  30. Okel Dokel says:

    I am pretty confident anything GMRS said about the great M & M was going to be positive. I am pretty sure if he went on about how much their play declined then their trade value would plummet even further.

    The Shea Weber comment probably comes from the fact GMRS come from the Predators organization.

    I feel the organization needs to focus a little more on defense next year. They were leaning to the offense too much at the end of this year IMO.

  31. Bryan says:

    Michalek has always been an interesting player to me. Inherently, people lump him in with Martin because they have been paired together for most of their time here (with typically disastrous results). Michalek, at his core, is a shut-down type of player. He does his best work when he’s shadowing the opponent’s top scorer. His work on the penalty kill was among the strongest of the team in these playoffs. Weak unit overall, but the numbers show his value there.

    Unfortunately, Bylsma seems to prefer that his defensemen are ALL joining the attack and moving the puck forward. You see this contradiction a lot with Engelland, as well. Martin should be all right there, but he’s not nearly physical enough for what has been asked of him.

    If there is a point to all this, I would say that Martin is a bigger problem for this team than Michalek, and at a higher cost. If they both somehow left the team, it wouldn’t break my heart; I’m simply not sure that would be necessary.

  32. Kenerdivanis says:

    Just not a fan of Paul Martin. At all. I expect that there will be trades among the defensemen, but that will all shake out once we find out who is on what side in the room.

  33. Don says:

    Scott, on board with you completely.
    hockeymonster and jandy, I know that the situation is a little different because they were younger when they struggled. I addressed that at the beginning of my post – different pedigrees, same problem. You can’t say that a player like Scuds struggling wasn’t as alarming because of his hockey IQ and then knock a guy like Paul Martin because his hockey IQ is through the roof. The idea of hockey IQ is a little bit redundant – when guys don’t have the overwhelming speed, shot, physical factor, or anything else all that noticeable, they are likely in the league partly because they are overflowing with hockey IQ.

  34. Kenerdivanis says:

    By the way, I would happily bring Scuds back, but he’s busy in the second round of the SCP with the Kings, making a lot less than either Martin or Michalek.

  35. hockeymonster says:


    Scuds is making bout the same as michalek but your point is taken. I’ll trade michalek for scuds straight up all day long.


    Every time martin left someone open in front of the net to chase someone in the corner his hockey IQ proved to be in obvious decline. Every time he refused to pick up a body or lift a stick by net his hockey IQ obviously was not showing through. Scuds at his worst never made those mistakes. I can go on bout all the mistakes 7 made but its time to look at the future. Problem is UFA market is thin. Other than Suter, Garrison and Jackman there arent many impact d-men on the UFA market which is why im pushin for a shea weber trade who is a RFA this off-season. But all moves contingent on movin 7 and 4.

  36. Jandy says:

    K-nerd, doesn’t that just make you shake your head? (Regarding Scuds) lol.

  37. hockeymonster says:


    Correction scuds is making 3.4M vs 4M for michalek. My bad.

  38. Kenerdivanis says:


    No big. A million doesn’t make that much of a difference. It’s just that the Pens wouldn’t pay Scuds $3.4M, but they would pay it to M & M.

  39. CWalton_67 says:

    I keep pondering Jandy’s theory of some type of Pens locker room rift. For what other reason could a team as talented as this collapse? But on the other hand, no credible media members who spend time around the team have even broached this as a subject, outside of DK’s temporary captain column months back. And that didn’t get at any real room troubles.

    So I’m left with the same theory–what the Pens lack is adult leadership. There has been no calming influence, no hugely respected veteran in the locker room since the departures of Guerin, Gonchar, and Roberts. Or even Hall Gill. For whatever reasons, Kunitz, Dupuis, Sullivan, or Orpik have not fit that bill. I would love to see a Shane Doan, or a Jarome Iginla added to this lineup. Certainly easier said than done, but the Pens need “that” guy.

    The Pirates in a one word description: pathetic. And I say this even after that thrilling victory yesterday. Shutout for 6 innings by a 49 year old pitcher? Bob Nutting is laughing all the way to the bank.

    DK: The temporary captaincy issue actually solidified the team, as the players themselves made very clear who was captain.

  40. LoufromOSU says:

    DK, if you haven’t already seen, Puck Daddy had a Philly blogger do a Eulogy for the Penguins, who obviously didn’t read your columns that he references.;_ylt=AtDOl.4osiqNsMPNVr09.c97vLYF

    As ignorant as some of the attempted comedy was, there are points made that are tough to refute.

  41. CWalton_67 says:

    I agree it did, Dejan. The results following your column speak for themselves. But you’ve never hinted otherwise at any locker room issues. So why does a team with this much talent, exhibit so little character when faced with some adversity? I return again, and again to the same answer: lack of leadership.

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