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Saturday column: Thank you, Penguins fans

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

BOSTON — Morning, Sad People …

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>> The Saturday column attempts to illustrate how the Penguins’ way is always the right way … even when it’s so very clearly not.

I have something else I want to share with the team’s fans this morning …

Thank you.

I’ve spent the better part of my life around the world’s greatest sport, and the local franchise in particular. And that connection peaked when I covered the Penguins as a beat writer in 1997-2004.

Until this past season and these playoffs.

I appreciate beyond words your readership, your trust, your questions (even the annoying ones about Mike Milbury), your criticisms, your challenges and, above all, when you’d keep reading even after you strongly disagreed with a given column. There is no universal agreement on anything, and I never pretend otherwise when sitting down to write.

That meant a lot to me this particular year, more than I can say.

And, in general, it felt great to be back in the game.

Our full (and final) Penguins coverage for the day …

>> They aren’t kids anymore, by beat man Rob Rossi

>> 87 +71 = 0, by Josh Yohe

>> Complete playoff photo gallery, by our Chaz Palla

>> More on the Bruins from our news partners at the Boston Herald

That’s it for me up here. Flying back this morning, with one small detour between the airport and home …

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Author: Dejan Kovacevic

Dejan Kovacevic, a lifelong Pittsburgher, is an award-winning sports columnist for Trib Total Media covering the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, Pitt and, recently, his fourth Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He also appears on WPXI-TV's 'Subway Final Word’ and hosts a weekly show on TribLIVE Radio. For 2011, he was named one of the country's top four columnists by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the country's top three columnists by the National Headliners. For 2013, he was named the state's top columnist by the Keystone Press Awards and top columnist in Western Pennsylvania by the Golden Quills.

Comments

  1. Leah Backus says:

    Right back at you, sir. You piss me off on a regular basis, but few sports writers cover the game with your passion. And you have mad writing skills. It almost makes me want to start following the Bucs just so I can keep reading. Almost. ;-)

    DK: I appreciate that all the more because you put up with stuff of mine that you hate, Leah. Thank you.

  2. Clint says:

    You said you would take comments after the game late if readers wanted, and you despite travel and work delivered… sign of true class and integrity.

    On gut instinct, between Cooke, Dupuis and Iginla, which do you see leaving or staying? Dupuis reported by Josh to have the Ryan Malone look after the game.

    DK: Going to hold off a bit, Clint, on getting into that. Not because I have a 4:30 a.m. wakeup call, but because I really need to do a deep dive into contract statuses, salary cap stuff and the like.

    Thanks for the kind words.

  3. Sean says:

    Reading your columns has added a new layer to the game and it has been a lot of fun. So Thank you, Dejan. Just thank you.

    #pensin2014

  4. Mike A says:

    You should have run for mayor. Your love for Pittsburgh is 2nd to none.

  5. Matt Coleman says:

    You speak the truth. And no matter how much I hate it at times you put it the best. You’re the best in the business and keep it up. Lets go Pens!

  6. Leah Backus says:

    I didn’t say I hated it. Sometimes you piss me off because you’re right and I just don’t like it!!

  7. Clint says:

    No problem. Safe trip back home to you

  8. Matt Tobin says:

    Always nice to know that the fans are appreciated. Your straightforward, passionate and to-the-point coverage on various topics has entertained and intrigued me (as well as countless others) for a long time. Its been a pleasure reading your material, and I cant wait to see what comes next. Cheers, DK.

    DK: Thanks, Matt.

  9. Aron Minkoff says:

    Dejan, I enjoyed reading your work as always this season, it was helpful to get Pittsburgh insight while I was away at school in Philadelphia. Shame it had to end this way, but hey, what can you do. Thank you for a great season of coverage.

    If you have time to answer one question, do you think Marc Andre Fleury has played his final game for the Penguins?

    DK: Thanks, Aron.

  10. Dante says:

    This is an unmitigated disaster and embarrassing right? On breakup day they’re going to try and sugarcoat it. Also this has to change the way 87 is looked upon in the hockey world doesn’t it?

  11. Deb says:

    Thanks DK. Like Leah, I don’t always agree with your take on things, but your writing is excellent, and your blog generally offers great conversation, informed, passionate viewpoints and is a class act.

    DK: Danke, Deb.

  12. Tim says:

    Sorry man, but Malkin was their best forward. Hands down. He was ridiculously dedicated, driven and contrite. Thank you, Geno. I still can’t get over two goals in four games, but you bled, brother. Even if these armchair knuckleheads don’t know it, or get it. I hope you remain a Penguin as long as you want to. Whether these fools agree or not. I’m pissed, but not blind.

    DK: Malkin’s effort was outstanding. His production was not, and his on-ice smarts were not. Any more than the captain.

  13. cojac says:

    Glad you’re back in the game, too. It’s a pleasure to read your columns. Thanks for the follow on Twitter!

    DK: Thank you, Cojac.

  14. Brandie says:

    DK…You are a class act. Your dedication to your craft is second to none. Thank you for the excellent coverage this season. I look forward to reading more of your baseball takes/analysis and can’t wait for the start of football season.

    Go BUCCOS.

    DK: Thanks, Brandie. I, too, can’t wait for the start of football season.

  15. Deb says:

    Predictions for the Stanley Cup?
    LA Kings (Quick) vs Boston Bruins (Rask)
    a total of 1 goal per game will be scored over a 6 game series with three games running into double overtime.

  16. DaveDigsDKsblog says:

    Great column. Many excellent points throughout. Glad you ripped into them after this debacle.

    As bad as this loss was, it might even be more than that…

    With Crosby and Malkin the level of expectation was for something really special. I know injuries have been a factor and they did reach the Stanley Cup Finals twice and they won once….however, I think you have to question a little bit if the series of disappointments outweigh the one triumph? I think so. Building it all up and then collapsing several times has now become the overriding theme of this Crosby and Malkin team. Moreso than the success and all the points scored and exciting play throughout the year.

    Maybe we were a little bit greedy but I think most fans were thinking more than one Stanley Cup title. At least two.

    Is that still possible? I’m not so sure.

    What are some reasons it could still happen? Another question I’d throw out there.

    In the Flyers series last year these guys were tested and for the most part gave a very undisciplined and underwhelming performance. Their resolve was tested then and they didn’t show that much in my mind.

    That loss was enough to create the highest level of motivation to try and do it again and do it right this time around. In this series their resolve was tested. The effort was there but effort should be expected. The performance was not. The unique/special talent was not a factor whatsoever when it truly mattered.

    Maybe it’s coaching and some other personnel moves that can make the difference but honestly I don’t see them winning unless these two guys lead the way and they have not stepped forward in the clutch moments the way we expected them to.

    DK: Appreciate it, Dave.

  17. Brandie says:

    DK,

    The Saturday column link that was posted under the picture on the blog page tasks you back to the Thursday column. I accessed the Saturday column from your twitter feed. Might want to check that.

  18. AZBucsFan says:

    Dejan…I’ve been reading your work for years now, and I always appreciate your opinions, whether I agree or not. Living here in Arizona now for 7 years, it’s wonderful to be able to keep track of all my hometown teams. You are a phenomenal writer and a class act. Keep up the great work!

    DK: Thanks, AZ.

  19. Tim says:

    On-ice smarts. You played. So did I. I don’t question a guys response. Yes you have to be smart at times, but with emotions that high, stuff happens. Malkin fighting did not lose this series. Scoring two goals in four games did. Great players are human. They get pissed. It gets me so pissed when people, who have never played the game, or any game beyond beerpong, pass judgment on guys who have bled this stuff all their life. Sid had a lousy series. Geno gave it everything. This guy stays. Period. 2 goals. 2 goals. Man I didn’t see that coming.

  20. Thanks, Dejan. I haven’t been commenting here as much as in past years, but please know that I read everything you post — and will be doing it even after Google retires Reader, next month.

    As for the Pens, well… I wish I could drive into the only city with an entrance while it were home of the Stanley Cup champions, but Lord Stanley had other plans and got the last team to sweep them (back when my wife wasn’t even born!) to break that streak, along with our hearts. Maybe next year? :)

    I’ll (finally) visit Pittsburgh by the end of July, and I’d love to meet you in person, even if just to briefly shake hands. I won’t be able, of course, to watch the Penguins, and I had to choose between the Pirates and Riverhounds — that stadium amazes me! —; with the Bucs winning it (well, at least they finished with a winning record on my options!), I’ll be present for all the series against the Cardinals. And I’ll definitely stop by Point State Park during one of those four days I’ll be there.

  21. BTW, the link above to the Saturday column is pointing to the Friday one.

    DK: Yikes. Thanks for that and for the above note, Alex.

  22. Dan1283 says:

    Dejan,

    Just wanted to thank you for your coverage and above all your wisdom in regard to covering this team this year. You praises were spot on as we’re your criticisms. The aspects of the penguins’ game that you said would benefit their game ended up doing so, as did the areas where you pointed out weaknesses. I for one never got caught up in the big win streaks during the season because I knew how fast that could change, and that is important because you helped point things like that out even when it caused people to calm you a party pooper.

    I didn’t interact much with the blog or the chats this year, but rest assured that I read every column, every post, and carried the analysis with me into every game. More often than not, you were right. Thanks for providing such astute analysis this year, and I look forward to your coverage in 2013-14.

    And hey, at least we still live in a town where fountains combine with laser shows!

    DK: Thanks, Dan, as always!

  23. Derek says:

    I love your tweets and coverage. Definitely the best I’ve seen from a Pittsburgh perspective. Keep up the good work.

    DK: Thank you.

  24. Dan1283 says:

    The column was spot-on.

    How bad.

    How sad.

    How mad(enning).

    I think this is the end of the road for this current team. No Fleury next year and every year going forward during the primes of these stats (if you think he’s sticking around after the way this staff gave up on him you’re joking), no counting on the current stars, no fulfillment of the expectations a core this talented should have achieved.

    I’m distraught, I’m disappointed, and most of all I’m disheartened.

  25. Daquido_Bazzini says:

    DK – The amount of work you did on this Penguin playoff run is staggering.
    You’ve gone WAY beyond any Pittsburgh sports writer in your efforts.
    Thanks….

    DK: Thanks, Daq-man.

  26. Naje says:

    Here’s a thought…. and not trying to be glib here, but after the volumes you produced on the Pens, why not ignore the PBC? You mention above that you can’t wait till football season in response to a reader who posted that they can’t wait for your baseball analysis and football season to start.

    Maybe it’s the emotions of another epic fail getting the best of you, or the lateness of the hour or the absolute drain that the schedule has had on you, and maybe I’m reading too much into it…but you’re putting it out there in a way that I ask simply: why not ignore the baseball season? Your feelings on the PBC are well documented and clear: win or be fired (among others). Nothing wrong with that. But to work from a mindset of “can’t wait for football to start” probably isn’t the best perspective to write about baseball.

    Hoping that some down time gets your batteries re-charged…you certainly deserve it. Thanks for the outstanding, well-coordinated, in-depth and honest coverage of the Pens and their run. Like McQuaid’s shot….it was top shelf.

    DK: I appreciate that, Naje. My football comment was about football. I had reasons for it, but all pertain to football. All will be explained.

    But hey, let the season of parsing begin, too.

  27. poz says:

    I don’t comment much, but I read often. DK’s coverage of the playoffs reinforced my past feelings – DK is at the top of his business.

    I look for honesty and integrity. DK epitomizes it. I have two favorite sports columnists. DK is one, and he leads the class. I’ve learned much about hockey in my later years. DK is my teacher.

    About the game. That was perhaps the best display of defense I’ve ever seen by a team for four games. Couple that with stellar goalie play and it’s clear to me why the Bruins are moving on to the finals. One would think the Pens holding a team to one goal in regulation would assure a win. Not so. In fact, I don’t think the Pens led for a single second this series.

    I won’t bash the Pens today. Certainly I wish they played better. But the Bruins had a lot to do with it. The way the Bruins kept sticks in the lane, blocked shots, and stopped second chances was remarkable.

    I’m tinged with sadness this morning. I know many players that I’ve followed the past couple of years will be gone next season. And whether right or wrong, I have a feeling Bylsma will pay the price too. Someone will, and it’s often the coach. Interesting times ahead, indeed.

    Thanks to all for the insight provided by the posters through the hockey season. And thanks especially to DK. As I said – the best in the business.

  28. 21sthebest says:

    LOL!

  29. Luiz Mello says:

    No, Dejan, thank *you*.

    There’s hardly anything I can add to what the others already said above, other than I’ll keep reading every day, and commenting on occasion. And, of course, supporting these Penguins and the other Pittsburgh teams.

    Take care, and keep up the great work.

  30. Luiz Mello says:

    I’m completely looking forward to multiple overtimes every night, now that the Penguins are not involved!

  31. chef automatic says:

    Not to worry, Pens fans, next season starts in a few short weeks. You’ll be paying top dollar for glorified exhibition games in no time.

  32. Rob says:

    Dejan,
    Thank you for the coverage. For folks that live far far away from the Burgh it is nice to read reasoned journalism about our favorite teams. I generally do not read stuff after losses (call me a homer) but I look forward to reading your articles regardless of the game outcome. Look forward to catching up with the rest of the Pittsburgh sports world through your eyes. In the mean time have a Primanti’s for me and take a relaxing stroll down Market St. You have earned it.

  33. Drew71 says:

    Yes indeedie!

    SOMEbody missed the first half of Brandie’s look-forward comment.

    Or maybe didn’t so much miss it as…

  34. DaveFitz says:

    Dejan,
    Thanks for the great coverage — your passion and love for the Burg was awesome … I hope your editor keeps you with the Pens again next year. Every day at work in the heart of Cap country, my pens fan coworker and I would discuss your columns – I looked forward to reading them daily — have a great summer — Dave

  35. Danch70 says:

    Dude, when you started to write thank you, I thought you were about to say that you were leaving. Gotta a job opposite Milbury or something.

  36. RobS says:

    Good column DK,

    I don’t think many appreciate the small window a team has to succeed in today’s NHL. A team builds around a (small) number of core players and hopes to add the right pieces to complement that core. On paper those pieces looked good or at least many of the resumes did, but you never really know until that team is put to the test. We know how that worked out.

    Like you said this could be Ray Shero’s most challenging summer of his career. Not only does he have to evaluate his roster, but he has to evaluate the moves he made that put this current roster together. He has to ask himself if he put his faith in the wrong coach, who used the wrong approach in 4 post seasons. A coach who seemed to think that his talent and aggressive offensive attacking style could defeat a well coached defensive style designed to shut his strategy down. A coach who never prepared his team for the likely event that another team might just do that.

    The regular season success is phenomenal, and all due respect to putting the team in position to qualify for the playoffs for 4 years. But 4 failing grades in a row for never preparing his team for the different atmosphere and adversities you can encounter in a 7 game series during the playoffs against a team that devised a strategy to defeat you. 4 years in row of stubbornly clinging to we have to get to our game, which is exactly what the opposing team is designed to defeat and expecting you to do.

    I asked the question yesterday what would a Penguin team coached by Claude Julian look like. It plays the game of what if, but I think it is a what if that is appropriate for the questions Ray Shero has to deal with this summer. Would this same talent have fared any better in any of the 4 post season losses we have seen under Dan Bylsma.

    All the lip service paid to breaking the regular season up into 4 game series to prepare for the playoffs might sound good, but who is playing playoff hockey in the regular season? When do you play the same team in a winner take all series over the course of 2 weeks time? When if ever during the regular season did the Pens transition to a more responsible defensive system? A change that allows the players to react instead of think about what there assignments, positioning, and responsibilities will be when this system is employed for real.

    To say the Pens looked unprepared when Boston took the ice and shut them down, got in their way, and simply frustrated them, is an understatement. To say their performance was embarrassing is pointing out the obvious, and to say they never had a prepared response is also equally maddening. Maddening because this isn’t the 1st time this team has been frustrated and shut down in the playoffs.

    There is a formula for beating an offensive minded team. You occasionally see it in the regular season but not for a sustained period of time, nor does a team have the same incentive to play with the commitment it takes during the regular season. The playoffs are a different ballgame, and teams with maybe less talent or fewer stars, realize defense is the great equalizer. When everyone buys into that system and has enough talent to pull it off it no longer is the one on one battle that wins, its the system. A system designed to shut down, frustrate, and move on to the Stanley Cup Finals.

  37. Dom says:

    Bylsma needs to lose his job and I think we will.

    The 2011 and 2012 early playoff exists and the way he used Iginla is enough of a justification to warrant termination.

  38. Drew71 says:

    Bob goes to a Giant Eagle and buys a Zucchini and Sea Salt. After his shopping spree, Bob runs into his friend Joe.

    Bob says, “Look at my new Zucchini and Sea Salt. I look forward to cooking them both now that my shopping spree is over.”

    Joe looks at both but says,“I like your Zucchini.”

    Bob says, “But not my Sea Salt?”

    Joe says, “My Zucchini comment was about Zucchini. I had reasons for it, but all pertain to Zucchini. But hey, let the Sea Salt of parsing begin, too.

    Bob went home thinking, ‘good think I didn’t buy Mint Jelly and Mustard. Cause I know a backhanded condiment when I hear one.’

  39. Danch70 says:

    And the fact he was out of answers when faced with a defensive team … Again. They looked so pathetic doing the same thing every rush sups ice only to be stymied.

    I remember in the cup championships of the early 90s there was talk of whether they could just turn on the defense come playoffs. The answer was yes and they recognized they had to change their style of play.

  40. Danch70 says:

    Claude Julien? What about Scotty Bowman? Worst thing they ever did was to run that guy out of town. He’s only won multiple cups with the wings and now with the Blackhawks. Dude knows the game. Dude knows how to win.

  41. Jim S. says:

    Great point on Scotty. One of the best NHL minds ever. Has really groomed his son as well.

  42. Dom says:

    eggs-actly.

    I know he’s a great guy but he is not head coaching material.

  43. RobS says:

    Agreed Danch, I nominated Scotty Bowman yesterday. But was the same thing with Michele Therrien, they ran him out of town. Or at least used the threat of missing the playoffs all together on 09 to make the change. If you recall there was rumblings back then that Therrien didn’t allow players to display their offensive talents, was too strict, and was a task master. He says today that he learned a lot from the experience, and isn’t as hard as he used to be.

    But the point is since Julien is fresh in our minds to play the what if game as him coaching and imagine his approach in the playoffs versus DD.

    Just a what if, but plugin anyone you’re familiar with that employs a defensive style, or anyone who who would have had some back-up plans, especially ones that had been willing to change strategies to combat what the opposing team is not only doing, but should be aware is going to do. Boston’s game is no secret, what they did against the Pens should not have been a surprise. 8 days to prepare….and 4 games to show too lttle, too late.

  44. Milo Hamilton says:

    How do you manufacture hunger ? That one little unmeasurable seemed to be missing in spades. I guess a new coach that’s never won could produce some of that. Although adding a slew of players that hadn’t didn’t. I’m more convinced than ever this morning we’re going to find out. About the coach thing, that is. What an enormous disappointment.

  45. Brandie says:

    All I meant by that was I came to the party late and have not followed DK as much as all of you. I just can’t wait to read his football coverage and, more than likely, will enjoy that as much as I have the baseball and hockey coverage.

  46. Brandie says:

    DK,

    Just saw the twitter pic of the Raven’s ring…only thing I can say is…gosh SuperBowl rings just have to be the most tacky pieces of jewelry on earth.

  47. KenKopp says:

    ‘Morning Lunnies,

    Today is going to suck. I have to work and face my Lightning, Devils and Bruins workmates. This is not going to be fun, As much not fun as this series was.

    It all is fun though. It’s sports. It’s part of what makes life worth living. Gotta keep it in perspective.

    Thank you DK. I crawl out of bed to face each day, get my morning cup of coffee (excuse me, java) a punch up the “Morning Blog” with Luke The Wonder Dog by my side. Good way to start the day. Love your writing.

    Go Bucs! Lets give AJ some runs today. God knows he deserves it.

  48. RobS says:

    Agreed again Danch and Dom (sounds like a movie title or something:-)),

    One thing though, upper management/ownership bought into his approach too. Maybe lulled into fact that we won the Cup in 09. I bought into it too, but if this year’s repeat failure with all the “pieces” assembled on this roster doesn’t spell out the short comings of this strategy in the playoffs nothing will.

    I also think before you blow-up this core, you have to ask yourself would this same core coached differently have had different results. They spotted Boston 2 games (1 & 2) before they started playing defensively. They looked out of sink, out of place, and unprepared. You don’t just turn it on in the middle of a series. They were able to defeat lesser teams in the Islanders (poor goaltender/or we would have all ready been making T times), and Senators (older/slower).

  49. Brad, Indiana PA says:

    Dejan,

    You are the best columnist ever to don a Zack Morris jacket (and really good regardless of the jacket). Just don’t ever get your hair cut like Tyler Kennedy.

  50. 21sthebest says:

    I think sometimes a team does take on the personality of the coach.

  51. Eric Bowser says:

    Great coverage Dejan.

    For those that may have missed my blog column, here you go.

    Title: Rotten to the Core
    http://pittsburghfancentral.blogspot.com/2013/06/column-rotten-to-core.html

    ” Teams have found the recipe to beat the Penguins, it starts with agitating them at the core.”

  52. Brad, Indiana PA says:

    Summary analysis of Delusional Disco Dan’s pragmatic post-game presser…

    1. We never played bad.
    2. There was an invisible force field around the net.
    3. Rask is the next Patrick Wah.
    4. We had numerous incredible scoring chances, but were undermined by forces unknown.
    5. You media people only THINK we didn’t adjust the PP.
    6. Nothing more could have been done.

  53. cherokee23 says:

    Agree with game comments

  54. bman says:

    As many above said, THANK YOU DK! I thoroughly enjoy you coverage, columns, comments, etc., both here and on Twitter. Keep up the GREAT work!

  55. pattonbb says:

    I’m not sure how firing Bylsma will ensure Crosby starts to show up in the playoffs. I’m not sure how firing Bylsma will ensure Malkin doesn’t bolt to the KHL. The Pens have a ton of issues to address regarding their roster. I’m not sure a coaching search should be one of them.

    Yasiel Puig hit another HR last night for LA. That’s 4 in 5 games. Oh, and those 4 HRs have come on 4 different pitches (fastball, changeup, slider, curve).

    I’ll take Revolutionary and Golden Soul at the Belmont.-

  56. Danch70 says:

    I understand and agree. They need someone who knows how to counter a tight checking team.

  57. theplanisworking says:

    DK……………….

    Thank You for making this Hippo’s Pond a better place with your work………. whether it be hockey, baseball, or other things.
    I always look forward to seeing your columns and blogs, whether I agree with you or nor.

    I also know, that now we can look forward to your Pirate, Steeler, and Riverhound coverage. ;)

    On a related note……… I dont know why you were thanking us.
    Its a wonder your hair hasnt fallen out putting up with us here……………………

  58. Nancy52 says:

    It’s been painful but thanks to you DK, at least you’ve made it bearable with all your
    coverage, columns, tweets, blog entries, etc.

  59. JohninOshkosh says:

    Orb.

  60. JohninOshkosh says:

    I wonder what the fountain will say to Dejan ?

  61. dwf says:

    DK,

    While I almost never agreed with anything you wrote (I however, think your last two pieces were very objective and spot on). Or for that matter posted here on the blog. Thank you and the Trib for providing this platform for such lively debates and interacting with us fans.

    I have been probably one of your harshest and most outspoken critics this year on this blog! But, I thoroughly enjoyed our “give and take” responses. While I am not a huge Bucs/Steelers fan, I am already looking forward to next season. I am quite sure the Pens will give us much more to disagree/debate about? Thanks again and have a great summer!

  62. Steve, Yorktown VA says:

    Loved the coverage this season DK. One thing I am surprised I haven’t seen anywhere is how maybe the week off between series contributed to the penguins power outage in the goal scoring dept.

    Penguin. Noun. A flightless bird that can lay eggs and end with a tailspin.

    Maybe since there has now been one collapse this summer the pirates won’t have one….. One can wish right?

  63. Thundercrack says:

    Looking at the picture that accompanies DK’s article this morning, it looks like the Knitting Lady ain’t so good at predictions either.

    I wonder if she too can’t wait for the start of football season.

  64. Arriba Wilver says:

    +10

  65. Arriba Wilver says:

    Orb,

  66. Naje says:

    Drew: you mean Bob didn’t by any par-snips?

    Thanks Dejan and sorry about the parsing…I’ll stick to ‘win or be fired’.

    While you didn’t have any mojo for the sticks, let’s hope Wrigley field unlocks some hits from the PBC bats.

  67. Brad, Indiana PA says:

    An interesting thing to consider- since the 05 lockout, the only Stanley Cup Champion that boasted a player or coach winning any of the major awards during the same season they won the cup is Detroit in 2008 (Lidstrom won the Norris).

    Maybe we as a society put too much emphasis and give too much credit for individual achievements, at least in the NHL. The last league MVP to win a cup the same year was Martin St. Louis in 2004 (also won Art Ross and Lindsay). Tortellini Torterella won the Adams that year.

    Pavel Datsyuk won the Selke the last year Detroit won the Cup.

    Not sure if this really means anything in the long run, but we base so much expectation off of regular season performance and quite often it’s the unsung guys with the biggest playoff impact- Tomas Vokoun, Campbell PK-ing on a broken leg, Jonathan Quick being a wall, Max Talbot clinching a series. Perhaps Sugar Ray Shero should consider these trends in the near future.

  68. Thundercrack says:

    It may say “Don’t stand so close buddy. And watch out for the lasers”

  69. Thundercrack says:

    Naje
    Not sure why you apologized. I don’t think you were parsing. I think you were just reading.

  70. Help me out here, Drew. Are you saying, by analogy, our beloved Pirates are no more than a few grains of Sea Salt to a few?

    And forget fountains and buildings. Do you talk to the ocean?

    :-o <Drew talking to the ocean.

  71. drwaido says:

    if pens are going to change to a more strict def system,which they should, RS will have to determine which of his core players can/will adapt. Can Pens successfully make a coaching/system change and resign the right players all at the same time? We may be looking at a transition period.

  72. Drew71 says:

    I generally agreed with your “column”, Eric. Rather than just an emotional ‘Fire EVERYbody’ rant that, frankly, I felt like writing, your comments got to the, um, core of this issue.

    Small umbrage with “rotten” to the core, as I don’t see those folks as rotten but rather agitated to the point of uselessness.

    but I’m nitpicking. I get that you were probably using the rotten thing as a play on words.

    PS…In many sports, there are coaches who are better during the regular season because their wide open offensive sets work better when other teams are NOT playing playoff defense. George Karl, for instance, in the NBA. Doesnt mean they choke in the playoffs. Means their systems are not BUILT for the playoffs.

    This is certainly not an argument with what you wrote. I’m just starting to wonder if Bylsma falls into that category.

    As you pointed out this season, Bylsma demonstrated more flexibility than during past campaigns. So if that’s not it, and if it is unthinkable to, um, think that the two best players are incapable of getting it done, and if the team seems to follow him (as they seem to)…that really doesn’t leave a lot of other choices, does it?

    This team has two serious assets and a window of opportunity. In other words, this is not a 6-8 seeded team that only makes it there because of the coaching system. If that were the case, one could forgive the playoff results.

    Serious and difficult decisions to make over the next few months.

  73. drwaido says:

    when will you be posting the next article

  74. Arriba Wilver says:

    This was kind of a sobering thought from Rossi’s column (not that people aren’t pretty sober already):

    “Malkin, 26, and Crosby, 25, may have missed out on the last best chance of their primes, too.

    Wayne Gretzky won his last title at 27. Mario Lemieux was 26. Bobby Orr was 24.”

    Boy, this ain’t golf, is it?

  75. Drew71 says:

    I was inspired by today’s blog. Or something I ate.

    Thank you for being Dejan
    Traveled with the Pens and back again
    your heart is true you’re a pal and a confidant

    I’m not ashamed to say
    I hope that football is on its way
    My hat is off, won’t you stand up and take a bow

    And if you threw a party
    Invited everyone you knew
    You would see, the biggest gift would be from TC
    and the card attached would say,
    Thank you for being Dejan

    Thank you for being Dejan
    Thank you for being Dejan
    Thank you for being Dejan

    Now I’m gonna go have a zucchini. With condiments.

  76. Milo Hamilton says:

    All of the sudden I have a craving for zucchini & sea salt. And football.

  77. Drew71 says:

    That’s not a craving. It’s an illness

  78. Drew71 says:

    Well. At least a symptom

  79. Drew71 says:

    Somebody bail out Kid Rock.

    “Are You Ready For Some Soccer?!?”

  80. pattonbb says:

    Everyone I know is picking Orb. Had to go a different route. I think all 3 of those horses can handle a wet track. We’ll see….

  81. BillyBaduka says:

    +1

  82. DJ says:

    DK: Jumping in late on this but thank you for all your hard work this year. You are a true craftsman and professional as a writer, the very best in our fair city. Your pieces are always in-depth, well analyzed and frequently provocative, taking readers to territories not commonly explored, causing us to think (a beautiful thing) and then react.

    Cheers!

  83. BillyBaduka says:

    It is interesting.

    +1

  84. BillyBaduka says:

    Nice

  85. BillyBaduka says:

    Lol

  86. JAL says:

    After this series I want no posts saying soccer is boring because of no scoring. Dislike it for other reasons but not for lack of scoring . US beat Jamaica in world cup qualifier 2-1 last night. That is more scoring than the pens had last two games combined, and Pens even had an extra period and part of another.

  87. Karen22 says:

    About all I can add to the string of posts here on this appropriately gray, dreary day is simply, “Thanks, right back at you.” I’m not mad…just overwhelmingly sad.

  88. Milo Hamilton says:

    Are you ready ?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmQFz3WugQE

    Boy, with nothing else going on around town I wish it was tomorrow.

  89. JohninOshkosh says:

    And to watch The Golden Girls.

  90. Scott says:

    Eric, you do a nice job of recapping the team’s playoff failures over the years, but I don’t get the point you’re trying to make in that piece. There are no conclusions drawn until the very end, when you declare that the team must fix its core. Ok… how?

  91. Milo Hamilton says:

    If Gregory Campbell was playing soccer they would have stopped the game to give him last rites.

  92. Arriba Wilver says:

    Heck of a match going on right now with Serena and Sharapova.

  93. JohninOshkosh says:

    Aggregate # of goals does not matter in hockey.

    In soccer it determines which team advances.

    And that is just ridiculous.

  94. Arriba Wilver says:

    Soccer is boring because of, among other things, no scoring. :-)

  95. JohninOshkosh says:

    Too much scoring.

  96. Joni says:

    I agree with you, Tim.

    Malkin: “It’s my mistakes”.
    “Sometimes I’m not scoring and I’m nervous and I have good chances – I don’t know, try shoot quicker?”
    (many thanks to Rob Rossi for including quotes in his “Chipped Ice” blog)

    It was refreshing to hear a star turn the light on himself, instead of sticking with the usual “we had our chances” (which was entirely true) response. To admit that you made mistakes because you were nervous makes him seem even more personable. I hope he sticks around, as well.

  97. Scott says:

    I don’t know whether Bylsma should be fired, but he deserves at least as much blame as his players. His misuse of Iginla alone is almost reason enough to relieve him of his duties.

    To the folks who keep saying that it’s not Bylsma’s fault that Crosby and Malkin didn’t score… well, yes it is, actually – at least partially. Bylsma had Malkin playing with Matt Cooke the past two games, a guy he never played with the entire season. Bylsma should have put Iginla on Crosby’s line and Kunitz on Malkin’s line the minute after those trades were made (or at the start of the playoffs, at least) and let them build up some chemistry together. Then he never would have had to tinker with his top two lines at all.

    Bylsma also never changed strategy. Hockey 101 dictates that when you’re playing a tough goaltender, you crash the net, look for rebounds, look for deflections, look for screens. Inexplicably, the Penguins never made that adjustment. Even last night, Neal and Letang were taking weak 40-foot shots with nobody in front of the net. Had the Pens made this necessary strategic adjustment, Crosby and Malkin probably would have found their way onto the scoresheet, and they wouldn’t have felt like they needed to stickhandle through the entire Bruins defense.

    It’s also Bylsma’s fault that Paul Martin wasn’t on the point for most of the power plays over the past two series. Martin is clearly the team’s best option when it comes to dishing the puck and knowing when to take the shot with the man advantage. But Bylsma stubbornly kept Kris Letang out there.

    I don’t blame Bylsma alone for losing this series. The players deserve heaps of criticism too. But the coach’s job is to put his players in the best position to succeed, and he failed miserably in that regard. The question is whether that failure is significant enough to cost him his job.

  98. diehard says:

    Great column DK, and your dedication and insights are always appreciated.
    Quick not-anti Milbury note. Last night he was the one in studio showing how the Pens were not getting some glaringly obvious calls (he seem particularly irked by Jagr’s hook of Malkin that led to the winning goal in game 3). He didn’t say – and I’m not either – that they would have changed the outcome, but used it to point out that the refs have been consistently bad all spring. He almost looked uncomfortable saying he felt the Pens were getting the short end of things. Maybe his contempt of officiating is actually greater than his perceived contempt of the Pens.

  99. Brad, Indiana PA says:

    Agree.

  100. Bizrow says:

    Its not sustainable

  101. Naje says:

    scoring, in tennis?
    15
    30
    40
    win?
    What kind of scoring is that?

    (love the game, though)

  102. Joni says:

    Same! Thank goodness we were wrong, Danch70.

  103. diehard says:

    For Bylsma and job security – Tony Dungy and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He made them good, he made them relevant, but never quite over that last hurdle. They let him go, the bring in John Gruden. Super Bowl Champs.
    Comparison #2 – Are we the 1990′s Braves? Over the past 20 years has there been a consistently better franchise in baseball”? And they have all of one World Series to show for it. Bobby Cox is revered as one of the greatest managers of all time – 2,504 wins. 1-4 when they actually made it to the World Series. They had the best 3-man rotation of our generation, and it still only got them 1 championship.

  104. Thundercrack says:

    That stuck out at me too AW.

    Especially because the other day when I saw that Jagr was in his 40s and still playing I thought that we have a lot more years of watching Crosby.

  105. Sarah says:

    Spot on Drew.
    I think that was at the heart of why some found it difficult to relax and enjoy the numerous winning streaks in Reg season the Pens put on.

    That sense (which I have had and posted about in various places since before 2011 even….) that Their Game is not built for Playoff Hockey, just as Bylsma seems to stubborn to adjust properly or prepare in 7 game series.

    As bad as last year was to watch, this year was worse. Excruciating.

  106. Drew71 says:

    Just left the ocean.

    Nothing like a walk in the surf to turn a clown upside down.

  107. DJ says:

    Actually, I agree with both Tim and DK. Malkin was the Pens’ best forward (Tim) and his effort was outstanding (DK). That said, if I could tweak one aspect of his game, it would be to tell him to calm down a tad, especially once the playoffs begin. He should bring a little bit more of his shoot-out approach — calmer and more deliberate — to his regular game. He used to be terrible there and now he is a beast.

    In this series, there were a number of occasions when he had more time and space than he thought but he didn’t realize it because, once receiving the puck, he immediately made a bad pass or whipped a shot which was not on net (the “on-ice smarts” part that DK mentions). In short, he needs to be less “jumpy” because, with his mad skills, he would become an even better player and, importantly, a more productive playoff performer.

    All of that said, no way the Pens even think about not signing him.

  108. DJ says:

    A good analogy.

  109. Drew71 says:

    Ok. I have to fess up.

    The only sport I ever coached was Soccer.

    Really.

    Man, was it boring.

  110. Arriba Wilver says:

    They both brought their A game, but it’s looking like Serena’s A game may be better. But Sharapova is making her work for it.

  111. Joni says:

    Man, I love “The Golden Girls”. I’m glad I’m not the only one!

  112. Mike Adams says:

    Thank YOU, Dejan. I don’t always agree with your opinions regarding the Pens, but you are by far the city’s best hockey writer. Your column was always my first read throught these playoffs.

  113. Naje says:

    Very good competition… though I wish the tennis assoc. would force Sharapova, and everyone in both men’s and women’s tennis, to stop the noise… it’s disgusting… and she doesn’t ever do that in practice.

  114. Brad, Indiana PA says:

    4 reasons why Bylsma should be fired:

    1. No accountability. For players or coaches. Part of being successful in anything is recognizing your weaknesses and trying to improve them. Or at least trying to compensate for them. Bylsma does neither until it’s too late. But it’s everyone and everything else’s fault.

    Malkin is starting to look frighteningly like Jagr. His defense is basically gone. He sulks when things don’t go his way. He takes bad penalties. A coach needs to see this and address it. Bylsma hasn’t. Julien-Pepper said they needed to reign in Marchand. At least he recognized a problem.

    Malkin consistently makes bad drop passes shift after shift. Still. and Crosby is even more guilty of idiotic, low percentage passes. I don’t know what exactly the answer is, but Bylsma sure doesn’t either.

    But that’s all ok because they’re stars and veterans now and they know “our game”. But if you’re Simone Despres or Beau Bennett and you lose an edge, coughing the puck up to a teammate, you’re on the bench for a week. Great strategy. We will hold our breath waiting for Tanner Glass and Tyler Kennedy to break out though. That’s much better than development.

    2. 4- count ‘em- FOUR underachieving playoff performances from his team in a row, all of them when he controlled the team from start to finish. You can’t take away what Therrien contributed to this team in 09. Nor can you from Bylsma. But he inherited a good team playing badly and turned them around. He didn’t reinvent the wheel.

    No one can look back at any of these 4 losses and say “Wow that was a good series. We just got beat.” More like “Did we show up for those series?” With all due credit to the Habs, Bolts, Cryers and Ruins, 3 of those teams did not win the Cup. It’s not like we were dismantled by the eventual champion.

    And that’s what totally falls on Bylsma. You run into good goalies. It’s bound to happen in the playoffs. If it happened the first round we would have been talking about this stuff weeks ago. If a goalie is hot and you can’t beat him, the logical and obvious answer is to try something else. We’re still waiting for that. We’ve made 3 out of those 4 goalies (minus Bryzgalov) look more like future HOFers than Jarome Iginla.

    3. I’m no expert. Would never claim to be. But it doesn’t take an expert to recognize simple patterns in a game or series. Your team scores one goal in 2 games with negative 3 rebound opportunities, something is wrong. You can’t score a PP to save your life and it often looks like an advantage for the other team, you need to change something. Anything. Misuse of Malkin, Iginla, Letang and Martin on the PP absolutely ruined this series (amongst other problems).

    Bylsma thinks his system, when executed properly, is unbeatable. 4 years in a row suggest otherwise. There was no gameplan adjustment. There was no change in strategy. How many years before it’s the official definition of insanity? You can’t win championships ignoring the blatantly obvious.

    4. Development and adaptation to “our game” doesn’t exist. Ray Shero rightly takes heat for failing to draft contributing players. But in 5 years we haven’t come up with 1 guy that could learn from and thrive in “our game”, other than James Neal who fizzles like stale pop in the playoffs? And that’s solely the player’s and Shero’s fault? Here’s the problem- how are young guys supposed to learn “our game” when they aren’t given a reasonable chance? I’m not nominating Bennett for the Calder. But to say he wasn’t a better alternative at any given moment this season than a handful of other guys that weren’t benched is just wrong.

    Maybe there is a reason Paul Martin stunk his first few years here. Maybe it’s possible that guys like Engelland and Murray aren’t being used correctly. Maybe, just maybe, “our game” isn’t so great.

    5. Bylsma plays his favorites. End of story. Think no other coach in the NHL would have benched Tyler Kennedy or Tanner Glass at some point this (regular) season in favor of a promising prospect? Or Niskanen in the playoffs? Letang plays the worst series of his life and plays Chara minutes? Morrow helps create most of the few sustained offensive attacks we had in the series and he plays about 7 minutes in a do or die game? A future HOFer gets put in a position he doesn’t know REPEATEDLY and is left there after costing the team goals and failed chances? The fact that Matt Niskanen was even travelling with the team for this series? There’s no excuse and no good answer.

    Sorry that was so long.

  115. Greg says:

    Dejan,

    I’m a transplanted Pittsburgher who has enjoyed your work for years. We actually interacted a lot when you first started covering the high school hockey beat years ago so I know how hard you work. I’ve admired your honest assessment of my Pittsburgh teams. My question is – do you have a sense of what Mario’s thoughts are on DB? Before the playoffs you wrote you felt DB was safe. But do you have a sense if that has changed in Mario’s mind? If it has and DB could be in trouble, how hard will Ray go to bat to keep him as head coach?

  116. Brad, Indiana PA says:

    Oops. 5 reasons. Open mouth, insert foot.

  117. SeanAY says:

    Per Darren Dreger, on Twitter:

    “Gonchar and the Stars have reached agreement on a 2 yr deal, believed to be $5 mil per, $10 mil total. Pending signed paperwork. #TSN”

    When the nuclear apocalypse strikes, all that will be left is cockroaches, Cher, and a team willing to pay Sergei Gonchar a premium to quarterback the power play.

  118. Brad, Indiana PA says:

    Wow that was quick. Good for him.

    There may also still be a team willing to pay Tyler Kennedy $2 million a season. Hopefully it’s not here.

  119. Davedigsdksblog says:

    The goal is the Stanley Cup.

    0 for 4 the last four years in reaching the finals

    Pretty simple firing in my mind

    With this talent we need to see if someone else can get more out of them in the playoffs

  120. Until the Pirates start scoring more than the Riverhounds and the pitching becomes sustainable, you won’t turn many clowns or frowns upside down until football and hockey start again.

    :(

  121. That is a plethora of goals. Maybe there is something to this soccer thing. There is action on the pitch.

    I don’t dislike soccer. My boys played in HS and Drew coached it. Just never caught the fever for it like baseball and football (American).

  122. Thundercrack says:

    Here’s the ball. There’s the goal. Go kick the ball into the goal.

    Not much to coach the kids.

  123. Thundercrack says:

    Drew lives in Florida.

    The Golden Girls are his neighbors….all around him. Everywhere.

  124. 21sthebest says:

    I think it’s always smart to practice safe safe zucchini.

  125. 21sthebest says:

    But it’s fun to watch the parents scream at the kids, coaches, and each other.

  126. hockeymonster says:

    @Dejan

    Thanks for your efforts this year and having this blog as a place to vent :)

    Going into this off season I’m hoping we take a hard look at bring in Alain Vigneault and FINALLY come to the conclusion that we cant pay PM 5M going forward. I asked about inquiring about PM’s no trade clause and you pretty much dismissed the thought as craziness from my part. Well look at how boston’s defense is constructed…Boychuck and Seidenberg made roughly 5.5M combined.

    As most of you know I’ve been making the case that the Pens defense is ill built due to the cap hit from PM. His play improved from the half way point of the season but I think its clearer now than ever that PM is replaceable. Its not to detract from PM and his improved play but considering that our priorities should be to re-sign Malkin, letang and maybe dupuis the cap space needs to come from somewhere. Not to mention finding and fitting in replacements for Cooke, kennedy, making a decision on Murray and maybe finding a replacement for dupuis if we cant sign him. Last season I made the case that PM and michalek at 4M is replaceable and the pens apparently came to the same conclusion on michalek. PM was solid in games 3 and 4 but was very mediocre and inconsistent prior to that, especially in NYI series. Considering PM’s improved play I believe it was our coaching that let us down but FINALLY wising up regarding PM’s cap hit is a MUST!!!

  127. 21sthebest says:

    Players have been grunting since I started watching in the 70′s.

  128. Joni says:

    One of the few things that NBC got right is airing Premier League football/soccer next season.

    I no longer have to try to conjugate Spanish verbs while watching TeleMundo OR scour somewhat legal websites to watch grainy soccer matches. Whew.

    And who can beat the wonderfully sung Premier League soccer chants/songs! This is what you do when things get “boring”:
    http://fanchants.co.uk/football-songs/arsenal-chants/arsenal-fc/

    Sure beats hockey fans’ chanting the opposing goalie/best player’s name in a mocking way, huh?

    And I hope I haven’t made life-long enemies with my team affiliation!

    P.S. Here is a link to soccer fan chants for other teams.
    http://fanchants.com/

  129. Joni says:

    How about that five set Nadal v. Djokovic match yesterday? I thought I was going to have a cardiac event!

    Makes you wonder what tomorrow’s men’s final will bring. Does Nadal still have gas left in the tank to play David Ferrer, the 2nd best clay court player? I like to believe the answer is yes.
    Vamos Rafa! (I forgot how to make an upside down exclamation point on the keyboard for the beginning of this proclamation).

  130. JohninOshkosh says:

    I would bet on Heather Locklear surviving Armageddon as well.

    Looks the same she did on TJ Hooker. Does not age.

  131. Joni says:

    I was shocked to hear Milbury say semi-positive things about the Penguins because of the crappy officiating. Good on Milbury for having a moment of semi-clarity.

    And Milbury totally looks uncomfortable as he tries to keep things neutral when speaking about the Pens. You gotta wonder what the NBC higher-ups said to him in the past.

  132. Sarah says:

    Very interesting AV recap on Hforums
    http://hfboards.hockeysfuture.com/newreply.php?do=newreply&p=67195463

    On a thread titled Bylsma Hot Seat, appropriately…..now like39 pages long!

  133. Sarah says:

    He will mulch Ferru unless he’s injured.
    Why I was hoping for Tsonga, who choked his arse off.

  134. Sarah says:

    It was waking up my kittens….

  135. Sarah says:

    Not like this they havent

  136. SeanAY says:

    I don’t know if making failure the reach the Cup Finals in four years a fireable offense is advisable, but I get the point.

    I’m not so much worried about the lack of Finals appearances as I am by the fact that, typically speaking, the elimination rounds have been pretty gruesome.

    2010: Blown out at home by Montreal in Game 7 at home (weren’t they the #8 seed that year?)
    2011: Blow 3-1 lead to Tampa Bay with two chances to clinch at home (almost inclined to give a mulligan there, because they were without Malkin and Crosby, but still)
    2012: That absolutely mess against Philly last year.
    2013: Held to two goals in four games against Boston.

  137. Joni says:

    If Nadal had to lose, Tsonga was my second choice. Very unfortunate about his choke-job.

    I can only imagine what the French media had to say about it. Is it as comparable to the British media when a Brit loses at Wimbledon? Jeez, what pressure.

  138. Sarah says:

    Yeah the French are so hard on their players, though they seem to love Jo. Poor Mauresmo used to buckle every year.

    We Brits cheerfully expect to lose LOL!

  139. Arriba Wilver says:

    I wish they would quit swearing on the football field and the baseball field, and the horses would quit pooping on the track. :-)

  140. Sarah says:

    Whoops mangled that damn iPad.
    Here
    Systems: 100% trap hockey when he came here first, won Jack Adams, credit where credit is due (though did ride a hot Luongo). Asked by new management to take on new up-tempo system, which took us to the 2011 SCF. Consisted of lots of long stretch passes to fwds who had blown the zone, lots of pinching and overload in the o-zone. Very successful. However, system mostly abandoned playing against Boston, where it devolved into something very much like what we just saw with you guys. We either got blown out or the game was extremely close and low-scoring – the difference is our goalie is 1/9 to ever get two shutouts in a SCF.

    Player Development: I think what he does well is take defensively sound guys and squeeze 15-20 goals out of them like blood from a stone (Raymond, Hansen). Several notable failures to turn highly skilled young players into two-way guys (Hodgson, Grabner, Kassian now). Does a good job with young defencemen though (Edler, Corrado, Tanev). Topic of contention as some point to Sedins, Kesler and Burrows having career years under him.

    Veterans: Has admitted to not coaching the Sedins at all. He just lets them do their thing. Has some veterans that he clearly (and irrationally) favours. I know every coach has their biases, but some of his decisions have been detrimental to the team (Ballard and Tanev were our best pair at the beginning of the year but he chose to sit a $4.2M defencemen) This is a heated debate on our boards but IMO he takes his favouritism too far, to the point where it hurts the team in terms of asset management. Lately has been accused with his hands-off approach of creating too much of a country club atmosphere.

    Playoffs: I think with teams like ours who have had lots of regular season success that the coach’s effect can be tricky to determine. However, one thing the majority of Canuck fans can agree upon is that he cannot make adjustments in-game or in-series during the playoffs. Our consistent pattern is to absolutely demolish teams in the first 2-3 games, and then somehow find outselves in the 7th game. He can adopt a completely different system if asked to and implement it for the whole year, but don’t expect tactical or strategic adjustments in the playoffs. IMO that is the number one reason he doesn’t have a job right now.

    Recent developments: Instead of carrying the puck and stretch passes, last two years we were almost 100% reliant on chip-and-chase. Zero puck-support breakout for two years. Our forecheck has been non-existent for two years, we don’t speed any significant time in the o-zone, and yet we still pinch from the points very aggressively. Basically he has tried to create some unholy amalgam of what we’ve done before but IMO he has been much more successful doing one thing or the other. Recently team has looked more like 100% safe trap team than the 2010-2011 SCF run.

  141. Lad9 says:

    Wow. Dead on Scott. +10,000

  142. Call me next time one soccer team has 54 shots on goal and the other soccer team has 40 shots on goal——and then I’ll agree that both 2-1 games are equal!!

  143. DJ says:

    Wouldn’t it be interesting if Ray Shero wins the Executive of the Year Award? Voting closed before the playoffs, right? I love Ray but this crop of acquisitions underwhelmed. But hey, sometimes you have to pull the trigger and I can’t find fault in him standing by his “executive” convictions.

    But as to Bylsma’s “coaching” convictions . . . well, maybe I just have a double standard.

  144. DJ says:

    . . . then again, maybe Ray wins it just on the back of Tomas Vokoun. Brilliant move and foresight.

  145. JAL says:

    Pirates news

    Presley up, Hughes to DL with right shoulder inflamation

  146. JohninOshkosh says:

    NY Post reporting that if Pens fire DB, he will be at top of Rangers list to replace Torts.

  147. Pucknutz says:

    Maybe Boston actually was that good.

    2 goals in 4 games…….

  148. Lad9 says:

    Thank you DK. Simply put, you are the best writer/reporter/columnist I have have ever had the pleasure of following. Hockey is the one sport I never played growing up so I never felt that my knowledge of things like breakouts and how to play on the half wall were up to snuff, but I have learned much from you and the denizens of this blog. While it is clear that your affection for hockey is unrivaled by anything save your passion for your family, our fair city, and a good cup of joe, I always felt that you had a strong love for baseball and appreciated the game. My hope would be that you can regain that and enjoy what could be a rewarding summer, in spite of a cast of characters behind the scenes (and some not so behind) that clearly have made covering the local nine a chore, not a passion.

    DK: Thank you!

  149. cmat0829 says:

    Respectfully, not sure I understand the angst here either way. The Pirates are covered by good beatwriters, both here and “across town”, and Root Sports offers up comprehensive pregame and postgame shows to each broadcast…and there are quite a few blogs that offer up Pirates analysis and opinion… DK should cover what he feels is interesting to the readers, and whatever that is, it is. He shouldn’t “force” a column or blog entry about the Pirates if there isn’t an interesting angle to be explored… do some of you feel that whether DK writes something on a given day is some sort of political statement? I don’t… I would rather read a new, fresh take on say, NBA (just kidding), or golf, or tennis, or auto racing, or Pitt sports, or even the soccer team whatever they are called…then yet another article about the same old grist mill, front office good or bad take?

  150. cmat0829 says:

    NOW, all of that said, one thing I miss from when DK was beat writer is that he brought into focus a lot more in depth about each Pirate…. with is interviews and articles, I felt like he went ‘next level’ to borrow from espn, on things that aren’t usually covered in normal game coverage… THAT is what I look forward to more this summer, there are new and interesting characters to write more about on a team that is competing its ass off in the tough NL central.

  151. Sherry says:

    Thanks Dejan, for doing what you do so well, and for giving so much of yourself to us fans – that’s pretty rare in this business.

    Wow, I’m still sort of stunned, almost into silence, over what we witnessed the last week or so. How can anyone associated with this team not be? What happened was epic and I think it overwhelmed, well clearly everyone. I don’t think any of us outside the room can really know what should have been done, or should be done for that matter. I trust that cool, not hot, heads will process this latest failure, learn from it, and come up with a good plan moving forward. They are smart men, they will figure it out.

    I’m not a proponent of “blowing it all up” tho’. There were more lessons to be learned this year, a year in which we had all the pieces, and then some, but still couldn’t get it done (failing spectacularly in fact). But what is to be gained from sending all that talent (and I’m including the coach here) hither and yon right when they’ve all just been thru the grind together, gotten pounded, and came up short? Won’t they be all the smarter and even more motivated for it? Don’t you think that Boston learned a lot, and became even more committed, by losing a series in which they were up 3-0?

    Obviously with salary cap constraints next season, changes will have to be made, but to the extent possible, I hope we are able to keep the nucleus intact. That also pre-supposes that guys would want to stay (Jordan didn’t, and Ray was smart enough to get a good return for him). It seems clear that moving pieces around all the time isn’t the way to build a cohesive unit, and if there’s one thing we know, cohesion is a very important part of being on the winning side of things.

    So mainly I hope Ray and and the guys stay the course, learn from their mistakes, and commit to doing better next year. I know, this year was supposed to be “that” year after last year’s early exit. But we only had half a season, and Sid had another lengthy absence (and who knows how much he really had left in the tank after the injuries and the lockout…). Milo said he wanted to see “one more period,” well I want to see one more season before we blow it all up. I know I probably sound, naive, stubborn, or just plain stupid, but I’m not ready to give up on the team as it stands just yet.

    It takes a lot of things to happen, just right, and all at once, to win the Cup – and maybe next year the guys will work harder and play smarter and more of the intangibles will swing in our favor.

    Guess I wasn’t all that close to stunned silence after all…

    DK: Good stuff. Will have more on emotional ramifications of this tomorrow.

  152. cosmo says:

    Eric,

    good column, and insight.

    would like to see your thoughts on the futures of some current players, specifically
    as to if you think they we be back or not.

    Fluery
    Malkin
    Letang
    Dupuis
    Iginla
    Kennedy
    Eaton
    Bylsma

  153. hockeymonster says:

    Comments about in game adjustments scare me a bit…but overall unless there are assistants out there that could step in I think AV is a very solid mix of youth, experience and track record. Any coach can be nitpicked…look at blysma…he has a cup and had us in the ECF as the top seed but we’re ready to thank him for his efforts and move on….

  154. Eric Bowser says:

    The ‘how’ is coming… I’ll have that up shortly.

  155. Eric Bowser says:

    Thanks, I’ll pretty much have a run down on all them in a few minutes.

    If I had the title as GM, Malkin and Dupuis would be back.

    The others… not so much.

  156. Louis in Michigan says:

    Dejan,

    Thank you for truly engaging your fans and your readers, even when those can be two totally different groups. I, for one, am firmly entrenched in both camps. Engaging with fans on Twitter, weekly chat, radio show, and on the blog has definitely made me a loyal follower. Not being “too cool for school” the way a lot of other media members can be is an admirable trait. You definitely portray the earnestness you describe as being lucky to do what you do for a living. This team was special and, I feel reading and listening and interacting throughout the ups and downs of the season only added to the enjoyment. After a big game, it was always interesting to see the similarities and differences in what I saw from afar and what you get to cover live and upclose. One would not be as enjoyable without the other.

    Also, growing up in Pittsburgh and moving away after college, your insight and appreciation for the little things for our great city make me both proud to be from Pittsburgh and homesick at the same time. Keep posting photos on Instagram and re-tweeting others that do. It really means a lot to a transplant who bleeds black & gold from so far away.

    Thanks again,

    Louis in Michigan

    DK: That’s outstanding, Louis. Thank you.

  157. J Walter Weatherman says:

    DK, the fact that you attract such passionate and insightful followers to your blog is a testament to your work.

    On the Pens, there’s not much to write that’s already been written. I do wonder how much this latest incident will take out of the fan base. Does it turn into more of the Pirates fan base, where skepticism reigns? Does it lower expectations for the fan base? Will a large gap exist between fans who defend the GM and those who denounce him at every opportunity? It will be interesting to see what happens to the attendance and TV ratings next year.

    DK: The blog followers are a testament to the blog followers. This is their place. I was long ago reduced to squatter status.

    The Penguins’ attendance and ratings will again be excellent. The methods through which they’re building their brand are anything but short-term.

    As for the Pirates, I keep saying this, but there are no comparison points. None.

  158. Brandie says:

    You just threw an extra one in there, for free. No worries. :-)

  159. Sarah says:

    Yup.
    I dunno, have not really done my research on coaches.

    I guess we have to see if we need a new one first.

    But I’m so depressed now, I really would have no problem with DB being summarily canned Monday.
    Sigh.

  160. Sarah says:

    Their gameplay was that good.
    Our lack of countering it was that bad.

  161. Sarah says:

    Ugh -gamePLAN.

  162. Sarah says:

    Totally agree….the ONLY two on my Must Keep list are Geno and Duper.

    I hear on Madden that KHL may make Malkin an offer he cannot refuse.

    And I couldn’t blame Duper if he wants to leave.

    Sigh.

    PS as for Letang, no problem if he leaves. 300 turnovers too many.

  163. SeanAY says:

    DK:

    We get it. “Pirates Bad, Penguins Good.”

    Does the point really have to be made every single time someone mentions them in the same sentence?

  164. hockeymonster says:

    Ya know…i’m bummed but not surprised. In a lot of ways it just shows that your original instincts are usually the correct ones. Between bylsma insisting we play an open style with dmen that weren’t capable of defending up and down the ice, our dzone coverage being rather amateurish at times and then shero bringing in players that reduced our team speed maybe we shouldn’t be shocked that we only got by the 8 and 7 seeds.

    I was never enamored with trading for morrow…I only saw him a few times for dallas recently but it was clear he was no where near the same level and speed. Same with iginla but I wanted to believe he could help cuz well…he’s iginla.

    But overall when you have a coach insistent on playing a style not suited for his players my expectations were pretty tapered. He made adjustments halfway thru the season regarding neutral zone and results were great. Dzone coverage was decent for regular season too. We relapsed against NYI then kept it together thru ottawa series.

    But against patient coached up teams like boston you gotta be prepared to win 1 goal games. Too bad games 1 and 2 at home probably justify a new coach. Bylsma seems like a good guy. Maybe shero and Mario will give him another year to see if he evolves as a coach.

  165. Eric Bowser says:

    Blog column: Where do Pens go from here?

    After an immense disappointment for the Penguins losing to the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals in a 4-game sweep, Penguins General Manager Ray Shero will have little time to calmly reflect on what happened as the offseason begins with the NHL Draft and Free Agency in just a few weeks.

    Shero will have to make a decision on Bylsma’s job as the team can’t wait long for a new coach if the decision is to fire him as the best candidates will be looking to get a job well in-advanced of the NHL draft.

    There should be little debate about this decision as the team has struggled defensively too many times in the playoffs, constant lack of composure by their most important players and a lack of discpline getting into penalty trouble, which were the same topics of conversation last offseason.

    But like the saying, any village idiot can tell me the problem, I want someone who can tell me the solution.

    For the Penguins, they need to find a way to get a veteran coach like Dave Tippett supported by assistants that he wants to help him get the most out of the team and not hand picked assistants by Shero.

    Tippett’s structured system would be a significant difference in the way Bylsma coached hockey as his way of defensive hockey was often telling the players to “get to our game” by playing in the other team’s zone, which would be a winning philosophy if the team knew how to back-check into the defensive zone, worked together along the boards and didn’t rely on a stretch pass so long, Tino Sunseri couldn’t even complete a pass that far.

    As for the roster, expect significant turnover for a franchise that crashed and burned in four consecutive playoffs.

    The Penguins have 13 unrestricted free agents – Pascal Dupuis, Craig Adams, Iginla, Morrow, Cooke, Warren Peters, Philippe Dupuis, Trevor Smith, Chad Kolarik, Murray, Eaton, Dylan Reese, and Brad Thiessen and 10 restricted free agents – Tyler Kennedy, Dustin Jeffrey, Paul Thompson, Brian Gibbons, Zach Sill, Riley Holzapfel, Keven Veilleux, Robert Bortuzzo, Alex Grant and Eric Hartzell.

    Because the next head coach will need to bring more discipline, more structure defensively and a new style of hockey, that should change the way the roster is put together after years of building down the middle from the goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, defensemen Brooks Orpik and Kris Letang and centers Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby.

    While it would be unthinkable to trade Crosby and Malkin, I can’t say the same of Fleury and Letang.

    If the Penguins plan to trade Fleury, they might be willing to go into next season with Vokoun as the starter and Hartzell as the backup. The young college free agent could be developed to become the starter if they don’t acquire a long-term option at the draft, free agency or in a trade.

    Depending on a hypothetical deal with Colorado, they have Semyon Varlamov to add as part of any trade offer for Fleury and don’t discount the importance of Fleury in what Patrick Roy will want to do as the new head coach in Colorado. I expect a lot of rumors to start emanating out of Colorado regarding this trade possibility.

    In free agency, the best bang for your buck could be Boston’s backup goaltender Anton Khudobin, a 27-year old backup that made just $875,000 last season or San Jose’s backup Thomas Greiss, also 27-years old making $587,500.

    As for Letang, he’s going to command a huge salary as a number one defenseman and the Penguins can’t afford such demands with Malkin about to be an unrestricted free agent after next season and holes to fill the roster due to an unproductive draft and player development system under Shero.

    It should be buyer beware with Letang as he’s struggled defensively in the playoffs and due to his lack of size, appears to wear down, mentally and physically.

    He was easily knocked around in front of the net in these playoffs and his offensive game hasn’t fully developed as he continues to struggle to get his shot through on the power play, over handling the puck and rushing his passes into the feet of his teammates.

    Letang is a big tease and that will likely put him in the $7 million range as a free agent, a deal the Pens cannot afford or should be make in a new system that should require their defensemen to think defense first.

    A team like the New York Islanders could be quite interested in Letang in order to address holes on their blue line and have some depth at forward to offer the Penguins.

    A forward like Josh Bailey could mix in well with the Penguins as good two-way forward on the top two lines.

    Meanwhile, Shero has to make additional adjustments with the blue line as teams far too often were able to easily enter the Penguins zone because guys like Letang, Niskanen, Murray, Engelland, and Eaton struggled to win battles in the corner or in front of the net, so they cheated back in the zone and still lost those battles.

    The team has a good start with Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, and Simon Despres but must find bigger, stronger and more agile defensemen than what they’ve employed the last two years. Looking at free agency, it might be wise to bring back Rob Scuderi and use one or two of their younger players like Robert Bortuzzo, Brian Dumoulin, Philip Samuelsson, Derrick Pouliot, Olli Maatta, and Scott Harrington to round out the blue line.

    At forward, it was another disappointing playoff performance by Crosby and Malkin but there were others just as unproductive and ineffective.

    Penguins got little offensive push from their third and fourth lines, far too often being hemmed in their own end against better players, even during the regular season Bylsma had to be selective in his shifts for the fourth line.

    For much of the playoffs, Brandon Sutter was missing in action on the offensive side of the ice and struggled to win faceoffs. The team would be in a better position using Sutter and Jussi Jokinen together on the third line and finding a right winger that has good speed, defensively responsible, and not weak link in the corners.

    Many people are going to say the team should bring back Matt Cooke but the team can’t continue to employ a forward who has made positive changes in his game but continues to get the raw end of the deal for some borderline hits and that cost the team in the playoffs. The team can no longer take the risk of a player that can be replaced on the third line and penalty-kill by a younger, less controversial winger.

    I’d be in favor of bringing back Pascal Dupuis but question whether the Penguins can sign him to a cap friendly deal and after a few playoff flame outs for the Penguins, it is time to create some instability for Crosby and force him as well as others to start playing differently.

    Keeping Dupuis and having him in a top two-line role changes little for this franchise. It will be tough to lose such a positive player and outstanding penalty-killer but if Dupuis wants to be paid like a top six forward, they can’t afford it.

    Shero will undoubtedly start the season with Joe Vitale at center and Tanner Glass at left wing on the fourth line and in search of a right wing that much like the third line has to get bigger, faster, and more skilled.

    The days of watching Craig Adams throw his heart and soul into every shift should be over. He worked hard but far too often, he was a stationary pylon on the penalty-kill, below average on faceoffs, and just didn’t have the skills to move the puck down the ice without an ordinary dump and chase.

    Not surprising, if the team is unable to acquire NHL ready talent in trades for Fleury and Letang, they’ll have to go the free agent route because there’s no prospects in the organization ready to win a job on the top two lines besides Beau Bennett.

    I would prefer to see Bennett as a left-winger on a line with Malkin and James Neal due to him being a right-handed shot, excellent passer and unafraid to play in the high traffic areas.

    That leaves one spot to fill on the first line to play alongside Crosby and Chris Kunitz, which I’d make a move to get Bruins right-winger Nathan Horton. He’s a big power forward that can skate, has a laser shot, and young enough to play with Crosby for the next few years.

    The days of putting ham and eggers, no offense to Dupuis and Kunitz, on a line with Crosby need to be over.

    It will be a difficult retooling for Shero but if he’s to build another championship team, he can’t fall into the same trap the Penguins organization fell into under Craig Patrick twenty years ago.

    —————

    The Penguins currently have a salary cap hit of $56.4 million, leaving $7.8 million in cap space for next season.

    Forwards
    1st: Kunitz – Crosby – RW
    2nd: Bennett – Malkin – Neal
    3rd: Jokinen – Sutter – RW
    4th: Glass – Vitale – RW
    Extra: MacIntyre
    Salary cap hit: 33.466

    RFA: Kennedy, Jeffrey, Thompson, Gibbons, Sill, Holzapfel, Veilleux
    UFA: Dupuis, Adams, Iginla, Morrow, Cooke, Peters, Dupuis, Smith, Kolarik
    Signed Prospects: Megna, Payerl, Kuehnhackl, Uher, Zlobin
    Unsigned Prospects: Blueger, Sundqvist, Marcantuoni, Archibald, Wilson, Rust

    Defensemen
    DP1: Orpik – Martin
    DP2: Despres – Letang
    DP3: Niskanen – Engelland
    Salary Cap hit: 15.956

    RFA: Bortuzzo, Grant
    UFA: Murray, Eaton, Reese
    Signed Prospects: Pouliot, Maatta, Ruopp, Samuelsson, Harrington, Dumoulin, D’Agostino, McNeil
    Unsgined Prospects: Seymour, Velischek

    Goaltender
    NHL: Fleury, Vokoun
    AHL: Zatkoff
    RFA: Hartzell
    UFA: Thiessen
    Salary Cap hit: 7.00

    Top Free Agents

    Center: Patrik Elias, Mike Ribeiro, Nik Antropov, Derek Roy, Dainius Zubrus, Stephen Weiss, Tyler Bozak
    Right-wing: Nathan Horton, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Damien Brunner, David Clarkson, Jarome Iginla, Jaromir Jagr
    Left-wing: Brenden Morrow, Ryane Clowe, Clark MacArthur, Dustin Penner, Valtteri Filppula, Viktor Stahlberg
    Defense: Ron Hainsey, Mark Streit, Rob Scuderi, Jordan Leopold, Douglas Murray, Ryan O’Bryne
    Goalie: Niklas Backstrom, Tim Thomas, Mike Smith, Anton Khudobin, Thomas Greisss, Al Montoya

    Top Coaching Candidates
    Experienced: Dave Tippett, Rick Tocchet, Alain Vigneault, Lindy Ruff, Paul Maurice, Guy Boucher, Mike Sullivan, Glen Gulutzan
    1st timers: Ulf Samuelsson, Dallas Eakins, Dean Evason, Mark French

  166. hockeymonster says:

    Looked over UFA’s and there’s a lot more help available at forward than defense.

    1st order of business besides coaching situation would be to trade PM and maybe nisky for younger players to free up 7.3M in cap space. Their replacements would ideally cost around 3-5M. Then for depth I’d look into signing Toni Lydman from the ducks along with Davis Drewiske from montreal.

    For our top 6-9 forwards i’d make it a priority to look into Mason Raymond, David Clarkson, Victor Stalberg and Clark Macarthur. For our bottom 6 i’d look into Antti Miettinen, Brandon Yip, Boyd Gordon, and maybe even Raffi Torres. Bringing dupuis back would be nice but if he needs more than 3M to stay don’t think we can manage.

    Most of you might remember my suggestion to trade for Roman Polak and Chris Stewart leading up to the trade deadline. That would still be a top priority for me.

    Flower and Vokooouuuun in the cage!

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