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Morning Java: The city so nice …

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

HERSHEY, Pa. — Morning, Lunatics …

>> Driving over to New York, where I’ll cover back-to-back Pittsburgh sporting events at Madison Square Garden. The first column will be off Pitt-Cincinnati tonight, the next off Penguins-Rangers tomorrow night. The first will run in Wednesday’s paper, the next in Thursday’s.

That will knock both my TribLIVE Radio show and the weekly chat out of the equation, but I think it’s a good trade. Besides, I’ll still be checking in with TLR daily at 11:30 a.m.

After that, it’s back home briefly, then off to the Frozen Tundra for Steelers-Packers this weekend.

>> The Penguins go all-young out of necessity and still stick it to the Maple Leafs. Josh Yohe reports from Consol.

Shawn Thornton, all-around swell guy and genuinely remorseful and all that other hooey, is appealing his suspension. Rob Rossi has that and the latest on Deryk Engelland.

The panel on WPXI-TV’s Subway Final Word weighed in on Engelland …

Here’s our full Penguins coverage.

Here’s Maple Leafs news from the Toronto Star.

Here are official game highlights from NHL.com.

>> The Steelers forge ahead with the final two games and only the most microscopic of playoff hopes, by Alan Robinson.

Le’Veon Bell is leading a revved up running game, by Robinson.

Terence Garvin could pay for breaking the jaw of the Bengals’ punter, by Robinson.

The weekly Steelers Film Session, by Mark Kaboly.

Here’s our full Steelers coverage.

Here’s Packers news from the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

Here are official game highlights from NFL.com.

>> Pitt faces a legit test in the 7-2 Bearcats, by Kevin Gorman.

>> First stop: Hershey’s Chocolate World for the factory tour this morning. If you haven’t been, it’s well worth your trip and not at all expensive.

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 more, including 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 top four columnists in the country -- highest circulation category -- by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the top three columnists in the country by the National Headliners Awards. For 2013, he was named top columnist in the state by the Keystone Awards and second-place by the Pennsylvania AP Managing Editors.

252 Comments

  1. I sat at home tonight and watched (somewhat in amazement) the dreaded Baltimore Ravens positioning themselves for another playoff run.
    As much as I despise this low life, double-kill-shot bunch of thugs….I must admit that this franchise has now got a lock on yearly Super Bowl runs.
    After losing numerous self-proclaimed legends from last year Super Bowl team (Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Anquan Boldin, etc.), they have reloaded and now appear to be peaking at the right time.

    I’m a definite John Harbaugh hater, but it’s quite obvious the guy knows what he’s doing.
    And speaking of knowing what he is doing….GM Ozzie Newsome continues to stock this team with talent.
    Make note….It’s not just their drafts (which have been somewhat ordinary).
    It’s the mid-level FA’s that he targets and successfully brings to Baltimore with experience and untapped skills.
    This (in my opinion) is what the Steelers have been lacking for several years.

    Living by the draft is a smart philosophy….But living and dying by the draft is killing the Steelers.
    I hope beyond hope that GM Kevin Colbert doesn’t get blinded by a “bit” of late season success.
    As much as it hurts me to say it…..This current team needs to shed anyone that is aging, and/or mediocre/below the line.
    When they re-stock, I hope they will think about more than what happens in NYC next May.

    By the way….If anyone thinks I’m belly-aching about the Ravens winning….You are correct.
    I anxiously await their exit from the 2013 season, but I’m beginning to wonder if and when that will come.

    • Agree that Newsome is a huge asset to the Crows. A largely remade roster since last year. Flacco’s huge contract is their biggest problem, but there they are, getting things right over time.

    • I’m not ready to concede the Ravens have “a lock on yearly Super Bowl runs.” The Steelers were a 2 point conversion away from tying them on Thanksgiving night and possibly beating them, they beat the Vikings with a ridiculous finish and last night took down the reeling Lions with 6 field goals including a 61! yarder at the end. I think they’ve scored 30 or more points once this season. They’re probably in the playoffs but to declare them a legit Super Bowl contender with the likes of the Patriots, Broncos and Chiefs is a stretch.

      Much as it pains me to say it, the franchise that appears to have a lock on yearly Super Bowl runs remains the New England Patriots.

      • There’s no question about NE….For more reasons than one.
        However….Head to head (which it looks like we’ll see this Sunday), I’m not so sure the Ravens don’t come out on top.

  2. Shawn Thornton is an azzmunch. That is all :)

  3. JAL’s Winter Morning Links

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-IsiAfjhck

    GENERAL DAILY UPDATED BASEBALL SITES

    1- MLB Transactions

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

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

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

    3 MLB Important Dates

    http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/schedule/important_dates.jsp

    BLOGS and such

    4—Pirates Prospects

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/12/first-pitch-the-new-prospect-ranking-system-in-the-2014-prospect-guide.html
    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/12/first-pitch-the-new-prospect-ranking-system-in-the-2014-prospect-guide.html

    Winter Leagues: Martinez Drives In Three Runs

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/12/winter-leagues-martinez-drives-in-three-runs.html

    5 Bucs Dugout

    Pirates won’t pursue Nelson Cruz, as they shouldn’t

    http://www.bucsdugout.com/2013/12/16/5216460/pirates-wont-pursue-nelson-cruz-as-they-shouldnt

    6 Rumbunter

    What I Wish Pirates GM Neal Huntington Would Have Said

    http://rumbunter.com/2013/12/16/wish-pirates-gm-neal-huntington-said/

    7 City of Champions

    Video: Pittsburgh Pirates fans would be wise to manage expectations

    http://cityofchampionssports.com/2013/12/16/video-pittsburgh-pirates-fans-wise-manage-expectations/

    8 IS Sports

    Pittsburgh Pirates: Offseason fact check

    http://isportsweb.com/2013/12/17/pittsburgh-pirates-offseason-fact-check/

    9 Gaslamp Ball

    Padres no longer interested in Oliver Perez

    http://www.gaslampball.com/2013/12/16/5215482/padres-no-longer-interested-in-oliver-perez

    10 Beyond the Boxscore

    Success rates for Double-A League prospects based on walk and strikeout rates

    http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2013/12/16/5212234/minor-league-prospects-double-a-walk-strikeout-rates-success

  4. NEWSPAPERS and MAGAZINES and Other Media

    11 NBC Sports

    Baseball and the brain: New danger in concussion crisis?

    http://www.nbcnews.com/health/baseball-brain-new-danger-concussion-crisis-2D11756194

    12 Beaver County Times

    Perrotto’s Three Thoughts: Re-signing Barmes a good move

    http://www.timesonline.com/columnists/sports/john_perrotto/perrotto-s-three-thoughts-re-signing-barmes-a-good-move/article_44f00d0d-4ca2-5a68-a766-0c651dbe3391.html

    13 Sporting News

    Baseball Hall of Fame 2014: Only Maddux will be elected, expert predicts

    http://www.sportingnews.com/mlb/story/2013-12-16/baseball-hall-of-fame-2014-ballot-greg-maddux-vote-candidates

    14 Wall Street Cheat Sheet

    7 Best Major League Baseball Managers

    http://wallstcheatsheet.com/stocks/the-7-best-major-league-baseball-managers.html/?a=viewall

    15 Yuma Sun

    Indians, closer John Axford agree to 1-year deal

    http://www.yumasun.com/sports/national_sports/baseball/indians-closer-john-axford-agree-to–year-deal/article_ee0f368b-a8a1-5da6-b5b0-234333c9aac0.html

    16 Baseball Nation

    Will hitters ever adjust to the big infield shifts?

    http://www.baseballnation.com/2013/12/16/5216338/mlb-infield-shifts-future

    17 St Louis Post Dispatch

    Ellis sought chance to win, not just play

    http://www.stltoday.com/sports/baseball/professional/ellis-sought-chance-to-win-not-just-play/article_706a16b3-a48a-520c-8952-ba35612642ec.html

    18 Sweetspot

    Why the Pirates are likely to decline in 2014

    http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/42985/why-the-pirates-are-likely-to-decline-in-2014

    SPORTS WEBSITES

    19 Hardball Times

    Consistently inconsistent

    http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/consistently-inconsistent-dec-2013/

    20 Fangraphs

    DBacks Land Closer, Further Build White Sox Core

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/dbacks-land-closer-further-build-white-sox-core/

  5. Steelers Blogs

    21 Behind the Steel Curtain

    Terence Garvin, Kevin Huber, and Martin’s Ferry, Ohio

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2013/12/16/5216916/terence-garvin-kevin-huber-and-martins-ferry-ohio

    Monday Takeaways: An all-around win boosts momentum

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2013/12/16/5215144/steelers-bengals-week-15-nfl-recap-analysis-grades

    22 Steelers Gab

    Mike Tomlin’s Post Game Thoughts On The Win Over The Bengals

    http://www.steelersgab.com/2013/12/16/mike-tomlins-post-game-thoughts-on-the-win-over-the-bengals/

    Soccer(football)

    23 The Telegraph

    Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy and manager André Villas-Boas had become distant

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/tottenham-hotspur/10521678/Tottenham-chairman-Daniel-Levy-and-manager-Andre-Villas-Boas-had-become-distant.html

    24 World Soccer Daily

    World Soccer Daily: the stories you need to read – December 16, 2013

    http://www.worldsoccer.com/247/world-soccer-daily-the-stories-you-need-to-read-december-16-2013

    PENGUIN BLOGS and NHL Links

    25 Pensburgh

    Memorable Moments: Young Money

    http://www.pensburgh.com/2013/12/17/5218170/memorable-moments

    Song: Winter Tori Amos

  6. “Shawn Thornton, all-around swell guy and genuinely remorseful and all that other hooey, is appealing his suspension”

    Yes. Hooey. If someone does something really really bad, let’s make insinuations re character for exercising negotiated, contractual, often used appeal rights.

    Better yet, let’s remove those rights retroactively.

    After all, if someone’s really remorseful…

    Fun game.

    Next up, we’ll go after the Fifth Amendment.

    After all, if someone’s really innocent…

    Yes. Hooey.

  7. Glad to see the WBS kids doing great up here. Was just thinking last night that in a way the Pens are lucky most of their injuries are defensive so there is a deep pool of young talent to draw from.
    If their forwards were the ones on injured reserve, however, I think we would be in a world of hurt for sure. People would be saying “I told you so” for drafting so many defensemen in lieu of forwards the past few years.
    Wonder if the draft philosophy will change next year?

    • I’m not so sure I can agree with you here. In last night’s line-up on offense we had: Sill, Zolneircyk, Megna, and Connor, all who are AHL players getting called up to play and they all looked pretty good.

      • Indeed. Sill and connor have especially been pleasant surprises. Wingers have been good. We may not have a lot of skilled depth at center but with the puck support and possession system we’re playing they can make do in the interim.

      • Good point Ice, but they don’t get the publicity nor were they the high draft picks that the young defensemen were. They looked good last night but are they the ones you would want here for the long haul to build a future team around? You’d hope so but I’m not so sure…at least not yet.

  8. Olli Maatta!
    I payed close attention to the Defensive core last night, specifically Mr. Maatta. He played like a boss! I couldn’t be prouder.

    Tpbco (Sorry if I got the letters in the wrong order – dyslexia on my part) mentioned in yesterday’s morning java thread that Maatta may play a role similar to Nicklas Lidstrom. As I watched Maatta I picked up on his economy of movement. This did, in deed, remind me of Lidstrom. Both of them play the puck and not the man, thanks to proper Body positioning.

    Maatta never seemed to panic, even when he made an unfortunate decision. Watching him skate backwards, maintain position and sweep the puck away from great Leafs (I’m thinking of Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul) forwards was fantastic!

    I won’t even speculate as to what will happen to Maatta after the 40 games. Back to London, Ontario? Whatever the case may be, he should definitely be available to the Pens come playoffs.

    • Maatta had BETTER be kept in the fold 40 games or no. The kid has earned it. I was watching him too, and he amazed. Sure, he makes mistakes, he’s only 19…but it’s how he responds to making them that shows me his poise. The kid is smart.

    • No way Maata goes anywhere – before Letang got hurt, they were even talking about keeping Maata and Letang together when Scuderi comes back. There is no legitimate, non-financial reason to send him back. I think the players would be pissed too….

      • I like to think of the Olli Maatta conundrum as the hockey version of “If Daryl dies we riot”.
        At least that’s where I am coming from!

        P.S. Which TV show is related to the above stance?

        • Well played. Great reference and I think it is an appropriate analogy.

        • I was wondering, initially, if you meant Daryl Sydor! ;-)

          • Walking Dead is it!

            • Love that show. I made a passing reference here to being bummed that Hershel and the Governor were both gone. It was the Monday after their slaughter. I wanted to see if it got a rise. It was crickets for awhile, and then Arriba mentioned he was an occasional viewer. I thought there would be more Walking Dead fans here, Joni.

              • I get up super early during the week, so I have to DVR it and watch the show later.
                How about baby Judith’s disappearance? That was very sad. I hope the walkers did’t get her…
                It is going to be rough waiting until February for new Walking Dead episodes!

              • Both my daughters LOVE Walking Dead. They do like Joni if they have to ~ DVR it and watch it later. I’ve never watched it. I’d much rather watch hockey :)

              • I believe the baby will be fine. That would be bold to have a baby get killed by zombies – even for a zombie show.

              • A great way to watch TWD, if you can resist for a spell, is to let about 4 of them stack up on the DVR, then watch them on a weekend afternoon or evening. I always feel like the episodes end before I’m ready for them to end.

              • Not occasional. See every episode (just some later from the DVR). Not for the “occasional viewer.” ;-)

              • Sorry, Arriba. I thought you had said you only see it some of the time. There I go mis-remembering again. I’m worse than Andy Pettitte.

      • Keep Ollie! Nothing’s the maatta!

    • I believe the comment that was made was if the grind of the NHL was wearing him (Maata) down after 40 games, that they would consider returning him to Jrs.

      Don’t see any evidence of that to this point.

  9. Don’t overlook JAL’s Link No. 15. Guess who they listed as the second best manager in baseball (behind Joe Maddon)?

  10. Changes to your radio listening–Paul Alexander off the Fan morning show and Vinnie Richichi out of what I guess is no longer the Vinnie and Cook Show

  11. What a week for Dejan. Spends part of it in Manhattan with the beautiful people and too cool for school illuminati. Ends it in Green Bay with the folks wearing hunter orange parkas.

    I’m guessing parking will be easier in Green Bay….and no tolls to cross the bridges.

  12. How does Jordy Rand still have a job? Vinnie, the bronx accent just doesn’t work in the burg. Paul Alexander jack of all trades and master of none. Cook old tired act of being Northwestern smart and being so much wiser than us has to go as well.

  13. Real deal should’ve appealed his suspension too. Compared to other suspensions handed down by shammy there probably was a case to be made to reduce his suspension to 3 games. If Engo gets more than 2-3 he should appeal too.

    Couple monster droppings from outside the box:

    Not sure how i feel bout Vitale playing wing. He’s susceptible to poor decisions moving the puck when he’s on the boards. He’s getting better at not forcing that touch pass to the middle but still needs to be better deciding when to chip off the glass.

    Kind of like the idea of Sill getting some reps on LW with vitale moving back to 4th line center. Sill has the beef and sandpaper you need along the boards in the bottom 6 and he’s prone to more simple plays along the boards instead of forcing passes to the middle. And he can help sutter with possession along the boards and with defensive responsibility. And in case you didn’t notice he can drop the hammer on folks in case they don’t appreciate the sandpaper.

    Regarding Maatta…he’s just a natural born killer…penalty killer that is :)

  14. Highly entertaining effort by the Pens last night. I love when their games are on NHL Network or NBC Sports. It allows out-of-towners like me to see them on a regular basis. Rangers game will be televised as well.

    As difficult as this period is where all the young guys are playing, I have to believe it will pay off in their long term development even if/when they get sent back.

    I wonder if extending Letang was a prudent move, given the obvious talent behind him.

    • I am an out of towner myself, Jim. I am thankful for all of the televised/free Pens games.

      I like the NHL Network games the best. I enjoy their commentators a heck of a lot more than they who won’t be named.

      The tone of most of the NHL Network commentators is neutral for the majority of the games. They keep an eye out for positive play and report it moreso that our friends at NBCSN. The NHL Network commentators seem to enjoy their jobs a heck of a lot more than the NBCSN commentators.

      It also helps that the NHL Network commentators are a lot easier on the eyes :)

      • Yeah, I can’t stand the NBC crew and their collective axes to grind, Joni. Kind of like some on their football crew. I don’t mind Kathryn Tappin on the morning wrap-up show, as she is quite easy on my eyes. But, I have a feeling you may come from a different perspective.

    • Signing Tanger was not only prudent but a no brainer IMHO. Orpik isn’t signed and PM will be a ufa after next season. I hope going forward they can find a way to have Tanger, Brooksie and Piece in the fold with the other 4 spots up for grabs.

      • You know more about it than I do, monster. I am just looking at it from the standpoint of how much he could bring in return. And, with all the fans that seem to complain about his lack of discipline and the fact that he seems to miss a ton of games, plus the organizational depth at defense I thought it would be something to consider.

        • He was playing real well before injury. He’s starting to figure out that he needs to move the puck to forwards quickly and join the rush after forwards push the d back. Before he was used to rushing puck up ice but now he has more close puck support around him which he needs to use before deciding whether or not to join the rush. Tanger isn’t the kind of player you trade easily.

  15. Couple thoughts from last night’s win:

    - How is Crosby that open in the slot in a 1-1 game?
    - Was really impressed by the young defense. For how little NHL experience they have, they played very calm and without a ton of errors. I’m sure some of that was adrenaline, but if they can maintain that level of play, we have a solid d for the next little while.
    - I’m confused with Doumilin on the top PP instead of Despres or Maata. It worked out ok, but still confusing.
    - I’m not hearing much out of the “Fire Dan Bylsma” camp lately. All he has done is take a depleted line up and help arrange and coach a bunch of kids to NHL wins. I know Bylsma has had his moments in the past, but right now I am thrilled that he (and his assistants) are behind the bench.
    - I know it’s not the playoffs yet, but I don’t care. Fleury is back at elite goalie status and is right now one of the best in the league IMHO. He and Zatkoff are keeping this team afloat in the midst of injuries.
    - Bortuzzo played a great game, but I question a decision he made. First of all, why is he, a d-man, fighting. With all the young guys out there, Pens couldn’t afford to be down a d-man for 5 minutes.

    • Zatkoff has really grown on me. I and others were all very hard on him after that first game but he’s come back to prove us all wrong. Was that Hickey who said he’s a good goalie and we need to give zatkoff a chance to get acclimated? Well he was right. He’s not as athletic as flower but much like flower this season he’s relying on his solid positioning and reading off the improved defensive structure in front. Hope they aren’t shy about giving flower some more time off every now and then.

      I was also thinking that its about time we give Disco n crew some love. Personally i dont think its a surprise or accident that team has taken off since they started minding the neutral zone and evolving from the disco stretch to more puck support and shorter passes up ice. But they still had to get it done on the ice and they have, with a depleted line up no less.

    • I think building a winning season is like building a house. You must start from the ground up with plans, quality materials, etc. The wins with a rag tag bunch of blue collars is that foundation. It gives this team an identity as they have had more identities, (many of them built around the word “sofff”)in the years post Stanley Cup, than Fletch!

    • The reason Crosby was open in the slot was because HCDB got him away from Phenauf (sp?).

      You know, the HC that everybody says can’t or won’t match lines.

      • Good call tpbco…but prior to goal it seemed like phaneuf was out there against sid a lot.

        • He was, HM. Errey pointed out coming back from one commerical break that Bylsma asked Sid about changing lines before a faceoff because Phaneuf was on the ice and he heard Sid say “I don’t care.” When you’re as good as Crosby is, he shouldn’t be afraid of going against a guy like Phaneuf, and he clearly isn’t. But HCDB did take advantage of that icing call to get Crosby out there without Phaneuf and it paid off.

  16. “Leveon Bell is leading a revved up running game.”

    Need more than 3.3 yards per carry, sorry. (Was that on subject ?)

  17. An opinion, two facts and a question for those immersed in all things Penguins.

    OPINION: This team, due to cap constraints, was imperfectly built.

    FACT: Whether due to injury or suspension, the team is missing many skaters who were counted on.

    FACT: 9-1 over last 10 games. Two minutes from 10-0.

    QUESTION: How is Bylsma’s coaching?

    This is NOT a rub-your-nose-in-it Q. It is sincerely asked, and especially of those who have expressed coaching doubts AND watch a lot of the games.

    • Feel free to scroll above for my comments on disco.

    • I feel that Hockey Monster is correct when he says we need to give DB some love. BUT…
      DB also msut be a bit quicker to change things when they’re not working.
      I do feel that Jacques Martin has had a say in how things are being run now…with more attention to defense and play up the middle.

      • And DB must have a better game plan for when we get deep in the playoffs. No way can you say the coach did a good job when the Bruins dust you 4-0. This year needs to be different.

        • A “good job”? Nope can’t say that.

          HIS fault? Nope can’t say that either. Especially when they only score 2 goals with #87 and #71 on the roster. Sometimes it really is on the players.

          • That’s fair, tpb. I am a DB supporter, but I felt they were badly coached in that Bruins series – just as they were the year before vs. Philly. But, you are right that Sid, Geno and others need to step up a little more than they did vs. Boston last year. Fleury needs to avoid a playoff meltdown.

            Also, DB is still pretty young. He is still improving as a coach. But, they can’t keep squandering opportunities while the Sid/Geno window is wide open.

    • Regardless of the sport, if the team doesn’t win the Championship – it’s the coaches fault. Experience suggests , sometimes – but not as much as some think….sometimes it IS due to uncontrolables, even though the coach (a good coach) will take responsibility.

      This is what we do know about HCDB:

      He did coach the team to win the Stanely Cup. I call BS on his doing it “with Therien’s team”, just like I do with Tomlin’s doing it with Cowher’s.

      He is the fastest coach in NHL history to win 200 games. That is in NHL HISTORY, they’ve been playing the game for a while. Lot’s of good coaches.

      He was voted the Jack Adams Award. He may being even doing a better job this year (so far).

      He was named US Olympic Coach.

      So there are some folks outside of the ‘burgh that think he is…okay.

      Perfect…Nope. Frustrating at times…yep. But, don’t think he would be unemployed long.

      Mike Babcock noted that it is easier to be a great coach when management gives you great players.

      Which is true…but I remember Dan “Bad Rad” Radokovitch (sp?), DLine coach of the Steelers in the ’70′s, when a reporter told him how easy his job was – with the Steel Curtain….”Ya, but I didn’t muck them up, either”.

      JMO

  18. Whatever.

    The biggest news of the weekend? KISS in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

    Everything else is just background noise.

  19. I am now sold on Robert Bortuzzo. He still makes a few mistakes, but the Pens need that grit in the lineup.

    • I especially liked it when Borts leaned over while authoritatively banging his hockey stick on the ice and cackling after Sill laid down some quality punches.

      I am not a fan of fighting in hockey. But I was a fan of Borts mocking the Leafs last night!

  20. Kevin Gorman says Pitt will have its hands full with the 7-2 Bearcats. I don’t doubt that, because UC always plays tough. They scratch, claw, bite … whatever it takes to compete.

    I wonder if UC is any different than previous editions. That team last year was so bad shooting from the outside that it sometimes seemed as though they just used their outside shots as a way to get rebounds. They were just flinging it up from all over, and the shots would often hit the board before the rim, never hit the rim after ricocheting off the board, etc. It was as though they just chucked it at the hoop sometimes. Of course, in the first game against Pitt last year their strategy was very effective.

  21. Got some stuff to do…catch Yinz all later on :)

  22. Out for a bit. Be careful out there! Get inoculated against “azzfluenza”!

  23. Interesting column on college football coaches

    Jason Gay: I Want to Be the Next Texas Football Coach

    http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303949504579260722450045600?mod=WSJ_hp_EditorsPicks

  24. Sometimes I wonder if the Pens are hurting themselves when management (GM RS and HC DB) take the high road. I’m a “take the high road, let bygones be bygones” kind of guy normally. But, I don’t think the strategy is working. Look what happened when Neal stupidly kneed the guy. Shero publicly talked about how stupid that was. He basically endorsed a suspension, and Neal did not appeal its length.

    That gave the league cover, IMO, to twist that whole story in directions it should not have otherwise gone. The next day, all the talk was about the suspension to Neal, while they introduced a narrative that it was really Orpik himself who was to blame for being assaulted. Then, the process got slow-walked, and lot of the sting was taken out of what Thornton had done. He gave his heartfelt apology, and he got 15 games.

    Now, I’m hearing here that our management actually described Thornton as an “honest hockey player.” Honest hockey player? Just because he never assaulted an unsuspecting opponent before? I don’t care if it is your first sneak attack assault, it is still a heinous act. Honest hockey players don’t attack guys who are not prepared to defend themselves. Honest hockey players do not hit a guy as he lays unconscious on the ice. But, saying that about Thornton emboldened him to appeal his suspension. He will say in his appeal that even the Penguins admitted this was totally out of character, and that he apologized. If this gets reduced to 12 games, while Orpik takes 6 weeks to get back on the ice or something, I think the Pens partially have themselves to blame. The Bruins or Flyers would never act this way.

    • Good stuff! And neals suspension was tied to the hip of thorntons. Would be height of shamminess for league to reduce thorntons suspension when neal didn’t even think about appealing.

    • Yep, heard both interviews. Was quite surprised. They would have been better off saying “No Comment”.

      No question to me, that they gave 5 to Neal to justify (palcate) giving thornton 15.

      Boston now can no longer say that thornton is an “honorable” enforcer. He is now relagated to goon. Like his virginity, his “honor” can’t come back.

      • The Boston papers have been shouting about Bortuzzo’s hit last night although it was clean and legal, but then, the Boston media has also attacked the Pens as whiners and worse over this current nonsense.

    • As a fan, I’d rather have the organization lead by example instead of getting pulled back into the stone age.

      • That’s what I thought, and that is my gut instinct. But, in this instance, with Neanderthals running this league that tact is not helping.

        • I know what you’re feeling, but they cannot have it both ways.

          Think about how much crap they took after the game on Long Island a few years back. The narrative then was that they had no room to complain because Matt Cooke blah blah blah.

          If they are going to be progressive, which they should, then they cannot waiver. They cannot pick and choose when to be “tough guys”. If this is the battle they want to fight, then the battle is more important than a few games in specific instances here and there. And that is IF – a big IF – what they said even influenced the league’s decision.

  25. Man, game’s like last night’s…I try to savor and appreciate their magnitude when they happen. On the off chance I’m lucky enough to watch’s Sid’s entire career, it’ll be games like this that I’ll look back on with the fondest memories.

    Sure, we have our memories of the Cup and the comeback game and the Winter Classic shootout and all the “big” moments, but it’s games like last night — another cold winter Monday night when Sid gets all fired up and p’ed off and then scores a late game-winner — that will carry the most meaning for me when I reminisce about this hockey god’s career.

    I think I took Mario’s nightly and yearly heroics for granted because I was young and Mario was young and at that age I just assumed we’d both be young forever. But now I know better, so when I see a game like last night’s, I just sit back and think about what a wonderful show we’re seeing from this guy night after night, knowing all too well that it won’t last forever.

  26. I am now officially 100% sold on Robert Bortuzzo. He must have been inspired knowing Ulfie was watching from the pressbox!

  27. DK posting the Morning thread from Hershey? I could be there in 5 minutes. He is touring Chocolate World? Wonder what type of candy he will get when he is finished the tour. And, if DK is going to make his own chocolate bar, as the kids can do there.

    Then off to New York? Man, we have our own version of walter Mitty here on the blog!

    Very happy to see hockey as the dominant topic today here.

  28. Last night, I was truly impressed with the Pens victory. Not because of all the injuries they have to overcome. Not because of playing a quality opponent. Nor becasue 1/2 of the WBS Baby Pens are on the roster. It was because of the style that Toronto plays. Toronto is a physical club, like Boston, and the Pens didnt back down. Hard checks were the rule of the night. Yes, the neanderthals got their fights, but the way the Pens matched the leafs physicalness was impressive.

    That being said, the players HAVE to be smarter on the ice. The same Leaf fought 2 or 3 times in the game. There was the “check to the head” call against Kunitz. With the extra attention being paid to high checks and head shots, the players have to tone it down a notch, or there wont be enough players to fill out a roster………. they will be on suspension.

  29. As for Drew’s question above about Bylsma……………….

    He has shown this year a willingness to change things, whether it be on the ice, line combos, etc. that he didnt show in previous years. He is pulling all the right strings while he has to deal with a massive injury list, suspensions, etc. He is using his timeouts in a game better this year also……… all little things that are the difference between winning with a depleted roster, ot tanking with a depleted roster.

    I think most of Bylsma’s past criticisms are because he wasnt willing to change…… continuing to put square pegs in round holes………. sticking with things that didnt work, but that seems to be changing. I give much credit to him for implementing these changes.

    The final test will be to see whether he continues to excel at this in the playoffs. In previous years he didnt. We will wait and see come April/May.

  30. At the risk of being banned for life, Coonelly has stepped in it again. Hi Frank.

    http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/12/17/the-pirates-tv-revenue-is-way-higher-than-most-people-thought/

    • What a schmuck

    • Hey, everybody knows Nutting can’t match payroll with similar markets because the Pirates local revenue is so much low…wait, what was that Frank?

    • Yeah, I commented on this the other day. This is a no win situation at this point. If they really are in the top half of teams in local TV revenue, then there is even more extra money than the $20 million or so from national TV that all teams got. Which begs the question even more intensely? Why is the payroll currently projected to be the same (or very close to the same) as last year?

      If they are not in the top half of MLB in terms of local TV revenue, why would the President say they are?

      I have tried not to pile on this guy. But, he steps in it every time he opens his mouth.

      • And when some other pile on, they get lambasted.

        oh well…

        • Don’t understand this. FC’s been pretty much fair game. 100% agree? Of course not.

          I will say the drinking jokes are old, but that’s different.

      • I thought Frank used an interesting and probably purposefully vague choice of words. He never said the contract placed them in the top half as to value or revenues. Although he said the rumors that the contract was $18-$20M was not even close to the right number, what he said was, ““Our TV contract places us in the top half of all Major League Baseball clubs.”

        He could mean according to market size, as a percentage of total revenues, whatever, but not necessarily in total dollars.

        • But, there are a million ways to say it better. Every time someone tries to parse words and “thread the needle” it blows up in his face. He wanted to stop the continual criticism that ROOT took him to the cleaners, So, he overstated it and started a new problems. PR 101 is a must for this guy, ASAP.

          • I couldn’t agree more. He steps in it every time. He thinks he knows how to talk about these things publicly but doesn’t, IMO.

            Several years ago in an article Dejan wrote. Frank tried to convey that profits were lower than they actually turned out to be. The number he actually conveyed was net cash flow which was essentially profits minus expenditures for capital improvements such as the Dominican facility and moving the minor league team and debt payments. Those cash expenditures don’t figure into net profits but again, he thought it would be easier to convey it that way. It’s frustrating.

          • If this guy is such a PR nightmare, why does Bob Nutting continue to let him speak for the franchise?

            Look at the even during which he made this statement. Huntington, Hurdle, Coonelly, … once again, no Bob to be found.

            At the very least, Nutting is complicit in allowing Coonelly to speak for the franchise. More likely, IMO, he’s directly involved in crafting a very specific message.

      • “If they are not in the top half of MLB in terms of local TV revenue, why would the President say they are?”

        I’m not so sure that’s what he said.

        • So he’s either lying or incredibly disingenuous.

          • I think there’s a third option as I said above.

            • I strongly disagree.

              Sure, that is a possibility. But Coonelly is a former lawyer. The guy knows exactly how to say exactly what he WANTS to convey. I don’t buy for a second that he’s just some socially incompetent public speaker.

              • And your evidence of this during his tenure here?

                :-D

                Guy’s a PR disaster, no matter what his training is. Still shake my head over not announcing the Neal and JR extensions. People wouldn’t find out when they were still here?

              • My evidence?

                Everything that comes out of his mouth. All well-crafted spin.

              • I couldn’t disagree more with that NMR. I know accountants, engineers, lawyers, etc. that are horrible at communication. You know the types – people that are great if you stick them in a room and let them crank out the work because that’s all you want them to do. Everyone has their competencies.

                I don’t think Frank knows how to convey a lot of things, especially the financial stuff. That can take years of training. Some people just don’t have the know how in that area and they never will. It takes a special aptitude, IMO.

              • “Everything that comes out of his mouth. All well-crafted spin.”

                It’s horribly crafted, IMO. If it was well crafted, we wouldn’t be talking about it the way that we do. Would we? Frank even makes fun of himself at times in this area when he has been interviewed.

          • All well crafted spin?

            Are we talking about the same guy?

            Spin? Yes. Well crafted? You have to be kidding me.

            • Go back to what 21 is asserting.

              Coonelly denied the TV contract, in terms of dollars, was $18-20m. If he was some bumbling simpleton who didn’t know how to speak in public, why would he purposefully change the terms in which the contract is being ranked? Why not just continue speaking in terms of dollars?

              And in 21′s other story, he also just so happened to misrepresent his position such that the Pirates look better?

              Come on, guys.

              He may be tone deaf, but he knows exactly what he’s saying.

              • “I don’t buy for a second that he’s just some socially incompetent public speaker.”

                ” If he was some bumbling simpleton who didn’t know how to speak in public”

                I never said either of those things and wasn’t implying it either.

                ” why would he purposefully change the terms in which the contract is being ranked? Why not just continue speaking in terms of dollars?”

                Well for one, I think he wanted to convey that the contract is better than what has been reported. Whether it is or not, I have no idea. As to why he didn’t speak in terms of dollars, I’m guessing that’s because they’ve never really speak in terms of dollars when it comes to financial information except when their financial statements were leaked. Or maybe because he doesn’t really convey what he’s trying to say very well.

                “And in 21′s other story, he also just so happened to misrepresent his position such that the Pirates look better?”

                I don’t understand this comment. I don’t know what the TV deal is in terms of revenues or how good or bad it is compared to the rest of the league. Frank did nothing to clear that up for me.

              • NMR, are you suggesting that all corporate executive, professionals, etc. are good at public relations and communicating with the public if that’s what their job requires?

      • Jim, there is definitely a win situation that can come out of this. Frank is caught in a bold face lie to make himself look good and the owner to look like he is lining his pockets even more then most already think he is. The end result is Frank being fired. That is a win in my book.

    • And you had your picture taken with him.

      smh

      :-D

    • THUD !!!

    • Another Wizard of Azz moment for Frank. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

  31. Thornton appealing suspension.
    Hmmmm.
    It is his “right” to appeal, but that doesnt make it right IMO.

    I guess taking your punishment like a man isnt in the “code”.
    To be fair, criminal in the system in the real world get the right to appeal.

    I wonder if he will get his punishment reduced by a game or 2 (or 3)?
    If this was Joe Schlabotnik of the Phoenix Coyotes, would he get a reduction in his sentence?

    This could possibly make the original suspension of Thornton an even bigger joke. 15 games (which was too light) could possibly be reduced to 12? And then he could second appeal to an arbitrator for an even greater reduction? Stinks, but lega.

    This is why a greater punishment should have been handed down originally. I dont think even Bertuzzi appealed his suspension years ago against Steve Moore. Oh well, thats hockey, I guess……

    • I know Matt Cooke never appealed any of HIS suspensions.

      • That’s because the Penguins told him not to appeal. Judging by Boston’s head coach’s comments he doesn’t believe what Thorton did was all his fault even no we have been told since being toddlers two wrongs don’t make a right. Then there’s that little thing we have called laws which seem to imply it’s not appropriate human behavior to go up to somebody and throw them on the ground and then hit them in the head over and over. Maybe Boston thinks laws don’t apply during an NHL game.

  32. If we’re about done with Frank, and hockeymonster’s done drooling about Kathryn Tappen, could we come back to Bortuzzo for a moment? I am absolutely on board with CWalton and others above.

    Here’s a guy who was mostly on the bench for the last couple of weeks, then comes in the last couple of games and – especially last night – makes himself the Leafs’ worst nightmare. Hits and fights, then he could have been done for the night like a lot of guys are. But nooooo, he crushes another forward, sits in the box, then comes out and crushes (the same?) guy again.

    This is big time stuff! Don’t know if he (or anybody) could do it every night, but I liked it. Brutal, but within the rules of hockey. Hockey is a physical sport made worse by dirty play that needs to go away. Cooke changed himself; hopefully Thornton will do the same, whatever number of games he finally gets. But we’ve seen Crosby and Malkin take way too much abuse, and it is a guy like Bortuzzo who will make it stop before the NHL office will.

  33. 57 DAYS UNTIL PITCHERS & CATCHERS REPORT TO PIRATE CITY IN BRADENTON FOR SPRING TRAINING

  34. Real World———
    I had to fire someone today. This close to Christmas. Lousy.

    My Board of Directors wanted it in early November, but I got them to hold off until end of year. I had to tell her today . . . .
    . . . it got her 7 extra weeks of pay, but I doubt she sees that right now.

    LIFE.

  35. Absolutely incredible on the Woodley to IR story.
    I heard he hurt his calf jumping up and trying to deflect an Andy Dalton pass.
    It seems to me that most 70 year olds could survive that particular move!

    Woodley is now the poster child for “not giving” out big contracts in the NFL.
    Fortunately….Most guys won’t underperform the way he has the past three seasons.
    I would cut him next Spring no matter what the cost might be.

    • But the reality from what I understand is you can’t cut him. You got to pay him anyway so you might as well keep him around and HOPE you can some return. He is the NFL version of an upside down mortgage.

    • Cant cut him.
      It would be more expensive to do so, AND would kill the cap for years to come!

      It is a very bad situation.
      The Steelers have to keep him, but I dont know if Woodley could stay healthy enough to even be used, let alone play at a competent level.

      • If he’s cut on June 1st (ala Willie Colon) the hit isn’t quite as bad.
        It’s still a hit for the next two years, but it will be regardless.
        I think that Woodley “may have” played his last down for the Steelers.
        I won’t bet on it, but I don’t think they moved him to the other side for nothing.
        That was a silent but strong statement.

        • I like your analogy to a 70 year old man.

          Yes, after June 1st he would be cheaper, but that would kill any chance of keeping Worilds, who hits free agency in March.

          If by a miracle they could trade Woodley, that would be ideal.
          His injury history, and massive contract would make it almost impossible to do a trade.

          Horrible cap management from one Omar Khan.

          • Worilds can be franchised tagged.
            There are ALOT of things that can be done with ALOT of contracts.
            I believe there is a good chance this all happens.

            • Steelers in their history have been reluctant to use the franchise tag.

              I agree a lot could happen, that is why I have said this is a very important off-season for the Steelers.

  36. Pitt lost its first really tough basketball game tonight since the Panthers mostly scored from the foul line during the second half and not always from that, and they seemed to be too often lost out there, and Zanna didn’t come through at all and they lost to the Bearcats by one lousy point. And they wonder why they aren’t ranked although they’re 10-1.

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