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Morning Java: The real Baby Penguins

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

NEW YORK – Morning, Lunatics …

>> The Thursday column from the Garden covers the Penguins’ maturation through drafting and developing. A lot of people were interviewed for this piece, but I especially want to thank Ray Shero and Tom Fitzgerald for a courteous, professional session in which they handled everything I threw at them — not all of it positive, to put it mildly — and gave real answers.

This was the interview with Simon Despres

And another one with Olli Maatta

Here’s the game story focusing on Brandon Sutter, from beat man Rob Rossi.

James Neal returns tonight against the Wild at Consol, by Rossi.

Random randomness from the scene: So Sidney Crosby gets a breakaway, and Ryan McDonagh’s stick chips his skate and knocks him off his feet. Referee Don VanMassenhoven calls a tripping minor. No penalty shot. Because there’d be no gain to the NHL of having its best player face one of its best goaltenders at the Garden and on national TV, never mind actually making the correct call. … Matt Niskanen was a beast among men, logging a ridiculous 29:44 of ice time that was right out of the old-school Mario Lemieux/Jaromir Jagr days. Maatta wasn’t far behind at 28:06 with a plus-1 rating. … Man, this team is going to be tired in facing the Wild back home tonight. … Sometimes it really isn’t anyone’s fault. On the Rangers’ first goal, Despres was torched by Carl Hagelin, who was absolutely flying. On the second, similarly, the Rangers built up a ton of speed in the neutral zone to back off the defense and force Marc-Andre Fleury to back up, as well. It all happened after Pascal Dupuis was tripped near center ice without a call. … One thing to note about Sutter: The guy’s been changing wingers as often as underwear, and all he’s done is his job. His teammates really respect that. … The Rangers tied the score with Maatta and Robert Bortuzzo as the PK defensemen, since Niskanen was the man in the box. Think about that. … It’s so very easy to see, with Rick Nash in the division, why the Blue Jackets were delighted to be rid of him. He couldn’t be more of a dog if he barked and played fetch. Waste of talent. … The most dominant trait of all the forwards the Penguins are calling up: They’re really small. Something to think about long-term. … The blue seats still do the “Potvin sucks!” chant here at the start of the third period. It takes an awful lot of hate to keep that going 30 years later. Impressive.

Here’s our full Penguins coverage.

Here’s Rangers news from the New York Post.

Here are official game highlights from NHL.com.

>> Assessing the Steelers’ special teams is Alan Robinson’s charge.

Some are playing for contracts, by Mark Kaboly.

Both gentlemen tackle both issues on video …

Here’s our full Steelers coverage.

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

Here are official game highlights from NFL.com.

>> The Pirates signed some minor-league guys, by Travis Sawchik.

>> I’ll check in with TribLIVE Radio at 11:30 a.m. I’ll remind that there won’t be a chat this week because of the travel back home tomorrow.

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.

219 Comments

  1. The organization much to my dislike has committed to drafting and developing a great amount of depth on the blue line at the expense of getting some quality forward talent in the system.

    Penguins have Paul Martin, Kris Letang, Rob Scuderi, Olli Maatta, Brian Dumoulin, Robert Bortuzzo, Derrick Pouliot, Scott Harrington, Harrison Ruopp, Nick D’Agostino, and Reid McNeill signed for next season.

    Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen and Deryk Engelland will be unrestricted free agents and Simon Despres and Philip Samuelsson will be restricted free agents.

    The salary cap is expected to go up from $64.3 million to $71.1 million for the 2014-2015 season with every penny of that increase needed with the contract extensions for Evgeni Malkin and Letang taking up some of that money.

    According to CapGeek.com, Penguins have $55.9 million already committed next season and that’s without a decision on Orpik and Niskanen. Who will be the backup goalie with Tomas Vokoun likely headed to retirement this season due to the blood clot disorder.

    If the Penguins went into next season with Martin, Scuderi, Maatta, Letang, Despres, Dumoulin, and Bortuzzo as their top seven defensemen, it will allow Ray Shero with the financial flexibility to get a backup goalie if they decide Jeff Zatkoff is a one year stopgap.

    That flexibility is needed with a top nine forward group consisting of Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, and Beau Bennett with Brandon Sutter having to be resigned as a restricted free agent.

    The Penguins have to wonder if Bennett is better suited to be a third line winger to play with Sutter and team has to go out and find a second line scoring winger to play with Malkin and Neal while finding a better left winger to mix with Sutter and Bennett.

    A fourth line is probably going to consist of Craig Adams, restricted free agent Zach Sill, and unrestricted free agents Tanner Glass and Joe Vitale.

    The second and third line needs would be more comfortable heading into next season if they hadn’t abandoned forwards in the draft and had options internally. There’s nobody in the organization that I feel is ready now and maybe even for the 2015-2016 season.

    This lack of talent is why the franchise will need to make tough decisions on Orpik and Niskanen. I’d like to see more than token forwards taken, they need players who have the size and skill pedigree more than the current crop of players coming up from the AHL and those recently drafted.

    These last three games will hopefully go a long way towards changing the dynamic of the franchise on the blue line.

    • I believe pens need about 4M to cover cap increases for letang and malkin so that should leave about 3M give or take to deal with Sutter’s RFA status and make additional tweaks. Going forward i’m going to be interested to see how Zlobin, payerl and Kuhnackel develop to go along with sill and megna. Pens have several late bloomers like megna and sill at forward so they need to give them some time to get acclimated to the speed.

      As of right now its way to hard to project to next season, but i’d like to see orpik back as part of the d-corp while nisky is probably playing his way out of our cap spreadsheet. However if theres one thing GMRS will have…its options. Many many options.

  2. “They… gave real answers.”
    Curious how other figures on the Pittsburgh sports scene would grade out in answers department. Mike Tomlin certainly gives interesting answers, if not always “real” ones. Neal Huntington used to give mind-boggling answers (the quip about left-handed relievers being over-rated was a particularly egregious example of the old, bad Neal). His answer yesterday about wanting to lay low and not tip the Pirates hand, one way or another, during this whole Hot Stove period, was actually a good one in my book. And then I remember some fuss after Shero’s presser after the Pens were eliminated last year. Nobody seemed to be buying whatever it was he was selling, if memory serves me.

  3. Great hockey column DK. Sounds like an organization with a good philosophy in drafting.

    It is a joy to watch these young kids on defense. Last night was special for just a out all of the young D. Sure, Despres got burnt on a goal and both Dumolin and Maata had some early turnovers, but they all played well.

    We haven’t yet seen any big fallout from failing to draft top forwards. Fitzgerald and Ray seem to know what their doing.

    I did think Fleury was a little soff on the 3rd period goals. He sure stoned the Rangers in the shoot out.

    The team is certainly riding a wave right now.

    Stuart

  4. ” The blue seats still do the “Potvin sucks!” chant here at the start of the third period. It takes an awful lot of hate to keep that going 30 years later. Impressive.”

    Now THAT is one of my favorite sports traditions.

    Odd coincidence. I was going to refer to the Potvin Sucks chant a few days ago as a comparison (because we’re not allowed to compare ANYthing to baseball) but didnt because I wasn’t sure if the still did that.

    Silly me.

    What’s the difference between love and Potvin Sucks?

    Potvin Sucks is forever.

    • They can chant that for 30 years but we’re not allowed to boo a certain third baseman for not choosing our third baseman for a home run derby. Impressive.

  5. Whether quotes or commentary or both, good insights in the column.

    If i recall correctly, soon after Shero arrived, he said they were going to do exactly that. Put emphasis on blue line acquisition and development.

    And he pointed out: both to use as well as for trade bait.

    But anyway. I appreciate columns such as these which provide new or additional information and insights.

    And on top of that, ending with an unsolicited, somewhat forced, red meat crowd feeding shot at Dan Bylsma.

    You know. The coach of the team that’s won 10 of 11.

    With half the Wilkes Barre roster.

  6. JAL’s Winter Time Morning Links

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6A6opUgoEc

    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

    Winter Leagues: Three Hits For Gregory Polanco

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/12/winter-leagues-three-hits-for-gregory-polanco.html

    5 Bucs Dugout

    Pirates re-sign Kyle McPherson, sign 5 others to minor-league deals

    http://www.bucsdugout.com/2013/12/18/5223870/pirates-re-sign-kyle-mcpherson-sign-5-others-to-minor-league-deals

    6 Rumbunter

    Kyle McPherson: Poised to Land Fifth Starters Job, Now on Comeback Trail

    http://rumbunter.com/2013/12/19/kyle-mcpherson-poised-land-fifth-starters-job-now-comeback-trail/

    Ike Davis, Inconsistency, and What The Hell is Valley Fever?

    http://rumbunter.com/2013/12/17/ike-davis-inconsistency-hell-valley-fever/

    7 Baseball Hot Corner

    Pittsburgh Pirates: Two More Moves To Make

    http://www.yardbarker.com/author/article_external/15338539?mailing_id=2842&linksrc=mb_right_col

    8 Green Weenie

    12/18: Jack Barrett, Gino Cimoli, Pete Schourek, Matt Stairs, Yoslan Herrera, Tim Neveritt, Javy Lopez…

    http://www.sbnation.com/2013/12/17/5221280/reviewing-the-biggest-baseball-stories-of-2013

    9 Baseball Nation

    What would Andrew McCutchen get if he were a free agent next year?

    http://oldbucs.blogspot.com/2013/12/1218-jack-barrett-gino-cimoli-pete.html

    10 Rant Sports

    New York Mets Rumors: Pittsburgh Pirates Last Chance To Trade Ike Davis?

    http://www.rantsports.com/mlb/2013/12/18/new-york-mets-rumors-pittsburgh-pirates-last-chance-to-trade-ike-davis/

  7. NEWSPAPERS and MAGAZINES and Other Media

    11 Sports on Earth

    Best Baseball Moments of 2013

    http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/66058976/

    12 Huffington Post

    What Pittsburgh Can Teach The Rest Of The Country About Living Well

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/18/pittsburgh-health_n_4339476.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular

    13 Sports injury

    Jeff Karstens pain free, will showcase himself to teams in January

    http://www.sportsinjuryalert.com/2013/12/jeff-karstens-pain-free-will-showcase.html

    14 Atlanta Journal Constitution

    Braves trade for Twins C Doumit

    http://www.ajc.com/news/sports/baseball/braves-trade-for-twins-c-doumit/ncN9c/

    15 CBS Sports

    Work of Art: Baseball cards commemorating weird injuries

    http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/eye-on-baseball/24380221/work-of-art-baseball-cards-commemorating-weird-injuries

    16 Berkeley Independent

    Finding Mudville: New rules for baseball

    http://www.berkeleyind.com/article/20131218/BI11/131219685/1076/BI/finding-mudville-new-rules-for-baseball

    17 St Louis Post Dispatch

    Bird Bytes: Will Cards hit more homers?

    http://www.stltoday.com/sports/columns/bernie-miklasz/bird-bytes-will-cards-hit-more-homers/article_d3924322-7acd-54f2-bfda-76a9e135c014.html

    18 Hardball Times

    The greatest swan songs in baseball history

    http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/the-greatest-swan-songs-in-baseball-history/

    SPORTS WEBSITES

    19 Baseball Prospectus

    Who Likes Ike?

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=22442

    20 Fangraphs

    Trading Ryan Doumit and the Possible End of an Era

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/trading-ryan-doumit-and-the-possible-end-of-an-era/

  8. Steelers Blogs

    21 Behind the Steel Curtain

    Terence Garvin fined $25,000 for hit on Bengals punter

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2013/12/18/5225154/terence-garvin-fined-25000-for-hit-on-bengals-punter

    Antonio Brown is a championship building block

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2013/12/18/5223504/antonio-brown-is-a-championship-building-block

    22 Steelers Gab

    Steelers 2013 Scouting Report Week Sixteen: Green Bay Packers

    http://www.steelersgab.com/2013/12/17/steelers-2013-scouting-report-week-sixteen-green-bay-packers/

    Soccer(football)

    23 Yahoo Sports

    World Cup 2014 in Brazil: Hyping the USA’s Upcoming Schedule

    http://sports.yahoo.com/news/world-cup-2014-brazil-hyping-usa-39-upcoming-184800535–sow.html

    24 World Soccer Daily

    Face to face: Fernando Roig

    http://www.worldsoccer.com/features/fernando-roig

    PENGUIN BLOGS and NHL Links

    25 Pensburgh

    Pens Points Wednesday: Rangers Rivalry Night

    http://www.pensburgh.com/2013/12/18/5223392/pens-points-wednesday-rangers-rivalry-night

    Song: Winter A Winter’s Tale Moody Blues

    Memorable Moments: Capital Punishment</b?

    http://www.pensburgh.com/2013/11/20/5125292/memorable-moments-capital-punishment

    Song: Winter A Winter’s Tale Moody Blues

  9. Watching the game last night, I marveled at the young’uns from WBS taking care of business. Sure, they made a mistake or got beaten a time or three. That happens even to the best. But what they didn’t do, was lose their composure. They just compensated, and kept doing what they had to do. Composure. Letang, are you paying attention?
    I digress…
    I really don’t care for having two wings that are under 5’8. But even they did amazingly well. Conner battles hard, but I’m afraid an entire season at this level would level him. Period.
    I trust Shero to do what needs to be done.
    Oh, and Fleury stood on his head again.
    Oh, and Luckqvist should be nominated for an academy award.

    The game tonight might be painful to watch, these guys gotta be tired…

  10. Couple comments from dejan and others about despres getting burned by haglin. That was actually Dumoulin who got caught in no man’s land with an indecisive pinch that led to despres being in chase mode. Perhaps he was a split second late reacting but I put that goal on Dumoulin who much like despres needs to go out of his way to keep it simple.

    Also thought sammeulsson got better as game went on after very shaky start. And about forward depth, I believe emergence of sill and megna gives shero n co some breathing room regarding lack of drafted forwards.

    Found last line in dejan’s column to be intriguing.

    DK: Solely referring to Hagelin’s great speed in pulling away.

    • Mornin, Monster Mash. I found it intriguing as well.
      But don’t tell Dejan, it might go to his head ;)

    • To my largely untrained eye, I thought Dumoulin was more at fault as well.

    • I hear ya…haglin can scoot. He deserves credit as well.

    • I’m with you on Sil and Megna. They provide some needed depth at forward. Sil has shown that he has the makings for a fourth line center and Megna has enough speed and skill to at least be a regular player on the third line, maybe even the second line.

      In the midst of this, I actually like Vitale at wing. I think it allows him to utilize his speed much better than at center. I also don’t love his defensive skills so wing suits him better there as well. For an added bonus, when he is playing on the third line, usually against some of the other teams top forwards, you have another good face-off man on the ice if Sutter gets the boot.

      Regarding the Hagelin goal, everyone on the ice deserves some credit for botching that one. It started with a bad face-off, a bad pass, some bad d-coverage, and a young d-man not having the speed to catch up to a speedy Hagelin. Bad all around.

      • Yesterday i was saying that vitale should be back at 4th line center and Sill should get reps at wing but you make a good point about vitale being able to use his speed on forecheck playing wing and he has had dzone lapses at center. Guess i was starting from premise that Sill has the makings of a good bottom 6 LW with the corresponding move being moving vitale back to center. Seems like joey V is getting better at not forcing that touch pass to the middle on breakouts and you’re right about faceoff help he brings. Either way all good problems to have.

  11. The song that comes to mind when I think about the time on ice for Niskanen/Maatta and minor concern about left over energy for tonight’s game is the Loverboy’ song, “The kid is hot tonight”.

    “The kid is hot tonight
    Whoa, so hot tonight
    But tell me where will he be tomorrow?”

    I choose to believe that they will be just fine this evening. Key word there is “choose”.

    • I HOPE they are ok…tough schedule with another game Saturday and then one Monday.

    • Maatta is logging a lot of ice time. But, hey, he’s a veteran. This isn’t his first rodeo. He can draw on his vast experience. Someone has to show the kids the way. Ollie has proven, time and again, that he can carry a heavy load.

      Oh, wait … he’s like 14, right?

      “The kid is hot every night.”

  12. Wish that for once DK would just tell us what he really thinks – lol.

    This philosophy of acquiring talent is what brought James Neal to us for a defenseman, Goligoski, I think. I bet he will be motivated to be of some use tonight.

    Lundquist was at his drama queen best last night. Went down like he was shot by an elephant gun.

    Flower was huge in the shoot out. Think we might see the Z in net tonight.

  13. Trading youth that has size on defense instead of the positional stick on puck guys like Martin and Scuderi seems to impact opposing forwards winning the board battles. I think Scuderi is top notch and quite frankly could substitute Matta for Martin save 5 million and the Pens don’t miss a beat. Orpik has had a nice run and good luck in his life’s work.

  14. Rarely comment here, and don’t pretend to follow things closely enough to analyize, but seems to me the only reason the WBS guys are playing is because the Pens had no choice. Not because they are shrewd or have a master plan. They may have drafted all those D-men, but they had no inclination to play them until there was no choice, and then shazam, they find out they’re pretty good.

    The reluctance to infuse young talent into the team has long been a complaint on this blog and elsewhere. This seems to be the complaint about the football team in town, too. You could say the kids didn’t show anything, so they didn’t merit a chance, but there are other ways of looking at that, too. I just remember the Flyers series loss two seasons ago, and thinking, wow, the Flyers have a lot of rookies out there playing…

    • Hi Craig. Yes, the Pens had no choice, but the thing is, the system the WBS Pens employ is the same basic system the NHL Pens use. That enables the call-ups to do well when they ARE needed. THAT in itself IS the Master Plan.
      Still have to give the players credit for having the talent to do it, tho. They’ve filled in admirably.

      Speak up more often, we love top discuss stuff.

      If you list your hometown, Bizrow will add it to the list of Dejan’s Lunatics’ Asylum :)

      • I’ll just add that preparing for injuries should be and obviously was part of the master plan. Good organ-I-zations let their prospects marinate, sometimes for a season too long but usually not to the detriment of there development or the team.

    • I think the master plan was to draft defensemen either for just this type of situation, or to have as valuable trade pieces. Teams with a desperate need at defense often overpay with offensive talent to fill that defensive need. Isn’t that partly how we got Neal?

      The Pens drafted these guys and obviously (with apologies to Coach Tomlin for borrowing his new pet word) prepared them well for this opportunity.

  15. With all credit to the system for stockpiling defensemen who could be used as trade bait, it might not work so well this season. I believe scoring is down all over the league, and other teams will see less need to trade what scorers they have for more defense.

    Now that I said that, watch Shero pull a rabbit out of his hat again.

  16. Breaking news! I don’t know whether any of you caught this. Brendan Shanahan and Patrick Burke of the NHL just added 2 games to the $25,000 fine received by Steeler Terence Garvin. Burke statement read: “Garvin deliberately targeted the head of the Bengals punter with total disregard for his safety.” Wow! Those guys have a lot of authority.

    • WOW! A must read!

    • Great article. We have discussed that here as well. When a guy like Jacoby Ellsbury, who can’t stay on the field a lot of the time and has had one season of double digit HRs, can get a 7/$153 deal this winter from the Yanks, and Chin Soo Choo reportedly turned down a 7/$140 deal from those same Yankees this off-season … well, Cutch could go north of $275 million on a 10 year deal right now. And, unlike all the other long term deals, he would actually be worth a 10 year deal!!

      It was a stroke of brilliance by NH & Co. to get that deal done. It gave Cutch lifetime security, and it locked up a superstar in his prime at a reasonable cost for the Bucs. Thankfully, Scot Boras is not Cutch’s agent. Thankfully, about 25 other GMs are not our GM.

      • NH is certainly to be commended for it, but brilliance? This was one of those rare instances where I give FC more credit. I’ve always been convinced it was more FC and BN who said “get it done” while Neal was fumbling around with “internal values.” JMO

        • Well, I’ll just say he is the most underpaid player in baseball right now. It was brilliance on someone’s part to lock him up. If it was FC, then the credit goes to him. But, I have not seen a lot of brilliance from that guy, heretofore (Don’t you love those Old English combo words, btw?). The guy who seems to understand how to maximize $$ for value, in my mind, is NH.

        • AW….you may be correct, but I think the “internal value” thing from NH was more prevalent through 2011 and not at the time they signed Cutch. I think BN, FC and NH were all on the same page about getting Cutch a very good contract through his arb years and beyond. Don’t recall much “internal value” posturing from NH at that time…perhaps I’m wrong, but even if NH threw out that line, I’d think it was more about avoiding putting out a number than anything else.

          • It also could be a major screw up by Cutch’s agent.
            Misread what the market would turn out to be. He had to know back then that the new TV money was coming in. (national not local ;-) )

            But hey, maybe Cutch just said ‘get it done’

          • I originally said NH & Co. I really meant the organization by that. I was not trying to give one guy credit vs. another. It was a great move to lock up Cutch, regardless. If Frank had the bright idea, then I give credit where it’s due. Maybe he’s really smart behind the scenes and just shouldn’t be in the public eye.

            When it comes to matters of talent in the organization, though, I think it is Huntington who is the brightest bulb on the porch.

            And, I also think it took Cutch being willing to do the deal. Like a lot of young guys, he might have decided that he wanted to secure his long term financial situation even if it meant he would be likely settling for less than he could get later. I would have done that, and not looked back. Peace of mind is a good thing for a lot of people. Plus, there will always be the Yankees or Dodgers when Cutch is 31 or so. I think he probably listened to the advice of his agent and said, “Do it.” If that agent had been Scot Boras, who knows what would have happened.

          • I think the internal thing is prevalent always and with all 30 GM’s. It’s a budget. It’s an approximate amount you won’t go over to extend a player, sign a free agent, tender, etc. The Yankees had an internal value with Cano and I bet Seattle did too. And Neal’s biggest mistake in this area, IMO, was using the phrase, “Internal Value.”

            • I don’t have a problem with “internal value” per se. I just think Neal sometimes is, on the one hand, kind of stingy on this, and on the other, if it’s gospel it is too micro over the macro view. Always need some flexibility to see the big picture, consider that you might be wrong, etc.

              (We better watch it, we’re getting into Bold Reaming territory)

        • I was very influenced by what I saw and heard at Piratefest before they did it, which also colored my thinking afterwards.

          Main thing is they got it done, and as you say, Jim, most underpaid player in baseball right now. And he comes across like he’s content where he is.

          • It disappoints me to say this but McCutchen will never see “at least” the last two years of that contract in a Pirate uniform.
            He is officially into dangerous ground (in the Nutting Regime books) this year when he goes over $7 mil.
            I believe he’s gone when he gets to the $10 mil mark in the late summer of 2015 (unless the team is in serious contention).
            The $13 and $14 mil figures in ’16 and ’17 are simply out of the question for a Regime that prides itself in cheapness.
            A team friendly contract for Cutch?….No doubt!
            But not friendly enough for it to see its duration with this ownership.

            • And your point is?

              :-)

            • Well, if the going rate for Cutch right now is close to $30 million per season, then it might be still in that range 4 years from now. I know you are going to accuse me of all sorts of things regarding the Nuttings, Huntington, Coonelly, etc. for saying this. But, what, exactly, would you do with Cutch in a few years? They may be cheap, as you say. I often say that myself, as a matter of fact. But, do you really think a $250 million or greater contract is reasonable in a market like Pittsburgh, Daq? Cutch will not sign cheaply again. At least, I don’t think he will. That would pretty much be unprecedented.

              So, should they not try to get as much talent in return for him at some point rather than just get 1 draft pick when his contract ends? They will need to move Cutch before his contract expires, just as about 25 other teams (including St. Louis) would need to do.

              • What exactly have I accused you of in the past?
                I hope the first scenario you mentioned unfolds.
                But….I would lean towards the second one if I had to predict.

              • Well, yesterday you said Neal Huntington tells me what to say, or something to that effect. Everyone who even remotely agrees with the position or actions of the team on any topic seems to always get that treatment.

                They are not signing Cutch to a long term extension after this contract. He will simply be worth far too much money. Very few teams can even bid for a guy like that. So, to criticize the Pirates for not signing him to a contract where he will earn $30 million per year (or something in that range) does not seem very fair, when nearly every team in the league would be in that same predicament. I don’t think saying that makes me a homer, or a Nutter, or anything else. It just makes me a realist.

  17. Martin has missed how many games the last three years? When you have a player signed out of near desperation for 25 million who has had one good year in four, yes I trade him while his value is good. Somehow Pens keep clicking while he is once again on IR. If I can get a top 6 forward for him I drive him to the airport.

    • How many games has Sidney Crosby missed? And Geno Malkin? And Kris Letang? And….

    • Careful, Chet. You are starting to sound like a small market baseball fan. Advocating trading marketable pieces. Those are dangerous waters.

    • Problem with this thought is that this year, when he was healthy, Martin was one of, if not the best, d-man on the ice. His positioning was sound and his puck movement was great. Not to mention, there is no one else on this team that can run the PP from the point like he does. He has great vision from the point and his decision making is quick and precise. As of right now, we do not have another d-man on the ice that can do this.

      • Letang would need to take that job and run with it. Everything else would need to be done by committee. Before i just wanted his cap space off the books but now I would want a team to blow my socks off with an offer.

        • You wear socks, Monster Mash????

          :D

        • Have you seen Letang attempt to run the PP. He is smooth skating, but from that position he just doesn’t have the vision. It takes him too long so he misses open men. He also takes to long when he decides to shoot and by doing so he is getting blocked all the time. I think I’d choose Niskanen and maybe even Matta over Letang at this point if Martin is gone.

          • Oh i’m aware of his cons…but for what its worth i believe the PP % with him is pretty good. His passing to setup one timers are horrible and he’s more likely to hit glass or shin pads when he shoots but i thought he was showing improvement before injury. Also worth mentioning that PM is no threat to shoot and the PK unit will drift away from him daring him to shoot while defending passing lanes. That would be my strategy if i was coaching the PK against PM.

    • Jim- Yesterday I said “perhaps it was direct orders from Neal Huntington” that has caused a faction of Pirate fans to heavily support Gaby Sanchez.
      Guess what?
      It’s called sarcasm!
      Certainly wasn’t insinuating you were on the payroll.

      As for Cutch….If I don’t think he’ll play out this contract in a Pirate uniform, rest assured that I don’t think he’ll get another.

  18. Tonight is one of two games all season I don’t root for the Penguins. Wild catching the Penguins when they are bound to be tired.

    Matt Cooke returns as well. Go Wild ! (runs away)

  19. Another fun, entertaining win by the Pens. Great seeing the young guys playing hard, even better that despite giving up a two goal lead, in crunch time at the end of the game, they didn’t fall apart mentally and lose.

    All that said, we’ve seen great regular seasons for the past four years and I still maintain that this team is not built for the playoffs. Too small, and not enough grit. Enjoy the ride– until April.

    • I think grit factor has improved with some of recent call ups. But if you look at how chicago won the cup last season, it was basically with 4 scoring/possession lines with a little grit sprinkled in here and there. Teams in the west can really scoot but we’ll need some grit in the east(to get by boston or caps). Mix of forwards we’ll have after injury storm passes could be rather decent.

      • Agree, but how many of these guys do you expect to be around once we have some people healthy? They need to keep Bortuzzo in the lineup, but likely won’t, and they need some size and nastiness on the third line. Who will that be? Guessing that Sill won’t be sticking around.

        • Well with the infamous jeffrey and d’agastini off the books i believe theres room for sill and megna. Personally my crystal ball tells me that Sill-Sutter-Bennett/Megna has the makings of a solid and versatile 3rd line. But then again what do i know? :)

  20. Dejan made a couple good points above that crossed my mind last night. Not only does the league not protect their stars but they apparently have no interest in showcasing them either. How wasnt that a penalty shot? Doesn’t even matter that was 87. Should’ve been a PS no matter who that was. Seen alot more questionable PS calls than that. Too bad Kuni couldn’t get same benefit of doubt during lundqvists flop. And duper may have tried to draw a call there before 3rd GA but once again…no benefit of the doubt. If anything that play reinforced how important the neutral zone is. We gave them an inch and they took a mile.

  21. Even Rangers radio said the penalty on the Crosby breakaway deserved a penalty shot. What has happened to my Rangers? Rangers suck.

  22. Hey DK,

    A question about Megna. What’s the scouting report on him? From what I’ve seen the kid seems to have it all – blazing speed, a willingness to get involved, a good shot and good defensive awareness (I’ve seen him cover up several times when a D-man went in deep). With all of those positive attributes, I was wondering why he’s been buried at Wilkes-Barre for so long. What’s the issue? Is it consistency? From what I’ve seen of him (albeit in a short time frame), I can’t figure out what else it could be. There’s no reason he couldn’t be a mainstay on the 3rd or 4th line with possible fill-in duty on the 2nd line in the case of injuries or suspensions to some of the regulars. I know he’s hurt now so obviously this isn’t a short term question, but going forward he looks like he could be a keeper.

    • From what I’ve heard, he’s been the number 1 prospect in the offense for the last two years (assuming we are no longer calling Bennett a prospect). I don’t remember exactly what it was, but there was something holding him back, even after camp this year.

  23. I’m really starting to get concerned at how Wilkes-Barre’s season is going to turn out. They’re depleted!

    I guess they will scarf up everyone from Wheeling.

  24. I thought I would be able to get through one morning without sounding like a gushing fan for Mr. Maatta. Not today!
    Did you see when Maatta took a shot which Lundqvist stopped. But then Olli batted it out of the air, and then try to bat it out of the air, while waiting to make sure he wouldn’t be called for a high stick?, Tremendous!

    There is a GIF of this, as I found using one of JAL’s links above. Enjoy!
    http://www.pensburgh.com/2013/12/18/5225588/memorable-moments-madison-square

    • When I saw Dejan’s quote from him about “our organization,” I thought “this kid can’t really be only 19.”

      Very impressive.

    • That was sweet. Doc Emerick made some reference to Ollie playing for the Pir — . Oops! Never mind. It was a great hockey play. It looked like it took forever for that puck to come down.

  25. Here’s an observation and question for the group.

    Is there any team sport where every person on the playing surface has to make such quick decisions on an almost constant basis? I am constantly amazed at how quick the minds are of even ordinary NHL players. So much going on in every direction, yet they seem to stay on top of just about all of it at all times. It feels to me like the game moves so much faster now than when I started watching it as a kid.

    • Explains why I know more about baseball. Slow and methodical in nature.

      :|

      • It can be, Lucky. But, there is a lot of strategy involved. Also, as I say below, when you get a ball hit with a few guys on, there are a lot of quick decisions to be made by everyone involved.

    • Jim, I don’t know a whole lotta other sports…soccer is fast, but is it as cerebral?

      Spunky lol!

      • Well, my daughter’s club coach is always sending us articles that talk about how the smartest athletes are soccer players. I don’t know, though. They all take a certain amount of brain work, I think. I know that when I watch our 12U baseball team play. Once that ball gets hit, and a couple of guys are on base, it can be pretty complicated.

        But, the immediate and constant decisions you have to make in hockey … I don’t know of any sport that requires that kind of brain work.

    • Your impressions are reinforced even more when we see the games in person.

  26. Hi Everyone – Heading out for a couple weeks on vacation, so just wanted to wish everyone…you, your family, friends… a very Merry Christmas and all the best as we turn the calendar to…yet…another year. Yikes! Anyways, Dejan and this group of Loonies are the best! Been a fun year, with outstanding conversation and debates on this blog. And to be sure…we shared many laughs and witnessed great sports action in our town and beyond. Looking forward to a great year in 2014. Stay well and safe and prayers for all ~ Tom

  27. They didn’t pay Letang that kind of jack to be a back up PP guy. He is exceptionally talented and this nonsense Martin runs the PP better and has better vision means nothing. Letang is a significant offensive player who can go end to end. Martin’s shoulder is shot so is his shot. Martin is a veteran dman and that makes him tradable. This team won’t miss Martin in the least.

  28. Way late on the discussion here, but as a follow-on to my comment earlier, and a reply to it regarding drafting defensemen for injury replacement situations, or to have as valuable trade pieces – I guess I would put forth the premise that you should be drafting anyone to be a contributor or even a star on your team. I guess that’s how I’ve always looked at it. If you are burning through 1st round draft picks on D-men, shouldn’t it be with the idea of them being top 4 on your own team, instead of re-signing Scuds or extending Letang at a high cap hit. Not saying those are bad moves, but if you’re not doing that then maybe you would have room for a forward or two. Anyway… hometown already listed. Thanks.

  29. Perusing through the college basketball scores last night, I saw Stanford travelled to Connecticut, and beat the #10 ranked Huskies. This was a team Pitt beat by 20.

    I dont see the Pitt schedule bashers out today with this nugget. Do we now bash Connecticut’s schedule? Or do we just realize that Pitt’s OOC schedule bashing is over the top?

    Just curious where those people are today……..

  30. Another win last night for the Pittsburgh/Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pens.
    Fleury played great behind the diaper brigade of D-Men last night, except for about 5 minutes of soffffffff play. He was awesome in the shootout!!!

    Lost in the praise (deservedly so) for the baby Pens D-Men, is the fact that a speed team will still give the Pens fits. The Rangers scored both their 3rd period goals on speed rushes, which the Pens D was caught out of position. This experience will only help them come playoff time, when some of them will be recalled.

    Oh, and Sid can play.
    That is all.

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