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Morning Java: Pittsburgh’s best team (yawn)

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

Morning, Lunatics …

>> The Monday column from Consol is about Pittsburgh’s best team. Again. In fact, the Penguins are Pittsburgh’s best team so often and on so many different levels that it’s easy to take them for granted. Or even act spoiled about it.

A hearty thanks to Matt Niskanen for opening up on a topic most athletes won’t touch.

Also, I asked James Neal about the difference in this team …

Random blogginess from the scene: If Canada doesn’t take Neal and Chris Kunitz, they’re just being stupid and stubborn. There’s no way anyone with any hockey acumen could be watching these two — and weighing the importance of Sidney Crosby to the process — and not thinking these two are essential for Sochi. We’ll find out tomorrow. … The column only glances at this, but Ray Shero and Dan Bylsma both need to figure out what to do with Simon Despres and Robert Bortuzzo. And I don’t mean just keep scratching them. The defense the Penguins put out there against Winnipeg was old and slow. It was rusty, too, in fairness. As Rob Scuderi told me after the game, “It takes timing, and that doesn’t happen right away.” He motioned over to Kris Letang. “That’s my partner over there, and we’ve played six periods together all season now.” He’s right. But that doesn’t solve the Despres/Bortuzzo issue. Management needs to figure it out sooner rather than later. … Getting all my negative out of the way here, is anyone else noticing that Craig Adams isn’t performing at the level he’s set for himself in previous years? Just saying. … Olli Maatta is just wonderful. Been a while since I’ve mentioned it. Did you see the soccer back-heel to Niskanen? Come on. … Marc-Andre Fleury gave up five goals, and that never looks good, but I saw nothing remotely shaky in his play. … These matinee starts are great for deadlines, but … ah, never mind. They’re great for deadlines. … I can’t stand the PA announcing at Consol. Sorry. It’s actually getting worse, with all kinds of cutesy “welcome back” and “how about that” thrown into actual in-game announcements. All of the local PA announcers for all three teams have set a far higher standard than that. It’s embarrassing. If it happened in another NHL rink, I’d rip it. No reason not to do so here. … Tons of Winnipeg stuff at the bottom.

The game story by Rob Rossi focuses on Evgeni Malkin’s brilliance.

Here’s our full Penguins coverage.

Here’s Jets news from the Winnipeg Free Press.

Here are official game highlights from NHL.com.

>> Pitt hoops has already gone to the ACC, but now the ACC comes to the Pete with Maryland here tonight. One longer-term issue: How will Talib Zanna hold up? Kevin Gorman examines.

>> A four-star wide receiver recruit picks Pitt, Jerry DiPaola reports. Adonis Jennings could make for quite the bookend to Tyler Boyd.

So, we already knew Bobby Engram can recruit. Anyone on the defensive side?

>> Wonderful insight on Penn State’s coaching search, by Bob Cohn.

>> What happened to the Steelers’ defense? Alan Robinson revisits.

>> I’ll check in with TribLIVE Radio at 11:30 a.m. It’s the easiest station in the world to find. One click on that link, and we’re there.

>> Also, if you missed us late last night, here are all four segments of WPXI-TV’s Subway Final Word with Rossi, Bill Phillips and myself.

>> OK, keeping this out of the way of anyone who might be offended by a local guy writing about the Jets, here’s an item I promised my many friends in Manitoba:

It was one game. I watch a good bit of Jets through GameCenter, but it’s hardly like seeing them regularly.

The Penguins see them even less, I’m sure, in spite of all the filmwork that goes into preparing for a game.

So let’s start with that for context.

The Jets look to me like a team going absolutely nowhere. Not their roster. Not their system. It just isn’t happening.

There are four very good forwards on the team: Evander Kane, Blake Wheeler, Andrew Ladd and Mark Scheifele. There’s a very promising defenseman in Jacob Trouba, who rebounded nicely from minus-3 in Boston to a strong game here. And I know that, in addition to Scheifele and Trouba, there are other good prospects on the way, notably Josh Morrissey.

But what you’ve got is an age gap that’s way too big between the current core and that next wave, and either no inclination or no means to add to the current core.

That’s a mess.

I respect that True North wanted to keep the Thrashers’ more experienced guys on the roster to ice a competitive team right off the bat. Made absolutely perfect sense. The people of Winnipeg know their pucks and, even with the delirium that followed the return of the franchise, they’d want to see a real NHL product, not just have an NHL franchise. It was the right thing to do.

But I’ve seen this situation before, including with local teams I’ve covered, and this is the point where you push the plunger. You blow it up. Doesn’t mean you give guys away. As I wrote above, there are real assets. Kane and Wheeler should bring back one real-live young player and a first-round pick, maybe more. Even Dustin Byfuglien, for all his warts, can bring back something meaningful. Not everyone has that power-play rifle at the point. It’s possible, as I’m sure you’ve read, that the Penguins will be among the teams interested in Kane but especially Wheeler. They love Wheeler.

So do it. Send it to kingdom come and build around Scheifele, Trouba and the next generation.

If not, you’ll forever be the Flames, perpetually flailing away at mediocrity.

Now, about that system … and this is the real reason I’m writing this.

I have only ever heard the Penguins speak derisively of another team’s system once in recent years, and that was right after Buffalo passed through with the laughably-over-his-head Ron Rolston at the helm. The Sabres were flat-out clueless. Just humiliating. And it wasn’t long, of course, before Rolston got canned.

I heard much the same yesterday about the Jets. One player said they have “no structure.” Another said they had “no real plan for what they’re doing.” Yet another called them “really just a strange team.” All concerned, it should be noted, praised the talented individuals on the Winnipeg roster. It was hard not to be impressed with some of them on this day alone. But the focus clearly was aimed at Claude Noel’s system or, if he has a system, the evident failure to execute it.

If it’s a bad system — and again, I’m not going to claim to know — that’s just sad. But it does say something, I think, that an opponent would have such observations while at the same time respecting the talent at hand and having zero ax to grind. It’s not like the teams are rivals.

You do with that what you want. I know True North felt an obligation to a lot of the Moose people, and maybe that’s what brought Noel into the picture more than anything. Or, for all I know, it could be that Noel is some brilliant tactician whose team just had a lousy Sunday after playing in Boston on a Saturday.

But I’m not inclined to ignore those observations from veteran players when they sounded so strikingly similar to that following the Buffalo mess.

Long-time readers know of my attachment to Winnipeg the city. I don’t extend that to the Jets any more than I do any other sports team. That’s not how this job works. But I can say that I’d love to see hockey succeed there on multiple levels, in part because it would make such a powerful statement for hockey in Canada’s heartland, the salary cap and so much more.

It sure looks from this faraway vantage point like the real work has yet to begin.

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.

267 Comments

  1. Dejan,

    The Despres/Bortuzzo issue can easily be solved with 1 quick fix. Sit Engelland. For some reason, Bylsma is enamored with this guy. A 30+ year old journeyman with no upside. He’s already shown the playoffs are too fast for him.

    Bylsma makes up any excuse he can to get Engelland in the lineup. I know the left-right handed defensive pairings aren’t all about Engelland, but there are new excuses all the time for putting him in the lineup. RW? Really?

    Not one team in the league plays Engelland over Despres or Bortuzzo. Not one. Someone needs to talk sense into Bylsma before it’s too late. I would really like Shero to move him for a bag of pucks to save Bylsma from himself.

    Also, the defense is going to look slow with Orpik, Scuderi, and Engelland. This should be both Orpik’s and Engelland’s last year here. Scuderi is 35 and coming off a broken ankle.

    Craig Adams is another guy who never should have been re-signed.

    One thing the Steelers have done remarkably well the last 20 years is know when it’s time to cut bait with certain players. Hopefully the Penguins loyalty doesn’t come back to bite them.

    • I’m not sure why 5 gets the negative commentary here. Are 41 and 47 playing better, sure. But 41 and 47 are playing better than all but 2 and 3. Its not a coincidence that our GAA goes up when 58 and 4 and 44 return to the lineup. I’ll give 4 a pass due to his age/injury situation, but 58 and 44 have never been headsy in the d-zone and to 5′s credit, he isn’t making too many mistakes. As for slowness, 41 is the slowest guy on the back-end, but not slow by any means. I’d say the D looked uninterested tonight (the “vets” that is).

      As for 27, I like him more than most I talked to but its clear he has lost a step and the league has gained one.

      DK: Agreed on Adams. Engelland was awful yesterday. And I’m no Engelland basher.

      • One of the older D should be traded while they still have value. The Steelers were very good at this for years (Joey Porter). And it seems Shero can hurt the team by remaining too loyal to his veterans. We have the younger, cheaper cavalry coming.

  2. Really hope the Pens land Wheeler; Kane has shown great speed and hands, but I’d love to see a 6’5″ power forward with a capability of finishing to be placed alongside either Sid or Geno’s line, depending on the Dupuis situation. Great read!

    • What do you think Wheeler’s worth? It always seems that other cities undervalue our top guys, like some middle picks and a prospect are enough to pry him loose. Jet fans love him, especially when he’s playing with emotion.

      • Honestly, I would have no idea. Seeing as we got Jokinen for a conditional 6th/7th round pick; I’m not sure what Wheeler’s worth would be (Not comparing Jokinen to Wheeler). I agree with you though on the fact that a solid prospect (potentially Harrington..not sure which prospect, but most likely defensively seeing as the Pens have quite a few), maybe a roster player, deciding which one would be interesting, and a third round pick might do the trick; but as you said he’s a ‘Peg fan favorite, so it might need to be a little more spiced up than that. I think the fact that Wheeler is also going to be representing Team USA will be huge for Bylsma and Shero in seeing what he can do, and if he impresses, then maybe Shero wouldn’t mind giving up that little bit extra. Until then, I guess it’s just, In Shero We Trust!

  3. Dejan,

    Firstly, we in Winnipeg welcome visitors and if you even would like to sit in with us for a game just tweet me.

    Secondly, I read your bit on Winnipeg in 1996 and you seem to see it the way we did. Imagine the bitterness that never really left even 15 years later!

    Thirdly, regarding today’s blog: Is there a “system”? We here in Winnipeg simply DON’T KNOW. There has never been any explanation given to how the team runs or how the different game situations are strategized. Certainly today’s loss to the Pens looked worse than average but the underlying problems are all there game to game. No identity. No consistency. Poor discipline. Risky play and giveaways. Failure to hold a lead. Most importantly: an inability to fix problems.

    I don’t know if replacing Noel is the answer but I do agree this team is showing no signs of improvement.

    Go Jets Go

    DK: More than anything, Manitobans’ reaction on social media to the blog item has surprised me in that it’s unanimous — I mean no exceptions — that not even the most knowledgeable hockey fan can identify what the system actually is. That’s wild.

    I’ll be in Winnipeg in the first week of April. As always, it’ll be my favorite trip of the year.

    • Dejan, I have two tickets to the Penguins game April 3 …

    • Is there a question in there somewhere? Dump & Chase, Dump & Chase! Wash, rinse, repeat…..whatever you do, don’t carry the puck! We do not believe possession wins games or in the value of shot metrics. It doesn’t matter how terrible you are at hockey, if you play with grit you’re in our top six. If Buff turns over the puck, it’s okay, if any of the rest of you do it…BENCHED! Oh, and shush, don’t tell the goalie that his flopping fish impression isn’t funny any more, it hurts his confidence. He’s been really good for us lately, not not you Cubano, the other one! Do I look as confused on the bench as I feel? At least I look good in this vest!

  4. Dejan,

    Very good post that hits on a lot of things.

    I find it interesting that you bring up the PA announcing at Consol. Ryan Mill was put in a nearly impossible situation having to replace a legend like John Barbero, and at the beginning he was really rough.

    He’s gotten better, but I agree that the whole production (annoying lights/music/announcements) since moving to the new arena is a bit much.

    DK: It’s just weird. I don’t know if the Penguins think it’s hip or something, but I mostly hear from younger people complaining about the guy, so I don’t think so.

  5. I have liked the talent on the Jets since they were in Atlanta with Kane, Ladd, Bogosian, Enstrom, Byfuglien and Antropov and really thought they would turn the corner when they acquired Wheeler and Frolik over the years. I still like the talent there but can’t understand why they are so inconsistent. I would have fired Noel already because there is no way that Winnipeg is that bad of a team. Defensive holes for sure, but not to this extent. Only conclusion keeps going back to coaching for me. Edmonton falls into this mold too. They are young, but too much talent to be as bad as they are.

    DK: I just think the Oilers do everything wrong. Not much point in over-analyzing that one.

  6. Consistently sitting Despres and Bortuzzo for Engelland is just wrong.

    I have this strange feeling that HCDB’s undying devotion to his vets — at the sake of meaningful playing time for the younger guys right now — will be a hot topic again this spring.

    • With Bylsma, given his very early success, he’s always seemed more obsessed with winning during the regular season — and keeping his winning percentage intact — than building towards the future, even if “the future” is that particular season’s playoffs.

      Someone needs to tell him that a step sideways (although I maintain it would be a step forward in the case of playing our younger D-men) can often pay greater dividends in the long term.

  7. I’m probably in the minority, but I think trading Letang before his no trade clause kicks in would be a good idea. He’s a great player, but I think the Pens play better, safer D without him. It would also free up a ton of cap space and we should get a top 6 forward minimum for him.

    • I don’t see Shero trading Letang before the summer, when his limited no-trade kicks in. I do think, however, that his play in the next few months should be the deciding factor.

      If they go out ignominiously again in this year’s playoffs (meaning short of a Stanley Cup Finals), and Letang does not perform near expectations, I see Shero entertaining all offers this summer, even if it’s only to the 15 teams on Letang’s list.

  8. Good points on the Jets Situation . When Noel was recently asked about the system he answered “we don’t really have a system ” this can’t be a good thing for one of the youngest teams in the league who would benefit from structure and defined roles . We do have some good forwards Ladd Little Wheeler Kane Scheifele Frolik make up 2 very good lines . Then that’s where the problems begin our 3rd line has 2 career 20-25 goal scorers Jokinen and Setoguchi playing with an anchor around they’re neck Thorburn through no fault of his he is a marginal 4th liner at best but that’s where we run out of talent , so teams attack us much like the Bruins attack the Pens . They try to shut down out top 2 lines and kill us with they’re bottom 6 . Our D with Buff Toby Bogo & Trouba is pretty solid and contributes offensively but our goalies are inconsistent . That’s the Jets , the reason they’re inconsistent is lack of talent in the bottom 6 so if our top lines can’t get it done we lose , a team like Boston they’re top lines can have a bad night they’re bottom lines will take over because of balanced talent .

  9. Hi Dejan

    On behalf of the ‘Always wanting more – taking success for granted’ part of the fan base…. :)
    …thanks for this:

    “The column only glances at this, but Ray Shero and Dan Bylsma both need to figure out what to do with Simon Despres and Robert Bortuzzo. And I don’t mean just keep scratching them. The defense the Penguins put out there against Winnipeg was old and slow. (SNIP) It was rusty, too, in fairness. As Rob Scuderi told me after the game, “It takes timing, and that doesn’t happen right away.” He motioned over to Kris Letang. “That’s my partner over there, and we’ve played six periods together all season now.” He’s right. But that doesn’t solve the Despres/Bortuzzo issue. Management needs to figure it out sooner rather than later. … Getting all my negative out of the way here, is anyone else noticing that Craig Adams isn’t performing at the level he’s set for himself in previous years? Just saying. …”

    Look, you are the only sports journalist with credentials in Pittsburgh who doesn’t pander wholesale to the organization. You deserve lots of credit for that! Lots!

    But it HAS to be said that Adams has been TERRIBLE for a long, long time, and Bylsma just keeps on throwing him out there in key situations. He is a puck possession black hole, he is slow as molasses and whenever he is not on the PK, it works just as well and is way more aggressive. Glass is even more useless. The Pens would be better if the earth opened and swallowed them whole so Bylsma didn’t have the chance to misuse them. If we wanted to talk about accountability, supposedly a key word when it comes to the young players who get benched at the slightest sign of a mistake, the complete absence of accountability when it comes to vets like Adams, Glass, Orpik, Engelland and of course also Letang…. that is just a black mark on Bylsma. They can do whatever and they will NEVER miss a shift.

    As you say, they need to figure out Despres/Bortuzzo. Both of them are right now better and give the Pens a better chance to win hockey games than most all the other regulars. Despres currently might genuinely be the best defender on the entire roster outside of Paul Martin in his best form. Well, Niskanen has more offensive impact, but I am talking about performance in our zone. The Pens will profit from having those two guys (and Maatta) playing regularly – both because they all are more than good enough to be there, but also because with their low cap-hits they make it possible to add further to the forward group where our stars just flat out dominate when having strong compliments on both wings. Orpik, Engelland and Niskanen are UFA’s to be…. Niskanen in particular is playing like a guy who one would feel iffy about dealing, but for asset management purposes it is obvious that those three are the ones Shero should try to deal. We don’t need a superstar coming back, we don’t need a slow character veteran.

    Finally…. I understand that Bylsma should get praise because the team keeps winning despite adversity. Of course, it is about winning and he does that more than most. But look at the league leaders in points per game and tell me that the enormous advantage Bylsma has been given is not a much bigger reason for the success than anything he is doing. It is like that every year, and then we get surprised when in the playoffs the whistles are put away; (good) teams can interfere enough to kill the transition offense our top 6 otherwise provides, and our #fastest to 200 wins super star coach gives a blank stare while trying to find more minutes for Orpik.

    Look at how our young D-men play better than most the regulars and tell me that it doesn’t suggest we could be even better if we actually played our best lineup also when we are healthy? And the argument that they cannot be trusted in the playoffs – lets see ONE instance where one of the younger players apart from Letang were to blame in any playoffs series since we won the cup. Just one. And yes, this is where it all takes us back to. The PLAYOFFS, of course, because a major reason we have been failing in latter years (relative to our regular season dominance) is that Bylsma plays his favorites and vets rather than the best players – AND does not adjust in the face of it not working. Iginla!
    Unless Shero takes his toys away from him, he is going to keep doing that. There is every indication that he will. Unfortunately Shero is by now married to Bylsma’s mistakes and contributed big time by extending Bylsma, extending Adams and of course giving that terrible contract to Dupuis. I am terrified that he will do the same with Brooks, Engelland and Glass this Summer, I really am.

    This roster has 95% of everything any team could possibly need to be considered an all-out Stanley Cup favorite. Yes, more so than Chicago and the others also. But if the past is any guideline, Bylsma will **** it up by not playing his best team, and Shero will be culpable also if he doesn’t interfere and shows that he has learned from last years terrible deadline mistakes.

    Until then… well, I will just enjoy the awesome show provided by our super stars and the kids when they are allowed to play. But not griping is as hard as it is not to comment when a friend of family member is mired in a destructive relationship, has a drug problem etc. Take away the drugs, Ray!

    DK: Glen, I love having you here, and this is a fine post. The vulgar language can’t happen again.

    • Holy flippin chips, Glen typed a really bad word, and it’s sitting there since 3am.

      But, he does give us a lot of fodder for thought…good post, Glen.

    • Summary of Glen’s “War and Peace” post:

      Young players good; old players bad. Letang is an old player.
      Shero was stupid for extending old players.
      “Bylsma will **** it up” . . . that’s a quote from his next to last paragraph.

      Penguins are being mismanaged!
      No one knows what they are doing on the 32-12-1 Pens.

    • Glen: “I am terrified that he will do the same with Brooks, Engelland and Glass this Summer, I really am.” I am as well on the first two, but not Glass.

      On Adams, someone has to make little on this roster to get us under the cap. That’s reality given the contracts we’ve handed out. Whether there’s a better player who could help us in Adams’ role for the same or similar cap hit is an entirely different question. That said, not having four solid lines will catch up with us against the Bruins or Blackhawks. Letang’s worth could be the answer to this predicament as well as filling out Sid’s line, but I cannot see Shero considering moving him before the end of this season . . . if then. We may need one more disastrous ousting in the playoffs before it’s even contemplated.

  10. Dejan. Welcome back.

    (How about that?)

  11. Three things:

    1. “We’ve had one guy or another being the best player in the world for, what, 30 straight years now?”

    In the conversation, certainly, but in the period between Jagr and Sid, the response to Mario was “He’s not quite what he used to be.” There are also cases to be made for some non-Penguins at various times. We’re still spoiled, though.

    2. Wasn’t it about a week ago that Depres and Bortuzzo were integral parts of the Niskanen-led defense? Let’s give things a little time to settle down before moving people around.

    3. I agree about the PA situation. Mr. Mill may be a swell guy, but he sounds like he should be telling us that the drag races will be here “SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY!”

    And, Trib, I hate when I copy a quote, and this stuff gets added to it:
    “Read more: http://triblive.com/sports/dejankovacevic/dejancolumns/5335612-74/course-win-goals#ixzz2pc2o5bf6
    Follow us: @triblive on Twitter | triblive on Facebook”

  12. About the only reason to get excited about the Penguins at this time is because the Steelers didn’t make it to the playoffs once again, no matter what the reason, the Pitt basketball team is 13-1, true, though against mostly soft opposition and they only have begun to face ACC opposition, and the Pirates won’t be opening their spring training facilities in Florida for about 40 days yet. So that’s about the sum of Pittsburgh sports right now.

  13. As for Wheeler, two words for you: package deal! :)

  14. JAL’s This Magic Moment Morning Links

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WpePWo56zm4

    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

    4 Pirates Prospects Spring Training Tracker

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/st2014

    BLOGS and such

    5—Pirates Prospects

    Winter Leagues: Marte and Escogido Win Third Straight

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/01/winter-leagues-marte-and-escogido-win-third-straight.html

    6 Rumbunter

    Pittsburgh Pirates Recent Moves Lack Sizzle, But Are Still Tasty

    http://rumbunter.com/2014/01/05/pittsburgh-pirates-recent-moves-lack-sizzle-still-tasty/

    7 Green Weenie

    1/3-5: Gus Suhr, Clemente Memorial, AJ, Joe Randa, Sam Barkley, Lonnie Smith, JR, Bert Blyleven…

    http://oldbucs.blogspot.com/2014/01/13-5-gus-suhr-clemente-memorial-aj-joe.html

    8 Rant Sports

    5 Players Who Must Perform Well For Pittsburgh Pirates in 2014

    http://www.rantsports.com/mlb/2014/01/05/5-players-who-must-perform-well-for-pittsburgh-pirates-in-2014/

    9 Bucs Dugout

    Free-agent market approaching bargain-hunting time

    http://www.bucsdugout.com/2014/1/6/5278934/free-agent-market-approaching-bargain-hunting-time

    10 Sports Injury Report

    Joel Hanrahan’s recovery ‘ahead of schedule’, plans to throw for teams in spring training

    http://www.sportsinjuryalert.com/2014/01/joel-hanrahans-recovery-ahead-of.html

    11 FanSided

    MLB trade rumors: Reds may look to move Homer Bailey

    http://fansided.com/2014/01/05/mlb-trade-rumors-reds-may-look-move-homer-bailey/

  15. NEWSPAPERS and MAGAZINES and Other Media

    12 Forbes

    A $1 Million Honus Wagner Baseball Card May Be A Steal

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidseideman/2014/01/05/a-1-million-honus-wagner-baseball-card-may-be-a-steal/

    13 Denver Post

    There’s no room in the Baseball Hall of Fame for rumors

    http://www.denverpost.com/rockies/ci_24851837/analysis-theres-no-room-baseball-hall-fame-rumors

    14 San Jose Mercury News

    Tom Glavine on Hall of Fame: ‘I’m not defined by baseball’

    http://www.mercurynews.com/national-sports-news/ci_24849472/tom-glavine-hall-fame-im-not-defined-by

    15 Cincinnati Enquirer

    Could there be an offseason surprise from the Reds?

    http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20140104/SPT04/301040046/Could-there-be-an-offseason-surprise-from-the-Reds-

    16 The Good in Sports

    MLB Loses a Legend

    http://thegoodinsports.com/2014/01/05/mlb-loses-a-legend/

    17 Bleacher Report

    MLB Teams That Will Rebound in 2014

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1905333-mlb-teams-that-will-rebound-in-2014

    18 Baseball Prospectus

    2014 Draft Prep and You

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=22498

    19 Fangraphs

    The Hall of Fame Mess: How Did We Get Here?

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-hall-of-fame-mess-how-did-we-get-here/

    20 Hardball Times

    Baseball’s greatest swan songs part 2: the pitchers

    http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/baseballs-greatest-swan-songs-part-2-the-pitchers/

  16. Steelers Blogs

    21 Behind the Steel Curtain

    Chargers vs. Bengals final score: Andy Dalton commits three turnovers, San Diego routs Cincinnati 27-13

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2014/1/5/5277344/chargers-vs-bengals-final-score-recap-analysis

    The Yin and Yang of the 2013 Steelers: Part I

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2014/1/5/5273640/steelers-2013-season-review

    22 Steelers Gab

    Report: Haley To Remain Steelers Offensive Coordinator In 2014

    http://www.steelersgab.com/2014/01/04/report-haley-to-remain-steelers-offensive-coordinator-in-2014/

    Soccer(football)

    23 Bleacher Report

    Premier League Table 2014: Reviewing Current Standings Heading into Week 21

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1911766-premier-league-table-2014-reviewing-current-standings-heading-into-week-21

    24 World Soccer

    Nicolas Anelka: enfant terrible of European football

    http://www.worldsoccer.com/columnists/anelka-quenelle

    PENGUIN BLOGS and NHL Links

    25 Pensburgh

    Malkin’s return helps Pens win a track meet 6-5 against Winnipeg

    http://www.pensburgh.com/2014/1/5/5277280/penguins-jets-score-evgeni-malkin-return-james-neal-goal

    • Regarding link #23…………..

      I dont have any dogs in the EPL race. My friend is a huge Man U fan. Whenever I ask about them, he gets very defensive (I have found this typical of most Man U fans). I always rib him about Man City……… and he goes off on their “200M wage sheet”.

      Jal, being you post the EPL links, what do you make of Man U’s fall this year, and who do you see winning at the end?

      I think Man City, with their ability to score bunches of goals should be the favorite (but again, I have no English dog in the race).

  17. Ok, see a lot of new names. If anyone would like to sign up for our list of Dejan’s Lunatics’ Asylum, all you have to do is post your hometown.

    We love new posters, and would love to chat with you :)

  18. 37 DAYS UNTIL PITCHERS & CATCHERS REPORT TO THE SUNNY/WARM/GREEN FIELDS OF PIRATE CITY FOR SPRING TRAINING.

    • Sunny? Warm? Bradenton’s high will only make it to FIFTY DEGREES tomorrow. I can’t even find the words to type the low.

      That’s a sign that the world might end before Pitchers and Catchers report.

    • And EVERYONE is still fretting over Pitt’s OoC schedule !!!!!!!!!!!!

      • I didn’t get to see it, plan. I noticed they got off to a horrendous start, and then slowly chipped away by halftime. Looked like the 2nd half was all Panthers, and they start shooting lights out. I listened to most of the 2nd half on XM, which carried the NCSU announcing team. They were impressed with the Panthers defense in the 2nd half.

        What was your take, overall?

        • I think that pretty much nails it Jim. Intensity level was completely different in the second half and shooting lights out doesn’t hurt. Also, NC State’s transition defense in the second half was abysmal and Pitt really exploited that.

          • I have a feeling Pitt will be near the top of the ACC this year, 21. I just don’t think the conference is all that strong except for the Big East teams. I watched some of Carolina at Wake last night, and I don’t think Carolina has much. At one point, when one of their players made a 3 (forgot his name), it was his 32nd of the year. But, the rest of the team only has 16 combined.

            Notre Dame beat Duke. Parker didn’t really show up for Duke. He also got dunked on, highlight style, by an ND player. He needs to play tougher than he did in that game.

            It’s still early for all the teams, though. I’m sure Duke will round into a very good team. They almost always do.

            • I don’t think I said that quite right. I didn’t really mean the Big East teams are all the ACC will have this year. What I was trying to convey is that I don’t think this would have been a vintage ACC conference this year if not for the influx from up north.

              There are a lot of question marks in the ACC, even with the Big East teams.

            • Jim, sorry I didn’t get to your question earlier……. my computer detected malware from this site, had to check my computer and will be shooting DK a note about it……

              The game Saturday was a tale of 2 halves. Pitt played no D, shot bricks, didn’t rebound, and looked very nervous.

              In the second half, Pitt drove to the hoop. kicked the ball out for wide-open jumpers, rebounded like beasts, and wore NC State out. That allowed them to clamp down on D. I hate to make it sound so simple, but it really was that simple.

              Also, not to be overlooked, was the adjustments/speech Dixon made at halftime. It was truly a completely different team that took the floor in the 2nd half.

              As to the ACC, I think there are many good teams there, and just like the Big east of old, they will beat up on each other. Duke appears to be the class of the league, but they can be beaten. If Pitt plays like they did in the 2nd half of Saturday’s game, they will be fine.

              Then EVERYBODY can go back to fretting about Pitt’s OoC schedule again………………… ;)

            • I hope you’re right Jim. My concern about Pitt is that they’ll Jekyll and Hyde it a bit this year.

    • 52-67 days until A.J. reports! :-)

    • Thanks for the update. As cold as it is, the countdown helps.

  19. The NFL announced that Andy Reid and the Chiefs will be resting all of their starters next week.

    • Ha! — very good, Jim.

      I think he is still looking down at his laminated play sheet wondering which of the 350 plays he has down there could have made the difference. He and Tomlin will be attending the NFL Clock Management seminar in Hawaii.

      • So true, DJ. He may have just created a legend in the making in Andrew Luck. But, that has been Andy Reid’s MO forever. Find a way to not get it done when the games get important.

        I think San Diego learned something from that. They went to the opposite extreme yesterday. It was as if their coach was channeling his inner Bill Cowher with the ground game and safe passes. But, it worked out for them yesterday. I think they will need to open things up a bit, though, in order to have any chance going forward.

        I said last week that Green Bay did not earn nor deserve a home game, and I stand by it. When you go 8-7-1, you should not be hosting a 12-4 team in the playoffs simply because you had the good fortune to be in a weak division and they had the misfortune to be in a strong one. At 8-7-1, you should be happy to make it and then go prove yourselves on the road. The NFL really needs to look at that rule, IMO. The Steelers lost a playoff game, at 12-4, when they had to go on the road to face an 8-8 Denver team. Sorry, but I just don’t see rewarding a mediocre team 2x. Once is enough, when they get in the playoffs. A home game? Sorry, I don’t buy it. I’m glad SF stepped up and won in that environment. I think they would have won by 10 points on a neutral field, and by at least 14 at home.

        • Jim, if you change the rule, don’t you risk having less meaningful games in the last week (or perhaps more) and possibly teams resting their starters if they know they’ll be hosting a first round playoff game win or lose?

          • I don’t see how that changes, really. Maybe teams will be fighting to ensure they get a home game, rather than having it handed to them.

            • One situation I’m envisioning is going into the last week of the season and you have two teams in one division still fighting to win the division, when the team that ends up finishing in second place and getting a wild card has a better record than a division winner in a different division that they’ll play in the wild card round. You want the wild card team to host the wild card game and I’m suggesting that if that were the case, they could lose incentive to win the division in the last week of the season.

              I think I just gave myself a headache.

  20. Looks like Dejan was on to something predicting more complaints than compliments…

    Letang was tremendous yesterday considering recent time he missed and all i’m seeing and hearing is that we should trade him cuz he pinched on his first shift…please. Gimme a break. Tanger was great yesterday and will have a great 2nd half to season. You watch! He’s figured out that rushing the puck when he generally has good close puck support isnt beneficial. He looked cool and calm on PP too. Sooner than later tanger will end up being the 3rd or 4th guy on the rush after forwards push back d and he’ll be getting chances to score too.

    And the over reaction to one afternoon game is comical. Orpik, nisky, vitale, maatta and Orpik where all extra shaky yesterday. But so what?!?! One game. Going back to thanksgivng, it was proclaimed that we should sit back n enjoy the circus cuz pens are about to go on run with offensive explosion. They did just that with half the WB team.

    Considering the last 6 weeks or so how can people complain? Well i guess i can answer that with bewilderment about Despres and Bortuzzo apparently needing to pick up gordie howe hat tricks to be considered ahead of engo.

    I think Vitale had more to do with that one late goal than adams but considering his age and role, why not rest the one and only adams in favor of Engo every now and then? Then maybe your 1st round draft pick Despres can get in a groove or bortuzzo can continue to improve with experience.

    Looks like Mr. Shero gave up on convincing disco to scratch adams every now and then but if he does the same regarding Engo it will that much harder to rely on Despres and bortuzzo in playoffs.

    • My only complaint is that our star defenseman, Olli Maata, just wasn’t himself, and hasn’t been for two games. (Jeez, what a complaint eh?) Even at that, his line with Niskie was more stabile than any other D-line. So, that nullifies my complaint lol.
      Seriously, he’s been turning the puck over. Is he being targeted more, or is he just not feeling well?

      • Jandstar, i think he’s being pressured and targeted cuz other forwards smell blood. I know i can smell it thru my tv. They know he’s young and has been impressive so they’re testing him by going out of their way to pressure him even if that means being overly aggressive on their forechecks. That should lead to chances for us but there are times our forwards are too far away from Maatta and instead of having a short pass as a option he tries to rush the puck and gets pressured into turnover.

        If i were disco I would go out of my way to instruct forwards to insulate and provide as much close puck support as possible.

      • I think Maatta looks a little tired lately, not his usual focus and attention to detail. He’s just going through the NHL grind, part of his maturation process. Something that Depres and Bortuzzo should be experiencing as well, to make all of them better players in the spring. Not worried about Maatta at all.

        Now Letang, well that’s a different story.

        • Theory: Maatta’s play went downhill at the beginning of the World Junior Championship tournament. Finland won without him, but I’m sure it would have been nice to be there. I do not doubt Maatta’s professionalism and his understanding that he is an NHL player first and foremost. But a gold medal would have been cool!

          I agree with hockey monster in saying that other teams are pressing hard against Maatta nowadays. That’s what you do with good players.

    • Letang was tremendous? What I saw: Letang made a great pass to Neal. That’s it.

      We’ll all see how he performs up to the break. Not making the Canadian team may help him. I won’t be holding my breath, however.

      • So you didnt notice any ridiculous rushes into traffic or forced passes into the middle? Care to re-evaluate?

      • I’d have to agree with mr. monster – I thought Letang looked awesome for a first game back. Made several plays no other D on the team could make, and he showed signs of when he used to be an impact player. I noticed him a lot – in a good way.

        • Thanks Mr. Damon :)

        • Mike Lange said on the radio that Letang has an ability on the ice that NO ONE ELSE in the National Hockey League has. I ALWAYS believe Mike Lange.

          I thought Dejan addressed the ‘D’ beautifully in his column: by quoting Scuderi saying he has played a total of 6 periods this season with his defense partner (Letang).

          Even Maatta was bad yesterday! Give the ‘D’ a chance to jell. Defense pairings have to learn to play together. Then they really will be good.

          Orpik —— Martin
          Letang —— Scuds
          Maatta ——Nishkanon

          No room in the Inn for Despres or Bortozo . . . . but they will be needed!

          Maybe Shero was ‘showcasing’ Deryk Engelland yesterday to Winnipeg, as part of the future BIG trade.

          DK: Well, they DID take Eric Tangradi.

  21. Tim Williams ‏@timwilliamsP249s
    Pirates have agreed with former Reds of Chris Dickerson. Deal not yet official, but he’s at pirate city today.

  22. Whether the weather is cold.

    Whether the weather is hot.

    We’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather.

    Whether we like it or not.

  23. I enjoyed the column. But I also enjoyed the column back in September that said the following;

    “In fact, I hate to say this, but that felt like the overriding theme of the day at Consol Energy Center: None of what we’re seeing now means anything.

    Nor will it when the real puck drops in three weeks against the Devils.

    Nor will it all through the long, cold winter.

    Nor will it even in the first couple rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

    For real, that’s the critical mass this forever star-crossed franchise has found in the aftermath of the four-game, two-goal sweep by the Bruins in last season’s Eastern Conference final, where only two viable outcomes exist:

    1. Cup
    2. Absolute Armageddon”

    http://triblive.com/sports/dejankovacevic/dejancolumns/4689631-74/crosby-final-team#axzz2pcjvwrj5

    When I looked at the roster at the beginning of the season (namely forwards 6-12), I definitely did not expect this and am flabbergasted at the Pens ascension to the top of the East standings (maybe I shouldn’t be). Seriously, they are making it look easy a lot of the time. I’ve been in stop-analyzing-and-sit-back-and-enjoy mode for several weeks now. But I’m not going to begrudge the people who are solely fixated on the playoffs either.

    I think both columns have merit and enjoyed both. I just think its ironic/funny that we knew heading into the season that people would become spoiled and look forward to only the playoffs, but now we’re upset about it when it has manifested itself. Such is the life of hardcore sports fans I guess haha.

  24. Oh and i’m really not enamored with Wheeler as sid’s RW. Sorry Dejan, i know you like him but he’s a finesse perimeter player. Sid needs a winger with his hands but with grinder ability along the boards. Yes he was opportunistic when cashing in after Orpik coughed it up but he also turned it over with Engo simply breathing on him along the boards which led to goal for us. Wheeler would be better fit with geno but Jussi is holding his own with geno n real deal. Kane would be much more ideal for sid but not crazy about what i’ve heard about him and price tag to get him, which would be higher than wheelers.

    Price tag for cammelleri would probably be more in check unless theres a bidding war for him. Beyond that my wish list includes Marcel Goc and boyes from florida. Those 2 combined would give us replacement for super duper while not costing us our depth on defense. Steve Ott would be nice addition to our bottom 6 as well. I have a more extensive wish list that a lot of you have seen but alot of the players are on playoff teams and would take a trade involving roster players.

    • No kane please, we don’t need locker room issues.

      • I dont wanna sacrifice our depth on d just to replace duper.

        • I understand that…so go with Option C :)

        • You could trade away three defense prospects and the Pens would STILL have one of the deepest pools of young defensemen in the league.

          The entire point of Shero stockpiling all these guys was so he could use them as bargaining chips in trades. If he doesn’t trade one of them in exchange for Duper’s replacement, something is seriously wrong. We’re trying to win a Cup here, not ensure that we have enough young D in the system to take the ice in 2017-18.

          • With orpik and nisky UFA’s after season i would tread carefully. Despres, dumoulin, maatta, bortuzzo and harrington IMO must be untouchable. Unless of course someone overpays for them which i dont see happening. My point is that depth players like goc and boyes can be had without top prospects involved. Ott will have a mini bidding war for his services so his price could be high. Same with cammelleri.

            Depth on defense can carry a team and if you give that up you better hope top 6 can compensate. But in the playoffs thats harder to do.

          • I agree with this sentiment. We all think that year in and year out Sid and Malkin will put up the same numbers and that they and everyone else will stay healthy and improve. Our very top players are not getting younger so why not trade?

            It’s unusual for any D-man to walk right in and have the immediate impact that a top 6 forward, in his prime (no Iggys or Morrows), could have on this team. They generally take a few years of seasoning. And we all saw what impact Hossa had on our squad (again, a player in his prime). So why not now?

            Personally, I think we could fill out Sid’s line, get a solid contributor on the third and a better alternative for our fourth in one fell swoop. And the answer would be moving Letang.

  25. Watching last nights game made me ill, but…
    We won. We won dressing 137 AHL call ups. How can you not be impressed with this team.
    Flower is playing awesome. Despres has looked great since he came up. Maatta will be a superstar.

    Tanger will figure it out. He is an amazing talent. Orpik? Meh. He takes himself out of position way too much. He is OK when he plays “stick on puck”, but as soon as he starts playing the body he is Mr. Liability.

    I was big on Bortuzzo at the beginning of the season, but he has been inconsistant when he has played.
    Don’t underestimate the impact of Jacques Martin on HCDBs improved coaching. DB was stubborn as a mule until this season.

    Don’t forget, we have to make room for Martin. The only DMan on a two way right now is Despres, and he needs to stay and play. I would trade Bortuzzo for a bottom 6 guy that can score a handfull of goals. He has snarl, but there are guys in WBS that can fill his roll. Move Engo to F. He has a low cap hit, can play F or D, and is a physical presence.

    Above all else, smile. We have great players. We have a team that wins under the worst of circumstances. And… We get to watch a full season of hockey, with an Olympic bonus!

  26. CHRIS DICKERSON is here!! Can I get an AMEN?

  27. Watching Jet hockey for the better part of 40 years (ever since Bobby Hull crossed over to WHA)….. Jet owners and management are excellent in portraying rock-ribbed executives and stern-faced coaches IN THEORY. But it totally falls apart in practice. We’ve had some real doozies coaching here – Terrible Tom McVie, Tom Watt, John Paddock, John Ferguson, Ricky Bowness and now the guy with no system who looks like he’s chewing on a wasp. Buffalo Butt is a human turnover machine and Andrew Ladd sometimes looks like he’s playing with a pool cue or paint brush on his stick. But the Jets are making money and nobody, including Chipper Chipman (owner) wants to mess with that!

  28. Engellands hit on the Ranger defenseman John Moore when Engelland dumped the puck along the right center boards and the Moore stepped up, was the greatest hit I have scene all year long. The guy looked like a flying squirrel smashed against a windshield. I must have watched it a dozen times. I couldn’t believe the guy could change direction so fast and be sprawled out like that. I mean, Engelland was in a vulnerable position when he released the puck, Moore stepped up and BAM, he was spun around in mid air, face first in the lip of the boards, flying spread eagle. Amazing strength. Maybe thats why DB finds ice time for him.

  29. In case you hadn’t heard, it’s going to be cold.

  30. Back to the Pens. I enjoyed yesterday’s game the way I like brats – occasionally, but wouldn’t want a steady diet of ‘em. If a team like the Jets is going to totally sell out and pressure the puck in our zone, it’s gonna create a back and forth game. The nice thing is that the Pens can win any kind of game the opponents want to play, but in an undisciplined shoot out, the Pens have an even greater advantage. Yes, there were turnovers, but mixing in an unusual game like that will probably help in the long run, if for no other reason than the coaching staff gets to see how different guys react to it.

    I do wish it were the Flyers who were such a hot mess, then DK would have far less distress in his life. And, I just hate the Flyers.

  31. When Martin comes back shortly, the initial D-lines will reform: Martin-Orpik, Letang-Scuds, Niskanen-Matta w/ the likely return of Depres to WB and the forever benching of Bortuzzo. This seems to be the chosen plan for 2014 playoffs with HCDB rotating Engo in wherever he can…..my observation has been that Depres, Doumlin and Bortuzzo were consistently better than some of the options listed. However, the younger guys have flexibility for roster movement in addition to the salary cap. I don’t have a problem with the Pens playing the original lines through January to see how they mesh (give Letang & Scuderi a chance to play together for 15-20 games at least); if they are exploring trades, they should try to keep Deprres, Doumlin & Bortuzzo – move Engo & Orpik, even for lower returns. More importantly, they should put Depres, Matta and Bortuzzo in as many situations as possible to test their ability to succeed under pressure; none of the mistakes they make in Jan/Feb are critical to the ultimate goal, but making them now gives them the opportunity to learn – if they succeed, play em and bench trade the older, slower, soon to be free agents.

    • I think Tanger with Scuds should work out very well. Scuds is a veteran stay-at-home defenseman and can counter Tanger’s offensive boo boos.

    • I believe anyone expecting shero to trade away his depth on d before playoffs is putting cart before the horse. You need 9-11 dmen come playoff time. Maybe even leading up to playoffs as we’ve seen. Dont think he spent last few years accumulating depth on d just to give it up when you’ll need it most. Only logical move would be to move PM and sign nisky to extension but even then you’re 1 or 2 injuries away from needing to rely on a 19 year old rookie and unproven dumoulin. Or hoping Engo isn’t overwhelmed. But as it stands nisky and orpik might not re-sign so trading away their potential replacements would be borderline dumb. That being said i hope we get orpik to sign for 3years/12M. That would give him a raise while still giving shero some room to work with. 4years/12-14M for nisky would be a nice extension for both sides as well but would require some roster movement.

  32. Shero and Bylsma in theory will be judged by the cup playoffs this year. But in reality they won’t. The regular season and sellouts are what determine the success of the franchise. Cup run is gravy and with the early exits in 2010,2011,and 2012 Bylsma cost this oganization millions of cash yet he is extended. Winning during the regular season and fannies in the seats is what the emphasis is. Can the Pens win the cup this year, of course. But tell me how anyone can think MAF is a playoff horse that can lead the carriage. He is Rusty eating to much beef -a-reeno and stinking up the joint.

    • Um the fact that MAF went all the way to the stanley cup finals twice and won a cup? duuuahhhhh oh yeah and he was able to do that when he had an actual defense in front of him, unlike the past couple years you mentioned.

  33. Prior to Cincinnati, the last team to make the playoffs 3 straight years and lose the 1st game was Detroit in 1992-94. My goodness, Marvin Lewis IS Wayne Fontes.

  34. So, anyone notice Eric Tangradi yesterday ? Neither did I.

  35. School is canceled. I had to take a vacation day to stay at home with the kids. Government is closed. Some stores are closed. At least the “Y” and public library are pen., I think.

    What difference does it make once it’s below zero. Scary cold is scary cold.

    An entire generation of wussies, I tell you.

  36. Tim Tebow looks like he’s been on TV his entire life. Does he know how hard that’s supposed to be ?

  37. At least Pitt is on national television, if the game isn’t canceled, that is.

    Only a few games on the national college basketball docket tonight. Should be good exposure for the Panthers.

    Maryland bolts to the Big Ten, or Big, starting next season, if I’m not mistaken.

    • They played Seton Hall during the blizzard a few years back. They had to cancel the telecast because they couldn’t get the TV trucks up cardiac hill, but they still played.

    • Yes, because nothing says “midwest” like Maryland.

      Go BIG or go home?

    • I caught a chunk of your Badgers last night, Osh. Iowa jumped on them early, but true to form, WI weathered the storm and eventually caught fire and took the W. Iowa may be as athletic as I can ever remember for them. As usual, plenty of Jimmy Chitwood clones on Wisky.

      • It was a good game, Jim. I think I heard that Bo Ryan teams have only trailed at half 29 times at the Kohl Center during his tenure at Madison and the Badgers have won 25 of those.

        Iowa looks solid as well.

  38. GMFS will be moving someone from the D before the deadline. I really hope he doesn’t give up Despres. I am always writing on here how little I think of Orpik’s game and he was particularly brutal yesterday but as much as I would like he isn’t going anywhere this year. I will be really bummed if they resign him for anything next year. They have a lot of young depth that I wouldn’t hesitate playing in front of Brooks. Still amazed that he is on the Olympic team.

    As little sense as it seems to make maybe the asset they move is Niskanen. If he only had another year on his contract they could get great value for him, but with UFA next year nobody will pay the value he would warrant from his play, but for the Pens his value will never be higher unless they are going to try to retain him.

  39. Ok, everybody – Fla. State vs. Auburn. Who ya got?

  40. Speaking of prospects…anyone see sweden in WJ tourney? Our 3rd rounder Sundqvist looks like 3rd line center in the making. Kind of looks like a raw Sutter right now. He’s big, skates well, good reach, positioning and composure with puck. Vitale, Sill and even Sutter have more competition on the way.

    I was gonna mention that we should go out of our way to acquire #3 Norell from sweden but just saw he’s already drafted by the Blackhawks. Unreal…they have the Finnish captain and IMO top skater from Sweden who i believe could replace Pouliot on our depth chart. What are our scouts doing on their trips? I think its time they get some monster supervision :)

    DK: I know he’s not close at age 19, but man, could the current NHL lineup use a player in Oscar Sundqvist’s mold.

    Here’s his official page: http://penguins.nhl.com/club/player.htm?id=8476897

    • Get to it, Monster Mash!

    • Indeed Dejan! Not only did he pass the eye test for me but i was pleasantly surprised with his speed and acceleration for a big guy. He has some get up n go to his game and he kept alot of possession alive with his reach. And with him being decent on faceoffs, composed with the puck and gritty we may have something with him.

  41. interesting to hear so much vitriol over Citizen KANE, aka Kaner. He drove Jet fans nutz. Just check him out on Youtube… fighting with the #24 animal. No contest. Now look at the upsides, blinding speed, leads league in shots, chirps to officials constantly. Will drive Jets fans crazier if he’s ever traded. Our coach is sucking the marrow out of our warriors. Sure missed a good one in Randy Carlyle.

    • Hello Cian! Interesting first name there…how is it pronounced? Like Shawn?

      I am one of the Kane doubters, but only because I hear he is a disturbance in the locker room? Do you have any insight into that?

  42. Anyone have the day off from work or will be working from home tomorrow?

  43. Pens fans should not take their team for granted. You have 2 of the best players in the world, and a large division lead. You should appreciate every moment of a season like this. As a Rangers fan, I am already disappointed in my team. I wonder if the Olympics break will kill momentum for good teams like the Pens. You should be playing into late May or June. But with teams like Boston, Tampa, and the Pacific division, it’s a rough road to the cup this year.

  44. I could see Winnipeg moving some of their older players but don’t think Kane falls into that definition. He’s only 22 and will still be in the prime of his career when their younger guys are getting there as well. It seems like he’s older because he’s been in the league so long already but he’s still a really young player. I’d count him as one of the young guys, not one of the veterans. Don’t think it would make any sense to trade him for a younger guy and a pick when you already have a young talented player who they’ve signed long-term in Kane. With Wheeler, they’ve also just signed him long-term and he as a number of good years left. I’m a big supporter of needing the correct timing between players ages and contract/cap issues but I don’t know if by trading Wheeler you’d wind up with something better 3-4 years down the road than if he was still just with the team. That’s sort of the timeframe they should be looking at for when they could field something more competitive. With Wheeler you might. I expect they’ll trade Buff in the off-season, with the cap where it is I don’t think you could move him within the season. Wouldn’t surprise me if they wanted to move Enstrom as well to bring in a younger more defensive-minded player but he as a NMC so I don’t know how easy that would be.

    The biggest problem personnel wise that the Jets have is that Atlanta left them with almost nothing in the development system. Almost all of the actual good prospects have been drafted since moving the team to Winnipeg. The issue with that is there is literally no one to bring into the line-up if they start moving guys from their Top 6 and there won’t be for another couple years. So let’s say they move Wheeler and for some reason Kane (even though he’s only 2 years older than Scheifele so their development cycles aren’t too far off), then who do you put into the lineup? The team is already going to need to fill Jokinen and Setoguchi’s spots most likely as they will try to trade both of them by the deadline if possible. They’re currently short a top 9 wing (Halischuk’s really more of a 4th liner so even when he comes back from injury and bumps Thorburn it’s still not really the right fit) so that would leave them to make a full 3rd line, plus put 2 wings into their top 6 next season. At best they can maybe find a guy in their system to play in a 3rd line wing position next year, that’s about it. They’d need to bring in a ton for everyone they move out to even be able to put a team on the ice next year.

    The thing is, if your team is bad enough and has little veteran presence, your young guys aren’t going to develop. You can’t get much better if you just keep getting stomped every night so they can’t move everyone out at once and replace them with prospects who also won’t develop very well. What’s sort of nice about the team is that all their main players have fair bit of term on their contracts so they could move them out and actually get something good in return, and they don’t need to do it all at once. Over the next 2-4 years they could cycle out some of the older guys without ever running into the issue where you’re moving a rental player so you can’t get much in return. And as the guys they’ve drafted recently get far enough along in development, they can do that and have someone ready to move into those roles with less of a hit than it would currently be. One of the problems with Calgary is that they should have traded Iginla a year or two sooner when he was actually worth something. That and when they moved Phaneuf it was basically just a straight-up salary dump and they didn’t get any valuable long-term assets in return. The Jets aren’t going to run into that for another season even with Buff’s contract. I agree that the team has a ton of work to do but they are in a much better situation than needing to completely tear it all down at once and leave their roster completely empty. Guess the positive about them doing that for next season is they could give themselves a really good chance of drafting McDavid.

  45. Wasn’t gonna bother but i got some down time so here’s my updated team canada roster:

    kuni-sid-stamkos
    perry-getzlaf-real deal
    duchene-toews-sharp
    couture-thornton-marleau
    extras: Eric Staal and tavares(originally had tavares on 3rd line RW but sharp has kicked the door down)

    Keith-Doughty
    Bouwmeester-Weber
    Vlasic-Pietrangelo
    Subban-Seabrook

    Crawford
    MAF
    Smith

    Needless to say i hope Yzerman takes a much different team ;)

    Gold medal or bust…no pressure :)

    • I’d LOVE to have Patrick Sharp as a Penguin. I can see why you put him in there, instead of Tavares.

      Can we substitute someone for Subban? ;X

    • Why did you put Subban outside the top 6? Just curious.

      Are you taking into account Luongo’s injury, thus his omission?

      • I’d take Bernier before Luongo, but that’s just me.

      • Other players are more steady, less turnover prone and been in the league longer. And i think subban is a punk…still havent forgiven him for slicing staals leg.

        • Subban *IS* a punk, he’d try to hurt is own mother if it would help him win.

        • @joni

          I had luongo outside the top 3 early on too…

          • I think Luongo’s a moot point now on the Olympic roster (which is good for USA). Luongo has a lot of experience and one heck of a pedigree when it comes to international play:
            1 Olympic gold
            2 world championships gold
            2 silver medals (one junior world championship and one world championship)

            Mike Babcock worked with Luongo for several of the medals listed above. That’s why I would have placed him in the top 3. Maybe not the starter, but at least in the top 3.

        • Subban is a complete and total *bleep*, but he is very talented (it pains me to say). Subban is a Norris Trophy winner (boo…), which counts for our Canadian brothers and sisters. Does it count enough for him to start? We shall see.

          Here is a commentary from The Score’s Backhand Shelf blog. It’s on the average Canadian Joe/Josette’s angst when it comes to tomorrow’s team selection.
          http://blogs.thescore.com/nhl/2014/01/06/your-zen-guide-to-olympic-squad-selection/
          My favorite line is if Subban is not included on the Canadian roster the author will stand in Maple Leaf Square and sing the Russian national anthem. Now that’s passion. Moral of the story, steer clear of Canadians tomorrow :)

    • Monster – wish list or prediction??

  46. Dejan,

    Thanks for including today what you wrote for the Winnipeg folks.

    I found that quite informative and entertaining. Obviously, others did as well.

    Obviously.

    DK: Thanks. Really hoped not to put anyone off with it. Still did everything I’d normally do. Just added this at end.

  47. JK-tons of comments or you and here is what Pens fans trying to be GM don’t realize. They only have $970K (as of today) in Cap space. So in order to get a Kane, Wheeler, whomever they are going to have to trade roster players. Well let’s look at some of the guys everyone wants to get rid of (no particular order):

    Orpik $3.75M, well he is a UFA at the end of the year. What team that is out of the playoffs will want him? He would need to be involved with a 3rd team trade who is in the playoff hunt.

    Nisk- $2.3M. See Orpik.

    Eng’s $567K. Sort of see Nisk and see Orpik. He won’t have much trade value and would be more of a 6th or 7th rounder where a team really likes him and wants to sign him to a 2-3 yr extension much like Lovejoy did.

    Jokinen-$2.1M. Why would they trade him and same boat as Nisk and Orpik

    Pyatt/Glass/Kobasew/Vitale/Conner-no trade value who are UFA’s at the end of the year.

    Only roster trade chips are the following:

    Letang-$3.5M this year and $7.25M next year. The cap ceiling raises next year, so they could afford him. Shero has never shown trading roster players for other guys. So it would be a big surprise if he did. I think with the depth of players like Maata, Despres, Bort’s, along with Martin, Scuderi with possibly Dum’s, Sam’s or Harrington he could and maybe should be explored to be traded to bring back a forward.

    Martin-$5M with the young D guys coming he could go, but at the same time he has been their best D guy this year and last year.

    Scuderi-$3.8M hasn’t looked great this year and not good at all since coming back. Shero (along with us) probably looked at how Nisk/Eng’s played last year and needed a better player. The younger guys surprised everyone.

    Sutter-$2.1M. If we do that, who is our 3rd centermen? No one from current roster probably. Another trade would be needed. Vitale could possibly fill it. Jok’s should be on the 2nd line.

    He won’t trade Crosby, Gino, Neal, Kunitz or Dupuis.

    DK: Vokoun and Dupuis being on LTIR frees up roughly $4 million in cap space.

    • Regarding cap space DK mentions we can actually bring in players making more than 4M cuz half the year has past. We can spend the 4-5M in cap space on players with 4-5M REMAINING on their contracts.

      DK: That’s correct. Cap really isn’t an issue right now.

  48. Wheeler would be a fantastic pickup from the Jets. But what about a guy like Frolik? Having a great year points wise, solid on the PK, and cheap! #Obviously Wheeler or Kane would probably have more of an flashy impact but need to remember Dupuis was the ultimate utility player. Top line through 4th line, Power Play, PK he can do it all. Need someone who can help absorb some of those mins though I believe the Pens probably have enough PK depth.

  49. I see some new names here.
    If you’d like, please post your hometown, and Bizrow will add it to the list of Dejan’s Lunatics’ Asylum.
    C’mon, don’t be shy, we don’t bite :)

  50. 63F (58F in the shade). Viva Las Vegas!
    (Since this is a sports blog, I thought I’d be a bad sport. :-) )

  51. With some of the talented players the Jets have, I bet they’d make a serious playoff push if they had Michel Therrien coaching that group.

    I find it difficult to dislike any of the Pens players, as some fans do. However, I appreciate Engelland more in that fourth-line winger role than playing bigger minutes on D. Of course, that’s a byproduct of Martin’s injury, but I like Engo at forward and feel he is effective enough to replace Adams (for whom I have substantial respect). We’re all impressed by Maatta, but his game has slipped in the last few weeks and another night or two watching the big picture wouldn’t hinder him at all. He’s just 19, he’ll be here for a long time and if that’s what it takes to get Despres & Bortuzzo back in the lineup, then so be it. Despres & Bortuzzo play with an energy level that no one else on the defensive roster matches. They have displayed urgency and a zeal for physical play of which the Pens blue line is in dire need. Frankly, I like to have a mix of cerebral, poised players like Martin & Maatta and bulls in the china shop like Despres and Bortuzzo. Watching Bortuzzo in that recent Toronto game may have been the most fun I’ve had watching a game all season.
    Cheers.

  52. We made finalized plans for our trip to Florida in March.

    I feel warmer already.

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