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Morning Java: One fabulous Finn

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

Morning, Lunatics …

>> The Thursday column is about Curtis Bray. He’s a name all of Western Pennsylvania should have gotten to know, but his career was cut short and, yesterday, tragically, his life.

The news obituary is by Jerry DiPaola.

And here is the news coverage of the Ames Tribune, hometown newspaper of Iowa State.

My deepest condolences to the Bray family as well as his extended family and friends at Gateway High School, Pitt and beyond.

>> Olli Maatta is fantastic.

Hate to be a broken record on this, a broken record on this, a broken record on this, but this extraordinary 19-year-old’s confidence is almost an exact match for his skill level. We saw it again last night with two spectacular dekes that savaged diving Washington defenders, one of which netted the late winning goal.

The game story covers that, by Josh Yohe.

I tweeted right after the first of those two moves that it reminded me of Nicklas Lidstrom, the Red Wings’ all-time great, but I wanted to check with Maatta himself …

Random blogginess from the scene: I ran the move past Sidney Crosby, too, and this was his assessment: “The thing is, when he does it, he can swing really wide with that long stick. It really changes the lane.” … Crosby had one assist and four shots — both terribly ordinary numbers for him — but his overall game was just wonderful. Made plays all over the ice, most of which didn’t bear fruit through no fault of his own. … How about Alexander Ovechkin slashing Evgeni Malkin near the hands in the third period? I mean, seriously, these two talk openly about looking forward to being teammates in three weeks with the Olympics being on their home soil, and nothing stops them from going at each other. And be very sure Malkin would do likewise. … Strong overall showing from Taylor Pyatt, and not just in his critical role on both Maatta plays with a goal and a screen, respectively. He was tough all over. I’m told the coaching staff also liked his work in Calgary the previous game. … Simon Despres wants to play. Badly. … Kris Letang is … ah, I don’t even know how to finish that sentence anymore. You saw it. … It took a while, but Brandon Sutter gradually got more comfortable with Crosby and Chris Kunitz. His style really doesn’t match up. When he’s on the right side, he’s all up and down like a winger from the 1970s. That’s not a knack. It’s just his style. Crosby and Kunitz like to criss-cross all over the rink. We’ll see. … The Capitals look really stupid having about a third of their team wearing numbers in the 80s and 90s. Seriously, Jay Beagle at No. 83? … Loudest standing O of the year went to … Dan Bylsma? You bet. Place was rocking as he was recognized for being the Penguins’ all-time winningest coach. Best of all was the cutaway to Eddie Johnston up in the box, giving the thumbs up and getting a roar of his own. … Your hockey team is 20-3 on home ice. Grasp that.

Malkin, Ovechkin, Sochi and more, by Rob Rossi.

Here’s our full Penguins coverage.

Here’s Capitals news from the Washington Post.

Here are official game highlights from

>> Eyebrow-raising remarks about Spygate from Bill Cowher, by Alan Robinson.

Art Rooney II just keeps talking and talking. Robinson keeps listening and, in this case, underscoring the strongest remarks to date about Troy Polamalu’s immediate future.

>> Duquesne takes on another tough foe, takes down another loss to St. Joe’s, by Aaron Bracy in Philadelphia.

>> Pitt’s shown some character in Durand Johnson’s absence, by Kevin Gorman.

>> Christian Hackenberg reaffirms his commitment to Penn State, by Chris Adamski.

>> I’ll be hanging around Pitt hoops today, but only after the usual 11:30 a.m. check-in with TribLIVE Radio.

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.


  1. Was at the game as well tonight, Dejan. My goodness, was Maatta impressive.

    Letang’s situation has actually become awkward with fans. When he was announced among the starters obviously it was nothing but cheers, but you could definitely hear a “we love ya but your all-around game is regressing, the bad is outweighing the good more and more, and we know we could still get solid value for you so we wouldn’t be that sad if you left” vibe.

    Every time the Pens 3rd/4th lines were on the ice, it was a minute+ of sustained pressure in Pens’ zone. Honestly though it’s tough to be critical when none of these guys, including Adams at this point, have business being at the pro level sans maybe Sills.

    I thought it was an underrated performance by Fleury tonight. Won’t look incredible on the stat sheet but left out to dry on a goal or two and really seemed to calm the nerves a few times when needed.

    DK: Loved the all-time most complex ever vibe there, Eddie. We are a complex peoples and should have vibes to match.

  2. After listening to Olli Maatta speak to Pierre McGuire in his post-game interview, my immediate thought is that this 19 year-old Finn speaks better English than most Americans.

  3. Bill Cowher’s positive comments about Bill Belichick and Spygate doesn’t change my opinion one iota.
    I believe Belichick did (And still does) take cheating to a whole other level.
    Stealing signals would be a minor part of his chicanery.

    Cowher is not about to get himself in a hornets nest with the cush job he has at CBS.
    One of these days (and that day might not be too far away) Bill Belichick is going to find himself in a full-blown cheating scandal….Lance Armstrong style.

    • Whether it was Brady and Branch oh so easily picking up a blitz with Branch zipping into the end zone untouched, or that pick-six by McGuinnes(?) which was the coup d’grace of that game, the Patriots knew just what to do at just the choicest moments of the game. Cowher, now long removed from the inside and now part of the machinery that is the multi-billion dollar nexus between the NFL / CBS, can say whatever. He can even say he tried stealing signals too. If so, he was a barefoot street urchin pick-pocket to Bill Belichick’s Bernie Madoff-like enterprise of crime.

      • Nice analogy.

        Sure, everyone tries to steal signals. Understood, got it.

        There’s a big difference between trying to steal signs in game visually or audibly and videotaping and cataloging opposing signs for years. Yes, they were cataloging them, otherwise why keep the tapes. That’s why it was cheating and drew the largest possible fine for a coach and a first round pick. That’s a hefty fine so obviously the NFL didn’t think it was nothing and doesn’t think everyone should do it.

        I remember watching the 04 AFC Champ game saying in the second half “it’s like they know where the blitz is coming from every time”. Because they did. At the time I gave them credit as a coaching staff for better halftime adjustments. Well that was aided by the videotape.

        Here’s a real life analogy that I think fits. If you are sitting at a booth and overhear the conversation at the booth next to you, that’s eavesdropping. If you record that conversation without their consent, that’s illegal.

        Was the taping the sole or primary reason they were good, no.

        Was it enough to make a difference in the second half of games and the second time the Patriots played a team? Enough to make a difference in 3 Super Bowl wins all decided by 3 points? Absolutely.

        • I’ve been screaming this for years. Everyone keeps saying that the cheating wasn’t the reason the Patriots won all those Super Bowls. Oh really? How can anyone make a statement that definitive when all of their Super Bowl wins were only by a few points?

          A single play could have changed the outcome of any one of those games. They were a Field Goal Dynasty that hasn’t won a championship since they got caught. History should be judging them much more harshly.

      • Very odd statements from Cowher. I know he and Belichick are friends. Anyone that watched the interview that was shown in the pre-game last week can see that. But, for him to brush aside New England’s tactics as though they were basically no different than what anyone else was doing seems odd to me. I mean, Goodell destroyed whatever evidence he had collected on the Patriots without allowing anyone to see it. Why would he do that if it was no big deal?

        That said, I don’t know that the Steelers lost to the Pats in that 41-27 game because of it. Sometimes, the other team is just better.

    • Daq, nice comments.

      The thing that I always get a chuckle over is…………. “Steeler fans should just get over all this. It happened in the past, let it go”.
      This mentality is a bit baffling. The Pats videotaped signs for years. They got caught, and GODell destroyed all the evidence. Why? And, GODell could have taken the Patriots #10 pick acquired in a trade, but he took their #29 pick instead. Why? The Steelers lost 2 AFC championship games in part due toi the cheating.

      Kraft and GODell are buddies. Had to protect the Patriot’s “shield”.
      Whole thing makes me ill……….

      • the last championship game was played nearly a decade ago. even if it was last week, nothing, nothing is going to change the outcome. the score as jim s noted was 41-27. and it really wasn’t anywhere near as close as that score might suggest. and the outstanding thing i remember about the 2002 game was the way the steelers shot themselves in the foot. the steelers were simply out-coached and outplayed.

    • The Steelers players who performed under Coach Bill Cowher at that time aren’t about to forget about what happened any more than most fans are, although the NFL and Coach Cow her wishes that we all would.

      • I wouldn’t be surprised if some cheating in football games still goes on, although it’s not blatant like it was back then.

        • Though most would not believe it, my allegations regarding Belichick don’t have that much to do with the Steeler history versus the Pats.
          I just don’t like cheaters….Period.

          As for cheating now…..We’re deep into the digital age.
          There are 13 year old kids that can hack into corporate sites.
          There are SO many ultra-modern ways that a convicted cheater can help his chances in a football game now it’s mind boggling.

    • Yeah I don’t doubt that other teams were doing something similar, but if it is really wasn’t a big deal according to so many Pats fans, the NFL wouldn’t have dropped the hammer on the them the way it did.

  4. Thank you for your article on Curtis Bray, DK.

    Didn’t know him, but remember watching his entire career in Western PA.

    RIP, Curtis.

  5. JAL’s Sail on Sailor Morning Links


    1- MLB Transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

    3 MLB Important Dates

    4 Pirates Prospects Spring Training Tracker

    BLOGS and such

    5—Pirates Prospects

    First Pitch: My Philosophy on Payroll

    Jameson Taillon Ranks Fifth Among Right-Handed Pitching Prospects

    Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Top Prospects: #13 – Stolmy Pimentel

    Winter Leagues: Polanco Returns In Escogido’s Clincher

    6 Rumbunter

    Pittsburgh Pirates 2014: A Tale of Two Projection Systems

    Pittsburgh Pirates Morning Dew: It’s Time

    Winning Cured All in Pittsburgh, But What’s Next?

    7 Bucs Dugout

    Pirates’ All-Time Single Season Team

    8 Green Weenie

    1/15: Mike Mansell, Jock Menefee, Jeff Banister, Chuck Hartenstein

    9 Saber Bucs

    The Evolution of Edinson Volquez

    10 WHY GAVS

    It’s arbitration season

    11 City of Champions

    Pittsburgh Pirates: Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker Among Six Bucs To File For Arbitartion

  6. NEWSPAPERS and MAGAZINES and Other Media

    12 KDKA

    Pirates GM Neal Huntington Talks AJ Burnett’s Future And Other Offseason Moves

    13 MLB

    Pirates can’t overlook hole at first base

    14 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

    Brewers sign LHP Zach Duke to minor-league deal

    15 Kings of Kaufman

    James McDonald Might Make Sense for the Royals

    16 Yahoo Sports

    How Bad Will the 2014 Philadelphia Phillies Outfield Be?–mlb.html

    17 New York Times

    Arbitrator’s Ruling on Rodriguez Gives Baseball a Disciplinary ‘Hammer’

    18 Baseball Nation

    Editorial: R.B.I. Baseball is coming back, but it will always be the runner-up

    19 Fangraphs

    The Absurd Price that Clayton Kershaw is Actually Worth

    20 Sweetspot

    Kershaw baseball’s first $30 million man

  7. Steelers Blogs

    21 Behind the Steel Curtain

    Steelers 2014 roster projections: Offensive tackles

    Mel Kiper mock draft: ESPN Draft Analyst sends Louis Nix III to Pittsburgh at No. 15

    22 Steelers Depot

    Art Rooney II Wants Polamalu to Retire a Steeler, Wants Team to Resign Worilds


    23 Bloomberg Stats Insight

    Is it easier to score as a sub?

    24 The Telegraph

    Southampton chairman Nicola Cortese exit paves way for £20m Luke Shaw transfer as suitors circle St Mary’s


    25 Bleacher Report

    How Badly Do the Pittsburgh Penguins Need to Add Depth at Forward?

  8. Anyhow, it was good to see the Pens win 13 straight at home and for Olii Maata to score the winning goal. And now, they won’t be playing again until Monday. And their schedule will be relatively soft for the next 10 games.

  9. You have to hand it to Duquense last night for attempting that comeback after being down 37 points at one point, although St. Joseph of PA finally won 84-75.

  10. Thanks for the article, Dejan on Curtis Bray and your message to “hug the ones you love”. Five years next Wednesday that my wife and I lost our son. I’d give anything to hug Mike today. Indeed, each day is a blessing.

  11. Jandy and Brandie – Thanks. :) And, indeed, hugs right back to you!

  12. In fact, Duquense managed a 30-2 run late before the Dukes finally lost.

  13. i watched a few minutes of the ducks game last night and if you think the pens play well at home, try and find a replay of the 9-1 beat down they handed the canucks last night, if we make it to the finals against them i hope we have home ice

    • I caught the tail end of their highlights with Kathryn T. this morning on NHL Network. They had a 2-man advantage for 7 minutes? What did they do to earn that, A1C? Was it warranted? I hope so, because that sort of advantage pretty much assures victory for a team.

      I saw that Torts didn’t want to discuss much about it after the game. Why does that guy keep getting HC jobs? Seems like Vancouver was better before he showed up.

      • Any team is better before he shows up lol.
        That man is misery.

      • I didnt see enough of the game but i had set up my dvr to watch the game after work today. i didnt know about a 2 man for 7 minutes… the only thing i can think of would be a couple of fives and a 2, way more likely than however many twos you would need. i have to say i miss Torts, he had some of the most epic interviews in the NHL, like a clown car getting into an accident, it is so sad but there are so many times you cant help but laugh, i say keep giving him the jobs, he can never find a way to beat pittsburgh and his interviews are awesome

      • Vancouver and New York switched coaches this past offseason.
        I would say both clubs are worse off.

        I do miss Mr. Soundbite in the Eastern Conference………

  14. Very nice column, DK. That was a touching tribute to your friend. I’m praying for his family. I hope they will be ok without him in the very tough times ahead for them.


    Can Andrew Lambo be the Ollie Maatta at 1st Base for the Pirates . . . . . .

    . . . . or will he be Jeff Clement and/or Andy LaRoche?

  16. I, like a lot of people, struggle watching Letang. I’m not denying his obvious physical skills. But, his decisions? That first goal is the kind of thing in the playoffs, against someone like Boston, where you never recover. You give up a cheap goal to them, then they lock down with the defense, and you better get the 2nd goal or the game is pretty much over. And, it isn’t as easy to get the 2nd goal vs. Boston as it is vs. Washington.

    He came back and got a goal later, but I think that was actually a pass on his part that got deflected by the Caps past their goalie. I’ll give Tanger credit on that, though. It actually looked like a good pass to me, and the Caps did a nice job to get a stick on it.

    I don’t know why Letang was extended by Shero. I can only assume Shero did not realize his young up and coming defenders would be anywhere near this good, this fast. Tanger has a lot of value. We need offensive help for Sid and depth in lower lines.

    • I really wanted to smack him upside the head last night…

    • Jim, I dont get the negative vibes being tossed Letang’s way. I know he made that pass but there’s a chance that was a simple miss-communication cuz it seemed like sid wasn’t even expecting that pass. And lets say it was ill advised…he still went on to play a great game. He broke up plays by the net, behind the net and he made plenty of great plays to get the puck up ice. And he joined that rush on his goal after sid and co pushed back the d to get the goal. Just cuz he has a new phat contract doesn’t mean we should let the perfect be the enemy of the very very good.

      How bout nisky? Dude is on fire. Before i was hoping to re-sign him at 3-3.5M per year, now i’m thinking he’s pushing 4M per. Hope shero knows what he has to do…

      • Niskie looked good last night…he’s very under the radar.

      • Maybe I’m expecting too much from Letang, but, I don’t think so. He CAN and SHOULD be better than he is.
        But still, he did make up for the gaffe with a goal. That helps.

        • I’ll just say that if people were sticklers for perfection you could point to turnovers that Maatta was pressured into early in the game(actually a consistent pattern in recent weeks). But he kept playing hard and making the right plays and it led to him being huge on 2 goals for and solid plays up ice. Kinda like tanger did.

          Before i recall certain people and writers, who will remain nameless(DK), who defended PM before he fine tuned his game even when he was literally responsible for 2 out of 3 GA, or 3 out 4. Not exaggerating. But now tanger makes a pass that sid doesn’t expect and all of a sudden we need to trade him for 3rd and 4th liners?!?!? Please…gimme a break.

          • I HAVE pointed to turnovers Maatta was making lol.
            But Maatta is 19, Tanger is 26 with a lot more experience.
            Maybe that’s why I expect more.

            • I hear ya…but letangs playing more minutes against better players. I think there was a smarty pants who once said “everything is relative” :)

              • yeah and I bet I know who that “smarty pants” is :P

                But while I really, really like Letang, he keeps disappointing me.

          • If you think this is about being a stickler for perfection you’re missing the point. Letang has been terrible all season when he’s been healthy. He was terrible in the playoffs last year. He makes terrible decisions with the puck that lead to easy goals the other way. The team was playing much better defensively without him. As soon as he came back, the team’s average goals against shot through the roof.

            And he’s signed to a contract that could cripple this franchise over the next several years because he’s not playing anywhere near a $7-million/year player.

            THAT’S why people are hating on Letang. Not because he made one bad pass last night. Geez.

            • Well he’s actually been really good past 10 or so games he played in. I agree he was out of sorts early on cuz he had to adjust to forwards being closer in support which means he cant be rushing the puck as much. Now that he’s figured out that he has to move puck up to forwards and THEN join the rush(just like last night on his goal) he’s been exponentially better. Just happened to be that when he came back the forwards had even deeper rash of injuries which has tilted the ice towards our d. Even in the face of more pressure on defense, fleury and squad in front of him are holding their own against teams that are throwing the kitchen sinks at them.

            • And letang was pretty good in ottawa series after the whole team struggled against NYI and then were suffocated by the B’s. No team has ever been swept cuz of one player, especially when the structure with and without the puck has been abysmal against the top teams in playoffs. This season has been different and letangs play has evolved out of necessity and understanding system and structure better.

              I’ve said it before and will say it again…sit back and enjoy the show cuz this season is different!(well it will be different when the nhlers get back) :)

            • I totally agree with Scott’s assessment.

              The issue is NOT that Letang makes mistakes and that our other D-men do not. The issue is that Letang makes the SAME mistakes over and over again. It’s painful to watch, REALLY.

              As a basis of comparison, Maatta was not reactive enough on the tic-tac-toe pass leading to the goal by Chimera. But I’d venture to say it will be 75 games or more before you might see that again from him. He LEARNS from his mistakes and so everyone (including fans) has a supreme level of comfort and confidence in him.

              Confidence in Letang? Not by me, because he’s NOT LEARINING from his mistakes and getting better as a result. Whether that’s attributable to arrogance or cockiness or an unwillingness to accept and handle criticism (an eggshell skull?), it really doesn’t matter except that our coaching does not seem to be getting through to him.

              Speaking of coaching decisions, there is no way Letang warrants the power play unit. I’d have Maatta and Nisky 1-2 right now.

              • So you dont believe his play has been better in recent weeks compared to earlier this season? He made one bad play last night! And i think it might have been sid’s fault for not expecting the pass. Looked more like a miss-communication to me….

              • I don’t know what DJ thinks, but yes, his play has been better. Which ism probably another reason I get so disappointed when he messes up. That makes sense :)

              • What are we talking about here, HM? That Letang’s play has gone from absolutely horrible to just well below par? For a $7+ mill per year player?!!!

                My opinion: He needs to be traded and the sooner the better for the overall good of this team.

              • DJ, he needed time to get back after injury and time to adjust to new breakouts. He’s clearly been better in recent weeks while having a cap hit of 3.5M THIS season. 7.25M cap hit starts next season but most importantly its obvious he’s grasping new system better. Team is winning at a time when defense and fleury have ice tilted their way due to injuries up front. I promise you that by the time olympics start people will be saying that Letang’s recent play makes him deserving of a spot, even if he wont go.

            • Letang was NOT terrible in the Playoffs last season.

              He was excellent in the Ottawa series, and the whole defense was terrific in the Boston series. Offensive stars like Sid and Geno and Neal and Kunitz and Dupuis and Jussi lost the Boston series. Every defensive player, especially Letang, Martin, and Orpik were excellent against Boston.

              Your incorrect and overstatements about Letang’s play in the Playoffs seem to indicate your own prejudice.

              • Wow Groat! Thanks for the backup…way to swing for fences on that one :)

              • Monster Mash,

                I got your back!

                Letang has been hurt a majority of the year, and until last week had played exactly 2 PERIODS all season with his defense partner Rob Scuderi.

                Penguins are 33-12-2 and so-called fans still need to find something to complain about!!!!!
                Next we will hear again about Dan Bylsma’s shortcomings.


        • Jandy, the worst thing about LeTang’s gaffes is the fact that it leaves Shero few options. By playing poorly, LeTang’s trade value plummets. How many teams want to take on his contract AND his poor play??
          By keeping him, Shero and Bylsma have to live with his sloppiness and goofy decision making. Unless he cleans up his game, LeTang will be an albatross to the Pens.

          Maybe he can go work for Pepperidge Farm? ;)

          • hey Shero can always use the buy out clause on letang…the potential is still there for letang, look at martin after his signing i hated him thought he was worthless then things clicked and now hes our best guy, we always look at players with potential to be great and players who are already great. Letang frustrates the hell out of me but i trust he will get it together because i have seen what he can do when on his game and i trust that if shero knows what he is doing i mean he was esentially able to steal names like iginla, neal, and hossa while retaining the “throw-ins” nisk and duper. before we get all up in arms over his bad plays lets look at his body of work and relax it will play out… or shero will trade him for the next chris kunitz.

          • I didn’t realize that hippo’s were related to trolls :)

            • careful, Monster Mash….that “T” word is a dirty word around here…

              • At the risk of sounding clueless – what are people referring to when they call someone a troll?

              • Damon, I think Monster Mash wasn’t referring to trolls as we see trolls here on the blog…which is why I told him to be careful :)

                A troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a forum, chat room, or blog), either accidentally or with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response[5] or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

              • I see – thanks for the help! Now I am less clueless!

              • Don’t be silly, Damon, you’re cool ;)

            • Excuse me???

              • did you fart?

              • No, but I believe I was called a troll for posting my opinion on LeTang?

              • You’ll have to ask Monster about that…


              • You used the word albatross and referenced pepperidge farms…shirley i’m allowed to make hippo/troll joke :)

              • Obviously you are the only one who sees any connection on that “joke”.

                My advice to you is to watch how you use the word troll….. as a “joke”.

              • Really? Didn’t think much of it. Been called a troll in past just for posting my thoughts. I’m not really a blogger…just started to do so couple seasons ago here after pens were making my head explode. I’ve never blogged anywhere else so guess not up on the etiquette and thought i could poke fun at my favorite hippo. :)

              • You have an odd sense of humor………..

                I will let it go this time…….. I don’t know about any ettiquette here, but I do know that it should be obvious that what I posted was in no way near trollish.

                Now that I have read what you were thinking it’s all good. Wouldn’t want to do to you what I used to do to Ghost……… (blow him up near my Pond)……. :)

              • Thanks Hippo, very kind of you :)

                For future reference, whenever you see a smiley face next to my comments that means i’m not totally being serious.

              • OK boys, good stuff :)

              • That’s a smiley face?
                I thought it was a yellow Oreo………

              • How hungry of a hippo are you? :)

              • Not very.

                My meds make sure of that……

              • Ha!

      • I guess I am looking at it more as dealing from your strength, Monster.

        I do not like Letang getting a ton of minutes in the playoffs, where goals are generally more scarce. A huge mistake like that one last night might not be able to be atoned for so easily in May. But, he’s an elite talent as an offensive defenseman that I think many other teams would die to have. And, I believe we have the depth to get by without him and his contract – especially if he can bring a nice return, which I believe most people here think he can. In short, we have depth at defense, and we need some help to fill out our lines. Why not utilize that depth to improve this team for the playoff run?

        • I agree, just don’t believe tanger is who we should move. Especially with his play on the uptick…Plenty of ways to upgrade roster without trading an improving 26 year old.

          • Ok. I hope they decide on one of those ways for this spring.

          • Seems like DK had this right above, with “Kris Letang is … ah, I don’t even know how to finish that sentence anymore. You saw it.” I saw it.

            HM, when you say “Plenty of ways to upgrade roster without trading an improving 26 year old” you seem to be focusing only on from 12 or so games ago. Is that 26 year old really “improving” over his career? 26 is no kid in hockey.

            • Oh yes, he’s definitely improved in recent years. And he was hurt to start the year then recently again. We cant give him 4-5 games to get back into the swing of things? And before elbow infection he was playing really well. I dunno maybe i watched a different game last night than DK and others but after the 1st GA i saw letang play very very well in all sorts of situations.

              And for all those convinced that trading letang would improve the team d…ill just say this:

              Be careful what you wish for! Playing against top 6 forwards consistently in today’s NHL is not easy. These guys are well-oiled beastly machines and if you have dmen like orpik and letang who have proven they can handle the job you have to be damn sure that the youngsters can play 22-25 minutes against the big boys instead of 15-18 minutes against the role players. 10-15 games before PM got hurt were his finest as well. Although i’m extremely high on the youngsters potential I’m just not prepared to hand the keys to cup runs to the despres’, dumoulin’s and harrington’s just yet.

              And please dont tell me that success in the regular season means they can handle the job in post season.

              • Just trying to get real here. Your responses seem emotional. You obviously know way more about hockey than me. But I think everyone agrees that Letang, other than the one bonehead play (that you singularly blame on Crosby) played well. I always got the impression the issue with him is his inconsistency in “playing well.” And there’s also no controversy that before last night he’d been playing well in the the last dozen games or so. At least that seems to be the issue with him, not that he can’t play great at times, but that he’s inconsistent (more than the normal player). That’s why they paid him, but it was an issue between that and the cap hit even last year. Do you think those questions have all gone away because of the last dozen games? Seems rational to me for last night to have raised them again, after he had time to recover same. You may be right, but it’s the same kind of stuff we’ve seen.

                Do you not see it as a potential problem?

              • Well just to clarify, I just proposed the possibility that crosby wasn’t expecting the pass and that it was a miss-communication. For all i know crosby thought tanger was gonna rush the puck up ice on that PP then pass it.

                And in the past i really believe his inconsistency along with PM’s, orpiks, nisky’s and others were due to poor defensive structure in neutral zone which led to chaotic dzone coverage. Especially in playoffs where forward depth is more prevalent. If you recall i’ve been venting about this going back to season leading up to philly series. PM has since fixed some of the issues he had defending front of net and along the boards, which also was a major gripe of mine. This season, tanger’s issue was just being hurt and needing some time to get acclimated after missing time and learning details of new system.

                About emotional responses, I do get adamant when i know something to be fact. Just like in seasons past when i saw gaping flaws in disco’s system and decided to vent my frustrations publicly in hopes of word getting to pertinent individuals. In this case I’m simply adamant about 19-22 year old dmen not being capable of winning 16 games in post season. I’m not even prepared to trade PM this year unless we get a dman and top 6 forward back.

          • Thanks for the response, HM.

    • For the most part I am usually a Letang defender, but what is worrying me is that he makes the same kind of mistakes over and over and over and over. People keep saying he just needs to learn and eliminate that from his game and he’ll be a Norris winner. It doesn’t seem like it is something he can learn though – I think he is just prone to make bone-headed plays every once in awhile (brain cramp). High-risk, high-reward is what I hear a lot. Given all that, is that OK? Like you mention Jim, can a gaffe like that kill a playoff game in the first period? What does it do to the psyche of the team against a tough opponent? Do you want steady or flashy? Can safe and steady win a cup, or do they need that extra X-factor to get past a Boston, Anaheim, St. Louis, LA or Chicago?

      Given all that, I don’t think Shero trades away top-level talent even if it brings back a lot in return. I don’t think he would have pulled the trigger on trading John Cullen, Zarley Zalapski, Mark Recchi, etc. even if it meant getting a Ron Francis or Rick Tocchet in return. He only traded Staal because he was cornered and had to. I don’t think he thought much of Ryan Whitney.

      Hopefully I am wrong and he can learn to adapt because I am pretty sure he isn’t going anywhere.

  17. Went to game last night. Hockey by far is my weakest sport, both playing dek and understanding the finer points. But Maatta looks pretty good to me. I was close to the net the Captials shot twice at, and he had decent poke check or two out in front of Fleury. Cleared the puck a couple times when things where getting scary.

    Again I dont know much about hockey, and Im sure there is some reason (injuries) Engelland is playing some wing, but there were a couple times last night Malkin wanted to get him the puck breaking into the Capitals zone and he just looked out of position.

    • Engo is a fill in at wing. Don’t expect him to be able to keep up with Malkin. That will never happen.
      Injuries have made this team a hodge-podge collection, with some players playing out of position.

      I sure would like to see Depres in, though.

      • Yeah, I figured it was a long those lines.

        Deadline should be interesting. They have showcased a lot of young talent the last several weeks.

  18. RIP Mae Young. One tough bird.

  19. “He coached beyond the field. He coached young men to become men.”

    What an outstanding way for Curtis Bray to be remembered.

  20. Nice column on Curtis Bray, DK.

    Makes one wonder what success he would have had if he wasn’t derailed by injuries. Look at some of his teammates at Pitt…….. Curtis Martin, Sean Gilbert, Keith Hamilton, Alex Van Pelt…….. still say Bozik made a HUGE mistake letting Gottfried go, and hiring Hackett.

    RIP Curtis Bray. Gone way too soon.

  21. Maybe Clayton Kershaw can buy the Pirates.

    • I don’t know what is crazier about his deal………..
      guaranteeing 7 years at $31 million a year, or allowing him to opt otu after 5 years. The Dodgers gave him everything. And, Lord forbid he gets injured.

      A real head-scratcher to be sure……..

      Basically, Kershaw got almost 3 years worth of the Pirates total payroll.
      Think about that.

      • That sort of explains, in a nutshell, how much money the Dodgers have compared to teams like the Pirates. And, for the icing on the cake, they will now go hard after Tanaka. Really hard, I would guess.

        DK’s right about this being the central issue facing MLB. We can complain about the cheapness of the Nuttings, and it may very well be true. But, no amount of liberal spending on their part can come close to bridging the revenue gap that exists between large and small market teams now due to local TV revenue.

    • Makes me wonder if the Pirates have any chance to re-sign players like Cole, Pedro, Liriano next year, etc.

      • Yes. They likely deal Pedro, Cole, before they reach 2years left. Kind of what the Rays are trying with Price.

        Those days are likely a couple years away. But they are coming.

      • In the case of Cole, Pedro, Marte, and any other young guys – only if they take “lifetime security” deals such as Cutch took, Damon. Cole and Pedro are less likely to take those deals, I believe, since they got nice money as high 1st round draft picks AND, more importantly, I believe they are both represented by the friend of the small market teams, Scot Boras. I am being facetious, of course, as Boras is no friend to small market teams since he insists that every one of his clients test the free market. And, as we know, once a guy tests the free market, there is very little chance a small market team can retain him.

        • I meant to add that Marte originally signed for something like $350K. So, he is not yet wealthy by MLB standards by any means. He has a wife and at least one child. If he shows that last year was no fluke, I believe he is a candidate for a deal structured similarly to the one Cutch agreed to a couple of years ago later this year or after the season.

          Cutch, as we know, is now probably the most underpaid player in MLB. But, he is still handsomely compensated by 99.99% of the world’s standards, and has lifetime financial security guaranteed. I assume that was his main motivation in accepting that deal with the Bucs.

          • I agree with your thoughts on Marte – I could see him taking that kind of deal. Also agree about Cole and Pedro – top picks that command big time salaries aren’t going to take significant discounts. Sigh….

            • But, you never know I guess. Cole may require more $$ from the Bucs than Cutch did, but maybe something could be done. If he pitches this whole year even better than where he left off last year, I’d be trying to find a way to extend him.

              I don’t know what they think of Pedro. I know they like him, but he is not quite as sure of a thing as Cutch and Cole. And, I’m quite sure Boras wants him paid like a sure thing. He’s a valuable hitter, and I think he is still getting better. But, it is harder to predict how long a guy with his skills and flaws will be a productive player.

              • What do you think Pedro would fetch on the open market?

                Id say its north of David Wrights 8 for 138, somewhere between 150-200 million.

                I think thats one reason Pedro never went to 1B. Boras figures as a 3B he sees premium money. Not many out there when you start thinking about it.

  22. Rob Rossi:
    Despres, Drazenovic and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond sent to #ahl by #pens

    From Josh Yohe:
    Fair to wonder how much longer Despres will be a member of Penguins organization. Has talent, but an enigma. Would fetch needed winger.

    • &^%$!!!!
      WTH why send Depres down????

      • Paul Martin is coming back making Bortuzzo the 7th Dman, and Despres the 8th. Rob Rossi also tweeted 1 hour ago:

        Shero, Bylsma and Guerin ( development coach) met postgame Wednesday. Had a feeling part of it was about next move for Despres

      • I guess Paul Martin is ready to play again. Shero has got to move somebody real soon, and I hope it’s not Depres, because he’s ready to contribute now and he needs to be in the lineup. Although if he’s swapped for a top-line winger, I suppose I can live with that deal.

    • I wonder, if they sent him down, do they plan on keeping him, and trading one of the defensemen they have on the roster? I realize he’s the only one who doesn’t have to clear waivers, but man, he’s been consistently good on defense.

      • ++++
        I’m going to be upset if shero trades him. I want a (cheap) youth movement on d so badly. I loved the way all those guys played when they came up.

      • I’m not reading much into it. If despres marinates another season much like bortuzzo did at his age its not the end of the world. He was playing the right side when he struggled after playing really well on the left side. He would be in my plans going forward, especially with nisky and orpik UFA’s after season and depth being precious in post season.

        • I agree with you only until it actually gets in Despres head. Not saying its gonna (or has), but it could.

          The real conundrum IS the fact that they do, at some point, need to make a move. The salary cap situation suggest a vet goes, otherwise they can’t add salary easily…and to move a vet entails some risk. While the W/B kids played well, they didn’t play against a lot of tough teams nor under playoff pressure.

          I think the issue with Letang last nite was that is FU was so visible. Don’t know how many saw the intermission break, but Keith Jones did point out (fairly) that Malkin could have been more aggressive on the backcheck and possibly broken the play up.

          Maata did recover well after a a couple early giveaways and was cleary frustrated about them…last nite showcased is offensive skills better than I’ve seen to this point. Hopefully it’s confidence.

          • And Malkin calls Neal lazy….lol

          • I’m sure they’ve explained to him that this is a business and most definitely isn’t personal. They can’t risk losing an asset like bortuzzo to waivers with PM coming back and Maatta has done nothing to deserve demotion back to juniors. Oddly enough i think there’s a chance that maatta STARTS next season in WB due to Despres getting a one-way contract after this season. I hope despres goes back down and runs the PP with Harrington and mikkelsson, puts up big numbers and is ready to play the left side when we need him sooner rather than later.

            And with super duper and TV hurt, the cap really isn’t a issue. Just a maatta of who shero is willing to trade…and it wont be maatta :) He, despres, bortuzzo, dumoulin and harrington should all be untouchable.

  23. Coach Dan Bylsma is now hockey’s winningest coach, so you’d hardly think that the Pens would fire him anytime soon, especially when he was given a standing ovation at the Consol Center last night when the fans were informed of this.

    • Mario will fire him, IF and when he sees a need to. Of that point, there is no question, given Mario’s past with coaches.

      As followers of Pittsburgh sports, it’s always the coaches fault…Bylsma, Tomlin, Dixon and I’m ready this year for Hurdle to be under the gun more, because unfortunately, IMO, the Pirates will regress. Just don’t like the vibes coming from the organization. Hope I’m wrong.

      • Pirates transactions since 01/01/2014:

        01/14/14 Pittsburgh Pirates invited non-roster C Carlos Paulino to spring training.
        Pittsburgh Pirates invited non-roster RHP Zack Thornton to spring training.
        Pittsburgh Pirates invited non-roster 1B Matt Hague to spring training.
        01/07/14 Pittsburgh Pirates signed free agent 2B Robert Andino to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
        01/06/14 Pittsburgh Pirates invited non-roster RHP Jameson Taillon to spring training.
        Pittsburgh Pirates signed free agent LF Chris Dickerson to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.

        That doesn’t assuage your concerns ?

  24. I don’t want to trade Despres as well. But if he can bring a much needed winger who isn’t a one and done then the Pens have depth at that position. I like Kulimen from Toronto so maybe a trade and sign him to an extension. But not giving up him for a rental.

  25. Lost in all this is that Bortuzzo, who has played really well of late will probably be the scratch. His reach and mobility have been really effective to go with his presence on the ice.

    • Yes, he has played well enough, but another thought is that probably for the first time this year, Shero’s vision of the defense will play on Monday:


      Also Bortuzzo may get in there here and there if they decide to rest Maatta and reduce his workload (or as Alexandre likes to say, Määttä).

      Barring injuries….

    • Yes, I like to see Borts on the ice as well…dangnabbit, I want it all!

    • Yep, seems to have simplified his game. I see him as Orpik’s replacement (with a little more nasty).

      Don’t know if you’ve noticed, ’cause I would have expected a comment…but the first two D out on penalty kill have been Orpik and Engo…regardless of whether he was playing wing – even after a TV TO.

      Curious, no?

      • Ya disco isn’t shy about using Engo…or gladams. I’ve just decided to pick my battles…if disco needs to play engo on PK and gladams every game…so be it. Can’t win em all :)

  26. (part of continues their Top 10 prospects by position, with catcher being the latest position. Look who is #7:

    Our very own Reese McGuire. And, still a baby!

  27. If you trade a vet defenseman, it is Matt Niskanen. His value has never been higher,and he is a FA after the season. Orpik might be gone after the season too, so you may want Simon Despres around for the long haul. Nisk is out-pricing himself for our cap situation.

    • But, if he is gone after the season, doesn’t that mean the return is less?

      • Yep, but – better sumptin than nutten. In this case, the sumptin may still be more than GMRS would have gotten earlier.

        I not sure at this point if we are dealing from a position of strength, or are going to be somewhat desperate due to oversupply.


      • Jim, look at what Buffalo wants for Moulson and Ott, who both are pure rentals as well. I just think you might regret trading Despres when both Orpik and Nisk are potentially gone after this year.

  28. Hi everybody – been working my tail off and just now got a break and a chance to catch up on all you’ve posted. Great stuff.

    My biggest takeaway is that all our nit picking about our sports is revealed as true nit picking when compared to the joys of living and the loss of the same.

    Although Jen Lawrence might be on a higher plane of discussion as well.

  29. Michael McKenry signs a minor league contract with the Rockies with an invitation to spring training.

  30. Consol Ice Improved?

    With a team record of consecutive home wins, how bad is the ice?

    However, with that said:

    From November 2010

    “The only flaw at Consol Energy Center has been its poor ice surface, and the NHL is making sure the problem is temporary.”

    “The problem has been with air flow in the building,” he said. “It’s a trial-and-error process. We’re working on it, and it’s going to work out.”

    It is truly “air flow” or is it: piping? design flaws? maintenance crew? Industrial SMOG?

    Have there been any DEFINITIVE answers as to why the ice is still sub-par?

    Are there any investigative journalists left?

  31. Kris Letang is Pedro Alvarez. Some people choose to look at the home runs, some choose to look at the strikeouts.

  32. Accidentally saw this on Letterman last night:

    These guys are from West of Chicago and graduated high school last Spring.

    And if you watch to the end, Paul saved it.

    • 1) Didn’t even know Paul was still alive.
      2) I have no idea how he got up and didn’t have to be stretchered out….

    • I didn’t see anything wrong with their show…and I’ll admit, I’d much rather watch these guys every day than Justin Effn Beiber for 5 seconds :D

      • Jandy, what I was referring to was Letterman asking them for an encore and them basically refusing. Kinda stupid, but they’re young.

        I enjoyed their show.

        • Oh,silly me.

          Very young…and they will learn…but I gotta kick outta the ending…

        • That was hilarious, Arriba. Letterman dissed on his show. I wonder what that was all about.

          They are a couple of towns away from us. Of course, I’ve never heard of them until now.

          • The lead guitarist (who was REALLY good) seemed to be the one most adamant about not doing anything more. My guess is he thought they were only paid for one song (and not much at that), when the national exposure on Letterman was why people want to appear on there, and other late night shows. Just a guess, of course.

            • I bet you’re right. He seemed to be channeling his best Jim Morrison (not the one who used to play for the Bucs, btw) during the song. Maybe he felt like he had already given his all. Artists.

    • Thanks for that Wilver, that was awesome.

  33. As part of the expansion of instant replay, clubs will now be allowed to show all all replays on the ballpark scoreboard, regardless of whether the play was reviewed.

    Hooray !

  34. “You’re a rabid anti-dentite! Oh, it starts with a few jokes and some slurs. “Hey Denty!”. Next thing you know, you’re saying they should have their own schools!”

  35. WOW ,hubby just told me big commotion going on on I-99 just near 17th Street exit to Altoona, northbound I-99 shut down. 10 squad cars, dogs and a huge big deal. Drug bust?

  36. I hear all 30 MLB teams have oked instant replay. Sorry…this is just SOOO wrong. Just my thought. That was all.

    • I think today’s announcement had to do with the players’ association agreeing to it. It’ll be interesting to see how it works. It obviously solved some problems and created others in football, and maybe to a lesser extent In Hockey. But even in football it adds another dimension to the game.

    • Bring on the angst!

  37. Watching “Hot Stove.” I wish the Pirates would hire Dave Sims.

    He’s tremendous.

  38. The actor who played the Professor on Gilligan’s Island, Ron Johnson, died today. He was 89.

    • I think it’s Russell Johnson, Plan

    • Dave Madden, of The Partridge Family and Laugh-In, has passed away as well… 82

    • “Ahh, ya doesn’t has to call me Johnson! You can call me Ray, or you can call me Jay, or you can call me Johnny or you can call me Sonny, or you can call me RayJay, or you can call me RJ… but ya doesn’t hafta call me Johnson.”

    • Johnson also starred in an underrated Twilight Zone episode, “Back There”, in which his character attempts to stop Lincoln’s assassination.

      He was awarded the Purple Heart in WW II.

      I think Bobcat Goldthwait had a bit that went something like “If the professor is so smart that he can build a radio battery out of coconuts, then why can’t he build a damn boat ?” In the same bit he questioned why the castaways just didn’t kill Gilligan.

  39. word is The Pittsburgh Pirates have signed outfielder Travis Snider for $1.2 M avoiding arbitration before numbers were even exchanged

  40. Tonya Harding is still just as awesome as she was 20 years ago. And by awesome I mean a train wreck.

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