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Morning Java: The NHL arrives

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

SOCHI, Russia — Доброе утро, Lunatiks …

>> The Tuesday column wonders if Evgeni Malkin and his Russian mates have any clue as to what’s in store for them here.

Sidney Crosby is ready to be Captain Canada.

The Sochi Hockey Notebook debuts with Ray Shero becoming acting GM, Brooks Orpik looking out of the picture and more. There will be one of these every day for the duration of the Games, written from a Pittsburgh angle.

Here are all four videos I’ve shot for Channel 11 News so far, including the latest about the Russian passion for winter sports …

The gentleman briefly interviewed there isn’t identified graphically, but he’s Maksim Krupin of St. Petersburg. When he saw my credential, he laughed and said people often confuse his city’s name with Pittsburgh.

I’m also doing weekday audio-only reports for TribLIVE Radio, and the one yesterday was also about pucks. They’ll all be about three minutes long.

Here’s the Trib’s Olympics page.

Here’s the official Sochi 2014 page.

Here’s the official U.S. Olympic team page.

Here’s the official NHL Olympics page.

And here’s NBC’s Olympics page with all the highlights.

>> Not much is stranger here than the weather. At what’s being called the Coastal Cluster of these Games, right along the Black Sea, temps have reached as high as 61 degrees. Up in the stunningly nearby Caucasus Mountains, or the Mountain Cluster that’s home to the snow sports, it’s dropped as low as 10 degrees.

Andre Belausev, a native Russian who attended Pitt and still lives in Oakland, joked: “We get to see snow one day, sun the next. I would tell my friends back in Pittsburgh, ‘Guys, we have palm trees in Russia!’ and they didn’t think I was serious.”

It’s serious all right. As much as organizers forced the issue by planting palm trees all through the Coastal Cluster, they also can be seen in indigenous form about town.

>> Back home, Ben Roethlisberger is paying for a new Pittsburgh Police dog for the officer who lost Rocco, by Michael Hasch. There really was only one way for that story to end, huh?

>> There isn’t much about Pitt’s recent slide that wouldn’t be cured by handing Syracuse its first loss. Tipoff is tomorrow night at the Pete. Kevin Gorman reports.

>> I’ll have something else for you, non-Olympics related, today on the blog. It’s regarding the Steelers.

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. With deepest apologies to the Association and some lady named Windy…

    And AJ has stor-my tats
    And grounders and Ks n’at
    And AJ wants big contract
    Above our means (above our means)
    Above our means (above our means)
    Lucky for all of you, that’s all I have time for.

  2. JAL’s I’ve Been Waiting for a Girl Like You Morning Links


    1- MLB Transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

    3 BFFL’s 2014 Pirates Stats Spreadsheet

    4 Pirates Prospects Spring Training Tracker

    BLOGS and such

    5—Pirates Prospects

    First Pitch: Pirates Are in a Great Bargaining Position For First Base

    Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Spring Training Preview: The Infield

    Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Draft Preview: College Hitters

    6 Rumbunter

    Justin Smoak: Anatomy of a Trade to Pirates Rumor

    7 Bleacher Report

    Complete Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Spring Training Preview

    8 Uncle Mike’s Musings

    Longest-Serving Active MLB Broadcasters

    9 Green Weenie

    2/10: Bill Evans, Cotton Tierney, the Wet One, Judy Johnson, Larry McWilliams…

    10 Saber Bucs

    How Kendrys Morales Could Make Sense for Pirates

    11 City of Champions

    Pittsburgh Pirates Pitcher Wandy Rodriguez Ready For Spring Training

  3. NEWSPAPERS and MAGAZINES and Other Media

    12 Bloomberg Stats

    The Best Two-Strike Hitters and Pitchers

    13 Redbird Rants

    2014 NL Central: The Pirates hunt for booty

    14 Bristol Herald Courier

    New affiliation, new look

    15 Baseball Prospectus

    The BP Wayback Machine Arbitration Negotiations

    16 Fangraphs

    What’s Really Available at First for the Pirates

    17 Wall Street Journal

    Lots of Pricey Baseball Free Agents Left on the Market

    18 USA Today

    Baseball managers, GMs embrace relationship, analytics

    Baseball’s 100 names you need to know: Nos. 51-75

    19 NY Post

    30 teams, 30 spring training questions

    20 NBC Sports

    How would the Michael Sam story play out in baseball?

  4. Steelers Blogs

    21 Behind the Steel Curtain

    Steelers should let Emmanuel Sanders walk in free agency

    Cortez Allen wants to be like Ike

    22 Steelers Depot

    Colbert Says Steelers Do not Discriminate Against Players Based on Their Sexual Orientation


    23 Bloomberg Stats Insight

    Was Clint Dempsey’s MLS Return Premature?

    24 BBC Football

    Man Utd boss left cursing his luck and Fergie Time in reverse


    25 Pensburgh

    How the Penguins are spending their Olympic Breaks

  5. Orpik on the 4th pair?
    Next thing you know Bylsma will be matching lines.

  6. In regards to JAL’s #21 link, letting Sanders walk…Im fine with it, I guess as long as they can get Cotchery back. But the article says Cotchery made, 800-900K last year? He’s a UFA too, and I can see someone giving him 1.5 to 2 M per for a couple years.

    A lot of places Ive seen have Worilds as the second best OLB after Orakpo. Orakpo is two years older. Ive seen Worilds ranked between 10-15 overall…I will not be shocked if the Steelers let him walk now, looking at the real lack of pass rushers available. Somebody out there, who doesnt get Orakpo is gonna dump a ton of money on Worilds.

    This is not an endorsement for Woodley or anything. But I think the Steelers are about to become a victim of circumstance. They very well could be looking at OLB again with the first pick now that I think about this. No later than round 2 or 3.

  7. This is to say goodbye to Shirley Temple Black. May she rest in peace. She was quite a lady.


  9. I left this lengthy response to a query about Spring Training from Sweet Jimmie last mid-week. I found his question late in the day, so he probably did not see my answer to him. So here goes:

    Sweet Jimmie,

    1/ If you can schedule any time, go right when players report in February. All the big league players are at Pirate City, taking batting practice, infield practice, outfield practice, catchers pop-up drills, pitchers fielding practice on 4 full fields and two more infields. You can choose who and what you want to watch. You can be just 10 – 15 feet off the fields behind cyclone fence and you feel like you are right there. You can hear the coaches give instructions. You can hear encouragement the players give to each other. You can hear them rag on each other. On one field you can even go into the parking lot in right and catch batting practice homeruns——I got 2 last year from Garrett Jones and Pedro.

    2/ You can also stand right behind the catcher when the pitchers warm up, 4 at a time, in the bullpen.
    Each pitcher throws every other day and you can soon figure out the schedule of who you want to see. You stand right behind the catcher 7-8 feet behind him, separated by cyclone fence again. It’s so neat to watch the movement on those pitches and hear the pop in the glove!

    3/ All this is going on at the same time. Bunting practice, catchers throwing to 2nd, outfielders throwing to bases, cutoffs, blocking plate, pitches in dirt, sliding practice, batting practice in groups of 4 (3 groups), with other 2 other rotating groups in field, double plays, Searage and Williams working with individual pitchers . . . . all this is going on at same time. Pick and choose: it’s so great! Watch Cutch and Marte hit batting practice, then watch Pedro field grounders, then watch Martin, Sanchez, and Stewart block pitches, then watch pitchers bunt.

    4/ Practice runs from about 9:30-10:00 to 12:30-1:00. It’s even fun to watch the different groups come out early to do calisthenics and loosen up. If you ever doubted that AJ was the leader of that pitching staff——the rest of the pitchers when loosing up follow him around like puppies.

    5/ If you choose to come back in the afternoons, you will find the young Minor Leaguers working with completely different coaches. It’s fun to watch the Hansons and the Polancos and the Josh Bells. However, memorize their faces to look for them, because there are no names on their uni’s.

    6/ Anna Maria Island is the place to stay if possible. You are right on the beach. I run on the beach to invigorate myself when the sun rises, then go to practice. It’s so great! Then I go back to the beach after lunch and practice, to read and roast and watch the sights and be inspired by the waves. (Disclaimer: few college girls on the beaches in February!) Such a relaxing time. It’s worth spending the $$$ for Anna Maria Island if you can.

    7/ If you cannot go in February, then late in March would be best, as many cutdowns would already have occurred and you get to see the actual Pirates instead of non-roster guys like early in Spring Training. McKechnie Field is a nice little Minor League ballpark and you will feel very close to the action. If you don’t spring for the best seats behind home plate (still reasonable), then sit in the right field bleachers. There is a warm up area behind the right field wall and indoor and outdoor bullpens where pitchers work behind the foul stands in right field, so you can be attuned to when actual players are working out and get up close. And the Pirates bullpen is right there in the open at the foul pole.

    8/ I go early because I like talking to the players, and they will talk more at the beginning of Spring Training when there are less people pulling at them. I’ve had some great conversations with Jordy Mercer, Clint Barmes, Neil Walker, Garrett Jones, and The Fort. But even McKechnie Field is great, and Clint will engage you in conversation sometimes. Plus you can catch players walking between bullpen and clubhouse in right field.

    9/ With McKechnie games in afternoon (one a year at night), it will take up the big part of your day . . . . another reason I like going to Pirate City. But . . . IT’S ALL GOOD!!

    10/ Spring Training is my “Time of Refreshment” each year. I feel close to the Pirates, I take no work with me, I am inspired by God at the greatness of the ocean and the power of the waves, I catch up on my Sports newspapers, I read mystery novels, and I solve the problems of the world. It would also be a great family time for you.

    11/ Eat at the Cairo Fish Works, I think it is called. It’s at a fishing pier just at the end of the Cairo bridge going onto Anna Maria Island (the southern of the 2 bridges to the island). Its an outdoor restaurant and you feel that the fish were swimming that morning. And it’s not cheap, but inexpensive. Good pizza joint right near there also. And a breakfast restaurant, all in that section near Cairo Post Office.

    Let’s Go Bucs!!!

  10. The Steelers have hired Joey Porter to coach the outside linebackers.

  11. Well, at least Devin Logan has won the silver in slope style skiing at Sochi so the US has now 6 medals, although Russia beat the US women’s curling team 9-7 and China beat the men’s curling team 10-4. Anyhow, West Virginia beat no. 11 Wisconsin last night 102-77 and that was quite a performance, to say the least.

  12. Joey Porter is returning to the Steelers as a defensive assistant coach. He was at least as controversial during his playing days as Ryan Clark has recently been.

  13. It gives me goosebumps to see the NHL’ers in their national uniforms. I know the NHL isn’t there for completely altruistic reasons. They want to build their brand, I get that. But I give the commish and the PA all the props in the world for suspending their season, midseason no less, so the best of the best in their respective countries can represent their home nations. Something baseball would never do for the summer games.

    Tremendous respect for the athletes to agree to play not just for a city or fan base, or for their wallets and future contracts, but for their nations.

    Very proud of the Americans that will represent me, not as a hockey fan, or a Minnesota Wild fan, but as a fellow American citizen.

    I hope the NHL never stops participating. And, I love the American team. Good roster, good GM, good coach. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I will literally weep if I get to see the Americans stand on top of the podium while our anthem plays.

  14. The Browns have fired Joe Banner & Mike Lombardi. Does this mean there is only 1 stooge left ?

  15. Saw that Pitt was able to hang on to it’s #25 ranking, inspite of the last two victories.

    Methink by this time next week, either they will be ranked a lot higher….or off the charts, likely not to return for the rest of this season, depending on a certain right thumb and ankle.

  16. Bob Costas’ pinko eye (the Russian pronunciation) has progressed to pinko eyes. He’s been given the night off. Matt Lauer coming out of the bullpen.

  17. Shoutout to Milo for referencing the New Castle basketball team going undefeated for the 3 regular season in a row.
    WPIAL playoff pairings and brackets will be announced tonight.

    Sliver of good news for New Castle opponents for next year……… 4 senior starters will be gone. Bad news……… JV, and 9th grade teams rarely lose.

    • What is the secret, plan? Great feeders sysems? Great coaching all over the place up there? A combination of these things? The Ghost of Chuck Tanner shining down on them?

      • It is a combination of many factors, Jim.

        Yes, a great feeder system…….. from the 7th grade on up, they run the same plays/system. Practices are structured very similarly. Blundo is a great coach, who previously won state titles at George Junior Republic. But being a principal at the high school may be the best thing. Mark Stanley, the former coach, won a state title at one of the small township schools, but was completely overmatched at New Castle. He would come in every day, and have to deal with disciplinary issues before practice every day. With Blundo already being there, he isn’t distracted by all that.

        Thing to keep in mind, is that New Castle doesn’t have better kids than other schools. Sure, they have a Malik Hooker, or a Steve Eggleston, but New Castle normally has a bunch of small, scrappy athletes, who work themselves to be good. New Castle is also one of the smallest schools in its classification, and will be dropping down in class next year. They don’t have thousands of kids to choose from like a North Allegheny.

        Thing of it is…….. all this success doesn’t mean a thing when it comes time to the state playoffs. The Philly , and Philly suburb teams are loaded every single year. Factor that, and the questionable officiating that occurs deep in the state playoffs, and sometimes it seems that the western teams are wasting their time. In fact, the only champions form the west in the past 15 years are Penn Hills in ’04, and Schenley in ’07. Philly schools have won 6 in a row.

        Sadly, the ghost of Chuck Tanner doesn’t shine on New Castle. That would be Shenango High School, his alma mater.
        It is going to be interesting next year, when NC loses 4 starters to graduation. But, supposedly, there are a couple kids in the 8th-9th grade who will be good in a couple years.

        • Thanks for the info. They have something special going on there.

          • Yes, but sadly, that is all the town has going for it.

            Shame towns like New Castle, Aliquippa, Clairton, Beaver Falls have fallen on hard times, crime and drugs like they have.

            • Yeah. Plus, a tough economy now makes it even tougher for towns like that.

              • ++++++++++++++++

                New Castle is the home of many seniors, and much crime/drugs.

                Downward spiral that is impossible to shake.
                If I ever hit the big lottery, I would be helping in multiple ways there.

  18. The AMC’s Walking Dead outperformed the Olympics and the Beatles’ 50 Anniversary Special on Sunday in the 18-49 coveted demographic group.

    DK: That group is slick enough to know how to watch the Olympics live online. :)

  19. The NBC Olympic site is poorly done. First, as far as I can tell, you need a cable or satellite provider to log in. My wife and I wanted to watch their web show, “Olympic Ice” about figure skating. It was difficult to find. Archived stuff is next impossible to find. They don’t seem to provide footage of medal ceremonies.

    We’ve decided to go old school. DVR the early stuff of interest and just watch the prime time stuff. I try not to look online or Twitter to find out results.

    To that end I skip over James Thompson’s posts on this site. :)

  20. If I had seen the picture and not the article there is no way I would have guessed it was Alan Faneca. Way to go Alan!!

  21. Finally had a chance to post – had a question about all the Morales buzz: Is there a chance the buzz is an attempt to bring the price down on Smoak, or do the Mariners have no interest in bringing Morales back? I guess what I am asking is – do the Mariners value/need Morales more than Smoak so much that the threat the Pirates might sign Morales make them bring their demands down? Probably confused everyone…

    I just don’t see the Pirates giving up a 1st pick PLUS playing Morales $10m+ when they could have had Loney or Morneau for much less.

    • I don’t think the Mariners wanted Morales back, Damon. They offered him the $14.1 Million QO, then sweated bullets until he didn’t accept it. Since then, they have been acquiring every 1b/slow footed corner OF they can find.

      I think the Pirates would like Morales, but only for much less than $10 million and w/o giving up a draft pick. So, unless he’s still available in June and they haven’t already traded for a Smoak/Moreland/Davis/Carp, etc. type, he won’t be a Buc. He won’t be getting that kind of dough from anyone else, either.

      Tyler Colvin, anyone?

  22. The other paper has a really, really good write up about Geno…excellent read.

    • That was a good piece. I couldn’t help but think how hard it must be for him to stay here and if he would eventually finish out his career there.

      • I think he has become more comfortable here, especially in the last year. But who knows?

        • I agree Jandy….he does seem to be more comfy here now…..

          But I agree w DK, that Russian team is under loads of pressure to get the Gold, but is hamstrung (again) by the political need to placate the KHL, and therefore too many weaker KHL guys.

          The first line of Malkin, Ovie, Semin is fearsome…. WHEN they have the puck….but when they don’t, and have to play D, heaven help Geno trying to defend while Ovie cruises with his thumb up his -rse….

          And they’re so top-heavy, beyond Kovalchuk, not a lot of help….they will have to (IMHO) play Extremely conservative to try to just not get destroyed ES or when top line’s not out there….then hope Geno et al go into God-mode when they are out there.

          I don’t think it looks that good for Russia, but stranger things have happened when you play in your own country!

          • Interesting backstory. Thanks.

          • Sarah, Oh I agree the pressure is there. About them playing conservatively? Oh my. I don’t believe that will happen lol.
            I just hope Geno doesn’t injure himself trying to do it all alone.

            • Well, when lines 2-4 are out there, if they don’t play conservative, they’ll get blown out. I guess we’ll see!….

            • I just hope the refs aren’t listed in the phonebook….if you know what i mean. They’ll be under as much pressure as the ruskie players. When they dont win gold they’ll blame the refs 1st, goalie 2nd and then coaches/selection committee 3rd.

              • Hah! Too true…..
                Though actually the Russian refs have the best rep….they just call the rule book no matter the time in the game, OT or whatnot….

                Will that hold true in Sochi???

                Stay tuned!!

        • I may be reading some of my feelings into this. Being someone who loves what they do and knowing the opportunity to do it is available back home does pull on the heart. I do not know Geno but from what I do know of him and what we see in this article is someone who has a heart for the people back home.

  23. Apologies if this was already mentioned but apparently on that Rumbunter podcast that JAL posted yesterday, PRNW said that A.J. has one contract offer and it’s from the Bucs. They have since bleeped that part of the podcast out (12:40 mark) but at the end the host mentioned to Neil that the A.J. news was great to hear from a Pirate fan perspective.

    • +++

      Well, I guess if AJ comes back, he and Neil will be great friends, ;-)

      • I’m wondering about that as well. If he ends up coming back at what most people thought was below market value, will there be some lingering resentment below the surface? Don’t get me wrong. I’d do just about anything legal for $8.5 million a year and not feel insulted in the least. But, the world these guys live in means they often get insulted by what are considered huge sums of money to the rest of us.

        I wonder if it will be like a player who lost his arbitration case. You know it’s all about business, but still …

        • I obviously can’t speak for A.J., but he’s the one who waited until late January to announce that he’d play this year, allegedly. So in my opinion, he’s responsible for his market value declining since the end of the season if that is in fact the case.

      • I will only believe AJ and Neil are friends if Ron Cooke reports it

  24. If Castas doesn’t get that pink eye looked at soon, this could end up happening……………..

  25. 93.7 is making my ears bleed…not to be critical…


    So Carlson and PM are ahead of Fowler now? Someone needs to check disco’s oxygen supply out there…has he been hiking in the mountains?

    How bout the jedi move by shero to get the head GM job…eh? :)

  27. Also….Kunitz on Canada’s PP??

    More god news for US…….

    • I dunno Sarah, Babcock is a good coach, if nothing else.

      • Wouldn’t it basically be kuni, perry or getzlaf as the prime net front guys? Maybe nash or carter? Some no look chemistry with sid doesn’t hurt.

        • Oh def KUni’s chem w Sid is IMO the main reason he is on the team.
          I’ve just never thought he’s that effective a net-front presence on PP and can’t imagine they don’t have better options.

          But there ya go.

          Good for Team USA IMO.

  28. Erm….GOOD news…..

  29. And Peeps, where do you weigh in on this:
    We all know our Geno can sometimes be susceptible to mental downers….if Russia does NOT do well…..maybe has a close loss in medal round, or even misses the medal round (which I think is possible…)….will Geno bounce back OK once the regular NHL season grind starts up again?….. Or will he struggle?

    Thoughts Peeps???

    • Don’t see any shades of gray. The most likely outcome would be for him to come back and funk out the rest of the season, less likely would be to try to “make up for it ” with the Cup. No in betweens.

      His moods have been somewhat unpredictable over the years, especially in the playoffs, depending on what set him off and who.

    • So now we’re trading geno, orpik, letang and buying out scuderi?

    • Will Geno bounce back if Russia gets waxed in Sochi?

      My goodness. I hope so. I hear you about his head not always being right over the years. But, that would be the height of unprofessionalism. I think Geno will be fine, either way.

      • I dunno if it would be qualified as “unprofessional”. He (and Sid) seems to be like Indy race cars. When they are tuned up, they are incredible, but it does appear that they can get out of whack. Sid has not been the same since Duper went down and Geno, does have a little Jagr in him.

        JMO, but I think it would be in the best interest of the Pens, for Russia to win gold, Canada silver and USA bronze – then every body comes back at least a little happy. Again, posting that as a Pens fan.

  30. I heard from a well connected source that AJ had breakfast this morning, then he did some things. Then, he had lunch. Then, he did some more things.

    I thought everyone going through withdrawal might like an “insider” update.

    You’re welcome.

  31. You know that old saying, “It beats a sharp stick in the eye.”

    Bob Costas doesn’t think that’s so funny right now.

  32. Aside from my silliness above …. meant to mention this earlier. Coolest moment for me so far in the Olympics was the Canadien free style skier, Alex Bilodeau, winning yesterday and then immediately embracing his brother, who has CP. He called his brother his “inspiration.” It does not get any better than that for me.

    • Agree- and now he rides off into the sunset with 2 Golds and all the pub and good will to help their fundraising.

      Good Stuff.

      Now if Pitt can just get to ‘cuse…

  33. Good lord on an Olympic hockey thread could we keep baseball on another thread?? Oy.

  34. “He also won’t be timid about meeting with his coaches, even challenging them.”

    Lets hope that means keeping the disco stretch to a minimum and minding the neutral zone…for this tourney and the one a few months.

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