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Sunday column: Setting the table

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

PHILADELPHIAThe Sunday column from the NHL Draft is about the Penguins’ almost surreal weekend of getting to know each other at the table here and, somehow, coming off with a cohesive look.

My thanks here to all who made the piece possible, notably Jim Rutherford and Bill Guerin.

Here’s a quick bit from Rutherfor about that lack of familiarity:

The news coverage of Day 2 of the draft, by Josh Yohe.

Notes from the event, by Rob Rossi.

Here’s the NHL Entry Draft 2014 official page on

Here’s TribLIVE’s Penguins page and our Chipped Ice blog.

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, recently, 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 country's top four columnists by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the country's top three columnists by the National Headliners. For 2013, he was named the state's top columnist by the Keystone Press Awards and top columnist in Western Pennsylvania by the Golden Quills.


  1. Maz In Iowa says:

    Vanimal Lecter?OMG

  2. Maz In Iowa says:

    And they thought the bloggers here were loonies.CMAT is gonna have a field day with cliches.I guess this place is truly a Vanimal House.

  3. DJ says:

    Wonder who’s going to center Neal on Preds. Saw that Spezza refused trade there and highly doubtful Stasny leaves Avs for Nashville.

    Neal will need help to get 20.

  4. Pucknutz says:

    “- response was that Crosby and Malkin both need to do more to improve their linemates rather than vice versa.”


  5. DJ says:

    Botterill: “We’re extremely excited about these young defensemen,” associate general manager Jason Botterill said. “Brian Dumoulin. Scott Harrington. Simon Despres. It’s time for them to get an opportunity.”

    Finally. Had this been the plan all along we would not have the cap issues we’re confronting. Could not take another year of the same old and slow cast on D, even though it appears there’ll be one holdover. Will there be mistakes? Will we need to be patient? Sure, but at least we’ll be building towards the playoffs and the future. That thought, in itself, is energizing.

  6. Sarah says:

    Yep I expect it to be a tough row for him in Nash. He will have high expectations, and 40 goals ain’t happening. Who’s his center? Mike Fisher? Yikes.

  7. Tom P. says:

    Given the fact that the Pirates have been 0-5 plus two walks for RBIs with the bases loaded in the last two games (and several notable failures earlier in the year), is there any benefit to having a spring training drill in which they load the bases with 0 outs or one out, and have the players try to drive in some runs? Do they have a similar drill already?

  8. Sarah says:

    Anybody hear Rossi’s rant on 970 the other day? How Despres sucks, and Bennett sucks, and blah blah blah….that guy has truly lost it. I was embarrassed just listening.

  9. Sarah says:

    Here it is….no idea how the guy has a job….really unprofessional….

  10. The Gunner says:

    It sounds like a good idea to me – the Bucs definitely need help in this area

  11. DJ says:

    All about chemistry but could easily see Hornqvist at 30+ this year.

    Given dependence on solid centermen, without one, a great year for Neal might be 20-22, even with more PP time. No way Stastny headed there, despite Poile’s best wishes.

  12. Sarah says:

    Really hoping they get Kulemin for Geno….

  13. Sam says:

    what exactly does this mean? seems like sid has done a pretty good job setting up his wingers. more to it i guess?

  14. bpn8pitt says:

    Good point. Seems like when the bases are loaded, we wait for impending disaster instead of blowing the game open.

  15. JoeyBats says:

    I heard it live….
    Rossi is STILL bitter….”VERY BITTER” ….that he isn’t getting interviews with Burkel and # 66….during this transitional period when GM and Coach are being changed. There was a similar interview with Todd when earlier when Shero change was made.
    WAH…WAH…WAH :-(

  16. Maz In Iowa says:

    With a 5-3 loss to the Mets on Saturday, the Pirates’ record during day games dropped to 10-20 — the worst mark in the Majors.

  17. bpn8pitt says:

    I’m kinda fine with it, Sarah but I see your perspective.

    My hockey knowledge is limited and I don’t follow it as closely as Steelers and Pirates…but it seems the coverage of the Pens has taken a complete 180 from 2 years ago. Remember, in Ray We Trust? Now you hear and read stuff, oh what the hell were these guys doing?…I don’t know. Its warranted I guess, considering how they have come up short.

    Journalists can flip their opinions as quick as bloggers sometimes.

  18. bpn8pitt says:

    Another great point. NMR has said this a lot. Not sure how you fix it though.

  19. Maz In Iowa says:

    Among the reasons for that is Pedro Alvarez. In 2013, he hit 14 home runs in day games — which earned him the “Daydro” moniker — but he has hit one out just once during those contests this season.

  20. DJ says:

    Thanks, Sarah. Just listened. Hilarious.

    Funniest comment was Sid not smiling at NHL Awards. And hates the GM and HC hires but “it’s nothing against the gentlemen” that the Pens hired. Hedging bets all around.

  21. DJ says:

    Understand that’s the plan.

  22. Sarah says:

    I’m fine with anybody changing their opinion….no worries there.
    But Rossi was just embarrassingly unprofessional in that interview, reflects badly on the Trib, IMO….

    I never understood the Shero love or the Bylsma love….my opinion has been fairly steady over the years….but to each his own.

  23. Maz In Iowa says:

    Pedro is on pace for 24 HRs/78 RBI.Last year he had 36 HRs/100 RBI.He had 27 errors last year and is on pace for 34 this year.He’s certainly not the only reason for thePirate’s slow start…he justseems to stick out the most.As he always will till he leaves in free agency.Not fair,but it’s not just this blog’s fault,you can also blame the media as well.

  24. Sarah says:

    We’ll see. Still leaves them a W short, unless we think BB can be healthy and top-6….biggest plus is it means Dupuis might wind up on 3rd line where he belongs. Interesting to see what happens w Kunitz.

  25. Sarah says:

    Yeah I didnt get that either. Biggest playoff issues IMO were that Sid and Genos line mates were unable to create on their own and make space for their C’s. So every team would focus on shutting down 87 and 71 because Pascal Dupuis et al, was not going hurt you and everyone knew it.

  26. DJ says:

    Would have been tough for Pascal to hurt any team in playoffs.

    Unless he threw something heavy from the press box.

  27. hockeymonster says:

    I heard he had a crappy interview with TSN recently. Anyone catch that one? Any links for that?

  28. DJ says:

    Not a fan so don’t pay attention. Even less after listening to Sarah’s link.

  29. curt says:

    I don’t see how you get Dupuis belongs on the 3rd line. The Crosby, Kunitz, and Dupuer line dominated the league when they were all healthy. The guy has dedicated himself to being in great condition and done nothing but improve from the 2011 season forward. Have you seen the stats with Duper in the line up and w/o him ?

  30. Maz In Iowa says:

    Not quite Polanco numbers but, Bradenton Marauder Josh Bell brings a 14-game hitting
    streak (25-for-53, .472) into today’s action…Bell currently ranks first in the Florida State League in total bases (148), second in slugging (.519), third in hitting (.337) and RBI (49) and is tied for third in extra base hits (31)…

  31. hockeymonster says:

    I don’t know how i did it but without trading PM, Kuni or Piece I was able to put together a pretty deep roster with Fayne helping on D. If Sutter wants 4M i would put him on the block. He’s not worth that much more than Schenn, even if he’s older. At least not yet. Fayne for 2M may not be his best offer but should be a strong enough offer for him to consider it. Goc, raymond and winnik are all at 1.7M so it may be a give or take situation for final numbers.

    Would still look to get younger but could live with this roster for now. And adams’ contract is a killer. Would be nice for gibby to take his spot.

  32. Scott says:

    There is a lot of truth in what Rossi is describing from an objective position on the GM firing/search and Coach firing/search. I do disagree with a few items though.

    I think where he goes off the rails is in his assessment of Despres and Bennett. There is no way that anyone could convince me that Engelland should have been getting minutes over Despres. We also found out after the playoffs that Bennett still had a series wrist injury, so you really can’t give him a total rating.

    Nobody valued 2 points in December more than Bylsma, nobody. Also, in regard to puck possession, Bylsm’s system really wasn’t. It was puck retrieval and then the proverbial 150′ stretch pass to a winger that then had no option but to dump the puck in, which is NOT puck possession. And if that wasn’t the scenario, it was a bad cross ice pass that was 50/50 on being intercepted and going the other way, quickly. Those characteristics don’t become quite the problem in the regular season, as they do in 7 game series.

    Finally, Dan not getting better match ups for his top 2 lines at home was just stubborn and stupid. It was always about his system, not the players. Which is why he gave preferential treatment to the fringe guys because they played to it 100% to stay with the big club.

  33. DJ says:

    Going to be a bumpy ride at first, no question.

    But okay with that as well.

  34. hockeymonster says:

    Sarah, how much you want to pay Kulemin?

  35. chethejet1 says:

    Most people who follow the Pens with some attempt to discern the moves were surprised that not only Bylsma was brought back but extended for two year after being swept by the Bruins. Now I don’t know the real story here but Shero went all in on Bylsma. Both he and Bylsma had to know their jobs were on the line here. Rossi has been a staunch supporter of both and made the same bet for access perhaps. But he is not dealing with the same connections and his rants are falling on deaf ears at this point. Someone should tell him to adopt a detached position as you live by the sword you die by the sword. Can’t be a cheerleader and be an objective beat reporter.

  36. DJ says:

    Agree on just about all you posted, Scott.

    On the GM and HC fiascos — which is what they were — who cares now? Old news. Rossi should let it go for god’s sake. Comes off as a bitter old man with some underlying professional frustration(s).

  37. DJ says:

    Sutter is going to be very interesting, especially if some team is willing to overpay.

    Certainly a price limit but I’d move Letang or try to move Scuds (pipe dream) before letting Sutter walk for something doable.

  38. Sarah says:

    Here’s the tsn link…..he looks like a homeless guy with that hair.
    And the soul patch…wtf?

    He’s lost it I tells ya! Lol!

  39. Sarah says:

    How much to pay Kule? oh lord HM, I’m no cap geek…..3-4 maybe??? Dunno. Maybe he’d take a discount to play with his BFF Geno….? We can hope……

    Keeping Letang ties their hands enormously.

    That Letand deal is Shero’s (or Morehouse’s depending what you believe !) legacy……for years to come.

  40. Sarah says:

    Or Kunitz or Neal…..

  41. 21sthebest says:

    Maybe a spring training drill in which you simulate day games. :-)

  42. Sarah says:

    Yep. I really think RR has embarrassed himself last few months. Regularly scooped by non-locals media, McKenzie, TSN, watched from the sidelines while DK got the big sit-down with 66…(even posted a complete fabrication that HE had a sit down with them, which was then removed from his blog….you kidding me? Fireable offense….) he got publicly humiliated by Morehouse in the presser “don’t believe everything you hear on Twitter Rob” and I think he realizes the new regime is not going to like him very much, so yes, he’s the quintessential Bitter Old Man.
    Really, just an idiot. He doesn’t even like the game, much less know anything about it.

  43. Sarah says:

    And yes, Duper is a third liner and always has been. Sid makes a lot of people look good.
    But when Sid is double teamed, them you find out if they are good or not, and as a first liner, Duper is not.

    Love the guy, great fitness and dedication,great in the room, great PKer, great 3rd line gritty guy with speed ( though likely not anymore after the ACL).
    A first liner, he is not.

  44. hockeymonster says:

    Now now, you know we need to keep tanger…

  45. hockeymonster says:

    I dont get how we can afford to pay Kulemin that much. Especially since he only has 60 or so points last 3 seasons. Spaling made half as much as Kulemin and produced 50% more points on a worse offensive team.

  46. Sarah says:

    Well they’re clearly keeping him, and will be crippled re roster building as a result…..

    Good stuff on your post…..though I confess I don’t know Fayne…..and I would have Depres in the top 6 D, and would ship Scuderi off even if you only get a box of used jockstraps in return……no way should he be above Despres…..but I know we differ on Orpik/Scuds! :-D

    I also differ that Duper can be effective in Top 6 ….but the reality may be (thanks to the Letang deal) they simply don’t have options to get more Ws who are useful…..and they need more than useful, they need high level….not happening with that 7.25 mil albatross…..

  47. DJ says:

    Yup, the “BOM” syndrome. Said same thing above but like your caps.

  48. DJ says:

    And here I was sensing a small crack in your Letang armor the last few weeks, HM.

  49. Sarah says:

    Not sure points is the point with Kulemin…..

  50. DJ says:

    Don’t be messing with my Duper, Sarah. Love that guy.

    Most significant loss this season.

  51. Thundercrack says:

    Thanks for posting that link to the RR interview.

    Note to Rob Rossi: You may want to think twice about taking a shot of truth serum before you give a radio interview.

    I see nothing wrong with what he said. It seems like he spoke the truth…and yes may have an issue with the upper management/ownership. But based upon what has gone on the past few months – he may have pinpointed some issues of concern.

    And I think if DK or MM gave this interview many wouldn’t feel that they were bitter or unprofessional.

  52. DJ says:

    What issues of concern — and, more importantly, of consequence — did he pinpoint, TC?

  53. hockeymonster says:

    Well i would explore trades for scuds. Same with PM and kuni. Orpik we probably can’t afford and he probably wants to move on anyway. And with maatta out early in season despres would get to play quite a bit.

  54. hockeymonster says:

    Ha…you’re the best sarah. :)

  55. hockeymonster says:

    Nope. His game took off last part of season. He’ll be a norris candidate again. Maybe even this season.

  56. Thundercrack says:

    I think the things that he said about how they went about the search for a GM and a new coach. And how some of the things they said – aren’t quite matching up to what is happening.

    And I think it was interesting how he brought up backgrounds of Tochett and the new head coach. Rossi feels there were a lot of coaching candidates that didn’t want this job.
    And that they don’t seem to know why Crosby appears to be so unhappy.

    For a guy like me who doesn’t follow every detail (or every game) of the Penguins, I found it to be a bit eye-opening and insightful.

  57. cherokee23 says:

    Thanks for both links. No problem with the TSN stuff, but man, the first 10 minutes of the 970 stuff was so over the top that any credible points he was making got lost, IMO. Who pissed in his corn flakes that morning!?

  58. Andrew says:

    Honestly, what exactly was unprofessional about what Rossi said? That segments seems pretty much par for the course sports talk radio, the guy is offering an opinion.

    I don’t agree with what Rossi said on the specifics, but I agree with the idea that it is very questionable if the Penguins are in a better position as compared to two months ago. (He contradicts himself when bemoaning the current roster/organization but seemingly absolving Shero from blame.)

    I frequently saw the “county club” moniker bandied about to describe the last Penguins’ front office/organization. What is more country club, old boy network, than hiring an assistant coach who is a former teammate of the one of the owners and then forcing him upon head coaching hires, and thus chasing away your first two head coaching choices?

    And nothing is wrong with Sidney Crosby, he put up over 100 points when no one else had more than 90. He did this on a team that was the worst in the NHL without him or Malkin on the ice, Crosby doesn’t need some Rick Tocchet tips or some elite winger (which is not feasible given the cap situation), he a needs a damn third line that can actually handle minutes against top lines so Crosby line doesn’t have to be deployed like a checking line. The Penguins success or lack of is dependent upon building a bottom six.

  59. Andrew says:

    Agreed Thunder, his fatalism was off putting but if you take a step back and look at the entire process of how Shero/Bylsma were fired and their replacements hire, the process looks poor.

  60. Sarah says:

    Not messin! Love the guy!! For many reasons.
    Just doesn’t belong on the first line…..

  61. Andrew says:

    Somehow Bylsma’s non-puck possession system happen to, radically alter the Penguins puck possession number in 2009 and happen to produce one of the top puck possession teams from 2009-2012.

  62. Sarah says:

    Lots of people peein in his cereal lol!!
    Morehouse, Mckenzie and TSN and everybody else scooping him, DK getting the sit-down…..

    Basically he hates hockey and knows little about it. Cripes rememberer the whole thing where he got ripped for not knowing what a F3 is? Wasn’t that Neal who lit him up? Whatever, BOM lol!

  63. Zico says:

    Rossi should never be taken seriously. I find myself rolling my eyes every time he writes or says anything. That radio link is pure gold.

  64. Sarah says:

    For Pete’s sakes guys, if only for his tone, never mind the content, it was completely unprofessional.

    That rant is the kind of thing that would get played in a locker room to pump players up and get them pssd off, it was so over the top.

    Completely bitter and whining, and shoots himself in the foot too. Think the new FO (or Crosby, Bennett or Despres) is going to give him the time of day now? Good lord.

  65. Zico says:

    Crosby already refuses to interview with Rossi. There’s a reason for that. He will never ever speak of Crosby in a good light. There will always be a hint of criticism towards Crosby in everything he writes/says.

  66. Sarah says:

    Don’t confuse beat reporters who have to maintain a relationship w players/staff, and maintain a column and the rep of their newspaper, w radio schtick guys like MM.

  67. Jim S. says:

    I actually think it’s just a quirky stat that fluctuates, much like hitting w RISP. Don’t get me wrong. I find it frustrating this year that we are failing in that regard. But, Walker, for instance, has a very high success rate in his career w bases loaded, and suddenly he can’t hit in those situations this year while having his best offensive season?

    Hopefully, it turns around the rest of the year, and that wouldn’t surprise me.

  68. Jim S. says:

    I prefer drills in which they simulate winning. :-)

  69. hockeymonster says:

    Rossi has been known to mix up details or just be plain wrong too many times. Sid probably thinks Rossi doesn’t understand hockey lingo or tactics enough to accurately paraphrase his comments. I think i recall Geno and Neal laughing at rossi openly cuz he wrote something about the forecheck or F3 that was totally off base and wrong.

    Maybe the Trib should take blame for this too. Not exactly Rossi’s fault that he never played the game.

  70. hockeymonster says:

    So you didn’t take him seriously when he suggested pens bring back Gonchar?

  71. Zico says:

    I didn’t catch that article, monster, but if you’re serious…Every blind squirrel finds a nut on occasion I suppose.

    What seals the deal for me in that radio link is the fact he says “maybe Bylsma didn’t play Despres because he wasn’t good enough to play.” Despres has limited experience at the NHL level to learn from due to the fact Bylsma wouldn’t play him. How’s a guy to learn the next level when he doesn’t get a chance unless 4 others go down due to injury? Despres is no worse than Dumoulin, Samuelsson, Engy, or Scuderi. I’d rather take some bumps and bruises and go with the upside play. You gain nothing from not taking a chance.

  72. hockeymonster says:

    Believe i heard he said that 2nd hand from another poster. Don’t think he wrote that…putting that in ink would be comical.

    And i do think Despres was somewhat over rated by the fan base. I agree he could’ve played more ahead of Engo but its not like despres was without flaws. Engo at least served a purpose and with PM, Nisky and Letang here, despres becomes a redundant addition. Especially since Piece and bortuzzo were here too. Going forward i hope Despres works on his lateral skating so he can walk the offensive and defensive blue lines to get shots thru and to draw opposing teams off sides like maatta does so well. If he works on those 2 things and keeps his play simple, especially early in the season, than i think he can help quite a bit.

    And can anyone explain to me why we drafted a HS player who’s 4 years away from being 4 years away instead of Mayo? He was Jarry’s teammate and stood out as much any draft eligible prospect. He’s 3-4 years away from being on Dumoulin/despres’ level and 5-6 years away from being another Nisky with elements of letang’s skating. GM Maloney, who obviously wasn’t a serious GM candidate here as rossi reported, made a great draft pick by selecting him in 5th. One of the steals of the draft…This HS kid better be damn good cuz Mayo will be in the NHL. GUARANTEED!

  73. Andrew says:

    How can content be unprofessional? I don’t really agree with much of what he said, and yes he sounded petulant. But usually when I hear local sports radio segments I tune out tone, they just want a reaction. And like I said I just think some of his reservations about the last two months have some truth.

  74. DJ says:

    Thanks for responding, TC.

    Have no axe to grind with Rossi. Barely listen to him / read his work, except where others point something out, like Sarah earlier, so I think I can speak freely on the Todd interview.

    My comments had nothing to do with the source — Rossi, DK, MM or someone else. Your last sentence suggests the criticisms would be non-existent (if not at least less critical in tone) had the same things been said by another journalist. I’d have same reactions. Impossible for me to listen to that rambling, unfocused rant without thinking BOM.

    The number of “overstatements” (being kind to Rossi) just kept coming. Among them:

    1. Johnston got kicked out of WHL (suspended)
    2. No great developments in coaching (not paying attention to recent Cup winners)
    2. Nobody wanted the Penguins coaching job (impossible)
    3. Pens not willing to make hard decisions (Shero and HCDB firings and Neal trade all in that category although, in fairness, Neal trade was after interview)

    Others more in tune with Rossi than me but hard for a journalist to develop credibility / be taken seriously with that type of interview. Tried too hard to be sensational by being a contrarian from the get go.

  75. hockeymonster says:

    Besides Stan and Starkey, i dont think there are too many professional radio hosts. Although madden has done a great job doing what he does.

  76. DJ says:

    I’ll let you know if he belongs there in October.

  77. 21sthebest says:


  78. DJ says:

    Give me the puck possession stat 10′ and in from the net the last 3 years and we’ll talk.

  79. Sam says:

    And don’t forget Sid wasn’t happy accepting his awards, looked like he was punched in the gut, doesn’t say anything interesting and Geno won’t return his calls!

  80. Sarah says:

    Content becomes unprofessional when it is not true.

  81. DJ says:

    Every time a GM or HC is fired and another hired you can float the balloon that it’s questionable if the team is better off.

    Rossi then states he’s not saying the moves were unnecessary with the Pens. Which is it?

  82. DJ says:

    We’d be remiss in not acknowledging DK hosts podcasts.

    [smiley face]

  83. DJ says:

    Thought Geno and Rossi were writing a book together.

  84. Arriba Wilver says:

    Just listened and definitely agree he started out sounding bitter. I kind of jump off the boat when we decide that something is professional based on whether it’s “true” or not. If it’s demonstrably false and you can show the guy knows it’s false, yes, that’s unprofessional. But good luck proving that.

    What did he say that wasn’t “true?”

  85. hockeymonster says:

    So after getting over my disappointment that we passed on a more physical prospect in 1st round i saw some clips of Kapanen that impressed me. Mostly from Finnish league but also stumbled onto the U18 semi’s game against canada. Saw a couple clips and light went on and came to the following conclusion:

    Float like a buttafly, stang like a bee.

    I see a hybrid of kessel’s skating stride and kane’s shiftiness. Patrick Kane. A Finnish Flash Part Deux, if you will—-when he gets stronger and his 1st step gets just a bit better, kid will be dangerous. You can say we picked up Finnish version of Ho-Sang sans attitude.

    All his negatives can be explained away by his age so on some level he may have higher upside than Ho-Sang. After all, he did stand out as much as #17 and #23 in red.

    And on a unrelated side note:

    PSU hockey fans will be happy to know that there’s a great dman on his way courtesy of that finnish U18 team.
    Erik Autio. Slick LH puck carrier with deceptive speed. Reminds of Kamross from UML and not just cuz they both wore 27. Monster sources confirm that PSU went out of their way to make this happen and I don’t blame them. He was probably 2nd most impressive dman behind Julius Honka, Dallas’ 1st pick. Big 10 just got a little more interesting.

  86. Sarah says:

    Interesting Philly didn’t nab him….?

  87. hockeymonster says:


  88. DJ says:

    You throw that Orpik reference in there for me, HM?

    Probably can’t afford = don’t want back.

  89. DJ says:

    See that hope springs eternal for you, HM.

  90. hockeymonster says:


  91. DJ says:

    I take it this is directed to Sarah, AW.

    On Rossi, he started out bitter, for sure. He then stayed bitter and carried it right on through to the finish line. At the end he seemed to be acknowledging how bitter he had come off.

    Everyone has bad days so maybe that was one of his.

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