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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript: Jan. 10, 2013

| Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 10:09 p.m.

Dejan Kovacevic: Hockey Hey to one and all, and away we go ...

Comment From Kevin: When the NHL comes out with the schedule, will it be the complete 48 game schedule, or will the NHL just schedule some of it and make up the rest as the season goes? I don't trust the people who work for the NHL being smart enough to handle making a schedule.

Dejan Kovacevic: Nor should you, apparently. There seems to a prevailing public perception that the schedule is done, just not being released. If only it were so. They're legitimately still messing with things, days later.

Expect it Saturday. Maybe.

Comment From PZ: Hey Dejan, what do you think the chances are of Sid or Geno, or even BOTH seeing some significant PK time this year? I think they are too skilled to not have on the ice in every situation.

Dejan Kovacevic: Mentioned in yesterday's column that it would be wonderful to have them both come out as a final pairing — final 20-25 seconds — just to get the opponent's point men on their heels. Whole new dimension, too.

Comment From Ana- Steel: Hey DJ hope al is well. In light of the two Steeler staff members interviewing, Omar and Haley. Who would you consider a bigger loss to the team right now?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm not sure I'd consider Haley a loss at all at this point, expecially with a new big-name offensive coach coming available every day now, it seems. Mike Mularkey is the latest to be run out of Jacksonville.

No, really, Omar Khan's impact on the salary cap might get dramatized at times, but results are results. The Steelers unquestionably would be hurt if he left.

Comment From rob judge: Dejan what is your take on Nutting changing his stance and telling the following: We need to make sure we find the right balance, and if that balance includes drawing lessons from a group like the Navy SEALS — an elite organization that has mental toughness and performs at the highest level — can we learn from that? Yes.”

Dejan Kovacevic: There's not a syllable or sentiment in there that Nutting changed from what he told me — and other members of the Pittsburgh media, later the same day — back in early November. Not one. The only separation is the interpretation, and the interpretation in the case of this piece is wholly incorrect.

Plain and simple, Nutting will not allow the goofy physical drills such as the telephone poles, sand bags, etc., that were the primary point of complaints from within his own organization. He said back in November — and was quoted clearly to that effect — that the mental stuff wasn't the issue. It was this goofy stuff.

Nothing has changed, other than one misinterpretation.

Nutting told me himself these goofy drills will be gone. Soon, you'll be hearing him say that on the record.

Here's today's blog entry on this topic.

Comment From Ryan: Prediction for the Hart, Vezina, Calder, Art Ross & Norris?

Dejan Kovacevic: Next week, please! That's actually on the planning schedule.

Comment From Playoffs by 2012: DK, I beg of you, please please please write a book at some point about this Pirates front office (Coonelly, Huntington, Stark and company). Lord knows they've given you more than enough material (Bay trade, Sano mess, Hoka Hey, etc.). I think it would be a fascinating read.

Dejan Kovacevic: I used to laugh at that notion. Not anymore. Just a constant circus.

And much more than you know.

Comment From Steve: Greetings from San Antonio. LaMarr Woodley: was he hurt, out of shape or was the absence of Aaron Smith the reason he was so ineffective? In my opinion, his poor play was the single biggest factor in the lack of turnovers and the lesser Steeler D, despite their number one ranking. LetsgoPens!

Dejan Kovacevic: The truth is, only LaMarr can definitively answer those questions. I tried to ask him some after the Steelers' last game but, as my column that day described, he declined.

In the end, that doesn't really matter. What matters is that he asks questions of himself. He doesn't seem to like to acknowledge even the tiniest of failures, but this is the time. As that column stated, he was his team's biggest disappointment.

Comment From anthony Faris: Are we depending on our own minor league talent evaluators regarding the Hanrahan trade? We have shown over the last several years, we are experts on salary dumping, but grading talent.... I know Jones is next,,,, and we will receive next to nothing for him as well....

Dejan Kovacevic: There are new evaluators at the major-league level, hired shortly after Nutting completed his in-house review of baseball operations.

The issue really has never been whether Huntington has good people under him. He absolutely does, including a couple of VERY good ones. Rather, the issue has been whether he ever actually listens to anyone other than Kyle Stark or Greg Smith.

One former employee told me earlier this week that the answer in the case of the latter is an emphatic no.

And someone over their heads feels the same way.

Comment From yinzer in va: Dejan, Bettman has to let NHL players go to the Olympics next year. It's the best way to rebuild the damaged brand, especially in the USA.

Dejan Kovacevic: No one makes that case as passionately as I will. I see the NHL as being a vital part of the Games not only for what it does for the league and the sport, but also because Jacques Rogge very much welcomes what they do for the Olympics themselves.

Yes, on one hand, Bettman has to let them go.

But he'd also be right to play tough guy, to an extent, to try to arrange the best set up with NBC and the Sochi Organizing Committee to ensure the action from Russia is shown at the best possible time for the U.S.

Comment From Mike: Obviously the lineup will be tinkered with but out of camp what's your best guess as to the top unit on the power play and the 3rd D pairing? Say what you want about the question but pretty much ANYTHING is better than wasting a second of time on the Pirates.

Dejan Kovacevic: Your latter sentiment there becomes harder and harder to counter, especially the day after the team's official web site itself aired out this most unpleasant topic.

Regarding the Penguins, your third pairing will be Deryk Engelland and Ben Lovejoy. Take that one to the bank, barring injury.

Power play, my expectation is take Sidney Crosby at the goal line to right wall, Chris Kunitz in front of the net, James Neal in the high (sometimes very high) slot, Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin at the points.

Geno might not love playing the point, but he'll then need to lobby for Ray Shero to place calls to Ottawa for Sergei Gonchar.

Comment From ZiggyFromTheHood: HOCKEY HEY! Were there any rule changes involving actual game play in the new NHL labor agreement like they did last time?

Dejan Kovacevic: Not yet, regrettably, though Gary Bettman at least hinted yesterday that some stuff could be announced next week. Don't get your hopes up. At the best, it'll be a couple weeks of actual obstruction calls.

Comment From Zack: Isn't it high time Jamie Dixon made a plan to fit his personnel and not try to get them to fit the system?

Dejan Kovacevic: Not so sure we didn't already see at least a sliver of that with Pitt's stunningly thorough win at Georgetown a couple nights ago.

More than anything, the Panthers clearly — based on this talent, including Steven Adams — need to run the floor. Half-court isn't cutting it. If you've got a 7-foot big man who can move and a bunch of other mobile players, and you're standing around, you're doing the opponent one whale of a favor.

We'll see how it goes against Marquette tomorrow.

Comment From Brian: Is there any big-time GM candidates that would want the Pirates GM job? Low payroll and seems like a place you go to eventually lose your job

Dejan Kovacevic: Name I've been mentioning for a long time is Tony LaCava, the excellent personnel man for the Blue Jays who gets spoken about in glowing terms whichever way you look. He's already interviewed for other GM openings, but he's still there to be had.

Met him once about four years ago and seemed like a smart man, too, though I don't know much more about him personally than that. He's an Oakmont native, to boot, passionate about Pittsburgh and even spends a good bit of his down time in a home he still maintains.

Comment From Alan Gifford: I think a lot of fans complaining about Haley's dink and dunk offense don't realize, he didn't run dink and dunk in Arizona or KC he is running that cause it is what the Rooney's want.

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm not sure anyone would need clarification on that after Art Rooney basically pointed — again — to the inability to run as being one of the Steelers' primary problems in his interviews yesterday.

I'm guessing that out of 32 teams, 31 aren't all that concerned about the run in what's increasingly a passing league. But I could be wrong.

Comment From Ed: Is there anyone in the Pirates front office that you consider a great baseball evaluator?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes. I hear great things — and I mean great — about a special assistant named Marc DelPiano. Came over from the Florida system. Again, don't know him personally. We shook hands once last summer at PNC Park. But his results, I'm told, include strongly recommending A.J. Burnett, as well as finding Jason Grilli, Michael McKenry and, before that, Xavier Paul.

That's a pretty powerful resume in the context of the Pirates' wherewithal.

DelPiano isn't alone. Others are good at what they do. They just aren't always heard.

Comment From Rob: With Tomas Vokoun able to spell Fleury and a condensed shortened schedule how many games do you foresee Fleury playing this season, 35ish?

Dejan Kovacevic: Out of 48 in a compact schedule? No way. I think you'll see much more of a 60/40 split. That's why Vokoun is here. The guy's always been a workhorse. When you're playing three or four games in a week — minimum! — it's all hands on deck.

Comment From Missing hockey: Who is the better hockey team, Penguins or Flyers?

Dejan Kovacevic: Last we saw, obviously, it was the Flyers. Decisively. But Philly's really banged up entering this season, which seems weird under the circumstance but is true. And Philly goes have Philly-level goaltending, so ...

Comment From Polka: With the 17th pick in the 2013 NFL draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select ___ Dejan Kovacevic: A little early for firm projections. Even the national Kiper types aren't doing many of those yet. Positionally, I'll take a middle linebacker.

Comment From NaplesDave: Hi DK, enjoy the chats. Plax seemed to be a positive player in his short time, keep him for next year? I hope so

Dejan Kovacevic: Speaking in a vacuum here without the full list of available options, I'm not sure what you wouldn't like about having Plax back. He's a different type of receiver than Antonio Brown or Emmanuel Sanders, a tall threat, and he's a lifelong red-zone guy. Moreover, you'd have to figure he wouldn't cost a mint, and you now know for sure he'd be happy to be here.

Comment From Guest: Can you remember any elite NFL QB been asked to make such a dramatic change in offensive system mid way through his career as Ben was this season? I recently read Bruce Arians' comments re how different his system was versus what the Steelers were running this year.

Dejan Kovacevic: No, I can't. Even the mega-names that have changed teams — Peyton Manning and Joe Montana (not that I'm putting Ben in their class) — basically carried their own playbooks with them. Manning went to Denver, Montana to K.C., and both played the systems that had made them successful, no questions asked.

Again referring to Rooney's interviews yesterday, you could see he thought the Haley playbook was quite the success in this regard because it was working pretty well until Ben got hurt. So don't expect change.

Dejan Kovacevic: It's Tampa Bay Lightning time, quick Qs, quick As ...

Comment From Missing hockey: How many points does Sid get this year?

Dejan Kovacevic: Over 48 games? I'll take, um, 66.

Comment From PirateApologist: Should they just induct Bonds, Clemens, etc. in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and put Kiss and Deep Purple in the Baseball Hall of Fame? I think all HOF debates are pointless.

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm not quite at pointless, but they sure aren't as important as all the catastrophic sentiments expressed within the baseball community yesterday. We've now got a guy from ESPN openly trying to track down the voters, as if they're Taliban in the hills of Waziristan.

Comment From Playoffs by 2012: If and when you write that book, I will be the first in line to read it!! Dejan Kovacevic: I'm guessing you'll be alone, too! Comment From Alan Gifford: Breaking News Chris Rainey was arrested for battery.

Dejan Kovacevic: Yeah, just spotted that out of the corner of my eye. Too bad, if accurate. Rainey had a troubled past, for those who know his history, but was put into place upon staying with the Pouncey family for a time in Florida. This would be a large setback for him and, far more important, a crime.

Comment From David: Am I crazy to have hope for the reported pairing of Martin and Orpik? A lot of Martin's faults were once leveled at Gonchar but Gonch was great next to Orpik Dejan Kovacevic: I think you might be crazy. In general, I don't get the wish to go left-left, right-right on your top two pairings. Lots of unnecessary complication on breakouts, simple clears.

Comment From SeanE: Breakout player last year=James Neal. This year=?

Dejan Kovacevic: Crosby told me his choice is Matt Niskanen. I'll go with that.

Comment From Nick: When does Pittsburgh get an NBA team?

Dejan Kovacevic: On a warm winter's day in Winnipeg.

Comment From Pat: Worst commish - Bettman or Selig?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes. And Goodell, too. Yes to all three.

Comment From Matt in Ann Arbor: Why isn't Simon Depres being invited to camp? He proved he was NHL ready last year, regardless of his AHL stats this year. He'd be #3 or #4 on this defensive corps.

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm told the Penguins are robustly displeased with Despres's level of dedication. That's a big disappointment. This should have been a big season for him.

Comment From Sam: Any chance the Steelers save money by letting Foote go and start using a 4-3 more?

Dejan Kovacevic: Foote yes, but a 4-3 ... see above about winters in Winnipeg.

Comment From AJ: Why did they not use Plax at all? It was so frustrating not to take advantage of his size and red zone threat; they never even threw it to him! Dejan Kovacevic: Seconded.

Comment From yinzer in va: Dejan, Is the Navy SEAL drills all that bad? The Pens did something similar and they won the Cup.

Dejan Kovacevic: No, they didn't. The two had virtually nothing in common. Been over this.

Comment From Left Wing Lock: Saw someone write that the difficulty of facing better competition in the Atlantic Division would be offset somewhat by the more modest travel demands. With your tenure on the beat, fair assessment? or NY-centric?

Dejan Kovacevic: Complete nonsense. Anyone who travels regularly can attest that getting in and out of the New York metro area alone — even with fancy charters and buses — is way more of a hassle that's prone to logistical troubles.

I'll take a 3.5-hour flight to Denver every day over 1 hour to New York. At least you know what you'll get at the other end.

This travel schedule will be hard.

Comment From tim m: do you see the pens adding the 6th forward or try from within and who would that be?

Dejan Kovacevic: It'll be Tyler Kennedy. Can't be messing around in a 48-game schedule. If it doesn't go all that great, Shero can get a winger at the deadline.

Comment From SeanE: How good is that Neal Niskanen trade looking? Might be one of Shero's all time besr Dejan Kovacevic: I'd go at least a little easy on the Stars. Joe Nieuwendyk got himself a pretty good player in Alex Goligoski, and Dallas felt that was a better fit at the time. Not defending it from the Dallas standpoint. Not at all. But it's not like the Stars got nothing.

Comment From Alan Gifford: Steelers starting Right Outside Linebacker Game 1?

Dejan Kovacevic: James Harrison.

Comment From Troy: Hey D, Pitt question. It is a little concerning T Boyd is still visiting Tenn and Mich St. I know a college kid will always take a free trip, but still.

Dejan Kovacevic: It simply has to be concerning to Paul Chryst and staff that Tyler Boyd would make those visits. I don't see how it couldn't be. On top of that, kids have short-term memories. It's not as if the Panthers left Boyd with some great impression by getting stomped in Birmingham.

Comment From Playoffs by 2012: Your favorite Canadian hockey city after Winnipeg?

Dejan Kovacevic: Ottawa. Beautiful place.

OK, last one today ...

Comment From SeanE: Now that the “catholic 7” are departing the Big East in hoops does this spell the end of the conference? Just don't see how this league can survive.

Dejan Kovacevic: Neither do I. Surprising, really, that it hasn't already begun plotting its demise.

On a semi-related note, I can't help but wonder why Duquesne never seemed to get thrown into that Catholic mix. Might be a better fit for them than the A-10. The A-10 as we once knew it in the UMass-Temple days is long gone.

Dejan Kovacevic: All we got for today. We shall chat again next week. Columns run Monday, Wednesday, Friday and maybe even more often than that once pucks are dropped. The radio show is each Tuesday. And the blog is busy out trying to capture the vermin who cast Hall ballots.

Thanks for participating!

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