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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript: March 7, 2013

| Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 1:01 p.m.

Dejan Kovacevic: Afternoon, everyone. Freshly back from Florida, but all topics are on the table, as always.

Mitch W: What is your view on what the pens should do at the deadline? Personally I feel that the offense is fine it is the defense that's spotty. Is a move necessary or could they take care of it by emphasizing taking the body and clearing the front of the net without giving up someone like Despres to bring in a rental?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm all about adding to the D, and I have been from Day 1. Beau Bennett needs to get a chance on the second line, in a legit top-six role, and it appears he'll finally get that beginning tonight in Philly. The D is what needs that one big added presence. It isn't here. That much we've seen.

Hate to keep bringing up Rob Scuderi and Hal Gill as the reference points - it's almost a cliche anymore - but that's what's missing.

Ray: What are the odds the Pens go up early aganist the Flyers, lose the lead in the 2nd andtake dumb penalties in the 3rd to lose the game? Also, are the Pens the worst 2nd period team in hockey?

Dejan Kovacevic: Ha! Ample precedent would suggest you've got that about right. But that's really got to stop. The Penguins are - let's be blunt here - better than the Flyers in the Flyers' current shape, with all their injuries. This notion that they need to chase guys around and take stupid penalties based on being overly amped up for regular-season games, it's silly to even talk about it, much less watch it unfold.

Chris: Does the fact that the Steelers are still working with Harrison's agent mean that they have no faith in Jason Worilds or Chris Carter?

Dejan Kovacevic: It's a pretty powerful sign, yeah. I mean, just look at the circumstance. If Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin thought there was even a chance that Worilds, in particular, could hold down right outside linebacker -- you know, just like they seem legitimately confident Cortez Allen could hold down corner -- they'd have let Harrison walk. But they can't. They just can't.

Andrew: How is Charlie Morton progressing, and any sense of when he's projected to start pitching again? Did you see him down in Bradenton?

Dejan Kovacevic: Talked to Charlie for quite a while on my first day there, as a matter of fact. He was just kind of walking around McKechnie, mostly interested in getting a glimpse at Jameson Taillon pitching that afternoon. Morton is very confident, so much, in fact, that he said his arm feels "stronger" than it did before. His spirits are good, too, as he's had good people around him through his rehab, not least of whom is Ray Searage.

I liked this, too. Morton was so dedicated to his rehab that he decided to buy a house in Bradenton. Made sense, he said.

Vince Neil: With their perennially successful basketball team, and a hockey program that is bringing the Frozen Four to Pittsburgh this month, would you say that RMU has finally surpassed Duquesne for second on the city's collegiate athletics hierarchy?

Dejan Kovacevic: Depends on how you define it. If you're going strictly by interest level, Penn State is second. If you're going by limiting it to the city proper, Robert Morris isn't in the city. If you're going to look at purely basketball, Duquesne plays in the better conference, so its ceiling for having a bona fide NCAA program - however realistic - is higher.

I appreciate what Robert Morris has done with hockey, both the men and women. But playing at that tiny place on Neville Island is never going to elicit thoughts of a big-time program no matter the occasional upset they pull off.

I also appreciate what Andy Toole and the Colonials do on the floor, including the big win last night. But the NEC is the NEC. It's going to send its one cute team to the Dance every year, but it's still the NEC. You're still never going to get people in these parts excited on a broader level about the NEC.

That's not to suggest Duquesne is better at anything other than women's basketball, where Suzie McConnell Serio has done a fantastic job and has led her program past Pitt's. But the Dukes are still in a position to be better because of their placement.

Kyle: We're just days away from the beginning of spring practice. Penn State returns a 1,000 yard rusher in Zwinak and a 1,000 yard receiver in Robinson. The big question in Happy Valley is who will be under center on August 31 vs. Syracuse. Bill O'Brien got prized recruit Christian Hackenberg from Virginia. Do you think the Lions will redshirt him in order to have him be able to play two years in which the team will be bowl eligible?

Dejan Kovacevic: That sure wouldn't be my criteria. If I'm bringing in a prized recruit to Penn State under the current circumstance, I want to show people it's worth playing him right now. The Nittany Lions showed last season, to their inestimable credit, that bowls aren't everything. The season was as or more enjoyable for their fans -- in the football aspect, of course - that many recent ones in which they did make bowls. Send him out there. You can't leave Allen Robinson out there without a QB.

TK39: Lots of fans demanding a trade of Tyler Kennedy but does anybody actually want him? It takes two to tango, no? I can't imagine he'd fetch more than a mid-round draft pick so is the thinking he'd be a throw in as part of a package deal?

Dejan Kovacevic: Setting aside my usual dig at the mention of a package deal -- as if somehow adding more bad stuff to your existing bad stuff makes your trade offer better -- Kennedy's a known brand. That's for better or worse. A team looking to get more pucks to the net might value him. He can skate, and he can shoot, at least from the left circle. He also works hard.

But to your very first point: Fans demanding Kennedy gets traded hardly serves as some portend it will happen. Only one vote counts, and that's Ray Shero's.

AL: Hello Dejan and welcome back to Pa! I haven't seen any Blackhawk games this year but what do they have that the Penguins don't? What makes them so successful and what can we learn from them?

Dejan Kovacevic: The Hawks are talented, deep and very nicely balanced. If there's a difference, it's the latter. You look at the lines Joel Quenneville is rolling out there now, and each knows its role and fulfills it to the utmost. The Penguins are still figuring that out.

What a story the Hawks have become, huh?

Great, great thing for the sport.

Joe: If you could be the "Commish" of one of the 4 major sports...which one would you pick? Which of the 4 major sports needs the most/quickest fix?

Dejan Kovacevic: Easy. Baseball. And I'd spend every waking minute and every waking hour working toward a cap to make the sport fair at the economic foundation. Just like all the rest have.

yinzer in va: Dejan, Lewis or Gay, who would you rather have? I think Lewis is better. Is it also possible signing Gay takes away money to re-sign Lewis?

Dejan Kovacevic: I keep trying to figure out how Keenan Lewis stays in this scenario and keep coming up empty. That's especially true if the Steelers have it in their heads to sign a wide receiver. And if they didn't, on the latter count, then why even have Steve Breaston over for lunch?

The choice you pose in the first question isn't fair. It's not about Lewis vs. Gay. It's about Lewis vs. Allen. I like Cortez Allen. I like seeing a guy who can actually take away the football more than once a season. Willing to give him a shot. If Gay can hold down nickel -- and he's got experience -- this will be fine.

So long as that money ends up going to a receiver or running back.

Erik: Dejan can you anwser for me whille the WPIAL in sists on playing there championship games at the Palumbo. was there on Saturday night for Quad a final and couldnt sit to watch the game because nobody left from the previous game. many Hampton and New Castle fans stuck outside with no tickets because people just don't leave. it was a very very bad experience.

Dejan Kovacevic: The Palumbo is where they've been forever. But if the event has outgrown its seating capacity, then sure, it's time to look at the Pete or even Consol. Not like there aren't options.

The danger you have with high school sports is putting them in venues that are TOO big and killing the feel of the event. Heinz Field is a little different, because it and Three Rivers have always been attached to the football mystique of a championship. But Palumbo isn't in that bracket. Only one that gets mentioned that way related to hoops is Hershey.

JamesinNYC: Most unexpected person to make the PBC out of spring training?

Dejan Kovacevic: That's usually a reliever. I would say Bryan Morris, but that's not wholly unexpected. Let me throw this name out there just for fun: Kris Johnson, lefty reliever. Looked pretty good the other day in a tough spot, tremendous winter ball season, and Clint loves having two lefties.

Seabass: Hi Dejan, any scenario that you see Iginla in a Pens jersy this season?

Dejan Kovacevic: Honestly, I still can't process it, no matter how much info emerges to the contrary. He's been such a huge figure in Calgary for such a long time that the broader hockey fan in you almost hopes it doesn't happen. Kind of like watching Mike Modano playing for the Wings. Just looks wrong.

Jarome Iginla would have to give his OK, first of all. That's the only way the Flames could absorb the public beating over it, especially while looking to build a new arena. And the Flames would have to fall out of contention. They had a big win last night. Not sure either of those will happen.

But as far as a fit with the Penguins goes?

Oh, my goodness, yes.

PirateApologist: Do you know if the great ad featuring Brooks Orpik and tolerance in hockey is a national ad or just a local thing? Or is it a national campaign, with different cities featuring different hockey players?

Dejan Kovacevic: Several NHL players agreed to do it in different markets in an attempt to promote tolerance of all athletes regardless of sexual orientation. It was inspired by the tragic death of Brian Burke's son, and the league and some of its players have stepped up admirably in this regard.

So yes, different versions of it are in different cities.

Andrew from Long Island: Are the Steelers now under the cap?

Dejan Kovacevic: In the technical sense, yes. In the realistic sense, no. They have positions to fill with bona fide players, and they'll need more space to achieve that.

Kevin: Hey DK, can I say what eveyone is thinking. Jose Tabata looks like he has been juicing! Thoughts? Fair, Unfair?

Dejan Kovacevic: Based on the evidence that you - or anyone - has to support that, it's maliciously unfair. But hey, I'm guessing you knew that, right?

Tom: When did your love for Ron Everhart begin?

Dejan Kovacevic: My "love," as you describe it, began when Everhart almost singlehandedly led Duquesne University through one of the most difficult events in school history, when his players were shot on campus and some lay perilously close to death in Mercy Hospital. He took the program from that, in his first year, to five consecutive winning seasons, then had a tremendous class set to arrive on the Bluff for this season.

Instead, Greg Amodio as AD decided to push back the goal posts and preserve his own job by essentially starting from scratch. I "love," to use that word again, the choice of Jim Ferry. He's a good man, a proven winner. But that doesn't diminish that his AD set the program back for YEARS by making the move that he did.

Parts unknown: After seeing the Pirates for a week are you drinking the Hurdle Kool-Aid and think they can win 95 games?

Dejan Kovacevic: All done with "Kool-Aid" questions. Any topic. Forever. New Year's resolution!

If anyone wants to ask legit questions without using fourth-grade terminology, I'm here.

Dave: Could the Steelers be working with Harrison in case Woodley comes to camp out of shape again?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'd say Woodley's total of four sacks has a lot to do with being as sure as possible you're getting a pass rush from somewhere.

Alan Gifford: Any chance at all Tavon Austin or Stedman Bailey ends up with the Steelers. Tavon seemss he could be a better Rainey.

Dejan Kovacevic: That's exactly how I feel. If it meant so much to Todd Haley to spend such a big chunk of his first training camp on plays related to Rainey, then getting a Rainey-plus seems to make sense.

But first round? That's tricky. Not many see Austin as a No. 17 overall.

dillonerd: I completely agree with you that Tabata should get a fair shot at RF and the fact that it is Travis Snider's job to lose is laughable. What kind of shape did Snider come into camp?

Dejan Kovacevic: Without having administered any strength tests, I can attest that he looked about the same as last season. The word is that the hamstring that's bugged through his career is fine, but that can change with one sprint to first.

Andrew from Long Island: I LOVE your new mantra regarding the Pirates brass.... Win or be Fired... My question is, if you were running the ship, what would you do different than the current regime?

Dejan Kovacevic: Resign.

Tim m: do you think the pens need a bill guerin type acquisition this month. Seems like crosby and malkin let their playing speak for itself, but playoff hockey requires grit as much as talent and this team sometimes lacks that

Dejan Kovacevic: There's always merit to the idea of adding a gritty type leader, and we've certainly seen the benefits here with Gary Roberts and Guerin. Those types are respected for a reason.

Which brings us back to Iginla, doesn't it?

Alan Gifford: Trying to figure why everyone is predicting the end for ESPN, I don't watch often but they don't seem worse than any other time

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, I guess the No. 1 reason is just casual conversation. I can tell you unequivocally I don't watch ESPN at all unless one of our local teams is playing on there, which almost always means Pitt. Haven't seen more than a handful of 'SportsCenters' in the past five years. No kidding.

If I need news, I'll get it online or in print. If I need highlights, I go to the networks of the actual leagues, which show them without silliness and crossed-wrist anchors with thick-rimmed hipster glasses.

Bottom line: There's a lot of money (Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports) lining up at the Empire. And there's a lot of ill will from people who can clearly see through ESPN's bias toward leagues with which it has contracts. Nothing is more blatant in that regard, obviously, than the NBA, which isn't even a fraction as popular as that network tries to portray on a nightly basis.

James_Pittsburgh: When it comes June, the Blackhawks being the number one team won't matter at all! They are on a nice run, but the onl runs that matter are the ones in May and June.

Dejan Kovacevic: You might be right. The Kings certainly proved that again last spring. But honestly, I don't care about that right now. What matters most is that this amazing streak is bringing to light what's best about hockey. Usually, this sport will cross over into the broader mainstream only when a Donald Brashear or Todd Bertuzzi does something that gets the Oprah crowd stirred up. This is about hockey.

Guest: Best arm in camp that people may not know about?

Dejan Kovacevic: Phillip Irwin. Much discussion about him, and watching his sinker yesterday in Fort Myers only added to it. Remember the name. Good amateur signing by Darren Mazeroski, son of the legend.

Irwin goes by "Filthy Phil" on Twitter, by the way.

Matt: With the general consensus being .500 or bust this season for certain members of Pirates management, do you feel that Cole needs to start the year in the Pirate rotation?

Dejan Kovacevic: Two different questions there. First off, the general consensus doesn't mean anything. The only vote that counts in this case is Bob Nutting's. He's said 82 doesn't matter. He wants to see the team contend for a playoff spot deep into the season. That's the bar, not 82.

I'll take on the second one in the Friday column, which covers a lot of loose ends from spring training.

Chris: What would you consider a "successful" end to the 2013 campaign for Pitt BB? Considering last year's CBI appearance, just getting back to the Tourney seems impressive in and of itself, you think?

Dejan Kovacevic: They really need to win at least a couple of tournament games, you'd think. Even then, I can't imagine too many people pronouncing the season a success. Guess it depends on if you believed the Jim Boeheim assessment of the Panthers' talent level or what you've seen with your own eyes.

To me, this roster all along has been designed to be better next year than this one. That's when I'd set the expectations.

John: If I were the Steelers I would take a chance on drafting (Rich or Michael I forget) Mauti in the later rounds. He plays hard, is smart, gets off blocks and is what is known as a football player.

Dejan Kovacevic: It's Michael Mauti, and I agree with you he's a wonderful football player. But that's one whale of a knee injury he had at the end of Penn State's season. Teams will be leery.

Zeb: Greg Amodio seems to be good at eliminating sports at DUQ. A couple years ago the elimination of several sports including baseball and swimming, now the elimination of the men's basketball program.

Dejan Kovacevic: Ka-boom.

Guest: How bad did Jonathan Sanchez look? No chance to make the team?

Dejan Kovacevic: Oh, Lord.

Andrew from Long Island: Wonder of Laviolette still thinks Claude Giroux is still the best player in the world after his play this year...Will you be at the game tonight? Can you ask him... lol.. should be a fun game tonight!

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm not in Philly. Just got back to Pittsburgh late last night from Fort Myers. Here's guessing Lavy is ready for that one.

MAdesso: Hey DK, I hear good things about Gaby Sanchez this spring. Is this just another spring training hype, or do you see him regaining his previous stroke?

Dejan Kovacevic: Gaby looks very, very good at the plate, but here's where I'd draw a line between what Sanchez is doing and what Tabata is doing. Simple performance at the plate can be more of a spring, fluky thing than what we're seeing from Tabata, who's visibly swinging, running, throwing far better than in the past.

Napper: The poor play by Tomas Vokoun can't all be blamed on bad defense. He has been out of position too often and is not controlling his rebounds. Has the defense lost confidence in him? It seems they get out of position trying to help him out.

Dejan Kovacevic: Vokoun has been awful of late. All of what you mentioned, and actually a little more. But the Penguins have far more to gain from straightening him out than from burying him.

Brian G.: Why won't the NHL and NHLPA step up do what is obviously right and make protective socks and visors mandatory? Also, I think the head gear should include jaw protection but hey..who am I to think safety first.

Dejan Kovacevic: Agreed 100 percent. If the Marc Staal video doesn't change it, not sure what might.

PatNYC: I read that the Pirates upgraded Mckechnie Field. What did you think?

Dejan Kovacevic: It was very, very nice, as I hope you could cull from some of the InstaGram photos I put up. The outfield boardwalk is wonderful, the separation of concession stands on the first base side ... only complaint was the little party deck out by left field with the PNC Park-ish modern roofs. Doesn't fit in at all with the old-school motif. Otherwise, wonderful.

Stuart Scott: Dejan, does ESPN have bias towards sports that they air or do they show the sports that people care about? I know you have your data that suggests NBA isn't as popular (lesser attendance than NHL) as they suggest. Just ask around, and people love the NBA, no one cares what is going on in the NHL, heck no one can even name 10 NHL players.

Dejan Kovacevic: I'll put you in touch with my friends at Visit Pittsburgh. You'll find plenty here, and we'll even stuff fries into your sandwich for you!

I don't hate the NBA. I just couldn't care less about it. The college and international brands of basketball are wonderful. The NBA's is awful. I'm one person, and that's one opinion, that's all.

Pittsburgh is a hockey town. The evidence is so overwhelming it's staggering at this point.

One more today ...

Michael: DK, favorite building in Pgh? Ill take the Union Trust Building

Dejan Kovacevic: I'll always take the Courthouse, from now till the end of my time. That's the easy answer, sure, but there's a reason for it.

Here's hoping baseball fans appreciate the heavy influence the Courthouse had on PNC Park, by the way, especially the small windows on the General Robinson Street side.

Union Trust a bit too ornamental for me. I'll take for second place the amazing cluster of old financial buildings at the corner of Wood and Fourth. Just stand there and look straight up. Amazing.

Dejan Kovacevic: Thanks to all for participating. The column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The blanks get filled in by the radio show Tuesday and this here chat Thursday, plus the blog that never sleeps.

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