Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript: May 16, 2013
By Dejan Kovacevic
Published: Thursday, May 16, 2013, 1:11 p.m.
Dejan Kovacevic: Another golden day in the Burgh, another curious day off in the Stanley Cup playoffs ... somehow we'll cope ...
Comment From Sam: Good Afternoon Dejan, Will Marc Andre Fleury become a “cap casualty” after the season? Penguin free agents include Adams, Cooke, Dupuis, Iginla, and Morrow. Next year it's Malkin, Letang, Kunitz, and Vokoun. I know one contract can't re-sign everybody, but it seems like a Ray Shero trade in the making.
Dejan Kovacevic: There's been quite a bit of premature RIPing going on related to Fleury in the past week. Even if all you believe in Fleury is that he can win a bunch in the regular season, that's not something one readily finds. He has legit value, to the Penguins or any team.
That said, I wouldn't say it's unfair to suggest that the rest of these playoffs will go a long way toward determining his — and many players' — future as Penguins.
Comment From MAdesso: DK, why mess with the first two lines again! It appears Iggy is going back to the second with Neal on the left. I realy like Iggy with Sid and Kunitz with Gen n Neal. Why keep changing back n forth?
Dejan Kovacevic: Dan Bylsma hasn't said this, but it simply has to be that Sidney Crosby was looking a little exasperated five-on-five. Fact is, Chris Kunitz creates space for Crosby in those settings, maybe in a manner that Evgeni Malkin doesn't need. Malkin, as we've seen on more than one occasion in the past week, can pretty much make his own just by going into that unique, powerful hyperdrive of his. Crosby needs a bit of room to get going.
I'd look at that much more than anything related to Malkin, Jarome Iginla or James Neal.
Comment From JoePa: What do you make of the latest SI article concerning Penn State and Bill O'Brien's sharp response? More piling on by the media?
Dejan Kovacevic: I'm not a believer in the ‘piling on' thinking that pervades many at Penn State, as it specifically relates to the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Let's be clear on that. Everything that came, that administration, that football coach (Joe Paterno) and that perpetrator (Sandusky) had coming. Nobody piled on.
So, setting that aside, the SI article struck me as lacking the substance needed to levy such a charge, and Bill O'Brien's passionate response was pitch-perfect.
If you're going to make accusations of medical malpractice, you'd better be bring it with gusto.
But I'll repeat: My view has nothing to do with media treatment of the Sandusky scandal. I don't care if SI's does or not.
Comment From Jim: The past 2 seasons have seen the Pirates collapse miserably in the second half of the season. Do you agree or disagree that this year's team looks more equipped to avoid such a disappointing finish?
Dejan Kovacevic: This mythical, abstract notion of the Collapse seems to be dominating the discussion as it relates to whether the Pirates can sustain their strong start. It shouldn't. As you correctly stress, it should be about whether or not the team is equipped — talent, depth — to handle a long season.
Right now, we're at the quarter point.
And right now, the answer that I'll bring is still a resounding no.
Hope you had a chance to see the blog entry this morning on Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon — the one that wondered if these gentlemen are even human. Their statistics are beyond comprehension, to put it mildly. And they've been the bedrock of this start, to their credit as well as management for acquiring and identifying their right roles.
We focus a lot on how many innings they've pitched, and that's a fair topic. To me, though, an equally significant matter is the sustainability of such video-game-like stats. Those just don't happen for relievers.
Now, other starters could step up, such as Francisco Liriano, James McDonald, Jeff Karstens, even Charlie Morton. But you're still going to have to finish the ninth, and at some point you're going to have to cope with a whole world of comeuppance in the process.
Comment From Louis in Michigan: Have you seen any of Steelers rookies in person? Apparently Shamarko Thomas is making some strong 1st impressions
Dejan Kovacevic: I've seen all of them, to a degree, after attending Steelers rookie camp last week. Those practices won't show you much — no real pads, no contact — but the one guy I blogged about that day more than any other was Thomas. Just has an impressive presence in the secondary.
Here is my entry from that visit, including video questions for Jarvis Jones and Le'Veon Bell.
Sounds like some of you aren't reading the blog! Don't make me send the Blog Police after you. Those are some dangerous individuals.
Comment From BenderHeel: The Pens made it look laughably easy in Game 1 versus the Isles, but the opener against Ottawa was just different. What adjustments can the Sens make since they don't have the speed that seemed to be the cause of the problems the Isles gave the Pens?
Dejan Kovacevic: That's a tremendous question, and I'm sure it's one that's caused Paul MacLean to lose a bit of sleep the past couple days.
See, with the Islanders, you knew they had another gear. You knew that three-quarters of their roster had never seen a playoff game before and would work that out of their system, then start skating like they can.
I'm just not seeing it.
That's not to suggest the Sens can't play better. They can. To answer your question, they're capable of much tighter passing and much more accurate shooting in the offensive zone. They're also eminently capable of not being physically shoved around, as they were in Game 1. I'll even add that Craig Anderson usually plays better than he did, at least against 28 other teams.
But on that same note, I'll come right back by saying the Penguins, too, have another level to find by sustaining a forecheck for more than 5-10 seconds at a time. If Eric Gryba is lost to the Sens on the blue line, that's yet another hole to exploit on a mostly big but slow D. If the Penguins can keep the puck in the attacking zone for good stretches, that tilts things even more in their favor.
Comment From Newtang: Is it frustrating as a reporter to have no commentary on injuries from the coaching staff?
Dejan Kovacevic: Only when the information disseminated is a lie. That's the only time. If they simply say, ‘We're not discussing this,' then there isn't an issue at all. Not sure why anyone would even think we'd be frustrated by that. Moreover, when they tell the athlete to stay silent, also no big deal.
But when anyone in the organization, athlete included, is put into a position where they're outright lying about something — even something very small — that's terribly unfair to that individual. No one should be made to lie in public.
And yes, that's happened at least a couple of times this season, including once in the past month.
The Penguins are better than that.
Comment From Alan Gifford: Josi and Bennett gonna be scratches most of the time now?
Dejan Kovacevic: Assuming you mean Jussi Jokinen and Beau Bennett, I wouldn't bet on that lasting forever. The Senators are good on faceoffs, as we saw in Game 1, and Jokinen is a wizard in that area. He might earn a spot on that count alone, given how much this coaching staff lives for the draw. Bennett can't be ruled out, either. If Anderson steps up, the Penguins might eventually look for additional offense.
And that's to say nothing of potential injury needs at some stage. Or Joe Vitale lapsing, as he's done in the past.
I think you'll see plenty of both before long.
Comment From Rooney U: Steelers signed first draft pick today. Expect they will get all under contract long before camp opens?
Dejan Kovacevic: That's Shamarko Thomas, of course, one of the two fourth-rounders. If you look at how the changes in the NFL labor pact have impacted draft pick signings, I'd say there's an excellent chance all will be ready in camp. The main concern is always the first-rounder, and if Jarvis Jones doesn't grasp the opportunity that's in front of him — no reason he shouldn't beat out Jason Worilds at ROLB — then I'm not sure you'd want him on the team, anyway.
I'll be stunned if they're not all in Latrobe in ample time.
Comment From tim m: Rafi torres is certainly a repeat offender what do you see the nhl doing today in way of punishment?
Dejan Kovacevic: I've seen the hit several times, and I've got no issue with it. Punishing Torres because he's Torres makes about as much sense as repeatedly penalizing Matt Cooke because he's Matt Cooke.
I know the hearing is in person, but that alone might be because of Torres' history and because Brendan Shanahan wants to look him in the eye. But a suspension ... the replays I've seen don't support it.
Look, you can't suspend people every time someone is hurt. The Brooks Orpik/Gryba hit is a perfect example. You can watch that replay from 1,000 angles and, for crying out loud, not even the Ottawa Senators could find something wrong with it. Even if Gryba was a previous concussion victim. Even if there was secondary head contact.
Comment From Brian G: What do we do with Pedro? When can we rename him Rob Deer or a poor man's Adam Dunn?
Dejan Kovacevic: Alvarez will come around. And by season's end, he'll have 20-something homers and no one will remember the slump, as was the case last summer.
At the same time, regarding Deer and Dunn, there might also come a point where people waiting for Alvarez to turn into some super-polished power hitter are just going to have to accept a .250 guy with great pop. It's not the end of the world, even if it's not going to get him to Cooperstown.
Comment From Little Ben: Does Ben buy in to Haley's Offense this season? The O has underachieved the last 2 years - ranked 21 in the NFL. They need to score points in a big way this season.
Dejan Kovacevic: Hard to say. If you read Joe Starkey's recent interview with Charlie Batch, it strongly supported what many — myself included — had publicly reported, that Ben and Haley were consistently at odds. I remember in particular when I wrote this piece from Dallas I got all kinds of backlash from Steelers fans in denial over this.
This is a real issue, not TMZ, not made up.
To me, if Ben focuses on some of the real strides the Steelers' offense made before his injury last season and looks at it positively, there's hope. But it'll all ultimately come down to execution, and the receiving corps doesn't look as strong, Heath Miller might still be out, either Mike Adams or Marcus Gilbert will be entrusted with his life, and there could be a rookie running back.
Who's taking odds on the first Ben/Haley kumbaya?
Comment From Guest23: Have you ever gotten “starstruck” doing your job (with an athlete, another writer, etc)? Who is the most famous non sports personality you have ever met?
Dejan Kovacevic: Never with an athlete. Ever. Been part of the job far too long. Once you've known Mario Lemieux for nearly two decades, everybody else looks pretty small.
Musicians, though, that freaks me out. I once did a phone interview with Colin Moulding, bassist for XTC, my favorite band ever, and I probably could have kept that phone the rest of my life. Totally shameless groupie.
Comment From Brian: Are you truly not even a little excited at the Pirates start? As of May 16, they've won 23 games and have the second wild card seed...
Dejan Kovacevic: I'm pretty sure I've never described any degree of “excitement,” high or low. What the Pirates have done to date is eminently commendable. There's absolutely no question about that. But I don't look at pulling victory out of Jeanmar Gomez's four-inning starts as sustainable. I WOULD look at games like last night — Wandy Rodriguez for seven smooth innings, plus the two immaculate bullpen guys — as sustainable, except that those two guys eventually are going to make their way down from orbit. And the Pirates had best hope it isn't an outright crash and burn.
Let me put it another way: You could conceivably be looking at a Pirates team right now with a lesser record but more signs of sustainability, and I'd see that as far stronger cause for “excitement.”
Comment From Louis in Michigan: Morning alert set to read the Blog. Dejan, granted it's looking a little ahead, but does this Pens team match up well against L.A. or Chicago if they come out of the West? The Blackhawks look amazing
Dejan Kovacevic: Thanks, Louis. Look forward to having you comment on there, too! The Hawks are just evil right now. They've got speed, size, depth, toughness, D, goaltending, pretty much everything. But I'll also caution anyone against looking ahead too far. The Penguins have won only a quarter of the games they need to get through this round alone.
Comment From Playoffs by 2012: Which is the more difficult job and why, NHL beat writer or MLB beat writer?
Dejan Kovacevic: I've done both. Very different challenges, very different mindsets. I've always maintained that even though the NHL guy travels less, the travel's just as grueling because you never stay anywhere long enough to unpack. And the deadlines and all that are very similar, as well.
The one area where baseball stands out is that it has an amazing level of personal access, affording you much more time to personally get to know the players. An NHL locker room, by comparison is open for maybe 15 minutes max, and whoever you get is whoever you get.
Similar and different.
Comment From MAdesso: Dejean, is Starling MArte eligible for R.O.Y. this year?
Dejan Kovacevic: He is not. Too many at-bats in 2012.
Comment From Guest: You've been highly critical of the Pirates, primarily the front office - however, do you sense any pushback from the players b/c of your more negative coverage of the organization? (for example, Travis Snider did not seem thrilled in the video to be talking to you and about his “painfully long swing)
Dejan Kovacevic: Whoa, really?
That didn't happen at all. Had a great talk with Snider, both on and off camera, and I thought his answer about the long swing was a tremendous one in that he described that it actually can alternate. That's not something you often see in baseball. Guys with long swings like Adam LaRoche usually don't have a shorter gear.
My relationship, as you describe it, with the players — every last one of them — and with Clint Hurdle is as healthy as it's ever been. As you yourself point out there, the criticism has been aimed at the front office, which is well over any of their heads.
And if it were aimed at the players, that wouldn't change how I'd do things, either. You still go to work, still ask questions, including those that might make people uncomfortable. Just part of the job.
Comment From Shane: What's up Dejan! What do you think it will take before Disco Dan can sit Vokoun in favor of Fleury and not receive a ton of criticism from fans?
Dejan Kovacevic: That decision will be an obvious one, once it comes. No one will be surprised. Comment From Guest: The NHL is a hack league...Look how few Americans play the sport, the Major College athletes who play cannot hold a candle (athletically) to NCAA football, hoops, or baseball players. It's just a major sport played at a much lower level and whose make-up would be completely changed if more American athletes were exposed to it. What sayeth you?
Dejan Kovacevic: What I sayeth is that you don't sound like you're from Pittsburgh.
Comment From Guest: Dejan — Just curious about your writing process. Do you dictate or use the keyboard, how extensively and when do you use notes — just for quotes, or do you jot down good lines for later use? Do you rewrite before you submit a story, and do your editors change or delete much?
Dejan Kovacevic: It's all written on a Mac (or on a plane I've done pieces on an iPhone, but that's miserable). There's almost never time for a rewrite, certainly not on deadline. On a game night, I have to file once right at the very end of a game (final out, final horn), then once again in an hour with quotes. That's it.
The process you describe doesn't exist. It's all too fast.
One more today ...
Comment From Louis in Michigan: If Sid is the reason Kunitz is moved to the top line, is there an issue with control in the locker room. Does Disco have the authority to lay down the law, so to speak?
Dejan Kovacevic: Dan Bylsma coaches a team loaded with stars. Anyone who doesn't think stars have a say doesn't know or understand modern sports or even modern society. That's one thing.
Another is that great players tend to get great for a reason. They know what's good for them. Not listening to them makes zero sense.
But my final point here is that I'm the one who speculated above at the reasons for the line switch. That's all. Just speculation from just one person. Don't read any more into it than that. Someone asked an opinion, and I gave it.
Dejan Kovacevic: That's all for today. It's take-your-father-to-school day, and I've got to make sure I'm doing the least amount of damage to my daughter's standing with her friends. Which means I've got to change out of this FREE COMIC BOOK DAY T-shirt.
The column schedule is out of whack because of all playoffs, all the time. I'll be with the Penguins wherever they go for the duration. The radio show is Tuesday. This here chat is Thursday. And the blog is ... not to be trifled with.
Thanks to all for participating!
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