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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript: May 30, 2013

| Thursday, May 30, 2013, 1:13 p.m.

Dejan Kovacevic: Hey, greetings from rinkside at Consol, where the Penguins — all of them, including Chris Kunitz — are practicing in advance of Game 1 Saturday night. All topics welcome ...

Comment From Guest: What's your reaction to John Tortorella being fired?

Dejan Kovacevic: Anyone who's a fan of the Penguins should be dismayed because now someone might be able to capitalize on some of the pretty good talent Glen Sather's acquired of late for the Rangers. You know, rather than stating publicly that Carl Hagelin “stinks” on the power play.

Otherwise, good riddance. The man was an embarrassment, and the coach wasn't far behind in that regard.

Comment From Kyle: Which lawsuit has the potential to damage the NCAA the most, the Ed O'Bannon case, or the various Penn State (Jake Corman, Tom Corbett, Paterno Family) cases?

Dejan Kovacevic: If the Paternos' lawsuit even makes it to the point of being typed up, it should be laughed out at the first opportunity. Just as the loony wing of Penn Staters — and I understand it's a small group, not lumping everyone in — should be laughed out for perpetuating this story.

It's selfish and, to a degree, sickening to not allow not only the victims to move past it but also the university itself. Bill O'Brien at some point might do well to tell these people — all of them, Paternos and Francos included — to just shut up and let the football program move on. With what O'Brien's achieved in the past year-plus, he's earned that right.

Comment From Louis in Michigan: Dejan, how encouraging is it to see Fleury with a smile on his face every time they show him on the bench, interacting happily with teammates? You see him in practice. Does he carry the demeanor of a goalie with broken confidence?

Dejan Kovacevic: Fleury has to be that way. Let's start there. I'm looking at him right now, and he and Tomas Vokoun are at opposite ends taking extra shots even though the formal part of practice ended a few minutes ago. It's as if neither wants to leave the ice first or send some kind of signal of entitlement.

That's not a bad thing. Competition is good. Keeps especially goalies sharper.

Otherwise, though, Fleury's a happy individual by default. I don't see him getting crushed by this. Really don't.

Comment From BenderHeel: Would you start giving Grilli and Melancon total days off (i.e., no chance of warming up or pitching)? Seems like it would be something to consider, even on days where they haven't pitched on back-to-back days to give them breaks that could help down the line.

Dejan Kovacevic: Check today's blog for some mind-blowing numbers on both. But here's just one: Grilli has now saved 22 of the Pirates' 33 victories. The Pirates have 28 save opportunities as a whole, one shy of the major-league lead. They're first in what FanGraphs calls high-leverage innings pitched.

These gentlemen's arms will fall off by mid-July at this pace.

Why won't Clint Hurdle trust others?

Only he knows that.

Comment From yinzer in va: Dejan, The final four in the Stanley Cup playoffs also are the last four champions. I can't recall a time when this has happened. Do you? Maybe this is a question for Elias.

Dejan Kovacevic: All I know is it's happened on only one other occasion. I'd have to guess it was during the Original Six era, but I don't know the year. Anyone?

Comment From Ryan: DK, love the blog. I know it seems so far away but what sport do you hope will be included for the 2020 Olympics?

Dejan Kovacevic: It would be outright insulting to the Olympic spirit as well as the history of the Games themselves to leave out wrestling, as has been threatened. I was encouraged this week to see it made the IOC's ‘short list.' One more hurdle to clear in September.

Comment From Keith: What is your take on Mike Wallace running his mouth in Miami about the Steelers and the city of Pittsburgh?

Dejan Kovacevic: I didn't see Wallace say anything about the city, but I did see him describe the Dolphins as ‘hungrier.' I don't have a problem with that. There's no doubt the Steelers had some malaise last year, just as there's no doubt the Dolphins have been lousy for so long that their room is filled with ‘character' guys who talk the talk but can't play a lick.

Comment From Keith: What is your prediction for the Pens-Bruins series?

Dejan Kovacevic: Busted! You missed Wednesday's column! Give me 50 laps around Zdeno Chara!

Comment From Daquido Bazzini: Did I hear correctly that Jarvis Jones has been on the practice field this week for OTA's, after missing last week because of a hamstring problem?

Dejan Kovacevic: Jones is out there, but don't overestimate the physical nature of OTAs. They are, as Mike Tomlin reminds almost daily, ‘football in shorts.' There's movement and full speed at times, but nothing compared to football action.

What I can share here is that I've heard Tomlin was none too pleased with the young man during rookie camp upon hearing of the hammy.

Those are not injuries coaches or managers tolerate.

Comment From strakagirl: Kind sir — my husband is a Pens fan; I am a Bruins fan. This is the first time since we met that our teams have met in the playoffs. I thinks the Pens win in five; he thinks the Bruins will win in six. How can we keep the peace during the series?

Dejan Kovacevic: Separate rooms and two remotes!

Comment From Naterosboro: What are your feelings on the disallowed goal in Period 3 between the Blackhawks & Red Wings?

Dejan Kovacevic: For all the fuss over how Stephen Walkom made the blown call of a lifetime because he cost the Hawks a potential series-clinching goal, what many seemed to overlook is that Walkom was the back ref. All he's watching is that mess in front of the bench. And that's all he's supposed to be watching.

So that part was a job well done.

What I took issue with is that Brandon Saad in no way deserved his end of the coincidental minors. All Saad did was to nearly have his spine snapped like a twig over the boards.

(Walkom and Saad are both Pittsburgh guys, by the way.)

Comment From Teeks: I think that Doc Emerick is the best national play-by-play man in all of American sports. He is knowledgable but relatable, he is dramatic and intense without over-selling, and he manages to sound both scripted and natural at the same time. I'd be curious if you think there is anybody better?

Dejan Kovacevic: Nobody is better than Mike Emrick. If there's anyone in his stratosphere in terms of calling pure play-by-play, it's Mike Lange, whose flamboyant goal calls long have overshadowed his excellent game-calling.

Comment From m: Given how well Jason Grilli has played this year, especially factoring in his age, previous performance, and baseball's tainted history, is it at all unreasonable to ask whether or not some other forces are at play here? I know most of the time even broaching the subject can get someone censured and I almost feel bad bringing it up with absolutely no evidence but it's hard not to wonder how someone does this well this late after too little of nothing for their entire career.

Dejan Kovacevic: A Toronto columnist, Damien Cox, once raised the issue of Jose Bautista and PEDs in a piece for the Star. All Cox did was ask a series of questions, but it was pretty clear its point was to be accusatory of how a bench player in Pittsburgh suddenly had become Babe Ruth.

Cox was savaged for this, inside and outside of baseball.

To my mind, people can't have it both ways. If you want to rip on the media for not doing their part during the McGwire/Sosa era, you can't now put on the same blinders and say it's verboten to raise PEDs in similar cases. Not when Melky Cabrera nearly won a batting title last year while verifiably cheating by using PEDs. Not when players still are being suspended with regularity. It's happening. It's out there.

Grilli is doing things in his career right now he's never done. I'll refer again to the blog, this to a piece I wrote a couple days ago comparing his old numbers and current numbers.

I'm not going to make an accusation. I'm not even going to ask a question, as Cox did. I have absolutely no hard, substantive reason to think it's anything but natural, and journalism requires you to do more than sling mudballs and see what sticks.

But in the most general sense, until the World Anti-Doping Agency has completely eradicated cheating in sports — that'll happen, you know, never — it should always be a fair discussion point.

Comment From WyattBurp: Afternoon, Dejan. I'm a Detroit Red Wings fan. Boy, it was heartbreaking to endure watching the Blackhawks advance, but I think my team did the best they could; it just wasn't good enough, this time. What was your assessment of Game 7?

Dejan Kovacevic: My assessment was that was the first time it had been so painfully clear how much Nicklas Lidstrom really meant to that franchise. Zero transition game.

Comment From Derek: I know that Tomlin's opinion (full recovery) and Butler's opinion (might not ever play again) differ in regards to Sean Spence, what is your opinion?

Dejan Kovacevic: No one's opinion on this matters except the doctors, and I know at least from covering Spence and other athletes that nerve issues aren't even a sure thing among medical people. Once they detach or stop sending signals, you're pretty much reduced to hoping they resume acting normally. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't.

Dejan Kovacevic: I really respect the Steelers for standing by Spence through this. It would be all too easy to toss him to the curb, given the massive uncertainty involved.

Comment From hoyle13: Only other time was 1945: Bruins (‘41), Maple Leafs (‘42),Red Wings (‘43), and Canadiens (‘44)

Dejan Kovacevic: Ah, see, I never would have gotten it because my brain can't process the Leafs ever having won anything.


Comment From Neal: When is this hockey thing going to be over? I miss baseball talk, especially now that it is still relevant.

Dejan Kovacevic: How long ago, exactly, did you leave Pittsburgh?

Comment From Ted: What is a realistic timeline for the Riverhounds to be an MLS franchise?

Dejan Kovacevic: Roughly a decade. That's the most realistic timetable I've been given by Jason Kutney, the CEO. And even that, remember, would entail either new stadium construction or a massive expansion of Highmark Stadium.

Comment From James: Who would you use in high pressure situations instead of Melancon? Should Clint Hurdle give Vic Black a shot when he comes off the DL at alternating appearances with Melancon?

Dejan Kovacevic: This isn't fantasy ball. You don't plug rookies in because they profile well in Baseball America. I'd look at Tony Watson as eighth inning, as Hurdle did last night, and ... maybe Bryan Morris. But I don't trust Justin Wilson's career walk rate, and I don't see anyone else at the moment.

Comment From Randy: Mandatory reading of blog and columns should be required before getting the privilege of a question answered.

Dejan Kovacevic: Yeah, but what do we do, stamp your wrist with a Kenny Kangaroo image before entering?

Comment From Christina: Pens players have been seen out a lot together for lunch and dinner in the last few days including lots of the new guys. Would you say that the chemistry in the team is in particular good this year or just like the Pens usually are (which is pretty good anyway)?

Dejan Kovacevic: How would anyone know who's out and about? Is TMZ tracking them?

Comment From Oh yeah: Grilli's agent, Gary Sheffield, a known user

Dejan Kovacevic: That hardly qualifies as evidence of anything.

Comment From JamesinNYC: I listen to a lot of non PGH broadcasts for the Pens. Hated the Islanders..they were not only huge homers but terrible anouncing. Ottawa folks were realistic homers but very good anouncers, not as good as Mike Lange but good. Who do you like from out of town announcers and who do you dislike?

Dejan Kovacevic: I very rarely hear hockey announcers as it relates to Penguins games because, more often than not, I'm in the arenas where there is never audio to go with the TV monitors hung in press boxes.

That said, I like the Vancouver and Winnipeg guys when I've heard them. Unfortunately don't know their names. Really sharp.

Comment From Steve: DK, Don't you think you were out of line hammering on Tortorella? So he was a jerk, He got fired, he got what was coming to him, whats the point of piling on? A little childish IMO.

Dejan Kovacevic: Question asked, question answered.

Comment From Wally-O: Why do a lot of Penguin fans not seem to be fans of other sports? What is it about hockey or maybe the Pneguins that seem to attract that kind of crowd?

Dejan Kovacevic: I've noticed that over the years, too, and the simple answer — having lived among them — is that the passion for the sport runs so deep that there just isn't a lot of leftover time or energy for the rest.

On the downside, that's how Gary Bettman and the unions get away with all these work stoppages. They know these fans will come back. Every single one of them.

Comment From Playoffs by 2012: DK, I understand that a very vocal small minority of so-called Pirates fans have made covering and writing about this team an absolute chore for you. But please know there are a lot of fans out here, much like myself, who greatly enjoy your coverage of the Pirates and have for quite some time now. Please don't let the annoying minority make you jaded towards the whole lot. Thanks.

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm pretty sure that I've done either 10 or 11 columns on the Pirates in this calendar year, including being the only local columnist to travel to Bradenton. That's a pretty good ratio for this time of year, even if it's been a while since the last one, April 21 in praise of Starling Marte's great start.

I'm very sure that, from the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs until the very end, my sole focus is Penguins. That's a decision made by editors, and it's a decision of which I'm fully and enthusiastically supportive. This team rules this town right now. It's a no-brainer.

So, there's no ‘chore' here at all. I don't talk much Pirates at all on social media for two reasons: 1. I'm not around them much right now. When I have been, I've done all the usual tweeting of pics and stuff. 2. There actually are people who think that casual conversation on Twitter or whatever is somehow the same as real published work and, in my encounters, most of those are the more retentive baseball fans, who might just be the biggest single turnoff in all of sports.

That's not everyone but, as you say, it's a few.

For me, social media is fun. If I'm not having fun with a topic, I'm not bringing it up. Interacting with Penguins, Steelers, Pitt and increasingly Penn State fans (not the wackos) has been fun for me.

Comment From JoeBucco: Isn't the real problem with the overuse of Grilli and Melancon that the Pirates just aren't winning games by enough runs? If we could only win by 4 or 5 instead of 1 or 2, we'd be much better off. ;)

Dejan Kovacevic: Yeah, and that gets to the broader issue of run differential and other factors. Look at the NL Central expanded standings right now, and you'll see the Pirates right there with the Cardinals and Reds ... until you look at the runs.

You need blowouts every once in a while. You can't have the same back-end guys finishing off three-quarters of your wins.

This isn't a revelation. The Pirates know this. Hope you got to see Clint Hurdle's interview with TribLIVE Radio yesterday. Very telling in this regard.

Comment From Joe: Hmmm seems like you are insinuating your suspicions about Grilli without saying it. I see what your doing here.

Dejan Kovacevic: Doing nothing of the kind.

Question asked, question answered.

Comment From Jim: One announcer, one game - Prince, Cope, or Lange?

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, Myron was a color commentator, so it's between the other two. Sorry, I can't pick that. Way too tough.

Comment From Napper: Any insight on how the Pens view on how to beat Rask?

Dejan Kovacevic: Just fire away. This is not some elite goaltender, as he's shown in these playoffs. (And not just because of the doozy in Game 4 against the Rangers where he fell all over himself.) There's no goalie left in this field, aside from Jonathan Quick, capable of singlehandedly stealing a series. And I'm not even sure Quick could pull that off against this group.

The Penguins would do well to rattle Rask in the first couple games, as they clearly did to Craig Anderson.

Comment From Jandy: Speak for yourself, Wally-O. I'm a HUGE Penguins fan, I love Pirate's baseball, the Steelers, and I even like UFC (cage fighting).

Dejan Kovacevic: There you go. I'll bet you even flipped channels for the U.S. friendly against Belgium last night in Cleveland.

Comment From Matt: Can you and Dan Potash clone yourselves (like sci-fi style cloning not realisitic cloning) so you can both do full time Pirates and Penguins coverage?

Dejan Kovacevic: Hasn't Potash already been cloned?

Comment From Napper: Does it bother any of the coaches or players that Troy Polamalu continues to skip the spring OTA's?

Dejan Kovacevic: Tomlin asks — maybe pleads — with Troy to at least show up for one week of these. Troy never used to come. Now he does. The attendance this year actually has been great on the South Side.

Comment From Biz: How are the numbers looking for the Sunday Night show? Any new additions planned?

Dejan Kovacevic: Really don't want to do a horse race with the numbers all the time. We and WPXI-TV are both happy with ‘The Final Word' and how it's started. Feels like there's a better balance, more flow to the show even than what we had a couple weeks ago.

And yes, you're going to see more faces. The Trib's staff is all in this mix, depending on the time of year, the sport at hand, etc., offering you their inside perspective.

This week, I'll be on with hockey beat man Josh Yohe, as well as the WPXI contingent.

Comment From Rob: Have you noticed any line changes at Pens practices?

Dejan Kovacevic: Status quo.

Comment From Mike: Does Geno get an extension this summer?

Dejan Kovacevic: Unquestionably. So will Letang.

Comment From D: You mention doing 10 or 11 columns on the Pirates in this year - there was at least one, if not two that related directly to the signing of Russell Martin. Have you changed your opinion - calling it a desperate signing and making comparisons to Matt Morris - after seeing 1/3 of the season?

Dejan Kovacevic: One-third of a season shouldn't change anyone's mind about anything in baseball. But if I'd written a piece in which I predicted how Martin would do through one-third of a season, yeah, I'd take that back.

And the Morris comparison wasn't to the athlete. It was to management's mindset of needing to win now to save their jobs. That's 100 percent accurate no matter how Martin fares.

Comment From Guest: Do you think that any of the talk about not keeping Fleury even makes sense? Sure he has had a few shaky playoff performances, but the Penguins can't win the Cup every year even if he steals the show. He is a good goalie with a reasonable salary after the cap goes back up.

Dejan Kovacevic: It might not be up to the Penguins. That's something I never hear discussed, but remember if he were to want out, that would change things a ton.

Money is needed. If Fleury isn't a clear No. 1 next season, no need to keep him.

One more today ...

Comment From Kevin in Dover: Any chance we re-sign any of the new guys? Morrow, Iginla, Murray, and Jokinen?

Dejan Kovacevic: Jokinen is already signed for next season, per his Carolina contract. I'd put the likelihood of the others, in order, as Murray, Iginla and Morrow. Not priority. But likelihood. Ray Shero and Jason Botteril will need to reinvent the wheel to clear up this much cash.

Dejan Kovacevic: Thanks to all for participating. There will be four columns in a row this weekend: Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday before we all head up to Boston for Games 3 and 4.

The radio show is Tuesday, this here chat Thursday, the blog always.

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