Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript: May 2, 2013
By Dejan Kovacevic
Published: Thursday, May 2, 2013, 1:07 p.m.
Dejan Kovacevic: Happy noon, all. Let's get going before Root decides to preempt us ...
Comment From Guest: Hello Dejan, how do you think Dan Bylsma shakes up the lines if Jussi Jokinen and James Neal are out for game 2? Because we don't know when Crosby and Orpik are going to be back.
Dejan Kovacevic: The Penguins' practice ongoing right now has the following top two lines: Kunitz-Crosby-Dupuis and Iginla-Malkin-Bennett. That strongly suggests — though with no certainty this time of year — that Crosby's at least close to returning. I've heard Jokinen isn't that bad, so this could be his just filling in for drills. We'll see. Bennett obviously would be taking Neal's spot. Again, we'll see.
Amazing the options this team has.
Comment From Zack: Do you think last year's playoffs made Bylsma a better coach? He's definitely improved in my opinion.
Dejan Kovacevic: If you mean playoffs, it's been one game. If you mean overall, I'd say absolutely, yes. That's why I wrote the Sunday column in the tone that I did, that this whole notion he's under some kind of gun is just nuts. He isn't.
There were plenty of adjustments made for the Islanders, even a couple in-game. I might be visiting those in another column over the coming weekend or once we get to Long Island.
Comment From Eric Majeski: I got to watch a dominating performance from the Pens last night, yet I walked back out of the building mad. Why? Because of the incredibly poor (yet extremely predictable) performance by the officials. Once the Pens got up big, they began to officiate the score, letting a ton of small things go. When Matt Martin crosschecked Tanner Glass in the back, I said letting things like that go is how you lose control of a game. Sure enough, more things like that were let go in the third (at both ends, to be fair). Eventually Marty Reasoner kicked his leg out at Jussi Jokinen and the referees decided to make up for lost time by handing out misconducts to almost everyone. Too little, too late. Why is it so difficult for NHL officials to simply call what's in the rulebook, regardless of score?
Dejan Kovacevic: I'll simplify all that: When a game gets out of hand, what you want to watch is which guy on the losing team starts “running around,” to use the hockey vernacular. That was Matt Martin from the outset. Not all of it was dirty. He put on some clean hits. But once Martin started to go a little loco, that's when the official has his secret weapons — misconducts — to get the guy off the ice or out of the game altogether.
That's managing the situation more than the score.
Comment From Mike in New Mexico: Who knows more about where playe's come from, Pierre McGuire or Mike Mayock?
Dejan Kovacevic: With all due respect to Pierre, who spends so much time speaking with scouts, the athletes and even families — North American and European, it should be stressed — if there's a more knowledgeable analyst in sports than Mayock, I haven't heard him.
Yeah, both can get a little grating as color commentators on games. I actually find Mayock particularly hard to digest on those Thursday night NFL Network games.
But man, watching and listening to him for all those hours on the draft last weekend, guy's amazing. Really is.
Comment From Naterosboro: Who is starting opposite LaMarr Woodley in the opener, Jarvis Jones or Jason Worilds?
Dejan Kovacevic: No one respects Keith Butler's candor more than I do, but even the Steelers' linebackers coach isn't putting it all on the table when he says the job is Worilds' to lose and that no rookie has ever started for him. The latter obviously is true, but you don't draft Jones if a) you believe in Worilds in the first place and b) if you don't want to play the kid.
Look at what Jones did in his collegiate career. This isn't some run-of-the-mill guy who's got to pay dues on special teams. He needs to be on the field devouring quarterbacks and breaking up things in the backfield. And I'll go a step further: He needs to be on the field at Latrobe learning those things as a first-teamer from the outset.
It can happen. Ask Maurkice Pouncey. He had a nice couple of days up at Saint Vincent, and he was on his way.
Comment From Daquido Bazzini: If the Pirates are in contention in latter July, what do you foresee them needing to add? Also, what is the chance of it being sufficiently added by the Nutting Regime? Dejan Kovacevic: If there's a possibility to add, I really don't feel the Pirates can afford to wait nearly that long. The gaps in the starting pitching, the lack of depth to the starts, are a screaming issue right now. There are only so many four-inning Jeanmar Gomez gems you can parlay into Ws before it starts eating away at the bullpen and in the standings.
I know the team sounds amped about adding Francisco Liriano soon, Charlie Morton a bit after that, but these two gentlemen have been robustly inconsistent when healthy, never mind coming off a long layoff (Liriano) or something as serious as Tommy John (Morton). Jeff Karstens is coming along more slowly than expected.
I've been saying this since the day my plane landed in Bradenton this spring, but this starting pitching won't cut it. Everyone is free to hope to the contrary, obviously, but there can't be much firm sentiment behind that.
Comment From Alan Gifford: Is Beau the best puck handler on the team?
Dejan Kovacevic: Not sure I'd put him in the top five there, Alan. In no meaningful order, Crosby, Malkin, Letang, Jokinen and I dare say Iginla (who has tremendous hands on a big man) rate above him.
Comment From Andy: Everyone seems to be going high on Shamarko Thomas within Steelers camp (as a Syracuse guy I'm ok with that) but what do you think his role outside of special teams will be in year one?
Dejan Kovacevic: Given the age of Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark, it's unimaginable that the next safety in line — which will be Thomas — won't be on the field a lot in his natural position. But yes, their plans right now call for him to play a very large role in special teams while learning safety, a highly complex position to learn at the NFL level no matter your pedigree. Ideally, obviously, Polamalu and Clark would do well to stay on the field.
Comment From @newtang: Unsung hero from last nights game? My vote is for Craig Adams. Mucking it up in front of the net and at least 1 helper
Dejan Kovacevic: Good call. Adams also was instrumental, as I tweeted at one point last night, in cutting off John Tavares' lanes into the box on New York power plays. Adams would completely abandon Mark Streit at the point to do so, which isn't something you commonly see.
My unsung was also my third star in today's Trib: Matt Cooke was just a force out there, partly in annoying Tavares, but also in anchoring the Penguins' best five-on-five line with Brandon Sutter and Brenden Morrow.
Comment From JamesinNYC: After learning Bell gained almost a 1000 yards AFTER contact, I decided yeah the Steelers still know more then me. And I get I could have made some serious yards running behind the Alabama line. Which of those two reasons do you like better from a reason standpoint, since it sounds you are coming around also?
Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, I am. Never get too stuck on any opinion regarding a young player. Le'Veon Bell did, indeed, play behind a lousy line at Michigan State, and the Steelers' own film studies — which focused on yards after contact, superior competition, etc. — supported very strongly that he makes things happen between the tackles.
That said, Bell also tried to make things happen outside the tackles, and it's clear he doesn't have the speed to do that at the NFL level no matter how well outside blocks are sealed.
He just needs to pound it up the gut for 3-4 yards and fall forward Eddie George-style for an extra couple.
Comment From Guest23: Which draft is the most enjoyable to prepare for-NHL, NFL or MLB? Which one has the best prep work to read and review?
Dejan Kovacevic: It's funny how very different all three drafts are, really. In baseball, the uncertainty attached to the prospects is overwhelming and intimidating. Even the most naturally gifted, strong-armed and fastest have ample chance to be total flops. Not so much in football and hockey, but the hockey draft is frustrating in that you almost never have a chance to see any of them actually play.
That makes football the most fun for me. You feel like you know the names, the personalities and — because there are so few games in the NFL — the needs of the teams picking.
Plus, man, they've turned the thing into a pageant for TV.
Comment From Rob: How much was last nights game a product of bad Islander play?
Dejan Kovacevic: Plenty. They allowed the Penguins to pound their star player, for one thing. That just can't happen, not in the regular season, certainly not in playoffs. Jack Capuano has to find an answer for that, even if it's ugly. If he doesn't, he's failing at his job.
Moreover, the Islanders are capable of smoother transitions that allow their fast forwards — especially Michael Grabner and Frans Nielsen — to gain the Penguins' blue line with speed. To my recollection, there was one such rush for New York all night, and Grabner to his credit turned it into a quality chance.
Like I wrote in today's column, the Islanders are better than this.
Comment From Guest: “Let them win, or let them be fired”...Well, they are winning - so how surprised are you?
Dejan Kovacevic: I'm not surprised by the hitting, save perhaps Starling Marte apparently looking like he's ready to find some other solar system for his talents, and I'm not surprised by the bullpen or the defense. What has surprised me, at the risk of repeating myself, is that they're getting away with so much poor starting pitching.
Here are some numbers: When the starter has gone a modest six-plus innings, the Pirates are 8-2. When the starter has failed to get that far, they've gone 8-10.
Anyone who knows baseball knows that latter figure is ridiculous and unsustainable.
As for the edict you're repeating up there ... it's April. Let's discuss the bigger picture on the 29th of September.
Comment From James_Nolo: Why all the excitement over Francisco Liriano from fans and the Pirates brass? He has posted worse numbers than Charlie Morton the past two seasons. Liriano's ERA was 5.34 last year and 5.09 in 2011.
Dejan Kovacevic: Just hope, I guess. Same sort of thinking that would lead someone to guarantee $1.375 million to Jonathan Sanchez after he had an 8.05 ERA last season and a 5-plus ERA this spring.
Comment From Naterosboro: You've covered various sports teams & events in Pittsburgh. Is it more fun to cover a “winner” or doesn't it matter as you're covering the team no matter what?
Dejan Kovacevic: The fun, as you put it, has nothing to do with either. It has to do with producing material that hopefully your readers enjoy. If I write a column about an Olympic race walker, as I did last summer from London, and readers respond very favorably and from all over, that's fun to me.
The fun in the job is the job itself, not being around any particular team or situation. The fun is the actual execution of reporting, writing and presentation.
Comment From Guest23: When logging on and going to Trib's site for the chats, what should I play as your walk up song?
Dejan Kovacevic: Easy. “Holidays In the Sun,” Sex Pistols. For no other reason than that it's got the best opening 20 seconds in punk history.
Comment From Naterosboro: Are there any tangible reasons why the Pirates have played terribly in Milwaukee since 2007?
Dejan Kovacevic: Sure. For the most part, the Pirates have been terrible and the Brewers haven't.
Comment From Tim: Kevin Minter, the best ILB without baggage, went to Arizona three spots before the Steelers picked in the second round. Is there any indication if they would have taken him had he been there and why wouldn't they try to trade up a few spots? Not looking forward to watching Larry Foote again this season?
Dejan Kovacevic: I doubt that, Tim, based solely on how Colbert and Tomlin very clearly — no matter what they say — drafted by need almost from beginning to end. Few could argue that they didn't need a running back above all, and Bell was atop their RB list.
Can't say for sure, obviously. I know Minter was highly regarded by some and, with Sean Spence's future looking cloudier by the day, someone will have to replace Foote, as you note.
But I still think they'd have gone for Bell.
Comment From Joey Pittsburgh: With the last change at home, the Pens were able to keep the Isles' first line in check all game through matchups. How much of an impact will the Isles having the last change in games 3 and 4 have?
Dejan Kovacevic: Funny that you ask. I was talking matchups with Nielsen, who would be the Islanders' main checking guy against another team's star, how that might work in this series.
“Ha!” he came back. “Who knows?”
Exactly. On the Penguins' end, it's a little different. Bylsma obviously wants Sutter out there against Tavares and won't have that at Nassau. So it'll be incumbent on other lines to a) generate their own forecheck and stay deep and b) be aware of 91 at all times.
Dejan Kovacevic: Couple more today ...
Comment From Guest: TSN reporting that Reasoner will not face a supplemental discipline hearing. Your thoughts?
Dejan Kovacevic: The NHL makes life difficult on itself sometimes. In large part, that's because they focus on outcomes rather than acts.
Reasoner jutted out his knee as he approached Jokinen. It was dangerous bordering on malicious. It can't happen in the sport. Just can't. But because Reasoner only makes contact with Jokinen's ankle rather than his knee, the outcome ... well, that isn't so bad now, is it?
In other words, name another sport that uses the actual extraction of blood to determine the severity of a penalty.
Comment From Guest23: You have been quiet about Jason Collins-does he stand with Robinson, Ali, Smith and Carlos and the like or is it merely a relevant but not majorly noteworthy, sports story?
Dejan Kovacevic: My favorite part of the Collins story has been that it's been received as if it's really no big deal. Which it isn't, in the broadest sense, because it shouldn't be.
If you can think of a more fitting way for a story like that to be accepted by the public — one great big meh, essentially — I can't.
Dejan Kovacevic: That's all for this week.
Stanley Cup playoffs will mess with my schedule for however long the Penguins remain. The columns the rest of this week will be Saturday (off Game 2), then Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from Long Island.
Thanks to all for participating! Good stuff today.
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