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Chat with Dejan Kovacevic: Feb. 7, 2014

| Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, 1:27 p.m.

CommanderCool: Hi Dejan, hope everything is good in Sochi, any thoughts on how the Letang news might impact the Penguins trade deadline plans?

Dejan Kovacevic: Had to pick my jaw up off the floor when I read that, and I'll assume many of you did the same. It's not just that it's borderline unheard of for an athlete to suffer a stroke in his or her prime, but it's the heart defect and everything. Hard to even fathom right off the bat.

Candidly, and I respect what and why you're asking about the trade deadline, so don't take this the wrong way: I can't bring myself to care about that even in the slightest at the moment.

Francois: If Letang had this injury to his heart all along, how did the pens miss it? With the way they handled 87 and now this...well...?

Dejan Kovacevic: Really? How would you catch it without a single symptom shown before the past week?

Maybe someone in the medical field can help, but does even the famed U.S presidential checkup account for something like this?

Brian: Good morning! What's on tap for DK in Sochi today?

Dejan Kovacevic: Opening Ceremony. Going on right now, actually. Started at 11:14 a.m. Pittsburgh time. It's 9:05 p.m. here in Sochi right now.

SochiBaby: Did you see Putin stand their and watch a snow leopard attack media members?,,

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm sure that'll be next. Hope there are pics!

Thomas DA Tank: I've read somewhere between 20-25 major media outlets since last weekend. All of them run contrary to your Sochi reporting. Call me crazy, but it sure seems like you have some sort of agenda here. Defend yourself against every other major media member. And dont dodge this question.

Dejan Kovacevic: First off, I can do without the creepy-guy tone. We just talk sports in here. No need to get weird.

Second, do your homework and read up. Since the overwhelming majority of journalists arrived in the past two days — I came Wednesday — the dominant response on social media and columns has been much more akin to mine. Not that I'd care either way. I write what I see. But I can tell you that even today, sitting at the big Canadian table in the Main Press Centre, the conversation all went the same way. Everyone's blown away by the organization and facilities.

If I had to guess at what happened before I came — and that's all I can do — you had the small group that comes early, and they had wholly legitimate gripes. If I were here early, I'm sure you'd have heard them from me, too. But once those things make it out, especially in the Twitter age, stuff goes viral and explodes.

That's what happened here and, truth is, the toothpaste isn't going back in the tube. The narrative takes hold and doesn't let go.

Humane: Just because the U.S exterminates dogs, that doesn't absolve Sochi. Thoughts?

Dejan Kovacevic: Absolutely not. Did someone suggest otherwise?

I tweeted yesterday some stats from the Humane Society — 2.7 million adoptable dogs or cats are put down in the U.S. each year, or one every 11 seconds — and the Society followed up with me today to express how hard they're working on improving that.

My sole point is that the problem in the U.S. makes the Sochi situation look like nothing. It isn't nothing, of course. It's real. But again, the narrative dwarfs the bigger picture.

As an American, I'd like to see us take care of our own situation before piously pointing fingers elsewhere.

Richard: NBC reporting a major electrical malfunction 10 minutes into the opening ceremony. What happened?

Dejan Kovacevic: A snowflake that was supposed to open into one of the five Olympic rings didn't open. There were four rings. Reminiscent of Vancouver, when one of those torch vaults never came out of the ground.

Newtang: Does adding “don't dodge this question” really get you to answer?

Dejan Kovacevic: Dear God, no. I thought it was otherwise a very fair topic to raise, so I took it. My apologies to the more civil readers here.

bill: I wonder what journalists that covered wars/conflicts, embedded with troops etc think of the clamor over Sochi hotels?

Dejan Kovacevic: I really don't think the issue has been about complaining or whining. It's just facts. Those reporters were here first, and they reported what they experienced. Only a couple, I thought, whined. But since everyone's gotten here and the situation apparently has improved immensely, the only people making it an issue are the ones who know nothing beyond the original narrative.

pattonbb: When do you think we'll hear that Hurdle has signed an extension? DON'T DODGE THE QUESTION!!

Dejan Kovacevic: Ha! Could be soon!


inquiring minds: Did you ever appear on Keith Olbermans ESPN show? If not, why not?

Dejan Kovacevic: We have living proof today that trolls can transcend many oceans and continents. This one's been coming around for a whlie.

I've never been on the show, no, and I never got — nor sought — an explanation as to why. At the time just before Keith went on the air, ESPN contacted me — rather aggressively — and offered a one-year contract to do a very short weekly segment. They even had me rush the paperwork back by FedEx so I could get started right away.

Never heard back, but the contract technically was still in effect, which is why I didn't say anything. If you find out, let me know! :)

And mind you, I'm not complaining. Since that time, WPXI-TV's “The Final Word” has become a regular TV gig that's done quite well in the market where I'm based. Between the four columns , the blog , the chat , the four TribLIVE Radio segments and Channel 11, I'm not exactly seeking out a replacement any more than I sought out that thing.

I wish Keith well. When I've seen the show, it's been entertaining.

Cheech: Have you been able to inhale any Ryan Clark's comments about some of the Steelers smoking marijuanna to relieve stress and too avoid taking addictive pain pills?

Dejan Kovacevic: I've read what we had in the Trib, and the first thought I had is the same one I always have with Clark, which is how amazing it is that he saves all his best material for the highest-profile setting.

Beyond that, to be candid, I'd have to look a lot more into the broader issue of medical marijuana, its acceptance in society and in the NFL, to offer you any kind of informed opinion.

FB: Dejan, What do you think about acquiring Dustin Byfuglien to play on Sid's RW? Trying to think outside the box here, and I'm mainly focused on the potential conference final matchup with Boston and a guy to bang and crash Chara. Who better than Byfuglien? Plus, he would love to boat on the three rivers come summer time. He could take the Cup down there and party all summer long. Thanks!

Dejan Kovacevic: Now, now, no need for Buff-on-a-boat jokes.

This won't surprise you in the slightest, but my closest comrade here at the Games has been the great Gary Lawless, columnist at the Winnipeg Free Press. He assures me that the Jets' sole focus, now only two points out of a playoff spot since Paul Maurice took over ...

Whoa, sorry, the sky literally just exploded with the Russian team coming through on the walk of nations. Damn, Vlad, we get it, you know? Not great timing.

Anyway, where was I?

Oh, yeah, Winnipeg's not looking to trade. They want to get into the playoffs. They now think that's possible.

Ring-of-Steel: It's a passing league, but the Steelers haven't had a beast at cornerback since Woodson left. How do they pass on Dennard if he's on the board at 15?

Dejan Kovacevic: There have been times, to be fair, when Ike Taylor's been outstanding on the corner. But as far as Hall of Fame level, you're right on Rod.

Darqueze Dennard isn't that guy. The scouting reports I've read on his time at Michigan State is that he's extremely consistent, not necessarily dazzling. That's not a knock. You love consistency at the position. You should value it, too, such as, oh, keeping Keenan Lewis around.

Top pick?

I'm on record as hoping for DB or ILB. Possibly WR.

Yoder: Dejan — Pascal Dupuis still has not had his surgery yet...I know you aren't a doctor, but what could possibly be going on here?

Dejan Kovacevic: Not to play doctor, but it's very common to put off major knee surgeries to wait for swelling to subside. Dupuis' knee was — and I'm sure still is — a mess.

Vladdy Pootin: What's the story with the PGH bar there? Is it that or just a bar with a picture of Pittsburgh?

Dejan Kovacevic: Dude ...

hankpsu: I'm a doc and can tell you that based on what's been reported, Letang likely has a PFO (patent foramen ovale), which is a congenital heart defect that you would NEVER pick up or screen for routinely. Unfortunately, this is how it is often detected when a young, healthy person suffers a stroke. Same thing happened to Tedy Bruschi a few years ago

Dejan Kovacevic: Thanks, Hank.

JAL: You can fill one of these positions on the Pirates with a good player: 1b, RF, starting pitcher. Which do you fill?

Dejan Kovacevic: Easy. First base. I'm OK in right field with Jose Tabata and Travis Snider keeping the seat warm for Gregory Polanco. A starting pitcher ... well, that was going to be A.J. or no one once free agency was done. Pitchers are tough to get through trades.

Dom: Have you enjoyed the local cuisine in Russia?

Dejan Kovacevic: It's been OK. It's not especially unusual, at least not the stuff I've seen. There's a lot of sausages, like Milwaukee-sized. There's salmon, too, for some reason. Even in buffets. That's been odd.

No complaints.

JohninOshkosh: Did you check your hotel lights for listening devices and the room pictures for secret web cameras, you know like 007 ?

Dejan Kovacevic: Sorry. Wifi just went AWOL here for a bit.

Dejan Kovacevic: OK, here's the link I wanted to share. You guys have to read this. Yet another example of narrative ruling over fact.

Fritz: Can you explain the geographical makeup of the Olympic venues as it relates to Sochi and Adler? Does the ring of steel surround both or what? I'm just confused as to where things are at over there considering this is the Sochi games?

Dejan Kovacevic: Dude ...

A. Lane: First, the get to the Stanley Cup Finals or the season is a failure attitude is silly. However the Penguins have been an average team, in terms of shot dominance 5 v 5, have an average goaltender, but have been the best in the league on special teams, can this be successful come playoffs?

Dejan Kovacevic: Not sure about that. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are in their mid-20s. This is around the time when the great players — and best players on their team — win Cups. I believe Mario Lemieux was 26 with his last Cup. There are tons of examples.

And that's to say nothing of what today's news does to that picture.

Guest 23: NBC had a Russian political expert on during prime time saying the Russians will consider the Olympics a success if the hockey team wins Gold. How bad do the Americans want to beat the Russians in group play next week ? BTW, Bob Costas has a severe eye infection-freaking Russkies!

Dejan Kovacevic: I keep hearing about #CostasEye but still haven't seen it. Those NBC types don't mingle much, and I know why: Because for the second consecutive Olympics, they've placed a Starbucks inside the International Broadcasting Centre that only their employees can access. And in Sochi, that's the only Starbucks in town.

Right next to the Main Press Centre where I'm working.

All the time.

Just a Ben bomb away.

And yeah, I tried to get through yesterday and failed. Did the Michael Keaton thing in “Night Shift” where you just grab a clipboard and try to look like you belong. Almost made it, too. Russian girl shouted at me from behind.

I'm sorry, what did you ask?

Jim: Who is the Pens player who has the most to gain/lose at the Olympics?

Dejan Kovacevic: Easily Malkin. It isn't close. This is his country, and these are his people. All eyes are on him. There's no one who doesn't say his name as soon as they see the word Pittsburgh on my credential, even the younger volunteer types. Beloved here.

And they love their hockey heroes. My Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Sochi featured this amazing film on the great Valeri Kharlamov. It was produced in the way we did, say, the “John Adams” series. Serious.

Obviously: With funding disparities becoming greater across MLB, will the Pirates change the way they draft? If years of control is the Pirates' only leverage, do they skew older moving forward — taking more college guys?

Dejan Kovacevic: That's a great question and an interesting thought process, except for one thing: You're thinking of the NHL system that counts a guy's service time to a team from the moment he's drafted. In Major League Baseball, the clock starts ticking only when you've made it to the bigs.

Ross: So, this is probably a little out there. But given Fleury's amazing home numbers vs. his pedestrian away numbers, is there any sense to going with a platoon approach in the playoffs where Fleury plays at home and Zatkoff/Vokoun plays on the road?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm not real big on home/road splits for individuals in any sport.

Chong: Does Ryan Clark make those comments if he's still under contract?

Dejan Kovacevic: Very seriously doubt that. Or even if he thought there was a chance to re-up.

Guest 23: I think it's time for the Soviet Red Army lightening round.

Dejan Kovacevic: DON'T DODGE THIS SEGMENT! Let's do it ...

Randy: DO you know why they the NHL only shows national anthems on TV when its a Canadian vs. US team?

Dejan Kovacevic: The NHL doesn't really ‘show' anything. That's always up to the network in question, national or local.

Napper: Best Ralph Kiner memory......

Dejan Kovacevic: Never met the man. I do know my dad was more fond of talking about him and Forbes Field than any other three Pirates combined through history. Kiner's legend in Pittsburgh, it appears, will be very closely connected to his popularity here.

Jandy: Are you just soaking this all up? You better be, because we're counting on it coming through in your videos and write-ups :)

Dejan Kovacevic: I get really tired beginning early in the evenings. That's normal on long trips like this for the first few days. (Hello, Mike Tomlin!) But it passes. And the first parts of the days have been terrific.

Newtang: Gold medal hockey prediction?

Dejan Kovacevic: It always seems silly to pick against Canada.

Revolving Door: Bobby Engram to the Ravens. Chryst is gone in 2 years after being fired in my estimation

Dejan Kovacevic: Engram is a loss, no question. Ten out of 10 people close to that Pitt program will tell you he was the top recruiter. I won't say that buries Paul Chryst, but he'd better find a comparable replacement.

The Captain: Do you think Ryan Clark angered some of his teammates yesterday with his comments regarding marijuana usage?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'll bet he did more than that. Word spreads like wildfire through the NFL. You think a future teammate is going to trust him?

Andy A: Favorite non-hockey Winter Olympics sport?

Dejan Kovacevic: Long-track speedskating. Breathtaking sight.

Obviously: You have previously written positively about Rene Gayo, and interviews with Pirates' leadership suggests his popularity — not to mention his proven ability to find legitimate talent. You have probably addressed this before, but did his reputation in the Dominican suffer from his portrayl in the film Pelotero? Did it suffer within the organization?

Dejan Kovacevic: No, because those people know that movie told only one side of the story. Moreover, that movie didn't even attempt to get both sides of the story once the Pirates and Gayo turned them down. I knew both sides, as I was the only person communicating with both sides throughout. I shared all of that in print with my readers.

They made one pictorial reference in the movie to my work, and that was that. Never called. Never asked a question.

If you want to take seriously a movie that doesn't even try to ask questions, go ahead. I won't watch it. I only heard about the article appearing second-hand.

Nick: AJ keeps retweeting comments from Pirates fans imploring him to return...any info to glean from that as to his likely decision?

Dejan Kovacevic: He needs to quit being cute with the RTs and figure out what he wants and where he wants it. If even the Pirates don't know, then what's the point?

Dejan Kovacevic: That's it for me. Still another column to write tonight, and it's already 10:08 p.m.

Thanks to all for participating, and apologies again for Putin's explosion. Guy can't respect when a chat's going on.

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