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Chat with Dejan Kovacevic: June 24, 2014

| Tuesday, June 24, 2014, 2:16 p.m.

pghgolfgirl: The most recent name I've heard for the Pens coaching position is Mike Johnston. What do you think of him being HCDB's possible replacement? And do you think Ulf is still in the mix? His name isn't as prominent as it once was. Thanks.

Dejan Kovacevic: I met Mike Johnston three years ago at the NHL Entry Draft in Minnesota and came away plenty impressed. That said, he was then and still is now a junior coach. And a junior coach who's been around a long, long time. Meaning that all 30 NHL teams were perfectly fine leaving him in junior for the past six years since he was an associate coach with the Kings and Canucks.

No, no, no, no, no.

Ulf Samuelsson has never left the mix, nor taken himself out of the mix, but it's increasingly obvious with some of these other names coming up that he must not have interviewed well. That does nothing for me. Interviews are interviews. People who are great interviewees can be terrible at the job and vice versa.

Also, hey, hello, everyone. Off we go ...

Brian: Do you think a big step for soccer in Pittsburgh would be to host a US Men's National team game? Even if it is a friendly, we don't hear Heinz mentioned as a place for a match while Cleveland, Columbus, Philadelphia and DC all have.

Dejan Kovacevic: Soccer organizers base their decisions, as do most event promoters, on precedent. Heinz Field has a really attractive friendly in July between AC Milan and Manchester City. If that fares well — and I hear, at least as of a couple weeks ago, it's on a good pace — that will open doors.

Rich: DK, I think the only team that doesn't have “yinzers” for fans is the Penguins. Anyone can be a Steeler fan and a yinzer is attracted to lowest common denominator type things and Pirates fans are rubes who stare at fireworks and bobbleheads while watching a terrible losing product. Hockey fans and Penguin fans in particular have an intimate knowledge of the sport and the team they root for. You have to be intelligent to be a Penguin fan, something a yinzer is not. Agree?

Dejan Kovacevic: This might be the single dumbest thing I've ever read. Congrats on that.

SeanE: With Walker coming back tonight what is your prediction for a DFA? Tabata, Snider or Barmes? My vote would be Barmes. Mercer has stepped up his defense and Harrison can fill in in a pinch. Also, I think Barmes has the best shot at getting through waivers and can be stashed at Indy if he is willing.

Dejan Kovacevic: Based on how Neal Huntington and staff have handled matters like this in the past, I'd anticipate a temporary pitching move aimed at buying time and allowing for the possibility of a position player getting injured. It's not a cop-out. It's smart.

Nick: What is your prediction for the Steelers upcoming season? I got 10-6 with a wild card spot.

Dejan Kovacevic: Ask me again, please, after the roster is set going into Latrobe. Any prediction I make now will be based on a razor-thin receiving corps and defensive line. Not sure that would be fair.

More at both positions is needed, and options remain for the Steelers to add.

Potter: Has the Pens coaching search really sunk so low that they're courting a Canadian Junior League coach? How did we end up at this point?

Dejan Kovacevic: I don't understand it. I just don't. And I've been writing this all along, not just since Johnston's name came up.

The Penguins are a marquee franchise that's acting like anything but.

The Capital of Greenland: Should we as Pens fans have patience with Rutheford because he still is getting into the job, or has he already lost credibility with the lack of getting anything done so far besides hiring a stat guy?

Dejan Kovacevic: How you feel is always up to you. But I did type up a blog entry this morning offering my own thoughts on how Jim Rutherford's early candor with the Pittsburgh media might well be a reflection of his time in hockey outpost Raleigh more than anything.

Hope you can give it a look!

Dom: Why aren't the Steelers interested in Brandon Flowers? One would think a 2014 Pro Bowl selection could easily compete with Ike or William Gay for a starting spot. Does he not fit their defensive scheme?

Dejan Kovacevic: It's funny, but I got a tip late last week that Flowers would be coming to the South Side over the weekend, only to get much firmer word within an hour that he wasn't coming at all. Strange business. And one reason why it's best to hold off for solid confirmation before reporting anything.

Anyway, Flowers came off his 2012 Pro Bowl season in Kansas City to be hit hard with knee and head injuries, as well as a demotion once the Chiefs went to more press coverage. Well, the Steelers obviously don't press, so you'd think he'd be OK as a fit, which leads me to believe that not even looking at him had to be cap-related.

What else would make sense?

Mayhay22: Any chance Bradley sits against Germany? He was arguably their best player leading up to the tourney but has been dreadful with sloppy touches and turnovers thus far.

Dejan Kovacevic: Wow, no. If anything, you'd want Michael Bradley to resume getting into the flow, as he'd begun to do in parts of the Portugal draw. I'll share your assessment of his work against Ghana, but not in the follow-up.

Also, way, way too much is being made of his turnover that led to Portugal's equalizer. I didn't think the ball he received there allowed him many options, and two red jerseys pounced instantly.

Mike A.: If Rene Gayo was given truth serum, and could only choose one, would he take Polanco or Sano?

Dejan Kovacevic: Oooooh, that's vicious! Remind me to never ask Gayo that! The Pirates' Latin American scouting director is a deeply emotional man, and that one might crack him in two.

Liz: Does the Twitter Polanco hysteria roll over to the Twitter Pens head coaching search as well? It seems a few members of the “media” are freaking out over nothing. And it's annoying.

Dejan Kovacevic: You probably know, Liz, that I don't comment on others in the local media. As far as fans freaking out, I think Twitter almost creates a freakout-of-the-day environment anymore. Not just related to sports. It could be a Saturday Night Live skit or the ridiculous hyperbole over garbage left in Heinz Field lots — exactly where people are paid to pick it up — or whatever.

Less Twitter for me the past few days, and it's been nice.

Donnie: DK, love, no I mean LOVE your take on bringing in Ulfie and Tocchet. Any chance Kevin Stevens can be on that staff. We'd have an All Star staff and one that could bring a TOUGHNESS missing from this team at the moment. Also would be nice for Pens to get Ryan Malone and RJ Umberger if Philly buys him out.

Dejan Kovacevic: Artie would be a no. And I love Artie. Always have. But no.

Richard Critchfield: What happened to Kent Tekulve on the post-game show?

Dejan Kovacevic: Sounds like you missed the message Tekulve passed along to readers on my blog late last week. Take a look.

Bob: DK, if Pedro showed J-Hay's emotion and love for the game, do you think he'd hit .350 instead of .230?

Dejan Kovacevic: Man, is this becoming a contrived topic or what?

There are things I don't like about Pedro's demeanor. I don't appreciate, for example, that he ducks out after losses and leaves his teammates to field reporters' questions. And don't misunderstand: I don't care what he's got to say, far more often than not. Rather, I just think it's weak that he's content to let others do that lifting for him.

But this concept of showing emotion on the field ... what did you think of his emotion last night when the Rays walked Josh Harrison on four pitches to get to Alvarez, and he responded by crushing the very first pitch he got over the center-field fence to win the game?

Don't think there was emotion in there?

Come on. Turn down the radio and think for yourself.

Keith: Seems like Gregory Polanco is just another guy on the team now. The shine of the new toy is already off. Who do you think is the next guy we Pittsburgh fans will be clamoring for due to this management team's value of profits over winning and not putting its best 25 out there?

Dejan Kovacevic: Polanco has been in the majors for two weeks, and he's batting .339 with a .409 on-base percentage, a home run, six RBIs, a steal, and he's already got on his ledger a five-hit game in which he homered in extra innings.

I honestly can't think of another way to address what you just wrote up there.

Burgh Steel: DK thanks for all the great coverage- talk me off the ledge- would losing Niskanen be totally a salary cap move. I think he was one of our most consistent players all year - let alone in the playoffs. Would be very sad to see him go.

Dejan Kovacevic: Letting Matt Niskanen would be entirely a cap move, but I'd think that's obvious, right?

PensnCrows: Hi Dejan. Do you think the Penguins will obtain a few draft picks by trading ‘rights' to their pending UFAs?

Dejan Kovacevic: Believe it or not, they might not.

Dan_B: do you do your morning Java's in one take?

Dejan Kovacevic: If I told you I did those videos in one take with no script at all, you wouldn't believe me, so I won't tell you that. :)

Jeff, Lorton, VA: Why are the Pirates so reluctant to trade top prospects? At some point, bold moves are needed for a franchise been successful!

Dejan Kovacevic: The first 4-5 years for this management team were founded entirely on the principle of building up prospects, then protecting them. That was 100 percent their mindset. It isn't easy to change.

They've made such deals, in fairness. The one for Wandy Rodriguez very much fit that bill. There have been a couple others, too, though not at that level.

But that's a pretty violent 180-degree shift that's sought there, and I think it's fair to consider that when looking at how the Pirates conduct business.

Frank the Tank: Travis Snider is getting an awful lot of playing time for a guy thought to be on the chopping you think this is a sign that they plan to keep him?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm anything but a Snider proponent, but he's got nine pinch-hits, and that's not something to be taken lightly. This outfield has three guys who, in theory, should be out there every day. That makes Snider's role fairest to judge from the standpoint of a late-inning bench bat.

allenh318: Do you think the US can get result Thursday, with playing a great Germany, after the late tie, and travel to Manaus, it may too much to overcome?

Dejan Kovacevic: I have a feeling, especially after some comments Tim Howard made after training today, that the U.S. and Germany will simply stare at each other if the match is tied through the 65th or 70th minutes. That's why making a pick here is hard. If one team scores, the other will feel compelled to attack. But if neither does in the first 25-30 minutes, I have a feeling you're going to see a snoozefest.

Alan: It almost seems The Penguins have went from a well respected organization to one being laughed at in a short time

Dejan Kovacevic: I keep reading and hearing this, but I don't get it. Really, I don't.

We're talking about GM and coach searches here. Those are judged, ultimately, not by how they're conducted or who shows up or who says no but who gets the job and how they fare.

If anyone thinks a couple weeks in June changes that, they're guilty of the same short-sighted hysteria that led to freaking out over some garbage in Heinz Field lots that got cleaned up by sunrise.

Dejan Kovacevic: SQUIRREL! (Sorry.)

Matthew: The Riverhounds, what is the solution? Unable to get people to come to the game, even with season tickets. A small crowd on Sunday, even with it being a huge soccer day with the USA playing.

Dejan Kovacevic: Sunday was a big-time downer all-around, maybe rock bottom. The Hounds — oh, wait, Uruguay just scored on my TV here, and that's a mega-wow — OK, where was I? Oh yeah, the Hounds had sold 2,400 tickets for that match, well below their norm and about 60 percent capacity, but only half that showed up. Maybe some were preparing for U.S.-Portugal parties, or maybe some were sick of watching this bad team get worse. But it wasn't pretty.

JJ: Josh Bell looking very good at Bradenton. Will FO consider a position switch to 1b at some point to create a spot for him in the future?

Dejan Kovacevic: That's looking well ahead. Moreover, it's reducing an asset's value. It would take some serious caution before deciding something like that. Myself, I'd rather trade someone at outfielder value than move him to first.

But I share your enthusiasm about Bell and have ever since his drafting. It was a bold move for the Pirates to way, way overspend on that slot and get their guy.

Geoff: Steelers usually keep 5 WR, will Dri Archer fall under the WR category with Brown, Moore, Weaton and Bryant leaving Brown out? Or is he a WR by # only?

Dejan Kovacevic: I don't think Dri will count toward the receivers. Don't forget special teams. Far more likely that fifth spot goes to some kind of WR/gunner type.

Honus: Are you paying or walking in regards to the Starbucks price increases?

Dejan Kovacevic: Sad to say, but I'd never notice a price increase there.

Ryan: What's the 1 word you have to describe Pens offseason so far?

Dejan Kovacevic: Incomplete?

SeanE: Problem with optioning one of your Pitchers DK is that barring an injury they can not be called back up for 10 days if optioned. Only Hughes and Wilson have options. Mazzarro is only guy in Indy with mlb experience and he is not on the 40 man so that creates an additional problem.

Dejan Kovacevic: Right, but you don't have to option Jeanmar Gomez to DFA him. If I'm keeping spare pitchers around, I'm keeping guys who are a real threat to start once Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano are healthy.

SeanAY: Ultimately, who takes the credit/blame for the Pens' offseason? Seems like portions of the blogosphere are putting it on Dave Morehouse and Jim Rutherford, but I'm sure it's a team effort. What responsibility do Ron Burkle and Mario Lemieux have in this process?

Dejan Kovacevic: Credit or blame?

It's the third week of June, Sean. How about we grade the offseason in August or September?

Chris: I guess Ulf is not a serious candidate for HC? Have not heard his name lately.

Dejan Kovacevic: Then you haven't been reading the Trib's coverage.

Chaz: Hey Dejan, do you intend on catching any of the Pittsburgh Pro-Am games at Montour? I'm hearing the local kid Cameron Johnson, who was unearthed by Jamie Dixon shows NBA potential. Could make PITT that next level team we PITT fans so rightfully deserve. #H2P

Dejan Kovacevic: Cam Johnson, for those who don't know, is a kid from Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Coraopolis who had one exceptional growth spurt. It's to the credit of Jamie and his staff that they knew their own territory well enough to have that info and get their guy, which came like a bolt out of the blue at the time of the signing.

(Cue the obligatory making fun of the idea that teams should know their own territory best.)

Guest 23: What is the best band that ever came out of Pittsburgh ?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm a Silencers junkie, but that will mean nothing to you.

RJB: The second US goal against Portugal looked offside. Blown call?

Dejan Kovacevic: It wasn't offside at all. Watch the broader angle.

Ken Adams: What is the ratio of questions you're getting to the questions you're actually able to answer here live? Is this more fun, overwhelming, or “part of the job” for you?

Dejan Kovacevic: I love the chat. And the questions received to answered is about 12 to 1.

Cardinal: My panic regarding the firing of Shero and momentary-retention of Bylsma was assuaged in large part to your firm insistence that Mario and Burkle had a well-conceived plan and were sticking to it. 39 days later, do you still believe in Mario and Burkle's vision?

Dejan Kovacevic: First off, I never wrote anything about sort of plan. I described and critiqued their decisions related to Shero and Bylsma at the time — including how those were handled publicly — and took a we'll-see approach from there.

I didn't like the GM search and criticized it sharply in a column, but once I saw that Rutherford was basically brought in as a mentor for Jason Botterill and two other guys I respect, I took another we'll-see approach.

I haven't liked the coach search, but I'm also willing to at least see who it is that gets produced from it. That strikes me as only fair.

Mark: Anti Flag, The Clarks, Rusted Root, Punchline...good, not great music but enough to hang your hat on Pittsburgh.

Dejan Kovacevic: Fair enough. Give me Silencers.

Dave: If the Pens hire Johnston, do you think this is a strong message they are going after Babcock? Or do you think they really believe in a juniors coach?

Dejan Kovacevic: This Mike Babcock stuff is so silly it barely merits discussion.

Tim: Did Luis Suarez just bite another player? AGAIN?!

Dejan Kovacevic: He did. It's ridiculous. That's his third time. This guy's a complete lunatic. And that's doubly a shame considering his amazing talent.

FIFA has to suspend him for the rest of the tournament. No option.

Guest 23: When you first started in the biz, bet you never thought you'd be doing radio and TV! Not to mention-things like podcasts and social media as those things didn't exist. Definition of “print journalist” sure has changed.

Dejan Kovacevic: It's changed a lot and continues to change. I learn lessons every day. But I not only enjoy the changes, I also try to actually stay ahead of them if possible. That's why I've believed as much as I have in TribLIVE Radio, because I've seen the data supporting the meteoric rise in online radio based on apps rather than airwaves. It's all headed there soon. That's also why I've started doing these little daily video commentaries you can find on the blog now. It's a real return for advertisers, who are desperately searching for new outlets in a DVR world.

Polka: Bill Star Wars VII, Superman v Batman, or The Avengers 2?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm willing to give Superman-Batman a chance despite the directors turning Supes into a murderer. They'll need to do a lot better at casting Wonder Woman than what I've heard. I choose Alexandra D'Addario, but that's just me. And dear God, no Ben Affleck as Batman.

Kibab1979: Tabata outrighted to Indy. Interesting.

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, there you go: It's Jose. That means Snider did, indeed,

rick: why do you wear headphones during pens games?

Dejan Kovacevic: I wear them at all sporting events. Usually listening to Silencers. :)

Ralph: Porter, Harrison, Woodley, Farrior, or Timmons? Best of the group?

Dejan Kovacevic: You mean over time? Oh, come on, that's James Harrison with a bullet.

SeanAY: DK, if there's no use in evaluating the Penguins' offseason to this point, why have there been extra blog posts over the last few weeks covering the coaching search? Why headlines like, “ The Penguins' Butchery? ” Why refer to it as a circus?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm referring to events to this point. You don't see me describing the offseason in the past tense, for crying out loud.

Guest 23: I know the Silencers! Trench coats! Saw them in Chicago a million years ago.

Dejan Kovacevic: My brother!

Jeremy: Big prediction for the Pens draft this weekend!?!?

Dejan Kovacevic: No picks in the first three rounds!

Dejan Kovacevic: That's well past our end time. Thanks to all for participating.

I'll be covering the NHL Entry Draft from Philadelphia this weekend. Tomorrow is my TribLIVE Radio show at 2-3 p.m. The blog keeps up with everything. It's crazy like that.

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