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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript

| Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011

Dejan Kovacevic: Afternoon, one and all, and I appreciate your understanding about this being an hour later than usual. The Flyers got off the ice at around noon, and I knew I'd have to be in that room for a while (which I was) with Jaromir Jagr and Max Talbot. Pretty big night around here.

Off we go ...

Jandy: How was Jagr with you/the reporters during the interview time?

Dejan Kovacevic: In general, he seemed to be in a far better mood than what was caught on video yesterday at Castle Shannon. Held court for quite a while, laughed, gave good answers, etc.

With me, it's a little different. He and I go back to my six years on the Penguins beat, and we always had a good relationship. That was no different today, to his credit, even though I went at him pretty hard this summer when he made his decision to go to the Flyers. He and I talked about a lot of different things, from some of his old teammates here (Martin Straka could play in the next Olympics, incredibly) to his family to whether or not he blew it by not coming back to a place where he could have had his number retired and maybe even a statue built.

I'll make this the column topic for tomorrow's Trib after covering the game tonight.

mike: Dejan, With the update on Crosby yesterday, if you were a betting man, will we see him again this season???

Dejan Kovacevic: I saw him just an hour, actually. Seemed in decent spirits. Smiled when he said hello. Stopped just outside the Flyers' locker room to have a long talk with Max Talbot.

I wrote this on the blog the other day, and I'll repeat here: I'm hearing that Crosby's situation is nowhere near what it was back in January, that he'll be fine. But I also understand that my writing that will have zero effect on some of the hyperventilating that tends to accompany this topic.

Buccofan: What are the odds that Maholm resigns with the Pirates• If they're looking for another starter he's an obvious choice.

Dejan Kovacevic: Funny that you ask. Tried to find that out myself this week and was, to a degree, stonewalled. Wasn't expecting that, but I'm also not sure if that means anything.

I agree with you that Paul Maholm is an obvious -- and quality -- choice, especially given his history of inning counts.

@suckmeter: Sucks the Steelers picked Antonio Brown as the MVP instead of Roethlisberger. Ben should have been handed the award by his teammates back when he came out for the 2nd half of the Cleveland game. What do you think?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm not sure I'd read all that much into Ben's angle on this. And I definitely wouldn't denigrate Brown after he set a franchise record for all-purpose yards. This could just be the classic case of the team thinking a little past the obvious. Plus, it probably didn't hurt Brown's vote count that he excels on special teams. Lots of votes to be had there on a 53-man roster.

TiM: I've never booed another player before (including Hossa and pre-Flyers Jagr), but if I was at tonight's game, I'd let Jagr know how much I'm disgusted by him. I hate how he's the one now trying to understand why Pittsburgh hates him. Where was he during the whole #JagrWatch• If he would've had said those things when he signed, maybe it'd be a different story. Maybe if he would have told fans that Shero never contacted him and never had any current Penguins asking him to come like Philadelphia did, maybe he could say that. But to wait 6 months seems weak. I'm still upset and if I was going tonight, I'd let him know.

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm not a big fan of saying what I'd do in a given situation if I knew I wasn't going to be there. The only people who'll have a say in the public reaction to Jagr/Talbot will be the 18,387 holding tickets tonight.

And "hate" is an absurdly strong term for the topic at hand. It's a hockey player who went to play for another hockey team.

Patrick: We got the Steelers choice for Cooperative with the Media today. Who would be your pick for the other Pittsburgh teams?

Dejan Kovacevic: For those who don't know, James Farrior and Marcus Gilbert were the eminently deserving choices today for the Steelers' award. My choice for the Pirates would be Neil Walker, who deals with more cameras and microphones than anyone at PNC Park and does it well. And my choice for the Penguins would be Brooks Orpik, because the man is built entirely of truth-telling bones.

Joe: Is there a reason the Pens just don't announce that Crosby is being shutdown for the rest of the regular season• It seems illogical to believe that Sid is going to shake these symptoms anytime soon. Why put the player and the organization through the wringer again with the same questions being asked over and over.

Dejan Kovacevic: Why, to placate the fan base that's weary of checking for updates?

Makes no sense, Joe, with all due respect.

What matters is doing right by the player and by the team. Shutting him down doesn't do anything on either front. And, like I said, I hear this isn't all that bad.

MPM: NCAA tournament, NIT tournament, or no post season for Pitt basketball this year?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm as skeptical as anyone of the Panthers after the Wagner fiasco and after the rather thorough loss at Notre Dame. I see a team that right now has no identity, not even the defensive one that Jamie Dixon has infused for nearly a decade now. That has to change. If they're a defensive team, then start performing like one. If they're an outside shooting team, then take some of the stuff off Ashton Gibbs' plate and let him get back to doing nothing other than shooting. He's not ever going to be John Stockton, so let him do what he does best.

And, really, what's happened to Nasir Robinson?

Especially without Khem Birch, Pitt's going to need him to be a reliable inside contributor by driving to the basket. He looks wholly lost right now.

Money for Nutting: Steelers are #20 in points scored behind the likes of Minnesota, Oakland, and that really an elite offense?

Dejan Kovacevic: It can be, but it's only hit first gear a handful of times this season, in large part because a) the offensive line was a wreck early on and b) the quarterback has been beset by injuries. Max Starks and a couple others have taken care of the first one pretty nicely, and ... well, we'll see how long it takes Ben to get some mobility back.

At any rate, I'll take the Steelers' receiving corps -- plus Heath Miller -- over most in the NFL. Especially in the area of big plays.

Matt_newport: Is Pitt negotiating to get out of the Big East for the 2012 season• Or will they stay until 2014• I saw that the court did not dismiss the Big East suit against RI and was wondering how you think it will play out.

Dejan Kovacevic: All indications are that Pitt plans to honor its term. Maybe that will change if somehow West Virginia finds a legal loophole, but there's no sign of that yet.

Nick UK: Do you see Neal reaching 40 goals or do you think he will cool off• What sort of $$$ do we expect him to ask for this summer- $4.5mil maybe?

Dejan Kovacevic: My thoughts on that are far less important than those of James Neal himself, and you might have missed this feature I wrote on that topic from Winnipeg over the weekend.

Your money range is about right, even if Neal's goal total ends up that high. Salaries tend to move in steps in sports, and he'd be earning his way toward that figure.

Thing is, he's not alone. Jordan Staal is up in the summer, too.

Gregory: Mario seemed to mature as a person during his career - Sid seemed mature beyond his years from the start - don't want to say what I think of Jagr. Who isthe least personally mature athlete you've seen• Which young athlete surprised you in this way?

Dejan Kovacevic: Jagr is a child. I wrote that when I was covering him on a daily basis, I wrote it after he was gone, I wrote it from the Vancouver Olympics two years ago, and I'll write it again right now. Some people are just like that. Some don't grow up. I'm not a psychologist to know why that is, but it is. He behaves little differently now than during his prime with the Penguins.

On one hand, it's part of what makes him fun. He had a lot of people today laughing and smiling, in part because of his silliness. But you saw the other, brooding, I-didn't-get-my-way pouting side yesterday.

Jagr stands alone on that list for me.

TiM: I said I "hated" how he's trying to spin this like it was Shero/management never wanted him. I didn't say I "hated" him for his decision. I get that hockey is a business, but how we approached the situation left a bad taste in my mouth.

Dejan Kovacevic: I can respect that. Glad you cleared that up.

Slamin Sam: How do you think Chryst will fare with retaining/gaining football recruits?

Dejan Kovacevic: If he conducts himself with recruits and families as he did at his introductory news conference, Paul Chryst will be just fine. But let's not overblow how much he can do right now. For those who don't know, head coaches can only call recruits once a week at this time of year. So, even though Chryst is preparing for the Rose Bowl with the Badgers, the extent of his recruiting chores is one whirl through the rolodex.

TiM: According to Staal is up after next season. Neal, Niskanen, Williams, Bortuzzo, Park, MacIntyre, Sullivan and Asham are up

Dejan Kovacevic: You are correct. As is "capgeek."

Patrick: Do you have a favorite "sports moment" from 2011• I'm having trouble coming up with something that beats Abby Wambach tying things up against Brazil in the Women's World Cup.

Dejan Kovacevic: The Wambach goal was just spectacular, but I'll keep my list to just Pittsburgh stuff, in particular plays I witnessed in person. In descending order:

3. Ryan Clark's second interception of Joe Flacco during the Steelers' playoff victory over Baltimore at Heinz Field. Can't recall the last time I saw a crowd just flat-out will its team to success, the way the fans did for the defense that day. A breathtaking experience.

2. Sidney Crosby's backhander for the first goal of his return game.

1. Michael McKenry's home run. It was only four months, but baseball was back in Pittsburgh, and I wasn't sure I'd ever see that again in my lifetime.

Beer Baron: Why doesn't Ike Taylor get the respect he deserves?

Dejan Kovacevic: Football needs to borrow some geeks from baseball .

Tom: "At any rate, I'll take the Steelers' receiving corps -- plus Heath Miller -- over most in the NFL." Really• Has Heath Miller done anything in his career that would rank him as a top TE. He is an average TE that can block.

Dejan Kovacevic: I meant as a singular receiving entity. Thought that was fairly clear.

Scott: Will 68 ever hang from the rafters of Consol• I would be willing to forgive Jagr...

Dejan Kovacevic: That will not happen, not after this summer.

Duke Fleed: Safe bet to assume that Jagr will be booed tonight. I believe Talbot reason for signing with Philly was different. Do you think (and feel from the contact with Pitt people) that there is a difference in the perception about these two players?

Dejan Kovacevic: I would be stunned and disappointed in the knowledgeable hockey fans of Pittsburgh if Max Talbot is booed. They should be well informed of the terms of his departure, certainly a lot better informed than the Twitter/talk-show crowd. Those are season-ticket holders in there. They know their hockey, they know what Talbot meant to the franchise, they know what kind of citizen he was.

Craig Adams said this morning he predicted Max gets a standing ovation. Matt Cooke told me something similar.

Sounds about right.

Free Tank Carter: So the Steelers need to make the Super Bowl to eliminate all chance of Chris Kemoeatu appearing in the Pro Bowl• Sounds like a challenge.

Dejan Kovacevic: Ha! Brilliantly put. Get to it, men!

What a joke that system is, seriously.

JAL: You have seen a number of Pens teams, how high is current team among the best Pen teams without Crosby and how much would they move up if Crosby comes back.

Dejan Kovacevic: They're the hardest-working, and they might -- that's might -- be the deepest. The 1993 team went really deep on forwards, not as deep on defense. With Crosby, I give the current team the edge. It's that good.

Guest: DK -- thoroughly enjoy your work; articles, radio, and Showdown. Greatly respect the fact that you don't come across as a loud-mouthed know-it-all. Thanks.


No, seriously, thanks. One promise I made to readers upon taking the new position is that I'll never go hyperbolic for the sake of going hyperbolic. When I get angry, I want you to know it's legit.

Jarvis: Will Starling Marte play in the majors this year?

Dejan Kovacevic: Seems unlikely unless it's a September callup. The outfield depth is already pretty good, Marte still has work to do with strike-zone recognition, and he still hasn't played a game above Class AA. Neal Huntington's policy -- and it's a good one -- has been to err on the side of caution with prospects.

I will say this, though: You're going to love Marte when he gets here, especially in the field. Just glides out there, like Omar Moreno.

Pretjah: did someone just call Heath Miller AVERAGE??• seriously• miller has a career average yards per catch of 11.5 tony gonzalez who most consider the best tight end in history has a career average yards per catch of 11.6 . i'll take an AVERAGE Miller over any tight end in the NFL not named Graham or Gronkowski or Gates right now!

Dejan Kovacevic: Miller is an above-average tight end when it comes to receiving, and he's better than that when it comes to the total package including run-blocking. But again, my point was about all of Ben's different options as a whole.

Dave Grofic: I hate to change the subject, but I am interested to hear your take on the 49'ers game when the Steelers were called for interferring with the 49'ers punt returner. After the commerical the announcers didn't help explain why the cll was made. From the replays I didn't see where our guy touched the returner before the returner lost control of the ball. The score at the time was 6-0. Can you explain the rule and why the penalty was thrown• did you think Back Judge #38 blew the call?

Dejan Kovacevic: Honestly, it looked like one of those calls that was blown, but the men on the field had no recourse but to keep moving forward. That's why Mike Tomlin, well after the fact, said he still didn't have an explanation that satisfied him. It happens.

Andrew: Is there any scenario you could see Malkin temporarily receiving the 'C'?

Dejan Kovacevic: Hm. Let me try to put this a certain way: Malkin's teammates are galvanizing behind him. They love what he's doing for them, and they can see him as being their leader when it comes to scoring.

But in terms of leadership, that's just not going to be an issue with this group. They just ooze the stuff, all the way through the fourth line. If you're looking for the inspirational, on-ice, off-ice type guy, that continues to be Jordan Staal in the emerging sense. I predicted this back before training camp and was hit with no small amount of snarly mail, but it's still playing out that way.

Bizrow: Dejan, I will second the thanks to you for your work. Two questions, this has been a topsy turvey year for you, any regrets• Second is are there any upgrades coming for the blog in 2012• Oh, yeah, where are our toasters??

Dejan Kovacevic: For me• Oh, wow, no! Never been happier, personally or professionally, never felt more challenged. Hope that shows.

And yes, the blog will be getting a significant and dramatic upgrade in the very near future.

About those toasters ...

Jandy: Thanks for the toaster comment Biz Now do you remember DK??• lol

Dejan Kovacevic: Still searching for the toasters ... any other real Qs• Just a couple more today.

Slamin Sam: Why are the Steelers dissatisfied with Dixon?

Dejan Kovacevic: Coaches will go with the veteran guy for a short-term fix, the younger player for the long-term. That's all that happened with Dixon here. Mike Tomlin and Bruce Arians knew they'd need Charlie for no more than a game or two and went with him because the adjustment period would be quicker.

That said, if I'm Dixon, I'm out of here. He'll clearly need to go elsewhere to get an opportunity if he wants to do anything more in the NFL than hold a clipboard.

Hank: Should we read anything into PSU currently not vetting anyone for head coach. Will they attempt to quietly name Bradley the head coach immediately after the bowl game,?

Dejan Kovacevic: You know, I've actually had it cross my mind that the reason the search is taking so long is that the administration wanted to let as much time as possible elapse between the big national ordeal and the hiring of Tom Bradley. Conspiratorial, I know, but it makes some sense. And maybe Bradley even wins a bowl game in the interim.

Not sure what you meant by "not vetting anyone," though. It's unthinkable that all kinds of vetting isn't going on right now. Including of Bradley.

Nick UK: Despres.... can he be sent down or is his play to high at both ends of the rink!?

Dejan Kovacevic: Spent the better part of my morning discussing Despres with Ray Shero, Todd Reirden and Despres himself. I'll have more on that next week, but I didn't get the indication that Despres is going anywhere anytime soon. The Penguins are delighted with his play so far.

Bignose: Will the Steelers shut down Woodley for the season?

Dejan Kovacevic: You mean IR or just the regular season• Doesn't sound like he'll play in Cleveland, but there's zero chance of an IR. We're still just talking about a strained hamstring here. No tear. And his level of play when healthy is just too high. If they could carry Aaron Smith all last season, they'll carry LaMarr.

Thanks to all for the participation today. The column runs Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the chat is Thursday, and the blog runs relentlessly on the strength of boiled-down biodegradable toasters.

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