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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript

| Friday, Feb. 10, 2012

Dejan Kovacevic: Greetings, all. Just back from Todd Haley's introductory news conference, which can be one of our topics for the day. Made a very calm, soothing impression, probably not by chance ...

Darren S: So I read your article and understand Haley might be on the wrong side of crazy. But with that being said maybe Ben needs a little crazy, someone that has the guts and the will to make things get done the way the team wants it done. Thoughts?

Dejan Kovacevic: That's a neat way of looking at it, Darren, and it just might have something to do with the decision to choose Haley.

First off, the Wednesday column you cite was partially about a couple of Haley's nuttier issues, but it was much more broadly about the nuttiness of the entire process that began with Art Rooney II stepping in to fire Bruce Arians. I did hear an awful lot from readers about the rat salad, but that episode -- which I described in the column as "off the rails a bit" -- was intended to be nothing more than an oh-by-the-way to the kind of drama that's trailed Haley everywhere he's been.

Could Ben benefit from additional discipline?

My answer, as always, is to go back to the otherwise nondescript victory over Tennessee and look what happens when Ben plays disciplined. The entire offense looks fantastic.

Oliver Stone: Most KC fans/media have come to Todd Haley's defense in saying that he got a raw deal with the Chiefs, however you and many other Pittsburgh media members have remained skeptical. Are you really that concerned that Haley is a ticking time bomb, or are you just filling column inches?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm not sure by which criteria you're weighing the term "most" there regarding Kansas City. Haley's reputation precedes his time with the Chiefs, but it went on full display with the Chiefs. As the column noted, some of that had to do with the autocratic GM there. I mentioned that.

I don't have the slightest idea what you mean by "filling column inches," especially in light of the fact I had another entire column ready to run that day but pushed it back to write about Haley because of the timeliness.

Anyone has any right to be skeptical of someone coming into a high-profile job here with an unusual background. There's nothing amiss or conspiratorial about that. Some of the people aghast at skepticism about Haley probably are the same ones who laughed at the Arizona papers for not doing likewise when Todd Graham was hired out there.

We might like clean slates in life, but we don't often get them.

AL: Dejan....What has happened to Zybenik Michalik• It seems he was a better player before the concussion. Now he seems invisible on the ice. When was the last time he laid down on the ice to block a shot• Do you think he still has a chance to be another Brooks Orpik/ Deryk Engelland type physical defenseman or have you not been impressed by him since day 1?

Dejan Kovacevic: Michalek was struggling well before the concussion. And he'd actually be upgrading his current game if were to become invisible, because then at least he wouldn't be noticed. That's not being mean, either. Just about every time he and Paul Martin are on the ice -- it's astonishing to me that Dan Bylsma and Todd Reirden are keeping them as a pair -- it's an adventure.

I know the Penguins keep hoping, and they're right to do that. Those guys have been pretty good at various points in their careers, especially on penalty-killing. But the interim is cringe-worthy.

CaptainSteveMcKenna: With a wealth of young defenseman to dangle over trade deadline waters, the Pens might be wise to deal from defensive depth for offensive help. Who, out of the young d-men, do you think would be most likely to go?

Dejan Kovacevic: Ray Shero will not deal his young defensemen, if you mean Simon Despres, Joe Morrow or Scott Harrington. He's said so explicitly, actually citing them by name, and he sure sounds like he means it.

Chris: What kind of year/numbers do you expect out of Karstens?

Dejan Kovacevic: I've always been a Karstens guy. Never made any secret of it. Longtime readers will recall I pushed for him to be in the rotation when he was a long man, and longer-time readers will recall my surprise when the current management team briefly cut him loose. The guy's got his limitations, sure, but he knows them. He works around them. He's not big, not strong, but he can pitch. We saw it all summer long, including against the same opponents who had time to adjust.

I could see him delivering 28-30 starts with a sub-4 ERA. That's a modest expectation, but it's just about what you'd want out of your 4-5 guy, which is ideally where Karstens goes.

Dave: I was just reading Keith Law's top 100 prospects. Not too many Buccos on it. I noticed that Tony Sanchez didn't make the list. That kid has really fallen from grace, hasn't he?

Dejan Kovacevic: Actually, I think Keith's list had one more prospect -- five -- than and it probably will end up with one more than Baseball America's. Five is a pretty good number. Not sure what you mean by "not too many." Count the number of teams with five, and it's pretty low.

Keith likes Robbie Grossman more than most outlets. He got to see Grossman in the Arizona Fall League -- as I did, for one game and a first-at-bat homer -- and felt strongly that he'll be a major-league corner outfielder.

As for Sanchez, yes, he's fallen quite a bit in the past two years. He'd better start hitting the ball with authority soon for that to change.

JamesinNYC: So will you drop a hint on tomorrows column• It ws an interesting hook and insight into a writers thought process.

Dejan Kovacevic: It will be about the Pirates, based on a very long talk Neal Huntington and I had late last night. I know I've been critical of him in the past -- and believe me, he knows it, too -- but I supported his extension at a time when it wasn't popular, and some of what I heard reinforced why. The team has a very good process in place. Really does.

Lee Flowers: While rejoicing in Tom Brady's misery on Sunday, a friend and I got to discussing who the current top 5 Pittsburgh sports villains are. I'd say Brady, Jagr, Ray Lewis, Subban, and Bob Nutting probably have to be near the top, your thoughts?

Dejan Kovacevic: Strictly current• Not sure how you'd leave Ryan Braun off that list. And are Brady or Ray Lewis really less liked around here than Terrell Suggs?

Greg M.: The Patriots and their coach deserve all the flak they been receiving . Ever since they have been caught cheating the Patriots have not won another Super Bowl. Cheaters don't prosper, be it will, fate or deserving Belichick isn't that good. So media please stop the best coach crap. Since he's cheated on opposing teams Belichick is 3-0 since he's got caught he's 0-2. Why isn't this fact brought up by the sports media?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm trying very hard to think of something I dislike more than being referred to as "the sports media." Can't quite do it.

I'm just one guy, Greg. If you have something you want to ask of "the sports media," you'll want to look up "the sports media" chat for the day.

Carl - pgherinfl: While I thought you were a little harsh in the article on Haley, I liked the article very much. I had gone to the article in St' Louis to read their take on his attitude. They kind of thought the same thing. Are you going to have an interview with Haley closer to training camp to see for yourself whether he is going to be good for the team or not?

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, I was at Haley's news conference today, which lasted about 20 minutes and was mostly impressive. I takes time to get to know someone for better or worse, but it was clear he looked and sounded calm, happy and mostly comfortable. It was also clear that Mike Tomlin wanted EVERYONE to see that this was his guy, introducing Haley in effusive terms, then standing in the corner and smiling like he was at his child's graduation.

I look forward to interviewing any new prominent sports figure in Pittsburgh, and Haley's no exception. But look, no matter what impression I get or write, the only meaningful barometer of whether or not he's good for the Steelers will be what he does for the Steelers, on and off the field. We're a long way from that.

Jake: If Ray Shero were to make any moves at the trade deadline..who do you think he would pick up and why• Would he add a veteran presence on the blue line• Or would he look to give his top 6 an offensive boost• Thanks!

Dejan Kovacevic: I could see going for a top-six older winger, and I could see adding a net-front defenseman.

What I CAN'T see, unlike an absurdly large portion of the local population, is Paul Martin being traded for anywhere approaching some of the fantasies I hear. Not only is Martin playing terribly, but he also is due $15 million over the NEXT three seasons. There's no market for anything there except a blatant dump, and Shero will be lucky to even pull that off.

Dave: Just noticed Miguel Sano was #28 on Keith Law's list. Breaks the heart.

Dejan Kovacevic: No question. And just wait.

MJ: Do you think there were any Pens fans that didn't jump off the couch when Letang went after slew foot Subaan?

Dejan Kovacevic: Not sure, but Subban sure had that one coming. He went after Evgeni Malkin up high twice in a matter of seconds. Either Malkin was going to drop the gloves -- he looked ready -- or someone was going to jump in. Letang did the right thing.

Subban might show up in someone's salad someday.

JAL: Watched the Pitt and WVU games last night and my question is has defense gotten that good in college basketball or has shooting skill dropped considerably• I lean to a lack of shooting ability as teams in both games were missing a lot of open shots.

Dejan Kovacevic: I saw only the Pitt loss at South Florida, so I'm going to lean toward the dropping of skill. The Bulls had some tall trees, which pretty much disrupted all those nice inside plays the Panthers had been executing of late, but bad shooting is bad shooting.

To me, that's more about the pull-up or mid-range jumper than anything. You can see a team that has a player or two good from beyond the arc, but the real hot-shooting teams are those that can find -- literally -- that middle ground.

Those teams are scarce.

Brian in Wallingford, CT: Any chance the Pirates bring back Derek Lee or sign any other "notable" free agents?

Dejan Kovacevic: Derrek Lee is not coming back to Pittsburgh. Said it before, and I'll repeat here. Other free agents are out there, but don't hold your breath for those, either. Give the Pirates credit for trying, and I mean that. No team puts $30 million on the table lightly, least of all this one. That's a heck of a push for three years of a starting pitcher. The guy didn't want it.

RPK: Do you think Shero is at least trying to dump Martin's massive and misguided salary• I sure hope so!

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes. Probably even in his sleep.

Critter: Do you agree with the conventional wisdom that the Arians dismissal somehow weakened Tomlin• I don't. Bosses correcting a course of action does not weaken an employee. I do think the way Tomlin handled the team down the stretch did weaken him, however. Perhaps the two events are related?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm with you on that. We all have bosses. If our bosses never told us what to do, they wouldn't really be bosses.

I repeated this in the Wednesday column, but I had no problem with Art Rooney II stepping in here. Head coaches in football get virtually married to their assistants. They sometimes can't see the forest for the trees. The Steelers don't have a GM who could make such a move, so it's incumbent on the owner.

Tomlin's a grown man. He didn't look to me to be weakened in any way today. Chin up, eyes wide open, smiling like Christmas morning. Don't worry about him.

Dave: I just noticed the Pirates represented on Law's list vs other teams and I stand corrected. 5 isn't a bad number for only 100 prospects. Only 1 Giant, 1 Phillie, and 2 Brewers made the list.

Dejan Kovacevic: Thanks for checking that. Yeah, five is pretty good. And two more than the standard three the Pirates have had. On top of that, Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon are both top-20 guys.

PirateApologist: This isn't really relevant to anything going on now, but how were you treated by Tom Barrasso back when you covered the Penguins• I always liked him, but kept hearing how he was a jerk.

Dejan Kovacevic: He was. Very much so. And I was no exception from that treatment. But I didn't care then and don't care now. Part of the job.

Brian: Where do you think the Penguins would be right now had they not made the trade for James Neal last year?

Dejan Kovacevic: Nowhere near where they are, that's for sure. I do think that some other players would have stepped up and contributed at least a LITTLE offense beyond what 71 and Neal are giving. That's the nature of sport. But Neal's 28 goals have been a large, large part of this team being in contention without Sidney Crosby and others.

What an awful deal for Joe Nieuwendyk, too. I know Dallas is happy with Alex Goligoski and that he filled a hard need for the Stars. But man, there's no dressing up Neal coming to Pittsburgh with Matt Niskanen as an afterthought throw-in.

Shawn: Any chance the Pens could rent a star player for the playoffs like Iginla• Assuming Crosby and the rest of our stars are back, he would look great with Sid and say Kunitz. I would also like to see a big presence like Gill on the blueline. With the exceptions of Letang, Orpik, Enggland and Depres, I dont mind seeing some movement for toughness on defense. What do you think?

Dejan Kovacevic: There are many NHL teams that think progressively. The Calgary Sutters aren't one of them. Don't expect Iginla to go anywhere. The Flames have a deep -- and rightly so -- emotional attachment to Jarome, and the only way something like that happens is to go with a new-school approach of total rebuilding. Again, that's not Calgary.

I'd offer Columbus the Earth, moon and stars for Rick Nash. I'd also offer Columbus the right to toll all Pennsylvanians on I-70, a total expunging of the Jim Tressel/Terrelle Pryor tattoo scandal and Tyler Wright and Mark Letestu and anyone else they want.

Paul Martin, too.

PensFan18: Where do you see Simon Despres ending up once he is healthy• It looks as though it may be there best interest to sit michalek and martin for a couple games and play Despres and Lovejoy.

Dejan Kovacevic: No, Despres will go back to Wilkes-Barre. The Penguins don't see him as ready for anything beyond fill-in duty right now.

Bob: Do you think the Steelers should draft a nose tackle in the first round?

Dejan Kovacevic: No, they like Steve McLendon, and they're going to give him a chance. If all things are equal, I go with offensive line or middle linebacker.

Matt: Who will make the majors first: Cole or Grossman?

Dejan Kovacevic: Cole will beat them all here. Really mature physically and mentally.

maz9: Enjoy the chats, Dejan. Great job! How short is the leash on Pedro this year?

Dejan Kovacevic: He needs to have a good spring, or he'll be in Indianapolis. Plain and simple.

Wild Bill: How are Presley and Grossman different, and isn't it likely that only one of them stays over time?

Dejan Kovacevic: Grossman drew 100 walks last season. He's an on-base percentage machine. Presley is nothing of the kind. Not even close.

More rapid-fire stuff and we're done in five ...

@suckmeter: "The Steelers don't have a GM who could make such a move, so it's incumbent on the owner." That's a strong statement on the role of Colbert. Sucks if his only job function is to acquire players. Is that what you're saying?

Dejan Kovacevic: Not a strong statement at all. Tomlin and Colbert were set up as pseudo-equals in this hierarchy. Colbert finds the players. That's never changed.

Joe C: When Sid comes back, who are his wingers• second question, is Dixon caught in the leaving BE/ACC is a issue for him• Team is not good this year. Any concerns?

Dejan Kovacevic: Crosby's wingers: Kunitz and ... um, Nash!

Jamie Dixon told me he's been consulted on ACC/moving matters throughout this, but he also made it clear all decisions are being driven by football. That's how it is in college sports.

Mike in Oakdale: Will Shero pull the trigger at the deadline for Hall Gil and/or a top 6 scoring forward and maybe move Martin to do so in your opinion?

Dejan Kovacevic: Bring back Hal Gill. I'm all in.

Martin will be traded one-up for Nash.

PirateApologist: Maybe the Giants should trade Zito to the Penguins for Paul Martin straight up.

Dejan Kovacevic: There you go. Dump for dump. That actually is one way it could happen. How much money is Toronto wasting on Mike Komisarek• Can the Islanders still trade Alexei Yashin?

Mike: Best pirates starter this season will be...?

Dejan Kovacevic: Karstens. Deal with it!

nevin: do you see Ward playing for the Steelers next year?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, but he'll be asking the rookies to pick up dinner tabs.

Last one ...

Mike: McCutchen in MVP talks at mid season?

Dejan Kovacevic: Not if he keeps swinging for the fences. Trust me, the Pirates have pushed that on him all offseason. Relentlessly. He needs to be a hitter, not a home-run hitter.

LG: How big of a loss would it be to the Steelers if Khan leaves?

Dejan Kovacevic: Life will go on. We're all fascinated by capologists for the same reason we're fascinated by anything we don't understand. Knowing the cap doesn't tell me anything about his ability to evaluate and prioritize talent.

Thanks for everything today. Tomorrow's column is about the Pirates. The column runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and the blog is as relentless as Nash driving to the net for tip-ins from Crosby.

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