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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript

Penguins/NHL Videos

By Pittsburgh The Tribune-Review
Thursday, March 1, 2012
 

Dejan Kovacevic: Getting annihilated here by what I can only HOPE is a 24-hour flu, so I might not make it the full hour. Check with our receptionist for refunds if that happens ...

guest2day: Hines knew all along he was going to be released. He was hoping public sentiment would influence a change of heart. That is not the way successful organizatons operate. Business is business nothing personal...

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, to that same point, the Steelers also knew this all along. And if they would have handled this situation respectfully, they would have told Ward a long time ago. Remember: They never made an offer, even one for vet minimum. That means this was based on Ward's current playing ability. That didn't exactly sneak up on anyone since season's end.

This was a column I wrote on this a couple weeks ago.

Jandy: Hines Ward says he wants to play football this season. Where do you think he will end up?

Dejan Kovacevic: If he means it, there will be a taker. Someone will bite, if only because of his name and reputation.

How about Baltimore?

askj2: MAF is tied for 14th in GAA, tied for25th in SVPCT and 10th in SVPCT in SO. How do those statistics warrant the "great" label that is so frequently associated with him• I'm not saying that stats tell the whole story or that the Pens should look elsewhere but those are hard to ignore.

Dejan Kovacevic: Fleury ranks ninth with 50 games played, which is a big stat for me. Means he's carrying his team. He's also capable of the truly extraordinary save, which I'm sure elevates him in many eyes.

As I'm sure you know, goaltending stats tend to be relative to a team's style more than individual performance. Even save percentage, which looks like it should be fair, can be skewed if a goalie is facing more shots or better chances on a regular basis.

The Penguins play and aggressive, attacking style. And, as we saw last night in Dallas, they also give up chances. It takes a special goalie to play behind that.

I'm not suggesting Fleury is "great," either. That's not a word I throw around recklessly.

Jake: Hello Dejan, I was wondering what your take is on the hit delivered by Eric Nystrom on Kris Letang. Was it a dirty play• Hope you get well, soon!

Dejan Kovacevic: Thanks, Jake. Full answer on this was on today's blog .

Polka: Think Jeff Clement can make the 25 man roster?

Dejan Kovacevic: He would have to have one of those Mark Johnson/Freddy Garcia springs to pull that off. Bear in mind, Clement didn't play at all last season. If I'm the Pirates, I'd at least want to see what he could do in Indy for a stretch before adding him to the 40, much less the 25.

Polka: Breaking news...A.J. Burnett has been diagnosed with an orbital fracture of his right eye...He will undergo surgery tomorrow in Pittsburgh.

Dejan Kovacevic: Thanks for the update!

Not sure what that would mean for a pitcher in terms of time missed. Not like he's got to take a hit or something.

Burghermeister: Dejan: Did you ever consider that the Steelers' FO needed to sort out the OC hire before they knew exactly what to do with Hines• They handled it just fine- he is free as a bird as the new league season begins soon.

Dejan Kovacevic: Those aren't dots I can easily connect. The decision to release a player like Hines Ward wouldn't be influenced even slightly by a brand new offensive coordinator.

Dan: Maybe not First Ballot, but do you think Hines Ward will make the Hall of Fame?

Dejan Kovacevic: If you look at the receivers snubbed from the class in January -- meaning all of them, including Tim Brown and Cris Carter -- I just don't think that can be assumed. There are a lot of receivers lining up.

Bucco23: Should Hines just retire and go out on top as he is?

Dejan Kovacevic: That would be ideal, especially if he can't find at least a No. 3 slot somewhere else. For him to put on another uniform just to hold a clipboard doesn't make much sense.

SterlingCooperDraperPrice: Pitt landed another guard/wing player, does that mean we could see another guard moving on, i.e. Epps?

Dejan Kovacevic: James Robinson is going to play as soon as he shows up and buys his schoolbooks. The kid's that good. I haven't heard the same about Chris Jones, the No. 2 prospect in New Jersey the Panthers signed this week. But you would think the guard picture is getting a little crowded, not just because of Isaiah Epps but also Cam Wright and others.

Matt in Chicago: I don't think Ward is a HOFer. Great Steeler, but was he ever considered one of the top recievers during his prime?

Dejan Kovacevic: He wasn't, but the mere fact that he became known as the best run-blocking wide receiver ever should mitigate that. Any Hall of Fame loves it when an athlete is considered to have pioneered his or her position in some way. For Ward to have that distinction, plus 1,000 catches, plus two Super Bowls, that's a whale of a resume.

SterlingCooperDraperPrice: Do you think Jamie Dixon could somehow catch an flack from the Ben Howland article?

Dejan Kovacevic: I don't even think Ben Howland will catch flak for the Ben Howland article. What a dud.

Matt: What is it going to take for Clint Hurdle to learn that bunting is a terrible idea• ? Dejan Kovacevic: Do you think it's a terrible idea for pitchers to bunt• If so, I'd love to see the research that supports allowing pitchers to swing away with men on base.

Jake: Thanks for that. In reading your thoughts about the hit, would you be surprised if Shanahan makes a discipline ruling on the play in question?

Dejan Kovacevic: No, because there clearly was contact with the head, even if it was secondary. Brendan Shanahan could rule that any contact with the head isn't allowed.

But I don't think he will.

james: Why are the steelers waiting on cutting all these players wouldnt it make more sense to just get it over with

Dejan Kovacevic: These decisions don't have to be made until March 13. Things do happen in the offseason (freak injuries, arrests, whatever) that can force a team to change its view of its roster.

Ward should have been an exception, in my mind, but the rest can wait.

Jack Splat: Just had to say, thanks, Hines Ward for a fantastic run. You embody the way Steelers are expected to play and act - on and off the field. Nothing but sincere thanks and best wishes for a long healthy future. You are one of the Steeler greats.

Dejan Kovacevic: What I'll miss most about Ward won't be the intangibles, though I'm hearing and reading a lot about that today. I'll miss Ward the football player who could turn a minimal gain into a great gain by sheer force of will. That's easy to forget after how easily he went down in 2011, but it shouldn't be.

Ward was a GREAT receiver, and he played the position his way. Part of that was the breaking of all those tackles, the barreling over opponents.

When will we see another like him?

Don: DK, as a native of Cumberland, MD with roots in Uniontown, I have enjoyed your work for a long-time. Who gets the spot in the rotation if Burnette cannot go at the start of the season?

Dejan Kovacevic: The Pirates have six starters right now, so that won't be an issue. Just locks up a spot for both Kevin Correia and Jeff Karstens. But let's not get ahead of things. There's more than a month before opening day.

James_Washington: I think you can let Mike Hampton swing away with runners on base!

Dejan Kovacevic: And Carlos Zambrano. Maybe A.J. Burnett, too. Good-hitting pitcher.

PhillyJake: If Pedro is Pedro (or at least the Pedro we expected), the Pirates will bunt a lot less, I predict. When you have that guy who can put the ball over the wall, there's no need to bunt runners into position.

Dejan Kovacevic: Any manager would prefer a power-based offense. As it is, the Pirates don't have any firm reason to believe they'll have that. So they're going for speed, baserunning and other small-ballish things.

The Legend: I think you and I are in the same boat about Karstens - he was their best pitcher last year. So why is their continued speculation - granted, in the media - about him moving the bullpen• Because he has experience• I think that would be a step backwards.

Dejan Kovacevic: I can't really answer that very well, because I'm pretty sure you haven't read that in the Trib, Mr. Legend. Leaving Karstens out of the rotation is NOT something I've heard the Pirates are expecting to do. He and Kevin Correia are considered the bottom two entering spring training, but that's all that is.

I'm trying to think of three dumber decisions the Pirates could make entering the season than sending Karstens to the bullpen, and I'm coming up empty.

James_Washington: Do you see the Penguins making a run at the Stanley Cup without Crosby?

Dejan Kovacevic: A run• Sure, why not?

Winning it• No, and I've been consistent with that going back to last season.

The Penguins don't have the needed scoring balance to win four playoff rounds without Crosby.

Jandy: I'm more worried about the Pens making a run at the cup without Letang

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes. He's quite the wild card to have. It's an enormous loss if the Penguins don't have him.

SeanE: Sounds like the Steelers were waiting to see what Haley's view on Hines would be. Otherwise why wait this long?

Dejan Kovacevic: See above. That strikes me as very hard to believe.

Matt: You always have to let Dontrelle Willis swing away.

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, always.

MJ: I can't help but notice that before a shootout starts, Fleury goes over to Adams most of the time. I could see Adams having a photographic memory maybe to give Fleury some help. Any insight?

Dejan Kovacevic: I wouldn't read any more into things like that than simple superstition. Goalies are crazy superstitious, and Fleury is no exception. Did you see him rub the crossbar last night right after Sheldon Souray's blast clanged off it?

Polka: Know Shero has been saying since day one of this season that he likes his team as is, but were you surprised he didn't pull the trigger on at least one deal• Any idea what players he was looking at or offering up?

Dejan Kovacevic: Not even remotely. And if you look at the general inactivity across the league, you can see why. Nobody was making any kinds of deals.

My understanding is that the Penguins were at least sniffing on a rental-type player or two, but there weren't many to be had.

DK: Now for the question --- ESPN reporting Steelers not going to tag Wallace, so what right• Does this likely mean a 1st round tender which all but guarantees Wallace a Steeler next year?

Dejan Kovacevic: I still say the most likely scenario is a long-term deal. If you go back over recent history, every time we start fretting over these things, the Steelers get a long-term deal done. It not now, then during camp, like with LaMarr Woodley last summer.

Cap space is being cleared out. I think it will get done.

Matt: I disagree with your assesment of the hit on Letang. Nystrom saw Letang duck his head and Letang did not make any unexpected movements before the hit. Nystrom's shoulder clearly hit Letang in the chin and lower cheek at the same time that his elbow strung Letangs chest. As I see it, it was a cowardly and illegal hit by a guy who gets paid to find that big hit, if it was Cooke that delivered that hit he would have be suspended without question.

Dejan Kovacevic: Wow, you had a far more precise view than any of those I saw on NBC last night.

You might want that hit to be illegal. I know I want that hit to be illegal. But the rules as currently written don't support that.

Here we go with the lightning round ...

Guest: Who will lead the Pirates in wins: Burnett, Bedard, Karstens, or the field?

Dejan Kovacevic: All kneel before Karstens.

Guest: Pirates breakout player this year?

Dejan Kovacevic: Jose Tabata. Too much natural hitting talent

SterlingCooperDraperPrice: On the hit, could an argument be made that Nystrom wasn't attempting to play the puck?

Dejan Kovacevic: Sure. And if this were football, that would matter.

Jimmy: Will Pedro hit more or less than 20 hr's?

Dejan Kovacevic: If he bats .260, he'll top 20 HRs and 80 RBIs. But that first part is a huge if.

The Legend: Do a news search for Karstens bullpen in Google and you'll see examples of media - not the almighty Trib, granted - speculating about Karstens move to the Pen. That's all I was saying; not trying to be feisty. Anyway, does Evan Meek return to all star caliber• Reports are that he looks ripped this spring.

Dejan Kovacevic: You won't find them in the Trib. How on earth are we supposed to explain the reporting of other newspapers, radio stations, web outlets, etc.?

I get this a lot from readers. Never understand it.

Matt in Chicago: How many games will Crosby play before the playoffs?

Dejan Kovacevic: No more than a handful, if it happens. Remember, he still hasn't been cleared for full-contact practice, and that took nearly a month last time.

Matt in Chicago: Will Pitt make the NIT?

Dejan Kovacevic: Why would anyone care?

Scott: Are FArrior and Aaron Smith the next to be cut?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, and they might be it. Well, Chris Kemoeatu can go, too.

Matt in Chicago: Will Agnus Beranto coach at Pitt next year?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm hearing that she will, in fact, be back, despite that team's horrendous season. The Panthers went way, way young, and there's some sympathy for that.

Oooh, women's basketball Q. Think that's a first here.

SterlingCooperDraperPrice: Bigger impact for the Panthers next year...Steve Adams or James Robinson?

Dejan Kovacevic: Steven Adams will have an impact unlike any true freshman we've seen in these parts in a long time. Even DeJuan Blair.

JKY: How many times did Mark Madden screw up your name in your interview the other day?

Dejan Kovacevic: He doesn't screw it up, per se. Mark and I go way back to my hockey days, and I was called "DAY-zhan" by people at the rinks. You learn never to fight nicknames, so I didn't.

The correct pronunciation: DAY-un koh-VAH-che-vich

Just like it looks.

tbone: Are the Pirates still in contact with Derrick Lee and who is Lee waiting on to offer?

Dejan Kovacevic: Forget about Derrek Lee. Not going to happen.

MattinChicago: Will the Pens finish as a #1-#4 seed?

Dejan Kovacevic: You should hope not. What a prize awaits the No. 6 seed, getting to face the Southeast champ.

Jimmy: Did you have to google Agnus Beranto's name to know who he/she was?

Dejan Kovacevic: Ha! No, I did not. That very subject came up just the other day, actually, when I was covering some basketball in Oakland.

Matt: Will Aaron Smith retire before he's cut?

Dejan Kovacevic: One would hope so.

SeanE: Is Big Snack's injury one of the things that might make him difficult to cut• Would they have to work out an injury settlement?

Dejan Kovacevic: Either way, Hampton's probably going to stick.

Jimmys Dad: Jimmy wants to know your thoughts on Presley. Can you please oblige?

Dejan Kovacevic: No one will question Alex's ability to make contact with the ball, but he needs to improve his on-base production to stay at or near the top of the order. He doesn't walk enough, doesn't see enough pitches, doesn't do enough small-ball. We'll see.

Mickey Dolenz: Do the Steelers keep Wallace and Brown for at least the next 4-5 seasons?

Dejan Kovacevic: Absolutely. And you can throw Emmanuel Sanders in there, too, if he can ever find a way to stay on the field for a full year.

Tom: Percent likelyhood that a Cutch extension gets done?

Dejan Kovacevic: Where there's a common will, there's always a way. There remains a common will among the team and the athlete.

Thanks to all for participating today. Columns run Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and the blog is like Mike Milbury. No matter how much you might wish it to go away, it keeps coming!

 

 
 


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