The Legacy of Jordan Staal

Jordan Staal has made six visits to Pittsburgh since moving on to Carolina in 2012, scoring one goal and one assist. His career with the Penguins is now far enough in the rear view mirror to take a reflective look at one of the most anticipated careers in Pittsburgh history. He played six years with the Pens and is currently in his fifth season with the Hurricanes.

Staal netted a short-handed goal against Boston in his last game Dec. 24. The shortie was his first of the season. As an 18-year-old a decade ago, the Thunder Bay native cut his NHL teeth with his ability to excel on special teams. His 6-foot-4 size and wing span gave him supernatural pterodactyl skills, according to Pens announcer, Bob Errey. Staal potted seven shorties as a rookie with the Penguins in 2006-07.  His play brought up recollections of Mario Lemieux’s franchise record of 13 short-handed scores in 1988-89. Last week’s goal against the Bruins gives him eight short-handed scores in the last 10 NHL campaigns, or one more combined than his fairy tale rookie season.

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Penguins fans often think about the “what if’s” in the NHL entry draft. Staal was selected second overall in 2006. Jonathan Toews was taken third by the Chicago Blackhawks and Nicklas Backstrom fourth by Washington. Phil Kessel, for that matter, was drafted fifth by the Bruins — but he’s worked out okay with Pittsburgh.

Sure, it would have been nice if Toews played his Hall of Fame career at Mellon Arena, Consol Energy Center, PPG Paints Arena, etc. but then social media addicts wouldn’t be able to compare Toews to Sidney Crosby and tell the hockey world why No. 87 is sooo much better. But that’s a story for another day.

Things probably haven’t worked out the way Staal envisioned when he picked Carolina over Pittsburgh. Actually, he was traded to the ‘Canes, but only after he forced the issue at the 2012 draft with GM Ray Shero. Staal wanted reunited with older brother Eric, now of the Minnesota Wild. He got it, but things never really clicked. Staal also wanted to prove he was much more than a third line center. That hasn’t worked out either, though injuries forced him to miss nearly half a season in 2014-15.

Staal’s only significant injury in Pittsburgh was when Montreal’s PK Subban slashed his foot with his skate blade, resulting in a staff infection back in 2010-11.

That magical season of 2006-07 is one of the most memorable debuts in Penguins history. Staal finished the season with 29 goals and a 22.1 shooting percentage — marks he’s never approached again. We’ll forgive him for finishing third in the Calder Trophy Award voting, Evgeni Malkin won rookie of the year honors.

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He had other big moments for the Pens, like the time he completed a hat trick in the third period ALONE in Detroit on Nov. 11, 2008, then set up Ruslan Fedotenko for the OT game-winner. That was one of the greatest single-game efforts in Penguins lore.

His Game 4 goal (short-handed, no less) in the 2008-09 Stanley Cup Final helped Pittsburgh even the series against Detroit.

On a team with Crosby and Malkin, Staal was never going to be the go-to guy in Pittsburgh but he more than carved out a lasting legacy on a Stanley Cup winner. And after all, that’s what it’s all about.

Flags fly forever.

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Penguins Thoughts: Thanksgiving Break

 

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Sidney Crosby.

His David Steckel-induced concussion in the 2011 Winter Classic was bad, but it wasn’t what caused him to miss chunks of the next two seasons. What caused him to sit out was the second concussion he sustained four days later on a Victor Hedman check behind the net.

Two concussions in a short period of time ruined Crosby for two years.

As a result, Pittsburgh needs to be extra careful handling his return to action right now.

Following Wednesday’s practice, Crosby mindfully noted he’s looking to continue a progression from the brain injury. He was quick to remind reporters that even though he had a smile on his face, it didn’t mean there couldn’t be concussion symptoms later in the day.

Truly, the only sure way to prevent Crosby from suffering a second concussion is to sit him out. While his brain’s game has been compared to that of a Ferrari, the Pens’ medical staff needs to consider the player’s long-term future over its short-term desires.

Let’s face it. The pressure is enormous for Crosby to return from both inside and outside the organization. Crosby missing the Pens-Sharks reunion Nov. 5 in San Jose would be a shame.

Pittsburgh’s captain got hurt during Canada’s Thanksgiving weekend. It would be more than prudent to sit him out through the United States’ Thanksgiving, having him make his season debut Nov. 25 in Minnesota or Nov. 26 at home against New Jersey.

Will it happen? Probably not, but it should. It’s the only way to ensure he doesn’t suffer a pair of concussions in a short period of time and miss another Stanley Cup run.

 

Random Thoughts

Whatever became of Mario Lemieux’s intention of selling his shares in the Penguins? On one hand it could be considered a bad time to sell with the franchise coming off its fourth Stanley Cup championship. On the other hand, the adage “buy low, sell high” makes a lot of sense too.*David Morehouse stated Thursday morning the Pens aren’t for sale.

Watching Root Sport’s showing of 1992 Game 4 Pens-Rangers on Wednesday really showed how close to the action the seats were at the Civic/Mellon Arena. That’s something Consol/PPG Paints Arena doesn’t offer. I will also add that it’s good PPG Paints Arena finally has a championship banner of its own to hang from the rafters instead of banners mostly earned from the era of the old barn.

Enjoy Opening Night!

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An Ode to Neil Walker, Jamison Taillon & Dad

I suddenly got emotional Wednesday morning while watching a DVR of Tuesday’s Pirates-Mets game featuring the return of Neil Walker. Yes, I was there live Tuesday working both games, as I have for the last 15 years, but things have changed, for Walker and for me.

 

As part of my labor of love, I’ve written for Rotowire fantasy sports for more than a decade. This gives me an excuse to pay close attention to baseball, something I’d do for free. Tuesday brought into focus a player I’ve watched since he was in high school, a player my father and I travelled to see play in Peters Township in the spring of 2004, right before Pittsburgh selected him with its first-round pick in the 2004 draft.

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Fast forward to Tuesday, June 7, 2016.

 

Walker is at the plate, doffing his cap before thousands of empty PNC Park empty seats – thanks to a 4:00 PM start – and probably five thousand fans scattered throughout the park for the first of two games.

 

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle claps for Walker from the dugout, as does pitcher Jeff Locke among others. Of course nearly all of the fans clap, too. Personally, I can’t believe not everybody is standing – most are, but I feel like telling those who aren’t to get up.

 

Then it hit me. While watching the replay the camera scans the first level, first base side and catches a gentleman in faded blue jeans and an old top, holding a camera in front of his face to get a good photo of Walker.

 

That would be my dad. I mean, it would’ve been him if he were still alive. This is the kind of baseball moment he lived for. He loved getting pictures of Pirates players and he loved snapping photos of Walker. If I didn’t know better, I’d have thought I’d seen my dad’s ghost in the ROOT Sports Pittsburgh panning the crowd and capturing the older gentleman with the faded blue jeans.

 

Well, this story isn’t supposed to be about Walker, it just happened. What I meant to write about is the impending debut of Jameson Taillon.

 

Taillon will make his major league debut Wednesday, five long years after being drafted by the Bucs. He’ll face the unenviable task of matching up against Noah Syndergaard, better known as “Thor” for his flowing blond locks of hair and a 98-mph fastball.

 

Unsurprisingly, this brings me back to another memory of dad.

 

Traveling to spring training is something my dad and I (and a couple times my sister, Joy) enjoyed doing since 2003.

 

We discovered Pirate City, where the minor leaguers gain instruction, in 2009 and a couple trips later we (mostly me, but I’ll include my dad here) anticipated the first glimpse of the player the organization selected ahead of Manny Machado, Taillon.

 

It’s the spring of 2011 and my dad wouldn’t be diagnosed with Stage 4 Mantle Cell Lymphoma for another nine months. He’s still getting around fine, better than most 78-year-olds.

 

We stumble across one of my buddies, Bob, who was (and still is) a season-ticket holders right behind home plate where I ushered before I had my cerebellar stroke. Bob’s a great guy and even joined my fantasy baseball league.

 

Well anyhow, Taillon pops out from one of the four practice fields and is heading toward another one, but first stops to sign a couple autographs.

 

I yell to my dad to get his picture, get his picture. Dad always liked getting the perfect shot, but he didn’t know the prospects. I served as his “Director of shooting prospects with bright future” and wanted to make sure he snapped Taillon.

 

He got a nice shot of Bob with Taillon and I think he got one of me with the pitcher, too, but what I really wanted was just a shot of the pitcher. Some of his photos would actually be published in the annual Rotowire baseball magazine.

 

Taillon was ever gracious and along with fellow draft pick, Stetson Allie, posed for my father.

 

Dad took a couple pics but the lighting apparently wasn’t good, so he “told” the players to take their hats off. Yep, in the middle of drills, my dad asked a pair of professional baseball players to take their hats off to so he could see their faces.

 

Out of respect, they obliged. My dad had a way of getting things done that would embarrass me. But then looking back, I’d be glad he did what he did.

 

Here’s his shot.

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So when I watch Jameson Taillon throw out his first pitch Wednesday evening at approximately 7:08 PM, I won’t be thinking of the highly touted pitcher, I’ll be thinking of dad.

 

He was a season-ticket holder at PNC Park and you’d better be darn sure he’d have been there to witness both Walker and Taillon.

 

He loved the theater, he loved the countless friends he made at the park and he loved the energy he felt and shared with others around him.

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Miss you dad, but I know where you’ll be Wednesday night. See you then.

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Pirates Frustrations Runneth Over Against Cubs

Gerrit Cole has every right to do what he wants when he’s not on the clock, maybe blow off some steam after starting 2016 poorly. But to me, he’d be better off doing it a little more privately than banging on the glass at a Penguins playoff game, screaming at Capitals players and publicly getting reprimanded by Consol’s staff. He’s not Nick Mangold. Cole is the Pirates’ player union representative.

Maybe the bigger question is why is he the union representative? He complained about $3K when his agent figures to get him, what, $150 million-plus in a few years? How the Pirates didn’t name a more senior player to be union rep really surprises me. Chris Stewart would make for the perfect choice. He’s on the wrong side of 30, appears to be well-liked, and he’s signed for two seasons.

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Andrew McCutchen has earned the right to act the way he did Tuesday, when he called for the official scorer to be fired because he charged the center fielder with an error on a tough liner. Cutch was probably frustrated by a litany of things that didn’t go his team’s way – first and foremost, getting swept by the big, bad Cubs. Should he have handled things differently? Yes. Would he like a do-over? I’m certain he would. But you don’t wash out eight good years with one silly statement.

Here’s what I’m wondering. Has McCutchen gotten his vision checked lately? I would have the team trainer, Todd Tomczyk (who has become chief spokesman to the media this year, it seems), to set up an eye exam. Cutch is missing catchable fly balls and his swing-and-miss rates are above his career averages.

One last thing on McCutchen. With so many fly balls getting over his head, I would move him back the 17 feet he’s moved in from a center field positioning aspect. My own eyeball test hasn’t seen any great reduction in singles dropping in front of McCutchen to offset the seven or eight balls that have just gone over his glove for extra-base hits. I think Cutch may be frustrated with where he’s lining up in the outfield but is too much of a team player to say anything.

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I’m curious to see how the infield and outfield play out when Jung-Ho Kang returns. A number of outsiders believe Kang will play shortstop so David Freese can stick at third, but the team has said it doesn’t want added stress on Kang’s surgically-rebuilt knee. I agree. Freese played four innings at second base Tuesday. That’s really interesting. We all know Josh Harrison doesn’t have to stay at second to be effective. Would he like to play exclusively at one spot, sure, but that might not be best for the team. No one has more heart than Harrison. He gets more out of his actual skill – which is really average – than anybody else.

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Sean Rodriguez has knocked the ball off its cover for most of the first five-plus weeks. I remember when he was a young prospect with Los Angeles and he had 20-plus homer potential written all over him. He was highly touted. Alas, he’s settled into a decent big league career. Good for him.

Rodriguez is one of the more emotional players I’ve seen. That can be a great thing, or as water coolers know, it can be a bad thing too. Tuesday, he was playing tight. He missed a foul ball at first base, a pop up he took too long to get over to the railing for. The ball actually bounced off the playing field and not in the stands. Then he got picked off first base against Jon Lester. That’s hard to do. Catcher David Ross fired to first base after a Lester pitch and SeanRod was dead meat. He wants to win so badly and help his team, but he has to play within himself, play smart.

Later in the game, Rodriguez came to the plate with the bases loaded and no outs. He cracked a foul ball down the left-field line. The shot was about five feet foul and deflated the inning. Rodriguez struck out and the next two Pirates also made outs. The team was looking for that one big hit. It would have been interesting to see the Bucs play loose. Instead, they were as tight as a brick.

Finally with Rodriguez (I never realized he was such the topic of conversation) he batted against reliever Pedro Strop on Wednesday – and he let emotions get the best of him. Rodriguez felt Strop was quick pitching him. He was, as he had been doing throughout the series. Why did that affect Rodriguez? Why did he have words with the pitcher during his at-bat? He should have been ready for the quick pitches and the differing deliveries. All of the other batters saw it during the series. As it turns out, Rodriguez struck out.

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Penguins Notes: Crosby’s Point Drought, Fleury’s Shootout Woes, Rutherford’s Decision

By John Toperzer

GM Jim Rutherford specifically brought in goalie Thomas Greiss on a one-year, $1 million deal to back up Marc-Andre Fleury. It was preordained since before training camp that Greiss would take the reigns from Jeff Zatkoff, pretty much regardless of preseason performance, There’s little doubt the German is Rutherford’s baby, signed and sealed by the GM. The results have gotten progressively worse, however, after Greiss played fairly well in his first five starts (all on the road).

Greiss holds a 2.88 GAA and .906 save percentage. He’s allowed three or more goals in 10 of his 12 starts. Would you trust him in the playoffs? If not, would you trust Zatkoff? Twenty-year-old netminder, Matt Murray, has played well for the Baby Penguins but he’s not ready for the NHL. Tristan Jarry, 19, is in the midst of his third and statistically-worst season for the Edmonton Oil Kings (18-21-5, 2.70 GAA, .908 save percentage).

If the Pens don’t trust Greiss or Zatkoff – Fleury has started the same 78 percent of contests he did in 2013-14 – then a deadline deal for a goalie should be in order. Will Rutherford admit he made a mistake, or least admit things haven’t worked out the way he’d hoped?

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After a six-goal, 27-game stretch for Sidney Crosby, he’s scored two goals twice in the last four contests. From his play, it looks like he’s back. From a historical perspective, how does Crosby’s 2014-15 stack up against his other nine NHL seasons? Let’s take a look.

Below is a list showing the seasonal percentages Crosby has picked up at least one point in games played.

Season ** Games Played ** Gms Scoring Point ** % of Gms With Point

2005-06 — 81 — 59 — 73 percent
2006-07 — 79 — 60 — 76 percent
2007-08 — 53 — 43 — 81 percent
2008-09 — 77 — 55 — 71 percent
2009-10 — 81 — 56 — 69 percent
2010-11 — 41 — 35 — 85 percent
2011-12 — 22 — 15 — 68 percent
2012-13 — 36 — 28 — 78 percent
2013-14 — 80 — 60 — 75 percent
2014-15 — 51 — 30 — 59 percent

As you can see, Crosby has scored at least one point in only 59 percent of games played in 2014-15. That’s the lowest output of his 10-year career — from a percentage basis. His best season occurred in 2010-11, when he pointed in 85 percent of games played.

What does this mean? It probably means he hasn’t played consistently well, thus far, which isn’t shocking. Of course, the mumps have something to do with his numbers. So does the continual shifting of linemates due to injury. Fortunately for the Penguins and Crosby there are still 27 games remaining to get on a roll heading into the playoffs.

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A check of eBay showed two “Sindey Crosby” mistake programs sold for $125 apiece.

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Kris Letang has had picked up a point in over half of the Pens’ goals during the last 14 games. He’s got 19 points (2G, 17A) while Pittsburgh has totaled 37 goals.

In the preseason, new coach Mike Johnston’s system was supposed to help Letang as much or more than any other player. Mission accomplished.

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Hockey Buzz’s Ryan Wilson recently penned an article showing his love for Mario Lemieux entitled Valentine’s Love For My Personal Favorite.

In my opinion, “Le Magnifique” was the greatest. It’s funny, though. He did have more than his fair share of detractors. A lot of folks equated Lemieux with Michael Jordan as “individual” players who had great stats but no championships. That was circa 1988. We all know what happened in both cases after that. It had to be frustrating for Lemieux to play on a team with Warren Young while the Great One skated with so many Hall of Famers, especially since Lemieux was compared to the older Gretzky every step of the way. Gretzky “won” the head-to-head competition more times than not, but the sample size was so small and teammate skillsets differed so greatly between Edmonton’s and Pittsburgh’s rosters.

Here are three of my favorite Lemieux mentions.

3. In a two-season span from 1988 to 1990, Lemieux scored a total of 23 short-handed goals. That’s goals, not points.
2. When Lemieux retired from the “Garage League” in 1997, he led the NHL in career goals-scored per game (0.82). When he returned three and a half seasons, later, those numbers dipped to (0.45) for the rest of his career (which was still impressive considering the dead puck).
1. The most decorated coach in NHL history, Scottie Bowman, often said that Lemieux was the best penalty killer he saw.

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Rick Tocchet and Jaromir Jagr seemed to get along really well when the two played together. Tocchet called him “Jages” — rhymes with “Begs” — rather than “Jags” rhyming with Boggs.

Twitter celebrated Jagr’s 43rd birthday the moment the clock struck 12, reminding me of another time the clock struck 12 with Jagr. The Pittsburgh Sports Garden was a popular nightclub in Station Square. I happened to be hanging out there with my buddies and Jagr walked in. At midnight, someone got on the PA system and wished Jagr a happy 20th birthday. Yes, he was in a bar and underaged. He was also in the bar while serving a 10-game NHL suspension as I remember.

A quick Google search turned up a Lemieux-Stevens-Jagr suspension article.

Apparently Jagr invaded the personal space of a referee.

“I haven`t seen three guys get thrown out of a game like that since the Hansen brothers in ‘Slapshot,'” Penguins center Ron Francis noted.

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TSN’s Scott Cullen recently wrote and article entitled Change the Names, It’s the Stats that Matter.”

Here are some hockey stats I’d like to see published.

Odd-man rushes, for and against: List forwards on the ice as well as defensemen.

Posts hit: Use this number not only for goalies, but also for shooters.

Disallowed goals: Chris Kunitz likely led the league in this category several seasons.

Specific penalties called by individual referees: Almost like in baseball with what is the strike zone.

What statistics would you like to see listed?

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Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury leads the NHL with eight shutouts and has arguably been the Pens’ MVP in 2014-15. One area in which he typical excels in but has just been so-so is the shootout.

Season ** Shots Attempted ** Goals Allowed ** Save Percentage

2005-06 — 05 — 04 — .200
2006-07 — 39 — 09 — .769
2007-08 — 03 — 00 — 1.000
2008-09 — 22 — 06 — .727
2009-10 — 23 — 06 — .739
2010-11 — 38 — 06 — .842
2011-12 — 39 — 09 — .769
2012-13 — 08 — 02 — .750
2013-14 — 28 — 05 — .821
2014-15 — 19 — 07 — .632

The Flower’s shootout save percentage of .632 is the lowest since his rookie year.

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Pens Audio

Mike Johnston:

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Treasure Life!
JT

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Penguin Notes: Painful Mumps, Kunitz’s Future, Bylsma #TBT

Warning: This first note is a bit graphic

One out of four adult males with mumps deals with orchitis, according to emedtv. Orchitis, as described by NHS, has some potentially serious complications.

Swollen testicle

Pain and swelling of the testicles (orchitis) affects one in four males who get mumps after puberty. The swelling is usually sudden and affects only one testicle. The testicle may also feel warm and tender.

In affected boys and men swelling of their testicles normally begins four to eight days after the swelling of the parotid gland.

Occasionally, swelling can occur up to six weeks after the swelling of the glands.

Any testicle pain can be eased using over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. If the pain is particularly severe, contact your GP who may prescribe a stronger painkiller for you.

Applying cold or warm compresses to your testicles and wearing supportive underwear, may also reduce any pain.

Just under half of all males who get mumps-related orchitis will notice some shrinkage of their testicles and an estimated 1 in 10 men will experience a drop in their sperm count (the amount of healthy sperm that their body can produce). However, this is very rarely large enough to cause infertility

Statistically, if the NHL has 14 confirmed cases of the mumps, then there are likely three players suffering (or suffered) from what sounds like a painful malady.

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Former Penguins James Neal became the first NHL player to be fined for diving, according to CBC Sports.

Neal, who is tied for ninth in the league with 106 shots, has scored 11 goals and 19 points through 30 games. The big winger is mostly a liability when he’s not scoring and for the most part he’s struggled in Nashville. At $5 million per season, his AAV isn’t bad (though it’s the highest number among all Predators forwards). Neal has shown signs of heating up a bit – he has five points in the last six games – but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Nashville move him in
the right trade.

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If the KHL folds and/or some teams dissolve, it’s not difficult envisioning North American and/or North American-trained players returning to the NHL.

According to the Globe and Mail, the ruble has tumbled about 50 percent against the U.S. dollar since July.

Click here to see the KHL’s leading scorers thus far.

And no, there’s no chance of Alexei Morozov returning to the Penguins after an 11-season absence. The 37-year-old has retired. He was only good against the New Jersey Devils and Martin Brodeur, anyhow.

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Some of the most up-tempo, fun-to-watch hockey the Penguins played in 2013-14 was last December, when injuries forced the team to recall boat loads of players from the AHL. History appears to be repeating itself this season. Bobby Farnham has been tons of fun to watch.

Penguins radio analyst, Phil Bourque, said his playing style was similar to that of a torpedo prior to his first NHL game and that description is proving to be more than accurate. Coach Mike Johnston commented on Bryan Rust and Farnham following Monday’s game.

“Rust did some really good things … I really liked how he managed the puck and his skill, that’s something we’re looking for and then Farnham adding that energy, he’s going to be a great depth guy, for sure.”

Johnston didn’t heap lavish praise on Farnham, but Columbus’ Nick Foligno had this to say about Farnham.

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I recently unearthed a DVR recording of former Penguins head coach, Dan Bylsma, speaking about the NHL draft in 2012. He had this to say about the Jordan Staal trade (which transpired just before the draft).

Said Dan Bylsma:

“The nervous part about that deal was we wanted to get Pouliot with that eighth pick. Sitting at the table, knowing the deal was done, and that we were looking to hopefully get this guy, I talked to his coach as well two days ago and he talked really highly of that player as well. We wanted to get that player with that pick.”

So Bylsma talked with current Penguins coach, Mike Johnston, before selecting Derrick Pouliot. Could he even have imagined that the Portland Winterhawks coach he was talking to would replace him as Pittsburgh’s head coach two years later? No way. Crazy stuff.

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Speaking of the Jordan Staal trade, then Carolina GM, Jim Rutherford, had this to say of the deal in the News Observer.

“When you’re acquiring an elite player you have to give a lot for it,” Rutherford said. “And we did. We paid Pittsburgh a good price.

“We love Brandon Sutter. It was really hard to let him go. He’s been a very good player for us and has a very good future ahead of him. … But when you get into a deal like this you usually give up something you don’t want to give.”

“This improves our team,” Rutherford said. “You name me two or three other center icemen that are like Jordan Staal. You just can’t find them.”

Rutherford either overvalued Staal or really wanted to get him for brother Eric — or perhaps a little of both.

Fast forward two and a half years. Now Rutherford is charged with finding at least one, if not two, top-six forwards in Pittsburgh.

Will he overpay? That seems to be a reasonable question to ask, considering the Staal trade. Giving Alexander Semin $35 million for five years was also a highly questionable move.

Of course, with the Penguins he’s picked up Patric Hornqvist, who has exceeded expectations. Rutherford has also signed Marc-Andre Fleury to a four-year, $23 million deal.

Here’s what Rutherford said he’s weighing before pulling the inevitable trigger on a trade.

“We’re looking for more than one (top-six forward) now and trying to juggle what cap space we have,” Rutherford told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “This is not an easy process, by no means, to accomplish our goal, but we’re going to try and do it.

“Ideally what we’d like to do is make a deal that’s for the bigger picture, for the long run.”

“It’s something I’m aware of,” Rutherford said of the need for top-six help. “It’s a matter of, ‘Do we go get a forward now for the sake of adding more depth and experience? Or do we try to hold out as long as we can to see who all becomes available?’

“I’m watching on a daily basis to try and decide which way to go.”

Rutherford said over the summer that he’s not afraid to make a big deal a month before the trade deadline.

Injuries and mumps may have shifted some of the Pens’ focus (or at least, time) in recent weeks, but the team’s needs will likely come into clearer focus as it gets healthier.

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Olli Maatta’s shoulder injury puts a serious crimp in the Pens’ defensive depth at the NHL level and hurts trade talk. Not knowing how healthy Maatta is makes it difficult to trade other blueliners. Maatta’s trade value, in itself, is compromised. One shoulder surgery is bad enough for a 20-year-old, but what happens if he needs a second?

The Winnipeg Jets repeatedly stated that they were not looking for defensemen in trades last season. This year, they’ve had a number of injuries to their blue line and now Jacob Trouba is out until February.

Plenty of Penguins fans have targeted Evander Kane as a top-six forward who could help Pittsburgh. While it could still happen, Maatta’s situation throws a wrench into the plan.

Interestingly, there are reports that the Philadelphia Flyers came close to trading for Kane over the summer.

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The Penguins have looked pretty good without Chris Kunitz and his $3.85 million salary cap hit. Kunitz has two more years left on his deal. For that reason and the fact that he’s becoming more inconsistent, it wouldn’t be surprising to see GM Jim Rutherford include Kunitz’s name in trade talks.

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From Elliotte Friedman’s 30 thoughts, an incidental Pittsburgh reference.

“It’s not important for coaches and players to like each other. But, it is important they pull in the same direction and understand where each other is coming from. At his post-firing briefing MacLean said last weekend’s comment about being scared to death of who he was going to put on the ice against Pittsburgh was a joke that was badly misinterpreted.”

The fact he thought that way, while the organization and players felt opposite, shows how “off” the relationship became.

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Pittsburgh Interview Audio (Courtesy of Penguins)

Mike Johnston:

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Sidney Crosby:

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Marc-Andre Fleury:

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Penguins defenseman, Scott Harrington, is expected to make his NHL debut Thursday night.

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Treasure Life!
JT
@JohnToperzer

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Penguin Notes: How much is Sid hurting team’s PP chances?

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Former NHL referee, Paul Stewart, penned an article Crosby’s on-ice behavior needed correction shortly after Crosby showed up officials with his stick slamming Nov. 15 against the New York Rangers.

Stewart said of Crosby.

“In Saturday night’s game in Pittsburgh between the Rangers and Penguins, Sidney Crosby pushed the envelope a little too far — twice — in his treatment of the officials. Referees Kelly Sutherland and Graham Skilliter showed the patience of Job in not bagging Crosby with an unsportsmanlike conduct let alone the misconduct he deserved.

I do not blame Kelly and Graham for their handling of Crosby. Every official has his own threshold for how much is too much. What I am saying, from my chair, is that the NHL does the game no favors by allowing certain players to become bigger than the game itself.”

The Pens have been awarded 11 power-play chances in their last seven contests (including Nov. 15). In the previous seven tilts they went on 30 power plays.

Granted, some of the difference might be explained in the team’s lack of current work ethic. There are some times when the Penguins haven’t moved their legs the way coach Mike Johnston demands.

In the end, Pittsburgh won’t receive an overabundance of power plays in the playoffs, so the recent outage of opportunities might just be a good thing. After all, Johnston’s stated intent from the first day of training camp was to prepare his team for the postseason — perhaps not just this way.

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Crosby on Friday’s loss.

“We didn’t play well, they work hard, pressure the puck, still battle us, do the right things, we didn’t play well at all.”

It’s our work ethic, they just outworked us, it’s not fun saying that after a game. That’s just something that can’t happen. We gotta make sure we work harder.”

A view from the November/December 2014 Scientific Mind

“Practice Doesn’t Always Make Perfect”

Science does not bear out the popular idea that nearly anyone can succeed with enough practice. It takes many thousands of hours of hard work to get to the top – yet time alone is not enough if you lack the other attributes necessary in your discipline, according to a study.

… reviewed 157 experimental results connecting total time spent practicing to ability in sports, music, education, and other areas. On average, practice time accounted for just 12 percent of the variation in performance.

Of course, working hard is a prerequisite for winning in the NHL, but maybe there’s some truth to working smarter, too.

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Friday’s loss is concerning if for no other reason than the team hasn’t built up much of a home-ice advantage. Many of the Pens’ worst showings have come at Consol, including three of five regulation losses. A common thread is opponents aggressively forechecking Pittsburgh and keeping the team on its heels.

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At this point, the Pens have been forced to switch up lines due to injury. Before Beau Bennett and Marcel Goc got hurt, however, coach Johnston changed lines such as moving Patric Hornqvist back to Crosby’s line and Chris Kunitz to Evgeni Malkin’s. These are good things.

Coaches can’t be afraid to mix things up. It’s refreshing to see a coach have the final say on who plays with whom. Things didn’t work out under Dan Bylsma, unfortunately, and Johnston is showing there are different methods of approach. Coaches need to know what they have. Players gaining experience with teammates other than their usual linemates is also a good thing — who knows what injuries might strike in the postseason, making line shuffling necessary.

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That said, it would be beneficial to get the Pens’ second-team power play some additional ice time late in games which have been pretty much decided. Johnston has stuck to putting the first unit out for 60-75 seconds before giving the second unit a chance.

Of course, the first team hasn’t been getting much of a chance lately, let alone the other unit.

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It’s strange seeing Martin Brodeur in a St. Louis Blues sweater, but it’s not unusual in sport to see an aging superstar stay well past his welcome. Two players from baseball immediately spring to mind. After playing 20 years for the Cardinals and Phillies, pitcher Steve Carlton tried out for four different clubs his final three years with little success. Willie Mays was another such player who stuck around too long, (though he was a little before my time). There are plenty of stories of how Mays could barely move in the outfield.

If Brodeur wants to kick the tires one more time, more power to him. Sometimes the best way to find out you’re no longer good is by proving it.

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    Post-Game Audio (courtesy of Pittsburgh Penguins)

Mike Johnston:

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Sidney Crosby:

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Kris Letang:

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Across The Ocean

Kasperi Kapanen now has six goals and 11 points in 13 games for KalPa Kuopio. Kapanen collected only 14 points in 47 games last season, so the difference between the two seasons is already palpable.

Oskar Sundqvist has scored six goals and 10 points with a plus-9 rating in 16 tilts for Skelleftea AIK.

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Treasure Life!
JT
@JohnToperzer

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