Pens win gold, Steelers grow cold, Bucs need to be bold

by John Toperzer

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I’ve never seen a more ordinary Steelers wide receiver catch ordinary passes and celebrate so extraordinarily than Emmanuel Sanders. I’m counting down the games until he’s gone.

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For whatever reason, Kris Letang wasn’t able to keep a puck in the offensive zone during a power play Monday night. I went back and watched the taped several times because it just didn’t look like Letang was giving it all he had. My conclusion is that he either thought the Pens had enough remaining time on the man advantage that the group could form another attack or he didn’t want to slide to keep the puck in because he doesn’t have enough confidence in his knee, which kept him out of the season’s first nine games.

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The Pirates didn’t trade Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt to Boston until the day after Christmas last winter. Not all hope is lost for 2014.

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I’m back to rationalizing Steelers losses with the reward of higher draft choices.

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I don’t know how much longer Heath Miller can play, but he sure is fun to watch.

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The NHL continues to change, but for the better? Opposing teams nowadays seem compelled to retaliate when the other team makes a good, hard check. It reminds of how pitchers in baseball once owned the inside of the plate but now get glares and threats of retaliation every time they come inside on batters.

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Whomever the Pirates pick up to play first base in 2014 better darn well be a good fielder. One of the reasons Garrett Jones was let go was because of his weak fielding ability. His two-year, $7.5 million deal was certainly matchable by the Bucs. Jones batted .241 with a .730 OPS in 382 at-bats against righties. He went 2-for-21 against southpaws. I’ve heard from folks I respect that the Pirates didn’t use he enough against lefties, but I’m not buying it. It was his problems against righthanders that doomed him, anyhow. In 2012, his OPS was .888, .808 in 2011 and on and on. Jones represented one of GM Neal Huntington’s crowning jewels and I’m sure he wasn’t happy to say goodbye to the popular player.

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I wouldn’t shed any tears if the Steelers canned coach Mike Tomlin. Tomlin would land on his feet just fine somewhere else. His clock management skills are terrible. I respect that the organization has had only three heads – Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher and Tomlin – since 1969, but the Steelers way was thrown away long ago.

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It’s taken a number of unfortunate injuries, but it’s good to see the likes of Simon Despres in the lineup and Brian Dumoulin on the bench. Add in Olli Maatta and the future is now on the blue line. Do you think the Boston game was a wakeup call for Maatta. I doubt he played against premiere pests like Brad Marchand in Finland or even the OHL.

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MLB Network listed four top free agent pitchers Tuesday: Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana and Bartolo Colon. I wouldn’t feel comfortable signing any of them to multiyear deals. Colon on a one-year wouldn’t be bad, but he’s expected to get A.J. Burnett money or should I say, upwards of $10 million for a single season.

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Anyone who watched the Steelers could find encouragement in some of their draft recent draft picks. Le’Veon Bell is already a stud running back, Cameron Heyward is looking good on the D-line, Jarvis Jones is going to be an impact linebacker once he figures things out at the NFL level.

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Was Dan Bylsma too honest in his assessment of the James Neal-Brad Marchand incident? Saturday after the game Bylsma said something to the effect that he didn’t see Neal attempt to avoid Marchand. Boston coach, Claude Julien, on the other hand, did nothing but praise Shawn Thornton as being an honest player after Thornton honestly pummeled Brooks Orpik into unconsciousness. It might have served the Penguins better had Bylsma waited until the suspension was doled out until he commented on Neal-Thornton. Julien certainly pleaded his case for his player.

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If Chicago White Sox starting pitcher, Chris Sale, is truly available – which I’m not convinced of – then the Pirates should listen intently and make a pitch. Sale is signed through 2019. He’s a hard throwing lefthander that would fit perfectly in PNC Park – and he has more years of retention than, say, David Price. Sale is what the Pirate hope Jameson Taillon will someday be.

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What would you do with Maurkice Pouncey? Is it crazy to even ask that question? Pouncey is injury-prone, though his season-ending hit by fellow lineman, David DeCastro, was more unfortunate and random than anything else. What could the Steelers get in return trade for the center? The team has played well on the line with a couple makeshift centers.

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I’ll be disappointed if the Pirates trade for first baseman, Adam Lind, of the Toronto Blue Jays. I’ve watched Lind since getting his Bowman Chrome rookie card in 2004. I saw him play in the 2006 Double-A All-Star game in Altoona, one day after PNC Park’s All-Star Game. I’ve also owned him in fantasy baseball. In 2012, Lind struggled so badly that the Blue Jays had no choice but to send him to Triple-A for over a month – at age 28. By that stage of one’s career, especially one who still has $22.5 million left on a three-year deal, to be more stable. Even last year, Lind rebounded and started off on fire. He was hitting .350 in the middle of June, only to hit .249 the rest of the way. Maybe I’m just a “glass-half-empty” kind of guy on Lind. I used to like him a lot, but now I think he’s too big of a question mark for his upside, contract and what the Pirates would need to surrender. Pirates Prospects reported Monday that Neil Walker was Toronto’s asking price.

Have you noticed now more than ever how commercials are ripping off rifts of famous songs and bands? The latest ones include Wendy’s Bacon Portabella Melt on Brioche commercial where a Cheap Trick rift is played after Wendy lets her boyfriend “alone” with his sandwich. Then there’s the Jared Jewelers plane commercial where the flight attendant says that “he went to Jared” and the rift is Ruby Tuesday by the Rolling Stones. Of course, a couple notes are changed so there are no infringement lawsuits, but it’s all the same. Only the names will change, every day it seems we’re wasting away (Yeah, I just ripped off Bon Jovi).

Would you rather own the services of Simon Despres and Brian Dumoulin for a season or Jesse Owen’s 1936 Olympic Gold Medal for $1.4 million? Apparently, Penguins co-owner, Ron Burkle, would rather own both. Burkle recently won the Gold Medal with a bid of $1.466,574.00.

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Speaking of money, lots of money, Roy Halladay retired Monday on the first day of baseball’s winter meetings in Orlando, Florida. He had a fantastic career and has a good shot of getting into the Hall of Fame, but spare me the sentimentality of his thinking long and hard about his decision to retire, that he’s ready to move onto his next chapter, spend time with his family. He made $148.9 million!!!

Penguins Post-Game Interviews from Monday

Dan Bylsma

Sidney Crosby

Marc-Andre Fleury

Todd Richards

*****

Treasure Life!
JT
@PiratesTalk
@JohnToperzer

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