Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Podcast: Pens, Spaling, Sutter, Subban, Steelers, and a bunch more

Listen to the podcast above or check out our Spreaker page. To download the podcast directly from iTunes, click here.  Or you can download, listen, and subscribe via the Spreaker app on iTunes by clicking here, or on Android by clicking here.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Podcast: Talking Pens and free agency, the Neal trade, Crosby's awkwardness, and some other stuff

(This one is a little slow to load ... just stick with it).

Here's the Ovechkin/Crosby video we talk about on the podcast:

Listen to the podcast above or check out our Spreaker page. To download the podcast directly from iTunes, click here.  Or you can download, listen, and subscribe via the Spreaker app on iTunes by clicking here, or on Android by clicking here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

PODCAST: Pens hire Mike Johnston; we discuss Jim Rutherford's reign

Taking stock of the Pens' offseason. This is a good podcast.

Listen to the podcast above or check out our Spreaker page. To download the podcast directly from iTunes, click here.  Or you can download, listen, and subscribe via the Spreaker app on iTunes by clicking here, or on Android by clicking here.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Penguins hire Jim Rutherford to replace Ray Shero; this tastes like room-temperature 7UP

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

The only thing we know for certain in the wake of Ray Shero's firing is that the Pens did it without having any idea what to do next.  In the immediate aftermath of Shero's dismissal, there were rumors that this was part of some master plan for the Pens to lure Mike Babcock out of Detroit, as if the Pens ownership was already thinking 3-steps ahead of everyone else in the league (even though the league has been out-thinking the Pens for the last 5 years).

Jump ahead three weeks and people were trying to talk themselves into Pierre McGuire.  The Pens went from having one of the most respected GMs in the entire NHL who, despite his many mistakes the last few years, was still someone who had the trust of players, agents, and other GMs to reportedly considering hiring a guy who hasn't been involved with a hockey team since coaching in the ECHL in the mid-90s and steadfastly refuses to pronounce people's names correctly for no reason.  That's like firing Ben Bernanke and spending the next three weeks interviewing Lou Dobbs.

Shero's moves the past few years are not defensible, but you don't change a GM just for the sake of change.  That's what firing coaches is for.  GMs can make bad signings, bad trades, and set a bad direction for the franchise ... but, unlike coaches, they can also undo the damage they've done.  When a coach loses the room, it's lost and it's not coming back.  But when a GM makes a mistake, he can undo it.  Glen Sather got someone to take Scott Gomez's contract and now the Rangers are in the Stanley Cup Final.  Shero has done damage, but probably could have undone most of it -- or at least could have been trusted to try.  And if the rumors are true that Shero had a Letang trade in place last summer (a move that would have likely re-stocked the cupboard that had grown increasingly bare), but had it nixed by ownership, then you'll have to excuse us for feeling like the Pens might have fired the wrong guy.

Enter Jim Rutherford.

He was a late addition to the list of rumored candidates, a list that's only distinction was its lack of distinction. Julien BriseBois?  If we pretended to have a clue about him we'd be as phony as anyone pretending not to be horrified at the realistic possibility that David Morehouse was going to pull a Dick Cheney.  Sure, Governor.  I'll advise you on VP candidates.  Paul Fenton?  Eh.  Tom Fitzgerald has no particular qualifications for the job.  Jason Botterill is probably fine, but if the Pens were confident in him, they wouldn't have spent 3 weeks wasting time talking to Pierre F'ing McGuire.

Firing Shero was high risk, low reward.  Hiring Jim Rutherford is high risk, low reward, but it's not -- at least at the outset -- a disaster.  Make all the Jussi Jokinen jokes you want, but they've already stopped being funny.  Every GM makes bad moves, and when it comes to waiving a guy or trading him while retaining salary, it's likely that something is going on behind the scenes we don't know about.  And if we're going to judge Rutherford on his trades with the Pens, remember that he's the guy who sold Shero on the idea that Brandon Sutter was good enough to be, for 2 seasons, the only NHL-ready asset the Pens received in exchange for Jordan Staal, a player who had unlimited value when he was traded.  Here's hoping he can hoodwink another team into thinking Sutter is that good.

Rutherford certainly has his flaws, but for better or worse, at least he has a track record.  The only thing we've heard about Botterill and BriseBois is that they're young, as if being under 40 is itself an asset.  Glen Sather is 70.  Dean Lombardi is 56.  Being young is great, but the Pens need to make some big changes to the roster immediately, and there's no guarantee that a GM with absolutely no experience would come in and have the balls to trade a guy like Neal, Letang, or Kunitz, when he knows he has at least a one year grace period where everyone will continue blaming Ray Shero unless the new guy royally screws up (and trading one of those guys could end up being a royal screw up).  Rutherford can hit the ground running on Day 1.  Maybe it will be with a thud.  But maybe, with an ownership group willing to spend to the cap, it won't be.

We'll see what Rutherford does with the coaching situation, the draft, and free agency before we judge.  Until then, all we can do is feel.  And we feel underwhelmed by the entire process and result, not because the Pens hired Rutherford, but because there was no one they could have hired that would have made us feel otherwise.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

PODCAST: Ray Shero is gone; do the Pens have a Plan B?

We talk about the Shero firing, the David Morehouse Show, Dan Bylsma's future, Crosby's game, and what the Pens should do with guys like Letang, Fleury, Sutter, and Neal. It's the GTOG Podcast.

Listen to the podcast above or check out our Spreaker page. To download the podcast directly from iTunes, click here.  Or you can download, listen, and subscribe via the Spreaker app on iTunes by clicking here, or on Android by clicking here.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Curb Your Enthusiasm scene that eerily resembles Pens ownership expecting someone else to probably fire Dan Bylsma

We understand how Larry feels at the end of this clip.

Is there a reason Mario and Burkle can't get the sponge?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Sidney Crosby doesn't deserve excuses or scorn. His game just needs to evolve.

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

Sidney Crosby doesn't deserve any excuses. The last month was, without question, the longest sustained stretch of stink in his entire career. Pointing to his puck possession numbers or his criminally sub-par supporting cast is just an excuse. A seven-game series is a small sample size, but that's by design -- the playoffs test a player's ability to perform and produce under pressure in a small number of games. He didn’t. And his teammates didn't lob harmless wrist shots into Lundqvist's crest from 40 feet away or pass the puck to the other team on every power play. It should be open season on criticizing his performance.

But it's hard to see the forest through the trees when you're walking through the woods with your head down staring at Twitter. The truth is that even if Crosby gets swept in the first round in each of the next five years but wins one more Cup in his late 30s, his career would still be a massive success.

Crosby will be 27 when next season starts. Here is the list of players since 1980 who have captained a team to multiple Stanley Cups.

Potvin (4x)
Gretzky (4x)
Mario (2x)
Messier (2x)
Scott Stevens (3x)
Sakic (2x)
Yzerman (3x)
Toews (2x)

That's seven of the greatest players of all time, plus Jonathan Toews. The fact that Toews has turned into a better player than a lot of people thought doesn't make Crosby any less successful. Mark Zuckerberg didn't become a disappointment to his parents the day someone came along and invented Twitter.

And really, Toews' unprecedented success is the exception that proves the rule: it's really hard to win one Cup, let alone multiple Cups. Joe Sakic won his first Cup at 26, but he didn't win his second until he was 31. Steve Yzerman didn't win a Cup until he was 32. Next time talking heads point out that Crosby doesn't have any playoff overtime goals, remember: When Yzerman stole the puck from Gretzky and scored on John Casey in double OT in 1996, he was 31 years old and Cupless (and lost in the next round). When someone on Twitter asks when Sid is going to have his "Messier in '94 moment," remember: Messier was 33 years old in 1994. Maybe Sid will have his Messier Moment in 2020 when he's, you know, 33 years old.

So yeah, the last five years were a lost opportunity for Crosby, but it was the opportunity for him to achieve a level of success by age 26 that is pretty close to unprecedented. The best players of all time lose in the playoffs ALL THE TIME. Gretzky lost 12 playoff series. Messier and Sakic lost 11. Yzerman lost 17! Crosby has lost six. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but he's going to lose another six. At least.

The only thing that matters now is how he can get that second Cup.

Whether we like it or not, the playoffs de-emphasize skill and elevate the frustrators over the frustrated. A big reason why the Pens never won another Cup after '92 is that Mario martyred himself in a holy war against the league over how hockey should be played in the playoffs. Sorry, but Mario lost that war. Sid shouldn't martyr himself, nor should his only recourse be to toughen up and fight through the punishment and interference. Instead of being the one always getting frustrated, he should listen to Missy Elliot: "Flip it and reverse it. Ti esrever dna ti pilf nwod gniht ym tup I."

If I was Bylsma's replacement, this is the challenge I'd issue to Crosby: be a finalist for the Selke trophy in 2015. Crosby won the scoring title by 17 points this year, but he was on the ice for 53 goals against at even strength. The three Selke finalists -- Kopitar, Bergeron, and Toews -- were on the ice for 27, 29, and 45, respectively. If Crosby had scored 17 fewer points and been on the ice for 17 fewer goals against, he'd have still won the scoring title and been a leading candidate for the Selke, all while developing the one trait that will endure through any prolonged slump: a tenacity to get the puck away from the other team as fierce as the tenacity to keep it away from them. If developing that means the Pens beat Carolina 2-1 on Thanksgiving Eve instead of 6-3, good. The Pens were never going to win Game 7 against the Rangers 6-3. But they could have won it 2-1.

Using recent history as a guide, Crosby is better off being more Frank Selke and less David Hart. From the 2009-10 season through the 2013 season, the finalists for the Hart Trophy won a combined 64 playoff games. The finalists for the Selke Trophy won a combined 85 playoff games. Or go back even further -- before the age of 30, Steve Yzerman finished in the top 10 of Hart Trophy voting six times. He won zero Cups. From age 30-37, he finished higher in Selke voting than in Hart voting every single year. He won three Cups.

It might be time for Crosby and Art Ross to see other people, too. It’s nice to see that banner hanging, but it’s not really necessary. After all, if the Ducks beat the Kings in Game 7, only five of the top 20 scorers will be left in the playoffs. If the Kings win, only four of the top 20 will be left, and none of the top 11.

Becoming a little more Selke-ish wouldn't be a reinvention of Crosby’s game; it would be an evolution, and one that's necessary because of the inevitable: Crosby isn't going to be the best player in the league forever. Sooner rather than later, especially given his concussion history, he will slow down and younger players will come along and start winning his scoring titles. His path back to the Cup isn't to try to keep getting better at the things he will inexorably get worse at. It's to get better at the things he can still be great at deep into his 30s.

Steve Yzerman’s career can teach valuable lessons about how Crosby’s game can evolve, and how everyone watching should be patient and keep perspective along the way. In the first round of the 1993 playoffs, the Wings were down 3-games-to-2 to the Leafs, and Doug Gilmour was getting the best of Steve Yzerman. Before Game 6, according to Sports Illustrated:
Yzerman went to see Murray and MacLean and asked them not to lie to him. How was he playing? What could he do to be better? Said Murray, "We asked him not to lose to Doug Gilmour's line. To look after his own end, and if he did that, the scoring chances would come." 
And so they did, in bunches. With Yzerman in effect turning the tables on Gilmour and assuming the role of the highest-paid checking center in the league, Toronto's offense stalled. "I had no jump in my legs," Gilmour said. Yzerman had a goal and an assist, and Detroit's depth at the skill positions took over.
The Wings won Game 6 and tied the series.

But you know what happened next? The Wings lost Game 7.

Yzerman was a week shy of his 28th birthday at the time. Only four short years away from his first Cup.