Saturday, July 27, 2013

Believe it or not: "No bad news" about Steelers becoming a parody of themselves

By Artistry

Steelers training camp is underway. Day 1 is in the books and there was absolutely no discernible bad news, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported on Saturday.

Presumptive starting right tackle Mike Adams looks little the worse for wear after absorbing multiple stab wounds during an attempted carjacking at 3:00 am on the south side, where we're sure he had every reason to be hanging out, because nothing bad ever happens to Steelers on Carson Street at that time of the morning.

"He's got full clearance," said Coach Mike Tomlin, as he checked his mentions on Twitter.

"It should be exciting, me delving into the social media world," Tomlin inexplicably continued. "I figure we spend a lot of time talking to our guys about what to do, I thought it would be appropriate and timely to show them. We'll see if I can do it in a professional manner."

As onlookers immediately checked their smart phones to determine if they had ever managed to tweet in a professional manner, veteran defensive lineman Brett Keisel showed up in a dump truck.

"We're constructing our team," said the hard-hat wearing Keisel, by way of explanation why he, a self-proclaimed team leader in the midst of a precipitous decline, was driving a dump truck.  "Everyone is writing us off, but we feel like we can construct, hopefully a championship team," added the Beard, who, again, was driving a dump truck.

There was also no bad news accompanying the arrival of Maurkice Pouncey, the perpetually overrated center and earnest supporter of former college teammates charged with murder.  Pouncey breezily addressed the media about what he acknowledged was the mistake of suggesting the guy charged with murder should just be freed, you know, without a trial.  Be cool, everybody, suggested Pouncey.

"You know what, man, I understand it was a serious situation," he said. "I apologized if I offended anybody. I'm here to play football; let's move off from that. I know I took a lot of heat for it and I probably should have. I understand what happened, and it's pretty cool now. Let things blow away."

"It's all good, baby."
Also feeling pretty cool right now is wide receiver Antonio Brown, who arrived at camp in a Rolls Royce.

Maybe like the 27th best receiver in football.
The surge of optimism in Latrobe culminated with would-be starting left tackle Marcus Gilbert being carted off the field after barely completing a conditioning test. Still, he passed the test, so no biggie, noted Tomlin, who had become accustomed to former nose tackle Casey Hampton barely breaking into a jog before collapsing. Everything is relative, thought the training staff as they helped Gilbert off the turf.

Yes, all is well in Steeler nation. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger did not participate in the workout with his teammates because of lingering discomfort in his surgically repaired knee, but that is "a personal issue for him" and no issue for the team, because why would it be, Tomlin explained.

The fans can barely contain their excitement.

"These guys are ridiculous," I said to myself after reading today's paper and digesting all of these actual, honest-to-goodness quotes. "I've got fantasy football to keep me engaged, and it takes my mind off the fact that it's now emotionally safer and more fun to mock the Steelers than it is to blindly invest in their success. Can't wait to get started."

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

GTOG's Crystal Ball, where we tell you the score of every Pens game. Part 2: November 2013

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

Part 1: October 2013

The Pens enter November coming off a loss to Boston and sit under .500 with none of their big offseason extensions -- Dupuis, Kunitz, Malkin, and Letang -- playing at their level from last season.  Fans are anxious, wondering not only if Dan Bylsma's head is with Team USA, but also whether Shero made a huge mistake re-signing him this offseason.  Fleury remains solidly unspectacular, Simon Despres remains under-utilized (or maybe underwhelming?), and everything is under the microscope.  Let's see how November plays out.


Vokoun gets the nod for the first of a home-and-home against Columbus, which naturally results in a shutout and the inevitable dilemma about who should start on Saturday.  Chris Kunitz gets a hat trick and James Neal pumps in the other two goals as the Pens chase Curtis McElhinney, who was filling in for Sergei Bobrovsky.  Pens win, 5-0.

Record: 6-6-2, 14 PTS


Bylsma sticks with the hot goalie, but really it's the Pens defense and the lack of scoring from Columbus that results in only 22 shots by the Blue Jackets.  Estimates of the number of Pens fans in attendance range from 6,000-10,000.  Paul Martin picks up three assists to pass Letang in scoring among Pens defensemen; all of the Tribune-Review hockey reporters tweet "Where would this team be without Paul Martin?" at the exact same time in the 3rd period.  Pens win, 3-1.

Record: 7-6-2, 16 PTS

Keep reading to find out where this team would be without Paul Martin...

Monday, July 22, 2013

GTOG's Crystal Ball, where we tell you the score of every Pens game. Part 1: October 2013

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

Jump to November 2013

Some people ask, "why waste time in July predicting all 82 games of the upcoming Penguins season?"  To which we respond, "why wouldn't we?"  Without further ado, we bring you the first of several installments breaking down every game on the Pens' schedule.

Game 1: THU OCT 3, 2013 DEVILS @ PENGUINS 

This will be remembered as "The Dan Potash Game" because for the first time in over 20 years, the Pens/Pirates in-between-periods-guy has a legitimate dilemma on his hands, as Pens opening night coincides with Game 2 of the Pirates-Dodgers NLDS.  Another return-to-Pittsburgh game for Jaromir Jagr registers about 50% of the buzz of a usual home-opener for the Pens with all eyes on the Buccos in L.A.  Brandon Sutter tallies a goal and an assist -- the first game in which he's registered both a goal and an assist as a Penguin -- in a 4-2 win (the goal is an empty netter).  This buys Sutter 10 more games before anyone in the Pittsburgh media realizes, "hey, it's been 10 games since Brandon Sutter scored."  Pens win, 4-2. 

Record: 1-0; 2 PTS

The rest of October after the jump...

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Penguins are in the Metropolitan Division. Huh?

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

The NHL announced a few months ago that it would go with geographic descriptors for division names, then proceeded to include cities like Columbus and Raleigh in something called the Metropolitan Division, which doesn't really describe anything.  The goal of using geographic terms for division names was either: a) to be risk-averse instead of going with Gretzky, Orr, Howe, and Lemieux or even the old Patrick, Adams, Norris and Smythe names; or b) to avoid confusing the "casual" fan.

As for concern that a team like Montreal wouldn't like raising an "Orr Division Championship" banner, did the '85 Bears refuse to hold the Lombardi Trophy?  Did Kobe Bryant of the Lakers refuse to accept the Bill Russell award as NBA Finals MVP?

And no offense, but any person who would find the traditional names so confusing as to preclude investment in the sport probably doesn't have a ton of purchasing power.  Is there someone not watching the NFL because they don't understand why the St. Louis Rams are in the NFC West or the Dallas Cowboys are in the NFC East?

The Metropolitan Division name is a classic "Offend no one; Satisfy no one" situation.  Obviously we will get over this moments after this post is published and it will not impact our enjoyment of the game at all.  But still, it's kinda lame, no?

Better names.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Today in Ron Cook Poetry: It's true. I know it's true.

It's time for another installment of our longest-running and potentially most popular feature: Ron Cook Poetry. (For the rules, click here).  Today, Ron discusses whether athletes are genuine when they apologize, and boy oh boy, is it a doozy.

It's true. I know it's true.
by Ron Cook

That's a lot of regret, real or coerced.
We've become hardened by it all.
Is it just me or is it difficult to take the apology seriously?
I struggle to see the sincerity.
I'm betting on choice two.
Not to be cynical.
Nice thoughts, right?
React to violence by encouraging more violence?
That's horrific.
Genuine apologies?
You decide.
It's true.
I know it's true.
But that doesn't make it right.
It's pretty disheartening, actually.
He's a talented, exciting player.
Actually, that's not entirely true.
Manziel is 20.
Is it fair to any athlete?
A teacher, perhaps.
A church figure.
A coach.
His reputation is largely solid, as best I can tell.
He was the boy's favorite player.
And do.

Free Cook.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Sharknado: Tara Reid sobers up long enough to transfer an STD to Steve Sanders from 90210 after he cuts himself out of a flying shark with a chainsaw

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

You saw it.  We saw it.  The whole world saw it.

Sharknado actually happened.

I only wish I had had more advanced notice so that I could have prepared a multi-volume play-by-play.  Unfortunately, the moment has passed.  But the image will live on forever.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Podcast: Mike Colligan joins us to discuss the Pens' offseason

Mike Colligan of The Hockey Writers joins the podcast for an in-depth discussion of the Pens' offseason.  We touch on everything -- the Boston series, Rob Scuderi, Matt D'Agostini, Dan Bylsma, Letang/Kunitz/Dupuis/Adams signings, Fleury, and what moves are still left to make.  Plus so much else.  We even debate whether Rob Scuderi got burned by Ovechkin four years ago.  It's a can't miss GTOG Podcast.

You can listen below or on our Spreaker page.  If you want to take the podcast mobile, either click here to subscribe on iTunes, or download the Spreaker app for iPhone or Android.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

No Contract for Old Men: Scuderi, Dupuis, Kunitz and Adams

By Artistry

Ray Shero has had a brilliant July, so why does it smell like old people in here? Uh, that's easy. It's because the Penguins just handed a combined $40 million to the guys in the headline -- in deals that will keep them in Pittsburgh until they're 38, 37, 38, and 38, respectively. For now, those four join Brooks Orpik (33 in September), Paul Martin (32), Tomas Vokoun (37), Jussi Jokinen (30), and Tanner Glass (30 in November) as regulars in the 2013-14 lineup. No reason to panic about these numbers, but let's face it, sometimes people go from "old man strong" to "I've fallen, and I can't get up" in the blink of a swollen Deryk Engelland eye. Wait. What's that? Holy shit. I'm being told Deryk Engelland is already 31.

Craig Adams, Jr.
Here's the paradox of this off-season: you can't argue about any of Shero's moves if you look at them in isolation. But if you look at the roster as a whole and don't feel at least mildly uncomfortable, you haven't been paying attention. Why Shero isn't done, after the jump...

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Letang, Dupuis, Ovechkin, and all the other happenings in the NHL

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

A lot has happened since our last post on Monday, so let's get to it.

The Letang Extension

The more we think about it, the more we like it.  At the beginning of Kris Letang Trade Week, we said that the Pens' best course of action was to sign Letang for 8 years at $7M per season.  They got him signed for 8 years at $7.25M, so we can't really complain.  It must have been incredibly tempting for Shero to see what he could get for Letang in a trade, but regardless of the return, here's the landscape Shero was staring at that made it clear Letang was a must-sign: an 82 game schedule where the Pens would be dependent on Paul Martin to be the team's best offensive and defensive defenseman for 26 minutes a night.  We're as big of PM fans as anyone, but that's probably because we've always maintained realistic expectations about his role.  And number one defenseman is not Paul Martin's role.

All things considered, not bad.
If the Pens had traded Letang in exchange for anything less than a bonafide top-2 defenseman, the Pens immediately become a team in desperate need of another minutes-eating defenseman.  And desperation leads to overpaying someone from this incredibly underwhelming list of free agent defensemen.  Basically, this is the classic "a maddeningly frustrating but uber-talented French-Canadian defenseman in hand is better than an overpaid Jeff Schultz and Andrew Ference in the bush" situation.

While a $7.25M cap hit is high, remember the following: the extension doesn't kick in until after next season when the cap is expected to rise.  And if you have been paying attention to some of the huge contracts being thrown at much lesser players than Letang (Lecavailer, Streit, etc), there are two takeaways: either other owners are wildly overpaying mid-level players again, thereby making the Letang signing look even better, OR economic models are very bullish on the NHL's revenue growth, which would make the Letang signing more affordable long-term.

It's a big financial risk, no question about that.  Letang has a ton of issues, and it's clear from the fact that almost all of his mistakes are mental that he isn't being coached properly by a coaching staff that is returning for at least another two years.  But it also wouldn't be surprising if Letang pocketed a few Norris Trophies during the next 9 years.  Of the Pens' three mega-deals, Letang is the only one who still has upside.  Good signing.

More on Dupuis, Bylsma, Ovechkin, and Shero after the jump...

Monday, July 1, 2013

Pens to pay three players big money: DON'T FREAK OUT

By Artistry

There are legitimate reasons not to like the proposed Kris Letang extension. He may never mature into a consistent defensive force. He's not Sergei Gonchar on the power play. He can't seem to take constructive criticism.

He did this like 5 minutes before the lockout ended.
This is his hair.
But there's a notion out there that since the Pens are on the verge of eating up about $25 million with the Crosby, Malkin, and Letang deals, they are bound to fill out the roster with 18 Dustin Jeffreys. First of all, what's wrong with that? Second, it's an assertion that doesn't stand up to even the mildest scrutiny.

Even with a new Letang deal, the Penguins have about $8 million to spend under the cap for next season. If they move Matt Niskanen, which is entirely possible if not likely, they'll have more than $10 million. With that money, the only imperative is signing one top 6 winger and one bottom 6 winger (either Pascal Dupuis and Matt Cooke, or two younger, cheaper guys to replace them.) Craig Adams is going to re-sign for his typical $700-800k-ish deal. They've still got a top 6 that includes Sid, Geno, Neal, Kunitz, and the eminently ready Beau Bennett.

What about when the Letang and Malkin extensions kick in, you ask? As of today and assuming Letang's deal gets done, the Pens would be nearly $20 million under the existing cap of $64,300,000 in 2014-15. There is a lot of informed speculation that the cap will be back to at least $70,000,000 by that time. So what, exactly, are people worried about?

If you don't like the pieces you get for your $45 million in 2014-15 (Crosby, Malkin, James Neal, Chris Kunitz, Beau Bennett, Letang, Paul Martin, and Fleury), that's a different story, and an entirely different debate. But with an infusion of young, cheap, blue chip defenseman like Despres, Maatta, Dumoulin, Pouliot, and Harrington ready or nearly ready to play, there will be cash left over to fill out a roster. And if there isn't?  That's why you negotiate limitations to a no-trade clause.