Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Rico Fata Claimed by Thrashers

The Penguins placed Rico Fata on re-entry waivers in hopes that he could bring some speed and energy to the line-up. Well, he just might, but it will not be to the Pittsburgh line-up. He was claimed by the Atlanta Thrashers Tuesday morning. Hopefully Rico can stick with the Thrashers.

The Penguins now have nothing to show for the Jagr or Kovy trades. They did utilize Mikael Samuelsson to secure the pick that brought Marc Andre Fleury into the fold. That fact makes it all a bit more bearable.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Rita and Cross to Play Against Rags

The two newest Penguins will be in the line-up against the New York Rangers today when the puck drops at 2:00pm on NBC. The Pens are playing their 2nd of 3 consecutive NBC games.

I am most looking forward to seeing Jani Rita take the ice. He is a former first round draft pick who really never got his chance in Edmonton. The Penguins tend to give quality ice time to new players, so he may even take some shifts with Sidney Crosby. Hopefully he will end up being a diamond in the rough for a team that could use some help scoring goals.

We sort of know what to expect from Cory Cross. He is a big guy with some offensive ability. He should play some solid defense and chip in some points, maybe on the 2nd power play.

Not sure if the Pens are planning any more moves. The Edmonton trade had been rumored for quite some time, but things are a bit quiet right now. Craig Patrick rarely tips his hand so who knows what could be brewing. Names that could move: LeClair, Recchi, Gonchar, Malone and Jackman.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Oh See How They Spin!

Governor Ed Rendell has come out in the media, print and television, stating that he is trying ever so hard to negotiate some sort of arena plan with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Stating that their proposed plan to get the single stand alone slots license for Pittsburgh is tying his hands. The Penguins, as has been well publicized, have partnered with the Isle of Capri in the hopes of winning the slots license. If the Isle of Capri is to win the license, they have pledged to give $290 million to construct a new arena, not just for the Penguins, but for the city of Pittsburgh. There is also a plan to complete almost $1 billion dollars of renovation, revitalization and development in an area of the city that certainly needs it with ZERO burden on the taxpayers. In the Isle of Capri deal, the Penguins have agreed not to enter into negotiations on a "plan B." As one might expect. A business partner tends to hold you to a deal that you have agreed to, so as not to be left high and dry when you broker some sort of side situation.

This is where it gets very shady. Rendell is spinning the story. He is trying to turn the perception of this situation to one in which the Penguins are painted as uncooperative, and unwilling to consider any of his suggestions or possibilities for a new arena. Here is a news flash for you Eddie, you were not willing to come up with any alternatives for a new arena during the last 4 years. All of a sudden you have found the magic plan that wasn't available in the past. You also seem very willing to throw the taxpayers of the region right under the bus now, in saying that the there are many possibilities and alternatives. Your media spin in this situation is serving as nothing more than the smoking gun. A smoking gun that screams out the fact that you just may have made a promise to someone about this slots license. How can you tell the Penguins that the plan they have come up with in regard to the slots license is one that they shouldn't be "married too" as was mentioned in today's Post Gazette. They have been told for many years that their only hope for an arena in this region was to try and secure the license. No public monies were available. Well, please tell me Ed, how is it that now; when their plan is close to being head and shoulders above the other applicants, there are alternatives? If there were alternatives and you were willing to be so helpful, it should have been mentioned well before today.

Fortunately for you Fast Eddie, the majority of voters in this area have still not realized that they were not going to have to pay a dime if the the Penguins were to win the license and your allegations will convince them that the team isn't being flexible. Just realize that most people who have followed the arena fight since 1999, when Mario Lemiuex took this team out of bankuptcy, understand that you are full of lies and false promises. Funny how your home town, Philadelphia, has a pretty new Baseball Park, a pretty new Football stadium and lastly, that's right a new arena. Standing right across the street from the old one....one that must still be in pretty good shape since it is used almost as frequently as the new one! Enjoy your run in office now....I am sure it is your last.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Tarnstrom Traded to Oilers for Cross and Rita

The Pens have finally pulled the trigger on a deal with Edmonton. There have been rumors swirling about this for months. Pittsburgh acquires defenseman Cory Cross and former first round pick Jani Rita. Cross is a 12 year veteran who has patrolled the blue line in New York, Tampa Bay and Toronto. Rita has struggled to make the team in Edmonton since being their first round pick, 13th overall, in 1999. He has 7 points in 36 career games.

The Oilers get a possible point man for the power play to compliment Chris Pronger. Tarnstrom has been a healthy scratch often this year, and hasn't been able to match his success of '03-'04 when he was the Penguin's leading scorer.

Pens Dominate Ovechkin and the Caps

The Pittsburgh Penguins, losers of 10 in a row and their Captain Mario Lemieux, could have gone through the motions last night against the Washington Capitals. Instead, the teams brightest star and a couple fading ones decided that they were not going to lose # 11. Sidney Crosby reminded everyone in attendance that they would be in good hands even after losing Mario, by posting his first 4 point game in the NHL and closing the gap between he and Alexander Ovechkin in the rookie scoring race. John LeClair and Mark Recchi each chipped in 2 goals, and played very solid games.

The Penguin power play accounted for 3 goals and center Ryan Malone scored on a late penalty shot to finish off the 8-1 win.

Sidney Crosby went up 2-0 in head to head match ups with Alexander Ovechkin. Alexander the Great did toss in a goal to tie the score at one during the first period. Ovechkin also took a spear in the groin towards the end of the second period. Ryan Whitney received a match penalty and a 5 minute major for spearing. NHL master of discipline, Colin Campbell, already handed down a decision in the situation. Whitney was fined $1,500 and will not face a suspension.

The Penguins used last night to honor Mario Lemieux with "Mario Moments" and an extended video tribute. Mario was shown in his box and received several very warm ovations including an extended standing ovation after the video tribute. There was also a raucous reaction when Big Ben Roethlisberger was shown chatting with the retired legend.

Notes: There is a rumor circulating that Dick Tarnstrom could be on the move to Edmonton for any number of different players. The most popular version has him going for Jani Rita.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A Sad Day for Hockey.....Mario Lemieux to Retire

The Pittsburgh Penguins have called a 2:00pm press conference to announce the retirement of Mario Lemieux. They have not come out and stated that is the reason for the conference, but it is being reported in many different news outlets. This is truly a sad day for hockey.....and the Pittsburgh Penguin organization.

The hardest part is that I kept thinking we would have one more game, one more magical shift, one more assist or goal. Just a chance to say goodbye. When Mario retired the first time, it was a magical evening against the Philadelphia Flyers. He had just scored a fantastic goal, on a breakaway no less, and the standing room crowd sort of knew that would be the last chance to say goodbye to the icon that was Mario, Le Magnifique, the savior of the franchise. There was one more game in Philadelphia, but it was a long shot. This was the opportunity to show Mario what he meant to the fans of Pittsburgh. The ovation went on for 10 minutes, as Simply the Best - Mario's theme song, blared from the arena sound system. There were a lot of tears that night, sadness and joy. It was a celebration of sorts. It was closure for Mario and the people who adored him. Even Mario was moved to tears, it was confirmation that he loved the game, the city and the fans. I never forgot that night. It was very special.

Mario gave us no reason to think that he could not come back from his Atrial Fibrillation, he was the king of the comeback. Back Problems, he came back. Cancer, he came back. Anemia, he came back. Duel hip surgeries, he came back. Nothing seemed to beat Mario, he was super human. No man could overcome the adversity that he faced and still perform the way he did.....but he did it. When he couldn't bend over to tie his skates, someone did it for him and he was still the best the player in the world. The reality of the situation is that the Atrial Fibrillation is probably the most intimidating thing he has faced, next to the cancer of course, and it is probably foolish to continue playing with the risk of additional heart issues, including heart attack. However my own selfishness is hard to overcome.

Mario Lemieux is probably the sole reason I am as big a hockey fan as I am. I am 30 years old, and right around the time I began watching the Penguins Mario was drafted. He was a shy young man who was thrust into a new environment and had to learn a new language and culture. All the while he was performing at the absolute highest level on the ice. What Mario accomplished was amazing! It made me want to play the game, to watch the game and to follow his career and the Pittsburgh Penguins religiously. His wonders on the ice are well documented. That isn't all that makes this man great though.

Mario has taken on the fight against cancer. He has raised millions of dollars through his Celebrity Golf Invitational. He has donated millions to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centers to establish specific programs to work on a cure for cancer, especially with regard to children. In addition to all of these great feats, he has personally taken it upon himself to try and keep the Penguins in Pittsburgh.

He purchased the team out of bankruptcy and became it's primary owner and CEO. That was the second time he saved hockey in Pittsburgh. The first being his being drafted and helping mold the team into a champion. As time went on and Mario watched the game from the owner's box, his competitive fires began to burn again. He decided that he could still be one of, if not the best in the world. Mario hit the ice again on December 27, 2000, picking up a point 30 seconds into the comeback. Mario was magical in posting 76 points in 43 games during year one of his return. Unfortunately, injuries began to mount at that point and took their toll over the next 5 years. Which leads us to today.....his second retirement and the point of this retrospective.

Ultimately, I know that this is best for Mario. His health is the most important thing right now. There are many other issues that he must deal with, such as the potential sale of the team and the fight for the stand alone slots license which would provide a new arena. If he succeeds in this, his greatest challenge yet, he will have saved the Penguins again.

Thank you for all that you have done for the City of Pittsburgh Mario! It may not always seem like it, but the city and it's fans love you. Thank you for introducing me to the game, and giving me 20 great years. I will never forget them....

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Pens Acquire Eric Cairns

The Pittsburgh Penguins acquired rugged defenseman Eric Cairns from the Florida Panthers for a 6th round pick. Cairns, who is 6' 6" and 241 pounds, should be a nice addition to a team that has seemed to lack toughness lately.

Cairns has played in 429 NHL games with the Panthers, New York Rangers and New York Islanders. He has accumulated 41 points and 1,090 penalty minutes over the course of his career. He is known for his physical play and should really help in front of the net and with keeping heat off of Sidney Crosby.

Palffy Retires!!

It is with shock that I report this information. I am not sure if anyone saw this coming. It was first mentioned in a Slovakian newspaper report. Ziggy has apparently been having trouble with his surgically repaired shoulder and doctors have advised against repairing it a third time. The press release only mentions that personal reasons are behind the move. Here is the link from the Pittsburgh Penguins website:


Where does this leave the Pittsburgh Penguins? They are now short a right winger on their top line next to Sidney Crosby. If Mario Lemiuex is able to come back from his heart ailment, he may be able to pick up some shifts on this line. I would think that the Penguins might try to look for some help from outside the organization. I would assume that they will not have the burden of Palffy's contract since he has retired and could use a portion of that to pick up another player. However the more logical thinking would state that they now have the $3 million necessary to keep Marc Andre Fleury on the roster for the remainder of the season.

Can one of the young players in the organization step up and become the top line right winger? I am not sure. Tomas Surovy, Michel Ouellet and Konstantin Koltsov have spent time on the left side of Sid the Kid since Michel Therrien has taken over head coaching duties and Ziggy has been the constant on the right side. This may be the chance for Mark Recchi or John LeClair to take a couple top 6 forward shifts with Sidney. They did have some early success with Sidney early in the season. Ryan Malone probably will get some consideration at this point as well. He has definitely turned his game around since his stay in Therrien's doghouse and many trade rumors.

We will see what happens in the next 24 hours. The Penguins face off against the New York Rangers tomorrow night at the Mellon Arena.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

As the Goalie Turns Continues

The Penguins have shipped Dan Sabourin back to the Wilkes Barre-Scranton Baby Pens of the America Hockey League. It looks like the Pens goaltending duties will be in the hands of Marc Andre Fleury and Sebastian Caron, who has cleared re-entry waivers and was placed back on the roster...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Therrien Melts Down - Musical Goalies

After a very underwhelming performance against the Edmonton Oilers last night, another loss, 3-1. Head Coach Michel Therrien, who is famous for calling his players out when needed, had finally seen enough. He called everything into question: the team's heart, the chemistry, the defense, professionalism and even the fact that they just might not like each other. Here are a few of the quotes from last night's post game press conference: (Quotes from FSN TV, Jonathan Bombulie's Pens Insider Blog and the Post Gazette.)

“It’s a pathetic performance. Half of the team doesn’t care. That defensive squad -- I am really starting to believe their goal is to be the worst defensive squad in the league. They are doing such a great job to be the worst defensive squad in the league. They turn the puck over. They have no vision. They are soft. I have never seen a bunch of defensemen as soft as this."

“Are we going to be happy to play eight minutes? I am not going to be happy to play eight minutes. Those guys will save 50 percent of their salary because they only play for 50 percent of the time.”

“It’s a game of emotion. It’s a game of hard work. It’s a game of passion. Kovalchuk, what he did the other day – there’s not one guy who was close to doing something. Maybe Maxime Talbot at the end with one second left. Did they think that, as a coach, I think the team cared about each other? Wow."

We will see if Therrien's verbal kick in butt will make a difference. I am not sure that some of the veterans on the team will respond, but it will be an interesting game tonight. Especially because goaltender Dan Sabourin has been recalled and will start against the Blue Jackets. That was just the first of several goaltending moves the Penguins made today.

After calling up Sabourin, who was 15-1-1 with 3 shut outs and a 1.78 gaa with Wilkes Barre-Scranton, the team found out that Jocelyn Thibault will have surgery to rcartilage cartillage in his hip. That will move Thibault to IR, and prompted the team to also recall Sebastian Caron who had been serving as the primary back-up to Sabourin. I am not sure if this is all setting in motion a return to WBS for Marc Andre Fleury, but General Manager Craig Patrick said the team will carry 3 goaltenders for the foreseeable future. If Sabourin and Caron look to be able to do the job, the team would be in position to return Fleury to WBS avoiding paying him possible bonuses in excess of $3 million.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Konstantin Koltsov called up and Eric Christensen sent back to WBS

Eric Christensen has been sent back to the Wilkes Barre-Scranton Baby Penguins. Konstantin Koltsov has been recalled. Koltsov had found something of a scoring touch since being sent the Baby Pens and his energy should really help the Penguins new transition game. More to come later....stay tuned!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Ryan Malone on the Block??

Sportsnet.ca Is reporting that Ryan Malone is being shopped by the Pittsburgh Penguins. There is supposedly a lot of interest in him too. I am not sure if this is a tactic to wake him up from his year long stump or if They are really shopping him.

Malone showed flashes of being a franchise cornerstone in '03-'04 by making the team out of training camp when no one thought he had a shot. He went on to score 22 goals as a rookie and got some consideration for the Calder in certain circles. This season has been the complete opposite for Malone. He hasn't been able to score with any consistency even though he was put in a position to succeed by former head coach Eddie Olczyk and current coach Michel Therrien. He has now played himself into Therrien's dog house and has been a healthy scratch 3 out the last 4 games. Therrien criticized Malone's work ethic in the media and on a one on one basis. Therrien said that Malone needed to work harder to get back to where he was last year. This prompted Malone to say: I have heard that before from a couple different people. Not the way to work your way back into the good graces of a coach that expects playing your hardest at all times. He also didn't impress many in the organization when he held out for a contract equal to Trent Hunter of the Islanders. Though Hunter outpaced him in multiple statistical categories as a rookie.

Malone may end up being the prototypical power forward that many people imagined, but it just might not be with the Penguins. Sometimes getting that fear of falling out of the league across can work miracles. Look at Marcus Nasland. He was actually let go by Vancouver at one point after he was acquired from the Penguins, and no one signed him. He went back, signed a deal for the league minimum and the rest is history.

Some may say that the Pens would not trade the son of their head scout, well here is some food for thought in the business of hockey. It is a business that saw Colorado Avalanche GM Pierre Lacroix, trade his own son Eric. It is about winning, nothing more, nothing less.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Pens Flying Under Therrien

When the Pittsburgh Penguins fired Eddie Olczyk on December 15, 2005 and replaced him with Michel Therrien, no one was really sure what would result. Well, Therrien has brought his system, his expectations, his accountability and passion for winning to Pittsburgh. The players responded almost immediately.

Therrien skated the team hard during the first week of practice to improve conditioning that he felt was questionable, made a couple personnel moves that have a paid immediate dividends, and seems to have taught the team how to win. They have picked up points in 5 straight games, going 3-0-2 during that time. The team has transitioned from a group of underachieving veterans with a couple rookies, to a group of youngsters led by Sidney Crosby, and a couple vets filling niche roles.

There are currently 11 rookies in the line-up and they are mostly playing very important roles. We all know Sidney Crosby, but some of the bigger suprises have been guys like Michel Ouellet and Tomas Surovy. Ouellet was called up earlier in the season and used in a checking role that did not suit him well. Since his recall when Therrien was hired, he has been used in a power play, penalty killing and top 6 forward role, a role in which he has thrived. He is one of the highest scoring 1st year players during the last 10 games, right along side the likes of Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin. Surovy has found a home on the top line playing with Ziggy Palffy and the aforementioned Sidney Crosby. Some others making an impact are: Maxime Talbot, Colby Armstrong, Shane Endicott, Eric Chritsensen, Ryan Whitney and goaltender Marc Andre Fleury.

These young players are being used in all situations and being given a chance to grow. This is a very important time in their development. The veteran leaders are still there to help the cause, but it is obvious that the torch has been passed.

Not only has the team gone a different direction with personel but they have started to play an up tempo game that revolves around trapping, clogging the neutral zone and creating turnovers. These turnovers are converted into odd man breaks and scoring opportunities. The Penguins seem to have shaken a lot of what was wrong with them earlier in the year and the players look like they are having fun again. They are playing as a team, scoring goals(an average of 3 a game under Therrien), and working together. The goaltending has been steady, with Marc Andre Fleury getting the bulk of the starts, but Jocelyn Thibault has been playing better and could start to play a little more.

Therrien even seems to have woken up a certain # 55 who has been lying dormant most of the season. Sergei Gonchar has been producing points and looks a lot more comfortable in the offensive zone. This can only help the team, even if it is to make him look more marketable in a trade.

The bottom line is that the playoffs may be a little to far a stretch, but this team is learning to win. Michel Therrien has made a big difference and his influence should help this team continue to have success this year and beyond!!