Monday, August 30, 2010

Dude is sicker than I have a new goal!


It is kind of hard to find much positive about the Steelers performance yesterday. I am not sure what bothers me the most. The quarterbacks behind Roethlisberger all suck.......the first four games are going to be UGLY.......Leftwich is slow, and behind this offensive line may not survive those four games.....and if he doesn't Kordell II is not the answer. After hearing everyone scream for him to get his shot, he promply shit the bed.....and shit it bad. Two picks, one in the end zone right into coverage after locking on to his target the whole way. The second returned for a touchdown, similar to the one that cost the Steelers the only other game he started, against Baltimore last year. Yeah, Dixon could start if he played against second stringers.........The offensive line appears to be again, OFFENSIVE. The running game, subpar, Mendenhall does not look sharp, and there is NO depth behind him. Yeah, the Steelers did not need LT when he was available for a song. Defensively, they look old, slow, and STUPID!! Last week, Ike Taylor gets in a fight in the first minute of the game, and this week they take four personal fouls. Add to that the pre snap penalties, and you see a team that does not appear ready Hey, there are some bright spots.....First round pick Maurkice Pouncey is a beast and appears ready to win the starting job at center. Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders look like they will make the team as well, adding youth and speed to the recieving corps and special teams. Dwyer finally started to show something last night as well. Timmons was all over the field, and if he can be the beast they think he can be, on top of Woodley and Harrison, that linebacking corps could be an elite unit. It will need to be, because the corners SUCK....AGAIN. This team has some real talent, but the combination of four games with Roethlesberger, a bad offensive line, and weak corners will make it tough to beat out Baltimore and Cincinnati. The quarterbacks and wide recievers in Cincinnati and Baltimore will make it tough on this Steelers team. Hopefully, Polamalu will stay healthy, and the pass rush will hide the deficiencies at corner, but I am not really optimistic about that. There are plenty of players worth following on this team such as Mike Wallace, LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons, Troy Polamalu, Maurkice Pouncey, Antonio Brown, Ziggy Hood, James Harrison, Heath Miller, Brett Kiesel.............and I hope for the best, but have a great concern that this will be a LONG season.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Thank you Steve Morris/Bodyworks

Finally, after many many hours bent into odd positions by a 6'5" 280 man with a shaved head (go ahead, say it), my City of Champs tribute is complete. Yes, it was a tattoo, not a year in prison!! I love the custom work done by Steve Morris at BodyWorks tattoos in Penn Hills. He did a great job all around, and most especially adding life to and working around the eagle that was stuck in the middle of the canvas since I was 18 years old. If you want just a logo of something or basic flash art tattoo work, Steve is not your man. But there are others at the shop who can step in and do that work. But, if you want top notch custom work from a man who takes great pride in his work, and your satisfaction with it, then you will never go wrong to contact Steve. After more than 40 hours of one on one time with Steve, plus some design time, I have gotten to know him very well, and came away impressed. First, he is the real deal in terms of demand. It took a couple of months from my first phone call and original idea to the intial meeting to discuss took a couple of additional months for the follow up, in which the final design and layout were done, and it took several 5-8 hour sessions from early January 201o until late August to get the work done. You have to schedule months in advance, as he is booked otherwise. Not only do I love the work Steve did, but I was impressed by what he would NOT do. My original idea was to center around a molten lava drooling Steeler monster with a war ravaged Steeler flag, on which was impaled the helmets of the six teams defeated by the Steelers in the Super Bowls.......I had similar aggressive, in your face ideas to compliment the original Pens logo on my arm, as they are obviously my favorite Pittsburgh team. Steve, taking my age, 45, and white collar profession into account refused to do it.....Yes, even when I acted like it was a deal breaker, his positon was that I would regret that kind of aggression on my arm over time, and that he could give me a piece that would still have an in your face feel, but would be more of a tribute to the city and teams that I have grown up loving. Although it is colorful and it looks like my arm is melting, it is a very civilized looking piece of work! Hey, you cannot take away from the fact that it is a whole sleeve of work, but it comes off a lot better for a man my age than a bunch of black and gold steel drooling monsters would have (We may still go there on the chest though). I wound up seeing his side of it, and he presented me with the options, that with some tweaking together, became this tattoo, and I love the results. His firm stance on doing the right thing by me long term, v. doing whatever I would pay for earned him a great deal of my respect right out of the gate. Trust me, most people would have gladly had me commit to any project of that size regardless of whether it was the "right" thing in the long run. All in all, a great experience, a new friend, and a piece of art on my arm that I love. I will have Steve also fix up some older work on my other arm and chest. Thank you Steve for a great experience and in my opinion, a civilized yet kick ass tattoo!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Simon Despres - #30 overall Pittsburgh Penguins

shootout move simon despres pittsburgh penguins prospect lhjmq

3-31-10 Ben Holmstrom vs. Ben Lovejoy

Byron Bitz vs Deryk Engelland Nov 14, 2009

Penguins sign Zbynek Michalek to 5-year deal

Penguins sign Paul Martin to 5-year deal

Paul Martin Breakaway Goal (Devils vs Canadiens 1/21/09)

Paul Martin Goal (Devils vs Penguins 3/17/10)

Kris Letang Hit on Todd White [11-20-08]

Kris Letang scores a goal in OT of Game 3 ECSF! HD

Orpik 4 hits in 15 second in game 3 SCF

Pittsburgh Penguins 2007-2008: Brooks Orpik

Alex Ovechkin goes flying!

Defense! Defense! Defense!

No, I am not sitting at a Steeler game with the obligatory chant I grew up with ringing in my ears. I am looking at the Penguins current and near term future defense corps, and I find myself extremely excited about them both in the near term and over the long run. First Shero replaced an aging and in my opinion currently overpriced Sergei Gonchar with the two best UFA defensemen available, Phoenix's Zbynek Michalek, and New Jerseys Paul Martin. This gives the Pens an excellent Top 5 on their blue line:

1. Brooks Orpik-One of my favorite Penguins. At 6'2" 219 lbs Orpik can be a hammer on the blueline, playing a very physical shutdown game. He is consistently among the leaugue leaders in hits. His physical prescence and defensive zone responsibility is complimented by an underrated skating game. Orpik turned down more money to stay in Pittsburgh and is signed through the 2013-14 season. "Free Candy" is Lambert on skates.

2. Kris Letang-At 6' and 202 lbs, Tanger is a much more physical player than many think. In addition, Letang is a great skater, and possesses a wicked shot from the point. His issues are accuracy with that shot, and confidence to take it more. That said, Letang is a true top 4 pairing defenseman who despite playing 3 full seasons in the NHL and making two runs to the finals, is a YOUNG player whose upside is still not tapped. Letang will be asked to contribute more in the way of goals, and I am confident that he is ready to take his game to an even higher level. This guy has elite defenseman upside and is also signed through 2013-2014.

3. Paul Martin-At 6'1 and 200 lbs Marin is another decent sized defenseman, who can play all facets of the game. He is not an overwhelmingly physical player, but he is not shy about contact either. He was probably the most coveted UFA defenseman, between his young age (29), his offensive upside and solid defensive zone play. Many in the New Jersey organization say that Martin's prescence on the ice instantly made the Devils a better team, and that the more uptempo system in Pittsburgh will allow Martin to reach his full potential. He has all star potential and he is signed though the 2014-15 season. In addition, he will help make our D and our team harder to play against.

4. Zbynek Michalek-At 6'2" and 210 lbs ZM is a good sized defenseman. He was an under the radar player that was highly coveted by many teams, and my personal pick for the Pens. He was Sheros first call on July 1, because this kid can flat out play all facets of the game, and at 27 he is in his prime. He is another player expected to play at an even better level in the Penguins system, and has been described as another Rob Scuderi in his ability to block shots, and play a shut down game, but he is more physical and can contribute offensively. He is signed through the 2014-15 season as well, and trust me you will love this kid. He will make it much tougher to play against the Pens.

5.Alex Goligoski-GoGo is 5'11" and 180 lbs, so he is a smallish player. Alex has great upside. In the 2008-09 campaign he was in the top 10% of the league in defensive scoring when he was sent down to the minors so Therrien could indugle his love of french players (Philipe Boucher) and veterans. Goligoski started off the 2009-10 season proving that Therrien was wrong, and he was wracking up points prior to getting hurt in November. He has never regained that form, as he appeared to lose his confidence. Goligoski is a very gifted offensive player, and will get a chance with Gonchar gone to step up and produce big time offense for this team. He is an intrguing player to me because he has such upside, but he is only signed through 2011-12, he is a bit small and can be exposed in his zone, and could be an interesting asset the Pens could move at this trade deadline or the following due to our depth of defensemen that I will touch upon next. If Goligoski can maintain his level of play from early in each of the past two seasons, and just improve his play in his zone, he has an excellent future, whether it will be here or not remains to be seen.

This top 5 is a very solid group of players, and the core group of 4 are signed for the long term. The following group of players makes the future on the Pens blue line even more exciting if you ask me.

6. Ben Lovejoy-At 6'2" and 215 lbs, this young defenseman can play a very physical game. He has been a mainstay on the blue line for the Wilkes Barre Scranton Penguins the last few years, and has shown well in limited play for the Penguins. In addition to his physical play, he is a good puck mover, responsible in his own end, and capable of chipping in some goals. The team seems to feel as if this is his year to make the move to the NHL, and they think he can play at a high level.

7. Derek Engellend-At 6'2" and 202 lbs DE is a good sized player, with nothing fancy about his game. His game is a simple, defensive and physical game. He is not afraid to punish opposing forwards, block shots, or drop the gloves. I don't think anyone sees him as a future star, but if he can be responsible in his zone, he could be a very solid #7 on most teams. The Pens have a couple of other journeymen defensemen such as Steve Wagner and Andrew Hutchinson in WBS who could also see some time, but unless there is a surprise, one or both of the two aformentioned and or an older vet will provide the depth to this years squad. After this the Pens have four potentially top level defensemen they expect to be NHL ready as early as late this coming season, but more likely for the 2011-12 season, and this group excites me the most.

Simon Despres-At nineteen years old this kid is already 6'4" and 218 lbs. He can skate like crazy, and has a nasty edge. He was the 2009 1st round selection of the Pens, and many regarded him as a top 12 pick. The upside for Despres is supposed to be unlimited and the coaches have been impressed thus far. Enough so, that he could do a Jordan Staal and make this club out of camp, but most think he could be a late season call up, or at worst a lock going into next year.

Robert Bortuzzo-The 2007 3rd round pick of the Penguins, most have him as the second most valuable prospect on our blue line. At 6'4" and 212 lbs Bortuzzo is a very physical blue liner who was plus 13 last year in WBS. He is another strong skater which is a common need in today s NHL and in particular in the system the Pens play. Like Despres, many think he could be NHL ready at some point this year, but should be a shoo in to start the next season.

Robert Strait-This 2006 3rd round pick of the Penguins is 6'1" and 201 lbs. He has been described as playing the exact same game as Rob Scuderi, which is the biggest thing the Pens were missing from last years team. He is a great penalty killer, shot blocker and skater. He was plus 22 last year in WBS, and is expected to be NHL ready by next season or late this season.

Carl Sneep-He was the 2006 2nd round pick, and stands 6'4" tall and 202 lbs. He is known as a very tough, physical player, with strong skating skills. He was of great interest to many teams at the trade deadline this year, and expected to be NHL ready by next season.

There are some other defensemen in the system that the Penguins like, such as Ulf Samuelson's son Philip, but these are the four that are expected to be in the bigs in the next year or so.

The Penguins have 4 extremely capable, young defensemen on the big club signed through at least 2013-14. This group is as good as ANY in the league. They have Goligoski signed for two years who will either show his value as a PP specialist and offensive defenseman OR be traded to create room for some of the young guns this season or next, and should bring in a decent return if they have to go that route. In addition, you have Lovejoy and Engellend stepping up from the system this season, and Lovejoy in particular has real upside. After this season, you have 4 big time prospects who will be NHL ready, and one (Despres) who could be a star. In addition, you have SIZE, and skating ability up and down this corps of defensemen. Having this much young depth could allow the Pens the cap relief and the assets they need to possibly make a trade for a young winger that can score goals as well. If the scouts are right, the next few seasons should see the Penguins put one of the elite defensive corps in the league on the ice to compliment the best group of centers!

Last Minute Free Agency Signings

As the days go by and very solid names remain available in the free agent market, I cannot help but anticipate one more late summer/early fall move by Ray Shero. My favorite free agents remaining include the following:

Lee Stempniak-had a great stretch run for Phoenix and wound with 28 goals....he would look great in a Pens uniform. There are two problems, the first of which is that he will likely command much more than the Pens can afford to pay, and the second is the fact that he only performed at that level offensively for one season, so who knows if he is really that good......

Raffi Torres-good size and was one of the more sought after UFA's at the deadline, but like Ponikarovsky, Torres did NOTHING for Buffalo........he also will probably wind up with a bigger offer than the Pens could afford.......

Paul Kariya-rather smallish, and definitely in the twilight of his career, but very gifted offensively. Could Kariya be lured to the Pens as a solid chance to take one more run at hockeys holy grail? I think that might be possible, and I like the idea of it for the Pens...........

Bill Guerin-I LOVE this guy.......just not sure he fits for the Pens.....IF he could chip in 20 goals one more year and play on the top line, I like him at 1M per season. If that is a question due to declining speed and stamina, then we need to stay away, as Guerins game does not translate well to a 3rd/4th line winger.........


Willie Mitchell-by far the best of the remaining defensemen, but he will command more than the Pens can think about spending......

Marc Andre Bergeron-this guy is old, but he still seems to be quite effective on the power play, and plays a smart veteran game. Given the Pens' concern about the PP without Gonchar, and the group of young guys on the cusp of the NHL, MAB may give thems some insurance on the power play should the abilities of Martin and Letang fall short on the power play........

Aaron Ward-at 37, he is getting old, but he is a very solid stay at home defenseman who owns Stanley cup rings from both Carolina and Detroit.....if bolstering our defense is one of our key objectives, Ward fits right in if we need to buy one more year before Despres steps up into the bigs.............

For my money, these are the most intriguing remaining UFA's as it relates to the Penguins, their needs, and cap situation. A lot of what they do may hinge on how sure they are that Big Dog Tangradi could make the move, as well as if there is anybody other than Lovejoy on the blue line in Wilkes Barre that the Pens are comfortable with. I cannot wait for the puck to drop!!

Arron Asham vs Zenon Konopka Mar 2, 2010

Aaron Asham goal 5/24/10

Pens sign Arron Asham

The Penguins inked Asham to a one year deal this afternoon, and to my surprise many Pens fans seem unhappy about the signing, favoring a move to bring in a scoring winger to play on the second line. Well, they did.....His name is Evgeni Malkin. Listen, I wanted the Pens to get a top six winger as much as the next guy, but apparently they were not overwhelmed by what was available for the money they had to spend. Bringing in guy like Asham who can play a tough game, score you 12-15 goals, and fight anybody is not a bad move for this team at this time. This gives the Pens great flexibility and balance in their forward lines. They can create a 2nd line of Staal centering Malkin/Kennedy, Malkin/Tangradi, Malkin/Cooke, while leaving Crosby/Kunitz/Dupuis as their top unit. The third line could be Talbot centering Asham/Cooke, and that line would be a BEAST physically, or it could be Talbot centering Asham/Kennedy, another enticing unit. They could have a Nick Johnson make the team, fill a role on the 2nd or 3rd line and have a fourth line of Adams, centering Asham and Rupp. They could also make a philosophical decision now that they have such team toughness to eliminate the need for Godard's role on the team as enforcer. I love Godard.....He fills the role of enforcer as well as anybody, but that role is dying in the NHL, and he is in the final year of his contract. He will likely play in about 45 games during the regular season, and NONE in the playoffs. So, despite the prescence of Boogaard in New York and Shelley in Philly, the Pens could add $750,000 to their cap space by cutting Godard and relying on Rupp and Asham for protection. It will be an interesting philosophical choice they could not reasonably make without the addition of a guy like Asham. Asham played solid minutes and was a contributor to the Flyers run to the Finals last year, as he thrived in the uptempo system of Peter Laviolette. This uptempo system is pretty similar to the one that Bylsmas favors, so Asham should fit right in. To the other Pens fans who think they should have added a veteran defenseman for that money, I say this. The Pens top 5 defensemen, Orpik, Martin, Letang, Michaelek and Goligoski would rival most in the NHL. Lovejoy, Engelland, and Despres give some young guns who should get a real look at the NHL level. Finally, the way this free agency season has gone, Shero is likely anticipating the chance at a mid September bargain in that area. This looks like a typical low risk, high value solid Shero signing. To summarize, I think this signing gives the Pens the chance to move Staal up to the second line if they choose to, and leaves them with a very capable and physical 3rd and 4th line that will wear opponents down. This is a move that makes them a better playoff team. Welcome to Pittsburgh Arron, and dinner on me if you knock the snot out of Carcillo on October 7th!

Monday, August 9, 2010

NHL conundrum

The NHL once again proves it is a garage I always say, I love this sport not this league....though I agree with the thought that the Kovalchuk deal was a defininte attempt by the Devils to circumvent today's salary cap, and it is good for the Penguins to see this deal nullified, I am dumbfounded by the fact that other players including but not necessarily limited to Marian Hossa, Roberto Luongo, Rick DiPietro and to some extent Chris Pronger signed deals with a similar intent/lifespan without any such move by the NHL..............I am curious to see what happens next, as the current cba does not specifically ban this kind of contract, though it is hard to argue that these contracts chafe against the "spirit of the agreement." Will the NHLPA strike back on this contract? Will the NHL explore similar outcomes with regard to some of the other players with contracts that similarly front load a large and long term deal with most of the money in the early years, while continuing to pay the player a much lesser amount at the tail end, when they may not even be playing so that the average and therefore cap hit is palatable? For the short term, as a Pens fan, I am glad to see this, as the 6M cap hit that came from spreading Kovalchuk's 102M contract over 17 years and paying him until he is 44, made if possible for them to retain other stars like Zach Parise...........To give Kovy a similar number over 10 years will destroy the cap status of the Devils, making the deal unlikely. There are two other issues to consider from my point of view as well......First, again, my parochial view as a Pens fan would like to see this kind of contract allowed as the Pens may be faced with a similar scenario when Crosby and Malkins contracts come up. I would think the next cba would more specifically preclude this issue, so the Pens will not have that luxury either way........a more global concern for the NHL would arise should Kovalchuk jump to the KHL for the bigger dollars he can make over there. The KHL has been slowly poaching some decent names from the NHL of late, most of the them being either over the hill former stars OR more marginal NHL talent. Some recent signings include Dennis Grebeshkov, Maxim Afinogenov, and Evgeni Nabakov......Landing Kovalchuk, an NHL "star" in his prime would be a big coup for the KHL, and potentially lure other NHL players to that league if cap restrictions make it attractive for this to happen. Although I do not want to see this happen, I dont think the NHL can allow this loophole in the next cba if they believe as I do that the salary cap brought enough parity to the NHL to really benefit most of the league.....this loophole drastically diminishes the affect of the cap, as these deals take what should have been a 10-11M per year cap hit, and drops it to six or so.Limiting the contract length to a maximum of 6-8 years could eliminate this as an issue, but I am sure the NHLPA will have issues with that. An interesting set of circumstances for all parties.