Goodbye From Pittsburgh Matt Cooke and Jarome Iginla

This is a story about two players. In fact, it’s really directed at these two players.

I certainly won’t claim to speak for the whole City of Pittsburgh or the whole of Penguins-nation, but I think I speak for a lot of us and I want to say thank you Matt Cooke and Jarome Iginla. You’ve both left for greener pastures now: Cooke has signed a 3-year, $7.5 million deal with the Minnesota Wild. And that’s great, that’s one more year and probably a million dollars per season more than the Penguins would have thought about offering you. And you deserve it.

We in Pittsburgh know you better than probably any other team in the NHL. We know full well what you’ve done in the NHL, but we also know who you are outside of the NHL, you are a father, a family man, a humanitarian, and a leader in the locker room and the community. You were paid to play the game a certain way, that doesn’t define who you are. So we say thank you for all the great moments, all the horrifying moments, and everything in between. Thanks for the Cup.

For the Haters

For the Haters

Jarome Iginla: Iggy, we aren’t spiteful, even if you did sign a contract with Boston. You’re the only right winger on their roster right now, they need you more than we do, we in Pittsburgh need Beau Bennett right now. We’re just sorry we couldn’t get you that Cup. We’re sorry no one let you play right wing in Pittsburgh, but it’s just tough. We need to look at stats a little bit: James Neal has scored 61 goals in his last 120 games on Evgeni Malkin’s right wing. Over the last two seasons you only have 46 goals and you played 126 games. And then there’s Pascal Dupuis, maybe the Penguins should have moved him and Kunitz around to put you on Sid’s wing, but I mean Duper was the leading goal scorer for the Pens in the postseason, something just seems wrong to do anything to screw with your leading scorer on your top line. And I know you aren’t bitter. You said as much when you addressed the media after you signed with Boston, and we in Pittsburgh believe you.

(Peter Diana/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

(Peter Diana/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

It would have been nice to come to terms on a new deal with you, but it was never going to work out. This was a run at the Cup and you knew it. Neither you nor the Penguins are getting any younger and that’s the biggest reason why you need to move onto another team. It’s just too bad that you won’t go down as a legend of Pittsburgh sports lore. And it’s too bad that everyone hopes you get “Hossa-ed” next season (including me), but, well, we do. You’ve moved on and there’s certainly no love lost for the Bruins, even if you play for them now.

So to Iggy and Cookie, goodbye and good luck.

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The Matt Cooke Hit, NHL Officiating, and The Time is Right

When Matt Cooke first hit Adam McQuaid in Game 1 my immediate reaction was that McQuaid saw the hit coming, turned into it, and then exaggerated the impact in typical Bruins diving fashion. In hindsight, although it’s irrefutable that McQuaid did put himself in a vulnerable position, I do believe that the 5 minute major was the right call, if not the game misconduct.

mcquaid-cooke

Unfortunately, when the officials had the opportunity to effectively legislate the way this series would be played, they screwed it up.

When Brad Marchand hit James Neal, just as squarely in the back, with a longer run up to the contact, and without the benefit of Neal having ever seen Marchand it seemed easy for the officials to “settle the score” and give a five and a game to Marchand as well. And they didn’t. They proved just how subjective their sensibilities are and only assessed Marchand with a 2 minute minor. If you want to look at the turning point of this game, look no further. The NBC analysts and local talking heads have persisted in the last couple of days with the notion that the BRUINS frustrated the Penguins. The Bruins did not. The officials did. It just so happened that as a smart team the Bruins were then able to jump on the simmering aggression of the Penguins and exploit it.

The old adage from referees in the NHL is that come playoff time the best thing is to “let them play.” That the refs don’t want to skew the results of a game because they assessed more penalties to one team than the other. But that’s just stupid. Typically penalties are the result of dumb, slow, undisciplined, or unskilled play by the offending team. As such that means that if you don’t call the penalties as they occur then you are actually helping the offending team by overlooking their inequalities. If two teams are evenly matched they should end up committing and drawing essentially the same number of penalties without any “help” from the referees. But as long as they continue to force their way into the game, things are almost disgusting. Meesh had a post on this awhile ago and it would be great to see what could have happened if others had taken up the charge to continue reporting on ref stupidity.

It doesn’t look like the Penguins are planning any lineup changes for tonight’s game but our thought after Game 1 was that this could be a great series for Simon Despres. There’s no doubt that Mark Eaton and Kris Letang looked a little vulnerable in Game 1, they each were responsible for a goal that the Bruins did not deserve to score and they just seemed a little out of sorts. Adding Despres is a proven technique to convince Letang to slow down and simplify his game. Adding Despres will also cut down Boston’s forecheck ability. The best way to counter the Bruins is to pass the puck out of the zone before they have an opportunity to get into their cycle. Simon Despres is going to be a lot better at that than Mark Eaton. This seems like a pretty easy trade to make. Despres isn’t going to be a downgrade in the hitting department either and that seems like a necessity against this Bruins team.

You have to play the best players, especially against Boston

You have to play the best players, especially against Boston

And you thought I was going to talk about Marc-Andre Fleury didn’t you?


Shero’s Shopping List, Part 2: Forwards

Ray-Shero-watching-practice

April 3rd marks the NHL trade deadline, for what it’s worth the Pens  will literally have 10 regular season games left after that date. As such there will be a real premium on rental players–teams will want to give up as little as possible from their core and receive as much as they can in return, even if the investment will only be for the length of the playoffs. Further, it seems obvious to us that the price for rental players will necessarily be high for a number of reasons, first, the salary cap will contract next year, so teams are not worried about trying to resign guys with expiring deals. Two, this will probably be the last time that teams can try to buy their way to a championship for a few years. And three, why not? With guys like Jarome Iginla, Jaromir Jagr, Sergei Gonchar and other future Hall of Famers presumably on the market what will stop contenders from making huge moves?

This week also marks the annual GM Meetings which is supposed to be a time for the GM’s to weigh in on possible rule changes, but really is a carefully contrived opportunity to lock all the GM’s in a room and make them talk to one another. Some of the biggest publicity for the league comes during a crazy trade deadline, and after a slow deadline last year the NHL doesn’t want to risk a repeat so you just know that things will be interesting.

What follows is our list of guys that, if we were King Shero, we would be inquiring about during these meetings. We have organized the post into two parts: defensemen and forwards. Our viewpoint is that the Pens need two players, a shutdown defender and a bottom-six forward. There’s no guarantee that either will happen and certainly we aren’t opposed to the Pens zeroing in on Jarome Iginla or Chris Stewart if the price is right, but we’ve already discussed what Beau Bennett has done for the top-6 forward complexion moving forward, not to mention that the biggest offensive addition the Pens can make is a healthy Evgeni Malkin, as such, those guys aren’t essential pieces for us right now.

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Matt Cooke and the Incorrigible Bryan Murray

First off did you see this? Wow, that’s unreal. These aren’t queers on skates.

cooke-vday

 

Matt Cooke did not intentionally try to cut Erik Karlsson late in the second period in yesterday’s game. He just didn’t. The NHL has already established that they DID NOT find anything malicious in the play and it seems that most fans, except for those up in Boston and select super-haters, don’t think that Cooke went in with intent.

And here’s the first tip for dealing with the play, don’t watch it, and especially don’t watch it in slow motion (notice we’re not posting it here). They don’t play hockey in slow motion, and the slow motion doesn’t show you anything. People so desperately wanted to see Cooke’s focus shift to Karlsson’s leg, or for proof that he was trying to slew foot the guy. He wasn’t, he was searching the boards for the puck THE WHOLE TIME, at least until Karlsson cried out, which is where that horrible AP photograph was captured.

And that goes directly into the second point, if you’re reading a story that is seriously questioning whether this one in a million play is intentional, just stop. Put it down and go do something else. It’s fine to want to check up on the latest with Karlsson, but good writers know how to cover a story without sensationalizing it.

Certainly the conspiracy theorists out there, the one’s who think that the 2005 draft was rigged, or that they loaded the puck with remote controls in the 2009 SCF to make sure the Pens won, will try to agitate you on discussion boards, they’ll say that JUST BECAUSE it was Matt Cooke, the play probably was intentional, or they’ll ask you to consider if the play were on the other side, that Sid or Geno were cut. For the most part, just let it go, chances are they root for a team that will never have success like the Pens do so you should just feel sorry for them. And if they’re super annoying, just remind them of the SoupCan, or Tyler “Healthy Scratch” Myers, or David Steckel. We’ve been down this road.

Finally, don’t listen to Cryin’ Bryan Murray, he’s in his element right now, at the center of attention. We really do feel for the Sens organization, they need healthy stars and currently have none of that, but the defeatist attitude is already sickening. Check it out here [Silver Seven] and here [Sixth Sens].

We wish Erik Karlsson a speedy and effective recovery, we all know the NHL needs stars and few have been as dynamic as Karlsson in the last couple of years. The play was unfortunate but that doesn’t change the fact that the NHL is now without its best defender.

Hopefully this will be a lesson in player safety. It seems that skate cuts have been increasing in the league, probably because the technology to sharpen skates has increased so dramatically, as such the league needs to mandate improved protection. But as it was when


Penguins Season Preview: Wings

It’s finally here, we are actually previewing the actual guys who will be donning the Pittsburgh Penguins sweater this year. Back on Monday we previewed the goalies, on Tuesday we shifted our focus to defense, today we are talking wingers, and then the centers, before finally making our BOLD predictions for the year.

We’ve attempted to look at each player from a point/counterpoint perspective–that’s not to say that we are going to totally disagree on each player, far from it, we want to examine both the statistical expectations for each guy AND express our “feel” or read of the player.

We hope you enjoy and we would love for you to get back to us with your thoughts and feelings. If you haven’t read them yet, please check out our series on Advanced Hockey Statistics: Goals Versus ThresholdPoints per 60 Minutes, and Player Usage Charts (including Corsi numbers). Get the business after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »


The Twenty-Goal Scorer?

Matt Cooke has reached 17 goals for the season, this is already 2 more than his career high. He’s three short of the “magic” 20-goal plateau. That means that if he scores one goal every three games for the rest of the season, he will reach it. Yes I understand that he has 5 goals in the 5 games since his new linemate, Sidney Crosby has returned. Yes I understand that it has been beaten to death how well Cooke has changed his game this year. Read the rest of this entry »