Friday, June 27, 2008

Steelers Dump "The Dumptruck"

And thus, it brings to a conclusion all of those poop/hamper jokes.

NFL Network is reporting that the Steelers have released Najeh Davenport. With the drafting of Rashard Mendenhall and the signing of Mewelde Moore, it's hardly surprising news. It paves the way for Gary Russell to make this team again as well.

There simply was no place on the roster for Davenport. I appreciate his contributions on the football field. In retrospect, he was a pretty good signing, as he filled the role of 3rd down back capably. As a player, I have nothing bad to say about him. He came to the Steelers, did his job, and never complained, which is more than I can say for a few guys (I'm looking at you, Cedrick Wilson). He should land on his feet. There are plenty of teams that could use a pretty good 3rd down back, which Davenport is.

Tonight, the women of Pittsburgh can sleep without the fear of finding a "gift" in their laundry hampers. Godspeed to you, Mr. Davenport.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wait. This Blog Covers the Pirates Too?


I couldn't find an appropriate picture for this post so this d'bag Red Sox fan sitting a few rows in front of me a couple weeks ago will have to do. He was also wearing khaki pants. It was 95 degrees.


We're 3 games away from the halfway point of the Pirates' season. Really? The Penguins extended run has a lot to do with the baseball season flying by, but just as significant is this team's ability to not completely piss off the fans. Are there any everyday players that really drive you nuts now that Paulino is in Indy? Ok, LaRoche, but even he has his moments. The key guys who are struggling? Sanchez, Snell, and Gorzelanny have all given something to cheer for in the past and seem to have earned a bit of patience.

It also helps that the team is on pace for 50 more walks, 100 less strikeouts, and are fifth in the majors in runs scored. Its one thing to lose, and its another to lose due to impatient batting and an inability to score runs. For once it has nothing to do with offense. And as frustrating as the starting pitching has been, there is hope.

Its strange territory for Pirates fans, and even stranger for a blogosphere that is used to the easy Pirates joke. I suppose this is what it will feel like when Bush leaves office; the late night shows take a hit, but everyone involved will be better off.

That's not to say the Pirates are now free from criticism and sarcasm, far from it. It just seems that as each game goes by it becomes more and more apparent these Pirates are somehow different. Their failures are less epic, less prone to hyperbole and a Derek Bell reference.

The majority of the players are likable, they hustle, and are generally competitive each game (excluding tonight). The fans are starting to pay attention and it seems safe to say the Pirates are trending in the right direction.

What does it all mean? Probably the annual 10-game losing streak. We'll see.

- Neal Huntington made another move that signals he's looking more at the present by acquiring Danny Bautista from Detroit for marginal prospect Kyle Pearson. Huntington looks good regardless, as his decision to not re-sign Shawn Chacon may have saved his life.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Training Camp Preview: Quarterbacks

In the weeks leading up to training camp, I will be taking a position-by-position look at the roster. No firm roster projections will be made yet (that will have to wait until the first 53-man roster projection right before camp starts), but I hope to give you a general overview of how things stand at each position. Today, we'll look at the quarterbacks.

Total Roster Spots: 3

Locks: 2 (Ben Roethlisberger, Charlie Batch)

Spots Open/Candidates: 1 (Dennis Dixon, Jared Zabransky, Mike Potts)

Overview: We know that Roethlisberger and Batch are firmly entrenched at the #1 and #2 QB spots. I don’t think I really need to elaborate on Ben. He’s a proven commodity, a top 5 NFL quarterback that we are lucky to have. It’s an absolute joy to watch him play. Batch is a solid #2, though his production declined last season. He struggled in his only significant appearance against Baltimore, and at age 33 his career is winding down. But he’s better than the #2 option on many other teams, and I’m comfortable with him if he has to start a game or two. If Ben goes down for a significant amount of time, though, we’re fucked. Batch will be a free agent after this season, and I highly doubt he’ll be back. At best I could see him re-signing for 1 year to allow for more time to groom our future #2 QB.

History has shown that the Steelers almost always carry three quarterbacks, so it’s reasonable to assume that this year will be no different. The main competition for the #3 job will be from Dixon and Zabransky. Potts is an undrafted free agent from William & Mary who is camp fodder and has little to no chance of making this roster. Folks will remember Zabransky as the quarterback at Boise State who led the Broncos to an improbable comeback victory over the Oklahoma Sooners in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl. But he’s going to really have to impress in camp for him to win the job over Dixon. The former Oregon QB is supremely talented and was a Heisman candidate before his knee injury. There is no doubt he would have been drafted higher than the 5th round without those injury concerns, and the organization has made it clear they see him as a legitimate #2 QB option down the road. In addition to being more talented than Zabransky, Dixon’s 4.5 speed and athletic ability speaks to his versatility and makes him a viable option for gadget plays. Throw in the fact that the team invested a draft choice in him, and the job is Dixon’s to lose.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Of Hossa, Jemele, and Anniversaries...



- It has become officially impossible to write anything worthwhile regarding the Hossa situation. The Fourth Period is a great site if you are into tracking hockey rumors, but honestly, it isnt worth tracking the Hossa situation. Everyday, the lead story is a picture of Hossa with the (insert: Bruins, Blackhawks, Rangers, etc.) purportedly being interested in signing him. Unless you are an NHL rumors website or a Canadian newspaper , then there really isn't much to say right now about the free agent market.

- What can be kicked around is the now infamous "Beware the Lightning" debate. Seth over at Empty Netters breaks down the history down there pretty well (only four players remain from a cup-winning team just three seasons later...wowzers). Faceoff Factor addresses the issue too, suggesting that a team's success can be, in many cases, related to the way they draft. Both quality reads.

- This is how you write a classy apology. Well done, Ms. Hill. I wish more writers would follow your example. I don't think Bill Simmons has ever had a slip up this big, but I think I speak for all when I say that his fondness for deflecting criticism by saying "the lesson as always is...that I'm an idiot" rings a little hollow.

- Bottom line concerning Doubt About It: we run this blog cause we want to, not because we are self-indulgent pricks that like to glorify the fact that we have a blog (we're pricks for other reasons, probably). Case in point: DAI's one year anniversary was June 15th. Who knew. Someone just brought it to my attention.

Rather than post a picture of a birthday cake and be all lame, I'll just say a collective DAI thanks to the readers, commenters, and contributors that have turned a lunch hour project into a year long...something. Jay, Jordan Staal, Dirkman, BrittleBones, Wieters, Frank the Tank, Set, Eddy, Stanley, Adam, Derek, and all of the other acquaintances we've made this year: your input has been appreciated, strange, inspiring, and, most importantly, suceeded in distracting us from what we were supposed to be doing. Kudos to you.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Toronto/Ottawa Sun = Doubt About It


Praise the Lord: thank you, The Pensblog. Thank you thank you thank you.

Everyone read that article. Read through every single rumor, all the way until the end, and then realize the post for what it is: a microcosm of the insanity that the NHL offseason has become from a journalistic stand point. The sad part is that while The Pensblog lets you in on their joke, some major newspapers aren't doing the same. What is their joke, you ask? I'll tell you...

That their credibility is about as solid as a blog where two guys don't even use their real names.

I'm reluctant to actually link to their garbage for two reasons: 1) there has been so much of it over the past few weeks that it is hard to wrap your brain around it all 2) they don't use hard evidence, so why should I? But I will link anyways, because it really is quite embarassing that an entire article is about trading Evgeni Malkin when the only bit of evidence you have is this quote from Kings GM Dean Lombardi: "I've had two legitimate offers". Or what about labeling Jordan Staal a "Therrien complainer" without having ONE QUOTE in the entire article? Not one. Not even something that you took out of context and ran with.

I've been out of town recently, and it has been mind-boggling to hear from out-of-towners something to the extent of "boy, you guys sure dont want that Malkin guy anymore, do you?" The Ottawa and Toronto Sun have basically hijacked the opinions of Ray Shero and Pittsburgh fans to present a drastically different impression of the team's intentions than what reality shows to be true.

This doesn't make me mad as a Pens fan. I couldn't care less what any rag press reports about the Penguins. What I find most interesting is that, given the enormous ongoing debate concerning new media vs. old media, the old media is failing so miserably when the spotlight is on it so prominently. Blogs have been called out to no end, and you would think that in this "let's drop the gloves" type of atmosphere that the newspapers and gray-tops have created, they would use the opportunity to shine most brightly. But instead, to move copies, companies like the sports department of the Ottawa Sun and the Toronto Sun have taken the worst aspects of the blogosphere (rumor-mongering, lack of sources, false reporting, conjecture) and found a home for it in their paper.

Who knows. Maybe Malkin will be traded. Maybe he will take 12.5 mil from the Russian Super League, as reported by the Toronto Star (to be fair, they have quotes denying that such a move would actually happen). If you are of a rational hockey mind, then you know that Malkin will be back in Pittsburgh. Simply put, you don't trade one of the best five players in the world. You don't build for the future when the future is here.

And, if you are a rational hockey mind with a keen sense for good journalism, you don't lose sleep over editorials posing as breaking news.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Training Camp Preview: Runningbacks

In the weeks leading up to training camp, I will be taking a position-by-position look at the roster. No firm roster projections will be made yet (that will have to wait until the first 53-man roster projection right before camp starts), but I hope to give you a general overview of how things stand at each position. Today, we'll look at the runningbacks/fullbacks.

Estimated Total Roster Spots: 5

Estimated Locks: 3 (Willie Parker, Rashard Mendenhall, Mewelde Moore)

Spots Open/Candidates: 2 (Gary Russell, Najeh Davenport, Carey Davis)

Overview: Depth-wise, what may have been one of the weaker positions on the team is suddenly the biggest strength. This may be one of the deepest backfields in the entire NFL. Let’s see what we have here:

- A two-time Pro Bowl selection in Parker, who led the league in rushing late last season. He broke his leg towards the end of the year, but the fibula is a non-weight bearing bone and all indications are he should be 100% by training camp.

- A 1st round draft choice who has everything you want in a runningback and had no business being available for us with the #23 pick. He’s a future starter and a prototype three down back that can run, catch, and block. That last one is most important for now, because it means he’ll be able to contribute right away. Teams are loathe to play runningbacks until they are ready to understand blocking assignments and opposing pass rushes, and Bruce Arians has stated that one of the appealing things about Mendenhall is that he’s a pretty polished pass blocker, which will allow him to come in and contribute right off the bat.

- A guy in Mewelde Moore who will be a perfect 3rd down back. Think of how the Patriots utilize Kevin Faulk. He’s the guy that will make the key block on third down to give Brady time. He’s the guy Brady looks for when he’s in trouble. He’s the guy who will catch a checkdown pass and somehow move the chains, even when it seems like the defense has him corralled. These are just a couple reasons why I hate Kevin Faulk and what makes him so good. The Steelers will use Moore the same way. The hope is that Ben will be more apt to checkdown when he’s under pressure now that he has a viable safety valve option. In turn, this will hopefully decrease the sack numbers. As an added bonus, Moore is an accomplished kick and punt returner, which will be a much needed boost for the special teams.

That leaves the final spot for either Russell or Davenport. On one side, you’ve got the veteran who, as Mike Tomlin would say, “has been there and done that.” On the other side, you’ve got a guy who was very impressive last camp and has worked out hard over the offseason, packing on ten pounds of muscle. Two things would make me lean towards Russell:

1) The #4 RB will most likely be de-activated on game days. I’d rather that spot be manned by a player who can take the time to work on his craft, someone who has a future on this team. Russell does, Davenport does not, and at this point I’m comfortable if Russell has to fill in should someone get injured.

2) Davenport is due a $1 million base salary this season. Releasing him saves you that $1 million.

However, Davenport does have a chance to possibly stick at fullback. The Steelers have tried him there during their OTA’s, and with the way the offense is evolving, it’s a move he could make. The days of Dan Krieder, Jon Witman, and punishing blocking up the middle are over. In Arians’ offense, the fullback needs to be able to set the edge and catch the ball out of the backfield. Carey Davis has the upper-hand for now, but he hardly set the world on fire last season and could be supplanted by Davenport if the coaching staff likes what they see of him at fullback during training camp.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Malone Says No to the Blue Jackets

Well, for now at least.

A deal was supposedly in place for the Penguins to trade his rights to the Columbus Blue Jackets, likely for a 2nd round pick. Minnesota and Vancouver were also reportedly in the mix, but all of those rumors will now dissipate with the news that Malone will wait to sign a contract until unrestricted free agency begins on July 1.

I guess it's the smart move for him. Why limit yourself to one team when you can have multiple options and have each team that enters the bidding drive up your price? It's the law of supply and demand, and more teams involved in acquiring his rights will mean more money in his pockets.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Hossa Backlash

James Mirtle, easily one of the best hockey bloggers on the internets, has made the argument against the offered contract to Hossa. Echoing the anonymous commenter in the post below, he believes Hossa doesn't deserve that much money for the production he provides. I can understand that, but his math seems fuzzy:

"...essentially what it comes down to, with Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Hossa and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury under contract, is roughly $30-million in salary dedicated to those four players."


Crosby is making $8.7M and Hossa would make $7.15M, so according to Mirtle this would leave $14.1M for Malkin and Fleury. Malkin has stated he doesn't need to make more than Sid. Let's give him $8.7M just to be sure. That leaves $5.4M for Fleury. Seems about a million too high to me.

"Throw in Sergei Gonchar's $5-million cap hit, Ryan Whitney's $4-million and a new contract for Jordan Staal, and what remains?

About $15-million to sign another 15 players in an era where the average player earns roughly $2-million?"


This is where it gets murky. You can assume one of two things; he's overpaying for Staal by around $2-$2.5M or he's assuming the cap increases by only $2M after next year, which would go entirely against the trend we've seen ever since the cap was instated.

Dr. Mirtle, as all physicians should do, gave what may be the worst case scenario. It seems more likely we'll have about $18-$19M for those remaining 15 players in 2009-2010. You can combine Letang and the backup goaltender for about 1.5 million. That leaves $17M for the remaining 13 players, or $1.3M/player.

The median cap hit among the top 100 left wingers this past year: $1.5M
The median cap hit among the top 100 right wingers this past year: $1.25M

Out of those 13 players, 7 would likely be wingers.

I'm not saying its ideal, but that extra $3-$4M that was ignored could be the difference in signing 1-2 difference makers. I understand overpaying for Hossa could be disastrous, but it seems like Mirtle wanted to paint a picture the way he wanted to see it. Before someone says it, I know, I'm doing the same thing. Just wanted to show the other side.

[Numbers courtesy NHL Numbers]

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Hossa and Malone



Much has been made of the recent report in the Trib and the Columbus Dispatch that the Penguins have offered Hossa a 7 year $50 million deal. While I believe most would be happy with the contract, as I would be, I still can't buy into a Hossa deal being equivalent to the end of Malone in Pittsburgh.

I'm assuming Portzline and Rossi are speaking from what they've been told, and not their own look at the Pens' salary cap situation. Which means that Shero has made the call that either Malone will demand too much or that he could use the extra cash elsewhere.

When we put out a call to readers to come up with contract ideas with a salary cap spreadsheet, 10 people got back to us with their own ideas. Seven out of the ten had Hossa coming back, but one spread sheet from Shawn had the closest figure to Hossa's potential contract at $7.25/year.


Click to enlarge


Shawn's idea was that if you give up on Orpik (which almost everyone suggested) and sign cheaper replacements for Roberts and Laraque, you can keep Malone for $4.5 and Fleury for $4.2 million. While this may seem low for Fleury, you could also find extra cash by getting rid of Sydor.

The general consensus ever since the Hossa trade is that Malone and Hossa cannot financially coexist. Its hard to argue with whatever Shero does, but I find it hard to believe he's completely given up on signing Malone. A hometown guy who loves the team with a chance to be a part of something special wouldn't take 4-4.5 million for 3-4 years? Even after the top 3 forwards on the team have indicated they would take less than they're worth? Both reports indicate Malone wants the cash, and you couldn't blame the guy if he chooses the extra money. When it happens, I'll believe it.

Shawn's Salary Cap Spreadsheet (.xls)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Pirates' Quiz Contest



Reader Mark sent this pretty sweet Pirates quiz in, and we thought we would turn it into a contest. The first person to figure out this quiz/puzzle will get a free 2-pack of Wilson Zip golf balls courtesy of Doubt About It. Email all answers, including the final one, to doubtaboutit@gmail.com

Mark takes it from here:

Possibly The Hardest Pirate Quiz Ever


(ok...not the hardest, but pretty tough.)


(well, not even all that hard...but kindof fun)


(actually, it might not be fun if you can't figure it out)

I want to see who the real Pirate buffs are by offering this Quiz/Challenge. If you can solve the "puzzle" you'll be considered as one of the greatest Pirate fans in the history of the franchise. Well, not one of the greatest...but one that's pretty good.. Ok, its not even that great of an accomplishment to get this correct...but you'll feel good about yourself. Hey, you might not even feel good about yourself because you probably won't be able to get this right because...it is POSSIBLY THE HARDEST PIRATE QUIZ EVER.

  1. 3.14's number.

  2. Johnny Rizzo did this noteworthy number on 5/30/1939.

  3. Bob Veale blanked teams this many times.

  4. 1954 wasn't good for this kind of thievery numbers-wise.

  5. The number of extra inning losses 1984 team minus 2.

  6. The back of Willie minus the back of Ralph.

  7. Number of times Don Robinson struck out the side on 9 pitches in one inning.

  8. The wins of John Smiley, 1991.

  9. Number of homeruns in 1904

  10. Richie Hebner's record number of at-bats in one nine inning game in 1975 times three.

  11. Rennie Stennet's amazing record of hits over three games plus Ginger Beaumont's record for runs in a game minus record for triples in a game by an individual (held by 5 players).

  12. Number of Pirate Cy Youngers

Final Question: What do the answers to the above questions spell?
Hint: Lowercase letters and a mirror will probably help

Email your answers to doubtaboutit@gmail.com

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Ask The Scout: Dave Littlefield


Every so often, Cubs' scout Dave Littlefield will answer a question from one lucky Cubs' fan. Here is today's question:

Dale (Chicago, IL): Dave, can you update us on any efforts by the Cubs organization to scout internationally? There's a lot of baseball talent outside North America.

Littlefield: Supposedly, this is the new fad in baseball. I know Hendry keeps talking all this bullshit about how we need to expand our scouting department and have a larger influx of international talent in the Cubs organization. He says we need to keep adding guys like Kosuke Fukudome to our roster.

Well, I’m much smarter than other baseball executives, so I’ve been one step ahead of the curve. Thus far my duties with the Cubs have been limited, but I take pride in going above and beyond the call of duty to serve my team. That’s why I’ve been attending the Thursday night games in the Benihana parking lot, where those same chefs who specialize in fine Japanese cuisine play their Benihana league games after the restaurant closes for business. The baseball isn’t always pretty, but let’s be realistic here, they’re playing on a fucking parking lot. Not exactly the best surface in the world.

Anyways, one night near closing time, I was scouting a Benihana league game, and out of the restaurant comes Hendry and his family. I guess they had a late dinner and were the last customers to leave. Anyways, by that time the game was well underway, and Hendry sees me and comes over. He asks me what the hell I’m doing, and I say, “Hey Jim, just looking for the next Fukudome. You’ve been saying how we need to develop more international players, so here I am, scouting the best the Japanese have to offer.” Well, Hendry then gives me this incredulous look. He then tells me that the Japanese have their own league in Japan, and I just laugh in his face. “Have you not heard of the term ‘America’s game,’ Jim?” I said to him. “That’s what baseball is! America’s game! They don’t play baseball in Japan! It’s not Japan’s game!"

At this point, Hendry muttered something under his breath and started walking to his car. I think I heard the word “moron” and the phrase “no wonder the Pirates sucked all these years.” Well, joke’s on him. Hendry actually thinks Fukudome came from Japan! Everyone else in baseball knows that Fukudome worked as a chef at Benihana’s before he came to the major leagues. And that’s where you find those great Japanese ballplayers. At the Benihana league games on Thursday nights. Here’s the best part: I never see any other scouts there, so the Cubs will have first dibs on the best prospects. And it’s all thanks to me.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The 2007-2008 Pittsburgh Penguins


All that you fashion, all that you make
All that you build, all that you break
All that you measure, all that you steal
All this you can leave behind
- U2, Walk On
We fashioned the Pittsburgh Penguins as Stanley Cup contenders back in October. They earned 102 regular season points, won the Atlantic Division crown, and exacted revenge on three bitter rivals in the playoffs. They stole a game from the Detroit Red Wings in what will be remembered as one of Pittsburgh's most glorious sporting moments. An 82 game regular season gave birth to a euphoric Stanley Cup run, the emergence of legendary figures, and enough storylines to make every single day of the season intriguing.
Putting this season behind us and moving forward feels much like saying goodbye to Colby Armstrong, pictured above: hard to do, but necessary in order to get that one step closer to the Stanley Cup. There will be much salary cap discussion on this site and elsewhere in the coming weeks. Such discussion will occur because this off-season is unimaginably important. It will happen because fans are already excited for next year and beyond with this young team. But it will also serve as a distraction, a blinder of sorts as to what it is we are leaving behind...
__________________________________________________________________
The length of an NHL season makes you forget. A perfect and insanely ironic example of this is that on opening night, I got in a fight with a Red Wings fan. Ok, not a fight, but we traded words. Thinking back to that incident some eight months ago, it is remarkable to consider everything that happened between the two Detroit-oriented encounters.
It seems hard to remember now, but the Pens did not start out well. Bad officiating and stifling Devils D reminded us that our young superstars weren't going to score highlight reel goals every night. Four third period goals from the Leafs a few days later didn't help matters. Discomforting themes were rising to the surface: inconsistent play from Fleury, lack of production from Crosby (which made roughly 25 too many headlines), and most notably, a growing hatred of Mark Recchi being on the top line. We hit rock bottom at DoubtAboutIt with this absurd post from me. Desperate times, to say the least. Going into Thanksgiving, the Penguins were 8-11-2. Eight. Eleven. And two.
And then a little thing I like to call "The Thanksgiving Game" happened. With their backs against the wall in Ottawa, the Penguins launched multiple comebacks and fights to beat the red hot Senators 6-5 in a shootout. The play of the Pens picked up, and things grew brighter. Recchi looked to be on the way out. Hossa rumors began. Everything culminated in the Winter Classic in Buffalo, which we blogged live. Momentum was building, and a large portion of the credit goes to Ty Conklin. His play in the stead of Marc-Andre Fleury will be talked about for years to come.
If the injury to Fleury wasn't enough, the game's most talented player went down a few weeks later (great picture, Sam). What transpired following Crosby's injury seems all the more frustrating after the Stanley Cup Finals, but it cannot be denied: Evgeni Malkin, for a brief period of time, became the best player in the NHL. MVP talk began.
If that wasn't enough to get Pens fans excited, Ray Shero helped us remember what it feels like to say "with the brass of a riverboat gambler." Marian Hossa was a Penguin, along with some guy named Hall Gill and Pascal Dupuis. Sam weighed in with some analysis, as did a bevy of notable Pittsburgh characters. But even in the excitement surrounding the trade, there was a lingering feeling of sadness, one that will likely return this summer in some form. Colby Armstrong, a kid who had been through the tough times, a player that played the way Pittsburghers admired, was gone. For this reason alone, it seemed, some people had problems with the trade. Hossa's injury cause more concern as they Penguins and their fans readied themselves for a long playoff run.
The very first game against the Senators justified a year-long campaign from The Pensblog, an effort to recognize a man that is more of a Spartan than a hockey player. I simply call it The Gary Roberts Game. After two goals and an offering to fight every player on the Sens while being escorted from the ice, it was clear that the Senators were no match for Gary Roberts, or the Pens. Last years demons were erased, and the Jagr-led Rangers now stood in the Penguins' path.
After a thrilling Game 1, the trend became clear: another despised foe, another easy conquest. Marian Hossa began scoring big time goals, including the series clincher in the overtime of Game 5. People readied themselves for the Flyers series, Sam correctly told everyone it'd be Pens in 5, and it turned out that Versus gave the Pens more problems than the Flyers. Mike Lange took us to the promised land after a 6-0 win in Game 5 against the Flyers that might have been the single most fulfilling moment of the playoffs.
Yet the Game 5 win seemed to be ancient history after Game 1 of the Red Wings series. Game 2 wasn't much better. A stellar performance in Game 3 gave the team hope, but a home loss in Game 4 sent the Penguins packing for Detroit in a 3-1 hole.
As the minutes ticked by in the third period of Game 5, it was hard not to think retrospectively. This Penguins team had been so enjoyable to watch, from their never give up attitude to the grittines showed by Ryan Malone in coming back from numerous broken noses. It became more and more of a reality that some of my favorite players would go the way of Colby Armstrong very soon. I didn't want the season to end, but the feeling that we were "a year away" was insurmountable.
What happened next everyone already knows. Talbot. Three OT's. Fleury's 55. Sykora calling his shot. Everything has already been said about that fateful night in Detroit. It was one of the most admirable performances by a sports team that I will ever see, with desire and determination overcoming the odds at every turn.
___________________________________________________________________
The Penguins lost in six games to the Detroit Red Wings in the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals. They lost arguably their two best players to injuries for portions of the season. They boldly convinced a fan base that, as players and an organization, they believed in one another, so much so that deadline blockbusters and improbable three-overtime-comebacks were approached with resolute execution and a steadfast belief in their mission. A fan base asked questions about what Gary Roberts would do, and Tyler Conklin provided answers about his ability to guard the pipes in a time of turmoil.
For a blog that is nearing its one year anniversary, we couldn't have asked for anything more from our Pittsburgh Penguins this year. They were gritty, they were admirable in victory and defeat, and they were fun. I look at Colby Armstrong on top of this post and wonder...who else will be a former Pens player? But when I think about beating the Flyers for the first time in the playoffs...about game winners from Hossa...about staying up until 4am watching replays of Petr Sykora putting the grittines of Ryan Malone and Sergei Gonchar behind his wrister...then it becomes clear that the Pens were right all along: you can't win a Cup without sacrifice.
To the Pittsburgh Penguins, their fans, our readers, and all of the diehard writers and bloggers alike we've met along the way...
Thank you. You made this fun, and you even turned the 'stache into a hockey fan.

Saftey Blanket


I was wondering how we would segway from an amazing Penguins' playoff run to the Pirates and a relative dearth of sports news, and then reader Josh answered my prayers:


The easy way out would have been to tell the graduates of Westlake High School that the misspelling on their diplomas was a final test.

A test. Yeah, that's it.

Instead, Principal Timothy Freeman fell on his red pen, shouldering responsibility for the diplomas issued to 330 Westlake graduates at the Wolstein Center in Cleveland on Saturday that read board of "educaiton," not "education."

Thank you, Cleveland. Don't feel too bad, at least Drew Carey is doing everything possible to ruin the greatest game show of all time.

Anyone else excited about the prospects of Clevelanders actually having hope for the Browns only to have their dreams shattered?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Last Dance


Doubt About It staff reacts to the loss at the one minute mark.*

I'm sitting here with Pat and Wannstache. Pat is lying on the ground. IWTFTB is here in spirit.

And Mike Babcock is lifting the cup.

We're trying to justify everything, to find some sort of answers to what we just saw. Was a weird bounce that seemed to defy the laws of physics off of Fleury's sweater really going to end this season? Really?!?!

...

Remember the beginning when there were calls for Therrien's head? For Sabu to start?

Remember when Fleury went down, then Roberts, then Sid, and we still surged? Against all odds, with people saying we weren't going to make the playoffs, Malkin became a leader and Ty Conklin surpassed Hedberg in Pittsburgh lore.

Remember when we acquired Hossa and most of the free world said it was a bad move? 12 playoff goals and a very convincing argument to take a paycut later makes it look almost as big as acquiring Ron Francis at the deadline.

Thats what I want to remember from this season. Thats what will be remembered from this season. Give it a few weeks.

While that Zetterberg goal hurts, no one can blame Fleury. Its like blaming Ghandi for ending a hunger strike. Hate Osgood. He may have, "a bigger heart than people give me credit for," but he has a smaller dick than anyone could possibly imagine. Hate anyone right now, but be ready to let it go. This season isn't about the Redwings, its about a Penguin team that came together and defied expectations.

This post sucks, I apologize, but its impossible to try and write something coherent at this point. Look for a post summarizing the season tomorrow. Until then, appreciate this season and know that when you see a comatose Ryan Malone sitting next to a just finished crying Sidney Crosby that while this season is over we'll be back. Believe it.

*Wannstache has claimed he is holding out for more money due to the posting of the video.

Talbot Ties it Up; Sykora Calls His Shot

So I thought I would post these before I go to bed, basically because it needs to be on this blog and because no matter how this series turns out, people in Pittsburgh will remember these goals for a long time. I'm sure all of you won't mind watching them once again. Personally, I really enjoy the "fuckin right, boys!" at the 1:29 mark of the Sykora game-winner video.

Talbot goal:




Sykora game-winner:

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

If You Don't Believe After That....

I'm sitting in my kitchen without the lights on. The TV on the fridge is showing me what happened tonight, but it doesn't seem real. Sam's internet is crapped and 'Stache either drove home or checked himself into a hospital. They told me it's my post. But my eyes can barely focus on the keys. I'm trying to pick out thoughts from my heavy head...

Ryan Malone took a shot to the face and played through it.

MAF had FIF-TEE-FIIIIIVVVVVE saves.

Max Talbot made 20,000 at the Joe eat their words. They wanted the Cup. We needed a win. The difference is why the game is played.

Malkin was playing so bad, and the game went so long, that he actually had enough time to start playing better.

Ryan Whitney played 145 minutes.

55 saves. Two quarters and a nickel worth of hard earned rubber stopping. Unreal.

Petr Sykora...called his shot. Think about that. HE CALLED HIS SHOT. He told Pierre that he was going to be the one to score. He took a penalty shortly thereafter and he was the goat. He trusted his teammates to kill it and he became the hero in the next OT.

(I need a drink)
_______________________________________________________________

Show me what is better than playoff hockey. Please, I invite you. Show me what can replicate the feeling I have right now. Perhaps the best part about this feeling? Knowing that I DIDNT EVEN PLAY THE GAME. I'm this emotionally drained, and I just watched. I have all the respect in the world for every single man that skated on the ice tonight.

As the minutes ticked down in regulation, I felt so proud of this Pens team. The Cup was being polished, the fans were chanting in their faces...but there was Ryan Malone, playing through the pain. There was MAF, making big saves, just in case.

And then Max Talbot poked open Pandora's Box. Would an overtime loss feel worse? We were playing soooooo poorly...could we even muster an overtime goal? Perhaps if we just kept the game going...wait for our young legs to kick in...

But it became clear that something larger was happening here. What in the hell was Talbot even doing on the ice? How did the puck manage to bounce off the top of the net in overtime? The game became a million little moments that kept the Pens alive, fighting, surviving.

I dont have the energy to fully recap now. There aren't words to describe Fleury's play tonight. Malone's dedication. The team's perserverance. If you go to the game Wednesday, know that you are watching one of the gutsiest sports team that you might ever watch.

3-2.

Wednesday.

Mellon Arena.

Broken noses. Called shots. 55 saves.

Playoff hockey.

Play

off

hockey



I don't think I'll fall asleep tonight

Monday, June 2, 2008

Sidney Crosby Will Get Pissed if You Beat Him At a Board Game

Just to lighten the mood a little before Game 5, here's a fun little article from TSN about Sidney Crosby. If you don't feel like reading the whole thing, here's some of what you will discover about Sid the Kid:

- Laraque says he would beat down many NHLers if he decided to fight more

- He's probably one of the most superstituous people on the planet

- He is not a health nut, and will eat anything he finds when he's hungry

- He routinely kicks the ass of his fellow Penguins teammates when they play SOCOM on PSP, but when it comes to Call of Duty on XBox, Talbot says he "plays like a little girl."

- He will send the board and the game pieces flying when he gets beat by a nine-year old at a board game

Desperation


Good weekend everyone? How bout those Buccos! Get your $2 tickets now!
Wait, what's that? You were too busy banging your head against a wall Saturday night to notice the 14 run barrage? Oh, right. Me too.
Why exactly did the Penguins loss hurt so badly Saturday night? Because we had the all-important first goal against the Red Wings? Because the Red Wings second goal was so atrocious? Because "the five on three against Detroit" surpassed "fourth and two against Jacksonville" for the most painful Pittsburgh sports phrase of the year?
Yeah, sure. All of that. It is now a three game series in which the Penguins must win three games. And maybe a little bit of desperation is just what the Penguins need. The Rangers HAD to win game 4. The Flyers HAD to win Game 4. They had more desire than the Penguins. Sure, the more talented team eventually won out, but it will be interesting to see if the Penguins dire situation will spark them to a victory or two over a Red Wings team that can afford a brief letdown.
If you are feeling disinterested, then consider this: the Penguins' season could end tonight. Swallow it. Digest it. If you've followed them every night for eight months, then realize what is at stake. We are several hours away from the offseason.
TPb had it up first. Gotta give credit.
Lets Go Pens