Friday, February 25, 2011

From Zero to Shero: Ray's New Look Penguins

In the five years since the Penguins unceremoniously broke ties with long time GM Craig Patrick, Ray Shero has become a nearly cult-like figure in Pittsburgh. A quick Google images search will provide photoshops depicting Ray's badass-ness. He's basically become the most trusted figure in the city since Mr. Rogers.

Fred Rogers donning his pimpin' shoes.

Shero's cavalier attitude, coupled with his talent-spotting abilities (which must be a genetic trait) have rocketed him to beloved status. Even the trainwreck that was the Alexei Ponikarovsky acquisition last year, support for Shero hasn't waned.

But it is without question that 2011 will be the most difficult year for Ray-Ray.

The casualty list in Pittsburgh makes All-Star teams look as if they lack depth. The injuries to Crosby and Malkin only begin to scratch the surface. Somehow, behind the clearly superhuman leadership of Dan Bylsma, the Penguins have retained their grip on fourth in the Eastern Conference. The team's resilience has put Shero in an intriguing spot. When you have the second most points in the conference, no matter the injuries, packing up before the playoffs is not an option. So what does Shero do? Trades the most expendable player at the most expendable position on the team for something the Pens have desperately needed since the departure of a player to be mentioned later in this post (it's not Hossa, he can suck it): a talented, goal scoring winger, and clearly the next spokesperson for Crest Whitening Strips, James Neal.

Dude has albino teeth. Crazy.

Not only did Shero address a need by trading a talented defenseman who is prone to mental lapses, he somehow got Dallas to throw in THEIR talented defensemen who is prone to mental lapses, Matt Niskanen. There's nothing funny about him, except that he's from a state within a state (Virginia, Minnesota).

Both Neal and Niskanen will be Pens through 2011-12, and given their young age (23 and 24, respectively), they are decidedly not "rentals". Neal could be the finisher that Crosby has never had, and Niskanen might not suck.

And then yesterday, Shero did what everyone in Pittsburgh wanted him to. He pretty much traded a hockey stick an a Tim Horton's donut for someone the organization is a bit familiar with.


Terrible Omen of the Millenium: As I was trying to post this video, Safari completely crashed and took me about 20 minutes to fix. Shit.

The scary part of all of Shero's dealing?

We still have days until the deadline. Hold on tight.

Edit: TSN's Darren Dreger just released a report in regards to the possibility of Crosby sitting the remainder of the season. Looking more and more likely.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Stars are Falling.

Moving on to the Pens today, whom I’ve done a tremendous job of ignoring. Look for a Steelers season recap sometime this week.

We’ve just about gotten used to watching Pens games without Malkin and Crosby. It’s basically like watching the 2009-10 New Jersey Devils, only less douchier. Somehow, we’ve not only managed to stay afloat, but have navigated these rough seas to a solid January-February record (minus the last two games). However, the Pens undoubtedly face some major problems

Issue #1:

Rumors have been flying around about the status of Crosby. Ask one person and they’ll say that Crosby is seeing stars when he practices, others say he was beaten by baboons outside of Mike Rupp’s Super Bowl party. The line between fact and fiction is opaque at best.

What we do know is this; we likely won’t see Crosby until March, or if Crosby’s injury is as apocalyptic as some are claiming, he’ll be put on season-ending IR prior to the trade deadline (March 1st). In order to have any shot at a deep playoff run, the Penguins need Crosby at 100%. That’s the reason that I don’t fully buy into the severity of these claims. Penguins brass are not stupid. Unless the team were to go into a nuclear tailspin in the next month, it’s smarter to shelf Crosby for the time being.

All that being said, it’s hard to look at what happened to Marc Savard after Matt Cooke’s hit. He’ll never be the same.

Issue #2:

Can the Penguins win the Cup without Evgeni Malkin?


Before you point to his numbers for the past two seasons, remember, he’s a Conn Smythe winner. He’s no joke. Even when he’s not at the top of his game, he’s at least taking up one of the opposition’s top defensive pairings. Especially given the improvement in Malkin’s defensive play, his production is nearly impossible to replace.

It’s a scary, yet interesting time to be a Pens fan.

Late News: Matt Cooke suspended 4 games for raping Fedor Tyutin (still the best name in hockey). Should be fun to see what kind of depleted lineup we can field tomorrow night against the Kings. No word on whether or not Cooke will get an extra two games for bitchslapping Tyutin with his Stanley Cup Ring.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Out in the Cold. Green Bay Packers are Super Bowl XLV Champs.

And listen, about those bitter songs you sing;
they're not helping anything,
they won't make you strong.

The Weakerthans- “Plea From a Cat Named Virtute”

In a Super Bowl in which hundreds of ticket-holding fans were left outside the gates, Steeler fans in attendance wished they would have been among them.

Left to my own indulgences (which the internet will always allow us to do), after last night’s game, I would have written a profanity-laced tirade that would have made Lewis Black cry. I would have insulted babies, presidents, and probably would have worked some jabs in at the Pope or Gandhi.

But even after losing a Super Bowl, we all still wake up in the morning (and least most of us, I don’t remember reading anything about a disgruntled fan taking a swan dive off the 10th Street Bridge). Fans and pretentious blowhards who think that just because they have a blog that they’re experts on everything (me, anybody?) will dissect the loss, pinpointing where things went south, and who to assess the blame to.

It’s a fruitless endeavor. We lost because Green Bay was the better team last night. No need to delve much deeper. As a Steeler fan, watching that game was like seeing your girlfriend get teabagged by the Duke Lacrosse team. So rather than partaking in mindless tripe, I’d like to do two things.

1. Congratulate the Packers.

What a deserving team and city. There’s nothing arrogant or cocky about them. They work hard on and off the field, and if we were going to lose to anybody, I’m glad it was to a team like that.

Aaron Rodgers has officially sent Brett Favre’s shadow packing. He was in complete control from the start, and wasn’t in awe of anything. He’s a class act and an extremely deserving MVP. There were many other players that deserved a Super Bowl title; namely Clay Matthews, Donald Driver and Charles Woodson. I should also mention Cullen Jenkins, who had to spend most of Super Bowl week searching for his missing father (they’ve since spoken, and all is well). For a team to wade through as many injuries as they have, it is truly remarkable.

2. Congratulate the Steelers.

Don’t act like they don’t deserve it. They didn’t have their best game against the Pack, but it shouldn’t completely overshadow a season in which expectations were running at an all-time low, only to wind up playing in the Super Bowl. Kudos to them for not giving up at any point during the season; they easily could have.

Now it’s on to working towards getting an agreement done, so that we can have a chance to avenge our loss in 2011.

Here’s something to cheer you up. Keep the faith.