Tag:Pittsburgh Penguins
Posted on: September 7, 2011 5:28 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 12:53 pm
 

Letter to Flyers fans includes Winter Classic

FlyersWC

By: Adam Gretz

Even though there hasn't been an official announcement from the NHL or any of the teams involved, it hasn't exactly been a well-kept secret that the 2012 Winter Classic will be played in Philadelphia with the Flyers hosting the New York Rangers on Jan. 2.

This week the Flyers organization sent a letter to its season ticket holders all but confirming the Winter Classic will in fact take place in Philadlphia on that date. According to Sarah Baicker of CSN Philadelphia, the letter includes the following section:
“The Flyers will host the 2012 Bridgestone Winter Classic! You will notice that only 43 games are included in your ticket and parking book(s). Winter Classic tickets are not a part of your 2011-12 season ticket package. However, all full season ticket holders will have the ability to purchase up to same number of Winter Classic Packages as 2011-12 full season seats you own.”
It's pretty much guaranteed the venue will be Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies, as the football stadium in Philadelphia -- Lincoln Financial Field -- will be occupied the day before for a game between the Eagles and Washington Redskins. There is absolutely zero chance the stadium can be transferred over to hockey in that amount of time. Preparations in recent years (Pittsburgh, Boston, Chicago and Buffalo) have taken more than a week.

It will be the second time in three years the Flyers will be involved in the now annual outdoor game, having visited the Boston Bruins at Fenway park during the 2009-10 season. The Bruins won the game in overtime, 2-1, thanks to a goal from Marco Sturm. Even though this will only be the fifth year for the Winter Classic the Flyers are the second team to get another outdoor appearance, joining their cross-state rivals from Pittsburgh who have also played in the game twice (they hosted Washington last year and played in the innagural game in Buffalo).

It will be the Rangers first appearance in the game.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.


Posted on: September 7, 2011 1:59 pm
Edited on: September 7, 2011 2:08 pm
 

Highlights from Crosby press conference

By: Adam Gretz

After a summer of reports, denials, more reports, more denials and a number of unanswered questions regarding the status of Sidney Crosby, the Penguins captain addressed the media on Wednesday to discuss his recovery from a concussion and his potential availability for the start of the 2011-12 season.

In the end, not much has changed as we still don't know for sure when Crosby will be ready to return to the lineup. His doctors, Michael Collins and Ted Carrick, as well as Penguins general manager Ray Shero, all of whom joined Crosby at the podium, all insisted that he will not be allowed to return until he is at 100 percent -- a level he has still not yet reached.

When asked if Crosby will be ready for the Penguins' season opening game in Edmonton on October 6, Collins said that he "has no earthly idea." But while nobody could say for sure when he will return, everybody involved seemed confident that he will return, as if it were simply a matter of "when" and not "if."

Among the topics addressed were the symptoms Crosby experienced in the beginning, the ones he is still experiencing today, the unknown timetable for his return, what consideration Crosby gave to retirement (he says none), as well as his call for the NHL to ban all hits to the head.

Here are some of the highlights of the 40-minute conference:

-- Collins said he first met with Crosby on Jan. 6 and knew right away that this would be an injury that would take a long time to recover from. He also added that he is not surprised it's taken as long as it has. During their early meetings he described Crosby's symptoms as being "foggy," and, using the first of many analogies, compared it to your high definition TV working like a standard definition TV. He was having headaches, sensitivity to light and sound, while everything around him seemed to be moving in slow motion.

Since then, however, it appears that a lot of progress has been made.

Crosby is still not yet ready for contact, or to be declared 100 percent, but he is starting to approach his normal limits -- Collins referred to him numerous times as "a Ferrari" of a hockey player -- but simply isn't there yet.

Collins also said that he evaluated Crosby on Tuesday and that the data he saw then is the best he's seen to date regarding his recovery. He also wasn't shy about how wonderful of a patient Crosby has been throughout the process.

-- Following some brief opening statements from Shero and the doctors, Crosby was finally asked a series of questions, and one of the first ones involved whether or not he ever considered retirement, something that was rumored -- based on unconfirmed reports out of Canada -- earlier this summer.

Crosby said he never considered retirement and that he "didn't give a whole lot of thought to that."

-- Carrick, a concussion specialist that has been seeing Crosby recently, referred to concussions and head injuries as an epidemic in sports, and also added: "It's a good time to have a head injury now as opposed to a few years ago, but hopefully we won't have to go through these in the future."

Later in the press conference Crosby was asked his thoughts about hits to the head and whether or not there should be a complete banishment of them in the NHL.

Said Crosby, "I don't think there's a reason not to take them out." He also added that of all the hits that happen over the course of a hockey season probably only 50-or-so result in a hit to the head, and that the NHL would not miss such a small number of plays.

-- One of the most recent updates on Crosby's status indicated that his symptoms started to return when he reached the 80-90 percent exertion level on the ice, something that was confirmed on Wednesday.

Crosby said he's still experiencing some small headaches at this point, but that is a long way from where he was in the beginning of the process. He said early on he found it difficult to drive, listen to the radio or watch TV. He also admitted that he tried to attend a meeting with the team to watch film shortly after the concussion but felt that it was stressing his system.

-- When asked if it's "likely or unlikely if he will play this season," Crosby simply responded. "Likely."

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: September 5, 2011 1:44 pm
Edited on: September 5, 2011 1:47 pm
 

Stamkos still enjoys playing summer baseball

StamkosBaseballBy: Adam Gretz

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos has scored 96 goals over the past two seasons, and is already one of the most dangerous offensive players in the NHL at the age of 21. Earlier this offseason his production over the first three seasons of his career resulted in a brand new five-year, $37.5 million contract with the Lightning.

The fame that comes with being one of the top players in the league, as well as the brand new pay check, hasn't stopped him from spending his summer playing in a "beer league" baseball league in his hometown of Markhem, Ontario, where Stamkos buys uniforms, bats and picks up the post-game bar tabs.

Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star checked out a game this past week, and the reviews of Stamkos' baseball skills are almost as glowing as the ones usually reserved for his ability on the ice.

From the Star:
For the 21-year-old Stamkos, who played on three provincial championship baseball teams for the Markham Mariners from about age 11 to 13, the grand old game has long been a passion.

“He could have been better at baseball than hockey,” said Adam Velocci.

“His dad wanted him to play baseball, but he loves hockey,” said Velocci, the Green Beys' third baseman who also played on those championship squads.

Said Chris Stamkos, Steven's father: “Steven was smaller when he was young. Although he was good in hockey, I did think he had more natural instincts in baseball ... But then he grew, and he got more serious with hockey.”

Whatever talents he may have had -- or still has -- for baseball, hockey fans, and especially Tampa Bay fans, have to be happy he started following the path he's currently on. Feschuk also points out that NHL players have to get written consent from their team to take part in certain offseason activities, including baseball, and that consent is usually given.

Stamkos, who plays left field, is apparently hitting .608 on the season and clubbed a three-run homer the night Feschuk attended.

Some other notable hockey-baseball connections: You may have heard a thing or two (in every single game he played) about Chris Drury's appearance in the Little League World Series, while it's pretty common for hockey players that share a city with a big league baseball team to take their hacks in the batting cage. A couple of years ago Penguins captian Sidney Crosby knocked one out of PNC Park in Pittsburgh, while new Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith managed to do the same back in June.

(H/T The Big Lead, via PHT)

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: August 31, 2011 2:04 pm
Edited on: August 31, 2011 3:35 pm
 

Former Capital Steckel talks Crosby hit, Semin

By Brian Stubits

David Steckel was a member of the Washington Capitals up until March of last year, so he knows a thing or two about a couple of the bigger stories/dramas of the hockey summer.

Skating at the Caps practice facility as he and his wife are back in the District to try and sell their Virginia house, Steckel took a little time to talk with the Washington Post's Tarik El-Bashir about a few lingering items. One regards the health of Sidney Crosby, the other the criticism levied on Alexander Semin by former Caps enforcer Matt Bradley.

First, to the Crosby treatment. Remember, it was Steckel that hit Crosby in the Winter Classic, rendering the Penguins star concussed. Since then, the argument has raged of whether or not it was a dirty play or intentional. Steckel, now with the Devils, says neither is the case.

"I had no intent to injure him. I feel just as bad as anybody. I don't want to see anybody out of the game for that long. It's bad enough with everything that's going around with other guys [and] head [injuries]. It's just so uncertain. I feel bad. I wish him the best. I don't wish that upon anybody."

Here's the hit heard 'round the NHL world in case you need a refresher.

To me it never appeared to be a malicious hit by any stretch. It appears to be an unfortunate accident. But it's certainly a debatable topic and the true verdict is always in the eye of the beholder in such situations.

However the majority of the talk with El-Bashir centered on Bradley's remarks about Semin, ya know the ones that Semin "just doesn't care?" Well here's what Steckel had to say on Wednesday.

“It's not like he went out and told lies,” Steckel said. “[He] didn't really say anything bad about anybody. He just stated what he felt. ... I don't have anything to say on what Brads said except that he was spot on. He mentioned Ovi, too, just not on a negative side. He hit it on the head for both guys."

It's nowhere near as inflammatory as the route Bradley took, but it's still no ringing endorsement of Semin.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: August 29, 2011 2:26 pm
Edited on: August 29, 2011 2:59 pm
 

Eastern Conference spots seem set for some time

By Brian Stubits

Sometimes simple and obvious things just hit you. Things you had realized before but for some reason they jump to your attention again. It tends to happen a lot more often during the lazy hockey days of summer.

That's exactly what happened when I began to think about the makeup of hockey markets/organizations, particularly in the Eastern Conference. What popped into my head was the fact that the contenders this season are likely to be the same as they were last season, and for the most part the same they were the season before that. And it's likely they will remain the contenders for the season after next, too.

At that moment I realized the NHL is starting to resemble the NBA in a way. And that's not good. One of the biggest reasons the NBA is in a lockout that seems to have no end in sight (Ken Berger and the Eye on Basketball guys have that covered) is the very issue that only a handful of teams enter every season with a chance to win the Larry O'Brien Trophy. Everybody's favorite stat about the (lack of) parity in the NBA is the simple fact that since 1984, only eight different organizations have won the championship. That's eight teams in 28 seasons.

Now look at the Eastern Conference in hockey. The Capitals have been atop their division for four straight seasons. The Penguins and Flyers are perennial contenders. Same goes for the Bruins while the Rangers, Canadiens and Sabres are regulars in the 5-8 range in the standings.

Of course that leaves teams like the Islanders (four-year playoff drought), Maple Leafs (six-year drought), Jets/Thrashers (one appearance in franchise history), Hurricanes (perennial contender for first runnerup these days) and the Panthers (10-year drought) to fend at the bottom.

So where do these teams fit? When you have a team like the Islanders seeming ready to step up and compete for the playoffs, who are they going to surpass? The Eastern Conference is full of traditional hockey markets in the American northeast and Canada, big markets either in hockey-crazy cities and ones with rich histories. The West has a few of those as well -- namely Vancouver, Detroit and Chicago -- but not as many as the East.

But have a look at the chart below detailing the past four seasons. Five teams have made the playoffs in each of those seasons and four teams have failed to advance beyond the regular season even once.

Last four seasons
Team Average finish (Eastern Conference) Playoff appearances 2011-12 payroll (capgeek.com)
Capitals 1.75 4 $65,190,128
Penguins 3.5 4 $62,737,500
Bruins 4.5 4 $56,682,976
Flyers 5 4 $64,124,761
Devils 5 3 $58,429,167
Canadiens 5.75 4 $59,770,510
Rangers 7.25 3 $62,935,334
Sabres 7.5 2 $67,895,357
Hurricanes 8.75 1 $49,775,000
Senators 9 2 $51,845,834
Lightning 11.5 1 $59,326,083
Maple Leafs 12.25 0 $59,115,000
Jets/Thrashers 12.25 0 $48,284,166
Panthers 12.25 0 $49,882,042
Islanders 13.75 0 $45,970,166

You get the feeling that at least five spots are locks in the East this year with two more almost assuredly the same. In the lock category you start with four of the five teams that have been staples: The Capitals, Penguins, Flyers and Bruins. Add in the up-and-coming Lightning for good measure. Hard to imagine any of those five not making it this season. In the next two spots I think you can add the Rangers and Sabres. With new owner Terry Pegula, the Sabres seem destined to become another playoff regular. These are teams that all improved (or in the case of Boston, didn't have to improve, but more or less stay in tact after winning the Stanley Cup) and were already playoff caliber.

By my stellar mathematical abilities, that leaves one spot essentially up for grabs. Among the group fighting for it will be the Canadiens (the other team to make it each of the past four seasons), Devils and, well, the rest of the conference. Outside of the Senators who are building for a few years from now and maybe the Jets, every team in the conference looks to be better now then they were at the end of last season.

And here's the thing: I don't see how it will be easy to unseat these teams at the top of the conference. Sure, you will have the occasional team slipping through like the Lightning. To extend the analogy back to the NBA, that's like the Oklahoma City Thunder building after years of struggle to a competitive level. But they still have to fight through the Lakers, Mavericks and Spurs, all of which are almost guaranteed to be in the hunt. It's hard to imagine a time when the Lakers won't be contenders, and when they have been (post-Shaquille O'Neal) they rebuilt in a hurry and won the title shortly thereafter.

That's what I'm seeing for the Eastern Conference, that kind of perennial favorite similarity. It makes sense, obviously. The best free agents will want to go to the best teams in the best hockey cities and the biggest pay checks. That's to be expected. And that's a huge reason why these teams are able to stay above the equator. It doesn't hurt to have the infrastructures they all have at their disposal, too. From fan support to smart organizational minds and moves, they win more often than not. Success begets success. It's no coincidence that these are also the teams most heavily featured on national TV.

Let's look at the Capitals. Owner Ted Leonsis has been mentioned his 10-to-15-year plan ... not a plan that calls for 10-to-15 years to win the Cup (although it's starting to look that way) but instead to keep the Caps a Cup contender for that time. And because Washington D.C. has shown itself to be a strong hockey market and is appealing to free agents, it's easy to see how the Caps can sustain that. You have a young Alexander Ovechkin on your roster? Lock him up! Just throw a 13-year contract in front of one of the sport's best players and he's aboard for the long haul. Try and do the same when you're in Tampa Bay and you have a situation where you are only able to secure Steven Stamkos for five seasons.

The reasons are obvious, much the same as the Yankees in baseball (and now the Red Sox). You can pen each of those teams into the playoffs before the season even starts and you are most likely going to be right. But this isn't supposed to happen in hockey, not with a supposedly game-evening hard salary cap. It's just the inherent advantages are too tough for a lot of teams to compete with. Essentially, the margin for error is razor thin for the lesser markets/organizations.

Toronto is the exception (sorry Leafs fans) to the big-market success model. It is probably the best hockey market in the NHL, has an incredibly devoted fan base and has not been afraid to spend. But even the Leafs are struggling these days to break that glass ceiling and butt their way into the playoffs. They couldn't beat out the Rangers for Brad Richards' services in free agency.

Now this is why they play the game. You can't lock in these teams to the playoffs. After all, who saw that Devils season coming last year? You still have to earn your way into the postseason. But if you are a fan of one of the bottom-feeders in the East, I'd suggest you cool your jets. The East's upper echelon is pretty well full of NHL aristocrats. The competition will be better and the spots will likely be more fiercely fought for, but it will be hard to break through.

In the West you can hear the mid-level teams saying "welcome to our world."

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: August 29, 2011 9:43 am
Edited on: August 29, 2011 9:46 am
 

Daily Skate: Penguins coach Bylsma eyes U.S. job

By Brian Stubits

NATIONAL DREAM Dan Byslma isn't on any sort of hot seat as the Penguins coach, but he is looking for his next job. That's because Disco Dan has indicated he's interested in coaching the U.S. men's national team (via Sporting News) when the 2014 Olympics come around. ""I'd be more than willing to be a part of a staff, but my goal isn't just to be a part of a staff," the Michigan native said. "At least, the written goal is not just to be part of the staff."

CONCUSSION TALK CONTINUES: In the two-day Molson Export Quebec Hockey Summit in Quebec, the primary point of conversation surrounded the ongoing concussion talk (via Globe and Mail) and what some would call an epidemic in the NHL. With the possibility of Sidney Crosby missing more time, executives are perhaps looking at this issue even more seriously. Not that they weren't before, but Crosby's possible further absence seems to have spurred talks with one goal in mind: reducing concussions. Here's what Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier had to say: "“There are kids who suffer two or three concussions in a year and are pushed to keep playing. I can tell you that if one of my sons gets a concussion, his season is over.”

CAN KESSEL GET OVER THE HILL?: Obviously the Maple Leafs gave up a lot for Phil Kessel, so there expecting a lot from him. He's been an all-star since he came to Toronto, but the fans there are waiting to see more from their top player. That leads us to Maple Leafs Host Stove's burning question ... can Kessel score more than 40 this season? They take a stab at answering that question.

'CANES QUESTION: The Hurricanes was a middle-of-the-pack team as far as scoring last season, so it's not as if there was a drought in Carolina. But with one of the team's three 20-plus goal scorers from last season (Erik Cole) out of town, Chip Patterson at the News Observer wonders who will do the scoring for the 'Canes this season outside of Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner?

SIGN OF THE TIMES: Yes, the season is getting closer. Much closer. Just take a look at what's going on in Columbus' Nationwide Arena ... the ice is coming back (from @ddawley twitpic).

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: August 24, 2011 10:22 am
Edited on: August 29, 2011 2:04 pm
 

Daily Skate: National TV partners; remaining FAs

By Brian Stubits

MADE FOR TV GAMES: If you had one guess as to the most nationally televised matchup in the NHL since 1994, what would you pick? If you said Rangers-Flyers, you got it, and it's not even close. Puck The Media has compiled a list of the national broadcasts going back to 1994 and Rangers-Flyers takes the cake by eight games over Penguins-Flyers. Take a look at the whole list here. Notice a lot more mixtures containing the Rangers, Flyers and Red Wings. Earth shattering there, we know.

FREE AGENTS STILL FREE: Don't forget there are still some free agents floating out there looking for work. Guys like Bryan McCabe, Cory Stillman, Teemu Selanne and Chris Campoli haven't found contract offers as of yet. So Down Goes Brown helps the teams still shopping by providing a buyer's guide to the remaining players that is full of gems like this: Chris Campoli, the good: Is known as a puck-moving defenceman, which presumably makes him more valuable than a defenceman who insists on keeping the puck stationary at all times.

TOMAS THE TANK: The Panthers' rebuilding efforts were hardly met with universal praise across the hockey world. The majority of people outside of South Florida saw a bunch of overpriced, mediocre signings instead of impact spending. But Dale Tallon doesn't feel that way (of course not), especially about his most expensive forward addition, Tomas Fleischmann. Tallon told the Miami Herald that "[Fleischmann] hasn't reached his peak yet and numbers are just going to go up."

STILL LOOKING TO STRIKE OIL: The Oilers are still trying to work their way back up the Western Conference standings, and the best way to do that will be to get better in the defensive end. David Staples of the Edmonton Journal isn't exactly optimistic that will happen this season. Where he's holding out his hope is that the young defensemen will be better with another season because there isn't much else to inspire a feeling of blue line growth. He also has an injury update on the "lanky Yankee" Ryan Whitney.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: August 23, 2011 10:54 pm
Edited on: August 23, 2011 11:32 pm
 

Matt Cooke talks about changing his ways

cooke

By: Adam Gretz

If you're a fan of one of the 29 NHL teams that Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke doesn't play for there is a pretty good chance you dislike the way he plays the game of hockey.

The easiest way to describe his role is as one of the NHL's top agitators. He's paid to get under the skin of opponents and get them off their game playing a physical, in-your-face brand of hockey. Along with that, his style of play, and numerous run-ins with the NHL's disciplinary board, has resulted in him being suspended multiple times over the past couple of seasons, including twice last season.

The second suspension cost him the final 10 games of the regular season and all seven of Pittsburgh's playoff games following a hit on New York's Ryan McDonagh. It was a play that not only helped swing the momentum of that game, but also put a dent in the Penguins lineup for the remainder of the season.

All of that has added to his reputation, and seemingly made his name synomonus with "dirty" play in the eyes of many fans and observers.

Cooke has promised to change the way he plays the game, as he explained to John Hartstock of the Altoona Mirror on Monday night during an appearance at a minor league baseball game in Altoona, Pennsylvania.

From the Mirror:
"It's a mentality, it's how I'm going to approach the game,'' Cooke said of his plan to clean up his act. "And the team has worked hard in supporting me to accomplish these minor tweaks in my game.''
Cooke tends to be viewed as a player that needs to play the game on the edge, which is part of what makes him so effective in his role -- but that doesn't excuse some of the plays he's been involved in, including the aforementioned one on McDonagh. Because they're not neccessary for him to do his job.

Here's the thing about Cooke: all of the controversy that surrounds him on the ice (all of which he has brought on himself, of course) overshadows the fact that he really is good hockey player -- one that 29 other NHL teams would probably love to have patrolling their third line -- that doesn't need to be involved in such nonsense to be a valuable player. He's an excellent penalty killer (one of Pittsburgh's best), and possesses enough offensive ability to chip in between 10 and 15 goals every season. 

The other stuff doesn't add to his game, it takes away from it, and cleaning up his act will not only be good for the rest of the league and the Penguins, it will be good for him, too. So let's hope he's not only serious about changing the way he plays, but actually follows through with it.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com