Tag:Ray Shero
Posted on: November 16, 2011 10:07 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2011 10:21 pm

Checking in on Matt Cooke and his new style

cooke1By: Adam Gretz

Throughout his career Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke has usually been used as an example of what not to do on the ice when it comes to physical play. He's been suspended five times, including the final 10 games of the regular season, and all seven of Pittsburgh's playoff games last year, and is perhaps known most for the hit on Boston's Marc Savard that started his still on-going battle with concussions, and also helped spark the NHL's rule changes regarding hits to the head (rule 48).

Following his most recent suspension, one that hurt the Penguins in their opening round playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, Cooke vowed to change his ways and clean up the way he plays hockey. His claim was greeted -- and rightfully so -- with a sense of, show us, don't tell us, and actions speak louder than words.

A month-and-a-half into the season and he is now actually being used as a positive example of what to do on the ice. At least in the eyes of the Penguins. 

In an article penned by the Canadian Press on Wednesday, Penguins general manager Ray Shero cited Cooke's early season play as an example the NHL can use for what Brendan Shanahan is trying to accomplish with player safety.

From Shero, via the CP:
"For Brendan Shanahan and player safety, here's a guy that they can show on some highlights and the videos, where he's not taking the hit or he is pulling up (in dangerous situations)," said Shero. "He's still got a ways to go. But in the first portion of the season here and exhibition as well, he has changed the way he's played and he's still a really good effective player for us in his role.

"That's good news for us and it's good news for Brendan Shanahan in terms of what he's trying to do."
Through 18 games this season Cooke has not done anything remotely dirty, and has been sent to the penalty box just two times -- once for interference and once for unsportsmanlike conduct for diving -- for a grand total of four penalty minutes. Over the past four seasons through the same number of games he registered 23, 22, 25 and 24 penalty minutes.  Along with that, he also has a positive differential in the number of penalties he's drawn compared to the number of penalties he's taken for the first time in four years.

(Penalty numbers via BehindTheNet)

Matt Cooke Penalties Drawn vs. Penalties Taken: Past Four Years
Year Penalties Taken per 60 Min. Penalties Drawn per 60 Min. Difference
2011-12 (18 Games) 0.3 1.4 +1.1
2010-11 1.8 1.2 -0.6
2009-10 1.4 1.1 -0.3
2008-09 1.6 1.3 -0.3
2007-08 1.4 1.2 -0.2

This is definitely a positive development and a good start for the Penguins, as well as Cooke, because he's always been a valuable player when he isn't sidelined with a suspension or sitting in the penalty box following an ill-timed penalty (he can score, and he's one of the top penalty killers on the best penalty killing team in the league).

But it's going to take a lot more than 18 games for fans -- if not opposing players as well -- around the NHL to believe that he really has turned the page and become a different player.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: November 15, 2011 3:47 pm
Edited on: November 15, 2011 3:55 pm

Protection of goalies hot topic at GM meetings

By Brian Stubits

What better time than after the Hall of Fame ceremony for the GMs to gather and discuss the issues of the day? After all, most of them are already in town for the festivities anyway.

The item on the morning agenda of the meetings? It truly was the top issue of the day: goaltender safety. Spurred by the Milan Lucic hit on Ryan Miller, the rules regarding goaltenders outside the crease have been a hot topic. While the rulebook clearly states a goalie is not fair game anywhere on the ice, it has been a muddy conversation.

From the sounds of Blues GM Doug Armstrong, it was more a matter of clarification than anything else for the GMs.

“Just want to make sure that we’re all on the same page, that when they’re out on the open ice, that they’re going to be protected,” Armstrong said. “We do want continued play in front of the net, but we want to make sure that when they’re outside the [blue] ice, that they’re protected.”

The best way that people are describing the protection of goaltenders is to draw the parallel to football and the quarterback. In football, the QB has become like an endangered species, seemingly any affront to his safety has been squashed. Drives a QB into the ground after a pass? Personal foul. Same goes for when a scrambling QB slides to the ground.

“In my opinion, I think we have to [protect goalies like QBs],” Penguins GM Ray Shero said. “I’m not talking about plays around the crease, because there will be incidental contact ... We’re talking about a regular season game, we’re talking about the incident with Lucic and Ryan Miller. You get into a playoff series and if these guys are going to be coming out to play pucks, and you can run them over and get a two-minute penalty, then I think you’re going to open up a pretty dangerous set of circumstances.

“Several of the general managers just brought up the fact there’s only 60 goaltenders in the league, and we have to be pretty careful in terms of, if they’re going to play puck outside the crease, what should be fair,” Shero said. “We’ll continue to look at it, and probably talk about it much more at the March meeting, as well.”

Is it a bit reactionary? Of course. The Lucic/Miller incident is fresh and was pretty uncommon. But the reactions after the hit proved the need for some clarification on the matter, even if it was as simple as getting rule 69.4 spread around for everybody to see.

This is where Brendan Shanahan's decision not to suspend Lucic, for the hit comes into play a bit. Many, myself included, believed that if nothing else a token suspension was called for against Lucic, something to make it clear that goalies can't be run over. But Shanahan believed Lucic did not intend to hit Miller and that it was more of an unfortunate collision. He reiterated the point to the GMs that goalies will be protected and offenders could still be suspended. From Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com:

"Shanahan told GMs that players should NOT read into Lucic ruling that goalies are fair game. Quite the opposite, Shanahan warned GMs."

The GMs don't want to see more incidents like it and want to nip it in the bud now before frontier justice like that alluded by Sabres coach Lindy Ruff knocks another goaltender out for a period of time. I believe for most GMs it's a matter of self-preservation if anything else (in this case self being their team's interests).

“That’s going to be the message to our team -- the goalies are not fair game,” Shero said. “If the guy’s going to play it outside the crease, you have to be pretty careful.”

Perhaps I'm too cynical, but I believe the root of that statement from Shero comes out of the fear of losing Marc-Andre Fleury for some time.

As for rest of the meetings, also on the schedule was the 1-3-1 trap that caused such a stir last week after the bizarre scene between the Flyers and Lightning which led to a stalemate. To that, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman gave a reasonable response, saying they don't want to overreact to something that has only happened once. Perhaps Flyers GM Paul Holmgren put it best: "I'd like to see us attack the situation a little bit differently than we did last game."

The other big item on the docket was realignment, something Flyers chairman Ed Snider brought up again in Toronto. But right now that's all just chatter among the GMs. The decision on realignment will made at the Board of Governors meeting in December.

All of these conversations and more will get hashed out again in March the next time the GMs gather.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: November 10, 2011 1:00 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2011 3:24 pm

Sidney Crosby ruled out for weekend's games

By Brian Stubits

The world was waiting for Sidney Crosby's return to come this weekend. The media flocked to Pittsburgh for the long-awaited day to come. Eye On Hockey blogger Adam Gretz was on stand-by (he'll still be at the game on Friday).

Alas, arguably the game's biggest star will not lace them up against the Stars on Friday, or the Hurricanes (in Carolina) on Saturday.

Yes, the home game on Friday Nov. 11 was the one everybody was predicting for his return. Signs were pointing to it. GM Ray Shero said in an interview before the Penguins went on a long road trip that he wanted Crosby to return on home ice. He had been practicing and reportedly doing well with the contact he was receiving. Pens beatwriter Josh Yohe put the odds at 2/1 Crosby would return for this game.

So if Crosby is out (which he is, coach Dan Bylsma announced as much on Thursday) the question everybody moves onto next is when? Well, a quick glance of the schedule shows a home game on Nov. 15 against the Avalanche. After that the Penguins don't play at home again until the week of the Thanksgiving when they have a three-game homestand.

Judging by the way Bylsma is still not putting a timetable on Crosby's return and insists it's up until the doctors clear him, my guess is that the Tuesday game is a no-go, too. My best bet would be the three-game homestand starting on Nov. 21 with the Islanders. But with Crosby being essentially day to day after this long struggle with post-concussions symptoms, it will be a guessing game every day.

Meanwhile, I hope this doesn't deter fans from tuning into the game anyway. This will be one of the best matchups of the weekend as the top teams in each conference face off. And for those media members still around for the game, there's always James Neal vs. Dallas.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: November 3, 2011 7:15 pm
Edited on: November 3, 2011 7:18 pm

Was Rinne the right choice for Nashville?

RinneBy: Adam Gretz

There are few positions in professional sports that get as much attention and face as much scrutiny as  starting goaltenders in the NHL. There are also few positions that are as unpredictable, uncertain, maddening and completely random.

Tim Thomas, the winner of two of the past three Vezina Trophies, is probably the best one in the league right now, and he didn't become a full-time starter until he was 32 years old after being a ninth-round draft pick and bounced around Europe and the minor leagues for nearly a decade.

Pekka Rinne, the Nashville Predators goaltender who just signed a contract that gives him the highest average annual salary in the league at the position (seven years, $49 million), is another example as to just how unpredictable the position can be. During an interview back in 2006, former Predators assistant and current Penguins general manager Ray Shero told the story of how the team initially scouted Rinne prior to making him an eighth-round draft pick in 2004 -- they watched him during warmups in Finland because he rarely played in games for Karpat Oulu, a team in the Finnish Elite League. Actually, he appeared in 10 games, winning eight, during the 2004-05 season, but the first night Shero joined a scout, Janne Kekalainen, to watch him was during warmups. Said Shero in the interview: "I watch him and he's taking shots and I turned to Janne after warmup and said, 'It's your call, buddy.' I can barely draft a goalie during the game let alone warmup. "

Needless to say their decision to draft him has paid off, Rinne has become their starting goaltender, a key member of their core, along with Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, and now, one of the highest-paid players in the NHL.

But was it the right move to give him such a large contract?

I'm not going to deny that Rinne is an excellent goaltender, and based on the way the team around him has played so far this season he's probably their first month MVP. It's also encouraging that the Predators were able to secure one of their home-grown players, and perhaps it's a sign that they will maybe, hopefully be able to keep one -- or both -- of their other soon-to-be top free agents (Weber and Suter). But I'm just not sold on giving out such huge contracts to goalies because, again, the position is just full of so much uncertainty, and one that can be heavily influenced by the team in front of the crease.

Over the past eight years the Predators have had no trouble finding goaltenders that are able to play at a high level, and in almost every season have managed to post a similar save percentage and finish well above (or close to) the league average no matter what their primary goaltending duo has looked like -- whether it was Rinne and Anders Lindback, Rinne and Dan Ellis, Ellis and Chris Mason, or Mason and Tomas Vokoun.

(League average in parenthesis)

2010-11: Pekka Rinne/Anders Lindback -- .926 (.913)
2009-10: Pekka Rinne/Dan Ellis -- .910 (.911)
2008-09: Pekka Rinne/Dan Ellis -- .910 (.908)
2007-08: Dan Ellis/Chris Mason -- .911 (.909)
2006-07: Tomas Vokoun/Chris Mason -- .922 (.905)
2005-06: Tomas Vokoun/Chris Mason -- .916 (.901)
2003-04: Tomas Vokoun/Chris Mason -- .912 (.911)
2002-03: Tomas Vokoun/Mike Dunham -- .911 (.909)
2001-02: Tomas Vokoun/Mike Dunham -- .903 (.908)
2000-01: Tomas Vokoun/Mike Dunham -- .917 (.903)

I'm not sure Rinne can consistently duplicate the .930 save percentage he recorded last season when he finished as a runner-up for the Vezina Trophy, and if he's back around the .915-920 area that is his career average, how much worse would they have been with a combination of Lindback and a free agent signing at a fraction of the price next season?

Like the situation in Phoenix with Mike Smith replacing Ilya Bryzgalov, there would have been a drop, but probably not as large as most would expect, or as large as the gap in salary would indicate, especially given the amount of success players like Mason and Ellis have been able to experience in Nashville (and how how much they've struggled away from Nashville). Keep in mind, Ellis, Mason and Rinne all experienced seasons with the Predators where they finished in the top-10 in the NHL in save percentage. They've consistently been able to find productive goaltenders without breaking the bank, why couldn't they continue to do it?

In the salary cap NHL every dollar counts and the wrong contract can have a large negative impact on a franchise, especially when it's a team that may or may not have an endless supply of money to keep other core players. I guess, in the end, it just goes back to my dislike of such large contracts for a position that is so unpredictable, even with seemingly established players, combined with the belief that players like Weber and Suter are simply more valuable to what they do for the long-term.

As E.J. Hradek pointed out on Twitter earlier in the day, it's a lot easier (and cheaper) to find quality goaltenders than it is to find franchise defensemen.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: October 27, 2011 3:33 pm

Pens GM eyes home game for Crosby return

By Brian Stubits

It's getting so close, you can smell it.

"It" is Sidney Crosby, the Penguins superstar who has been out for 10 months with post-concussion syndrome. But General Manager Ray Shero is hinting that the time is nigh.

In an interview on Sportsnet's 590 The Fan in Toronto, Shero talked about the progress of Crosby, who has been quiet since he was cleared for contact. The first order of business: Has anybody hit Crosby in practice so far?

"He's had contact in practice. He took a stick to the chin," Shero said. "He ran into Kris Letang in practice the other day and unfortunately 58 [Letang] took the worst of it. He's had tough battles down low in a lot of our practices.

"As long as he's progressing and is doing OK, that's the main thing."

Hosts Darren Millard and Doug MacLean also asked Shero if the team had been trying to expedite Crosby's recovery recently. Considering the team hasn't rushed him at any point of his recovery, I don't see why they would now, and Shero confirmed that.

"We're not that interested in moving it quicker. It's going to go at the pace it needs to go."

But maybe the juiciest part was saved for the end. Straight up: Will Crosby play Saturday in Toronto against the Maple Leafs?

"No," Shero responded. "I'd like to play him at home first probably. Does it matter though, really? He's going to want to play. The thing with Sidney is that he really wants to play. If I say 'Listen, we want to hold you out until the following Friday because we have a home game' he's going to look at me like 'huh?!'"

You can read through that a little and get the impression that Crosby is almost up to day-to-day status.

The Penguins are at Consol Energy Center on Thursday night to take on the Islanders, but after that they venture on a road trip that keeps them out of Pittsburgh until Nov. 11. I don't think it will be long before odd are released by Bodog on Sidney's return date.

For what it's worth, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review put his own odds on Crosby's return earlier Thursday. "Nov 11 Dallas 2/1; Nov 3 San Jose 8/1; Nov 15 Colorado 10/1; After Nov 30 5/1; Oct 29 in Toronto 25/1."

If the GM is saying things are going well and a guy that covers the team on a daily basis thinks there is a 2-to-1 chance Crosby plays on Veteran's Day, then I can at least say we're getting close.

Now sorry to Jeremy Roenick and all like-minded individuals. Bash away ...

H/t to Pro Hockey Talk

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL 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: August 15, 2011 9:10 am
Edited on: August 15, 2011 4:54 pm

Shero addresses Sidney Crosby status

CrosbyBy: Adam Gretz

Following another series of conflicting reports on Sidney Crosby's status for the start of the upcoming season, Penguins general manager Ray Shero addressed the status of his captain late Sunday night.

Said Shero, via Rob Rossi of the Tribune Review, Crosby has still had symptoms as a result of the concussion that prematurely ended his 2010-11 season, but nothing that's forced him to shut down his offseason workouts. He also pointed out that he's yet to have a situation this offseason where he's needed to be cleared to play.

Shero later addressed the media on Monday, expounding on what Rossi wrote.

"Training camp is a month away, so there's no expectation for me that he won't be ready or will be ready," Shero said. "He's doing his usual routine. He'll probably be in a week before camp starts. We'll evaluate him then.

"I think [Sid] has had some symptoms on and off depending on how hard he's pushed himself. Sid has pushed himself pretty hard this summer, which is the good news. Sid has never had to get to the point where he’s had to shut himself down or anything. That's the good news.

"The thing for me and for the organization is the bigger picture with Sidney Crosby. We want to make sure Sid is 100 percent cleared & ready to play when he does come back. He's not going to be pushed."

It had been a quite a while since the Penguins made any statement regarding Crosby, but after Josh Rimer, the NHL Home Ice Producer for Sirius XM Radio, reported that he heard from three different sources that the Penguins captain may not be ready for the start of the season, the conversation picked back up.

It's certainly nothing to downplay that Crosby is still apparently having some symptoms, but it's also worth noting that, at this point, it has little to do with his availability for the start of the regular season which is still nearly two months away. A lot can change in that time period (good and bad).

Without Crosby (and Evgeni Malkin, who was out with a knee injury) for half of the season the Penguins offense dropped significantly last season from years past, and ended up costing them in the postseason where they were eliminated in the first round by the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games after jumping out to a 3-1 series lead. Malkin's rehab seems to be on track, but Crosby's remains a mystery surrounded with plenty of uncertainty.

At this point I'll believe he'll be back for the start of the season when he's on the ice and cleared for contact, and actually suited up on October 6th. On the other hand, I'll believe he won't be back when he's not on the ice on October 6th. Anything else is hard to believe at this point.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: March 22, 2011 3:30 am

Morning Skate: Bylsma deserves Jack Adams votes

Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma may have wrapped up the Jack Adams Award on Monday. 

There are plenty of deserving candidates for the NHL’s version of coach of the year. Alain Vigneault’s Vancouver Canucks were the first team to clinch a playoff berth and are likely to lay claim to the franchise’s first Presidents’ Trophy.  Jacques Lemaire was plucked out of retirement and led the New Jersey Devils from the basement to a chance at the postseason in few short months. Peter Laviolette has had the Philadelphia Flyers in first place in the East for most of the season. 

Still, Bylsma’s coaching effort can’t be overlooked. He’s lost Evegni Malkin for the season to a knee injury and his superstar center, Sidney Crosby, hasn’t played since the first week of January due to a concussion and his return this season remains a question mark. He’s also seen cogs like forwards Jordan Staal and Chris Kunitz along with defenseman Brooks Orpik miss time. 

The Pens entered play Monday night with 296 man games lost due to injury --- and that’s not counting the suspensions. The most recent was handed down before Monday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings as the league slapped forward Matt Cooke with a ban that extends through the rest of the regular season (10 games) and the first round of the playoffs.

Line Changes

Then the Penguins went on to beat the Red Wings, 5-4, in a shootout. While it’ll be a stretch for the Pens to overtake the Flyers in the Atlantic Division, the chance they could remain in fourth and host a first-round series is a feat all things considered. 

Bylsma shrugged off all the "woe is me" talk when he spoke to The Grand Rapids Press’ Michael Zuidema on Monday

“From within our room, we don’t feel like we’ve dealt with as much adversity as people outside our room think that we’ve dealt with,” he said. “We understand that there are injuries and I don’t think it’s a lot different than other teams. We’ve continued to focus on how we play and our execution level.”

GM Ray Shero and the Pens scouting staff deserves a nod brining in some help before the trading deadline. Forward James Neal and defenseman Matt Niskanen were acquired from the Dallas Stars for defenseman Alex Goligoski. Forward Alexei Kovalev was also brought back to Pittsburgh in exchange for a conditional draft pick with the Ottawa Senators

Bylsma, the easygoing former NHL player from Grand Haven, Mich., has made the pieces fit and that was recognized earlier this month with a three-year contract extension. Maybe he’ll get that Jack Adams Trophy -- an award voted on by the NHL Broadcasters Association -- to go next to the mementos from his 2009 Stanley Cup title run. 

Pittsburgh 5, Detroit 4 (SO)
Los Angeles 2, Calgary 1 (SO)
-- A.J. Perez
Credit: Getty Images
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com