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Friday, July 30, 2010

And then there were none...

Well he didn't sign before players reported to camp but it was sure close.  For the sixth straight year, the Steelers set up shop in Latrobe with all their draft picks under contract.  Maurkice Pouncey was inked to a five-year deal, the terms of which were undisclosed.  You can imagine that it is probably somewhere north of $10 Million considering the other first round money that has been thrown around. 

The good news for Pouncey is that he is the first rookie Pittsburgh has had in quite a while that may have a chance to actually start in his position.  With all the key injuries to the Steelers O-line, he has the talent to make an impact at center or guard.  He will more than likely be competeing with newly acquired free agent veteran Flozell Adams for a spot on opening day.

The bad news...he is going to be carrying lots of equipment over the next couple months.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

One To Go...

It is being reported that Jason Worilds has come to terms with his contract for the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Details haven't been released as of yet.  If, in fact, that is true, the Steelers will have signed all but one of their 2010 draft picks prior to the start of training camp.  That leaves only first round pick Maurkice Pouncey the only hold out. 

For those that don't know (or care) Jason plays outside linebacker and was drafted in the second round out of Virginia Tech.  While in college, he was listed as a top defensive line player and racked up 14 sacks over three years.  That's not a staggering number by any means but when you consider the fact that throughout the games and offensive schemes he faced, he was double teamed about 85% of the time. 

At the Combine back in February, Jason clocked the fastest 10-yard split among all pass rushers and topped that by putting up offensive back numbers at the Hokies' Pro Day.  He ran 4.47 and 4.54 40s and his 20 yard shuttle was an astonishing 4.07.

Little did he know at the time that he would become heir apparent to Deebo's throne (slight exaggeration).  Just like in years past, Jason will probably be put on special teams since that is where most rookies find their homes.  The key is making an impression with the time he gets.  If he has any semblance of a season like Woodley did his rookie year, there will be plenty of playing time for Jason in the future.  The Steelers just plain sucked on special teams coverage last year and becoming the flower in the rock garden should get him some defensive time.  I think having a player that can substitute for either Woodley or Harrison will come in handy down the stretch.

One left.  Anyone think he will sign before players report to camp tomorrow?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

And There It Is...

(If I was the ref, I'd hit him in the back of the head too.)

I have been trying for the life of me to figure out why this Kovalchuk mess pisses me off so much.  I didn't even blink (chuckled a little but no blinking) when the Hawks gave that kind of deal to Hossa.  I didn't even notice when the Wings gave it to the D/Z connection, for that matter.  But for some reason, this one bugs the crap out of me.  I guess it is because there is a strong case, at least in my mind, that the power players involved with making this deal were either trying to prove a point or making a mockery of the CBA.  Either way, I called shenanigans from the get go.  I saw this as a ploy to sell season tickets and generate some revenue.  Low and behold...

The New York Times has an article that you can go read here if you want but I just wanted to highlight this little morsel...
"...But the Devils benefited from last week’s news conference at Prudential Center in Newark when they announced that Kovalchuk, an unrestricted free agent, had re-signed. Vanderbeek [Jeff; the owner of the team] said there had been a spike in season-ticket sales since then."
And there it is.

You stay silent for the majority of the free agent signing period.  You come out of nowhere with a ridiculous offer that whether violation of the CBA or not, is shady at best.  You are told before hand that it was going to be rejected by the league but you go ahead and have the news conference anyway.  Season ticket sales spike.  Wow!  And I'm the conspiracy theorist?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Voice Of The Pens Arena Passes

This morning I learned of a second Pittsburgh sports related death in a week.  The signature sound for Penguin home games has been silenced. John Barbero, 30+ year veteran PA announcer at the Civic/Mellon Arena, died Monday of complications from a brain tumor. He had been diagnosed with Astrocytoma in February 2009 but finished the season calling the Game 6 win over Detroit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

John began announcing Pens games back in 1972 and sat in that position until his sickness forced him into retirement. While working for the Penguins organization, he also served as principal at Waynesburg High School from 1976-2004. In all that time, he only missed the call of five games, when a child was born and a few field trips and school events. 

"He had the ability to tingle your spine with post-goal announcements, and that will live with Penguins fans forever," Hockey HOF announcer Mike Lange said.

Barbero's voice became iconic after the team drafted Mario Lemieux in 1984.  To perfect his sound, Barbero played around with different pronounciations of players names.  While practicing in the shower, he found one that stuck.  It soon became customary for every fan to shout along...

'The Pittsburgh goal. Scored by No. 66. Mario Lemieuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuux...'

He did that with everyone's name. It was awesome and gave me chills everytime I heard it.

He was such an integral part of the team that Mario ordered an official Stanley Cup championship ring for Barbero, despite not being a team employee.  He will also be a part of the Penguins history display in the new Consol Energy Center.

RIP, John.  You will be dearly missed.

Is It Real...Or Photoshop???

(Is it real, or fake?  The truth is out there.)

This picture had surfaced last year of Michael Jackson dropping the puck in an opening ceremony in Vancouver, circa 1984.  I find it facinating that in this day and age of technology, no one really knows where this photo came from.  The participants to this point have no recollection of this occuring either, although, to my knowledge Mario has never been asked about it.  So the question remains as to it's authenticity.

When you get down to the brass tacks of it, I can find quite a few things here that raise some questions.  I can also find many things that lead me to believe it might be real.  I'm not going to go into my theories quite yet, but if it is fake, the PS'er did a hellava job.

What do you think?

Did we ever get a definitive answer as to whether it was real or not?

Monday, July 26, 2010

I Wish You No Ilya Will

Here comes part two of the Kovalchuk drama.  Well in most people's minds it might be part eight or nine but it's my second post so we are going with part two.

According to the website...
 “The NHLPA has filed a grievance disputing the NHL's rejection of the Standard Player Contract between the New Jersey Devils and Ilya Kovalchuk. Under the terms of the CBA, the NHLPA and Mr. Kovalchuk are entitled to an expedited resolution of this matter. The NHLPA will have no further comment until this matter has been resolved by an Arbitrator.”
So now what happens?  Are we to expect an ongoing saga that lasts up to the beginning of September?  In a perfect world, the answer is no.  But we all know that the perfect world doesn't exist, otherwise the Red Wings and Penguins would play each other every year for the cup until both franchises cease to exist.

The next step is that the NHL and NHLPA must agree to hire a "system" arbitrator to rule on the case.  But wait a minute, you say.  Didn't the original wording of the CBA call for an arbitrator to be hired when it went into effect with any changes being made annually on September 1?  Why yes.  Yes it did...Only they never hired said person.  So now they must choose someone that is long overdue to be in that position.  This process should be done quickly, as the CBA calls for a ruling within 48 hours.  However, I don't see the league or players association playing nice in this situation.  So at this point, we wait to see where Kovy will be next season.

If the arbitrator upholds the NHL’s rejection, Kovalchuk will become an unrestricted free agent again. He can then either restructure his contract with the Devils or sign with another team.  Of course, the biggest speculation here is whether the 15 year $80 Million contract is still on the table with the Kings.  I would imagine it would be considering it is a much smaller offer in terms of money compared to the deal with the Devils, no pun intended (or maybe it was).

On the other hand, if the arbitrator rules that the deal does not violate the collective bargaining agreement and the NHL was in the wrong to have stopped it, the league must approve and register the contract immediately.  Thus, Kovalchuk stays a Devil until he dies on his skates.  Someone will wonder what the smell is in the locker room one day and find his old, decaying body frozen with rigormortis in front of his locker.

The kicker here is that the Devils have no right to appeal and have to wait for the NHLPA to do everything.  Their only recourse is to fix the contract now before it gets to the arbitrator (whoever that may be).  Otherwise, they are at the mercy of the system, which is unfortunate for the team and the fans.  Again, I go back to my original post on this, and my conspiracy theory about big Lou and his shadiness.
To summarize, the Devils signed Kovalchuk to this 17 year contract last Monday but the league informed them that same evening the contract was going to be rejected.  The Devils plowed ahead with their Tuesday Press Circus, announcing the signing anyway, attempting to force a feeding frenzy in their ticket sales department. 

Neither outcome is going to bode well for either the league, the players, or the fans.  I think it would be the best scenario for Kovalchuk to take the deal he originally got from Medvedev in the KHL for 4 years, $40 Million.  Then, he'd be back home in St. Petersburg playing for SKA, his pockets would be lined with the wealth he always wanted, he would be public enemy #1 with Devil fans, the league and NHLPA could continue to ignore the CBA rule structure, and all will be well with the world again.

Coach Cowher's Wife Passes

For what it's worth, I'd like to send my condolances to the Cowher family for the loss of Kaye.  It is a horrible tragedy for any family to lose one of its own and it definitely brings things into prospective. 

Unknown to many, Kaye Cowher had been battling skin cancer.  This was actually one of the big reasons Bill stepped away from coaching after winning the Super Bowl.  He moved with his wife and daughters down to North Carolina in 2007 and began his post NFL career as an analyst for CBS. 

Here is a good write up about Kaye in the Post Gazette.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Pardon Me If This Is Old News, But....


We now have a full site dedicated to the man(boy) the blogging community has grown to love(loathe).  I just can't believe it has taken this long.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Little Commentary on Kovy

(Eye of the Tiger, boys. Eye of the Tiger.)

By now I think most hockey fans (and non-hockey fans since it is being covered by TMZ) know about the whole Kovalchuk fiasco in New Jersey.  For those of you in the dark, let me do my best at grossly overexaggerating the facts and list the events leading up till now.

Free Agency opens with Ilya Kovalchuk as the highest sought after forward on the list.  There are numerous teams that are interested in his services, many of them a bit gun shy for his contract.  The front runner in all this turns into the LA Kings.  Kovy even goes out there to meet with team owners/management, who wine and dine him and give him the "full LA treatment".  Excited about his prospects, he may or may not have run his mouth about certain things, thus creating a frenzy of "will he or won't he".  Meanwhile, back in Gotham, the Devils sit quiet and do nothing.  No comments, no offer sheets, the virtual appearance of a defeatist attitude of a team on the edge of a decade of rebuilding. 

Fast forward a month.  The Kings have been an on-again, off-again contender for the last 30+ days and no one really knows more than sheer speculation and conjecture.  Then comes the bombshell.  Out of nowhere, reports fly that Kovy is staying put and will basically retire in Green and Red.  Where did this all come from?  No one discussed the possibilities of him actually staying in New Jersey.  I was all but convinced the Pens would finally be able to put being swept last season by the Devils behind us.  But here we are.  He is back...or is he?

The deal was probably the most ridiculous I have ever seen.  Essentially, it was a 17 year, $102 Million contract.  And you thought Hossa made out in his deal...  Not so much the money aspect, but the time involved is what blew me away.  He rejected a 12 year, $101 Million contract from Atlanta just to give himself an opportunity to go to a contender.  They traded him to New Jersey in February and he did what he was paid to do.  I can't help but think that this was his motivation to rub it in the face of the Great Ape and his 13 year $124 Million he is getting in Washington.  Both hailing from Russia, Kovalchuk will now earn more money than Ovie over the next six seasons with an annual cap hit of $6 Million.

Now obviously, there is no way on Earth Kovy will be playing at the ripe old age of 44 (Who does he think he is, Chris Chelios?).  He isn't going to play for 17 years and I highly doubt his annual average salary will be as low as $6 Million.  But what can anyone do about it?  The collective bargaining agreement and salary cap requirements hardly give the NHL any recourse to do...STOP THE PRESS, THERE'S MORE!!

The NHL has, today (or yesterday, I don't know), REJECTED the deal saying that it is a circumvention of the CBA.  "Under the CBA, the contract rejection triggers a number of possible next steps that may be elected by any or each of the NHLPA, the Player and/or the Club.  In the interim, the player is not entitled to play under the contract, nor is he entitled to any of the rights and benefits that are provided for thereunder.  The League will have no further comment on this matter pending further developments."  All that from the mouth of NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. 

So in layman's terms, this is a retirement contract.  The Devils aren't the first to offer it, probably won't be the last either, but this kind of thing is done all the time for franchise type players so that they can retire on their teams but not let thier waning years affect the team cap.  In this example, Kovy would get $95 million over the first 10 years and $7 million over the remaining 7.  You do the math.  You can see why I said earlier that I doubt he would only make the $6 million New Jersey would be on the hook for based on cap space.  For you legalfiles, here is a link to the CBA and you can read it yourself.

The league felt that this deal was way too overloaded in the first decade and the only way they were allowing it is if it were restructured.  We are most certainly going to see the NHLPA filing a grievance with the league on behalf of Kovy because, I'm pretty sure he liked that contract.  But until that happens, the contract is dead until an arbitrator makes a decision.

This ultimately raises some questions.  The NHL has thus far, done nothing to stop these types of contracts up to this point.  We have all seen players like Hossa in Chicago or Franzen and Zetterberg in Detroit sign these deals with little fanfare and no peep from the league.  Now with a high profile player like Ilya, they finally decide to step in and act.  Seems a little fishy to me, doesn't it?  What can the NHL and NHLPA do to correct the salary cap issues and fix the CBA?  More importantly, is this going to be the catalyst for another labor dispute and the dreaded "L" word (not the Showtime show)?  With the momentum the NHL has been gaining in popularity, I sure as hell hope not.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

State of the Blog Address

Anyone know what the one year anniversary present is?  It's paper, right?  Yeah, I think it is paper.

I could use this occasion to take time out and reflect on what the last year has brought me in the world of blogging.  I could ramble on and on about how I am grateful to even have blog that I can write about my thoughts.  I could thank everyone who "follows" my writings and has wished me well in my endeavors.  I could wax ecstatic about how generous the blog community is or how much more engaged in the hobby I am because of the blogs.  I could, but I won't. 

It's all done before and been done better.  Everyone of us knows how lucky we all are in being a part of this community.  I am glad to be a part (albeit a small one) of it and I think that says enough.  Plus, unless there is a contest involved, I doubt anyone really cares anyway.  So instead of blubbering over my gratitude's like a Hollywood awards show acceptance speech, I figured I'd just give my 2 cents worth on my time in the blogoverse.

I made it a year despite the fact I didn't think I was going to make it a month.  This has to be the only non-paid, freely voluntary work I have (somewhat) consistently stuck to in my life.  To show for it, I have over 30 people that at least pretend they read my drivel...some on a fairly regular basis.  I have even had some family members acknowledge my random musings once or twice, which I still don't know if it is a good or bad thing.  I have probably increased my collection 10 fold because of all the trading I've done since my arrival here as well.

Because of all that, I think I have grown as a collector and am no longer embarrassed by the fact that I still participate in a "kids" hobby.  Because it isn't a kids hobby.  It is a human hobby.  Those of us that turn on the way-back machine and relive our childhoods each and everyday are the reason the hobby stays alive and will never go away.  Sure it can be time consuming and wallet consuming.  Sure it makes me schizophrenic at times and causes me undue stress and anguish.  Sure it gives me a complex and forces behavior similar to severe obsessive/compulsive disorder.  I'm okay with that.  I'm not afraid of people knowing about my "secret" hobby.  It's all out in the open and I am much more comfortable with it.

I have learned over the past year that my collecting habits have always bordered on the edge of hoarding.  Not hoarding in the sense that I need to go on TV to show off my living room packed to the ceiling with garbage bags of laundry, old pizza boxes, and Hummel figurines.  But hoarding in the sense that I have always kept everything that has come into my collection with very few exceptions.  This isn't limited to cards either.  Programs, ticket stubs, SLU's, Headliners, pennants, photos, etc. have all played a major part in my stockpiling over the years.  I have received numerous inadvertent advice from the blogoverse in regards to focusing my collection and parting with items that really have no meaning to me other than being used as "stuff".  I still have too much "stuff" and if I stick around (which I plan to), I hope that will change. 

I have learned that being a sports fan and a collector both elates me with joy and frustrates me with anger and hostility.  I have always known that I can be a bit of a "sore loser" when it comes to my teams but only when I began writing about it did I realize some of my issues.  Being a fan of Pittsburgh sports teams isn't always fun.  Winning traditions have always been a big part of the city and anything short of a championship is generally considered a failure.  Having an outlet to express about frustrating moments as well as crowning achievements has made me become a better fan (In my opinion of course.  My wife would still disagree with me as would my old coffee table).

I have also learned that I suck as a trade partner.  Too many of my trades with everyone take months to occur.  This isn't fair to anyone involved.  I seem to get packages on a fairly regular basis but my trips to the post office become less and less.  I have two dozen (yes, there is really that many) piles of cards sorted out to go to various people around the world that have been generous enough to send me stuff.  I think I just underestimated the kindness of everyone and got buried in trade proposals.  I assure everyone I am trying to get caught up, and I will.  It's a work in progress and my noviceness (is that a word?) in the logistics of what goes into a trade these days got the better of me.  I guess it's no longer as simple as a few guys sitting in someones bedroom with their binders open, trying to trade all their Expos cards to the new kid for his 1974 Topps cards that his uncle left him and convincing him it's a good deal (all the while trying to accumulating as many 1987 Jose Canseco cards as he can because he knows that guy is the greatest baseball player who ever lived).

I think most of all, I have learned that despite never meeting any of you in person (Sal from Puck Junk being the only exception) I consider everyone of you brothers (and sisters, er, siblings, yeah siblings)-in-arms and would call any of you a colleague and friend.  It has been a fun 365 days and with some concerted effort and a little luck, hopefully it will last a long time.

I guess I just spent the last few moments doing exactly what I set out not to do...patting myself on the back, reflecting on my accomplishments with the blog, gushing about all of the wonderful people out there and chastising myself as a bad blogger.  So with that contradictory commentary, I leave you with the obligatory:  Happy First Blogoversary to The Real DFG blog.

That is all for now.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Return of Had A Bad Day - Episode 6

(Ahhh, the good old days)

I haven't posted one of these in awhile because I was trying to look on the bright side of being a Pittsburgh fan.  With the NFL draft completed, the Steelers have signed all but their top two picks and training camp is just around the corner.  Big Ben has been out of the news for a few weeks and things are starting to look up on that front.  The Penguins, while missing out on defending their Cup, struck gold in the FA Frenzy a couple weeks ago by letting Gonchar walk but getting the top two defenseman available.  It's also the All Star Break in baseball and the Pirates are going into it with a 6 game losing streak and are 18 games out of 1st.  Okay so all the news isn't great but did anyone really think this was the Bucs year?

So that little segue brings me to the 6th day on my list of bad days as a Pittsburgh fan.  In fact, yesterday marked the 9 year anniversary of the day my favorite hockey player of all time was traded to Washington for a box of nails, some half-used chapstick, and a bag of chocolate donuts.  Yes, my friends, today's episode recaps the events that turned Jaromir Jagr into a Capital.

(Possibly the greatest hockey haircut of all time.)

I spent a good portion of my youth having the luxury of having two of the biggest hockey players to walk the face of the earth on my team.  When the Penguins drafted Jaromir Jagr in the first round of the 1990 Entry Draft, I really didn't know who he was or why I should care about a guy from Czechoslovakia that couldn't speak English.  The only thing that I did know is that he and I shared the same hair cut; thick dark brown/black hair that was as wavy as the ocean, with a little party action in the back for good measure.  The only thing missing was the Aqua Net.

Anyone who didn't know about this phenom was quick to find out.  Jagr was a key element in the Penguins winning back to back Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992.  His talent was virtually unmatched on the ice and his playmaking abilities were only shadowed by the fact that he always played on the same team with Super Mario.  In fact, the comparisons between the two are so great that if you scramble Jaromir's first name, you get Mario Jr.  Freaky, isn't it?  Denying his offensive talent is impossible considering there were only three Art Ross winners from 1981-2001...Wayne Gretzky (10-only because he had no equal until 1986), Mario Lemieux (6-only because of lingering injuries and cancer cutting his career short), and Jaromir Jagr (5).

I'd like to know who the scout was that was quoted on the back of his 1990-91 Score rookie card.  He said "He is not real flashy; he doesn't attract you with his finesse as much as his overall performance in all areas of the game."  That is priceless.

After Ron Francis took off from Pittsburgh to be reunited with his original franchise in Carolina, Jagr took over the captaincy of the team.  For four straight seasons, he led the league in scoring and capped off an 11 year playoff run.  But in 2000, things went south.  His relationship with his teammates became strained when he fell into a scoring slump.  He lashed out at both players and coaches and publically criticized team officials, alienating himself in the process.  Despite efforts to appease Jagr, like bringing in a European friendly coaching staffs and picking up some of his fellow countrymen as teammates, he was desperately unhappy and it showed.  2001 was the year the Mario came out of retirement but even "getting the band back together" did little for his motivation.  Jagr began asking to be traded.

On July 11, Craig Patrick called Jagr at his home in the Czech Republic, letting him know he had been traded.  Prior to his departure, he was costing the Pens (already bankrupt for the second time) about $10 million per year, which many people felt was what kept the Pens from adding that key element to pushing them over the top.  The Rangers tried to broker a deal but fell short in the negotiations.  Washington, fresh off the "Jordan Experiment" were happy to take a shot at the man that single handedly killed their playoff runs each and every year.  Jagr became the highest paid player in NHL history with his $77 million dollar contract. 

Trading for arguably the best player in the world is going to surely cost you something.  If you are adamant about adding that kind of caliber talent, you have to be prepared to give up some draft picks, semi/all star talent, and some cash.  So what did the Pens get in return?  3 minor league players...Michal Sivek, Ross Lupaschuk, and Kris Beech!!  Not since the indians traded Manhattan had their been such an insult of a trade (at least in the mind of Pittsburgh fans).  But wait, you say!  These are some quality prospects, you say!  Well, let me break it down for you...

At that point in time, here is what we gave up:

Games Played - 806
Goals - 439
Assists - 640
Points - 1079
Hart Trophy in 1999 (4 other as a finalist)
5-time Art Ross Trophy
2-time Pearson Award (Player MVP)
6-time First Team All Star (1 Second Team)
All Rookie Team
Olympic Gold Medal Winner

And....drumroll is what we got in return:

Michal Sivek - Second round draft pick of the Caps in 1999.  Played 38 games for the Penguins in 2002-03, scoring 3 goals and 3 assists.  Returned to the Czech Republic in 2004.

Ross Lupaschuk - Second round draft pick of the Caps in 1999.  Played 3 games for the Pens in 2002-03 racking up two penalties and no points.

(Just the fact that he is touching the Cup makes me want to throw up.)

Kris Beech - The #7 draft pick in the 1999 Entry Draft.  Played in 95 games for the Pens over three years (technically 100 because he came back in 2007 and played 5 more).  Contributed a total of 27 points in both "runs" with Pittsburgh.  My favorite was his awesomely bad -25 in +/- rating.  He also played for the Predators, Capitals again, Blue Jackets, Canucks, and now resides in Sweden.

So let me sum this up.  A franchise player, one of the greatest of all time, leads the league consistently, is a proven winner, and has a cult-like fan following is worth on the open market in trade value...3 unproven draft picks from a few years ago that will ultimately amount to NOTHING!  What a deal!! 

That was the beginning of the downward spiral for the Pens.  They would live in obscurity and became the virtual joke of the NHL.  This time in Pens history is referred to by many as the "Dark Ages" because of the lack of talent and futility of competition that was brought to the team.  That is, of course, until a random bounce of a lottery ball in 2005 changed Penguins history forever.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

2010-11 Upper Deck Hockey is coming

What's that you say?  You have thousands, possibly millions of 1990-91 Upper Deck cards and you don't remember this one.  That's because it didn't exist (not to mention Iginla didn't have a card until his '94 SP draft pick card).  This is a sample from the soon to be released 2010-11 Upper Deck Series I Hockey.

Scheduled for November, Upper Deck is planning thier unveiling of thier flagship hockey set, celebrating 20 years in the making.  This is the design Upper Deck used to launch themselves into the hockey card market back then and they are bringing it back.  These will be featured as a base parallel set randomly inserted into packs at about 1/4 packs.  In the world of retro themed sets, I can think of a lot worse of a product to model these after.  In other words, for nostalgia sake, I like them.

The base cards will look very similar to their baseball counterparts, with the black & white photo adorning the bottom border of the card.  They typical full bleed action shots that we have all become accustomed to will also be there.  Other insert sets look to include a Clear Cut Lineage Set which appear to be acetate or at least "see through" and feature three players from a teams history and are serial numbered, Clear Cut Champions which look to be "diecut" around a Stanley Cup shape and numbered, the standard run-of-the-mill UD Jersey set that everyone is learning to despise, and the ever-popular Young Guns which should fall about 6 per hobby box.

Beckett has the release story over on their blog if anyone wants to check it out.  I am not a product previewer by any means but when I saw this, with the exception of their GU design, it got me excited to see the puck drop again (I know it has only been about a month but I'm going through withdrawal).

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Random Steeler Monday (On Tuesday)/Social Commentary - - LaMarr Woodley

In these desperate times we live in, it is sometimes hard to find a hero.  With countless stories in the news about primadonna players demanding more pay for less effort and endless bouts with Johnny Law, it would appear that Superman is dead, so to speak.  Of course, you all know I am being facetious but the point is there.  What ever happened to the "role-model" type player?  Or I guess a better question is, was there ever really such a thing in the first place?

I ran across this article today that would have made for a great segue into my random Steeler of the week posts that I have been doing but I failed to remember that today was Tuesday.  Nonetheless, this is a Steeler that I have great respect for and have admired since he came to the organization a few years ago.  The guy's work ethic is almost unmatched and his committment to give back to his community is legendary.  Today, that player is LaMarr Woodley. 

I decided to "borrow" the article and repost it here because it is poinient and timely, especially in light of some of the latest shenanigans caused by some notable perpetrators (including one of his own teammates).  The article comes from the July 2010 issue of Pittsburgh Magazine.  It is a very good read.

It was midnight, and LaMarr Woodley was preparing for the graveyard shift. Just hours after the Pittsburgh Steelers had suffered a demoralizing, late-November overtime loss to the lowly Kansas City Chiefs, the team plane touched down at Pittsburgh International Airport.

All the players were stunned, shoe-gazing and more than ready to go home and sleep off the gut-punching loss. Everyone except for Woodley, the team’s 25-year-old star linebacker.

Wasting no time, Woodley tossed his suitcase into his SUV and tore up I-80 heading north. He drove for hours, winding around the cusp of Lake Erie until the black horizon turned purple. Finally, at the break of dawn, he reached the blighted manufacturing city of Saginaw, Mich., his hometown.

People were already lining up on the windswept front lawn of the Civitan Rec Center—the free gym where Woodley spent most of his childhood. Their faces lit up when they saw their hero, who was carrying bags of household items for the approaching Thanksgiving holiday. For three hours, Woodley and other volunteers gave out napkins, plates, forks, dish detergent and other essential items to more than 500 families.

"Win or lose, it’s important to put the game aside,” Woodley explains. “I made a commitment to the community that I would be there, so I had to fulfill that promise.”

Twenty-four hours later, he was back in Pittsburgh handing out frozen turkeys at a recreation center in Hazelwood.

On the field, Woodley’s strongest asset is what pundits like to call his “motor.” Or, in non-gridiron speak, his heart. A first-time Pro Bowler in 2009, Woodley racked up 25 sacks in the past two seasons. Only four NFL players have more in that span. Yet the second-round draft pick from the University of Michigan makes less money than the backup goaltender of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Currently in the final year of his rookie contract, worth $550K this season, Woodley had every right to join in on the NFL’s hottest summer trend—holding out of training camp for a raise. The Tennessee Titans’ stud running back Chris Johnson did it. Even $100 million man Albert Haynesworth was a no-show at the Washington Redskins’ mini-camp because of hurt feelings over trade rumors.

But when the Steelers opened the doors of their South Side training facility for optional team workouts in May, there was Woodley, crushing tackling dummies in the pouring rain when he could have been at home relaxing on a “Dora the Explorer” marathon with his 2-year-old daughter, Gabrielle.

“If I miss workouts and training camp, I not only hurt myself, but I hurt the team,” he says. “I don’t want to fall behind because I’m worried about dollar signs.”

At times, Woodley’s immense strength and anticipation on the field make him look like a man among boys. The same could be said about his humility and class in a league that has been sullied by tawdry Tweets, lavatorial lasciviousness and camera-phone preening. But at the Boys & Girls Club in Wilkinsburg, where Woodley also volunteers, he’s just one of the kids.

“I was there when LaMarr first showed up at the club, and it was like magic,” says Mike Hepler, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania. “He spent at least four hours playing ping-pong, basketball and pool with the kids. Later that day, I went downstairs where everyone was having snacks, and there was LaMarr eating a big bowl of tuna fish like all the other kids.”

But that’s not Hepler’s favorite Woodley story. When Woodley first arrived at the club, he was submerged in a sea of excited kids who were far from awe-struck, Hepler recalls. A little girl came running up to the 265-pound linebacker with her hand raised to the sky. “Mister LaMarr,” she said, “do you have a girlfriend?” Woodley disarmed her with his warm smile, but then it was the boys’ turn to grill him. “Mister LaMarr,” one kid piped up, “how much money do you make?”

Woodley thought about it for a few seconds, then said, “Enough.”

What a refreshing answer.

If there is one man who deserves mega-money from the Steelers, it’s Woodley. After all, he has a knack for paying it back in spades.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Well Thought Out Yet Completely Random Penguin Card of the Week

This time, I felt like going backward featuring a 1970-71 Jim Morrison card.  Is it just me or did guys in the old days just look older than they do now?  At any rate...

Jim Morrison only played for the Pens for two seasons, joining the team in their third season of existence.  He was an offensive defenseman for most of his hockey playing career...which, by the way, spanned from 1949-50 through 1972-73. 

Rather than go on about his playing career, already did a nice write up on his four decade spanning career.  You can check it out here.

Another reason I picked a 1971 Jim in 1971 the more famous Jim Morrison of the Doors died in his Paris apartment bathtub.  Nobody knows why and no one ever will.  But, whether you are a Doors fan or not is irrelevant to the fact that there is no denying the talent of Jim and his song writing abilities. 

R.I.P. Lizard King.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Update #5 - Happy Unrestricted Free Canada Day

Happy Canada Day to everyone north of the border (well north of my border).  It is interesting that Canada Day falls on the same day as the Free Agent Frenzy in the NHL begins.  What a coincidence....or maybe it's not. 

Canada Day is sort of like, in a round about kind of way, like Independence Day in the US.  I'm not Canadian so I won't claim to have first hand experience with this but I was a history major in college and I believe it commemorates the joining of the provinces into a federation...or something like that.  Either way, it is a national holiday and everyone has off work and their is no mail, etc, etc.

More importantly though, it is Free Agent day in the NHL.  There are so many UFA's and RFA's out there on the wire that it would make your head spin.  To give you an idea, head over to The Cap Geek and their pretty thorough list.  Some interesting names you will find on there include the likes of Ilya Kovalchuk, Evgeni Nabokov, Sergei Gonchar, Ray Whitney, Teemu Selanne, and many many more. 

But in typical DFG fashion, I want to focus on the quagmire of cap issues that are affecting the Pens.  In all my years of watching the Penguins, I never remember a year where so many players were on the free agent list.  If you include all the players the Pens have contracts with, Pittsburgh has 15 guys on the bubble.  Of those 15, 8 players saw playing time on the Pens last season and 1 other player saw NHL time (that being Hamhuis).  The rest are all two-way contracted players that spent last season bouncing between Wilkes-Barre Scranton and Wheeling.  So, for argument sake, we will say there are basically 8 pressing issues to deal with.

#1  Sergei Gonchar $5M cap hit- Bottom line here is that he isn't getting any younger.  He did not win any support from the club with his disappearing act in the final few games of this years playoffs and I think the fact that Shero didn't moved on him sooner is a sure sign that they are looking elsewhere for help on the D.  What that means to the team however, is that the leader of the powerplay is now gone, along with a solid 40-50 points of offense.  With very little room under the cap, he is going to be difficult to replace.

UPDATE:  Gonchar signs a three year $5.5M contract with a NTC for Ottawa.  I didn't know they still had a team in Ottawa.  When he can't finish or goes down with an injury, they will see.

#2  Alexei Ponikarovsky $2.1M cap hit- I think I was the only one that liked this trade in the beginning.  What's the saying...hind sight is always 20/20?  We just simply gave up too much to get Poni from Toronto.  He failed to live up to expectations and with the exception of a handful of games, his on ice presence was virtually non-existent.  The organization would be better off letting this one go and trying to tap the market for a sub $2M forward. 

#3 Mark Eaton $2M cap hit - I will admit, I actually like Mark.  Maybe it's because we are about the same age.  Maybe it's because I have followed his career since he got into the NHL.  Maybe I'm just an idiot.  (maybe all three).  Eaton is a stay at home defenseman and only gets noticed when he does something bad.  That's how I was in elementary school.  Maybe that's why I like him.  He doesn't score goals and is hardly seen on offense.  But, that's the thing, he isn't paid for that.  His downfall and possible doom when it comes to staying is the fact that he was non-existent in the playoffs.  Recent memories burn brightest.

UPDATE:  Mark is shipping off to Bos...I mean New York...Islanders that is.  He is taking a $2.5M contract with him.  Mark was the first player to emerge as an offensive capable defenseman in the Bylsma led Pens-era but I'm going to guess his string of injuries shortened his tenure. 

#4  Dan Hamhuis $2M cap hit - This could be a bigger issue than it has been made to this point.  They acquired his rights from Philly in return for some draft pick in 2011.  That doesn't mean they get him, though.  Hamhuis is a solid 20 point D-man that could help pilot a top line corps in the absence of Sarge.  He has been a reliable player for the last 5 years and would most certainly be a welcomed addition to Pens.  However, his agent has already committed to shopping him on the open market.  Pittsburgh doesn't have that much negotiating room, especially if they want both Dan and Gonchar.

UPDATE:  Dan Hamhuis is signed by the Canucks!!  Six years...$4.5M per year.  So we could have had a quality D-man for less than $5M...I guess Dan didn't want to play in Pittsburgh.  That's okay though.  There is now potential room for Billy G.  Wishful thinking I know.

#5  Bill Guerin $2M cap hit - Okay. Okay.  I get it.  He's old.  Well so what?  He is by far the elder statesman when it comes to the team.  The tangibles in this case are fare outweighed by the intangibles like experience and leadership, in my opinion.  I'm biased, I know.  But that doesn't change the fact that Billy G is the undisputed leader of goalie screening.  No one else on the team is going to do the dirty work.  We need him.

#6 Ruslan Fedotenko $1.8M cap hit - Two words...I don't care.  Okay that was three words but, guess what?  I don't care.  I have nothing good to say here.  Ruslan, you are dead to me.  Let him slip.

#7 Jordan Leopold $1.75M cap hit - Leopold was a solid trade deadline pick up for the Pens.  He is a great skater and a good puck handler.  He came in and did exactly what he was supposed to do.  That is until the Expert took him out for good.  He just wasn't himself after that.  If it was between him and Eaton, I would still pick Eaton but I would hate to see Jordan end up as a rent-a-player. 

#8 Jay McKee $800K cap hit - 137 blocked shots for under $1M?  I say, "More, Please!!"  You can't buy that kind of grit and heart in the NHL these days.  Guys don't want to get dirty or risk injury.  McKee is a steal at this price, in my opinion.  If it wasn't for injuries, that shot block number could have easily been over 180.  The reality though, is that he did little else than give up the body.  His chances of staying in black and gold are slim to none and slim just left town.

When noon arrives today, we will see how this circus unfolds.

UPDATE:  Ray Shero goes for the gusto to replace Gonchar and signs Zbynek Michalek.  The contract is a 5 year $20M contract that will count as a $4M cap hit/year.  Michalek is going to be a great addition to the Pens as he is very underrated and has flown under everyone's radar for some time.  He is an excellent passing D-man with the ability to set up and captain the powerplay.  that is going (hopefully) to be well worth the $4M.   The Coyotes are going to be sorry they let him go.

UPDATE:  With another stretch play, the Pens sign defenseman Paul Martin, one of the top three D-men in the UFA market.  He only played 22 games because of a broken arm and missed the Olympics but there is no doubt that he is a offensive minded D-man.  The terms of the deal look to be $5M/year for 5 years.  From where I'm standing...defense looks to be done.