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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.