On the lighter side of the NHL Draft, here are some things to take away from being at the NHL Draft and experiencing it live.
1. Pittsburgh was a Great Host
For an event that offered free tickets, you expected a town crazy about the Penguins to grab tickets, along with fans of other teams to make the trip to the city for the two day event.
Round one saw a large turnout, with the upper bowl filled near capacity, with the lower bowl, with prospects and their families occupied as well. The drama involving Jordan Staal made it even better for the home crowd.
2. Taking Roll was Fun
Roll call is common and traditional. You make sure all 30 clubs are at the tables. Pittsburgh Penguin fans response to Philadelphia had boos louder than the applause given when Pittsburgh was called. Washington and Toronto, along with the rest of the Atlantic Division heard the boo birds. It was tough for Paul Holmgren to inform the league they were present. Then again, everyone knew they were there.
3. Playing "Name That Tune" As Players were Selected
In the first round, as the prospects were drafted. The soundtrack included selections from "Remember the Titans," "Rudy," and "The Patriot." A little Arcade Fire was thrown in too between picks. I was just waiting for "Call Me Maybe" to start playing.
4. Are You the Media, a Prospect, or an NHL Player?
Just walking into Consol Energy Center, I saw Phil Boroque, Steve Mears, and I was walking next to Joe Sakic on the way out. Talk about a star-studded event of hockey people.
5. Beating Traffic? I Should've Known
Pittsburgh Penguin fans have been ripped for leaving games early to beat traffic. After the Penguins selected their second pick in the first round, a cluster of people filed to the exits. At that point, another trade involving Parise, Suter, or even Yandle at the end of the first round would have been great. Much like when the team comes back in the last few minutes to win, another big trade by Shero and the Penguins would leave them regretting their decision to leave. It's also Friday night. What are you getting up so early for? Hopefully it's to get back for rounds two through seven.
6. Rounds 2-7 a Sprint, Not a Marathon
NHL Network gave the final six rounds of the draft four hours. The NHL ripped through the final rounds in less than 3 hours. You didn't have time to write down who went where before another pick was made. Not a bad thing. Don't wanna keep people inside all day.
This past Thursday created a buzz around the NHL and the city of Pittsburgh as the city was preparing to host the 2012 NHL Draft. With everyone getting 24 hours to state their opinion on the Jordan Staal situation, it would be the main attraction as the draft opened at Consol Energy Center around 7p.m.
Watching the crowded floor with 30 different table moving back and forth, Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ray Shero, who said there would be changes after the Penguins second straight year departing from the first round, made a move.
As Commissioner Gary Bettman stepped to the podium after the Wild made their pick, putting the majority of people on hand on the edge of their seats. When the trade was announced, a somewhat interesting mix of shock and boos that later turned to applause as fans were told what was exchanged. Then selecting Derrick Pouliot displayed how the Penguins are addressing the defensive side of their game.
The winner of the Staal trade is...both the Penguins and the Hurricanes. The Canes get Staal, a third line center in Pittsburgh who can be a first, second line center in Carolina and in any of the other 28 franchises in the league. In a way, it was a bittersweet wedding gift from Ray Shero to Jordan Staal and his now wife. Shero knew Staal would excel wherever he went. Six seasons in Pittsburgh playing behind Crosby and Malkin in a three center system many teams would kill to have prepared him for this next chapter in his career.
For the Penguins, a busy first round which saw Staal go and grabbing Brandon Sutter and Brian Dumoulin. Dumoulin could find himself in the minors when the season starts, but he could be a call-up. Sutter is a veteran, although not exactly Jordan Staal, he can fill that third-line spot for a smaller price. Trading Michalek to Phoenix for three players opened up cap space. This lets Shero enter the Zach Parise sweepstakes once free agency begins in July.
Imagine Parise on the same line as Sidney Crosby. You probably have already. Getting Parise in the free agency market would be big for Pittsburgh. The Penguins could find themselves in a situation with renegotiating Crosby and Malkin's contracts in the next two years. If the Penguins could gain more cap space, they could keep Crosby, Malkin and Parise for a while. If they are not careful, they could lose Evgeni Malkin.
There's a lot of optimism after this weekend. Ray Shero, who has gained the trust of the front office and fans in Pittsburgh, is playing with house money and like any general manager, is making a gamble with a signing. So the two days of picks is only the start of what is going to be an interesting next few weeks.
Well any talk of who the Pittsburgh Penguins would take in the first round of Friday night's NHL Draft at Consol Energy Center, has changed to whether or not Jordan Staal is going to be a part of a draft day trade.
Jordan Staal, a member of a Penguins squad that has him playing the role of a third line center, when on paper, Staal could be the first line center on a team like the Columbus Blue Jackets or the Carolina Hurricanes, a team that has shown the most interested in getting Staal in a trade if the Penguins make a move this weekend.
Staal's contract is up next season. He could play out the rest of his contract, and make $4.5 million, $1.5 million less than he would get in the 10 year, $6 million contract he has turned down according to reports. Is Staal worthy of a bigger contract? Yes, he is. But the Penguins are dealing with a "Sophie's Choice" scenario between the face of the franchise, the current league MVP and him.
Everyone of them has an argument of why they deserve to stay in Pittsburgh. Staal has been a versatile player since the Penguins drafted him. A player that has come up big on the offensive and defensive side of the ice, especially his penalty-killing ability and producing short-handed opportunities.
Staal is the odd man out in this situation. Most people should've seen that a mile away. Penguin fans shouldn't crucify Staal for making the choice not to accept the contract. He is a talented player that plays on a team with overloaded talent in the center position. Staal is a first, second line center on most other NHL teams. Pittsburgh has been fortunate to have three great players. But with a cap and Malkin and Crosby's contracts between now and 2014, the Penguins trading him could clear up some room.
So realize that someone was gonna go. Unfortunately, the goodbye might come too early for most in Pittsburgh. We'll know soon.
So you have another reason to tune into the NHL Draft tomorrow night. I'll be there live-tweeting, so make sure to follow @Gallagher412
If there is one defenseman that would be a good fit for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the future, Derrick Pouliot of the Western Hockey League's Portland Winterhawks can be an all-around defender for the Penguins on both ends of the ice.
QUARTERBACK ON THE POWER PLAY
Looking at the numbers that Pouliot has put up in his time with the Winterhawks shows that he can be a big factor on a power play.
We think back a few years ago when Sergei Gonchar was anchoring the power plays for the Penguins. Pouliot had 11 goals in 2011-12 with Portland. His +/- being 15 is almost identical to Gonchar's in the Penguins Stanley Cup year in 2008 which was 13. Kris Letang is the man the Penguins depend on now. Developing Pouliot for the future would be a good investment.
A FEW SHORTCOMINGS THAT CAN BE FIXED
Pouliot, according to some scouts, does make a few small mistakes in the fundamentals. Other than that, these are things that can be overcome. After all, the Penguins shouldn't expect him to be up in the NHL level for a few seasons. Even if he goes back to Portland to play, time to develop there and in Wilkes/Barre Scranton will help.
GET HIM IF HE'S AVAILABLE
There are a lot of defenders in the draft this year expected to go in the first round. Derrick Pouliot could go before the Penguins select. If he doesn't go in the late teens, early twenties like many expect him too, the Penguins should jump at the opportunity. The Penguins are also setting their sights on a left winger. They are light on left wingers down in the minors, but a defensive player is not a bad investment either.
Pouliot should be a favorite of many teams looking for a defenseman in the first round, especially halfway through the round. The Penguins showed in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs that they need a change in their defense. Not just a great point player on the power play, but an all-around player.
Video courtesy of the Pittsburgh Penguins
A Letter To Pedro Alvarez
You looked good this weekend. Four home runs in two days, nine RBI's. I love seeing that out of you. After all, you are the guy the Pirates are paying a lot of money to come up big when there are runners on base, mainly as a "cleanup hitter."
Now I know that you haven't found a consistent groove in the first 60 plus game this season. I've been told that being patient is better than making irrational decisions, like sending you to Indianapolis and bringing up Marte or even Tony Sanchez. You create a love/hate relationship between the fans and yourself, which makes us look really bad after the last two days for suggesting these moves. Then again, they don't sound bad during a majority of the weeks that have passed during the season.
I'll be straight with you El Toro, and may I say giving yourself your own nickname and telling the media and fans to call you that is a little shallow. Bob Prince wouldn't stand for it. But back to my main points, we like this side of you. The way you drove both home runs today into the right field seats at Progressive Field, and gave us enough insurance after Brad Lincoln struggled in a second straight start. We wanna see more of that. Stop giving us reasons to boo you and call into radio shows demanding you be demoted to AAA.
Swing at a pitch down the middle, don't get behind 0-2 looking at two strikes and understand this too. McCutchen is the only real power on your teams offense. Help a star like him out. In case you didn't know, we look at you to be a star too. No pressure.
The Orioles have four players hitting over .300 on their team. One of them was Steve Pearce. He has the highest batting average! Steve Pearce Pedro! He used to play for us! Don't you think Huntington and Nutting feel stupid?
We're not asking for two home runs in every game. Just be there when we need you, and learn to hit off pitchers who throw both left-handed and right-handed.
Every Pirates Fan
That's My Bucs
Well, looking at the past few days, I spent money on two sub-par performances. One being the Pirates 12-6 loss on Thursday at Baltimore, and Adam Sandler's new film "That's My Boy."
The Pirates play over the last week is like an Adam Sandler flick. You pay to see it, but you don't have that high of expectations and you know it might be a flop. In the end, both were bad and made me laugh at times.
For Sandler's new movie, we held out little hope it was a throwback to the old Sandler, much like Pirates fans hope for the offense to return to its 1992 form. Both dissapoint and we leave both Camden Yards and the theatre frustrated.
I knew what I was getting into seeing "That's My Boy." It was a movie just to kill time in a Maryland outlet mall on a Friday afternoon. I also wanted to see Rex Ryan act and praise Tom Brady and Belichek.
But the Pirates, you expect better, no matter how pessimistic you may be. As long as Happy Madison Productions doesn't buy the Pirates off of Bob Nutting, they'll be fine.
Well, it's all over. The Los Angeles Kings pulled off one the greatest playoff runs in NHL history. An eighth seed who went 16-4 and only lost one game on the road during the two month quest for the Stanley Cup.
Here are some things we learned from watching this club win the 2012 Stanley Cup:
5. Los Angeles Catches Hockey Fever
OK, LA's next-door neighbor Anaheim saw the Ducks take the Stanley Cup in 2007 over the Ottawa Senators, the second year after the lockout. So hockey was slowly getting its carbon footprint back on the United States demographic.
The Los Angeles Kings got lost in the Bermuda Triangle of the league, the sunbelt. In a city that has been dominated by the Lakers and the growing love of "Lob City," the Kings always played a smaller role in the area. Now you can call many in that fanbase "bandwagoners," but every team has them and they came out in full support of the Kings. In a way, it's good for markets like southern California, but consistency in winning will be needed to keep them hooked. You had to feel good for Al Michaels. The man has been going to Kings games since the early days in the old LA Forum. My father thought they still played there.
When it came to celebrities, the Alyssa Milano's and Matthew Perry's couldn't compare to Jack Nicholson and the bigger A list celebs you see at Laker games. But it's a start.
4. Kings 2, Flyers 0
The Philadelphia Flyers made a bold move in the off-season that sent captain Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings and Jeff Carter to Columbus. They acquired younger players and a goaltender in Ilya Bryzgalov to build a team that was expected to have strong odds to win the Stanley Cup. Anything less would be a failure.
The Kings pulled Jeff Carter out of the sink-hole that was Columbus at the request of Richards. The Kings improved under Sutter and only lost 9 games in regulation following the Carter pick-up. Richards, Carter and Gagne, all former Flyers, were hoisting the Cup not in Flyers orange and black, but in LA silver and black. You couldn't help but chuckle when Richards started skating with the Stanley Cup.
The Flyers still have a group that can compete for a Stanley Cup, but the Los Angeles Kings gelled at the right time. That's why they play two months of playoff hockey. Just tell Bryz to focus on the game more and not the universe.
3. Lack of Offense, No Problem
Much like a nerd on prom night, the Kings had trouble scoring. They had the second lowest goals for (194) during the regular season. But when you have a goalie like Johnathon Quick, your lack of offense is not over exposed.
The Kings took advantage of power plays and fast breaks with most of their scoring and finding opportunities in the slot when they got them. They missed the net a lot too with their shots, but the "Quick Factor" is a diversion for the Kings.
Fans of the fast-paced high scoring games were disappointed with the lack of offense in the series. Look at the brighter side. Four of the six games were close up until the end of regulation and the first two went to OT. But yes, a 3-3 tie going into overtime is better than 1-1. Most of the time.
2. USA! USA!
If you paid attention to detail during the Finals, you would have noticed that Johnathon Quick, the Conn Smythe winner and captain Dustin Brown, are both American players. In a country that doesn't embrace the game on a national level like we do with the NFL or NBA, the idea that an American captain lead a team to a championship, a rare event in the NHL, helps the national pride in a regional sport like hockey.
Expect Quick to be a consideration for the starting job in net for the 2014 Olympics in Russia.
1. Numbers Mean Nothing
Eighth seed, second to last in goals for? Didn't mean a thing in the playoffs. The Los Angeles Kings peaked at the right time, sending a message to the league after beating the Stanley Cup favorite Vancouver Canucks in five game in the first round, a sweep of the rising St. Louis Blues, and polishing off the Coyotes in five as well going into the Final. Just shows you that any team can go far, regardless of seed. Anyone remember the seven vs. eight seed of the Flyers and Canadiens from the 2010 Eastern Conference Final?
So for the fans that dwell on the numbers, put down the pen and pad, take your eyes off the computer with the Kings regular season stats, and just enjoy what they did during the postseason.
As I say every year to the winning city. Enjoy the win. Celebrate having the 119 year-old trophy in your city for the summer. You never know when you'll win it again.
A few weeks ago, many in Pittsburgh, with the Pirates only a few games out of first and only a game or two under .500, were busy looking at the doom and gloom of the future. The Pirates have had stellar pitching this season, which kept them in most games and helped them win many of their first 40 games.
Some said that patience was the key and to wait until June 1 to make any moves. Like sending Pedro Alvarez to AAA, and bringing up Starling Marte, and if we were that desperate, promote Tony Sanchez from AA to the big show. Getting rid of Nate McLouth was a good move anyway.
The offense made the fans cringe and gave them a sense with no offense, and being unable to determine the health of the bullpen come mid-August, many saw the Pirates looking at another 90 plus loss season, completing two decades of mediocraty. One in which my younger sisters, ages 19 and 15, have never been alive for a winning Bucco squad.
Many reached their boiling point when Justin Verlander almost no-hit the Pirates back on May 18. But after that disaster, things slowly got better for the Pirates.
One positive is that most of your regular starter are batting over .200. In the last 7 games, 6 players are hitting over .300. Clint Barmes is one that constantly heard the boo birds at PNC Park. Over the past few games, they are slowly fading away. While Alvarez may not be the best clean-up hitter, he's the best the Pirates have currently and even he himself has improved. Barajas is another, coming up in clutch situations. The guys we were calling rejects are starting to come around. The guys we said we couldn't depend on. The Bucs are also 12-7 since Verlander's chance at a no-no.
The Pirates are now 30-27, two games out of first place in the National League Central and are hitting the ball. Pirate fever has made its way slowly back to the North Shore for another summer romance between the people of Pittsburgh and the Battlin' Buccos. In 2012, the division is weaker, and the pitching is deeper for the Pirates. With Karstens and Morton injured, the Pirates would like to have them back. Burnett, despite the rocky game in St. Louis early in the year, has been living up to most of the hype since being dumped by the Yankees for a bargain price. If the Pirates offense can continue to hit, be smart buyers at the deadline, and if the pitching stays consistent, we might be talking a run into September.
As Ernie Pontieri says in the song, "You Gotta Believe"
KINGS TAKE LORD STANLEY?
I'll be honest up front. I am not the biggest fan of the NBA. I love college basketball but the NBA has never been that appealing to me. Maybe because I live in a city that rejects professional basketball, but embraces the Pittsburgh Panthers.
I can say that I have been watching the less popular selection to many, the Stanley Cup Final. Yes, I know, the ratings are terrible, Games 3 and 4 are on a cable channel most have to call their provider to find out where it is, and when the NBA Draft Lottery beats out Game 1 of the Finals in viewers, you can only sit back and deal with it.
I am someone (even when the team I cheer for is eliminated from the postseason), who will still stay tuned into the action. I often find myself cheering for a team. Like many in southern California, the Kings bandwagon has been occupied by me since they took out the Canucks in five games. An eighth seed that made waves late in the season, especially when they picked up Jeff Carer off a sinking ship in Columbus that still needs further repairs. The Kings didn't score a lot of goals during the regular season, but they scored when they had their chances and Johnathon Quick has become a name many hockey fanatics now know. Move over Marty? No, not yet. Quick has been the main reason the Kings are 15-3 in the postseason and only one win away from raising a Stanley Cup banner along with all the championship banners belonging to the Lakers.
If the Kings finish the series back in New Jersey Saturday night, they would accomplish two feats never done in the modern conference playoff format dating back to 1994. The only eighth seed to win the Stanley Cup and a probable 16-3 record would be the best by a team in the postseason. Let's face it too. Most of us like the underdog. The Kings play the role differently. From the way they have played, you would've thought they were the #1 seed. Only negative for the Kings, they are 0-3 in Game 4's. Game 5 should be the final one, and the Cup goes back to California for the second time in five years.
Like most, I can't stand the Heat. But the Thunder are making me enjoy postseason basketball a little more this year. When the older Spurs squad that won 20 straight after taking a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals, it looked like it was curtains for the Thunder. Not so much.
One thing that separates the NBA from the NHL is player recognition. You can name at least two players from each of the final four teams in the conference finals. If I asked five people in Pittsburgh who Dustin Penner was, maybe one, if I'm lucky, could tell me who he is. Duncan and Parker, Durant and Westbrook, internationally known. I have a fascination with relocated teams. I always think back to the days of the Supersonics before they moved to Oklahoma City.
Other than that, the younger group of players and the veteran leadership of Durant made it fun to watch them come back and beat the Spurs. Especially when I have enough time to catch the end of Game 6 after Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final finished.
I'm on the Thunder bandwagon, and whoever they play for the championship, the Heat or Celtics, the odds are in the Thunder's favor.