TIOPS DAILY FIVE
*Rumblings, Musings, Opinions*
1. Kris Letang has been looked at as a likely Norris Trophy Candidate for months now but don’t take it for granted that he will be. The race to be one of the three finalists really seems to be coming down to Letang, Shea Weber, PK Subban and Erik Karlsson. The top-3 should be Letang, Subban, Karlsson but as mentioned before, there’s a media obsession (media votes on the award) with Weber right now in that he’s paid his dues and will win it this season.
Karlsson has emerged as a legitimate contender to win the award due to the Senators emergence into the playoff mix and he leads all defensemen in points with 59 and leads all NHL players in points since February 10. Karlsson and Letang lead all defensemen in averaging 0.82 points per game.
Karlsson is looking like a lock to be a finalist as will be Weber, which figures to peg Letang up against PK Subban. Scouts will tell you Subban has been even better this season than he was in the lockout shortened season when he won the award.
2. Don’t be surprised to see at least one prominent member of the Penguins front office try to move on to another opportunity this summer, especially if Ray Shero lands in San Jose, as some friction is developing between Jim Rutherford and the left overs from the Shero regime, minus Bill Guerin who has become Rutherford’s right hand man along with Jason Karmanos. Dysfunctional is one word going around and the front office structure put in place was doomed from the beginning once Rutherford hired his buddy Jason Karmanos into a prominent hockey operations role. You can guess on the two who aren’t happy.
3. The Steelers often say they draft the best available player but past history shows they often get fixated on one position and end up going in that direction. Things really appear to be setting up where they will actually go cornerback in round 1 for the first time since 1997 and for a win-now team and when you have a 33 year old franchise quarterback, you’re a win-now team, the Steelers banking on getting an impact cornerback in the draft for THIS SEASON is risky business.
Just think if they draft a corner early who doesn’t contribute in year one and Cortez Allen doesn’t rebound. That’s a nightmare scneario for the Steelers. They don’t have the James Harrison from 2008 to wreck havoc on quarterbacks to hide a weak secondary.
The name to remember for the Steelers continues to be Utah’s Eric Rowe, type of player they feel will be around when they draft and who can come in and play immediately. He’s a name they really like.
4. Mike Mitchell is going to be fascinating player to watch in 2015. The Steelers are dead set on that the player we saw in 2014 is not the real Mike Mitchell and a groin injury and having to cover for Troy Polamalu is why he struggled so much. We’ll find out soon enough. The Steelers are even thinking about moving Mitchell to strong safety. “The experience that comes with being in our environment and how we do business I think is a platform for them to improve,” Tomlin told reporters at the NFL owners meetings. “I say that all the time in regards people who have had a lap around the track with us, whether it’s an unrestricted free agent like Mike Mitchell or whether it’s a drafted guy.”
5. Charlie Morton’s struggles in spring training has opened the door for him to have an extended spring training and not start the season with the team. That’s potential bad news for relievers Jared Hughes and John Holdzkom who still have options because of the Pirates need to than keep Jeff Locke.
In the bullpen, Mark Melancon, Antonio Bastardo, and Tony Watson, are the three locks and all indications are Radhames Liz is making the team. Unlike Hughes and Holdzkom who still have options, Arquimedes Caminero and Stolmy Pimentel are out of options. There’s been a lot of buzz about Caminero and the stuff he’s flashing. The Morton situation will have an impact here on who the Pirates can keep to start the year. The Pirates have been infatuated with Pimentel’s potential but how much longer can they keep waiting for him? At somepoint you just have to cut the cord.
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