SUNDAY’S DAILY FIVE: Who’s lying Shero or Kovacevic? Pats expose Tebow like Steelers couldn’t; Boost coming for Pens

SUNDAY’S DAILY FIVE

*Rumblings, musings & opinions*
1. WHO’S LYING KOVACEVIC OR SHERO? While there’s been some rumblings for a few weeks now that a player or two in the Penguins locker room believes Sidney Crosby is cleared to play and should be playing, you haven’t heard of any dissension inside the Penguins locker room about Sidney Crosby’s captaincy.
That changed when columnist Dejan Kovacevic of the Tribune-Review made a bold claim in a Friday Column, saying that “three sources” told him the team had a 45 minute meeting to discuss temporary captaincy with Crosby out. Kovacevic then wrote, “another source disputed that any such meeting occurred”.
Here’s what was wrote:
“The Penguins, the public and, yes, Crosby all need to learn how to handle this situation better in the future, ” Kovacevic wrote. “That begins with the locker room. A few, certainly not all, of Crosby’s teammates are of the mind that he’s been symptom-free for a while, though they have no medical basis for that. Some think he should be playing. Some simply think he should be doing more to communicate, or at least be as visible as concussed defenseman Kris Letang.
“Last week in Pittsburgh, according to three sources, a group of players held a 45-minute meeting to discuss a temporary captaincy. Another source disputed that any such meeting occurred.”
A claim to that magnitude is surely going to get the Penguins attention and it did Friday morning as these type of claims that are “in-house” things hit home with organizations.
No one should be surprised that the Penguins reacted how they did.
“When someone says we don’t want Sid as our captain, it’s pretty ridiculous,” forward James Neal told reporters on Friday.
The Penguins made their response, having all of their players where homemade C’s on their jerseys. Pens communications coordinator Jen Bullano wrote on twitter: “All #Pens players wearing homemade C’s on the ice in FL… Anyone questioning our locker room, just got their answer!, ” Bullano wrote on Friday.
“That was a nice gestrue, ” Crosby said on Friday about his teammates wearing a “C”. “It’s good to see everyone sticking together.”
The “C” gesture quickly ended up being a twitter sensation for Penguins fans.
Crosby called any rumors of issues inside the locker room about his captaincy far fetched.
“It’s tough to even answer it because it’s so-so far fetched. “Let’s be honest, Steelers are out and the Penguins are what there is to talk about andanything that can be brought up or started especially given situation is a pretty easy fit. Been around long enough to know that this stuff seems to come out when you’re losing, ” Crosby said, noting that if the Penguins were on a four or five game losing streak this wouldn’t come out

What are the Facts?

Kovacevic article was published in Friday’s Trib and in the article he claims the meeting took place “last week”. By going off that claim, that means the suppose meeting would have taken place before the Rangers game on January 6th. At that point, the Penguins were in the midst of a two game losing streak but coming off a game against New Jersey on Dec 31st where the team was feeling very good about their play. Frustrations at least publicly from some players didn’t start boiling until after the Devils game on January 7th, a game before the team hit rock bottom Tuesday night against Ottawa.
Questions about this claim I immediately had is this: “According to three sources, a group of players held a 45-minute meeting to discuss a temporary captaincy. Another source disputed that any such meeting occurred.” Now which one was it? If you were 100 percent certain that this meeting took place, why even publish that one source said the meeting didn’t take place, as the temporary captain claim has taken away of what was an excellent column about people questioning Crosby.
Later in the day on Friday, Kovacevic appearing on 937 the Fan in the 3:00 p.m. hour with Joe Starkey, Josh Miller and Colin Dunlap, talked with full certainty that the meeting took place and said it happened prior to the Rangers game. He says Sidney Crosby was not invited in the meeting or informed of the meeting afterwards, based on information he gathered.
Some in the organization I spoke with on Friday who would have second hand knowledge of a possible meeting, were quickly refuting that a temporary captaincy would have taken place or ever brought up for sole reason that this is a team who’s true vocal leaders in the locker room are visible in Brooks Orpik, Matt Cooke and Craig Adams. They are the true leaders in the room even when Sidney’s in the lineup. Even a guy like Arron Asham will step up from time to time and speak up I’m told. They don’t need a “C” on their jersey and the players know that, as Crosby is a captain due his ability to lead by example, not being vocal in the locker room.
Immediately when this claim by Kovacevic came out and became big news when the Penguins decided that all players would wear C’s in the morning skate to make a statement, I thought any possible meeting of a temporary captaincy sounded extremely odd and just didn’t make sense for the reasons above.
As the day progressed on Friday, the team apparently never made a denial that a team meeting happened or the media just wasn’t smart enough to ask that exact question. “Also, as of 7:44 p.m., the number of #Pens coaches, players who today have denied this meeting took place: Zero. There’s a reason for that, “Kovacevic wrote on twitter.
However, veteran forward Craig Adams who has a big presence in the locker room, told Aaron Ward, a former teammate of Adams and a close friend of his that the meeting is a lie. “Meeting never happened. It’s a lie, ” Adams said.
Adams also spoke to Eric Francis of the Calgary Sun who said this while appearing on Hockey Night in Canada Saturday night. “Yes, I spoke to Craig Adams who is one of the veteran leaders on that team, and he said {there is} absolutely no truth to it whatsoever and the article that came out really took them by surprise and it really infuriated guys in that room because they never saw it coming, ” Francis said. “This is a guy who wrote this, who they say they are unfamiliar with, ” Francis said on HNIC noting that Adams told him “he’s {dejan Kovacevic} never been in their room {not true..Dejan’s not a regular beat guy but is around sometimes}, doesn’t know any of the players. So they took total exception to that and {Adams} said there’s no truth to it, ” Francis said.”
A denial then came from management Saturday morning when Bob Pompeani of KDKA TV and 937 The Fan asked GM Ray Shero if a meeting happened regarding temporary captaincy.
“Never, never happened, ” GM Ray Shero said when asked directly by Pompeani if a meeting happened, while appearing on The Fan. “Farthest from the truth, ” Shero added. “Bob, I can tell you even if I went to our group and said I’m thinking of having a temporary captain, there’s not a player on our team, I can guarantee you,who would take me up on it.”
Shero’s comment that stood out to me was about if he approached the group about temporary captaincy and how in some many words it would be pretty much a shock to the group if Shero went to them about that issue.
With Shero giving out a full denial, and Kovacevic saying with full certainty on the Fan Friday afternoon that the 45-minute meeting happened, it either happened or it didn’t. There’s no in between.
When denying something that is true or close to being accurate, the Penguins usually spin it a different way than a full out denial.
So who’s lying? This is one of those situations where people can make up their own minds. Again, for me the 45-minute meeting just doesn’t add up.
If the meeting actually took place regarding temporary captaincy, we know a Joe Vitale isn’t the one who would bring this up. This would have came from an established veteran or small group of veterans who have a big leadership presence in the room. It wouldn’t be hard to connect the dots.
If Kovacevic had wrote, a few players met to discuss temporary captaincy I would have bought the story to some extent but I think what did him in, in having some people doubting his story, was saying a “45-minute meeting” took place. Just seems way too far fetched.
Another reason I doubt the meeting taking place is how paranoid Kovacevic seems on twitter. I was reading his tweet timeline and he’s retweeting all kinds of good things or sarcastic things individuals are saying to justify his reporting of the meeting and also saying things like “Would appear #Pens have decided to split semantics over what constitutes a meeting. Column said “some players.”{he actually said “group” in column} That’s fine. It’s their room”.
What’s intriguing “IF” this is true, is who leaked the meeting. Kovacevic indicated on 937 The Fan that he had “first hand sources” on the meeting happening. This type of meeting would have just included players, or the coaching staff and likely GM Ray Shero if it wasn’t just a players meeting. People in the communications department are normally not apart of close door team meetings. Dejan is an excellent columnist and I respect the work he does, but it’s a pretty impressive feat to get three first hand {people in the meeting} sources for a guy who was on the Pirates beat from 2004-2010.
2. BIG BOOST COMING FOR PENS: The Pittsburgh Penguins are expecting a big boost to their lineup in the next seven to 10 days. Defenseman Kris Letang continues to make great strides in his progression and has been skating “rigorously” in Pittsburgh this weekend, head coach Dan Bylsma said. Indications coming out of the organization is that Letang is cleared for contact and should receive medical clearance to return to the lineup as early as this coming week.
Some scouts felt prior to the Staal injury, that the Letang injury had been a bigger blow for the Penguins than Crosby out of the lineup.
3. HUGE GAME FOR PENGUINS THIS AFTERNOON: Pittsburgh snapped their six game losing streak Friday night and they have to take care of business against a struggling Lightning team and get a win this afternoon. Pittsburgh got out to the perfect start and led 2-0 after one period. Since the Ottawa game, Pittsburgh has dedicated themselves to better discipline in the defensive zone and that’s been the first key to creating offense in the past two games.
The Penguins Friday night were opportunistic turning Florida turnovers into scoring chances, and they also finally got some bounces going their way from Florida fanning on wide open nets to the Penguins getting some gimme goals.
4. PATRIOTS EXPOSE TEBOW LIKE STEELERS COULDN’T: New England made Tim Tebow look like an awful quarterback that teams like Buffalo and Kansas City did prior to the Steelers game. How Tebow exposed the Steelers defense last Sunday is the shock of the NFL season but a few things to take out of New England’s ( NFL’s 32nd ranked)  dominating defensive night was this:
The Option: New England knew how to defend the option from the start which one evaluator I spoke with this morning felt was the Steelers major problem defensively last week. Pittsburgh was so worried about getting beat by the option because their outside linebackers such as James Harrison couldn’t it defend it well, that it affected their ability to defend the pass. At least that’s one theory out there.
The Patriots linebackers were excellent last night. New England mixed things up playing a little zone, man to man and gave Tebow a number of different looks. They didn’t have an arrogant game plan like Pittsburgh did believing Tebow couldn’t beat them threw the air. New England also covered extremely well, making Tebow having to make those tough accurate throws with tight coverage, something he can’t do on a consistent basis. I could go on all day about what the Patriots defense was able to do and Pittsburgh couldn’t such as getting actual pressure from the start on Tebow. To sum it up, Pittsburgh just had an awful day last Sunday from their players to the coaching staff who made no adjustments when defending Tebow.
5. STEELERS WILL BE BACK AS A FORCE IN AFC: The loss to Denver last Sunday is being regarded by many pundits as the worse Steelers loss in franchise history. A good argument can be made that the Broncos were the worst playoff team the Steelers ever faced but also take in account of the Steelers injuries and playing on the road in a tough venue.
Regardless, the future is bright for the Steelers. They have a franchise quarterback just entering his prime, are young at running back and have star players emerging at the wide receiver position, and a tight end in Heath Miller who still has a couple pro-bowl type seasons left in him. The playmakers are already in place on the offense side of the ball.
The situation on the offensive line is also not as bad as some think. They have two young core building blocks with all-pro Maurkice Pouncey and rookie Marcus Gilbert who will be the Steelers left tackle in 2012 and is a player the Steelers coaching staff believes can become a star in this league at the left tackle spot. They get Willie Colon back in 2012 who when healthy is one of the best right tackles in football. Hopefully the Steelers can get 2-3 healthy years out of him. The biggest need is upgrading the guard position and getting a big time guard next to Pouncey with the best hope being the draft. That is near the top of the Steelers wishlist.
On the defensive side of the ball, they have holes but they are not significant. They need a long-term defensive tackle, another starting inside linebacker as both will be top needs this off-season.
This could be a year in the draft that the secondary shouldn’t be a real high priority unless the value is there.
Reasons why: In the secondary, Troy Polamalu showed no signs of slowing down this season and they have young evolving cornerbacks in Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown who are great insurance as soon to be 32 year Ike Taylor is likely entering the downside of his career. Allen is viewed as a potential starter in 2012 alongside Taylor and Lewis still hasn’t peaked. Unless the best value is there for a cornerback or safety early in the draft, the Steelers need to address other pressing needs.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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