Barry…Barnaby…where’s ESPN’s voice of reason?


By MARK MADDEN ESPN’s Barry Melrose recently analyzed the fiasco on Long Island and Mario’s comments thereafter. His conclusions: *Mario was wrong. *The NHL wants Mario to be more involved on a consistent basis. He won’t, but Mario blasted the NHL anyway. That makes Mario wrong on two fronts. *Mario was wrong. *Mario didn’t bitch when the Pens won all the fights in the Feb. 2 meeting with the Islanders. (That’s like comparing a fight during fourth-grade recess to Stalingrad, and acting as if who wins a hockey brawl matters. It doesn’t.) *Mario was wrong. *Mario was wrong to complain when his team leads the NHL in fighting majors and employs Matt Cooke. *Mario was wrong. *The NHL handles suspensions better than any other sport. Thirteen games total was adequate punishment for the Islanders, though Barry said Matt Martin, as a first-time offender, should have received less than four games.Read More »



By MARK MADDEN OK, Geno’s out. (Geno’s knee’s a mess.) Who’s gonna take his place? The answer isn’t Jesus. He won’t fit under the cap. Evgeni Malkin’s very unfortunate knee injury minimizes the Penguins’ Stanley Cup chances and guarantees that they won’t be able to trade him until after the 2011-12 season at the earliest. Malkin is damaged goods, and teams will want to see how far he comes back before dickering. But winning the Cup without Malkin isn’t impossible. The Penguins just have to become a different kind of team. Sidney Crosby has to come back, too. I’ve heard it will be at least two more weeks until he’s cleared for strenuous physical activity. I’ve also heard it might be two more months until he can play. I’ve also heard the concussion is more spinal than cerebral, which means a longer recovery but less potential for complications in theRead More »



By Mark Madden In business, there’s something called the Peter Principle. You do a good job, you get promoted. You do a good job again, you get promoted again. Eventually, you get promoted to a job you’re NO GOOD AT. You rise to your level of incompetence. Remember that when someone tells you the Penguins’ jobronis are capable of more. Even when the person saying it is Dan Byslma.



By Mark Madden By e-mail, by phone, by message board, EVERYWHERE…I get berated (by a vocal, stupid minority, I reckon) because I have the temerity to say the emperor has no clothes: That Evgeni Malkin is having a crap season and isn’t worth $8.7m. I’m careful to put forth disclaimers: Yes, he might be hurt. No, his linemates aren’t the greatest. Yes, I think he’s trying his best. But the fact remains that 36 points in 41 games, including just two assists in his last five games, is unacceptable for a player of his talent and paycheck. I can’t see how that point of view can possibly be criticized. My integrity is frequently impugned. A typical accusation: YOU HATE GENO. YOU’RE BIASED AGAINST GENO. YOU DON’T LIKE GENO. This, despite the truthful admission that I have no relationship with Geno, good or bad. I wouldn’t want a Russian superstar, IRead More »



By MARK MADDEN Evgeni Malkin is doing NOTHING. $8.7m worth of NOTHING. This season, #71 has been a waste of time, talent and money. Malkin is useless. I don’t know what happened, but it’s got to stop. Malkin has to start manufacturing points, at the least, and preferably more than that, preferably game-winning efforts. He gets paid the same as Sid. No one expects him to be Sid, but I do expect the same ballpark. What’s going on now…ain’t no ballpark. Rob Rossi asked Coach Disco to define what’s wrong with Geno, and Bylsma said, “I don’t have an answer for that.” Some compare Malkin to Jaromir Jagr. Yeah, I wish. Jagr won five scoring titles. He was a seven-time first-team all-star. No, Malkin is turning into Alexei Kovalev. A guy who dazzles regularly, but produces inconsistently. I don’t know what you do about it. It’s so hard to tradeRead More »



By MARK MADDEN HBO’s “Penguins/Capitals 24/7” did a lot to win me over concerning Dan Bylsma. I don’t agree with some of his decisions, but he handles the dressing room PERFECTLY. Coach Disco clearly has the players WITH HIM. That’s important. But, to reiterate: I DON’T AGREE with some of his decisions. Playing Tyler Kennedy with Jordan Staal and Evgeni Malkin is one of the decisions I disagree with. Honestly, I can’t think of a WORSE choice. You’re rewarding a winger who hasn’t scored in 12 games (one in his last 19). He carries and shoots WAY TOO MUCH. Kennedy almost never “gets to his game,” as I’ve heard it said. In fact, it appears Kennedy has forgotten WHAT HIS GAME IS. Maybe Bylsma has, too. When Bob Errey was on my show, he pointed out that both Malkin and Kennedy playing on their off-wings could cause problems when itRead More »

Time for Malkin to “Stand and Deliver”


By MARK MADDEN First, for the record: *Evgeni Malkin is really hurt. These aren’t thinly-disguised healthy scratches. *GM Ray Shero is not REMOTELY thinking about trading Malkin. Malkin has a bum knee. Nothing serious. If the Penguins needed him, Malkin could play. But they don’t, especially not the way he’s been playing. He’ll probably return to the lineup Saturday at Buffalo. When he does, it’s time for Malkin to stand and deliver. Malkin, to his credit, has not made any excuses for his poor play. His apologists have. The rationalizing is off the charts. He’s not comfortable with the system. His linemates are inadequate. He misses Sergei Gonchar. He’s not used properly on the power play. He needs to play center. Blah, blah, blah, on and on. You can’t tailor your concept around your team’s second-best player. That’s what Malkin is, No. 2, way behind Sidney Crosby…in fact, he mayRead More »



By Mark Madden The debate ended not with a bang, but a whimper. Sidney Crosby is, by acclaim, the world’s best hockey player. You used to hear Ovechkin vs. Crosby non-stop. Now, not so much. That debate may crop up again, perhaps when the Winter Classic puts down stakes at Heinz Field. But it will be forced and trite. So, what the heck happened? Most of it is Crosby’s doing. No one even approaches the way Crosby plays the game from goal line to goal line. No one approaches the consistency thereof. Crosby does all the little things right. He has all the intangibles. Only Steven Stamkos challenges his productivity. Ovechkin doesn’t. Not this year. At the end of play Nov. 27, Ovechkin was nine points and eight goals behind Crosby, eight points and 11 goals behind Stamkos. Those deficits are hardly insurmountable. But Ovechkin has lost a lot ofRead More »

ANALYSIS: Malkin’s bad decision cost the Penguins last night’s game


By Mark Madden Last night’s Penguins loss was ASTONISHING. Last night’s Penguins loss was an indication of how far this team has to go in terms of discipline, and COMMON SENSE. New York Rangers lead, 1-0. The Penguins have played very well. Can’t crack Henrik Lundqvist in the Rangers net. Thirty-nine shots total, with a plethora of nailed-on scoring chances. Chris Kunitz breaks through with 2:31 remaining in regulation. Matt Cooke puts the Penguins ahead 38 seconds later. It’s like the second game of the season against Montreal, but the skate’s on the other foot. The Penguins even get a power play courtesy of Lundqvist, who throws a stick-smashing temper tantrum after Cooke nets. There’s just 1:53 remaining. That’s it. Burn that, you win. First mistake: Coach Disco puts out his full power-play unit. Alex Goligoski had been having a NIGHTMARE. You’re ahead. You don’t need your power play, youRead More »



By Mark Madden The Penguins goaltending dilemma is now officially out of control. It’s not wrong to play Brent Johnson. His statistics are overwhelming. He just pitched a shutout. He hasn’t lost in regulation. But it’s not right to bench Marc-Andre Fleury. He’s the guy you count on to win 16 games in the spring. He’s a major, accomplished talent. Don’t forget about the money. You CAN’T forget about the money. Fleury is signed through 2015 at $5m per season, Johnson through 2012 at $600K per. Really, what do you do? Fleury won’t find his form in practice. He thrives on work. Rust might gather. If your answer to all that is “too bad,” you’re cutting off your nose to spite your face. But Johnson is playing better than Fleury. Better than just about any goalie in hockey. Ask yourself two questions: