— It’s was no secret when Ray Shero was fired that Penguins team President David Morehouse had a strong desire to become more involved with the day to day hockey operations and that’s the case now with Jim Rutherford reporting directly to Morehouse, where as Shero reported directly to ownership. However, it’s important to note that what Penguins ownership has done since hiring Rutherford is stay out of the way.
Major deals like trading James Neal and signing Marc Andre Fleury had to be signed off by ownership but what ownership has done is let Rutherford come up with his own opinions when it comes to making personnel decisions. Despite how well Marc Andre Fleury is liked personally by Mario Lemieux and others, there was no pressure from ownership on Rutherford to sign Fleury. They made a determination during the GM hiring process that they would stay out of the way and let the GM make his own decisions without any pressure. We’ll see how long it lasts.
— As teams near the 20 game mark, scouts contend the Lightning, Penguins and Canadiens are the class of the Eastern Conference. Will that view holdup? Three scouts I heard from on this topic all believed the Lightning will be the team to beat come April.
— The Phil Kessel situation in Toronto over the last couple days has been fascinating to watch with this outrage from the Toronto media because he doesn’t speak to the media all the time. Evgeni Malkin better be thankful he was never drafted by Toronto. What’s interesting to watch and social media really highlights this is how some beat reporters end up developing a personal hatred for Kessel because he doesn’t give daily boring quotes like Sidney Crosby.
— Former Pirates pitcher Zach Duke just signed a three year, $15 million contract. Chris Kunitz makes just $3.85 million per season. Something is wrong with that picture. Gary Bettman might indeed be the best commissioner in sports for backing the players into a corner and implementing a salary cap 10 years ago.

— The Steelers knew what they were getting into with the signing of LeGarrette Blount and despite the known baggage, still gave up him a two year deal and he didn’t make it past week 12 before they cut him loose. Few are surprised by how things played out.
— The latest stupidity coming from a Steelers player was non other than Mike Mitchell (big surprise there) who told a fan to go kill himself and told another fan to “die broke”. There are a lot of trolls on the internet but if you’re a pro athlete and can’t laugh stuff off than you shouldn’t ever be on twitter. The Steelers have now enforced a twitter ban for Mitchell. Like Blount there was also some known character issues with Mitchell.
— Yes the Steelers are 7-4, but Kevin Colbert’s free agency signings for 2014 season have to rank among the worst in the NFL. There’s a chance none of them are back next season including Mitchell who got the big deal.
— Roger Goodell suspended Adrian Peterson for the rest of the season and Peterson made his own bed for showing no remorse during the entire process. This isn’t the 1960’s.
Here are Goodell’s three key points that led to a harsher suspension for Peterson:
“First, the injury was inflicted on a child who was only 4 years old. The difference in size and strength between you and the child is significant, and your actions clearly caused physical injury to the child. While an adult may have a number of options when confronted with abuse — to flee, to fight back, or to seek help from law enforcement — none of those options is realistically available to a 4-year-old child. Further, the injury inflicted on your son includes the emotional and psychological trauma to a young child who suffers criminal physical abuse at the hands of his father.
“Second, the repetitive use of a switch in this instance is the functional equivalent of a weapon, particularly in the hands of someone with the strength of an accomplished professional athlete.
“Third, you have shown no meaningful remorse for your conduct. When indicted, you acknowledged what you did but said that you would not ‘eliminate whooping my kids’ and defended your conduct in numerous published text messages to the child’s mother. You also said that you felt ‘very confident with my actions because I know my intent.’ These comments raise the serious concern that you do not fully appreciate the seriousness of your conduct, or even worse, that you may feel free to engage in similar conduct in the future.”

— The Blue Jays officially announced the signing of Russell Martin today

The leaks are coming out that the Pirates went four years for Martin. According to the Tribune-Review, the Pirates “went deep into the process and made a very strong offer to retain Martin.” — Talk is the Pirates offered $14 million per season.
— Former Pirates top pick Brad Lincoln is back with the Pirates agreeing to a minor league deal.
Keith Law on the Pirates signing of A.J. Burnett at $8.5 million for one year. “There’s real risk here, but ZiPS has him worth about 2 WAR in a neutral environment over 177.2 innings, which would make him a steal for the Bucs.”
— The Cardinals are reportedly in the mix for Jon Lester, joining the Braves, Cubs, Blue Jays, and Red Sox