Penguins Q&A with Dave Molinari

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Q: Am I one of the few people who think Max Talbot would be a great addition to the top line with Sidney Crosby? All last year, he proved to the fans that not only will he stick up for his team, but he also knows how to finish the play.

Steve, Shaler

MOLINARI: While there's an awful lot to like about Talbot and his game -- fact is, it's hard to come up with any glaring flaws -- he really hasn't done anything since leaving juniors to suggest that he's miscast as a third- or fourth-line center and penalty-killer.

He entered last night's game against New Jersey as the Penguins' leading goal-scorer, with three, two of which were vintage Talbot. Which is to say, not the type one would be looking for from the kind of big-time goal-scorer the Penguins would like to have on Crosby's wings.

Talbot got Nos. 2 and 3 in Toronto last Saturday, the first when he walked about from behind the right post and rapped his own rebound past Maple Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala, the second into an empty net after Toskala had been replaced by an extra attacker. Nothing spectacular about either one, but they counted just as much as any other goal would have.

While Talbot is the kind of ultra-competitive, heady player every team that fancies itself a contender needs, he is most valuable and effective when used correctly, and that almost certainly is not as a winger on the No. 1 line.

Q: Why are the Pens allergic to right-handed shooting players? Not just defensemen. When they gave away (Mike) Weaver to the Canucks and sent down (Kristopher) Letang, I assumed they had another move to make to pick up some right-hander, but no. It seems obvious to anyone that the Pens are really hurt on the power play without a right(-handed) point man, except it's not obvious to Ray Shero. Why, why, why?

Tom, Mt Lebanon

MOLINARI: One really does have to wonder how Shero ended up as the Penguins' general manager, huh? It's hard to believe the people who hired him couldn't have found countless candidates with a better sense of the game and the business if they'd just checked the message boards and talk shows a little more closely.

There's no question that right-handed shots are valuable, mostly because they are rare at all positions, and that having a righty available for the power play would be an asset for the Penguins. However, simply being a right-handed shot does not qualify a guy to play the point. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

While some people, including the moderator of this forum, disagreed with the idea of trying to slip Weaver through waivers and into the American Hockey League, he is no more than a No. 6 or 7 defenseman at this level, and certainly does not have the skills to be a regular on the power play. Letang does, and someday in the not-too-distant future will fill that role in the NHL, but he's in Wilkes-Barre on merit after being thoroughly unimpressive during training camp.

Keeping Letang on the major-league roster at the start of the season, whether because of his outstanding potential or because it would be nice to have a right-handed defenseman on hand, would have delivered the message that promise, not production, is what matters most. And giving players reason to believe that wouldn't be in anyone's interest.


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