Q: Should the Pens win the Cup this year, where does Michel Therrien fit in the hierarchy of Pittsburgh coaches (and not just hockey)? I feel he doesn't get enough credit. I'm not sure enough people in Pittsburgh realize what we have here in Therrien.
Craig, Mt. Lebanon
MOLINARI: Your point about Therrien's detractors is well-taken; the Penguins could run the table in these playoffs and some people would insist they did it despite Therrien, not because of any positive impact he had. Sorry, but if a coach is held accountable when his team struggles, he and his staff deserve credit when it succeeds.
There's no question that Therrien has made some moves and decisions that invite criticism -- and he's received it in this space, and plenty of other places -- but, among other things, the discipline and defensive structure he has introduced during his two-plus seasons have played a significant part in how far the Penguins have gotten this spring.
That said -- and as much as some fans seemed interested in how this team, or members of it, stack up to championship clubs of the past -- it is far too early to make any definitive comparisons, for at least one major reason: These Penguins haven't won a Cup.
If, in fact, the Penguins do so something in the next few weeks -- and no one should devote too much time to scheming about how to blow off work so they can attend a victory parade just yet -- there will be ample time to compare and contrast them with the 1992 Penguins or the 1987 Edmonton Oilers or whoever. And if they don't, chances are not many folks will be interested in assessing how the team matches up with great clubs from the past, or how Therrien's work fits in with that of Chuck Noll or Bob Johnson or Chuck Tanner.
Q: If the Pens win the Stanley Cup this year (and obviously it is a little early to be talking about that) and Ty Conklin does not play in at least one game during the playoffs, is it true he will not get his name on the Cup? He only played 33 games during the season and I think he would need to have played at least 41.
MOLINARI: When this general topic was addressed in the Q&A a few weeks ago, the moderator was remiss in not noting the difference between forwards and defensemen and goaltenders. And it is a significant one.
For while defensemen and forwards must participate in at least 41 regular-season games or one during the Cup final to be guaranteed a place on the trophy, all goaltenders have to do is dress for that many games. Actually facing shots in any of them isn't an issue, so if the Penguins were to win the Cup this year -- a pretty popular hypothetical these days, don't you think? -- Conklin would be assured of having his name on it, because he was in uniform for 54 games.
Also, because a surprising number of people have asked about it lately, Colby Armstrong would not be eligible to get his name on the Cup if the Penguins were to win it. Regardless of how many games he appeared in for the Penguins this season -- or, on a level that's more difficult to quantify, what he contributed to their success with his humor and attitude -- a player has to be a member of the organization in question when it actually wins the title to get a spot on the Cup.
Q: How is home-ice advantage determined for the Stanley Cup final?
Gerald Sipe, Delray Beach, Fla.
MOLINARI: Not surprisingly, this issue has been raised by more than a few folks over the past few days. The team with the most points during the regular season has home ice in the final. Detroit earned the most of any club that reached either of the conference finals.
Q: Does anyone still believe the Penguins tanked the last game of the season so they wouldn't have to play Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs?
Pat Perri, Bakersfield, Calif.
MOLINARI: Haven't heard much discussion of that lately. Might just mean the Penguins have been too terrified to even discuss it.