JamesinNYC: Do you think Vokoun's injury has helped Fleury in an indirect sense....no questions if he is starter and defines roll?
Shelly Anderson: That's an interesting question. Marc-Andre Fleury already was under pressure and was a big offseason target by fans. It's possible that his resolve increased knowing he did not have a veteran backup and knowing that with rookie Jeff Zatkoff as his backup he would get more starts. It's also possible that, as you suggest, the aspect of being so clearly the strong No. 1 guy again gave Fleury a renewed outlook.
jc: probably the first of many Letang questions. What are the "reports out of Montreal saying out for 2 more weeks..."?
Shelly Anderson: Don't know. I can just tell you that initially, I was assured by a well-placed source that his injury was not something serious or long-term -- which I reported. I believe this is a knee issue. By the time the team got back from West Point, Kris Letang was seen walking without any braces, wraps, etc. He is skating, and skated pretty hard yesterday. The team was off today. I would suspect that, barring a setback, he will be back at practice soon.
ferryg: What do you think the Penguins will do to address the backup goaltending situation?
Shelly Anderson: In their minds, they have addressed it. Rookie Jeff Zatkoff -- we have a story about him in today's Post-Gazette -- is going to be the backup until or unless he proves he can't handle that role. Marc-Andre Fleury will get a bigger share of starts then he would have if Tomas Vokoun were available. If this arrangement doesn't work, perhaps the Penguins would look at adding another goalie. He almost assuredly would come from outside the organization.
Guest: Will Pens burn a year on young Maatta or wait until game 9. Wondered about Maatta's teammate for 2 years in SWB , Harrington
Shelly Anderson: The Penguins might well return Olli Maatta to his junior club, the London Knights, before the first year of his entry-level contract kicks in. It seems that he will stay here at least until Kris Letang returns from injury. It's a shame that the rules don't allow Maatta to play in the AHL this season. He's ready to turn pro, and if he can't stick in the NHL all season, the AHL would have been a great alternative. Scott Harrington is going that route now, as he's with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Simon: Will Pitt burn a year off Maatta's Entry level contract or wait until GM 9. What about Maatta's old teammate Harrington in SWB also from London. Reid McNeil another SWB defence is also from London....trend here me thinks.
Shelly Anderson: Looks as if your original question wasn't complete the first time you submitted it. Reid McNeill had a setback because of a concussion last season. He's not a name you hear tossed around, but that's probably only because of the depth on defense in this organization. The London Knights are a top-notch junior franchise.
Bev: What is the report about James Neal?
Shelly Anderson: There hasn't been a definitive update. It's possible he's dealing with something like a shoulder injury that he aggravated in the season opener. Coach Dan Bylsma said it looks like a matter of weeks more than a matter of days, but he has not given the "post further evaluation" update yet. Neal has been around the team, but no word on when he might start skating.
Guest: what if Letang's out for longer than the 9-game exception for Maatta?
Shelly Anderson: The Penguins will have to decide, and how Maatta plays will help determine that. There's no indication that Letang will be out long-term, though, and that's probably not the only factor in Maatta's future.
Simon: The Pens do stock top end defenders like no other team.
Shelly Anderson: Yes, but that's not necessarily a game plan. General manager Ray Shero has often said it's best to stock up on the best available assets (a word he likes to use) because they provide a team with flexibility -- those players can develop within your system or be traded for other needs.
Max: Chances of Martin replacing Disco Dan
Shelly Anderson: Not sure why anyone at this point would think that Dan Bylsma is going anywhere. He got a big vote of confidence and a contract extension, even after the sweep by Boston. So why would the Penguins put their coach in a tough situation by bringing in an assistant who is waiting in the wings and breathing down Dan's neck? I don't see that kind of creative tension as Ray Shero's m.o.
Guest: What do you think of the Pens defensive work so far? Seems better in the first two games than it was for a lot of last season. Rob Scuderi making a big difference already?
Shelly Anderson: It has been very good -- although you can't overlook the fact that their first two opponents are far from being offensive juggernauts. I will have a story in the Tuesday Post-Gazette on Matt Niskanen, and in the interview for that story we talked a lot about the emphasis on defense. Specifically, I've liked the way the defensemen are collapsing around the Penguins crease and keeping it clear of loose pucks and rebounds. Niskanen also talked about not "cheating" to try to get things going in transition. Re-signing such a solid defensive guy such as Rob Scuderi was a great move.
Matty: I feel it will be foolish for the Pens to retain Maatta. If he isnt going to get decent minutes on the big club why keep him, especially since we have capable guys down in WBS knocking at the door.
Shelly Anderson: It wouldn't be foolish if he's going to play, though. The question would be, where? Who comes out of the lineup? We'll see if the other defensemen stay healthy in the short term. If the Penguins are really enamored of Maatta and believe he will be better served in the NHL than back in juniors, they also could trade a defenseman. If I had to guess, though, I'd say Maatta will end up back in London.
Matty: Is it just me, or has Bortuzzo added a little offensive edge to his game in the off-season. He seems much more comfortable with the puck this year.
Shelly Anderson: Agreed. He hasn't lost his physical edge, and he's not going to be a high-scoring guy, but he seems to fit in better on a team where the defensemen have to be able to skate and move the puck.
Simon: Might not be the overall game plan but I see more pens scouts constantly across the OHL. They seem to be scouting the OHL more than any other NHL team from my watching them. Distance, proximity helps too with so much junior talent within driving distance and OHL has close to 30 games a week.
Shelly Anderson: Can't verify that, but it never hurts to have eyes on as many top draft-eligible players as possible.
Max: Isn't Martin known for good work with defense? Perhaps his influence on defense will be valuable getting better defense in front of Fleury. Penguins have too often been obsessed with offensive defensemen (In Max's humble opinion)
Shelly Anderson: Yes, he is. I'm not sure how much influence Jacques Martin has had, but his knowledge and background certainly can't hurt. I'm not sure I agree about them being obsessed with offensive defensemen, given players now or in recent seasons such as Brooks Orpik, Rob Scuderi, Hal Gill, Douglas Murray, Robert Bortuzzo, etc. With their talent up front, it's good to have defensemen who can join the rush and contribute offensively, but all of them need to be able to skate, defend and get the puck to the forwards in this system.
Shelly Anderson: Looks like we're about out of time. We'll be back next Monday. Please join us then. And for those so inclined, enjoy the Pirates baseball game today.
First Published October 7, 2013 11:27 AM