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Q: I love how Max Talbot plays the game, and I assume a lot of general managers do, as well. I know it's impossible to predict which players are likely to sent packing as Ray Shero strives to improve the club, but that doesn't prevent me from asking you to do so. With our depth at center, is Talbot a guy who might be deemed expendable?
MOLINARI: It's hard to imagine what anybody would like about Talbot's game. Except, of course, for how he competes hard on every shift, plays responsibly all over the ice, has no qualms about sacrificing his body or his personal interests for the sake of his team and is earning a reputation for scoring timely goals.
There's no question that Talbot is the kind of role player GMs love -- he can handle a variety of duties and is a relative bargain at a salary of $650,000 -- and it wouldn't be a shock if Shero occasionally fields a call from one of his colleagues who's interested in trading for Talbot. The only surprise would be if Shero would seriously consider making such a deal, unless the team proposing it would be willing to grossly overpay for Talbot.
Talbot is not, and likely never will be, an untouchable, and if the Penguins keep Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal in the middle, it's hard to imagine that he'll ever rise above the fourth line unless he makes a permanent shift to the wing. That says more about Malkin and Staal than it does about Talbot, however, because he's the kind of player needed to complement the stars on a championship-caliber team. While the Penguins are fortunate to have a nucleus of exceptional young talent, assembling a quality supporting cast is critical for a team that plans to seriously contend for a Stanley Cup.
That's why the contributions of guys such as Phil Bourque, Bob Errey and Troy Loney, among others, were so important to the Penguins' Cup-winning teams in 1991 and 1992, even though most of the attention in those days focused on the likes of Mario Lemieux, Ron Francis, Kevin Stevens, Larry Murphy, Ulf Samuelsson, Jaromir Jagr and Tom Barrasso.
Q: Did you happen to catch that penalty on (Detroit goalie Dominik) Hasek when he came out and "tripped" (Minnesota winger Marian) Gaborik on a breakaway? He got the puck before the trip, so I don't know how it was a penalty, but if it is a penalty, shouldn't it have been a penalty shot, since Gaborik was clearly on a breakaway?
Mike Balk, Grand Rapids, Mich.
MOLINARI: The moderator of this forum did not see the play in question, but Rule 57.1 mandates that the referee not assess a penalty if he determines that the defender -- whether it's a goaltender or someone from another position -- touched the puck before knocking the puck-carrier's skates out from under him. It reads, in part, that "If, in the opinion of the referee, a player makes contact with the puck first and subsequently trips the opponent in so doing, no penalty shall be assessed."
That, obviously, can be a difficult judgment call for the referee in some situations. Deciding that a penalty shot was not called for in the situation you described is much easier.
Rule 57.3 lays out four criteria that must be met if a penalty shot is to be awarded; one is that "the infraction must have been committed from behind," which clearly would not be the case if the trip occurred when a goaltender charged out from his crease to challenge the puck-carrier.
For the record, the other three are that: The infraction must have taken place in the neutral or attacking zone, the player must have been denied "a reasonable chance to score," and there must have been no opposing players between the puck-carrier and the goaltender.