Shelly Anderson's Penguins chat transcript: 1.6.14

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Shelly Anderson: Hello, Penguins fans. Had hoped to be coming to you from Vancouver, but travel difficulties mean it's Chicago's Ohare instead for now. Fire away with your questions. We go live at 2:30 p.m. Eastern.
The Chief: Shelly, Happy New Year, hope your travel challenges clear up. Who would look better in a Penguins sweater, Kane, Wheeler our Moulson?
Shelly Anderson: It's hard to argue against Patrick Kane – two-time Stanley Cup winner, etc., but I doubt the Penguins could get him or afford him. Oh, I guess you mean Evander Kane. (sorry, being stuck on an eight-hour layover leads to weird humor, folks).
Of those three, I'd take Blake Wheeler. He's a little more experienced and has played in a top-tier, structured organization (Boston). Matt Moulson would be a good fit, but is older than Wheeler. Kane (Evander, that is) is a big talent, but a bit inconsistent, and I'm not sure where the Penguins could give him as prominent a role as he probably needs, which could lead to another Jordan Staal situation. All that said, I don't pay much attention to rumors.
The Chief: Shelly, were you able to catch any of the World Juniors? Do you foresee anyone from that group wearing a Penguins sweater in a few years?
Shelly Anderson: I really didn't get a chance to see much more than a few minutes here and that, and some of that just what was on in the Penguins locker room. The two Penguins prospects who seemed to stand out were defenseman Derrick Pouliot, an offensive defenseman who should turn pro next season, and Swedish forward Oskar Sundqvist, a large player who might need a year or two in North America before he's ready to have an impact as a pro.
The Chief: How many Penguins will be playing in Sochi when all the teams are finally announced?
Shelly Anderson: Well, let's see. Defensemen Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin already have been named to the Team USA roster. Sidney Crosby is as much of a lock as there is, and he should be named Canada's captain. Chris Kunitz, James Neal, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury could make it with Canada, although it's doubtful all four of them will. Fleury could benefit from Roberto Luongo's situation. He is apparently having an MRI today on an injury that could impact his availability for Canada. About as much of a lock for Russia as Crosby is for Canada is center Evgeni Malkin. I'm also expecting Olli Maatta and Jussi Jokinen to play for Finland. Hey, that's a lot of Penguins.
Nick: A couple of things, why simon depres isn't playing IMO doesn't make sense. Here's why, he's just better then Derek engellend, even though I'll admit engellend has played well so far this year. Also, if they need to make a big trade id imagine depres would be one of their main assets to move, and why not let him play so he can continue to Improve his stock around the league. Lastly let him play so you can continue to see what you have in him.
Shelly Anderson: It's a bit of a surprise when Simon Despres is a healthy scratch. Then again, I expected him to have a great training camp and force his way onto the opening-night roster, and that didn't happen. Instead, he started the season in the AHL. I agree, though, that others -- and that includes Deryk Engelland -- are playing well. It's a hard truth that as the defensemen get healthy, two or three good players are going to be on the outside looking in.
Nick: Any idea when the pens can hope to get back any of their injured players back? Bennet, martin, and menga in particular.
Shelly Anderson: Paul Martin got good results from a bone scan last week and has started skating. He apparently is bent on being back from his broken leg before the Olympics. Jayson Megna has been skating for several days and, from what I've seen, doesn't look like he's favoring his leg injury. Beau Bennett hasn't skated, as far as I know, so apparently for now that would be too much of a risk in case he fell or otherwise banged his surgically repaired hand/wrist. It's not real clear what his timetable is.
Bob: Are the Penguins really going to make the mistake of trading a 6'4" 205lb defenseman who can skate like the wind, play physical defense, and make a beautiful outlet pass while a career AHLer/7th-man like Engelland gets 20+ minutes a night? Are Bylsma and Shero more interested in winning the stanley cup, or running the team like a family?
Shelly Anderson: I have not seen or heard anything concrete in terms of Simon Despres being on the trading block. That doesn't mean that he or another in the team's deep group of defensemen won't be traded. After all, GM Ray Shero has talked in the past about accruing what he calls "assets," and right now a lot of those assets are on defense. Keep in mind, though, that the team has gone a dozen or so deep in their organizational depth chart at defense because of injuries, so that depth came into play for more than just trade bait. I don't agree that Shero is handcuffing himself through any loyalty or personal feelings. He made business decisions to let go of players such as Jordan Staal, Max Talbot, Matt Cooke, Mike Rupp and others who were team and/or fan favorites. Shero does have a deserved reputation for treating his players extremely well, but I don't think he lets that interfere with making sound hockey decisions.
Tony: Are Shero and Bylsma aware of how the team actually plays worse the healthier it gets? When they were dressing an AHL defense and two AHL bottom-6 lines, there was structure and support from all 5 skaters. Now, with Orpik, Engelland and Glass back in the country club, there's an endless supply of entire shifts in the defensive end, headless chicken structure, and no physical play in front of Fleury. Is the team even willing to admit its own faults, or are they content wrapping themselves in the cloak of their great record while in the worst division in hockey?
Shelly Anderson: I think you're probably being more reactionary, particularly after Sunday's sloppy game, than accurate in an overall sense -- although I do like the phrase "headless chicken structure." There have been plenty of sound games this season, many with a minimum of fill-ins from the American Hockey League. Winnipeg, for whatever, reason, seems to bring out games like that in the Penguins. I will say that you have a point that the call-ups have, overall, performed well. But the Penguins still are a better club with as many regulars as they can get. Certainly, a stretch of games with most of their regulars in the lineup would serve them well.
Bob: What does Penguins management see in Orpik, Engelland, Glass and Adams that they not only continue to have guaranteed roster spots, but are played an obscene amount of minutes and in key situations?
Shelly Anderson: For one thing, they see four players who are or have been key components in penalty killing. What's your beef with Brooks Orpik? He made a gaffe Sunday that led to a goal, and it wasn't pretty, but that's hardly a true depiction of his game. Craig Adams is a prototypical fourth-liner and penalty killer. No team can be filled with all elite, offense-oriented players, but the Penguins have some decent role players.
Kelly C.: Do players get a financial reward for being named one of the stars of the game, week, or month?
Shelly Anderson: I don't believe so, unless it's something written into their individual contracts. Sure hope Sidney Crosby doesn't have a contract incentive tied to being the NHL No. 1 star of the week or month. The guy keeps getting No. 2 stars.

dave: What is the new best-case scenario for Vokoun? If he is able to resume playing this season, would the Pens even want him back?
Shelly Anderson: Tomas Vokoun's situation is hard to peg down. He's not "hurt" in the sense that he has a lingering injury; he simply can't take shots or have any hockey contact while he's on blood-thinners. It's all up to when doctors allow him to go off of that medication, which is standard after someone is treated for a blood clot. The new best-case scenario passes with each week based on the possibility of doctors clearing him to shed the blood-thinners. The longer it stretches, though, the harder it will be for him to get back his game-sharpness before the playoffs. Plus, Jeff Zatkoff has been playing well as the backup. So, no real answers at this point, and no guarantee Vokoun will be back.
Jay: Did you get a chance to speak with Paul Coffey when he was here last weekend? I saw you asked Letang about him, but I wondered if you had the chance to ask Coffey about Letang. I've heard Coffey speak highly of Letang on several occasions. I know fans/media are ready to throw Letang under the bus for his struggles this year, but I still think he is a unique talent and once he gets to being 100% healthy and gets back in the grove, he will get back to being a Norris contenter again.
Shelly Anderson: I did not, but you are right - Paul Coffey on several occasions has spoken very highly of Kris Letang. There's no question that Letang is not having a great season following his Norris Trophy candidacy last season, but I agree that he probably hasn't been healthy and comfortable for very many games. There's still time for that to happen.
Erik: Do you see anyway, currently constructed, the Pens taking out Boston in a best of seven?
Shelly Anderson: Yes, the Penguins are capable of that. They have played well against Boston in the regular season, and there's no reason they can't do the same in a playoff series. Their biggest issue last spring was scoring. That seems correctable with their talent.
Tim: Where do you see Maatta maturing through the years. Seems to remind me a lot of Lidstrom with his innate ability to read the ice, especially considering his age. See him (eventually)becoming the QB on PP that the pens have always needed, and shifting Letang to the off-point?
Shelly Anderson: You have a vision that's not out of line with what we've seen from Olli Maatta. He's tailed off a little bit at times recently, and that could have something to do simply with the rigors of the NHL, but his upside is sky high. His poise, recovery from mistakes and decision-making are advanced for anyone, let alone a teenager.
Allie: Any news on Duper?
Shelly Anderson: No. Pascal Dupuis should be having surgery on his right knee soon to repair his ACL. You would think doctors will get a good idea about his recovery time when they get in there. It's going to be a matter of months, according to what we see with such an injury and surgery.
Chris: Isn't it telling that Letang thinks Paul Coffey was the best defenseman ever? They're very similar players - talented offensively but deficient defensively.
Shelly Anderson: Such different eras, though, and I am not willing to collar Letang with being "deficient defensively" at this point. A lot of his defense rests with his skating and ability to get back and defend, and I suspect the knee injury he got during training camp has limited him for much of the season so far.
Shelly Anderson: OK, everyone, thanks for joining in and please come back next Monday.

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