Penguins Q&A with Dave Molinari
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Q: When do you expect Ray Shero will acquire the complementary goal-scoring winger (Sidney) Crosby needs and deserves? This must be a right of passage for superstar players in Pittsburgh. It took several years to get a winger for Mario Lemieux in Kevin Stevens.
MOLINARI: The Penguins hoped Petr Sykora would be able to fill that niche, at least to some extent, when they signed him as a free agent in July, and he was back on Crosby's line during the Penguins' 6-4 victory in Toronto Saturday. He belongs on the second tier of goal-scoring wingers in the NHL, though, with the guys who can be counted on produce anywhere from 20 to 35 in a given season. Even his agent probably doesn't see Sykora as a potential 45- or 50-goal guy.
Trouble is, you can't just pick a winger with true game-breaking ability out of a catalog and have him delivered to your locker room within three business days. Those guys are difficult to find, although a few turn up in free agency, and that means the price the Penguins would have to pay for one would be high. What they would have to pay to such a player almost certainly would be at least as steep, and there's no reason to think the Penguins are eager to add a seven-figure salary to their payroll at the moment.
There's no question that having a winger or two who could make the most of all the scoring chances Crosby generates would work to everyone's benefit -- and might allow the league to get a bulk rate on having Crosby's name engraved on the Art Ross Trophy -- but at least for the foreseeable future, he can expect to keep working with the rotating cast of linemates he's had for the first four games.
Q: After the suspensions handed out to Steve Downie (20 games) and Jesse Boulerice (25 games), it doesn't appear as if players are getting the message to stop throwing cheap shots, especially involving sticks to the head and hits to the head. I think the suspensions of the players listed above are far too short. The Boulerice suspension should have been a minimum of 50 games. At what point will the NHL, particularly Colin Campbell, step in and suspend somebody for a full season or more for this wanton disregard of player safety?
MOLINARI: It's impossible to predict how Campbell, the former Penguins defenseman who administers supplemental discipline for the league, will handle future incidents, but the feeling here is that violent stick infractions -- like the cross-check to the jaw that Boulerice administered to Ryan Kesler of Vancouver last week -- are worthy of more severe penalties than the ones he's handed out so far. The league pointedly told players before the season that there would be zero-tolerance for blows to the head, but the suspensions levied to date haven't been much of a deterrent.
Those who support Campbell's ruling point out that Boulerice was a first-time offender in the NHL -- a nasty stick-swinging incident in junior hockey didn't count -- and that Kesler was not significantly injured. Both points are accurate, but the latter really is not relevant, and a case could be made that the former isn't, either. When Boulerice decided it would be a swell idea to drive his stick into Kesler's face, he didn't bother taking the time to deliver the blow in a way that minimized the chances of serious injury; he seemed quite content to leave Kesler in need of Humpty Dumpty surgery if things broke (quite literally) that way.
Asking for an across-the-board lifetime, or even season-long, suspension for players guilty of going at an opponent's head with their stick is a bit much -- there has to be a little room for judgment to be exercised, particularly if the culprit's actions are completely out of character -- but it can't hurt for players to know that if they do something like that, the punishment will be swift and severe, perhaps even life-altering.
Bottom line: The moderator of this forum (and presumably virtually everyone else who is a fan of the sport) does not want to be present at a game in which the recipient of a stick blow to the head is taken off the ice in a body bag.
Q: When a player accepts a conditioning assignment, does he earn his NHL or AHL salary if he has a two-way contract?
Buffalo Mills, Pa.
MOLINARI: Players are paid their NHL salary -- and count against their club's 23-man roster and salary-cap ceiling -- when they are on a conditioning assignment, such as the one Alain Nasreddine agreed to last week. Those assignments can last for up to 14 days.
First Published October 15, 2007 12:00 am