Penguins Q&A with Dave Molinari
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Do you think that all of the hype surrounding the "new and improved" Penguins could ultimately backfire if they can't improve upon, or at least match, the numbers that they had last season? I have followed hockey for over 20 years and cannot recall such a rapid turnaround in a team's expectations. Two years ago, the Pens didn't even make the playoffs. Last year, they were eliminated rather convincingly in the first round. Now, everyone suddenly feels as though they should be contending for the Stanley Cup this year? Have the fans and the media set the bar too high for this still-unproven playoff commodity, and will it hinder the development of this young team?
Darric, North Huntingdon
MOLINARI: Most of the overblown expectations for the Penguins, at least among media members, have come from outside of Western Pennsylvania. People who are around the team on a regular basis have long recognized that, while their collection of young talent is unmatched in the NHL, they still could use another accomplished goal-scorer or two on the wing, as well as another reliable veteran defenseman (ideally, one with a mean streak), and that their No. 1 goaltender must continue to progress before it's established that he's capable of leading a team to a championship.
That doesn't mean the Penguins have no chance of winning the Cup next spring (assuming they qualify for the playoffs, of course), because they have players capable of altering the course of a game, or even a series, with a burst of sheer individual brilliance. It is, however, far easier to make a case for the Penguins, as currently constituted, still being a year or two away from serious contention than it is that they're on the cusp of claiming a title.
While the players and coaches don't live in a vacuum and are aware of what is being written and said about them, by the time they reach the NHL they should realize that predictions and hype are just so many words, that being a popular choice to do well carries absolutely no guarantee of success.
Realizing the cost is most likely prohibitive and that it may no longer be operational, wouldn't it be cool if the Pens played one of their final games at Mellon Arena with the roof open?
Jeff, Mercer, Pa.
MOLINARI: A lot of people probably would find that idea intriguing but, as you suggest, there are practical problems that seem to rule out any possibility of it happening.
The roof no longer can be opened (not with the scoreboard in place, anyway) because of additional supports that had to be installed when the scoreboard was upgraded some years back. It probably would be tough to get either team to go along with the idea of the scoreboard sitting in the neutral zone while play was going on, since that might tend to disrupt the flow of play a bit. (It would give guys a great incentive to keep their heads up, though.)
Even if it were technically possible to open the roof, there would be financial issues for the Penguins' front office to consider. There were significant costs associated with opening the arena roof -- a figure of $3,000 was kicked around in some circles a few years ago -- and playing an open-air game there would do nothing to enhance revenues, because there would be no additional seats created. (That distinguishes it from, say, the outdoor game the Penguins and Buffalo will play Jan. 1, when the venue will be Ralph Wilson Stadium, not HSBC Arena.)
Those who attended events at the arena when the roof was opened, whether it was a concert or a World Team Tennis match back in the 1970s (how 'bout those Boston Lobsters?), can appreciate what a unique feature that was but, alas, it's something no hockey crowd will get an opportunity to experience.
First Published October 16, 2007 12:00 am