What is Sydor's status?
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Q: Do you agree Jordan Staal must remain at center to be effective? It appears to me he creates better (scoring) opportunities and is more involved in the offensive zone when he is down low controlling the puck.
Ed, West View
MOLINARI: Staal has played center for most of his career, and looks most comfortable and effective when he's in the middle. Clearly, in the best-case scenario, that's where the Penguins would play him.
The trouble is, Staal wants to be a top-six forward, and with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin ahead of him on the depth chart, there just isn't a spot for him at center on the top two lines. Not unless, as happened Saturday, coach Michel Therrien assembled a line on which both Crosby and Malkin play.
That's a short-term solution that makes everyone happy -- with the possible exception of Malkin, who almost certainly would rather play center than wing -- but Crosby and Malkin won't be kept together forever. When Malkin is shifted back to second-line center, Staal will have to either move back onto left wing, presumably with Malkin and Petr Sykora, or return to being a third-line center, the role he filled so effectively in this spring's playoffs.
Staal's contract expires after this season and, understandably, he believes that generating some impressive statistics would give him leverage in the negotiations. A third-line center, however, usually is going to be in fewer point-producing situations than a second-line winger, so aside from those infrequent occasions when Crosby and Malkin are linemates or in the event of an injury to one of those two, there just doesn't figure to be a best-of-both-worlds scenario for Staal this season.
Q: Is it too early to ask, what is the long-term status of Darryl Sydor? Given the lack of playing time in the playoffs and the early part of this season, with two defensemen out for months, is it really possible Sydor is no better than a seventh defenseman in the NHL?
Mark van Deveer, Virginia Beach, Va.
MOLINARI: On a good team, probably. Sydor clearly is the Penguins' No. 7 defenseman, at least at the moment. He had dressed for just two of the first six games before the Penguins played at Boston last night, and was used on left wing in one of those.
In the salary-cap era, holding onto a veteran defenseman who earns $2.5 million primarily as an insurance policy -- even one whose value became evident when the Penguins lost Ryan Whitney and Sergei Gonchar to long-term injuries -- is a luxury that can be difficult to justify. Consequently, if the Penguins need to open some cap space for a personnel move at some point, it certainly is possible that they'll investigate trade possibilities for Sydor.
There is, after all, almost always a market for a capable defenseman, and Sydor still can play at this level, even if it's not with the same impact he had earlier in his career.
Q: In Saturday's game, a linesman had to leave (because of an injury), necessitating one of the referees to take his place. (An announcer) implied that he would be giving up his ref role in doing so. Was that the case or could a referee, serving as a linesman, still make penalty calls?
Bill Holt, Wheeling, W. Va.
MOLINARI: Linesman Tim Nowak had to leave midway through the Penguins' 4-1 victory against Toronto because of what appeared to be a lacerated finger.
When he departed, Rule 33.6 became applicable. It says that if a linesman is forced to leave the game and no replacement is available, "the two referees will assist the remaining linesman with his duties while still retaining their ability to assess penalties when deemed appropriate."
As a practical matter, it probably is best to have one of the referees fill in for the linesman (while not, as noted above, surrendering his ability to call penalties) while the second focuses solely on his duties as a referee. Obviously, the NHL got by for a lot of years using one referee, not two, to call its games.
First Published October 21, 2008 12:00 am