Have these Penguins underachieved? - 04-15-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

At 10:37 p.m. on June 12, 2009, the Penguins won the Stanley Cup.

For a franchise stocked with several high-end draft picks in the middle part of the first decade of the 21st century, this was supposed to happen. A championship was preordained for a team which drafted Sidney Crosby, a player who was anointed as the next Wayne Gretzky.

It was also supposed to happen again. And again. And again. Even before winning the Stanley Cup in 2009, Sidney Crosby's Penguins were drawing comparisons to Wayne Gretzky's Oilers teams which won multiple Stanley Cup titles in the 1980s.

But a repeat of that joy felt on a humid night in Detroit almost five years ago has yet to happen for these Penguins. In the four ensuing campaigns, the Penguins' seasons have come to an end in four distinct fashions, each without a championship. Forget Gretzky's Oilers. Crosby's Penguins aren't even Mario Lemieux's Penguins which won two Stanley Cup titles in the early 1990s.

Have these Penguins underachieved? Recently, six members of that 2009 team which are still a part of the current squad were asked that question:

Craig Adams (right), right winger – “I think when you have a good team, you have an ownership and a management that gives you everything you need to be successful – whether it’s adding pieces at the deadline or giving contracts to guys to get them to stick around – you want to win it every year. You have a chance to win every year. But the fact is, teams don’t win it every year. It doesn’t matter how good you are or how good you think you are. Are we disappointed? Yeah, absolutely. I think everybody’s in here goal is to win every year. To say we’ve underachieved, I don’t know. It’s hard to … I feel that way. But at the same time, you look across the league and you don’t see many teams that are winning three or four Cups in a row.

Sidney Crosby, center – “I don’t know. We went to the [Eastern Conference final last season]. We lost the Stanley Cup Final in [2008]. I think that’s a pretty good track record. Most teams would like to have those opportunities. I wouldn’t say you accept that but I also wouldn’t say we’ve been a complete failure. We’ve been there. We haven’t gotten those big wins but I wouldn’t say that we’ve failed to meet expectations. There’s been certain circumstances too. If you really want to dissect it, there’s been some things. We’ve run into some troubles. We had injuries the one year against Tampa [2011]. We have high expectations but I wouldn’t say it’s failure.

Marc-Andre Fleury, goaltender – “It’s disappointing I think. We won it in [2009] and we thought we would do this every time. But we’re not the only team in the league. I think there’s better parity. There’s more good teams around. I’m sure Chicago looks and wonders why it hasn’t won five in a row. It’s tough. For us as a team, it’s disappointing. It’s a good challenge to go at it every year knowing we have a shot at it. We know it’s going to be tough.

Chris Kunitz, left winger - "When you go out in the first round, that’s not the expectation of the team. There’s a lot of good teams out there that have been nearing the top of their game. We have to get better and strive to do that every year. Management and coaches and staff, they all put us in the right position and give us the right information. We have to go out there and do it as a team. It’s another opportunity to go out and win. It’s not easy to go out there and win four series. You’ve got to take it one at a time. Each year is a new year."

Kris Letang (right), defensemen – "There’s one team that was able to do that. I think it’s one of the hardest trophies to win. It all depends every year. I wouldn’t say underachieve, no. But I would say, we expect more of ourselves. We have had disappointed years. I’m not going to lie about that but at the end of the day, it’s a pretty hard trophy to win."

Brooks Orpik, defensemen – “I think your goal is to win it every year. So in our minds, if we don’t win it, we think we’re underachieving it but there’s a lot of good teams. It’s tough. Boston is a good team. They’ve won it once. San Jose hasn’t won it. They’re a great team. St. Louis is a great team. They can’t get over the hump. It’s easy to say that but with the way the [salary] cap it, there’s so many good teams. The parity across the board is probably greater than it ever has been. If you ask guys in here, that’s you’re ultimate goal. If you don’t win it, I guess you’re underachieving. Even if you lose in the [Stanley Cup Final], you’re underachieving. But I think at the same time, I think you’ve got be aware of how many good teams there are every year. Everyone is trying to win it. People get a little short-sighted. I’ve watched the way people talk about the Steelers. There’s 29 other good teams [in the NHL]. Thirty-one others in the NFL. Everyone has the same goal. It’s tough to win. That’s for other people to say. I guess it all depends on what your goals are. If you underachieve or overachieve… I don’t know. You try to win it every year so if you’re not winning it every year, I guess you are underachieving. I don’t think guys get too caught up in that.”

(Photos: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images and Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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Report: Andy Toole to interview at Marshall

Written by Craig Meyer on .

It wouldn't be a Robert Morris basketball offseason if coaching speculation wasn't involved.

Colonials coach Andy Toole is expected to interview for the vacant men's basketball head coaching position at Marshall University, a source told the Charleston Daily Mail.

This time of year is always filled with people trying to pimp Toole out to most any vacant job, but this is a legitimate report for something substantive -- an actual interview for a position that would make some kind of sense.

According to figures from the Office of Postsecondary Education, Marshall spent $2.37 million on men's basketball during the 2012-13 season, ranking it 137th among Division I teams and ninth among programs in the 16-team Conference-USA. For the sake of comparison, Robert Morris spent $1.34 million on men's basketball, good for 253rd in Division I.

Tom Herrion, who was recently fired as the Thundering Herd's coach, was making about $400,000 per year, which, according to tax documents, is more than double what Toole was making in 2011. Since that time, he's gotten a raise and an extension, but the fact still remains that this job would be a bump in pay at a school that spends more money on men's basketball.

With all that in mind, would this be the right conference for Toole? Andrew Chiappazzi over at Colonials Corner breaks it down some in this thread and I agree with him on some points. This isn't the Conference-USA of 10 years ago, when Louisville, Cincinnati, Marquette and Memphis would regularly help the league send multiple teams to the NCAA tournament. It could very well be a one-bid league for the future, but I think the potential at least exists for there to be multiple teams selected from the conference in a given year.

At the very least, there's more of a financial commitment to basketball than there is in the NEC, largely because these are bigger schools with more resources, even if the prestige factor of the Big East or Atlantic 10 isn't there. Ten of C-USA's 16 teams are among the top 150 in basketball expenses in 2012-13; the NEC, meanwhile, had no teams in the top 150 in spending and just one in the top 200 (LIU Brooklyn).

It's maybe not the job many people envisioned Toole being tied to, but there is reportedly mutual interest and, to me at least, it appears like a step up for him on the proverbial coaching ladder.

The situation is certainly worth monitoring and I'll provide any updates as they become available.


Craig Meyer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG

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Ducks - Stars preview - 04-15-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Ducks vs. Stars

Ducks Leading Regular Season Scorer: Ryan Getzlaf (right), 87 points (31 goals, 56 assists).

Stars Leading Regular Season Scorer: Tyler Seguin, 84 points (37 goals, 47 assists).

Ducks Expected Starting Goaltender: Frederik Andersen, 20-5-0, 2.29 GAA, .923 SV%.

Stars Expected Starting Goaltender: Kari Lehtonen (below), 33-20-10, 2.41 GAA, .919 SV%.

Ducks Regular Season Statistics

Stars Regular Season Statistics

Ducks Injuries: Right winger Tim Jackman (hand) is out. Defenseman Sheldon Souray (wrist) is on injured reserve.

Stars Injuries: Defenseman Brenden Dillon ("lower body") and left winger Ray Whitney ("lower body") are questionable. Center Rich Peverley (heart) is on out.

Ducks with Stanley Cup bling: Francois Beauchemin, D; Ryan Getzlaf, C; Corey Perry, RW; Teemu Selanne, RW.

Stars with Stanley Cup bling: Erik Cole, LW; Alex Goligoski, D; Segei Gonchar, D; Rich Peverly C; Tyler Seguin, C; Tim Thomas G; Ray Whitney, LW.

Something worthwhile about the Ducks: The Ducks led the NHL in goals per game this past regular season with 3.21.

Something worthwhile about the Stars: The Stars were shutout only once this past regular season, least in the NHL .

Something useless about the Ducks that is vaguely connected to the Penguins: Current Penguins left winger Chris Kunitz holds the Ducks' postseason record for assists in a period. He recorded three in a 5-1 win against the Canucks in Game 1 of a 2007 Western Conference semifinal series.

Something useless about the Stars that is vaguely connected to the Penguins: The longest playoff overtime win in Stars/North Stars history was a series-clinching 2-1 victory in four overtime periods against the Sharks in Game 6 of a 2008 Western Conference semifinal. Former Penguins left winger Brenden Morrow scored the overtime goal.

Former Penguins on the Ducks: Brad Lauer, assistant coach; Ben Lovejoy, D.

Former Penguins on the Stars: Alex Goligoski, D; Sergei Gonchar, D; Jiri Hrdina, amateur scout; Dustin Jeffrey, center; Mark Recchi, advisor to hockey operations.

Who needs to be the difference for the Ducks: Andrew Cogliano, Saku Koivu, Jakob Silfverberg. The Stars generate the bulk of their offense from their top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Valeri Nichuskin. Presumably, the Ducks will pit their third line against this trio. The Ducks' defensive forwards much limit the damage from the Stars' best players.

Who needs to be the difference for the Stars: Lehtonen. For the Stars to pull off this upset, Lehtonen has to steal some games. At the very least, he has to outperform the Ducks' uncertain goaltending situation.

Best Ducks YouTube Video We Could Find: Mighty Ducks right winger Petr Sykora scoring a goal in the fifth overtime of a 4-3 win against the Stars in Game 1 of a 2003 Western Conference quarterfinal series:

Best Stars YouTube Video We Could Find: Stars defenseman Paul Cavallini scoring the franchise's first postseason overtime goal since it moved to Dallas in a 5-4 against the Blues in Game 3 a 1994 Western Conference quarterfinal series:

EN Prediction: For the Stars, reaching the postseason has made this a successful season. They will give the Ducks trouble and definitely won't be outworked. But with limited sources of offense and the spotty history of Lehtonen, they don't have enough to win this series. Ducks 4-2.

(Photos: Jeff Gross/Getty Images and Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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Record low temperature predicted for tonight, don't panic in the garden

Written by Doug Oster on .

mystery lettuce under row coverEven though it won't get cold enough to kill things like lettuce, a floating row cover will make the plants happier. Photo by Doug Oster

There's a possibility temperatures will reach a record low of 21 degrees tonight and that could adversely affect some plants in the garden. Don't panic though, most of these plants have seen this many times over the years.

Lets start with things we're not worried about and/or couldn't really protect anyway. Most shrubs and trees will be fine. Things like azaleas and rhododendrons shouldn't be affected along with dogwoods and pines. Magnolias and fruit trees might get the worst of it. In my garden, both are too big to do anything about, so all I can do is cross my fingers. If the magnolia has started to bloom, flowers might get zapped and if not, the buds stand a chance of freezing out.

For spring blooming bulbs, I won't do a thing. They have been through this for centuries, worse case scenario there will be some bud blast and loose the blossoms for the season. This is most likely to happen on daffodils.

I'm not worried about pansies or violas either, they should be able to take the cold.

Most of what I'll be protecting is in the vegetable garden. Peas and greens like lettuce, arugula, spinach and more won't be killed by these temperatures, but will be happier with a little protection.

The easiest thing to use is a floating row cover. It's a spun bound translucent fabric which is so lightweight, the plants themselves can hold it up.

Since soil temperatures have warmed up, I'm not too worried about one night of cold. We should reach 50 by tomorrow afternoon. Lets hope that's the end of the really cold weather, but don't forget, we'll get frost all the way through May.

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Secrets in the daffodil patch; spiders and flowers beyond yellow trumpets

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog secrets spider 3Secrets are revealed when you get close to the flowers. This tiny spider tried to hide behind a daffodil petal. Photos by Doug Oster

The forest is filled with scrawny deer, tired and hungry from a brutal winter. But even though they are starving, the four legged thieves turn their noses up at daffodils, that's one of the reasons I grow so many.

I love yellow trumpets, but their are countless other colors and flower forms to experience.

Spring is officially here when the daffs begin to bloom, but the season can be extended by choosing early, mid and late season varieties. I enjoy the subtle differences each one offers. It's fun to get close to the flowers, and when you do, surprises can happen. As I was cutting bouquets I saw a tiny spider jump behind a petal, hoping not to be seen. I slowly laid down on the soft, cool soil with camera in hand. The close-up lens was perfect to capture the tiny hairs of the hidden spider's legs.

My connection with daffodils goes back to 1967, when I visited the graves of my grandparents at Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland. Behind me were thousands of flowers in bloom on Daffodil Hill. The area was started in the 1940's with an initial planting of 100,000 bulbs. I was profoundly affected by those flowers and when I moved to Pittsburgh, told my mother I would create my own Daffodil Hill in memory of my grandparents. I'm a long way off from 100,000 bulbs, but I'm working on it.

I had the honor of being in Rick Sebak's Cemetery Special talking about Daffodil Hill and how it changed my gardening life.

Here's a look at many of the early flowering daffodils in my garden. I'm looking to add more each season, this is the time to decide where I need more. I'll shoot some pictures so when fall planting time comes around I'll know where to plant them.

When I see the flowers in bloom, I always remember that day in 1967 and smile thinking of my grandparents.

blog secrets pink daffI've recorded the cultivars of every daffodil I've planted. They are tucked away in garden journals so in this garden it's all about enjoying the flowers not the names. I love this pink throated beauty.

blog double yellow daffDouble daffodils might be my favorites.

blog secrets whiteThis patch was here when I moved in, I think they are an old fahsioned favorite called Mt. Hood.

blog secrets 2It's fun to see al the different variations in daffodils.

blog secrets bridalGet close to the flowers and really take a good look.

blog secrets daffodil 1Daffodil season signals the "real" start to spring.

blog secrets orange heartThis one is also a favorite.

blog secrets still tightOne trick to extending the season is planting varieties which bloom at different times.

blog secrets yellow and orangeSimple, elegant and beautiful.

blog tight bridal daffsFor some reason flies are attracted to this variety.

blog white and orange doubleAnother cool double daffodil.

blog secrets daffodil overallThere's nothing wrong with yellow trumpets. These are some of the toughest and most beautiful daffodils in the garden.


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