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Empty Netter Assists - 10-03-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-“This team is the one that gave me my chance, and that I won a Cup with. I want to have another one.” - Marc-Andre Fleury (above) on his status as a pending unrestricted free agent next offseason.

-What's been different about Penguins training camp under Mike Johnston?

-“He’s a guy who took a very big step [during camp]. He’s got size, he’s good both ways. He’s very responsible." - Johnston on Oskar Sundqvist.

-“It’s been a little bit different and not in a bad way, just different. You’re used to things being a certain way for so long; it just becomes kind of routine. And then with a new staff and new head coaches, that kind of thing, it’s a little different. You just have to have really an open mind, kind of get used to everything.” - Crosby on changes under Johnston.

-After the Jump: Brenden Dillon gets paid.

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What's different with Penguins training camp? - 10-02-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

For the first time in half a decade, Dan Bylsma is not running the Penguins' training camp. Mike Johnston is charged with that task new.

To the casual observer, notable differences from this camp to those under Bylsma include the lack of shootout drills and more conditioning drills. And unlike last year, there hasn't been anything remotely similar to a marketing stunt such as an infamous whiffle ball game on ice.

Earlier this week, seven players who have been in previous training camps with this team, were asked what was the biggest difference in this camp to those in previous years.

Kris Letang, defenseman - "I don’t think there’s [anything] new. It’s a different system so everything is new around the tactics or around the system. The only changes, guys are excited to see more opportunity for young guys or new guys to have new ice time or play different game situations. I think it’s exciting. That’s the biggest change."

Craig Adams, right winger - "There isn’t one specific things. Obviously we’ve had the same staff here for a long time. So when you come in, there’s different faces [with the coaches], different voices in meetings, changes to the system and obviously a lot of new faces in the room [players]. It’s more of a collection of things."

Marc-Andre Fleury, goaltender - "Well we have to learn. I think every time we came back [to previous training camps], we knew to expect with camp, to practices, to systems. I think everything is a little different to get used to."

Zach Sill, center - "I don’t know. I haven’t really noticed that big different I guess. From training camp to training camp, you’re still trying to beat the rust off from the summer. It’s been run pretty smooth and that’s always a good thing."

Chris Kunitz, left winger - "Every year is a new year. It’s different players. Obviously new coaches, new drills, new systems. It’s refreshing that it’s putting everybody on edge and trying to put our best foot forward. Everyone is going out and working hard. Everyone is trying to impress the coaches every time you step on the ice whether it’s game or practice. Every time you’re in a meeting, you’re learning something new. Guys are taking a lot in. Everyone is focused."

Pascal Dupuis, right winger - "It’s hard to for me to say because it’s only been practice. -* But I guess it’s different details of the game they address differently. For the most part, a hockey game is a hockey game. But they definitely have a different style of coaching games. As far as practices, it’s upbeat, up-tempo. A lot of skating. Different little details offensively. But you know what? It is what it is. It’s a hockey game. I had like five different coaches and they all had different style of coaches but at the end of the day, if you don’t put in the effort, if you don’t believe the system … it’s all about believing and trusting the system. You could have the best coach ever but if the guys don’t execute or trust the system, it’s no good.

(*-Dupuis was interviewed prior to playing his first two games of the preseason this week.)

Simon Despres, defenseman - "Well definitely a change for me is the first time I’ve had a new coach in Pittsburgh. It’s definitely different. System-wise, right now he’s trying to progressively give us systems so it’s not as much systems as usual. The drills are different. The last five years it’s basically been … not always the same drills but basically the same drills. I didn’t even have to think last year at training camp. I knew all the drills by heart. Now, I’ve got to think more. You’ve got new drills, new coaches, new faces. It’s fun."

(Photo: Keith Srakocic/Associated Press)

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Will McGinnis be eligible for football at Aliquippa?

Written by Mike White on .

Stephon McGinnis transferred this week from Ambridge to Aliquippa. If the WPIAL or PIAA makes him eligible for football, it might be a decision that opens a big can of worms. More like a truckload.

McGinnis enrolled at Aliquippa Monday. Mike Zmijanac, Aliquippa athletic director and football coach, said McGinnis' mother recently re-married, moved into the Aliquippa district and wanted her son to live with her. Zmijanac said Stephon McGinnis lived with someone else in the Ambridge district, but that his mother used to live in Aliquippa.

McGinnis, a senior, is Ambridge's leading receiver and he also averaged 20 points per game in basketball. Whatever the reason he says he has transferred, the fact that Ambridge is 1-4 could have nothing to do with it, right? Merely just a coincidence, I'm sure.

McGinnis is already practicing with undefeated Aliquippa's football team, which is permitted. The WPIAL will likely have a hearing with him in a few weeks. One of the keys to his eligibility ruling could be whether he gets a principal-to-principal "signoff." Ambridge apparently has not yet decided whether to sign off. Sources have told me that Ambridge would like to talk with McGinnis and his mother.

Even if McGinnis gets a principal-to-principal signoff, the WPIAL will likely still have a hearing. If McGinnis is made eligible for football at some point, you can bet Aliquippa opponents will be fuming and it would also set a precedent. And please, don't hand me the malarkey that a kid has a right to live anywhere, go to school anywhere and play sports if he wants. Baloney. You certainly do have a right to live anywhere and go to school anywhere you want. But you do not have a right to play sports. That is a privilege. You may argue that a kid should be able to transfer, even if athletic intent is involved. But now you are arguing the rule. That is a whole other story. The rule is still there, and needs to be enforced.

Think of it. If McGinnis is eligible to play football at Aliquippa, what is to ever stop anyone else from starting the season with one team, and when that team is out of playoff contention, move with a parent to another district, get an apartment in that district and then play? Here is a simple scenario to get it done. This is purely hypotethical, let's say a kid plays for Greensburg Salem and is a pretty good player. After a 1-4 start, it looks like Greensburg Salem isn't going to make the playoffs. Dad all of a sudden gets an apartment in nearby Franklin Regional and takes the son with him. Franklin Regional, coincidentally, is 4-1.

Would that be athletic intent? No way. Dad says he and mom are having marital problems and decided to separate. Greensburg Salem's 1-4 start has nothing to do with this. It's merely a coincidence. If McGinnis is made eligible, how can the WPIAL or PIAA stop the above example?

As for the marital problems thing? Believe me, people have used that before.

And heck, in the example above. Let's say the student leaves Greensburg Salem and goes to Franklin Regional's district with his dad. Maybe after football season, go back to Greensburg Salem for basketball or baseball. Hey, the father and mother worked things out and got back together. Just a coincidence.

But on the other hand, there is a precedent that would seem to favor McGinnis. Twelve years ago, talented player Steffan Brinson moved with his mother from Ambridge to Woodland Hills in the middle of the football season. The WPIAL ruled him eligible and Brinson played for Woodland Hills.

But that same 2002 season, Central Catholic pulled itself out of the WPIAL playoffs because of an alleged sexual abuse case involving players in the preseason. One week later, Central star running back Andrew Johnson enrolled at North Hills. He already lived in the North Hills district. But the WPIAL was able to put off a hearing with Johnson until after North Hills' season ended. The WPIAL eventually ruled Johnson ineligible for the next season, but the PIAA overturned the ruling and Johnson played.

Let's face it. Many transfers of student-athletes are for athletic reasons. It can be hard to prove, though. In fact, no matter how the McGinnis case looks, he is indeed moving in with his mother. But should an athlete be allowed to play at another school halfway through a season? If the move is really not for athletic intent, then not playing the rest of the season should be no big deal, right?

In McGinnis' case, he could still attend school at Ambridge if he wanted. Ambridge, and many other schools, have a rule that if a student's family moves out of the district and a student is a senior, the student is permitted to finish his senior year and still play athletics at the original school. That is allowed by the WPIAL also.

But here is a novel idea that would make a school look so good: Have a school stand up and say we are not making this kid eligible because we know athletic intent was involved. But that has about as much a chance of happening as me bench-pressing 300 pounds. Again, a kid has a right to go to a school, but he doesn't have a right to play sports. For example, if a kid transfers from school A to school B and it is obvious athletic intent is involved, no matter the claims, school B steps up and won't sign the principal-to-principal signoff, saying the kid is ineligible for a year because he transferred for athletic intent. Wouldn't that be something.

It did happen once before and then Greensburg Central Catholic principal Denise Myers was praised by the WPIAL and many others for her decision. Marcus Malara transferred from Mount Pleasant to Greensburg Central Catholic in 2011, but Myers wouldn't sign off on the transfer and recommended to the WPIAL that he be ruled ineligible for a year because he transferred for athletic intent. Myers was a new principal at the time. She is no longer the principal at GCC.

I go back and forth on whether McGinnis should be made eligible for basketball at Aliquippa. But for football, no way.

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Post Route Podcast: Episode Three

Written by Sam Werner on .

They say the third time is the charm, so welcome back for another week of the Post Route Podcast, hosted by Post-Gazette college writers Sam Werner (Pitt) and Stephen J. Nesbitt (WVU).

Pitt face-planted Saturday with a double-digit defeat at home against Akron. West Virginia sat out on a bye week and now preps to host Kansas.

On a time crunch? Here are some helpful time stamps:

1:00-10:34: Could it have been a worse weekend in Pittsburgh sports? We tackle the question of which loss was the very worst. Man, it probably was that Pitt game. Was it the worst loss of Paul Chryst's tenure? It proved to be anything but a good final tune-up before conference play; how does that set Pitt up for a road game against Virginia this week? Is QB Chad Voytik just thinking too much in the pocket? What was behind WR Manasseh Garner's jab at fan support?

10:35-18:30: West Virginia preps for a grudge match against Kansas. Will the promotion of Clint Bowen, the hometown kid, to interim head coach fire up the Jayhawks? Can this be the statement game RB Rushel Shell said is coming for the WVU running game? Is the Kansas defense as good as WVU claims? Is the offense as bad as stats claim?

18:31-33:43: As eyes turn to the national scene, we take a stab at explaining Michigan's current nightmare. How did things spiral so quickly out of control in Ann Arbor? After a sorry slate of games last week — althought UCLA QB Brett Hundley did put on a show — there are huge matchups left and right this week. Saturday is a huge day for the state of Mississippi. Can Ole Miss and QB Bo Wallace hang with Alabama at home? Can Mississippi State stay red-hot as Texas A&M comes to town? In the Big Ten-est game of the season, can Michigan State hold serve against Nebraska? That and more and finish out Episode No. 3.

Sam Werner: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Twitter @swernerpg. | Stephen J. Nesbitt: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.

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Hombres de Acero

Written by Dan Gigler on .

 

As the NFL honors Hispanic Heritage Month, we'd like to salute the Mexican Steelers fan clubs that got together across that country and in California on Aug. 31 to take simultaneous "team" pictures showing their Steelers pride. The result is most impressive. 

Aquí vamos fanáticos de los Steelers! Aquí vamos!

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Also, there are a few from ESPN and FOX videos on how the event was put together which I cannot understand but get the gist of ... 

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