Big Lead Sports Bar


Take 5: Brent Johnson, NFL Hypocrisy, 1960 Pirates, Cliff Lee, Steeler Praise

Five opinions that you may or may not agree with on the subjects above:

1. Brent Johnson is playing some great hockey right now, as his stats would illustrate (4-0, 1.49, .950). But if you think his recent run of playing time is anything more than a short-term solution for the Pens, I think you're setting yourself up for disappointment. Marc-Andre Fleury simply has too much talent, too much pedigree, and too high of a price tag to sit and watch forever.

One can't be too critical of Dan Bylsma for playing Johnson so much, because the name of the game is winning, and Johnson's doing that for his coach and teammates in bunches. But at some point, Coach Disco's going to have to go back to #29 whether he (or the fans) like it or not.

2. If you ask me, the NFL is a walking, talking, breathing example of hypocrisy. They're so concerned about player safety that they're going to add two more games to the regular season schedule in the near future. How compassionate, Roger Goodell.

And nice touch letting Jon Gruden show a collection of Chuck Cecil's biggest hits last night on MNF. Nothing like celebrating the very thing you're allegedly trying to curtail.

3. Watching Cliff Lee dominate the Yankees last night, I had to wonder "What If?" the Pirates actually pulled off the Lee-for-Jason Bay trade that was rumored a few years ago. And if it did happen, would Lee have pitched at the level he's pitching at right now? For some reason, I doubt it. Things never seem to work out so nicely for the Pirates.  uess we'll have to pin our hopes on Bryan Morris to be the ace out of the Bay trade.

4. Like most everyone else, I love the 1960 Pirates. Great story. Great team. Fantastic series. Best ending ever, although some biased observers say it was the Shot Heard Round the World. But here's a question that won't be a popular one: are the winning Pirate teams of the past overcelebrated

Think about how many celebrations of the '60, '71, and '79 teams there have been over the years. And just remember, '60 will be celebrated again with the unveiling of the Bing Crosby tapes in the near future. Do these teams garner as much attention if the Pirates have won anything in the last 18 years? I believe we both know the answer to that question. 

5. I think it's fantastic that so many gurus think the Steelers are the best team in the NFL. Actually, no I don't. I think it's horrible. 

Ever notice how this team thrives on the disrespect card? It's the Hines Ward "No One Ever Believed in Me" line of thinking multiplied by 53. When expectations are high (2007, 2009), they fall on their face. When expectations are lowered (Colts playoff game, 2006) (The Toughest Schedule In the History of Organized Sports, 2008) (four games without Ben Roethlisberger, 2010), they seem to come through. 

If I'm Mike Tomlin, I find some way - any way- to tell this team that no one believes in them. That seems to be a tried and true method to get through to this group.

Mondesi's House: The Director's Cut (more links, commentary, etc): 



Borsk said...

Well, no one believed in them to start the season. I think they got their yearly dose of "no one thought we could do it" from the no-Ben predictions.

MJ said...

The Pirates teams of the past are definitely over-celebrated, because you can't celebrate the current team on the field. The organization has an amazing way to celebrate each championship team every five years, which turns it nearly into a yearly anniversary for the last three championship teams...

'60 Pirates - 2000, 2005, 2010
'71 Pirates - 2001, 2006, 2011
'79 Pirates - 1999, 2004, 2009

BurressWithButterflywings said...

Don't even get me started on NFL hypocrisy, I think my soapbox is weakening beneath my feet.

Remember when Woodley was fined $10K for "tackling the QB in an intimidating manner?" How is one supposed to tackle? They make up the rules as they go and will continue to as long as the Hypocrite is chieft executioner.

Koz said...

I've about had it with the Fleury/Brent Johnson stuff.

This is really simple.

Fleury (and the team) had a rough start to the year. To try and shake that, you throw in the back up goalie. Also, there were back to back games at one point, so it was a natural opportunity for BJ to start. So then, BJ plays well, Fleury goes back in next game and the team struggles, so back to BJ who has now established a winning streak.

When you're on a streak, it would be just moronic to change. As long as BJ wins, he plays--even if that ends up being 12 in a row. I don't care.

Both of these guys are professionals and need to prepare to play. Fleury will undoubtedly get another chance, but in the meantime you don't spit in the face of a hot goalie just because he's "supposed to be the backup." This isn't the same situation as quarterbacks in the NFL. Games are much more frequent in number and there will be opportunities.

I'm convinced that this is a story because of Pittsburgh's football town background and the fan's treating it like a QB controversy. I also think a significant component is the young fans, especially the fangirls, who are stoking the fires because "Fleury is just so cute! OMGZ!"

Stop being so emotional about it and use common sense. If Fleury were on a streak, no one would be wondering if we should get the backup in the game just to keep him fresh--that's over-thinking and over-coaching. Forget it. Win the games you can, enjoy the streak, and shutup already.

Steve said...

I think it's already been surmised that adding two games is nothing more than CBA bargaining fodder and the chances of it happening -- regardless of how greedy the NFL is -- is as good as the Pirates breaking .500 next season and they’ll hold this threat over the NFLPA’s head as long as possible to force a new agreement. Does the NFL really want 2 more games of Tampa Bay, Jacksonville no shows every season? They’re probably more concerned with making every market profitable before ever lengthening the season. This is just like the NHL currently using the Olympic participation hook in their upcoming negotiations. They really don’t care that much, but the players do.

Unknown said...

Might be careful on the Fluery-will-be-back train...Long-term.

Let's look at some examples of winners and conference finalists recently...

2010 - Chicago (Niemi) - traded away in favor of (cheaper) Marty Turco
2010 - Phi (Leighton/Boucher) - bargain basement, backed up by another cheapy
2010 - Mon (Halak) - deemed to be too expensive and traded away
2010 - SJ (Nabokov) - see Halak, only exiled to Russia
2009 - Det (Osgood) - cheap as they come
2009 - Chi (Huet) - relatively cheap as well

Let's see how some more high-priceed goalies are faring...
NYR - Lundqvist
NJ - Brodeur
VAN - Luongo
CAR - Ward
BUF - Miller

I haven't seen any deep playoff runs for these "elite" goalies lately either.

Not a Fleury-basher, but, maybe the time to deal for some scoring on the wings will happen sooner than later, because a bunch of salary became available via ditching a starting goalie in favor of a cheaper tandem.

Frankly, the salary structure for goalies seems grossly out of whck anymore. I expect a league-wide correction in the coming years...Maybe PIT included.

Koz said...


That's interesting, but you might be a bit selective in your assessments and looking at a small sample.

Overall, it's been the case that the right goalie is probably the biggest factor to a playoff run. Cam Ward for Carolina, JS Giguere for the Ducks, Brodeur, Roy, Osgood, and Fleury.

BJ is hot now, but over the course of his career has not shown the pedigree to be consistent long term. Fleury has shown that, plus still has youth on his side.

The salary cap is doing weird things with some of these teams. Montreal already had Carey Price, a Canadian born goalie with hype, signed for the long haul and Montreal predictably went with him. I don't see that as a knock against Halak. Chicago and Philly have been 2 teams with a ton of different goalies since Belfour and Hextall left those teams. Leighton is hurt which is the only reason he isn't starting in Philly and Chicago blew up their whole roster.

Nabokov is almost 10 years older than Fleury and had many, many cracks at getting it done.

This isn't all apples to apples.

Anonymous said...

It's incredibly convenient that you left Fleury's name off of that list of winners and conference finalists. One might say it devastates your argument, but I digress.

Fact is, bargain-basement goaltending reaching the level of a Leighton or a Halak is an anomaly. Defense and solid net-minding are what the playoffs are all about. There is no reason why Fleury, a proven winner, should be sacrificed due to some backward (and wrong) idea that elite goalies aren't needed to win.

Louis Lipps is my homeboy said...


I've found that in the U.S., where EVERYONE watches football, a lot of people tend to treat other sports (like hockey) with the football fan mentality. It's extremely annoying.

First of all, a goalie is not like the QB in the NFL. There can be more than one. Hell, Montreal put in a backup goalie for the playoffs last year (Halak), he played lights out, and they got rid of him and went back to Carey Price and traded Halak in the offseason.

And head coaches are way more important in football than hockey, which is why you get people who get too attached to a hockey coach. Look, about the best thing most hockey coaches can do is get canned so it lights a fire under the team's ass. Guys who win Stanley Cups are routinely fired when the team slumps for too long. That doesn't happen to Super Bowl winning coaches in the NFL.

Also, losing 3 games in a row in a sport that has an 82-game season is not even close to how big of a deal losing 3 straight in football is. I have a friend here who's a new hockey fan (longtime football fan) who kept telling me the Pens were in for a bad year when we started off slow. I'm like "It's not an NFL season. It's 82 games, it ebbs and flows and all equals out in the end. The Penguins will be fine."

Sorry about the rant, but you hit the nail on the head. People, who are football fans first in a country (not just city like Pittsburgh) with a football fan mentality, drive me nuts when they apply that to hockey.

And yes, the Pens need to milk Johnson for every last win they can get out of him before going back to football.

Louis Lipps is my homeboy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve said...

There's no controversy here. The Pens simply have a better than average backup goalie that can get the job done when Fluery is off and can step in without a letdown in net when he needs a break too. This reminds me of when Conklin stepped up when Fleury was out to injury and everyone was thinking he played so well winning 9 in a row that just maybe he could be the answer in net. Didn't happen and a season later Fleury is hoisting the cup while Conklin looked on from the Detroit bench.

Johnson is playing well yes, but so is the team now and they weren't really giving Fleury a lot of support early on. Outside of letting in the awful winning goal against Montreal, I don't think he was playing that badly and I wouldn't have problem if they let him start the next game just to see how he does with a better playing team in front of him.

Riding the hot goalie has it's obvious merits but at some point you have to go back to what you know is you No. 1 goalie and let him prove he can get the job done. I don't think there's any chance the Pens will cut Fleury loose in favor of Johnson, so why even pretend just 6 games into the season that that's a possibility.

Unknown said...


Point taken...but I left Fleury off the list only because I assumed everyone would realize he was in the mix during that time frame - being a Pittsburgh blog and all...

Again, I'm not knocking Fleury, however it bears mentioning that he's had exactly one exceptional stretch in his career. Yes, thankfully, it did include a Cup win. Since that June, though, he has been mediocre...the numbers - and to a lesser extent, the collective "body language" of the fan base/reporters/and now head coach - have pretty well shown that to be the case.

I don't mean to suggest that Johnny is the answer, only that maybe there's a shift that I think is going to happen in the salary structure amongst goaltenders in the league since the cap has been in place.

Naturally, past performance means next to nothing for the future. If that were the case, Uncle Dad over in Newark would be a lock to win it all each year - you know, he of the zero playoff series wins since 2006.

I just hope that Fleury's 2009 stretch turns out to be the rule for his play, and not the exception that it's starting to look like.

BurressWithButterflywings said...

I like Johnson and the work he is doing and I hope they we continue to go with his hot hand. He is a very good goaltender and I wouldn't necessarily use the b-word to describe him.

But MAF is the #1 goaltender.

Koz said...

Pretty good company on the NOT HOT goalie list.

Steve said...

Don't even have to look...Brodeur?

Koz said...

also Luongo, Cam Ward, and Halak

Borsk said...

Fleury is the 11th highest paid goalie in the league. If the difference between having a Stanley Cup capable goalie and one that isn't is $3.5M, GMRS will pay the extra $3.5M.

brian said...

Cliff Lee pitched well for sub-par 08 and 09 Indian teams (including a Cy Young) and a team worse offensively than the Bucs in this year's Mariners. Unless you really believe in all the luck/karma in the world, I'd think he'd pitch well in Pittsburgh and we'd probably still be, unfortunately, a 75 win team at best.

The question I'd ask is what would the Bucs get back for him and when would they have pulled the trigger between deadline 2008 to deadline 2010?

I don't know if it was his issues in 2007, his overall body of work in Cleveland or the fact he isn't a hard thrower or big K guy like the prototypical ace but the trade return for him thus far haven't been lights out. Both Cleveland and Philly took criticism for getting mediocre at best prospects in return for him. Seattle's return got a front office person fired for not doing enough homework on one of the prospects spending time in jail for a sexual assault case.

I'm not saying we're better off not having acquired Lee before 2008 but I think it'd have been hard for Neal Huntington to get a deal that would be of fair or greater value with everyone knowing that Lee is testing the open market and Pirates can't afford the contract he will get this offseason.

Keith Mitchell said...

Point No. 5 - both those seasons followed Super Bowl wins when the Steelers appeared to think they could sleepwalk to wins and the playoffs. This defense seems angry and hungry and another word that ends with "gry" but I can't think of it. Rankings are the lazy man's way to create content, but have at it. Can't wait to see them plant more QB's, RB's and WR's. Dick LeBeau is showing everyone that HoF award is no joke.

Anonymous said...

"If I'm Mike Tomlin, I find some way - any way- to tell this team that no one believes in them. That seems to be a tried and true method to get through to this group."

don't worry, the nfl has already provided the motivation with the three fines they've levied on the steelers so far for playing the game the way it was meant to be played. brings back memories of 2008.

Daquido_Bazzini said...

Big Bob Nutting has found something new in his life in recent months.

That would be….A penchant for coffee.

Yes….It was only recently that some business associates of his in Wheeling, WV turned him on to “the hot bean”…..As he now likes to call it.

“I was meeting up with some associates a few months ago….And one of them suggested we put our heads together in a place called the Center City Coffee Shop in Wheeling.
I thought to myself….What in tarnation would we want to do that for? They’re charging a fiver for a cup of coffee!

But….When I walked in and smelled the aroma of fresh coffee beans twistin’ in the air….It opened up a whole new world to me.

Plus….They’ve got a deal for us working folks. Buy five cups….Get the sixth for free!
I’ve never been a drinking man…..Big Daddy Ogden doesn’t allow that type of thing in the house except for one hard shot on New Years Eve.

But this coffee thing!…..Well….I flat out have a hankerin’ about three to five times a day now!
To sit in this shop….Sip on hot coffee….Talk money saving schemes, and frankly smell the smell….Well….It just packs a powerful force of energy into my day.

Some say it’s the caffeine.

I think it’s more the explosion of that damn-hot coffee hitting your inerds…..Woooo-Ha!”

When asked about the current on-going managerial search of the Pirates, Nutting had few words.
“That’s GM Huntington’s job…..I’ve instructed him to take the final interviews down here to Wheeling at the coffee shop. From there….We’ll pick a name out of a coon skin cap and be done with it.”
Upon being asked about President Ozentine Coonelly’s part in the process…..Nutting declined to disclose his whereabouts.

“Oz is an international man”, said Nutting…..”When we need his help, I just dial ‘em up on my CB.
Hell….If it’s good for the truckers…..It’s good for the Buc-ers!” — Daquido Bazzini