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Talking to Myself: Looking Back and Ahead

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This week, Talking to Myself looks back at Sidney Crosby's all-star injury one last time, looks ahead to Blake Comeau's return, talks about Simon Despres' skating, and more.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

February 2, Penguins Live

Brian Metzer dug up the following bit of info on the injury that kept Sidney Crosby from participating in the All Star Game:  "[Crosby]'s agent, Pat Brisson, was talking to [canoe.ca] and he wanted to put the record straight on this.  He said,  'I would have preferred to have the all star game, especially since it was my birthday,' said Brisson. 'I spent the day on the phone with doctors.  For Sidney, it was clear he needed an injection.  It made sense as a decision to stop everything and that he seek treatment.'  Now obviously, the agent is going to have the player's back, but it was just a little nugget I hadn't heard."

Not a lot to add.  Just the first direct quotes I had seen from anyone in Camp Crosby about it and wanted to pass them along.

February 4, Penguins Live

Vince Comunale on where Blake Comeau fits in when he gets back:  "It will depend on what happens with Mark Arcobello.  I think if they have a strong [showing], I think you might see Comeau go down to one of those bottom-six roles to start out and then who do you scratch?  I don't know, maybe Zach Sill gets scratched, it's hard to say.  Beau Bennett maybe is a casualty, maybe even Nick Spaling gets scratched because none of them have been exactly lighting the world on fire.  It will be interesting to see.  Comeau has had a lot of success with Evgeni Malkin this year, but it's funny, because when he was originally brought in, he was cast as a guy that was going to be on the 4th line."

Arcobello flashed some skill at Edmonton, but failed to finish a couple of Malkin set-ups.  That didn't improve as the Western Canada trip progressed.  Three games doesn't define a player, but they need better from that spot.  Even if they were getting better from Arcobello though, how do you not put Comeau back with Malkin when he's ready?  He's clearly been the best fit alongside Malkin.  He's earned it.  Take a look at this NHL Player Chemistry chart created by Mathew Brown:  http://iguana.cs.toronto.edu (It defaults to Montreal, but there's a drop-down on the left.)  Pretty neat stuff.

February 6, The David Todd Show

Dejan Kovacevic on Kris Letang:  "If he's not [the best defenseman in the league], then the guy he's facing tonight might be, and that's Mark Giordano.  He's the leading scoring defenseman in the NHL and a lot of people look at that when they make their votes.  Shea Weber in Nashville is a guy...  I think a lot of people feel like its his turn to win the Norris.  He's never won it and he been considered at times in his career the best defenseman in the league, but Letang, what he's done in the last five weeks, unquestionably can't be touched.  You're talking about 17 assists, at one point setting up seven of the Penguins' goals in a row.  If he hadn't gotten robbed of an assist in Edmonton a couple nights ago, it'd be nine in a row right now, looking at ten, a mark that's held by, of all people, Wayne Gretzky.  Plain and simple, Kris Letang is a guy who benefits from having tight puck support.  He benefits from having his partner and the forwards coming back to help out so that he can take risks.  Because he's better at taking risks, defensive risks, I think, than anyone in the league right now, at the defense position.  When he knows he has that support, he knows that he can go in on the attack.  He knows that he can make a rush up ice as a trailer.  That's changed his game completely.  Under the Dan Bylsma system, he was left on an island basically.  Bylsma wanted to take advantage of his skating in a different way, by having him make up for everybody else's mistakes.  Mike Johnston correctly identified it should be the other way around.  People should be trying to help Letang and get the most out of number 58.  That's what Mike Johnston and his staff have done."

Letang has been nothing short of superb this season.  He's second in defensive scoring, trailing Giordano by just 2 points (despite playing in 6 fewer games).  He's been better at getting his shots on net, he's making better decisions, his patience is better, and he makes other players better.  But don't take my word for it, go read Jesse Marshall's article on him if you missed it earlier in the week.

February 6, The Mark Madden Show

Josh Yohe on Beau Bennett being healthy scratched:  "Guys like Zack Sill and Craig Adams, they're not getting better if you sit them down for a game.  They are who they are.  They're 4th line role players.  Beau Bennett is a talented guy who's not producing points right now.  That's the problem.  The Penguins...  I don't want to say they're angry with Beau.  I think they expect more of him so they're treating him a little differently because he is a blue-chip kind of talent.  They're obviously not getting something through to him right now.  He's been invisible lately.  The talent is there.  You can see the great pair of hands that he has, the way he sees the ice, this is a legitimate NHL talent, but the fact is, he's far too invisible, far too often.  Mike Johnston wants him to play a more physical game.  He wants him to go to the net, go to the corners more.  I don't know if that's the answer.  I don't think Beau's ever a guy who's going to be a real presence in those areas, but maybe if he learns to do those things, it will open up everything else for his game.  They're just not getting enough from him now and trust me, with the lack of scoring that they still have, they need to get some kind of consistent production from this guy."

Yohe's explanation makes sense, and I get that coaches are often hesitant to change a winning lineup, especially one that produced back-to-back shutouts on the road.  That said, this whole Bennett thing is getting weird.  Scratching Bennett for a game to send a message is one thing. Doing it in three straight after saying previously he'd play on the trip?  I don't know what that does.  I'm sure Bennett is getting a better explanation than we are, but as Yohe notes, no amount of message-sending is going to turn Bennett into a power forward.  Given Arcobello's giving them very little in a top 6 spot, the continued scratching of Bennett is even more curious.  Maybe he'll be back Wednesday against Detroit.  Then again, Comeau could be back by then too, so who knows?

February 7, Pens Week

Mike Lange asked Simon Despres if he'd been the fastest skater every place he'd been since he was a kid.  Despres answered, "I never thought of myself as fast in a straight line.  When I start wheeling behind the net, crossing over, that's where I get my speed."  Lange said, "I watched you today though.  You got a pretty good first jump.  You're first couple of strides, you get going pretty good."  Despres continued, "I worked on it, with Marianne [Watkins], one of the power skaters in Pittsburgh.  I worked a lot on it.  I learn quick so I try to use everything they taught me.  They gave us a lot of tools in the last 6 years, Pittsburgh, whether it's power skating or other stuff."  Lange asked, "Do you notice a difference?"  Despres replied, "Oh yeah."

Some pretty interesting stuff from Despres.  Bylsma definitely deserves criticism for how he handled 47, but at the same time, it wasn't like Despres was a legit top 4 guy who was being held back solely because of the coach.  I think a lot of people forget Despres is still a young guy at 23 and still has some developing to do.

Here is the entire interview between Lange and Despres.  Despres gets into detail on some of the skating techniques he learned.  Past interviews I've heard with Despres have been a little stiff, so kudos to Lange for getting this out of him.  If you can spare two-and-a-half minutes, take a listen:

2015-02-07-PensWeek-MikeLange-SimonDespresSkating