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Talking to Myself: Kapanen, Big Ice, and More

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This week, Talking to Myself talks about others talking about Kasperi Kapanen coming to America, whether big ice can fix the NHL's offensive woes, and more.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

April 3, TribLive Radio

Tony Androckitis joined TribLive Radio to talk Kasperi Kapanen's assignment to the AHL:  "He's only 18 years old.  The jury's definitely still out on him.  Obviously there's going to be high expectations, first round pick last year...  It's kind of been a tale of two seasons for Kapanen over in Finland.  He got off to a real good start, the first 10-15 games and then from there the inconsistencies you'd expect a young player to have have kind of shown.  He had five points in six playoff games, but really most of his offense came in the first two months of the season points-wise.  It will be interesting to see, especially the rink adjustment to the smaller ice surface and much better competition and more physical play.  It will be interesting to see how he responds initially."

I think it's been two games since Kapanen was assigned and he's yet to play a game, but don't read anything into that.  Wilkes-Barre is wrapping up a playoff spot, Kapanen is fresh of the boat, so-to-speak, no reason to immediately put him in.  I recommend tempering your expectations when/if he does play.  I think a lot of the Penguin fan-base is still somewhat spoiled by having guys like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, and Olli Maatta come in and contribute as rookies.  That isn't typical, even though it may seem like it around here at times.  Maybe if he gets into the lineup down there and lights things up, then he forces his way up here this spring, but I wouldn't think those odds are very high.  Maybe next year, but even that might be a little soon.

April 3, The Mark Madden Show

Dejan Kovacevic filled in for Madden and got a call asking if going to bigger ice would open things up.  Kovacevic:  "I covered the Olympics in Sochi last winter.  It was some of the most abysmal defensive hockey you'll ever see.  The bigger rink thing won't work."

Kovacevic cited Team Slovenia stacking all five guys in the middle of the ice early on in the tournament, forcing play out to the perimeter and how you can't score from way out there.  He also called a lot of other rule changes like moving the goal lines around  "window dressing."  I don't watch a lot of international hockey, but this falls in line with what I have seen and much of what I've heard.  The big ice doesn't bolster offense.  I think a lot of people get enamored with it because of Olympic hockey and how good that can be.  Where that analysis falls apart in that most of the Olympic teams (contending ones, anyway) are all star squads.  If the NHL dropped down to 12 teams, I'm sure the level of play on the smaller ice would be a lot higher too.  Like I said last week, the best and easiest thing the NHL could do to improve it's product is call the rules already in the book.  No need to over-think things.

Speaking of Kovacevic, his Friday Insider piece focused mainly on multiple Penguins saying Wes McCauley wouldn't talk to or look at them during their shootout win over San Jose.  There was also this little under-the-radar nugget:

"Waivers wouldn’t work with anyone right now because the player couldn’t be assigned anywhere, including in the NHL. I don’t see that in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, but I’ll accept it because — and this I had heard about — there actually are parts of the CBA that have never been made public. Not many but some. Only the league and member teams are aware of them, and that’s how they intend to keep it."

So the NHL makes their CBA document public, but not all of it?  How very NHL of them.

April 4, Pens Week

Paul Steigerwald on the Pens' injury woes and their role in the current state of the team:  "I think the Penguins have just been tortured by injury and illness, more than any team in hockey.  With all due respect to the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have been riddled with injuries this year, no team has endured more.  Blood clots, cancer, the mumps, injury to three of the top four D, long term injuries to four of the top six forwards...  As a result, there's no continuity, there's a lack of role definition, guys are being asked to do too much.  Jimmy Rutherford probably had to make trades a little sooner and a little more urgently than he might have had the Penguins been a more healthy team."

Steigerwald also referenced this post by Ryan Wilson over at HockeyBuzz.  Check it out if you want to see more on exactly how hard the Pens have been hit by injuries to key guys.  No team has the kind of depth to shake off the injuries they've had to deal with.  I know Rutherford said he wanted to add a top six forward from the start, but if Pascal Dupuis doesn't go down, is David Perron a Penguin?  If so, Edmonton's return is different as the Pens wouldn't have been able to take on his salary without sending some out.  All of that said, missing players doesn't force you to be careless with the puck or make bad decisions.  Injuries are definitely a factor and they definitely cut down on your margin of error (guys like Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang can certainly make up for a lot of things), but in no way do they explain away everything that's wrong with this team at present, and as others have pointed out, the Pens weren't a picture of perfect health in previous years, and they managed to overcome them then.

April 4, TribLive Radio

Josh Yohe relayed some information I've long believed to be true about Shane Doan:  "Ian Cole and Ben Lovejoy are a couple of guys who played against Shane Doan an awful lot in the western conference and they didn't have the nicest things to say about him.  They kind of implied that he's a really nice guy and the media loves him.  He's got that great reputation but he's actually kind of a dirty player.  They didn't use the word dirty, but they kind of implied it so we'll run with that.  I think that's where they were going, one of those guys who's maybe under the radar a little bit, but a guy you have to keep your head on a swivel when you're playing against him."

Shane Doan must have a great publicist.  Everyone seems to love him despite interfering with Letang, elbowing Jamie Benn in the face, trying to start a fight in a handshake line after losing in the playoffs, etc.  Nothing sticks to the guy.  Scott Hartnell's the same way; a complete jackass on the ice, but supposedly a good guy off of it, so it's okay.  If you're an idiot on the ice, you're an idiot IMO.  Then again, this is the same league that glorified Mark Messier's elbows as leadership, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised.