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Thread: Are the Olympics a distraction?

      
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    Default Are the Olympics a distraction?

    Are the Olympics a distraction?
    Penguins Q&A with Dave Molinari
    Wednesday, January 13, 2010
    By Dave Molinari, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
    Andrew Vaughan/Associated Press/Canadian PressPenguins captain Sidney Crosby carries the Olympic flame in Halifax, Nova Scotia last autumn.Click here to submit your question

    Note: You can follow the Penguins on the Penguins Plus blog at PG-Plus. Membership in that site is only $3.99 per month or $36 per year.

    Because of the strong response to Bill Ratay's Mellon Arena memories printed in the Q&A recently, similar submissions from other readers interested in sharing their recollections will be posted in the Penguins area of PG-Plus. Those pieces can be sent via the Q&A submission form or to DMolinari@Post-Gazette.com


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    Q: During the Pens' recent slump, everyone is focusing on Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury or a lack of top-six wingers, but nobody points out the absence of a defensive "shutdown" pairing like Rob Scuderi and Hal Gill. The absence of these two or comparable replacements has caught up with them. The current defense is loaded with offensive talent that is not scoring enough and the other defensemen are not physical enough, except for Brooks Orpik. No teams are afraid to come and skate into the Pens' zone. Do you think this is the most pressing cause of the Pens' slump and who would be available to improve the blue line come the trading deadline?

    Chuck Schubert, Sturgeon, Pa.

    MOLINARI: The lack of muscle on the Penguins' defense actually hasn't been overlooked; it was touched on as recently as yesterday's Q&A. It also is not the only reason -- or probably even the primary one -- the Penguins have stumbled through the past few weeks, but their 4-3 loss in Minnesota underscored the problems that can be caused when opposing forwards are able to go the net with impunity.

    With Orpik unavailable because of injury, Wild forwards spent almost as much time in and around the Penguins' crease as Fleury did. They consistently obscured his view of shots coming from elsewhere in the offensive zone got their third goal because Cal Clutterbuck set up in Fleury's face and had a shot carom off him and into the net. That goal wiped out the Penguins' final lead of the evening.

    The same salary-cap issues that mitigate against the Penguins trading for a top-six winger now would seem to make it unlikely that they will go after a physical defenseman in the immediate future, but pursuing one as the deadline approaches figures to be a priority for general manager Ray Shero.

    Precisely who will be available depends on which teams have concluded by then that they are out of contention for a playoff berth and thus will be sellers, not buyers, at the deadline. That's not a concession most GMs are willing to make at this point, no matter who desperate their club's position in the standings appears to be.


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    Q: Could the upcoming Olympics be distracting to some of these guys? I know it's no excuse, but Fleury and Malkin seem especially out of sorts.

    Steve Weisenberg, Alamo, Calif.

    MOLINARI: That certainly as become a popular theory to explain some of the Penguins' sub-par performances since the Christmas break and, while there's no evidence to support it -- it's not as if Fleury walks around the locker room wearing a "Vancouver 2010" T-shirt while humming "O Canada" -- no one can know for sure what goes on inside any player's head.

    The thinking here, though, is that being chosen to represent their countries at the Games next month has not been a significant factor in their work of late. Slumps happen, and there doesn't have to be an outside factor that causes them.

    Fact is, if Fleury, Malkin or any other player would be so distracted by a tournament that is weeks away, no matter how important, that it would affect his day-to-day performance, it would be a serious indictment of his ability to focus on more pressing matters. It's hard to imagine that a player who had such trouble concentrating on the task at hand ever would have developed to the point where he'd be considered for a spot on his country's national team in the first place.

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    Default Re: Are the Olympics a distraction?

    Unlike Molinari... I wouldn't discount the possibility of the Olympics being a distraction. Home country pride for these players is much bigger than us Americans know or realize simply because we don't share that same sort of passion. We don't share it because we don't engage in country vs. country type competition like Euro's and such do and even Canada has it's own marks as well.

    Fact is, the Olympics are big for guys, especially Europeans IMO and I don't doubt at all that they aren't looking ahead and at times focusing on the Olympics. It would never surprise me that some players might "hold back" a little more to risk getting an injury before competing in the Olympics. It's the same outlook and concept as NFL players before the playoffs begin or resting NHL players a game or 2 before the playoffs begin as well...

    I'm not saying this is a case for definite sure but it's highly possible, just as possible as completely disregarding it, especially with regards to Europeans IMO. The Stanley Cup IMO is just a trophy and the NHL is just a big paycheck for thise guys, winning the Olympics gold medal for their country trumps getting their name on a canadian trophy and playing for the NHL IMO

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    Default Re: Are the Olympics a distraction?

    First off, I say yes, and it is bull**** but there is nothing you can do.

    Apparently Malkin said this to a Russian sports publication called "Sport Express". I'm just hoping something got lost in the translation here. I know Mario did it back in 2002, but their are no health issues for Malkin to try and "save himself" at 23 years old.

    "I see that many people are worried because of my decline in productivity. But the season is long and everybody has slowdowns. Do not worry I will be in my best form by the Olympics and hope will not let the country down."
    http://english.sport-express.ru/summary/1_4704/
    Last edited by jmd; Jan-13-2010 at 12:23 PM.

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    Default Re: Are the Olympics a distraction?

    Quote Originally Posted by jmd View Post
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    First off, I say yes, and it is bull**** but there is nothing you can do.

    Apparently Malkin said this to a Russian sports publication called "Sport Express". I'm just hoping something got lost in the translation here. I know Mario did it back in 2002, but their are no health issues for Malkin to try and "save himself" at 23 years old.



    http://english.sport-express.ru/summary/1_4704/
    Yeah... not really a surprise IMO.

    The Olympics IMO are probably a bigger deal for Malkin right now than the NHL. He's won a cup, he's won an scoring title, the playoffs MVP... he's failed a few times getting Gold for his country. I don't doubt that he is seeing that as the biggest accomplishment left to be had right now...

    Thing is... Americans won't get this or understand this like I said before because we don't have the same national pride on sport events as Euro countries because we don't compete like that. Rivalries over there lie between countries, over here it lies between cities. There's not even a question which is going to be more heated - country vs. country.

    Hopefully... all is good when they come back

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    Default Re: Are the Olympics a distraction?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kipper View Post
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    Yeah... not really a surprise IMO.

    The Olympics IMO are probably a bigger deal for Malkin right now than the NHL. He's won a cup, he's won an scoring title, the playoffs MVP... he's failed a few times getting Gold for his country. I don't doubt that he is seeing that as the biggest accomplishment left to be had right now...

    Thing is... Americans won't get this or understand this like I said before because we don't have the same national pride on sport events as Euro countries because we don't compete like that. Rivalries over there lie between countries, over here it lies between cities. There's not even a question which is going to be more heated - country vs. country.

    Hopefully... all is good when they come back
    I agree with you Kip, and no I don't get it. And I guess that's what is frustrating me on this topic. Russia, Slovakia, The Untied States and Canada or whomever doesn't sign these players their paychecks.

    I just think that if you are a professional player in any league, in any country, you have no business playing in the Olympics. That is my biggest gripe.

    And I totally agree with your last sentence. Hopefully after this is over it will energize some guys to be playing up at the level they should!
    Last edited by jmd; Jan-13-2010 at 02:38 PM.

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    Default Re: Are the Olympics a distraction?

    I also hate seeing the NHL players in the Olympics...

    ... The Europeans, however, have always seemed to "appreciate" the various aspects of the games moreso than the Americans... At least it seems that way to me.
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    Default Re: Are the Olympics a distraction?

    The problem is, the Olympics will never go away. The NHL wants to ban its players from playing in the olympics, but that will never happen. The Players hold ALL of the cards in this game of poker. If you say that Malkin can't play in the Olympics, what is to stop him from retiring, going to play in the Olympics and then coming back afterwards and saying, "oh, hey I want to play again..." Do you think anyone would tell him "no thank you, we found a guy playing in WBS to replace you?"

    You could suspend him, but really, what good would that do? 15 games? great, a midseason vacation...its a no win battle.

    The only thing the NHL could do to prevent it would be to tell them that if they leave for the Olympics they can't come back...But all that would do would be to turn the KHL into the best hockey league in the world.

    The Olympics aren't going anywhere, we just need to get used to it. I have no problem with it, its not like it happens every year. And I enjoy Olympic hockey with the Pro's. If I want to watch the World's top amateurs play in a tournament I can do that every year right after Christmas.
    Last edited by BGK; Jan-13-2010 at 04:31 PM.
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    Default Re: Are the Olympics a distraction?

    I like having a best on best tournament every four years, whether it be the Olympics or some type of World Cup. I am sure that the guys are thinking about it and are in somewhat regular contact with team officials and coaches. It only happens every four years and it is something special.

    This is a big deal for the players because that is what they want to do, it is their choice. I would tell the NHL to **** off too, they don't own anyone.

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    Default Re: Are the Olympics a distraction?

    Quote Originally Posted by jmd View Post
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    I agree with you Kip, and no I don't get it. And I guess that's what is frustrating me on this topic. Russia, Slovakia, The Untied States and Canada or whomever doesn't sign these players their paychecks.

    I just think that if you are a professional player in any league, in any country, you have no business playing in the Olympics. That is my biggest gripe.

    And I totally agree with your last sentence. Hopefully after this is over it will energize some guys to be playing up at the level they should!
    Right. It is tough to understand. Like I think I said the closest we have to the type of competitive feeling that Euro's have is our "city" pride in regards to teams playing each other. you know, like when we played the Red Wings in the finals last year and the wings trolls came over and it was defend your city, insult theirs....

    Now take that to a level 100 times that because now you are talking about National Pride for these countries that are as close to each other as our states are here....

    We don't have that sort of National Pride in regards to sporting events because as a country we aren't that close to a bunch of countries to form some sort of National leagues to create that atmosphere. A paycheck from some foreign league will NEVER replace National Pride and it shouldn't. If you were asked to playfor your country, you wouldn't stay Japan to earn a paycheck

    That's why Soccer is so big world wide. Americans can't figure out how a slow and fairly boring sport is that Huge... but its never really been the sport.. it's been that Nation vs. Nation competition. It's how a lot of countries on other continents resemble how the US and our states look here in North America. It's how Soccer is really the only international sport on a majoe level. Little leagues like the KHL, Swedish elite, Japanese baseball, LA baseball are really like Soccer or the minor leagues here in the US as far as scale

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