If you follow Dave Lozo on Twitter (@DaveLozo), you know that he specializes in irreverent wit and outstanding hockey coverage. After spending five years covering the New York Rangers and the NHL as a writer for NHL.com, Lozo currently is the lead hockey writer for Bleacher Report.This week I caught him in a good mood and leveraged a friendship to get him to agree to an interview. No punches pulled, no holds barred: I give you Dave Lozo raw and uncut.
Pens Initiative: What do you see as the Penguins’ greatest need at the trade deadline?
Dave Lozo: Depth forwards. Again. It's better than it was last year but I don't know if it's enough to win the Cup. You almost have to stick two guys who aren't top-six forwards on one wing with Crosby and one wing with Malkin, then make a decent third line with the two left-out wingers and Sutter. No matter how they slice it, they don't have four lines. They're so smushed against the cap that it'll be hard to do anything else.
PI: Some say the Penguins have squandered Crosby’s best years on sometimes questionable coaching decisions and subpar line mates. What do you think?
Lozo: Ray Shero's drafting was about as bad as it gets when it comes to forwards. I remember looking this up and finding a site that broke down all of Shero's drafts and it was basically Jordan Staal, a couple of bottom-six guys that weren't all that great and nothing else. That's killer. Of course, after they got Staal, they started picking way later than they did when they got Crosby, Malkin, Fleury, Staal, but man did they fail to surround those guys with talent.
It's a little much to say the window has closed but it may begin closing soon. I put way more of that on Shero than Dan Bylsma. Bylsma has his flaws, no doubt, but I don't know what other coaches could've done much better with the personnel he had. If you want me to rail on Bylsma for 10,000 words about his Sochi coaching, that I can do.
PI: You’ve been around the NHL for a while. What one thing would you change about the league if you could?
Lozo: The points system. Two points for winning in 60 minutes and two points for winning a breakaway contest is absurd. I know people post standings that show what they'd look like in a 3-2-1 system and usually it's not all that different, but going to the Olympic 3-2-1 system would be way better. Maybe not better, but fairer. I think games late in the season would involve more teams outside the playoffs pushing way harder in regulation as opposed to playing the final five minutes to guarantee themselves a point.
PI: As someone who covered the Rangers for years, you've had the chance to watch the career of Henrik Lundqvist firsthand. Where do you think he ranks among the game's all-time greats?
Lozo: He has the second-best save percentage of all-time, so he's up there. His numbers are just as good in the postseason and he's been incredible the past three postseasons with great teams around him. But I feel like he's not thought of as a potential all-time great. Maybe I'm misreading that. But there's a lot of "he's never won the Cup" but that's always a crap way of judging a person's career. I don't know if I've ever seen a better losing Final performance than the one he had last year.
Maybe he gets diminished a bit because he's European. Maybe he's ol' guitar playin' Hank the handsome goaltender and people don't realize he's as intense as anyone when it comes to hockey but that's rarely in the narrative. But when his career is over he may be on that modern day Mount Rushmore with Roy, Hasek and Brodeur.
PI: I read your post “One man’s perspective on dealing with John Tortorella for four years”. It was such an insightful and raw piece. How do you feel about him now, given the time and space of his absence from your life?
Lozo: I still think he's a dick. Maybe he's not a dick now but he was a dick then. I've never been around someone in a position of that much power who used that position to just disrespect people on such a regular basis. Yeah, he gets stupid questions but so does every other person in sports and no one has ever been at that level. Once, this really shy, earnest kid asked an incredibly fair, measured question and Tortorella gave him a, "I'm not answering that question from you." He really emphasized the "you" part in a way that was just downright mean.
I understand that as a regular fan that doesn't seem like a big deal, but that can be an embarrassing thing for someone in a crowded room with recorders and cameras. Heck, I wasn't even the object of that and it sticks with me to this day.
You always hear he's a great guy away from the rink, as if that somehow makes him being a jerk to the people he works with every day somehow OK. In fact, it makes it worse. If you have the ability to treat people like human beings at home, can't you do it for seven minutes a day at work? The way people would explain away his demeanor (he's taking the heat off his players, etc.) bothered me more than he did, hence the writing of that.
That being said, I don't think that was a reason to fire him. The guy took the Rangers to the third round in 2012 and the second round in 2013. I firmly believe if not for the lockout, the Rangers get to the Final in 2013. The guy can coach. He's just a dick. The way he'd talk down to people who were just trying to do their jobs was awful and that hasn't changed for me.
PI: You’ve covered a lot of players and witnessed a lot of iconic moments. What moment or what player most stands out to you.
Lozo: For whatever reason, it's the stanchion goal that beat the Sharks in the West final in 2011. It was just such an odd sight, everyone looking around in the wrong direction, Sharks players were pointing at the netting, and there's Kevin Bieksa teeing up a shot that sends the Canucks to the Cup Final. Then all this confetti fell from the ceiling. It was a weird scene. I remember thinking the puck hit Patrick Marleau's stick because he seemed to be the only Shark with a clue.
It was also a sad goal because if the Sharks won, I was going back to San Jose to see a girl. So I also remember Ryan Kesler's tying goal in the dying seconds that sent the game to overtime in the first place. But hey, great for the Canucks or whatever.
PI: You’re tasked with cranking out article after article featuring the latest happenings in the NHL….does it get old? How do you keep it fresh?
Lozo: Who said I keep it fresh? That's a lie. It does get stale sometimes. That's just part of the job, though, doing what you can to keep it from being stale. Luckily I'm in a position where I don't have to write up everything single thing that happens during the course of a day. Writing about, for example, Getzlaf calling Ovechkin a diver and Ovechkin calling Getzlaf bald would make me question my existence on this planet. If I have no interest in something, I usually don't have to touch it. I definitely don't sit around thinking, "How can I write about Alex Ovechkin today?"
I try to keep it light. I try to remember I'm writing about how the Dallas Stars need goaltending down the stretch, not about how Barack Obama's national healthcare plan is affecting people who no longer have their private plans available. You can't throw a movie or Friends reference into that story. Who knows if anyone likes that but it cracks me up and that's all that matters. I always assume I'm writing for an audience of one.
PI: Last season the league offered an all-time high of six outdoor games; the Winter Classic, four Stadium Series games, plus the Heritage Classic in Vancouver. The NHL reduced that number this year but is it still over-kill? Have the outdoor games lost their luster?
Lozo: It's one of those things where it never gets old when you're there. The problem is there are so many teams that haven't hosted or even played in one, so how is anyone supposed to figure it out? I've been to seven of them and I hope I get to go to seven more. But if I'm not covering one, I don't really watch it on TV. It's just another game to me, which is how I think the average fan feels about it.
I do think there are too many and we are at a point where the outdoor games will be local draws and not national draws, which wasn't the plan when the Winter Classic started. The fact that Chicago-Washington, a game between two really good teams with plenty of superstars, was the lowest-rated game is disconcerting. But it's also good because the NHL has the attitude of, "Look, if the ratings for these games will be mostly driven by the local markets, having three games instead of one won't matter so let's have those games involve big markets and cash in."
Have 15 games a year and let everyone play in one, I say.
And cash grabs are fine. People kill the NHL sometimes for "cash grabs" but if you have a business and someone is willing pay for your product, that's sort of the point. A cash grab is a good thing as long as there is cash to grab.
PI: What's always in your refrigerator?
Lozo: A three-week old, mostly empty jar of salsa and a big jug of Diet Snapple lemon iced tea. I'm gross.
PI: Thanks, Dave! If you don't follow Dave, your timeline is anemic. Catch him @DaveLozo and BleacherReport.com /nhl