5

Home runs for Rhys Hoskins in 11 games since being called up by Phillies

While former Eagles running back LeSean McCoy complains that Chip Kelly seemed quick to get rid of black players, this tongue-in-cheek column suggests some former — and current — Eagles have a very different perspective.

The NCAA has lifted all penalties against Penn State’s football program, including restoring 112 victories, that were imposed as part of the sanctions in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal. Joe Paterno is once again the all-time wins leader in major college football. The move came as part of a proposed settlement of a lawsuit.

Unlike many so-called experts and fans, when it comes to the NFL Draft, Eric Fisher is willing to use a three-word phrase that sports columnists aren’t supposed to use: I don’t know.

Archive for June, 2017

Fans need to be patient

Posted by Eric Fisher On June - 24 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Fisher column logo2The 76ers should be a fun team to watch next season. They should be entertaining. And they almost certainly will be better.

But that doesn’t mean they will be good.

Sixers fans are ecstatic over the trade that allowed the Sixers to select Washington guard Markelle Fultz with the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft. And they should be.

Fultz is a versatile and talented player who seems to provide the Sixers with exactly what they needed. He can shoot from the outside and handle the ball.

Even before the Sixers selected Fultz on Thursday, the enthusiasm for the trade with the Celtics caused a spike in season ticket sales. The Sixers have surpassed 14,000 season tickets for next season, and there is talk of the possibility of selling out every home game.

The Sixers are selling promise, and the fans are buying it.

But there needs to be a dose of realism mixed in with all that enthusiasm.

Fultz just turned 19 in May. He is not the savior – at least not yet.

Center Joel Embiid has played 31 games in three NBA seasons. The Sixers almost certainly have to re-sign him for big money before his rookie deal runs out this season – the notion of letting him go and seeing him become a huge star for another team is unfathomable – but there remain major questions about Embiid’s health.

We also haven’t seen Ben Simmons, the top overall pick in last year’s NBA Draft, play a regular-season game yet. It’s fair to expect Simmons to need some time to adjust to the NBA game.

To sum up the last few paragraphs, the three players the Sixers are relying upon to be the foundation of their franchise enter next season with 31 games of NBA experience. Two of the three have injury concerns and may have minutes restrictions for the upcoming season.

That’s the reality. We still might not see Embiid play games on consecutive nights. We may not see Simmons or Embiid play more than 20 minutes during the first portion of the season. We simply do not know.

What we do know is the Sixers should be a better team. Adding Simmons and Fultz to the mix, regardless of how young an inexperienced they are, should be an upgrade over last season. If Dario Saric and backup center Richaun Holmes continue to develop, that also represents improvement.

But there are still questions about how the pieces fit together. That’s head coach Brett Brown’s job. He needs time to experiment with different combinations to find the best lineups and rotation.

There remains the question about what to do with forward Jahlil Okafor. Two years ago he was supposed to be one of the building blocks for the future. Now he’s extra baggage that the Sixers can’t unload for anything of value.

Okafor’s situation is a cautionary tale. Promise and potential don’t always develop into stardom and victories.

This isn’t to suggest that Fultz will be a bust. He was the No. 1 pick because has the least chance of turning into a bust among the top players in the draft, some of whom may have a higher upside. But the jury is still out on Embiid because of his health. The jury hasn’t even been seated yet to render a verdict on Simmons.

The Sixers have tremendous potential. But they are an extremely young team.

The talk of championship contention in a few years should be tempered by the knowledge that Fultz, Simmons and Embiid didn’t even play in the NCAA Tournament the past three years. They need to learn to win together at the NBA level. That takes time, especially when Simmons and Fultz didn’t even win consistently at the collegiate level.

After years filled primarily with agony and despair, Sixers fans are understandably excited by the talented young roster. The unbridled enthusiasm is a welcomed change from the daily doldrums of the past four seasons.

But that enthusiasm needs to be accompanied by patience. After four years in the desert, the Promised Land may be in sight, but the Sixers aren’t going to get there in one year.

The Sixers won’t become a championship contender this season. They may not even make the playoffs.

That may be heresy, but it may also be reality.

Active Flyers net Patrick

Posted by Eric Fisher On June - 24 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Nolan Patrick isn’t a bad consolation prize.

The Flyers were at the mercy of the New Jersey Devils, who had the top pick in the NHL Draft. The Devils chose center Nico Hischier, leaving the Flyers with Patrick.

But the Flyers didn’t merely stand pat in the first round. They traded center/wing Brayden Schenn to the Blues in exchange for the 27th pick in the first round, which they used to select center Morgan Frost, as well as forward Jori Lehtera and a conditional first-round pick.

Patrick, who will turn 19 during training camp, is expected to have a legitimate shot to make the Flyers’ roster right away. He has the size (6-foot-3, 198 pounds), lineage and hockey sense to contribute right away.

Patrick’s father, Steve, and his uncle, James, were both first-round draft picks and both played in the NHL. Patrick has been learning from them since he was a youngster.

If there is a question about Patrick, it regards his health. He was limited to 33 games last season with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League (WHL) due to a knee injury and a sports hernia. On the other hand, he registered 20 goals and 26 assists during those 33 games. During the previous year, Patrick scored 41 goals and registered 61 assists for the Wheat Kings, whose roster that season also included Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov, the 7th overall pick in 2016.

We’ll never know if Flyers general manager Ron Hextall preferred Hischier, but he was more than happy to select a Wheat Kings player in the first round for the second straight season.

Hextall insists that Patrick will remain at center. That raises the question of how he fits into the Flyers’ lineup. The Flyers lost fourth-line center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare to Las Vegas in the expansion draft. Hextall eased the logjam slightly Friday by trading Schenn to the Blues. But that still leaves the Flyers with Claude Giroux, Valtteri Filppula, Sean Couturier and possibly Scott Laughton at center. Perhaps Hextall isn’t done making moves, although Giroux and Filppula have clauses in their contracts that would require them to approve any trade.

By trading Schenn, the Flyers gained space under the salary cap and acquired a young center. Frost (5-11, 180) scored 20 goals and registered 42 assists in 62 games last season for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). Filppula only has one year left on his contract, so Frost could be have an opportunity to make the roster in a year or two.

Schenn tied for the NHL lead in power-play goals last season with 17, but he only scored eight goals at even strength and was often a liability in his own end. He has three seasons left on a four-year that pays him $5.125 million per season. Lehtera, who had seven goals and 15 assists last season, has two years remaining on a contract that pays him $2.35 million per season. Lehtera has played center, but it expected to play left wing for the Flyers.

The Schenn trade also nets the Flyers an additional first-round pick. If the pick next year falls in the top 10, the Blues have the option of keeping that pick or sending the Flyers their first- and third-round picks in 2019.

So the Flyers’ haul for the first day of the NHL Draft consisted of two young centers, a role-playing wing, a future first-round draft pick and salary-cap relief. Their only loss was Schenn. That’s a pretty large net gain on what appears to be an extremely successful first day of the draft.

DAY 2

The Flyers started the second day of the NHL Draft in the same manner that they finished the first one. They made a trade to gain a higher pick in order to select a player they wanted.

The Day 2 trade didn’t have a big name attached to it, as was the case when the Flyers’ traded Schenn for the 27th pick in the first round, a forward and a conditional first round pick, but the Flyers sent three draft picks to the Coyotes so they could move up in the second round to select left wing Isaac Ratcliffe. The Flyers sent a third-round pick (75th overall) and a fourth-round pick (No. 108) to the Coyotes in order to flip second-round picks, with the Coyotes drafting 44th and the Flyers moving up nine spots to No. 35. Ratcliffe (6-foot-6, 200 pounds) scored 28 goals and registered 26 assists last season for Guelph of the OHL. Ratcliffe, 18, needs to gain strength, but the Flyers liked his upside enough to trade three draft picks in order to get him.

The Flyers are deep in centers, talented young defensemen and goalie prospects, so it isn’t surprising that they concentrated on forwards on the second day of the draft. They selected four wings, one center, one defenseman and one goalie.

Before continuing their run on wingers, the Flyers selected Russian goalie Kirill Ustimenko in the third round with the 80th overall pick. Ustimenko (6-3, 187) posted a 1.74 goals-against average and .938 save percentage last season with MHK Dynamo St. Petersburg. Although there is uncertainty regarding the Flyers’ goalie tandem for next season, they have a lot of depth at goalie in their organization, but they obviously felt Ustimenko was too good to pass up in the middle of the third round.

The Flyers used their back-to-back picks in the fourth round (Nos. 106 and 107) to select left wing Matthew Strome (6-3, 207) and right wing Maksim Sushko, both of whom played in the OHL. Strome, whose older brothers Ryan and Dylan were first-round draft picks earlier this decade, led Hamilton with 34 goals and 62 points. Sushko, born in Belarus, registered 32 points in 54 games for Owen Sound.

The Flyers turned to the high school ranks in the fifth round (No. 137), selecting left wing Noah Cates (6-foot, 165) from Stillwater High School (Minn.). He has committed to attend the University of Minnesota-Duluth.  The Flyers shifted to center in the sixth round (168), taking Olle Lycksell (5-10, 163), who played in Sweden’s Super Elite League last season at 17 years old. In the seventh round (196), the Flyers selected defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk (6-2, 186), a 20-year-old who committed to the University of Wisconsin.

Feature on Darren Daulton's inspiring legacy