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Hits by Phillies in 3 of their last 4 games

Monday’s win over Washington convinced Eric Fisher that Chip Kelly’s innovative techniques work. Fisher tries to incorporate Kelly’s style into this week’s column.

The Sixers have become a national joke, but I fail to find the humor. The organization should be embarrassed by the putrid product it puts out on the floor. Instead, GM Sam Hinkie is patting himself on the back for the new-and-improved Tanking 2.0.

Nick Foles threw two interceptions and the first-team offense sputtered during a 34-28 loss to the Bears in the Eagles’ preseason opener. But backup QB Mark Sanchez looked good and rookie Josh Huff returned a kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown.

Archive for the ‘Flyers’ Category

The Philly fan quiz

Posted by Eric Fisher On April - 19 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Fisher column logo2With the NFL Draft coming to Philadelphia next week, we are certain to be reminded of the 1999 NFL Draft, when Eagles fans traveled to New York to boo the selection of quarterback Donovan McNabb with the No. 2 overall pick because the fans preferred running back Ricky Williams. (In fact, you might even find that video right here at PhillyPhanatics.com.)

The booing of the McNabb selection joins the booing of Mike Schmidt and the throwing of snowballs at Santa Claus, as well as at Jimmy Johnson, in the folklore reinforcing the negative image of Philadelphia fans.

But there is a difference between booing and being a pessimist. Philadelphia fans are proud of booing the opposition. Ask any Philadelphia fan if they are embarrassed about booing Sidney Crosby, Kobe Bryant or the Dallas Cowboy of your choice.

The last time a major professional sport held its draft in Philadelphia, Flyers fans proudly attracted international attention (Canada makes it international) with deafening boos for NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and the Pittsburgh Penguins – as well as booing every other team – during the NHL Draft. We may have a repeat performance at the NFL Draft with the Cowboys, Giants, Redskins, Patriots and any of the former Cowboys-turned-broadcasters who has the misfortune of taking the public stage.

But are we truly that negative? I prefer to think of Philly sports fans as incredibly passionate. The optimism and pessimism are two sides of the same coin, which is why I sometimes consult Joe Optimist and Joe Pessimist, whom I created to represent the two conflicting views that often co-exist within the brain of the Philly sports fan, in my columns.

Are you more Joe Optimist or Joe Pessimist? Let’s find out by taking the following quiz.

1. With the 14th selection in the NFL Draft (in Philly!), the Eagles will draft:

A) a terrific starting defensive player. The draft is deep in corners. The Eagles can’t miss.

B) a solid contributor, but they won’t get an elite starter.

C) an average player … and they’ll pass up a player who will become a star.

D) a mistake. I don’t know whom they’ll pick, but I know it will be a mistake.

2. When you hear the phrase “Trust the Process,” your first reaction is to:

A) bow down in front of your Sam Hinkie poster.

B) get excited about two lottery picks in this year’s draft joining Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Dario Saric on the court next season

C) worry that Joel Embiid’s and Ben Simmons’ careers will be hindered by injuries.

D) try not to throw up from the bile rising in your throat.

3. The Phillies’ bullpen will be:

A) good once Hector Neris becomes the closer and everyone settles into their new roles.

B) decent, but it doesn’t really matter right now because the Phillies are rebuilding.

C) a problem until they can find a reliable closer.

D) lit up all summer like a charcoal grill.

4. Flyers captain Claude Giroux:

A) wasn’t fully recovered from surgery this year. He will be much better next season.

B) will bounce back next season, but will never regain his peak form.

C) should be stripped of his captaincy because he’s not a good leader.

D) is on an irreversible downward spiral. The window to trade him has already passed.

5. Carson Wentz is:

A) the quarterback who will lead the Eagles to multiple Super Bowl victories.

B) going to be a long-time starting quarterback, but he won’t be an elite quarterback.

C) vastly overrated by Eagles fans desperate for a winner.

D) a flash in the pan who will be replaced by Nick Foles by midseason.

6. Maikel Franco batting .160 through the first 13 games is:

A) not important. Once he’s warmed up, he’ll be the team’s best hitter again. It’s early!

B) mildly concerning, but nothing to worry about.

C) a sign that he might not be as much of an impact player as Phillies fans had hoped.

D) a sign that he doesn’t know how to hit. Trade Franco now while you can still get something for him.

7. Ivan Provorov, Carson Wentz, Joel Embiid and J.P. Crawford are:

A) destined to usher in a new golden era in Philadelphia sports.

B) future superstars who will help make their respective teams championship contenders.

C) overrated because Philadelphia fans are so desperate for a winner.

D) destined to leave via free agency as soon as they can get out of this cursed city.

8. The Union’s next win will be:

A) this weekend

B) in May

C) after head coach Jim Curtin is fired

D) before Christmas

9. The best general manager (or equivalent front office position) is:

A) Ron Hextall

B) Matt Klentak

C) Howie Roseman

D) Bryan Colangelo

E) There a “best” general manager in this town? Really?

10. The next of Philadelphia’s major sports teams to win a championship will be:

A) the Eagles. E! A! G! L! E! S! EAGLES!!!

B) the Sixers. Trust the process!

C) the Flyers. Look at all those young defensemen!

D) the Phillies. Wait until all the kids arrive!

E) Championship? Don’t talk about championships. Let’s try to get a team into the playoffs before we talk about winning a championship. And let’s get a team over .500 before we talk about the playoffs. A championship? That’s a long, long way away.

Flyers Notebook: Goalies question mark again

Posted by Eric Fisher On April - 15 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

After a one-year reprieve, the goalie question is once again moves to the forefront of discussions surrounding the Flyers.

The only goaltender question entering last season centered around which of the impending free agents would earn the right to be re-signed as the No. 1 goalie of the future. The answer was that neither goalie was a clear winner. And, despite the re-signing of Michal Neuvirth, it’s not clear either one of them will be back next season.

Neuvirth posted an 11-11-1 record with a 2.82 goals-against average and a poor .891 save percentage. Neuvirth also continued his history of being in and out of the lineup with injuries.

Steve Mason was streaky. He was terrific during the Flyers’ 10-game winning streak during the first half of the season and again down the stretch as the Flyers made a playoff push. But he wasn’t so good during the rest of the season, as his numbers (26-21-8, 2.66 goals-against average, .908 save percentage) indicate.

Mason certainly didn’t earn a long-term contract with that performance, especially not for any more than the $4.1 million he made this season – and maybe not even that much. As far as coming back next season, Mason didn’t help himself with comments earlier this week that he doesn’t think a platoon system works in goal, and he doesn’t want to be part of a platoon system next season.

The only real way in which it seems likely Mason would return would be if Neuvirth is selected by Las Vegas during the expansion draft on June 21. Only players under contract can be selected off of team’s rosters, so the two-year, $5 million contract Neuvirth signed may makes him a possibility to go to Vegas, assuming the Flyers, as expected, leave him unprotected. With Anthony Stolarz expected to miss 3-4 months due to a foot injury sustained this past week with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the loss of Neuvirth might cause the Flyers to try to bring back Mason before the free-agent signing period begins.

If Mason returns under those circumstances, he would be the clear No. 1 goal, which would alleviate his platoon concerns. On the other hand, the plethora of young goalie in the Flyers organization almost assuredly would make Mason a short-term solution. In addition to Stolarz, the goalies in the organization include Alex Lyon, 2016 second-round draft pick Carter Hart, Felix Sandstrom and Harvard goalie Merrick Madsen, who was tremendous while leading the Crimson to the Frozen Four semifinals.

Regardless of which path the Flyers take – signing Mason or letting him go, entering the season with Neuvirth or a wild card such as Sandstrom as the starter – there will be major question marks at goaltender.

*****

YOUTH WILL BE SERVED: As I speculated might happen in my Flyers Notebook just before the end of the season, the Flyers have told defensemen Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz that the Flyers will not attempt to re-sign them, allowing them to become unrestricted free agents.

The Schultz decision is not surprising. The 34-year-old steady defenseman may be at the end of his career. There was some thought, however, that the Flyers might try to re-sign Del Zotto, who will turn 27 in June.

Hextall seems committed to giving young players opportunities to fill those roster spots. Sam Morin and Robert Hagg, both of whom made their NHL debuts with the Flyers during the final 10 days of the season after spending two seasons with the Phantoms, are the most likely candidates. Hagg, in particular, looked good during the season finale against the Panthers. Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers are two more candidates to make the roster.

Assuming the Flyers sign restricted free agent Shayne Gostisbehere and are unable to unload Andrew MacDonald’s contract (three more years at $5 million per season), the defense next season should consist of MacDonald, Radko Gudas, Ivan Provorov, Gostisbehere, Brandon Manning and two rookies..

*****

LOOKING FORWARD: The Flyers’ core along the forward lines should remain largely the same. It appears unlikely that the Flyers will re-sign Chris VandeVelde, even though he played for head coach Dave Hakstol at North Dakota. But they likely will try to re-sign Jordan Weal, a potential unrestricted free agent who provided a spark by scoring eight goals during the season’s final stretch.

The Flyers will likely expose Matt Read and possibly Dale Weise in the expansion draft. Both are valuable role players. Read is overpaid for his production (10 goals, 9 assists), yet the fact that he only has one year remaining on his $3.625 million salary might make him a nice pickup for an expansion team. Weise, with three years left at $2.35 million per season, showed signs of being the player the Flyers hoped he would be once he was placed on a line with Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn.

The status of restricted free agents Nick Cousins and Roman Lyubimov is uncertain. Did Lyubimov need a year to adjust to the North American game? Have other young players passed Cousins on the organizational depth chart? It seems unlikely the Flyers would give up on a third-round draft pick, especially if they can sign him for a low price.

If the Flyers want young players such as Weal, Travis Konecny, Hobey Baker Award runner-up Michael Vecchione and possibly Oskar Lindblom (see last week’s Flyers Notebook), they will have to create some room by trading veterans or exposing Read and Weise in the expansion draft.

*****

PROJECTED LINEUP: There is still an entire offseason to make moves, but, as of now, the Flyers’ projected lineup looks like this:

Goalie: Michal Neuvirth, Anthony Stolarz.

Defense: Andrew MacDonald, Radko Gudas, Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere, Brandon Manning, Sam Morin, Robert Hagg

Centers and forwards: Claude Giroux; Wayne Simmonds; Jordan Weal; Valtteri Filppula; Jakub Voracek; Travis Konecny; Sean Couturier; Brayden Schenn; Dale Weise; Pierre-Edouard Bellemare; Michael Vecchione; Michael Raffl; and possibly, Nick Cousins or Oskar Lindblom.

*****

SIMMONDS IS MVP: There wasn’t much suspense for the top awards as the Flyers announced their award winners during the final weekend of the regular season. Wayne Simmonds, with a team-leading 31 goals and 30 assists, was the clear choice as winner of the Bobby Clarke Trophy as the team’s most valuable player. Rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov (6 goals, 24 assists) also seemed a clear pick for the Barry Ashbee Award as the team’s top defenseman.

The Pelle Lindbergh Award for the team’s most improved player went to defenseman Radko Gudas, who remained a physical player while reducing his penchant for taking undisciplined penalties. The Gene Hart Memorial Award for the player with the most heart went to well-respected fourth-line center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. The winner of the Yanick Dupre Class Guy Memorial Award was goalie Steve Mason. The award, selected by media members, may be both a blessing and a curse for Mason, who was sometimes considered too blunt in his postgame critique of the team’s performance and effort.

*****

OH, CANADA: There are reports that Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds will join Ron Hextall and Dave Hakstol with Team Canada in the International Ice Hockey World Championships. Hextall is the general manager of Team Canada. Hakstol will serve as an assistant coach.

*****

FAREWELL TO SOUTHERLAND: Bill Southerland, who scored the first goal in Flyers history and the first goal at the Spectrum, died at age 82. PhillyPhanatics.com sends condolences to friends and family of the Sutherland family, as well as to the Flyers organization.

*****

WORKING OVERTIME: The Stanley Cup playoffs got off to a roaring start, with the top-seeded Capitals falling into a 2-0 hole before rallying for a 3-2 victory over the Maple Leafs in Game 1. As sometimes happens, Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen made two spectacular saves moments before whiffing on a shot from the right boards by Tom Wilson, who might be the last Capital forward many would choose to score the overtime goal. There have been several fantastic finishes – and the playoffs are only a few days old.

*****

REMEMBERING SNIDER: As I wrap up my final Flyers Notebook of the season, let’s take a moment to remember Flyers founder Ed Snider, who died a little more than one year ago. Without Snider, who set the tone for the franchise for its entire existence, we wouldn’t have this franchise to discuss and argue about. Philadelphia might have eventually received a hockey franchise, but it wouldn’t be the Flyers.

 
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