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Completions this season by Carson Wentz and Eli Manning

Eric Fisher responds to Sixers CEO Scott O’Neil, who questioned whether those who complain that the team’s rebuilding plan is progressing too slowly have lost their mind.

The Greek God of Wrestling reviews the current WrestleMania card, which may end up with too many matches. Achilles Heel also reminds fans of WWE events in Hershey and Philly, explains Impact Wrestling’s tag team situation and previews a plethora of WrestleMania week shows in Florida.

Eric Fisher’s weekly column about a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on the Jordan Matthews trade, two areas of concern for the Eagles (besides cornerback) and the Union’s trail blazing idea.

Archive for the ‘Flyers’ Category

There’s only one No. 88

Posted by Eric Fisher On August - 28 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Fisher column logo2There were many people, with plenty of justification, who thought No. 88 would never hang from the rafters of Well Fargo Center.

That’s how nasty the relationship was between Eric Lindros and the Flyers organization.

There was never any doubt that Lindros, as a player, deserved to have his number retired. The doubts that it would happen were based on the contentious relationship between the Lindros family and Flyers management.

Thankfully, time – with a little help from people such as Flyers president Paul Holmgren – have healed old wounds. The Flyers announced Monday that Lindros’ No. 88 will be retired this season during a ceremony prior to a Jan. 18 game against the Maple Leafs.

The Flyers are fairly stingy about retiring numbers. Lindros will join Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent, Bill Barber, Mark Howe and Barry Ashbee as Flyers who have their numbers retired.

Barber and Howe didn’t have their numbers retired until they were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. After his retirement, Barber saw Brian Dobbin, Jay Wells and Craig Fisher wear No. 7. Ten players, including the likes of Frantisek Kucera, Kerry Huffman and Lukas Krajicek, wore No. 2 for the orange-and-black after Howe. But no Flyer other than Lindros has worn No. 88.

Lindros was a unique player. Perhaps there has never been a player possessing his unique combination of power, speed and skill. Not just in Flyers history, but in NHL history.

Lindros ranks 17th in NHL history in points per game (1.138), right behind Red Wings legend Steve Yzerman and two spots ahead of Capitals star Alex Ovechkin. If we stick to his eight seasons with the Flyers – before repeated concussions forced Lindros to alter his playing style – Lindros averaged 1.36 points per game. That would rank Lindros fifth in NHL history, behind only Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy and Bobby Orr. He would rank two spots above Sidney Crosby and four ahead of Peter Forsberg, the centerpiece of the package the then-Quebec Nordiques received from the Flyers in exchange for the rights to Lindros. His production is even more amazing when one considers that Lindros’ career with the Flyers was played during a decade dominated by the Devils’ vaunted trap and similar defensive systems.

As impressive as Lindros’ numbers (290 goals and 369 assists in 486 games) were with the Flyers, statistics only tell part of the story. At his best, with his bone-and-board-rattling checks, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Lindros dominated games like nobody else in NHL history.

He was heralded as “The Next One,” but Lindros was never Gretzky, whose slippery finesse game made him the greatest player in NHL history. Lemieux was as tall as Lindros, but he didn’t play the same physical style. Players may have experienced jitters from the fear of being embarrassed by Gretzky or Lemieux, but nobody struck fear into opposing players like Lindros steamrolling toward them like a locomotive on skates.

Unfortunately, that physical style, as well as a tendency to come across the middle of the ice with his head down, had consequences for Lindros. Injuries and concussions brought his career with the Flyers to a premature end, with his exit hastened by ugly disputes between Clarke, a franchise icon and the team’s president and general manager, and the Lindros family, particularly Eric’s parents.

But the relationship between the Flyers and Lindros has done more than thaw out. The relationship actually seems warm and friendly.

Lindros says the relationship began to get better when Holmgren, then the Flyers general manager, called him about participating in the 2012 Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park. The rousing ovation Lindros received from Flyers fans on that day seemed to erase any lingering bitterness. The relationship continued to improve, with Lindros and Legion of Doom linemate John LeClair being inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame together in November of 2014.

Meanwhile, Clarke, the antagonist for the Lindros camp as the relationship with the organization soured, beat the drums for Lindros to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, which finally occurred last year.

With Lindros in the Hockey Hall of Fame and Flyers Hall of Fame, the only step remaining to commemorate Lindros’ outstanding career was to retire his number. That will occur on Jan. 18.

There never should have been a doubt.

There is – and only will be – one No. 88.

Clinging to hope

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

Fisher column logo2It’s what we cling to as sports fans. Especially as Philadelphia sports fans.

Let’s face it. We don’t have much more to hang our hats on other than hope.

The Eagles, Flyers, Sixers and Phillies haven’t done much for us lately. It has been five years since any of them advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs. But they’re selling us on hope.

The Eagles actually have fans talking about potential playoff success this season and contending for a Super Bowl within the next few years.

The Sixers experienced a tremendous surge in season ticket sales after they drafted Markelle Fultz, selling fans on the idea that “The Process” is about to pay major dividends.

The Flyers are taking a patient approach, but they are asking fans to have faith that the young defensemen they have been grooming will lift the franchise back into the playoffs and, within a few seasons, Stanley Cup contention.

The Phillies have been selling fans on their young prospects. But that hope has run smack into the tree of reality this season.

The Phillies, who haven’t had a winning record since 2011, ended a seven-year streak of declining fortunes in 2016, improving from 63 victories to 71. The conventional wisdom was that they would continue to takes steps toward respectability, and a .500 record, this season. When Las Vegas set the over-under number for wins this season in the low-70s, fans and radio personalities scoffed at the pessimistic forecast, with some proclaiming that the “over” bet was easy money.

But, with one-quarter of the season remaining, matching last season’s 71 wins is nearly impossible. The Phillies are the worst team in baseball. They have lost six straight games, including five against the Padres and Giants, who are 33 and 38 games, respectively, out of first place in the National League West. At 43-77, the Phillies need to win 20 of their remaining 42 games to avoid their first 100-loss season since 1961.

The Phillies have crushed their fans’ hopes and dreams. Worse than the record is the performance of the players who were so heavily hyped in the minor leagues.

Hoby Milner is the only pitcher called up during the past two seasons who has been better than mediocre this year. Ben Lively, just called back up again to start Sunday, is 1-4 with a 3.80 ERA. Zach Eflin is 1-5 with a 6.16 ERA. Nick Pivetta is 4-8 with a 6.25 ERA. Jerad Eickhoff, who pitched well last season, is 3-7 with a 4.33 ERA. Jake Thompson is 5-13 with a 5.34 ERA – at Class AAA Lehigh Valley.

Let’s go to the bullpen. Edubray Ramos is 1-7 with a 4.78 ERA. Jesen Therrien has a 6.48 ERA in eight appearances. Ricardo Pinto has a 7.20 ERA. All of these pitchers had success in the minor leagues before struggling – and I’m being kind – in the majors.

As for position players, the Phillies don’t have a single one who has established himself as a foundation for the future. Maikel Franco is batting .221. Outfielders Aaron Altherr, who is no longer a youngster, and Nick Williams have looked promising, but they’re not exactly locks to be long-term starters, let alone cornerstones of the future. It’s far too early to make a judgment on Jorge Alfaro or Rhys Hoskins. Meanwhile, former hot prospect J.P. Crawford, Roman Quinn and Dylan Cozens battle through struggles in the minor leagues.

The struggles of the Phillies’ prospects may be a cautionary tale for fans of the Flyers and Sixers.

The Sixers have had one winning record in the past 12 seasons. They’ve won one playoff series since 2003. Their 28-54 record last season marked their highest victory total in four years. The previous three seasons were among the five worst in franchise history. But that’s all supposed to turn around this season.

The Sixers are largely pinning their hopes upon Joel Embiid, a transcendent talent who has only been healthy enough to play 31 games during his first three NBA seasons, and Ben Simmons and Fultz, who haven’t played any NBA games.

Should the Sixers win more than 28 games this season? Definitely. But will they be a fourth or fifth seed in the weak Eastern Conference? That’s their ceiling. We shouldn’t be surprised if the Sixers struggle to reach .500.

The Flyers’ hopes seem more grounded in reality. It’s exciting to see their young defensemen reach the NHL. Shayne Gostisbehere is entering his third season and Ivan Provorov his second. There could be two rookie defensemen added to the mix this season, with Travis Sanheim, Sam Morin, Robert Hagg and Philippe Myers among the top contenders.

But there could be growing pains as well. In fact, with so many young defensemen, we should expect growing pains. A return to the playoffs would be a good step in the right direction. Expecting any more than that would be setting ourselves up for disappointment.

And that brings us back to the Eagles. The Birds have missed the playoffs the past three seasons. They’ve only made the playoffs once in the past six years. They haven’t won a playoff game since the 2008 season. And yet many fans are predicting, and almost expecting, double-digit wins and a playoff berth.

The Eagles have hitched their wagon to Carson Wentz, the second-year quarterback the Eagles acquired by trading up twice to reach the No. 2 selection in the 2016 NFL Draft. Wentz appears to have a very bright future. But virtually every other area on offense – the receivers, running backs and offensive line – has question marks. Ronald Darby significantly improves the cornerbacks, but, although the defense appears to be the Eagles’ greatest strength, there are legitimate questions about the cornerbacks and the depth at linebacker.

The Eagles are too talented to fall to the levels to which the Phillies have fallen, but I’m fearful that Eagles fans are setting themselves up for similar disappointment. It’s refreshing to see the excitement surrounding the Eagles, but expectations may be too high.

Eagles fans – and Flyers and Sixers fans – are taking a leap of faith and clinging to hope.

After all, that’s all we have.

 
(click on logo above for 2012-13 season schedule and ticket opportunities)
R.I.P. Bobby "The Brain" Heenan