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NCAA Tournament appearances by Temple’s Fran Dunphy, tied for most by Big 5 head coach

With Steve Mason (pictured) likely not returning, the Flyers will once again enter next season with questions about their goaltending. Eric Fisher also takes an early look at next season’s potential roster, recaps the Flyers’ award winners and remembers the impact of Ed Snider.

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.

Bill O’Brien deserves some credit, but his success at Penn State has been overstated. The Nittany Lions will be better off with a head coach fully committed to the program and university.

Archive for the ‘Flyers’ Category

Flyers Notebook: Time to trade major parts

Posted by Eric Fisher On February - 20 - 2019 ADD COMMENTS

Even though the Flyers have fought their way back into the playoff picture, general manager Chuck Fletcher should trade prominent players who might not be part of the Flyers’ future, including well-respected forward Wayne Simmonds (pictured).

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Let’s be realistic. As great as it would be for the Flyers to make the playoffs, it’s extremely unlikely they would make much of a postseason run.

If the Flyers were to snag the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference, their first-round opponent would be almost certainly be the Lightning. The chances of the Flyers getting past the Lightning are slim and none.

The point is that the Flyers’ resurgence should not affect general manager Chuck Fletcher’s plans as we approach Monday’s NHL trade deadline. The only concern should be the future.

This means that Fletcher shouldn’t be reluctant to trade anyone who isn’t part of the Flyers’ future. That list includes Wayne Simmonds.

If Fletcher has determined that the Flyers aren’t going to re-sign Simmonds, who will become an unrestricted free agent after this season, he should trade the well-respected right wing. I’m not pushing for the Flyers to trade Simmonds. I’d like to see them work out a contract to keep him around. But if they’re not close on terms of a new contract, Simmonds should be traded.

The Flyers shouldn’t break the back to re-sign Simmonds. He is 30 years old and his production is declining. After peaking with 32 goals and 60 points during the 2015-16 season, Simmonds’ totals have declined each year. He has 16 goals and 27 points through 60 games this season. After reaching double digits in power play goals for five straight seasons, Simmonds has just five this season.

Simmonds’ production on the power play is important because he’s not better than mediocre at even strength. Although he can be a force along the board and around the net in the offensive zone, Simmonds’ defensive deficiencies decrease his value as a 5-on-5 player. Simmonds has been a minus-player since being acquired from the Kings in 2011. The last two seasons, he’s been minus-18 and minus-16, and this season he is minus-17, which is worst among Flyers forwards. Sometimes plus-minus rankings can be misleading, but it’s not misleading when those numbers are consistently bad for three straight seasons.

On the other hand, Simmonds brings intangibles that are difficult to measure. He stood up for Claude Giroux last Sunday, challenging Red Wings forward Anthony Mantha to a fight in the first minute of the second half of a home-and-home weekend series after Mantha pushed Giroux’s head into the boards late in the first game.

Simmonds has a lot of value to contending teams. He brings toughness and an ability to score on the power play. He also brings an attitude that is valuable during the demanding Stanley Cup playoffs. Unless they can lock Simmonds up to a contract that isn’t an increase over the $3.975 million he makes this year, they should trade him for younger players and draft picks before next Monday’s trade deadline. Who knows? Maybe they can bring him back some day at a lower salary.

Michael Raffl also will be an unrestricted free agent after this season. The versatile forward can play on one of the top lines or on the fourth line. Raffl isn’t going to pile up points – he has four goals and eight assists this season – but he’s been a “plus” player during his entire NHL career, including a plus-minus ranking of plus-5 this season, best among Flyers forwards. As is the case with Simmonds, if the Flyers aren’t going to re-sign Raffl, they should get what they can for him now.

A wild card to be traded is James van Riemsdyk. With 15 goals and 14 assists, JVR hasn’t lived up to the five-year, $35 million contract he signed last summer. Remember, former GM Ron Hextall signed JVR to that free-agent contract, so Fletcher doesn’t have any stake in having JVR succeed. If a team were willing to take on the rest of JVR’s contract while giving the Flyers younger pieces in return, the Flyers should be listening.

All of the Flyers’ goalies except Carter Hart should be available. Brian Elliott, Michal Neuvirth, Mike McKenna and newly acquired Cam Talbot all become unrestricted free agents after this season. The only one who seems to be in the Flyers’ plans for next season is Talbot, so anything the Flyers get in return for Elliott or Neuvirth is a bonus (McKenna isn’t going to bring anything in return in a trade). And if anyone wants to take defenseman Andrew MacDonald’s $5 million salary off of the Flyers’ hands for next season, make Fletcher an offer.

Thus far Fletcher has traded fringe pieces such as Dale Weise, Jordan Weal, Christian Folin and Anthony Stolarz. The feeling I have is that he will move a more prominent piece or two before next Monday’s NHL trade deadline. And the Flyers moving back into the playoff picture shouldn’t alter that outlook.

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THE GREAT OUTDOORS: Outdoor games used to be a bigger deal when there was only one of them – the Winter Classic – each season. But Saturday’s game (8 p.m.) against the Penguins at Lincoln Financial Field is still a big deal.

The game is a big deal because the Penguins are one of the teams the Flyers are chasing in the Metropolitan Division standings in a bid for a wild card playoff berth. It’s also a big deal because it’s the Flyers’ final game before the trade deadline. And, of course, it’s a big deal because the opponents are the hated Penguins.

Hockey in an outdoor stadium is a unique experience. The fans are further from the action, but it’s still pretty cool to see hockey played before such a huge crowd.

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ALUMNI ON ICE: One night before the Flyers and Penguins face off at Lincoln Financial Field, the Flyers alumni will battle alumni of the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation on Friday (7 p.m.) at the University of Pennsylvania’s Class of ’23 Arena.

The Flyers alumni team will be coached by team president Paul Holmgren, Bill Barber and Bob Kelly. Brian Boucher will be the goalie. Forwards include the recently retired Scott Hartnell, Danny Briere, Brian Propp and Dave Brown. Defensemen include Kimmo Timonen, Brad Marsh, Kjell Samuelsson and Jim and Joe Watson.

Given all of the anticipation and excitement when Fultz was drafted, it’s clear that he was a bust. In fact, he may have been the worst draft pick in Sixers history.

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INTO THE FIRE: It didn’t take long for Brian Elliott to see action upon his return. Elliott was called up for Tuesday’s game against the Lightning after a conditioning stint with the Phantoms. After going months without NHL action, Elliott was quickly thrown into the fire after rookie Carter Hart was pulled 10:23 into the first period after allowing three goals. Elliott only allowed one goal against the high-flying Lightning, which should help remove question about his health as we near the NHL trade deadline.

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NET GAIN: The Flyers traded Anthony Stolarz to the Oilers for veteran Cam Talbot in exchange of goalies. The thought process is that the Flyers want a veteran goalie to back up Carter Hart. Talbot and Hart worked together last summer.

Talbot, who spent two seasons backing up Henrik Lundqvist with the Rangers before spending three-plus seasons with the Oilers, could become an unrestricted free agent after this season. The Flyers will likely try to re-sign Talbot, assuming he works out the rest of this season. With Hart in place as the goalie of the future, Stolarz, a 25-year-old with a long injury history, didn’t have much of a future with the Flyers.

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BAD CALLS: The Flyers haven’t had a very good experience with referees during the past week-and-a-half. While trailing the Wild, 3-1, the Flyers saw Robert Hagg called for a high-sticking penalty even though the Wild player was struck by his teammates’ stick. To make matters worse, Hagg was assessed a double-minor for high-sticking.

Near the end of the third period in the Flyers’ next game, Red Wings forward Anthony Mantha wasn’t penalized for pushing the head of a prone Claude Giroux into the boards from behind. The NHL should have considered suspending Mantha for this dangerous play, but he wasn’t even assessed a minor penalty. To make matters worse, Mantha scored the tying goal to force overtime, where the Flyers were able to pull out the victory.

During Tuesday’s loss to the Lightning, the Flyers apparently pulled within one goal after Sean Couturier scored on a goal-mouth scramble with 47 seconds left in regulation. The referees ruled the goal did not count because the Flyers were guilty of goaltender interference. Replays made it fairly clear that goalie Louis Domingue’s momentum took the puck over the goal line and that Couturier’s digging for the puck did not push Domingue over the goal line, but the NHL did not overrule the call on the ice.

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DROUGHT IS OVER: Scott Laughton’s goal during Saturday’s 6-5 win over Red Wings ended a drought of 26 games without a goal.

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MYERS MAKES DEBUT: Defenseman Philippe Myers made his Flyers debut on Sunday during the Flyers’ 3-1 victory over the Red Wings. Myers was solid, although the Flyers dressed seven defensemen so he wouldn’t have to play too many minutes.

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ASSISTANCE PROVIDED: Center Sean Couturier has two assists in each of the Flyers’ last three games. He has two points in four straight games, registering a goal and assist during the Flyers’ 4-2 loss to the Penguins.

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HEATING UP: Oskar Lindblom has three goals in his last two games. Travis Konecny has three goals in his last three games. Konecny has quietly moved up to second in goals (18) on the Flyers, passing Claude Giroux (17) and trailing only Sean Couturier (24).

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BLUES MAKING RUN: The Blues, like the Flyers, struggled during the first half of their season and fired their head coach. Like the Flyers, the Blues have turned their fortunes around. The Blues have won 11 straight games, establishing a franchise record. The Blues are coached by former Flyers player and coach Craig Berube, who should shed the “interim” before his head coaching title before this season ends.

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LIGHTNING WHITE HOT: The Lightning’s 5-2 win over the Flyers on Tuesday extending their winning streak to seven games. They accomplished that win without their leading scorer (Brayden Point) and their top defenseman (Victor Hedman) while giving their top goalie (Andrei Vasilevskiy) a rest. The Lightning have 96 points this season, 17 more than any other NHL team.

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CRUCIAL STRETCH: The Flyers have an opportunity to gain or lose significant ground in the playoff race during the rest of February. The visiting Montreal on Thursday (7:30 p.m.). The Canadiens, who are eight points ahead of the Flyers in the Eastern Conference, occupy one of the wild card spots. The Flyers then play the Penguins, also eight points ahead of the Flyers, on Saturday (8 p.m.) at Lincoln Financial Field. The Flyers host the Sabres, who are tied with the Flyers with 63 points but have one game in hand, on Tuesday (7 p.m.) before visiting the Blue Jackets, who are six points ahead of the Flyers and occupy the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference, next Thursday (7 p.m.).

Flyers Notebook: Displaying plenty of Hart

Posted by Eric Fisher On February - 9 - 2019 ADD COMMENTS

With their shootout loss Thursday against the Kings, halting their eight-game winning streak, the Flyers are no longer the hottest team in the NHL.

But Carter Hart is still the hottest goalie and hottest rookie in the NHL.

The 20-year-old Hart has won seven straight starts, becoming only the fourth goalie in NHL history to win seven straight games before his 21st birthday. The last goalie to win seven in a row before turning 21 was the Canadiens’ Carey Price. The record of eight was set by Jocelyn Thibault in March of 1995. Hart will try to tie that record Saturday (1 p.m.) against the Ducks.

In his last five starts, Hart has allowed one or two goals four times. It’s stating the obvious to say that a team has a lot better chance of winning when it only allows one or two goals rather than three or four – or more.

Hart is 10-5-1 since a combination of injuries and poor goaltending forced the Flyers to call him up in mid-December, early than they had planned. In 16 starts since being called up, Hart is 10-5-1 with a 2.48 goals-against average and .925 save percentage. He made 41 saves Monday during a 2-1 victory over the Canucks.

What stands out more than the numbers is Hart’s poise. The rookie never looks rattled. He appears calm and confident in net, and that attitude spreads to his teammates.

Hart shouldn’t receive all of the credit for the Flyers’ recent reversal of fortune, but it would be foolish to downplay his significance in the eight-game winning streak. When players aren’t worried that every mistake they make will end up in the back of the net, they are able to play with more confidence and aggressiveness.

Hart is playing so well that it’s easy to forget that he is a rookie. What is clear to everyone is that Hart is living up to his billing as the goalie of the future – even though the future arrived a little earlier than expected.

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STOLARZ BACK IN FORM: While we’re on the subject of goalies, Anthony Stolarz has played extremely well in his two starts after missing six weeks due an injury. Stolarz made 38 saves during a 1-0 shutout of the Rangers in his return on Jan. 29. Although he was the goal Thursday when the eight-game winning streak ended, Stolarz couldn’t be blamed after making 37 saves during regulation and overtime.

It will be interesting to see what happens to Stolarz when veteran Brian Elliott is cleared to play, which is expected to be within the next 10 days. Will the Flyers send Stolarz to the Phantoms or will they see which goalie could bring them the most in return in a trade, with the survivor spending the rest of the season as Hart’s backup.

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FRANCHISE MILESTONE: Not only was Monday’s 2-1 victory over the Canucks the Flyers’ eight straight win, but it also was the 2,000th victory in franchise history. The Flyers haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1975, but they’ve been a contending team for most of the franchise’s history. The only team to reach 2,000 victories in fewer games than the Flyers was Montreal.

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COUTURIER IN CONTROL: Another factor in the Flyers’ eight-game winning streak that shouldn’t be overlooked is the play of Sean Couturier. Coming off a career-best season last year (31 goals, 45 assists), Couturier got off to a slow start this season after suffering a summer injury to his right knee, the same one he injured during the playoff series with the Penguins. However, Couturier is playing his best hockey of the season during the past month, with points in 10 of 11 games.

During the Flyers past 11 games, Couturier has seven goals and nine assists. He has a goal in each of the Flyers’ last three games. Couturier is also a plus-12 in plus-minus ratings during this 11-game span. The bottom line is he once again looks like the player who frequently dominated both ends of the ice last season, especially toward the end of the year.

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TRADE DEADLINE: The NHL trade deadline is Mon., Feb. 25, a little more than two weeks away. It will be interesting to see if the Flyers’ recent resurgence, moving them within range a playoff spot, will alter the plans of general manager Chuck Fletcher in terms of whether the Flyers will be buying or selling.

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WAIVING GOODBYE: The Flyers continued to look go toward the future by putting forward Jori Lehtera on waivers. Lehtera has only played 27 games this season, registering one goal and two assists, so there’s no reason for him to take up a roster spot that could be filled by a younger player. It probably didn’t help Lehtera’s situation that he’s been charged in Finland in a case involving a cocaine ring, but his play didn’t justify keeping a roster spot on a team that is trying to build toward the future. Lehtera is clearly not part of the Flyers’ future.

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FUTURE IS NOW: The Flyers’ young defense might be about to get younger. Reports are that the Flyers are recalling Phil Myers. Whether that means he’s going to get into the lineup or if it’s just a one day callup to replace Christian Folin – who was traded to the Canadiens today, along with forward Dale Weise – remains to be seen. Either way, don’t be surprised to see Myers in orange and black this season.

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GORDON DESERVES CREDIT: While we’re handing out credit for the Flyers’ eight-game winning streak, we shouldn’t forget head coach Scott Gordon. With or without Carter Hart, it’s difficult to imagine the Flyers putting together this kind of streak this season under former head coach Dave Hakstol.

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BACK-TO-BACKS: After completing a stretch of four home games against Western Conference teams today (1 p.m.) against the Ducks, the Flyers will wrap up their five-game homestand Monday (7 p.m.) against the Penguins. They will then travel to Minnesota to face the Wild on Tuesday (8 p.m.). The Flyers will then have three days off before facing the Red Wings next weekend at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday (1 p.m.) and in Detroit on Sunday (6 p.m.).

Side angle of Cody Parkey's missed field goal