Archive for June, 2012

Where Do We Go From Here?

Posted: June 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

Flyers GM Paul Holmgren is never one to shy away from the spotlight. In one of his first major moves in 2007, Holmgren spent big bucks on Danny Briere on the first day of free agency. Then, two years later, the team made a big splash at the draft by trading for Chris Pronger. Few thought it was possible for Holmgren to shock Flyers’ nation even more a year. But, he certainly proved the doubters wrong by trading Mike Richards and Jeff Carter for talented young players that make up the current team’s core.

What will Holmgren do for an encore this season?

Free agency begins this Sunday, and anyone who has followed the Flyers knows that they will be active in their never-ending pursuit of Lord Stanley’s Cup. The Flyers have about $11 million in cap space. This should allow Holmgren to make one or two key moves to better the team. The first few dominoes have already fallen, as evidenced by the trading of G Sergei Bobrovsky and LW James van Riemsdyk. But, what do these moves set up exactly. Below is an analysis of the Flyers’ needs and who they may go after to fill them:

1. Defenseman

The Flyers may have acquired Luke Schenn from Toronto last weekend, but they still have a need on the blue-line. With Pronger’s career in doubt and Matt Carle an unrestricted free agent, two holes needed to be filled coming into the offseason. Landing Brayden’s brother filled one, but Holmgren still must find a replacement for Carle. For the past few weeks, it was expected that the team would eventually resign the much maligned puck-moving defenseman. But, Dennis Wideman’s 5 year, $26 million extension with Calgary (who acquired his rights from Washington via a trade on Wednesday), threw a wrench in those plans. Yes, Wideman was an All-Star this season. But, his body of work is the picture of inconsistency. With Wideman receiving over $5 million a season, Carle should be expected to demand at least $4.5 million. Are the Flyers really prepared to give Carle such a cap-constricting contract?

After Ryan Suter, Carle is probably the best defenseman on the market. Expect there to be a significant amount of interest in him. The Flyers’ first option to replace him should be Suter. After all, he is the best defenseman out there short of trading for Shea Weber. Cheaper alternatives would include Dallas’ Sheldon Souray (6 G, 15 A) or Vancouver’s Sami Salo (9 G, 16 A). Both of these players would provide equivalent offense and defense as Carle at a discounted price. Other options include Florida’s Jason Garrison (16 G, 17 A) and former Wisconsin Badger product Justin Schultz.

2. Top-Six Forward

A top-six forward is a valuable commodity in the NHL. There are thousands of hockey players but only 180 can call themselves top-six NHL forwards any given year. With the trade of JVR and the loss of Jaromir Jagr to free agency, the Flyers lost two of their top-six forwards from last season. Now, it remains a possibility that Holmgren could go conservative and make do with what he has on the roster. Still, no one wants to see Jody Shelley dressed for 82 games. Nor should Flyers fans be comfortable with expecting that Hartnell, Simmonds, or Read will mimic their spectacular breakout 2011-2012 campaigns. Instead, Paul Holmgren should focus on acquiring a top-six winger to pair with Claude Giroux on the first line.

The dream scenario would be for Zach Parise to drive over the Ben Franklin Bridge and join the Flyers on Sunday. But, it’s unlikely that, with all the teams interested in Parise, he chooses Philadelphia. After the New Jersey Devils’ star, the pickings become a bit slim. Former Washington Capital Alexander Semin is an intriguing offensive talent. But, his perceived apathetic defensive play would bring back nightmares of Nik Zherdev’s time in orange-and-black. Semin also seems more interested in joining the KHL than sticking in North America.

The next best option would be Islanders’ RW P.A. Parenteau. Many will remember this Quebec native as the lone Ranger to score in the season ending shootout that sent the Flyers to the playoffs in 2009-2010. Islanders fans know him as the player who emerged from nothing the past two seasons to notch career highs in points with 53 in 2010-2011 and 67 in 2011-2012. However, he does not exactly fit the mold for a winger to slot next to Giroux. In fact, he could be considered a “Giroux-lite.” While he does not have the talent or work-ethic that Claude has, his playmaking abilities are of the same mold.

Two Phoenix Coyotes, Ray Whitney and Shane Doan, could be possibilities. But, their age and cost could be prohibitive. It is also unlikely that the Flyers go out and trade for a top-six winger considering the asking prices on Columbus RW Rick Nash and Anaheim RW Bobby Ryan. At this point, it appears the most likely scenario is that Holmgren retains Jagr at around or slightly above the $3.3 million he received last season.

3. Backup Goaltender

With Sergei Bobrovsky shipped off to Columbus, the Flyers will need to find a backup to keep starter Ilya Bryzgalov fresh during the season. Michael Leighton is finally a free agent, and I doubt resigning the goat of game six would be seen with much support from the fans. Meanwhile, the Flyers have some good young prospects in the system headlined by Finnish GK Niko Hovinen. The 6’7, 24 year old is expected to join Adirondack next year with an ETA in Philadelphia of 2013-2014. So, that leaves Holmgren with some options. He could make a trade for a cheap, unproven backup. Or, he could scan free agency for a veteran backup. The top free agent goalies include: Martin Brodeur, Al Montoya, Martin Biron, and Scott Clemmensen.

There is less than a 1% chance that Brodeur leaves New Jersey. Marty will either return to defend his team’s Eastern Conference championship or he will retire as the greatest goaltender of all time. That leaves the trio of Montoya, Biron, and Clemmensen.

Most Flyers fans know Montoya as the backup Islanders goalie who always seemed to struggle against the Flyers’ attack. The sixth overall pick by the Rangers in 2004, Montoya has been a dramatic draft bust (as most first round goalies are). But, the past few years, he has proven that he can play at least a marginal role in the NHL. His 2010-2011 season was by far the best of his career, when he went 9-5-3, with a 2.39 GAA. He should come pretty cheap if that is the route the Flyers want to go.

Biron is a familiar face in Philadelphia. The former Rangers’ goalie spent three seasons with the Flyers, leading them to the playoffs in his final two years with the team. Since then, Biron has been backing up Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist in New York. Biron would be a fantastic choice as Bryzgalov’s backup if for no other reason than his experience as both a backup and with The City of Brotherly Love. Marty was always well liked when he was here, even if his inconsistencies were often mind-numbing.

The other option available is Scott Clemmensen. The former Boston College star has spent the past three seasons in Sunrise, Florida playing 30+ games a year for the Panthers. His numbers are nothing special. But, he’s a capable backup who can come in and start if injuries occur. Clemmensen won 14 games last year backing up Jose Theodore and is probably the safest best (and most expensive) of all three goalies mentioned.

Paul Holmgren was on the golf course when he was interviewed by Comcast Sportsnet – Philadelphia earlier this week. He better get his leisure time out of the way now, because come Sunday, there will be no time for fun. The Flyers have not won a Stanley Cup in 37 years. The real work to reach that desired goal begins on Sunday when NHL free agency begins.



2012 NBA Mock Draft

Posted: June 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

The 2012 NBA Draft is less than 12 hours away. Our 76ers sit right smack dab in the middle at pick 15. With both G Lou Williams and C Spencer Hawes restricted free agents, the Sixers could go in many different directions.

1. New Orleans Hornets  Anthony Davis, PF/C, Kentucky

– Any pick in this draft could be traded except for this one. The Hornets, who lucked into the #1 pick thanks to a the NBA’s controversial lottery system, will take this generational talent and pair him with Eric Gordon to create a talented duo in the Big Easy.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers (Trade with Bobcats) – SG Bradley Beal, Florida

– The Cavaliers will trade their #4 and #24 picks in the first round to move up and select the much hyped combo guard from Florida. Beal has received man complimentary comparisons to Ray Allen. However, he shot just 34% from beyond the arc as a Gator last season, and he’s not as refined a defensive presence as Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Still, Cleveland wants a scorer to pair with Kyrie Irving, and Beal is the most talented scoring guard in the draft.

3. Washington Wizards – SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky

– The Wizards are rumored to be eyeing Beal. But, the likelihood that they will be able to top Cleveland’s offer to Charlotte is remote. Washington is still getting a heck of a player in Kidd-Gilchrist. An Evan Turner type of player, MKG doesn’t need the ball in his hands to make an impact. He’s the prototypical multi-talented swingman who takes pride in his defense just as much as his offense.

4. Charlotte Bobcats – PF Thomas Robinson, Kansas

– The Bobcats would be wise to trade back with Cleveland and still draft the player they wanted at #2. Robinson is a high-motor forward with elite athleticism. He reminds me a lot of Amare Stoudemire. An ideal pick-and-roll power forward who should excel at the next level (even in Charlotte, where careers go to die).

5. Sacramento Kings – SF Harrison Barnes, North Carolina

– The hype machine surrounding Barnes has finally shut off. After being denoted as the next Kobe Bryant coming out of high school, Barnes experienced adversity in his freshman year at UNC. Now, he enters the draft with his stock low. Sacramento has had a revolving door at the SF position in recent years. Still, his athleticism and upside should guarantee him a top 7 selection in the NBA Draft. Barnes will make the Sacramento faithful forget about such overpaid anomalies as John Salmons and Omri Casspi.

6. Portland Trail Blazers (From Nets) – PG Damian Lillard, Weber State

– There’s something here to be said for Billy King. The former 76ers GM is now in the same position in New Jersey and making the same mistakes he made when he was in Philadelphia. King traded this pick to the Trail Blazers for veteran (and free agent) Gerald Wallace. The Nets will probably end up with nothing from the deal. Meanwhile, the Blazers own two lottery picks and get the guy they have wanted all along at this pick. Lillard is lightening quick with an above-average jump shot at the point guard position.

7. Golden State Warriors – SG Dion Waiters, Syracuse

– The Warriors did just draft Klay Thompson last season, but they still need help on the wing. Waiters is a Philly kid with tremendous athleticism, strength, and driving ability. He should nicely compliment Thompson and Steph Curry in the backcourt for “Oakland.”

8. Toronto Raptors – SG Austin Rivers, Duke

– Everywhere I look has Toronto going with Austin Rivers with this pick, regardless of whether or not Andre Drummond is available. I feel like taking A.D. and pairing him with Andrea Bargnani in the front-court would be the better decision. But, this is based on my own speculation that Rivers is not going to be big enough or mature enough for the NBA. Still, Doc’s son is a talented, young player in his own right. What does this mean for DeMar DeRozan?

9. Detroit Pistons – SG Jeremy Lamb, UConn

Some mock drafts have Detroit taking Lamb’s college teammate, Andre Drummond. But, with Greg Monroe manning the middle for the foreseeable future, I think taking a two-guard makes more sense. The Pistons grabbed their point guard of the future, Brandon Knight, in last year’s draft. They then created a hole in the backcourt by trading SG Ben Gordon to Charlotte earlier this week. Lamb has a terrific jumper and potential to become a Reggie Miller’esque scorer. Detroit should be back to dominating the East in a few seasons.

10. New Orleans Hornets (From Timberwolves via Clippers) – PG Marquis Teague, Kentucky

One can always count on there being at least a couple of reaches in the top 10. New Orleans acquired this pick in the Chris Paul trade, and will likely try to find a backcourt player to pair with Eric Gordon after taking Anthony Davis first overall. Teague is unrefined. But, he’s quick, has tons of upside, and he’s a champion. New Orleans will grab two Wildcats whose chemistry should be evident from day one.

11. Houston Rockets (Trade with Trailblazers) – C Andre Drummond, UConn

The Rockets will spend much of draft night looking for a way to acquire Orlando C Dwight Howard. In all likelihood, they’ll strike out swinging in their aggressiveness. Still, Houston holds three first round picks, so in this scenario, they trade #16 and #18 to Portland for #11, #40, and #41. Houston gets their Center of the future. Drummond, 6’11, has unlimited potential. His athleticism and quickness is rivaled by few his size.

12. Houston Rockets (From Bucks) – SG/SF Terrence Ross, Washington

Houston uses their second first round pick to grab Washington swingman Terrence Ross. He dominated for stretches at Washington, but also had long droughts of prolonged ineffectiveness. Ross averaged 25 PPG during Washington’s NIT run last season. He fits perfectly into the Rocket’s lineup next to Kevin Martin.

13. Phoenix Suns – PF John Henson, North Carolina

It is difficult not to reach here and take a PG with Steve Nash entering unrestricted free agency. There is also a need at SF, with Grant Hill on the verge of retirement. But, a front court of Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat is not going to intimidate opponents in this generation’s NBA. Henson is an experienced front court player. His size and long wingspan make him the prototypical defensive big man. His strengths are blocking and rebounding, something the Suns desperately need.

14. Milwaukee Bucks (From Rockets) – C Meyers Leonard, Illinois

After trading Andrew Bogut to Golden State, the Bucks are in desperate need of some size. This pick came down to Leonard or UNC C Tyler Zeller. I believe that Leonard has more upside. Yes, he will need to bulk up to avoid being outmuscled down-low by NBA bigs, but his athleticism and potential makes him an intriguing target midway through round one.

15. Philadelphia 76ers – PG Kendall Marshall, North Carolina 

There is a lot of talk of the 76ers going big with their selection in round one. I don’t buy it. Philadelphia is likely to bring back both Spencer Hawes and Elton Brand. Add to this the expected improvement of 2011 first round pick Nik Vucevic and 2011 second round pick LaVoy Allen, and where exactly is the need down low? In all likelihood, Lou Williams is going to take his money and run. This leaves the Sixers with only Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner at the Guard positions. Marshall can’t shoot, but he is the classic floor general who understands the flow of the game. His passing ability is second to none in this draft and he rarely turns it over. Expect more assists than points from this 6’4 point guard. But, he will be a welcome addition to the team’s backcourt. Holiday can score, Turner can rebound, and Marshall can pass. If Doug Collins could put all three together in one player, they would have a superstar.

16. Portland Trail Blazers (From Rockets) – C Tyler Zeller, North Carolina

The run on UNC players continues. Zeller is a 7’0 Center with good size but poor bulk. He’s still developing his face-up game, and he won’t make Blazers fans forget about the Greg Oden over Kevin Durant disaster. But, he’s quick and lengthy and should be a good value pick at 16 for Portland.

17. Dallas Mavericks – PF Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State

The 2011 NBA champions fell on hard times last season. Their age started to show and the most important thing that owner Mark Cuban can do short of acquiring PG Deron Williams is landing a young replacement for PF Dirk Nowitzki. Moultrie has the size and athleticism to become a very capable NBA forward.

18. Portland Trail Blazers (From Rockets) – SF Moe Harkless, St. Johns

Portland has already grabbed their PG of the future and a young big man. Now, they land a future starting swingman. Harkless has smooth athleticism and a 7’2 wingspan. His best asset at this point is his interior game. Lillard, Zeller, and Harkless should combine with LaMarcus Aldridge to give Portland a very talented young core.

19. Orlando Magic – SF Terrence Jones, Kentucky

Many will argue that Orlando needs to select a big man here to offset the likely loss of Dwight Howard. But, the value is just not here at this pick. Jared Sullinger is a possibility. As is St. Bonaventure PF Andrew Nicholson. But, there’s only so long that Orlando can go with Hedo Turkoglu at the SF position. Jones was a matchup terror at Kentucky. At 6’9, 252 lbs, most threes cannot contain him. Jones needs to work on his jump shot if he hopes to be a major impact at the next level.

20. Denver Nuggets – PF Perry Jones III, Baylor

It is amazing how far a talented and hyped player can fall in just a few months. Entering his freshman year at Baylor, Jones was considered a top five pick. But, inconsistency, off-court issues, and perceived on-court apathy will have this former Bear sitting and waiting on draft day. The Nuggets have a spectacular group of guards and forwards. But, Jones, if he develops, can make an impact offensively that Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried just are not capable of. The move also allows Denver to pursue a trade of Chandler or Danilo Gallinari for a Center.

21. Boston Celtics – PF Jared Sullinger, Ohio State

It would behoove anyone to say that Boston doesn’t luck into talented players with regularity. Sullinger could be the next Tom Brady in this town if his back issues are overstated. Regardless, getting a player this talented at #21 is a coup for Doc Rivers. The Celtics had serious problems down low last season after Kevin Garnett. With KG an unrestricted free agent, Boston desperately needs to get younger and Sullinger is the best available option.

22. Boston Celtics (From Clippers via Thunder) – SG Doron Lamb, Kentucky

After grabbing a front court presence at #21, Boston can focus on replacing Ray Allen with this pick. Lamb is your classic one-way sharpshooter. His defensive game never matured at Kentucky, and his athleticism when compared to other prospects is mediocre at best. But, Boston desperately needs shooters if Allen is indeed finished with the team.

23. Atlanta Hawks – SF Royce White, Iowa State

The Hawks’ biggest weakness currently is SF Marvin Williams. The 2005 #2 overall pick has been a bust in every sense of the word. With a team as talented as Atlanta, they do not necessarily need a scoring presence at this spot. White is one of the best ball handling and passing swingmen in this draft. If he can develop as they would like, Atlanta would have one of the most talented starting fives in the NBA.

24. Charlotte Bobcats (From Lakers via Cavaliers) – SF Quincy Miller, Baylor

There are no North Carolina players left for Michael Jordan to reach for. So, the Bobcats take the overhyped swingman from Baylor. No, not Perry Jones III. Instead, they land Quincy Miller, a 6’10 forward with a ridiculous 7’3 wingspan. Miller can score more consistently at this stage than his former teammate, Jones. But, he’s defensively challenged and has very limited quickness and strength. Sounds right up the Bobcats alley.

25. Memphis Grizzlies – PF Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure

You will rarely see a Bonnie drafted in round one unless he possesses a rare trait that few other prospects share. Nicholson is built like most of the other 3/4 combos in the draft. At 6’10, 234 pounds, he could stand to eat a couple of racks of Tennessee style ribs once he arrives in Memphis. But, his amazing basketball IQ is what attracts GM’s to him at this stage. He was an efficient scorer and a reliable threat in the Atlantic 10. But, will those skills transition to the NBA?

26. Indiana Pacers – PF Furkan Aldemir, Turkey

I’m no fan of the Turks, but they sure can produce basketball players. Omer Asik, Ersan Ilyasova, Enes Kanter, Mehmet Okur, and Hedo Turkoglu are just a few of the Turkish stars who have become valuable NBA pieces. Aldemir is a 20 year old project who will likely need a few years of seasoning to fit into an NBA roster. His size and athleticism is what will attract a team like Indiana, with age (David West) and mediocrity (Tyler Hansbrough) at the power forward position.

27. Miami Heat – C Fab Melo, Syracuse

Casual fans will remember this kid as the guy who got suspended for the entirety of the NCAA Tournament for academic violations. Miami fans will likely consider him their savior in the low post. Melo has great size, but little else. Now, when you’re playing alongside LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, maybe that’s all you need. But, the fact of the matter is that this remains a guy who could not simply pass a class when his collegiate career (and the championship hopes of his teammates) relied on it. How can he be expected to be a reliable NBA player when he cannot pass a simple class at Syracuse.

28. Oklahoma City Thunder – SG Evan Fournier, France

The defending Western Conference champions don’t have ton of needs. But, they could use this strong bodied kid from France who could eventually replace another European guard, Thabo Sefolosha, as the backup to James Harden. At 6’7, Fournier can also step in to give Kevin Durant breathers when the time comes.

29. Chicago Bulls – SF Draymond Green, Michigan State

The rumors continue to persist that suggest Luol Deng’s days in Chicago are numbered. Therefore, finding a replacement for the defensive specialist should be the first priority of GM Gar Forman. Green is experienced, having played all four years as a Spartan. He also has a substantial wingspan and can contribute all across the board. His best asset at this point is his ability to stretch the floor with his three-point game, something that should greatly aid Derrick Rose as he recovers from a torn ACL.

30. Golden State Warriors (From Spurs) – SF Jeffery Taylor, Vanderbilt

Taylor has some of the best physical tools of any prospect in this draft. He is physically mature and a high-level athlete whose best asset is his defensive play. A Thabo Sefolosha type player, Taylor will fit in with a team that has very little defensive minded talent.

Will SkoodSports nail the draft? Come back later in the week to find out if this mock draft is a boom or bust.

Luke Schenn (left) and James van Riemsdyk will trade jerseys next season.

It was an exciting weekend for all 30 NHL teams. The Flyers were no different, as they made seven selections in Pittsburgh at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Readers may have also heard of a big trade that was completed between Paul Holmgren and Toronto General Manager Brian Burke on Saturday afternoon.

James van Riemsdyk, the 2nd overall selection in 2007, will take his immense potential but painstaking injury risk to the Maple Leafs. In exchange, the Flyers acquired the 5th overall pick in 2008, Defenseman Luke Schenn. The 6’2, 220 freight train of a blue-liner is expected to contribute immediately to a Philadelphia corps that needed an influx of youth. With Matt Carle an unrestricted free agent, Chris Pronger likely sidelined with post-concussion syndrome, and Kimmo Timonen approaching retirement, Holmgren desperately needed to land a young Defenseman with upside. He most certainly did that.

The Flyers and Schenn have long been linked together. After all, one of Philadelphia’s rising young stars is Luke’s brother, Brayden. Upon learning of the trade, Luke could not have been more excited to join Brayden in Philadelphia. “It’s obviously a bit of a shock to get traded but Philadelphia is obviously a great organization and they’ve got a lot of great young talent there,” Schenn said on a conference call. “With my brother being there, we’re pretty close. It’s surreal. I can’t even believe it.”

Schenn won gold medals with Team Canada in the 2008 World Junior Championships and a silver medal at the 2009 World Championships. He’s a proven winner at every level but the NHL. The 22 year old, however, did not develop the way Toronto would have hoped. In four seasons with the Leafs, Schenn scored just 14 goals and 61 assists in 310 games. His offensive capabilities are endless, but he was not able to reach those heights in Toronto. A lot of onlookers blamed their system, which limited him in minutes the past few seasons. This will not be the case in Philadelphia, where Schenn should be expected to log significant time on the first or second defensive lines.

Meanwhile, the Flyers said goodbye to van Riemsdyk. JVR’s phenomenal 2011 postseason, in which it appeared as though he was the only one to show up against the Boston Bruins in their four game sweep of the Flyers was enough to earn him a long term extension. But, the Flyers have shown once again that they are willing to deal players on long-term deals. James’ potential was never reached hear in Philadelphia. Burke and the Leafs hope that he will be a catalyst in Toronto winning their first Stanley Cup since 1967.

Scott Laughton was the Flyers’ first pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Prior to this blockbuster deal going through, the Flyers chose seven youngsters in the NHL Entry Draft from Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.

Their first selection, Scott Laughton from the Oshawa Generals of the OHL, is an 18-year-old Mike Richards clone. This two-way Center should be considered a top prospect from the moment he first steps on the ice at the Flyers’ practice facility this summer. Laughton was fifth on Oshawa in points (53), third in penalty minutes (101), and scored five points in three playoff games this past season. From December 1st on, Laughton performed at a point-per-game pace (18 G, 23 A in 39 games). Scott’s two-way performance is further exemplified by his +13 rating over his entire junior hockey career.

After Laughton, the Flyers shifted their strategy to the other positions of need. In the second round, Holmgren and the front office decided to help fill the organization hole in net created by the trade of Sergei Bobrovsky earlier this week. With the 45th pick acquired in that trade, they selected Corpus Christi Goaltender Anthony Stolarz. This 6’5, 200 pound monster went 23-22-4-3 with the IceRays of the North American Hockey League this season. He is scheduled to attend the University of Nebraska-Omaha in the WCHA next season.

From that point on, it was all about defense. The Flyers selected blue-liners with four of their final five picks. Union College D Shayne Gostisbehere had perhaps the best name in the entire draft. The future promos for ticket sales write themselves (You have Gostisbehere!). But, Shayne is a phenomenal prospect. He recorded 22 points in 41 games as he helped lead Union to the Frozen Four in his first season of collegiate hockey.

The Flyers also took Swedish D Fredric Larsson, 18-year-old LW Taylor Leier from the Western Hockey League, 6’3″ D Reese Willcox of the British Columbia Hockey League, and rounded out their draft with Russian D Valeri Vasiliev.

It is not often that you will see late round picks amount to NHL players. There are just too few roster spots and too many selections. However, the Flyers knew that they needed to improve their defense if they wanted to remain competitive in the Eastern Conference. With Laughton’s two-way forte, and a handful of talented young Defensemen now in tow, Holmgren and the Flyers believe that they are ready to take on the free agent frenzy that will begin on July 1st.

This Pigpen is a Mess

Posted: June 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

Jonathan Papelbon has been the only consistent reliever for the Phillies.

In 2008, when Philadelphia claimed their first World Series championship since 1980, the bullpen was a key positive for the organization. Brad Lidge (2-0, 1.95, 41 Sv, 0 BSv), Ryan Madson (4-2, 3.05), JC Romero (4-4, 2.75), and Chad Durbin (5-4, 2.87) gave the Phillies a quintet of valuable arms at the back end of the ‘pen.

Flash forward to the present, and what Charlie Manuel has to work with resembles a law firm more than it does an MLB relief unit. BJ Rosenberg’s duly impressive 0.2 IP, 4 BB, 2 ER performance on Sunday night against Tampa Bay was just another nail in the coffin that represents a disappointing 2012 season.

Rosenberg, Michael Schwimmer, Antonio Bastardo (who took the loss in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader after surrendering a three-run bomb to Carlos Pena), Raul Valdes, and Joe Savery. This is the “motley crew” that Ruben Amaro has given Manuel to work with. Granted, Uncle Charlie could improve his decision making when it comes to their use. But, no one has ever confused the Phillies’ skipper with a decent game day manager. Still, Amaro knew this team had bullpen issues. Michael Stutes (out for the year after electing to have surgery on his right shoulder) and Bastardo were both valuable pieces to last year’s bullpen. But, relying on young pitching to carry you for 162 games out of the ‘pen is a losing philosophy. Jonathan Papelbon has been fantastic. But, with Cliff Lee pitching more like Wyatt “Watty” Lee than the 2008 AL Cy Young award winner and Kyle “4 inning max” Kendrick in the rotation; the Phillies need more out of their setup men.

The Phillies have suffered 8 walk-off losses on the road and none of them have come with Papelbon on the mound. If that doesn’t give you a moment’s pause, then what about this? The Phillies are currently 34-40 and sit 9 games out of the NL East lead (6 games out of the second wild card spot). Last year, the Phillies didn’t lose their 40th game until August 7th. If the Phillies could have won half of those 8 walk-off losses, they would be right in the thick of the playoff chase. Instead, they’re falling further and further behind. With a four game set against Pittsburgh followed by a three game series vs. Miami, the Phillies will need to capitalize against their rivals if they hope to improve their standing n the wild card race.

This relief corps is not a bullpen. No, a bullpen can be called upon to get outs when necessary. This unit can’t be trusted to do so. No, this is not a bullpen. It’s a pigpen. A unit of Jonathan Papelbon and AAAA scrubs. Perhaps one day Amaro will realize that it is not all about the superstars. But, the supporting cast you put around them.

The First Domino Falls

Posted: June 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

The first trade has been made. The Philadelphia Flyers have traded GK Sergei Bobrovsky to the Columbus Blue Jackets for draft picks. Bobrovsky, 23, played in 29 games last year, going 14-10-2 with a 3.02 GAA. This coming after a brilliant rookie campaign in 2010-2011 in which the Russian net minder went 28-13-8 with a 2.59 GAA.

The exact value of those draft picks received is not yet known. However, TSN Insider Darren Dreger reports on Twitter that the Flyers will receive three draft picks, including the 45th overall pick acquired previously from Ottawa. This gives the Flyers a haul of draft picks that they could perhaps use to deal for a defenseman or even Anaheim RW Bobby Ryan.

One thing this trade does is likely take the Flyers out of the running for RW Rick Nash. The Blue Jacket franchise player has been on the trading block, but Columbus GM Scott Howson’s requests are rumored to be out of this world. It’s likely that Bob was part of a potential package for Nash, but that the Flyers weren’t willing to meet Howson’s asking price.

The move now means the Flyers will need a veteran goalie this offseason to backup Ilya Bryzgalov. But, it also gives the Flyers trade chips to use this weekend.

The draft begins this evening at 7:00 PM on NBC Sports Network. A quick reminder to check out for all your Philadelphia Flyers news.

Finally, Some Luck

Posted: June 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

Polanco’s teammates mob the third baseman

It is better to be lucky than good.

For Placido Polanco and the Phillies, there haven’t been a lot of good omens coming out of Citizens Bank Park this season. Entering play with one of the worst home records in baseball, the 5-time defending NL East champions knew that it was now or never if they were intending on extending that impressive streak.

Heading into the ninth inning, it looked like the Phillies were on their way to yet another embarrassing defeat. Tied entering the ninth, Manager Charlie Manuel tabbed RHP Jonathan Papelbon from the bullpen to try to maintain a tie score heading into the last half of the frame. After retiring the first two batters, Papelbon surrendered a double to Rockies’ C Wilin Rosario. After an intentional walk to pinch hitter Jason Giambi, CF Dexter Fowler singled to right to score Rosario. It looked like the Phillies would once again asphyxiate themselves at the worst possible moment.

But, this night was not about the team’s recent struggles. No, this night resembled the Phillies of old. Instead of surrendering once they had two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Phillies rose up, as the middle of their order delivered in a massive way. After 1B Ty Wigginton grounded a single through the hole between third and short, RF Hunter Pence smashed a 1-1 fastball to left field. Like Paul Bunyan swatting his colossal club, Pence smoked the heater from Rockies’ Closer Rafael Betancourt off the wall beneath the flower beds. Moments later, Wigginton galloped home to tie the game at 6.

After an intentional walk to Carlos Ruiz and a Shane Victorino infield single, veteran 3B Placido Polanco stepped up to the dish with a chance to give the Phillies just their second walk-off win of the season. Polanco worked the count in his favor, then dribbled a 2-1 fastball to Marco Scutaro at Shortstop. The former Red Sox’ throw was on line and in time, but All Star 1B Todd Helton made a major gaffe that even Mitt Romney would be proud of. Instead of holding the bag with his left leg (as is the proper mechanics of a first baseman), Helton attempted to catch the ball then reach for the bag with his right leg. Polanco’s foot beat Helton’s to the base and, for just just the second time in 2012, the Phillies were walk-off winners at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phightin Phils clinched their first home series victory of three or more games since May 11-13 vs. San Diego. Vance Worley will take the mound against Jeff Francis on Thursday, trying to give Philadelphia their first sweep at home since September 5-7, 2011 against Atlanta.

Fascism, communism, Islamic fundamentalism, the Miami Heat…

These nouns all provoke similar ire in the hearts of most Americans. Ever since LeBron James stepped in front of the camera and took his talents to South Beach, the basketball world has revolved around one central focus: preventing the evil empire in Miami from reaching their desired goal.

But, the fact of the matter is that the Heat should not be vilified for their desire to win. Nor should LeBron James’ reputation be desecrated for his actions during “The Decision” on ESPN. When one really examines the situation, are the heat not a perfect personification of American values? For a nation that prides itself on being number one in every facet of being, despite the facts that contradict that argument; America sure is hypocritical towards James and the Heat.

After all, the Heat took the same exact path America has in establishing itself as the most physically intimidating nation on Earth. The Heat, like the United States, bought success rather than achieving it through poise and prowess. James, like any patriot, went on the air and publicly displayed his confidence in himself and his abilities. How is this any different than what American’s do every day when they wave the flag and big foam red #1 finger despite America ranking 39th overall in healthcare in the world according to the World Health Organization.

The signs point to Americans being subconsciously self-loathing. We admire our nation’s might and show our unbridled confidence in it. Yet, when our athletes show this similar bold trait in themselves, we treat them like they’re the ultimate villain. However, America is the ultimate bandwagon nation. If people are told to think something, they will believe it. When the talking heads proclaimed their disdain for James, America listened. Just as they did in 2003 when our nation invaded Iraq.

When did the Oklahoma City Thunder become the basketball version of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” Olympic hockey team? This is a city that stole a championship caliber basketball team from the city of Seattle. This is a franchise that spent their last 11 years in Seattle without a trip to the NBA Finals. Now, just four years into their existence, Kevin Durant and the Thunder are three victories from a world championship. How is this more American than what LeBron and the Heat did? The owner of the Thunder betrayed his fans in Seattle. Instead of doing his best to do what was right, Clayton Bennett told Seattle that it was inferior to Oklahoma City. Four years later, they are a basketball mecca. Meanwhile, Seattle sits a deserted city, left behind by an organization who is supposed to be the most respected franchise in these finals.

Miami has savvy, confidence, and grit. They are, for now, America’s Team.