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iban3z

Flyers Rookie Camp Part II

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As Flyers Prospect camp ended last week, we continue to look at the Flyers prospects in Part II of our series. 

First, Nolan Patrick took to the ice on Monday. Well, that’s not the exciting news. The real exciting news is that the Flyers signed him to his three-year entry-level deal. He’ll earn $925,000 per season, but his contract does have bonuses. Those bonuses will count against the salary cap once he hits them. He’ll continue to skate throughout the summer, once his facial infection is healed and will work towards making the team in training camp

Several other prospects also aim to make the team out of training camp and one of those is Travis Sanheim.

Travis Sanheim

This was Sanheim’s fourth development camp since being drafted by the Flyers. These past four years of playing in Juniors and last season on the Phantoms show that Sanheim has progressed and could be finally ready to join the Flyers’ blue line. "It's definitely a teaching camp," Sanheim said last week. "Even the development coaches have talked to me, making sure I slow stuff down and show the younger guys how to do it properly, not necessarily doing everything at full speed."

If the student has become the teacher at development camp, does that show the sign that he’s ready?

Since being drafted, Sanheim spent two years in Juniors. In his first year, he has the most points in the WHL for a defenseman posting 15 goals and 50 assists. He was also a +27. The following season for the Calgary Hitmen he scored another 15 goals and 53 assists, finishing with a +15. Last year he played his first full year in the AHL tallying 37 points. His coaches have spoken on his positioning, his poise and his ability to make the right plays at the right time. 

Again, in GM Ron Hextall’s world, everything has to be earned. If Sanheim wants to suit up for the Flyers in October he knows he’ll have to fight for it. "It's going to come down to camp," he said.
"This year, obviously there's going to be some spots available, and we're going to be fighting for the job."

I’ve seen Sanheim play. He is a competitor. I still think he could put on a few more pounds of muscle given his height and current body weight, but as long as he’s fighting hard, I think he’ll be on the roster come opening night.

Morgan Frost

Okay, let’s quickly forget Frost’s twitter comment about the Flyers in 2013. I mean he was a 14 year old hockey fan and frankly I think it’s great!

This was one thing I did not expect the Flyers to do at the draft was trade for another first round pick. Frost was selected 27th overall back in June. Frost is a winger and that is something that the Flyers have lacked at the prospect level. For the past several years, the Flyers have been stacked at Center and Defense. It’s come to haunt them recently as they have failed to find that solid winger that would complement their center’s abilities. Alas, here we are.

Now we’re a year or two away from seeing Frost play on the wing with either Giroux or Patrick but there is still a reason to be excited. Frost, has played in the OHL the past couple of years. In his first year he only scored 7 goals, but blossomed the following year scoring 20 while adding 42 assists. Despite being ranked for a mid second to third round selection, the Flyers scouts saw something in Frost that made him jump the board and for the Flyers to trade up for him. 

Frost has a good hockey sense. He plays two-way hockey and can create turnovers. Frost is also special at creating second and third chances which will frustrate the opposition. His acceleration has also improved from his rookie year in the OHL which has probably helped in his point production. As he’ll probably spend the next year in Juniors, he’ll continue to develop not only his speed but his positioning. Once he is ready to make the jump, he’ll be that missing piece on the Flyers wing that we armchair GMs have been screaming for the last couple of seasons.

I don’t want to rule out a shot of Frost making the team next season because I think it’s a good possibility. I think Hextall trading up just to select him in the first round when he was projected to fall late in the second can attest to that theory. We’ll have to see how his season in Juniors will go. 

Felix Sandstrom

In my previous blog we talked about goalie Carter Hart. As great of a prospect that Hart is, the Flyers have struck gold because Felix Sandstrom is a fantastic prospect as well. Despite being 20 years old and being able to play in the AHL next season, Sandstrom has decided to spend one more year in Sweden. “I’m in a good position at home in Sweden,” Sandstrom said. “I get to play a lot. Really like my goalie coach there, too. I’m in a good position at home. No reason to rush. I think I need one more year to develop more and be even more ready to come over here.”

You can’t fault a player for wanting more time to develop, especially in a place where they call home and feel more comfortable. It worked for Peter Forsberg. 

I think you can sense that in the future Hextall is going to be looking at a Hart/Sandstrom tandem. If their potential were to translate perfectly to the NHL, this could be the best tandem in the NHL and something that other teams would fear. 

Last year, Sandstrom compiled a 14-7 record, 2.25 goals-against average and .908 save percentage with two shutouts. He had a 2.83 GAA and .901 save percentage in 13 post season games but his team lost in the finals. In 2016 he won the WJC best Goalie award. He has two gold medals at the J18 level and a silver medal at the SHL level. 

He also had a good development camp, showing how he can be flashing in the crease. 
Sandstrom is right though, he does have a lot to improve and develop on but he does have a high ceiling. Although I personally rank Hart over Sandstrom, you can never tell how their play and potential will transition at the NHL level, but I think both of them in net will be a glorious site to see once it does happen.

Stay tuned for Part III on the Flyers prospects later this week.

Follow me on Twitter @iban3zhead

iban3z

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Many in the hockey world are quite familiar with Jeremy Roenick. Before he was an outspoken analyst on NBCsports, “JR” played 20 seasons in the Nation Hockey League, racking up 513 goals and 1,216 points. No matter what team he played for, he played with not only his heart, but with his upbeat personality as well. Since retiring in 2009, Roenick has spent time making controversial statements about hockey teams and their players. JR’s rhetoric’s have been questioned by many because of one simple reason. He’s never led his team to a Stanley Cup.

 

But last week, JR once again made some statements towards Flyers Captain, Claude Giroux. However, instead of taking his comments with a grain of salt, I think there is a deeper meaning behind what he said.

JR went on Philly Sports talk radio on Friday and had plenty of things to say about the Flyers captain Claude Giroux.  “He’s a stud,” said Roenick. “The reason why Claude Giroux doesn’t get success is [because] he lets everything get into his mind and he looks for other things to blame it on,”

 

I think JR is correct in that statement. Giroux, while one of the best top 5 players in the NHL in points since 2011, hasn’t been that same guy that once said, “I want that first shift” back in the 2012 playoffs against their arch rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Back then, Giroux showed what type of leader he was. He wasn’t even the captain then, but in opening 29 seconds, he went out, drilled Penguins Captain Sidney Crosby, then he scored a goal. Flyers fans will never forget that moment, but often reminisce and wonder, “Who was that Claude Giroux?”

Since becoming a Captain, it took Giroux a couple of seasons to get to comfortable wearing the “C.” Former Flyers Captain Mike Richards, while playing in LA, saw the tough transition Giroux was going through and even reached out to him. “Take it easy, don’t put too much pressure on yourself” Richards told Giroux.

 

It was then, Giroux eased up and started playing like the  player he should be.

 

However, a few seasons later he still seems to be struggling on the ice. JR continued, “Claude Giroux can play this game and he can play it at a high, hard level. He’s just got to get back into the inside of the game, start attacking the game and not worrying about what the media or the fans are saying about Claude Giroux, period. He is a world-class player that can make a difference and that’s why he has the ‘C’ on his chest.”

 

The media can be difficult in Philly. The organization firmly blamed them [the media] on successfully distracting goalie Illyia Bryzgalov back in 2012 and former Captain Mike Richards used to have battles with them during interviews as well. However, Giroux has never let the media get the best of him while being interviewed. He’s calm, collective and simply takes the entire blame for the team as a captain should. But I don’t think Claude blames it on other things. If you watch his interviews, he blames his play on himself and really nothing else. But maybe that’s where he’s letting too many things get to his mind.

 

Last year, he did not have a good season. In April, he commented that his offseason surgery the year before, limited his abilities and that he was taking a long time to feel 100 percent. Injuries are part of the game. But what JR is talking about in my opinion is the same thing I mentioned about Giroux and his “want that first shift” mentality. He’s looking at that Claude Giroux, the hungry young player that put his heart on his sleeve.  "If I was sitting in front of Claude Giroux right here today, I would say, 'You need to make amends and you need to have a bounce-back season and show everybody why you have been one of the better players over the last five years and last year was just a bad-luck situation,'"

 

JR knows Giroux should be hungry. He should be ready to win come training camp. The Flyers’ rookies are coming up and they are going to look at Giroux as if he was their commander leading them into battle. If Giroux was as upset as I was watching Sidney Crosby raise his third Cup in the last 10 years, I’d be ready to come in and make it a mission that the Flyers not only played a dominate season, but made the playoffs.

 

Fans have been on Giroux, JR is dead on about that. Many fans think he should be scoring 30 goals a season and putting up 100 points, but fans forget a couple of things. One, Giroux is a playmaker 20 goals would be a blessing for him. Two, Giroux isn’t on the level of Crosby or McDavid, 100 points is reaching. Three, Giroux is 29 years old. He is not going to get any faster than he already is. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t a good captain or your best player. Just because Wayne Simmonds scores 30 goals every year, doesn’t mean he should be the captain. Giroux has been that leader, he has been the Flyers best player, he’s has been that example. Last year was bad year overall for the team, not just Giroux.

 

October is a new year and Giroux should use JR’s comments constructively. The time is now, he’s the captain, he has the players around him to succeed and it’s up to him to come in, lead and deliver that expectation that was placed on his sweater in 2013.  

 

JR’s message to Giroux isn’t one of those out of left field remarks that he normally makes to get a rise out of hockey fans, but its advice from one player to another. It is a reminder that it’s a new year. It’s a spark that perhaps Giroux needs. But most importantly it was something that needed to be said and in October, we’ll find out if the message was received or if was just “seen.”

 

iban3z

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Flyers rookie/prospect camp opened over the weekend in Voorhees NJ. Hundreds of fans flocked to the Flyers’ Skate Zone to observe the future of the team hit the ice for drills, workouts and some scrimmaging. Although, 2nd overall pick Nolan Patrick could not participate, he was on hand to meet fans, the media and of course observe his future team mates as well. Patrick spoke with the media, "This will be the first time in a while that I will be completely healthy," Patrick said. "My injury was bugging me all season. … I'll be back on the ice next week and I'm excited."

After evaluation, Patrick will be skating in some conditioning drills and plans to be fully ready by training camp in September. Despite not being able to see the 2nd pick in action, plenty of hype surrounding the Flyers prospects as several of them are expected to compete for opening night roster spots.

 

Let’s begin with a forward.

 

Oscar Lindblom.

 

Lindblom was selected in the fifth round in 2014. Most fifth round picks don’t make it into the NHL and if they do, it’s usually a role player. However, Lindblom has done nothing but turn heads in the past couple of years starting in Sweden. Ron Hextall has this to say;  “Oskar went away, no one knew who the hell he was, just a fifth-round pick over there getting better and better and all of a sudden BANG,  he’s the SHL forward of the year.”

 

Lindblom, a 6-foot-2, 192-pound winger, played 52 regular-season games in the SHL last season. Lindblom tallied 47 points (22 goals and 25 assists.) He added 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) in 20 playoff games. Now, he’s here in Flyers prospect camp looking to be one of the scoring wingers come opening night.

If you look at Lindblom’s developmental progress, one has to wonder, how he did he slip to the fifth round? When the 2014 draft hit, Lindblom himself expected to be a top 15 draft pick. When that didn’t happen and he slipped all the way down to the fifth round, that didn’t sit well with him. Over the past two years, you could see that hunger in Lindblom. He played with something to prove. Now two here later, here at camp, he’s doing the same thing. He’s showing that he’s ready. He’s letting everyone know that he’s here to work hard and that he wants to make the team in October and that in September he’s going to be working harder in training camp.

 

He’s already caught the attention of the GM.

"Some of these kids make a lot of progress in a couple years and I think Oskar is one of those guys. His skating, you look at certain players, they don't have a great stride and their skating can certainly get better, but there's a bit of ceiling there. With Oskar, it was more of a strength issue and that's what's come on with him. It's been a couple of years, he's gotten a lot stronger and you can just tell when you see him out on the ice there" Hextall told the press.

 

Hextall continued, "Take the hat off to the kid, too, because he put a lot of work in," Hextall said. "When you improve that much, he put a lot of work in."
 It’s good to see a GM take the time to say that about a prospect in July especially when the Flyers are going to need more offense this season. Even Oscar knows he’s going to have to work hard come September, but the kid is already shown he has dedication. He’s been on the ice 10 minutes prior to everyone else hitting the ice all weekend.

 

But Oscar wasn’t the only highlight of training camp. The Flyers also got to see goalie prospect Carter Hart.

 

Hart, was selected in the2nd round of the 2016 NHL draft. (48th overall.) He was the first goalie and was labeled as the top goalie in the draft. Hart saw plenty of action at a high level this past year, winning a silver medal at the World Junior Championships this past year. He’s also won plenty of accolades since becoming a goalie.

He won the WHL Goaltender of the Year award, back-to-back. (2016/2017) He’s have the best Save percentage last year and the past two years has had the best goals against average. (GAA) In 2015 he won the best goaltender of the CHL.

 

Throughout his career in the WHL, Hart has played 149 games with a record of 85-39-12. (Those are 12 ties by the way, not shoot-out losses.)

Hart, who is attending his second Rookie Camp, is showing off his skills and athleticism. He is aiming to make the NHL out of camp next season and knows it’s going to take a lot of hard work.

“My goal is to make the team next year here. Obviously it doesn’t happen often with 19-year-old goalies, but it’s something that I really want. It’s something that I’m working for. I’m coming here to try to make the team in the fall.”

 

Oh yeah, that’s right, Hart is only 18 years old. His resume thus far is so impressive alone, and I forgot to mention that he was only 18 years of age. How impressed are you now?

Hart has one year of eligibility left in the WHL and will most likely play there. He’s too young to play on the Phantoms in the AHL and won’t be playing in the NHL this year.

Hart also sees a sport psychologist. Hey, they’ve always said goalies have a different personality than other hockey players.  

 

I will continue all week with more on other Flyers Prospects. Training Camp ends Wednesday with the annual Trial on the Isle.

 

Follow me on Twitter @iban3zhead

 

iban3z

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Happy Fourth of July everyone! As Canada’s neighbors from the south celebrate our independence over the next few days, plenty of the NHL’s elite are celebrating new contracts and new places that they will call home. In the last 24 hours alone, the Dallas Stars have signed Alexander Rudulox to a 5 year contract, Joe Thorton re-upped to the Sharks for one more year and former Shark Patrick Marleau was able to ink a 3 year deal in Toronto. There are plenty of fan bases celebrating the offseason so far and I think right now the top winner could be the Dallas Stars.

 

Dallas, just before the actual off season began, traded for Ben Bishop and immediately signed him to a six -year contract. During Free Agency, the Stars also added Martin Hanzal. With Benn, Spezza, Rudulov, Hanzal on the front lines and the return of Ken Hitchcock behind the bench this Stars team could be a powerhouse in the West.

But despite Free Agency around the league many teams are excited to due to the draft results. One team in particular is the Flyers.

 

Of course every Flyers fan became excited over the draft once it was discovered that the Flyers won the 2nd overall pick. I nearly jumped off the couch myself. Over the weeks from the Lottery to the draft, it was argued on who the clear cut number overall would be, Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier?  For the longest time, Patrick was labeled the number one by many scouts however in the last week leading up to the draft Hischier, was labeled the number one choice. It was probable that Patrick’s injuries and offseason surgery led to his fall in the pre-draft rankings and as the rankings predicted, Patrick was selected 2nd overall by the Flyers.

 

Injury aside, the Flyers have landed their future number one center in Patrick. Despite not playing 100 percent, Patrick still collected 46 points last season, 20 goals and 26 assists in only 33 games with Brandon Wheat Kings. (WHL) in previous season, Patrick had 41 goals and 102 points in 72 games. TSN Analyst Craig Button said that Patrick is a “very smart player. His hallmark is his passing, and he’s got a good shot. And because of his size, he’s got the ability to hold off the guy, draw another guy to him, and he has great vision on getting the puck (to someone) and open up a play.”

 

Size is something the Flyers lack in a center from an offensive standpoint. Patrick is bigger in both height and weight than Giroux, Konecny, and Filpula. Center Sean Couturier, while taller and

heavier, still has not lived up to his expectations as an offensive center, however since Couturier was moved to the 3rd line at last year’s trade deadline, he’s played much better and is better suited for a 3rd line role.

 

Now two questions now come into play for training camp. Does Patrick make the opening night roster and does Patrick play center? General Manager Ron Hextall has never been one to rush a player in to the NHL, however many believe Patrick’s days in Juniors are over and will be in the line-up come October.

It will be interesting to see who will play wing now that the Flyers have a plenthora of centers. (Giroux, Filpula, Patrick, Couturier, Lethera, Vecchione, Laughton, and Weal)

I believe we’ll see Giroux, Patrick, Couturier and Lethera being your centers while the rest are moved to wing and Laughton and Vecchione battle for 4th line spot on the wing.

 

Of course all of this is speculation. Patrick who won’t participate in Flyers Rookie camp, won’t be able to hit the ice until September and will have to earn his spot. It’s hard to predict where a drafted rookie who’s never played an NHL game will fall come October, although I believe that the trading of Brayden Schenn all but confirmed that Patrick will be playing in NHL.

But once Patrick heals from his offseason surgery and starts rehabbing, I’m sure he’ll be hungry to show that he belongs on the Flyers next season. The Flyers are coming into the beginning of what they’ve been building for since Hextall took over as GM. There will be plenty of spots open for the young rookies to play and Hextall has already stated that he’s done for the summer with FA signings and trades. That is something that should be refreshing to hear for Flyers fans, who’ve seen many of their young prospects traded in favor of aging veterans who the front office thought could “win now.” Thankfully that philosophy is a thing of the past.

 

I for one cannot wait to catch Patrick in Training Camp and see what this kid is made of. It’s been a long time since Flyers fans have had something to be excited about and now with the Flyers having a “Murders’ row of young players” (NBCSN Analyst Pierre McGuire), we’ll finally get to see a glimpse of our future hit the ice come the Fall.

 

Later this week, I’ll re-cap the rest of the Flyers draft and projected line-ups for this upcoming season.

 

I will be posting Flyers and NHL updates all summer on Twitter. Follow me @iban3zhead

 

 

 

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iban3z

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It was a long wait, but Draft day arrived. One of the most anticipated draft in years arrived Friday night, but just for the first round. And what a first round it was. We watched future Star, Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel go number one and number 2 respectively.

 

As Dylan Strome was select at #3 which came as a surprise to many, the pieces fell in the correct place for the Flyers. Earlier this week GM Ron Hextall stated he was targeting Defenseman Ivan Provorov who was ranked at the Top Defenseman in the draft. There were even reports that the Flyers were trying to obtain the Number 3 pick in order to draft him. But as luck would have it, Arizona, Toronto, Carolina and New Jersey let him pass and when the Flyers were up Provorov was selected. Let’s take a look at our new future prospect.

 

Provorov is a 6”0 210lbs left shot Defenseman. He has been talked about by several scouts and hockey reporters and had very high rankings.

 

Ranked #9 by Hockeyprospect.com

Ranked #7 by ISS Hockey

Ranked #6 by Future Considerations

Ranked #5 by McKeen's Hockey

Ranked #7 by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters)

Ranked #8 by TSN/McKenzie

 

His season with the Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL), Provorov posted 15 goals, 46 assists for 61 points in 60 games with a plus 36 in the +/- rating. This pick stacks up the Flyers blueline for the future. For a team that lacked defense a few years ago will look great in the years to come, most likely starting in the 2016/2017 season where we’ll see Travis Sanhiem, Shayne Gostisbehere, Sam Morin and Provorov for certain. It’s going to be great to see all of these guys for the Flyers.

 

Provorov brings size, speed, offensive ability and a good defensive game. He’s capable of clearing the porch and taking the puck up ice. He’s considered a smaller Victor Headman as TSN analysts put it. We’ll find out more in the coming weeks what Hextall’s exact plan for Provorov is and we’ll get a good look at him at the Flyers Rookie Camp in July.

 

The Flyers had two picks in the first round and their next selection was at 29, a pick they acquired from Tampa Bay as part of the Braydon Coburn trade. Instead of waiting, Hextall saw that Forward Travis Konecny from the Ottawa 67's was still available. Konecny was not on the Leaf’s radar at 24 so they traded the pick to the Flyers for the 29th pick and the 61st pick overall. It’s a win for both teams as the Leafs believe the guy they want would still be available and they got an additional pick. The Flyers then selected Konecny. Konecny has a small frame at 5”10 175lbs, but he has speed, quickness, great mobility and good offensive awareness. He had 29 goals and 39 assists last season in the OHL and had 70pts in the previous season. He’s expected to play wing for the Flyers.

 

Now that the Flyers have traded the 61st overall pick, the Flyers have the 70th pick and are expected to look at a goalie. Hextall also is planning to make a few moves prior before free agency so it’s a very exciting time to be a Flyers fan as the rebuild is in full swing! Tomorrow, we’ll see who else will be part of the Flyers’ future.

 

Follow me on twitter @iban3zhead

iban3z

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With the Stanley Cup Finals just less than a week away, some teams are still looking to sign their UFA and RFA forwards. Early this week, it was reported that the Flyers have finally begun contract talks with pending RFA Michael Del Zotto. The Flyers also need to re-sign Chris Vandevelde and Ryan White who are both set to become UFA.

 

White played pretty well in his first season with the Flyers. In 34 games, White registered 6 goals and 6 assists and only racked up 34 min in penalties. White, I feel is the replacement for Zac Rinaldo. Rinaldo, brings zero offense to the table and its unknown whether he can be disciplined. New Coach David Hasktol, has a history of not putting up with players who are undisciplined and we could have very well seen the end of Rinaldo. White, who missed most of the season to a torn pectoral muscle, didn’t have an entire season to show what he can do and only made $575,000 last Season. This could work out well for the Flyers, given that White could end up getting a similar contract and could help keep the Flyers numbers low. I can see a 750k-900k one year deal happening here. It would be friendly for both sides.

 

Chris Vandevelde could go either way. He had ok 4th line numbers with 9 goals and 6 assists through 72 games. Vandevelde was bounced all around in Berube’s line-up last season. He saw some time on the first line next to Giroux and Voracek, two players far out of his capability. He also had a rotating line-mate on the fourth line which switched from Rinaldo to Lecavalier quite often. It’s hard to generate chemistry when things like that are happening on a game to game basis. He also made $575,000 last season and I can see a one year, 750k deal happening here. He can provide depth, given if he doesn’t make the opening night roster. A lot can happen between now and October.

 

That brings me to some notable free agent forwards that could potentially hit the market on July 1.

 

The Los Angeles Kings are very cap strapped and could wind up losing several players because they simply are handcuffed just like the Flyers. Three UFA forwards could be open for offers on July first, and if they are should the Flyers throw a line out?

Let’s take a look at who they are. We’ll begin with a familiar face and that is Justin Williams. Williams, has 3 Stanley Cup rings and a Con Smythe to go along with it, is a former member of the Flyers’ Organization. Since being traded, he’s gone on to do great things. Williams will be 34 when the new season kicks off, however he plays very well for a 34 year old. Williams had 18 goals and 23 assists for 41 points last season and was a plus 8. Williams is known for his two way play and his leadership. Williams also shines in the post season. Since Williams is getting older, he won’t be posting prime numbers like he used to and he has already won 3 championships, so perhaps a discount rather than a raise could be proposed. Last year he made 3mil but his cap hit was at 3.6mil. Williams also lives in New Jersey during the offseason. His family is here, he practices at the Flyers skate zone during the summer and he has a prior relationship with GM Ron Hextall who was his assistant GM in LA during LA’s first Cup. Could the Flyers land Williams with a 2 year 2.5-3mil offer? I know adding older veterans, is against Hextall’s plan but he wouldn’t have to give up any prospects or young players to land him. Just given his leadership alone which the Flyers lacked tremendously I’d at least take a look at this option.

 

The LA Kings are also going to see if they can re-sign forward Tyler Toffoli. Toffoli is only 23 years old. He was part of “That 70’s line” in LA that had great success in the beginning of the season. Toffoli finished off with 23 goals and 26 assists for 49 points. Could he be the forward that the Flyers first line sorely needs? He’s a natural center, but he played on the wing while Jeff Carter centered. It’s going to be interesting because LA isn’t going to want to let a player like him go, but where are they going to get the money? That same question could be asked for the Flyers but I’ll add more into that later on. Toffoli’s cap hit was only 870k last year. He’s obviously due for a raise. Given his potential it’s possible he could ask for money LA can’t afford, but if he isn’t on LA’s books by June 30, I would absolutely take a run at this guy. He’s young, he’s fast and he can put points up on the board, oh and he has a Cup on

his resume.

 

Jarret Stoll will more than likely not be re-signed by the Kings. Stoll is a good 4th liner, which the Flyers have a plethora of. Stoll had a previous cap hit at 3mil and he’s going to be 35 at the start of the season. I don’t see him making 3 mill next year, but I also don’t see the Flyers taking a shot at him. The only purpose I brought him up was because he’s part of the Free Agents that could soon depart from LA.

 

The Kings also have a RFA goalie and that would be Martin Jones. Jones, 25, is no joke. He began his NHL career stepping in for an injured, Jonathan Quick and went 8-0-0 in his first 8 starts with 3 shutouts. In his short NHL career, Jones has a .923 save %. Jones who can be a reliable back-up would cost the Flyers a draft pick if they were to sign him to an offer sheet, which I don’t see happened given that Hextall is going to build through the draft. Jones however, caught Hextall’s eye during a tryout session in 2010 and the Kings signed him to a 3 year contract. Jones went undrafted. I wouldn’t mind seeing Jones as the back-up to Steve Mason, but like I said, if the Flyers sign him to an offer sheet and LA doesn’t match, the Flyers will have to give up compensation which I just don’t see them doing. I fully expect LA to re-sign Jones.

 

Okay, so while reading this, you’re probably asking where, are the Flyers going to come up with any of that money to sign these players? Well, the Flyers currently have $69,375,000 tied up in contracts. That does not include any of the Flyers pending free agents. The Flyers will get relief from Chris Pronger’s contract once he is place on LTIR and then Flyers will then have 64.454mil in the cap. The salary cap is expected to rise to 71mil, however you can’t count on that until it actually happens. If it does, the Flyers will have $6,545,000 to play with for Free Agents. Now it is widely believed that Hextall is going to heavily shop Vinny Lecavalier. There are also rumors that Vinny and the Flyers could come to an agreement to terminate Vinny’s contract which is plausible considering Vinny is getting a hefty check from his buyout in Tampa. Both parties have publicly stated that it hasn’t worked for either side so it’s very well possible that this could happen, given the Flyers can’t find a buyer to take on Vinny’s contract.

If the Flyers can shed Lecavalier before July 1, they’ll have $11,046,000 in money to play with. The Flyers could then sign Toffoli, Williams and find a back-up goalie in the mean time. They can also sign Del Zotto, White and Vandevelde. Hypothetically, let’s just say for argument’s sake this whole paragraph does happen. What are the numbers?

 

Let’s do the easy ones first. White and Vandevelde at one year deals for a combined cap hit at 1.8mil (a reasonable and real number at 900k each.) 9.246mil remains in available cap space. Del Zotto signs for a 2 year 3mil deal which would leave 6.246mil in cap space. Emery is re-signed for a 1 year 1mil deal leaving 5.246mil available. Toffoli, given his age and potential, would probably command a 3-4 year deal probably in the 4mil range. Pending on how you structure the contract you can get that cap hit to only be about 3mil so you’re left with 2.246. I’m sure you can bring in Williams on 2mil which leaves you with very little money to fluctuate in case of an injury. However if you can bring in Toffoli, I wouldn’t go after Williams, therefore you still have 2.4mil in cap space to play with or leave open in case of an injury.

 

Now all of this is hypothetical. There aren’t any reports of any kind out there saying the Flyers are targeting these players or if LA fully intends to let these players hit Free Agency. I just noticed that LA is heavily strapped, Hextall has ties to these players and one of them is very young and very good. Everything with the numbers was just to explain how it could work although I know it’s easier said than done.

 

With that said, could the Flyers land anyone of these potential free agents? Would you want the Flyers attempting to land any of them? What are your thoughts? Personally, I would love to see Toffoli in a Flyers uniform. But that’s just me.

 

Follow me on Twitter @iban3zhead

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blog-0907846001432064762.jpgPart II

Today I’m going to go over the current roster and who I think should stay and who should go just based on my observations from the past few seasons.

The Flyers have a decent core to build around to become a contender in the future. Obviously we begin with Captain Claude Giroux who finished 13th in the league in pts (25G 48A). He is the center piece for the team. He was able to help his line mate Jakub Voracek breakout into a career year finishing 5th overall in NHL pts with 81. Those two, are our Crosby/Malkin or our Towes/Kane. Neither of them are those players, and I’m not comparing them but each team has a top duo you must rely on and G/Jake are those for the Flyers.

But let us take a look at the rest of the team.

Wayne Simmonds, led the team with 28 Goals, however missed the final 7 games due to injury. He's done a fantastic job at replacing Hartnell as the guy in front of the net, and has been a PP specialist. He also stands up for his team mates and is never afraid to get his hands dirty. He's easily become my favorite.

Sean Couturier who is only 23, also had a career season with 37 pts. He’s more known as a shutdown forward, but the team wanted him to produce more offensively. “Coots” feels he can produce more offensively and publicly called out former Head Coach Craig Berube for playing him strictly as a defensive forward and criticized his offensive play. That left a lot of fans, writers and I’m sure players scratching their heads. Here, Coots has a career year offensively but was still thrown under the bus for not offensively producing. That may have been just one of the many factors that led to Berube’s dismissal.

Michael Raffl who played his sophomore season in the NHL is proving that he’s a quality left winger that provides good depth. Raffl is productive on all 3 Flyers’ lines however, the Flyers are going to need a much better winger for the top line if they want improve their offense and be more consistent.

Scott Laughton came up early in the season as the result of an injury to Vinny Lecavalier. Laughton showed speed, strength, poise and some offensive ability. He suffered a concussion and wasn’t the same when he came back. However, he played very well in the AHL and should have a spot come training camp.

Vinny Lecavalier is a name that everyone loves to hear prior to two years ago. Vinny had a productive first year with the Flyers, but he flattened during his second year in the orange and black. Vinny spent 17 games as a healthy scratch as was used as a 4th line winger much of the season which led to his lack or production as well as his public dislike for Craig Berube. Personally, I really believe Vinny was misused under Berube. Vinny is absolutely a future Hall of Famer. He’s not the same player as he was with the Lightning, but he can still be useful. He’s a former captain and a leader. He never really had speed, so for those to say his speed is gone, is really misleading because he never had much of it to begin with.

I think if used correctly Vinny can be an asset to the Flyers. I think he can be productive and produce decent offensive numbers. His contract is less desirable as a result of former GM Paul Holmgren who signed him to a ridiculous contract with a cap hit of 4.2million. The contract really is bad for everyone. It makes it near impossible to trade and it handcuffs the Flyers. The Flyers bought out center Danny Briere who had a very similar cap hit for only one more season before his cap hit went down to 3mil. Buying Briere out was supposed to give some relief for the Flyers, instead they signed Vinny for virtually the same cap hit and for more years. That was one of Homer’s boneheaded moves that current GM Ron Hextall has to now deal with. If the Flyers could move Vinny, I’m all for it. If not, I hope the Dave Hakstol can use him correctly and he can provide some of the offense the Flyers lacked.

The Flyers have spent years struggling to find a starting Goalie to actually play more than two seasons in a Flyers uniform. Luckily, that isn’t their issue.

Steve Mason, has done nothing but prove that he really is the Goalie that he was projected to be after his rookie season. Despite is record of 18-18-11 this season, Mason finished 8th in the NHL is GAA and 3rd in the NHL in Save %. That’s quite remarkable. It goes to show that the Flyers really lacked offense. Mason’s saves were also quality saves. Mason stood on his head in all 18 of those wins and majority off his games. It’s a shame is record doesn’t show it. But if Mason is finishing in the Top 10 in those categories over starters like Pekke Rinne, Holtby and Rask the Flyers are solid for goaltending and that’s what they need for a deep playoff run.

Mark Streit played solid for the Flyers as their number 1 defenseman this year. He also tallied 52 pts. His age is a concern, but there’s no reason to be worried because he seems like one of those defenseman that can still play hard and be solid for your defense.

Michael Del Zotto proved he is a valuable defenseman. He finished 2nd among defenseman with 32pts. He’s RFA, however he most likely will be signed. I see him being the Flyers 2nd Dman next season along with Streit.

With the exception of Vinny, I consider the rest of those Flyers untradeable and those are the building blocks they need. The Flyers need to rid themselves of several players because of money and or overall lack of productivity.

RJ Umberger is the first on my list. Umberger was expected to produce better than he did. He wasn’t expected to replace the void for Scott Hartnell as the move was strictly a cap space move that will pay off sooner rather than later. However Umberger played horribly. It took 67 games for Berube to actually healthy scratch him. It was later revealed that he needed hip surgery, but who knows if he’ll come back next season and be productive. If RJ could be moved, I’d try to move him. Buying him out is not an option as it would cost more money in the long run against the cap for the Flyers.

Brayden Schenn: Schenn, put on an impressive run during the end of the season, but he was very inconsistent much of the year. He spent nearly a month on the first line and it actually brought down the production of G and Jake. Schenn is expendable. He had a lot of potential, but hasn’t shown much promise of being labeled the top prospect that was already drafted. He has a friendly bridge contract and if it were possible to move him, I’d do it in a heartbeat. ( I wrote this prior to the Flyers naming a new head coach. If the Flyers can move Schenn for a good return, do it. However I’m interested in seeing what this new coach can do to get Schenn’s potential out of him.)

Luke Schenn can tag along with his brother. Schenn was brought in on probably the worst move in Homer’s stint as GM and one of the worst trades in Flyers history. We all know JVR (2nd overall pick behind Patrick Kane) was going to take some time to grow, but the Flyers needed defensive and gave up on him way too soon. JVR has since had a few years of success and has been part of the thriving offense that Toronto does have. (They lack defense.) Schenn has been labeled a parking cone due to his speed. His lack of defensive ability has also led to a lot of frustration with the Flyers fan base. The only thing Luke brings to the table is his size and his ability to hit. Schenn is a 5/6 or even a 7th defenseman. Some teams do need that depth and with the Flyers prospects getting ready to make the big jump, Schenn could be packaged.

Nicklas Grossman is also someone who is probably an ideal candidate to be traded. He has a friendly cap hit and is a pretty reliable defenseman. However, with the addition of Gudas and the extension of Nick Shultz, Grossman is also expendable and could land us a 3rd/4th round draft pick.

Andrew MacDonald is someone I wish would simply just go away. MacDonald was quickly brought in and extended for an unreal amount of money for someone who’s specialty is shot blocking. Another one of Homer’s head scratching moves that has crippled the Flyers’ front office and leaves them with very little options. His cap hit is 5 Million. MacDonald had 12 pts last year and was minus 5 (+/-). That’s not the salary of this type of defenseman. Through nine NHL seasons, MacDonald is a Minus 19 and has 105 pts. His contract is one of the worst I’ve seen in a long time. His cap hit is more than Jagr’s. Think about that. If the Flyers can find some miracle to remove this contract from the books, Hextall will be perceived as genus.

Zac Rinaldo has worn out his welcome with me. I used to just watch him when he was on the ice. He brought a lot of energy and delivered hits. However, his lack of discipline has gotten old. He delivers cheap-shots, that has this fan base calling for his head. He has zero offensive ability and played much of this season on the third line which infuriated me. Ryan White is the replacement for the role of “Enforcer” if such a title still exists. White can actually provide offense, is more disciplined and I personally believe is a much better overall player than Rinaldo.

In a perfect world I’d trade MacDonald, Grossman, both the Schenns, Umberger and Rinaldo. Let’s face it, trading all of them at once or even at all would only work in NHL 15. Umberger is likely here to stay until that contract is up. I don’t think there is a GM in the NHL that would take on MacDonald and who could blame them? The Flyers need a LW and bad. That void on that first line is noticeable. Where they can find one is anyone’s guess. There isn’t really a first line LW in Free Agency this year and if the Flyers were to obtain one, they’ll most like have to go via trade. Doing this would probably cost a young player and or draft picks which is something Hextall said he will not do.

My guess is that it’s possible that we could see Laughton on the first line as a winger. It’s hard to do line projections when the draft hasn’t happened yet and today’s roster isn’t going to be October’s Roster. Any one of the younger players who are a center could find themselves filling that role. Hell, we may find Lecavalier on that line, although I don’t see it. You never know, if Vinny is here come Oct, I guess the option is possible. He has long reach, can skate around the boards nicely and is a gifted passer. Don’t expect him to be on the breakout with G and Jake if one happens, but as a set up guy, Vinny could be a viable option. But then I’d be going against my own words by saying he was misused as a winger. If the Flyers can’t find a LW for the first line by camp, I would try it to see if it could work. If it doesn’t at least it is only training camp and preseason to find this all out.

I’m not going to talk about who the Flyers could trade for because there’s way too much to put into it. We all know a trade for what we need may cost us a core player and draft picks and that’s something that I don’t see happening unless it’s a trade that we couldn’t refuse. Then who to trade for what and compare cap space and trade value, it’s all something that I’m not interested in doing.

Instead I’ll worry about getting defense up here and a left winger.

That brings me to the draft to which I will go over tomorrow in part III.

For all intents and purposes my keeps are: Giroux, Voracek, Simmonds, Raffl, Couturier, Mason, Del Zotto, Streit, Laughton, Shultz.

Should go: MacDonald, Luke Schenn, Rinaldo, Grossman, Umberger,

Could go either way: Lecavalier, Read, Brayden Schenn, White, Bellemare. (Which is why I didn't bother to speak about Bellemare, White and Read, who I see as part of next season's roster for sure.)

Follow me on Twitter @iban3zhead

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blog-0181776001431996498.jpgLooking back at this past Flyers’ season, it’s one we could all easily forget. As we gain hope for the future, this team still has a lot of work ahead of them. However, it’s not as bad as it seems. I’m going to talking about the current roster, possible moves, and the draft in what I have as a 3 part series.

However, the Flyers made a splash today announcing their 19th head coach. So we will begin part I of this series with this.

I was driving to the beach this morning while listening to the radio when the news came across that the Flyers are announced their new head coach. As I braced myself, I hoped for Todd McClellen, who was my first choice. I also waited to see if fan favorite and one of the most logical choices would be Mike Babcock. While listening closely, I also hoped that it wasn’t Kevin Dineen, John Tortorella or Peter Deboer. Instead the name David Hakstol was reported over the air. “Who?” I thought to myself. The second I was able to stop, I briefly put off my beach trip to conduct a little research on this Hakstol.

To begin, the Flyers went off the scale with this. Here we have a guy who’s name wasn’t mentioned at all in any reports. (Thanks Flyers’ media for doing your job, *Sarcasm*) It wasn’t Todd McClellen who seemed that would have been a perfect fit for the Flyers given his credentials with young players and getting them to produce. It wasn’t anyone from within the organization or has any ties to the Flyers in any capacity which was a huge relief. But it was a college coach, a college coach who has never coached a professional game in his life. Before I could even attempt to judge I kept an open mind.

Hakstol seems to have quite the record. He’s coached at the University of North Dakota since 2004. He’s leaving behind an impressive record of 289-143-43 with a winning percentage of .654. North Dakota has qualified for the NCAA tournament in each of Hakstol's 11 seasons and reached the Frozen Four seven times. He’s also produced 20 NHL Players which include Jonathan Towes, Matt Green, TJ Oshie and Drew Stafford. Current Flyer Chris VandeVelde also came from Hakstol’s college system. Towes and Green have also gone on to win two Stanley Cups and Towes has won two Olympic Gold Medals as well.

This move also proves that GM Ron Hextall wanted someone who can work well and develop young players. With our farm system stacked with potential young talent waiting to make the jump to the NHL, the Flyers also have a few young players with lots of potential waiting to be tapped. I’m talking about Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn. Couturier, had a career season in offensive numbers last season, but the organization wants him to replicate the offensive stud that he was in Juniors. Scott Laughton, who also had very high offensive numbers in Juniors, couldn’t translate that in his first NHL season. Perhaps Hakstol is the guy to tap every ounce of potential from these players.

With his impressive record and professional players developed, he also has quite the record in his college career that isn’t kept in the books. It’s something that Flyers’ fans can appreciate. For one, he was suspended for two games for flipping off a referee. We all disagree with refs game in and game out and most of the time coaches will argue while others just sit and stare, but this guy showed his displeasure. Yes it’s a little immature, but it shows that he’s not going to take any BS and that he fully backs his team. That’s something I like in a head coach. He also has a history of making sure his team is disciplined or he will bench them. That doesn’t mean taking penalties, but playing both ends of the ice and showing sportsmanship.

The Flyers went outside of the box and got the fresh prospective that the fans have been screaming for, for years. However many Flyers fans took to social media today to display their hatred and disagreement with Hextall’s choice of hiring Hakstol. I get it, he wasn’t the big name that we’ve been hoping for. He wasn’t the popular choice nor does he really have the NHL experience to back it up. He’s brand new. He will coach his first professional Hockey game in October.

I for one thought about this all day and have come to the conclusion that this isn’t a bad move. I think it’s a good one. We’ll tell through time whether if it was a great move. All coaches have to start somewhere. He has a proven track record with developing young players, getting them to play to their fullest and he has a very impressive winning record to show for it. I think it’s a bold move by Hextall but the right one. We have a fresh prospective and that’s part of Hextall’s plan. Now we just have to continue to have patience and believe that this team will be a contender in 2-3 years.

Tomorrow, I’ll go over the current roster and the needs of the Flyers as the Draft approaches.

Follow me on Twitter @iban3zhead

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blog-0243767001391000830.jpgIt may have taken a blowout loss for the Flyers to get a fire going.

At first, I wasn’t so sure how the game was going to go. As I sat in the Wells Fargo Center listening to the scratches for Detroit, I was wondering “Who the hell am I about to watch the Flyers play?” Then the announcement of Meszaros being a healthy scratch again drove me nuts. Downie was the only change. Even as the game started I noticed that Berube had the same defensive lines and I thought again, “Did he not learn from the blowout loss against Boston?”

Well, sometimes writers and fans think they make the best coaches and last night proved to be why we’re not. Berube who kept the faith in his troops and his lines, sent out virtually the same players from the Boston game, but you certainly wouldn’t recognize it. During the first five minutes it had seemed like it was the same Flyers with most of the play in their own zone and a few quick defensive turnovers. But that all quickly changed and the Flyers began their best complete game effort of the season scoring a goal on the power play.

Hartnell opened up the night with a powerplay goal, a deflection from a Kimmo Timonen shot. He would score his second goal in the 2nd period on a nice pass from Claude Giroux. It appeared the Detroit defense was fooled by the play and covered Jakub Voracek. Instead, Hartnell was the intended recipient and he rifled a wrist shot for his 14th of the season.

For a brief moment there was a chance to see a natural hattrick and Hartnell’s first trick since January of 2012. Instead, the natural hattrick idea was killed when Adam Hall scored a nice backhander. Suddenly the Flyers looked like a playoff team again. They were scoring goals, creating chances, their defense was playing solid and for the first time since signing a contract extension, goalie Steve Mason was playing “lights out.”

If not for the Flyers offense taking the spotlight, Mason’s play was highlight for sure. He had several quality saves. During the 2nd period, Mason made an incredible save and fell backwards leaving the net wide open. Detroit’s Kyle Quincey took the rebounded puck and shot it at the empty. Mason’s quick reflexes saw him lift his stick and he got a piece of it, deflecting it into the safety netting. Quicney was so sure he has a goal he actually lifted his arms and began to celebrate. The Wells Fargo Center erupted at the not only the play of Mason, but the effort that the Flyers were putting out.

The Flyers came out and played a very solid 3rd period adding a goal, playing well defensively and Mason standing on his head to preserve his second shutout of the season.

As for Hartnell, he finished with 2 goals and 1 assist for a 3 point night. Hartnell now has 21 points in his last 21 games. Raffl who had been struggling had an assist, Giroux finished with 3 points and the defense played like a real defensive. The only black cloud would be the fact that Timonen blocked a shot and left the game. GM Paul Holmgren stated that Timonen would be re-evaluated Monday and Head Coach Craig Berube stated that he was fine with nothing to worry about. Hmm, sounds a little fishy.

Never-the-less the Flyers next will visit the NHL’s best team and that would be the Anaheim Ducks. (I still call them the Mighty Ducks.) That will be the true test of what the Flyers are. The Flyers have only 8 wins against playoff teams this season. (Yikes) The Ducks were my pick in the beginning of the year to win the Cup. (Against the Sens, I don’t think that opponent is happening.) If the Flyers can play a good solid game against the Ducks like they did against the Redwings, then perhaps the Flyers aren’t far off. Even if the Flyers lose, a good solid game against the Ducks would be a positive sign. I still think the Flyers need a #1 defenseman.

Speaking of a #1 defenseman, rumors have it that Nashville may be listening to offers for Shea Weber. Weber, who is on a 68 million dollar contract (Thanks to Homer) is as initially thought, a financial disaster for the franchise. The Preds have loaded up on defenseman and have a good future #1 in the making with Seth Jones. Weber could be made available at the draft, of course for a steep price. This idea isn’t too farfetched. Who would you give up for Weber? I don’t think the Flyers are going to make a good deal by the deadline. The Flyers don’t need a rental defenseman, they need something long term.

The final few games before the Olympic break are crucial. The Metropolitan Division is jammed packed with points as well as the rest of the crowded Eastern Conference. Hopefully the Flyers can ride this win all the way into California and get the Duck’s 2nd home loss all year. Here is to hoping! Let’s go Flyers!

For Flyers and NHL Coverage as well as outburst against celebrities with no holds barred, Follow me on Twitter @iban3zhead

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blog-0856764001390747725.jpgIf yesterday’s Flyers game wasn’t a sign that it’s time for a major change then I don’t know what is. In the 23 years that I’ve been able to watch and understand hockey I’ve probably missed anywhere from 10-15 Flyers’ games in that span. Yesterday’s snooze-fest was probably the worst Flyers game I’ve ever witnessed. Take away the 6-1 score even if it were 2-1 it would still be the worst effort.

The Flyers came out flat in the first being outshot 5-1 in the first 10 min. The Flyers finally showed some effort for the remaining 10 min but that would be the only time we’d see the Flyers actually put forth any attempt to play hockey. The Flyers spent majority of the game in their own zone. I’ll be honest, when the first whistle blew for a commercial in the 3rd with 13:46 remaining, I left. The Flyers spent over 5min of that first 7 min in their own zone. They were down 4-0 at the time. Who would want to stay and watch that? If the Flyers don’t have any interest in playing why should I have any interest in watching? But I was already annoyed prior to the game even starting and here is why.

I was excited to find out that Gus was finally going to be in the line-up. My excitement came crashing down when I was informed that Berube has scratched Meszaros instead of Grossman, Schenn or Coburn. Mez who’s had 11 pts in his past 10 games, one of the few defenseman with a plus in the +/- column was being benched. Then to find out that Steve Downie was being benched in favor of Jay Rosehill I was completely baffled. The Flyers have lost 3 straight, and were 1-3-2 in the last five. In a tight Eastern Conference where only 3pts separate teams 6th through 13th, the Flyers need to add wins like humans need oxygen. Scratching your most recent best defenseman and playing a forward who brings no offensive or defensive game to the line-up baffles me. Not to mention after losing 3 in a row, Berube didn’t change his defensive pairings. Obviously the pairings aren’t working so why keep them together?

The defense on this team for the last 3 years, have been average at best. This year you can’t think this team is a cup winning team. This defense couldn’t compete with a good team let alone an elite team. I’ll break down the defense for you:

NAME GP G A PTS +/-

Mark Streit 53 6 18 24 -4

Kimmo Timonen 53 2 16 18 +4

Andrej Meszaros 32 4 11 15 1

Braydon Coburn 53 4 6 10 -6

Nicklas Grossmann 52 0 10 10 -11

Erik Gustafsson 21 2 5 7 4

Luke Schenn 50 3 3 6 -8

Hal Gill 4 0 0 0 -2

Does this looks like the defense of an elite team? The Flyers best defenseman is 37 years old! Coburn, Streit, Grossman, Schenn are a combined minus 29. I normally don’t count the +/- on forwards, but you have to on defenseman. The Flyers went years with a subpar goalie until they found Steve Mason who could arguably be the main reason the Flyers are even in the playoff hunt at all. Now the Flyers’ main concern is defense.

Since the absence of Chris Pronger, their defense hasn’t been the same. I’m not saying that because Pronger did everything, but his locker-room leadership and guidance is obviously missed. There is no direction on the defense. Kimmo is a leader, but he can only do so much. No one is holding themselves accountable and by not scratching Schenn, Grossman and even Coburn, Berube isn’t either.

People have argued with me about scratching Coburn. Well, he leads the entire team in turnovers with 33. Coburn tied Luke Schenn for most turnovers last season with 31. Coburn led the defenseman in turnovers with 43 in 11/12 season. What about his production? This year he has 4 Goals 6 assists and is a minus 6. Last year he had 1 goal, 4 assists and was a minus 10. Still think he’s a # 2 defenseman? Now those are two seasons without Chris Pronger. What about the two and quarter seasons he played with Pronger? 11/12 he had 4 goals, 20 assist and was plus 10. In 10/11 he has 2 goals, 14 assist and was a plus 15. The first season the Flyers had Pronger Coburn had 19 pts but finished with a minus 6 however, Pronger was mostly paired with Matt Carle that season, not Coburn. Long story short, Coburn needs another great defenseman to make him look good and if Kimmo isn’t doing that, what does that tell you?

I won’t give all the blame to Coburn. Luke Schenn has been disastrous. He has a life time minus of 28 and only 92 pts in 407 NHL games. Apparently that was supposed to be even with the talent of JVR? Schenn is the definition of “a 1st round bust.” (5th overall) He moves as is he has cement in his skates, his coverage is awful and he has no offensive upswing. He can hit, but can’t every hockey player? I think the Flyers only traded for him so he could play with his brother which is a HORRIBLE REASON to trade of a player. If I could, I’d package him in any way I could.

Grossman: I liked him because he was a solid 4/5-6th defenseman. I don’t know where his mind has been this year, but it hasn’t been on how to play defense. He has some knee problems, which isn’t good for a 29 year old defenseman but I don’t think that has any effect on his play. Personally, I think this one is on coaching because he hasn’t been scratched or told what to fix. He’s making the same mistakes game in and game out and hasn’t been held accountable.

The Flyers need to overhaul the team. If you look at the other teams in the NHL teams like, Ducks, Sharks, Kings, Pens, Bruins, Blackhawks, Tampa and recently the Avalanche, these are the Elite teams of the NHL and they’re going to be good for years to come. The Flyers will never beat any of these teams with their current roster. The Rangers have always been good, Columbus is a team that’s getting better, Washington has the potential to be a great team, and Toronto is on the doorstep of being a good team for many years. If you look at all these teams, they are what the Flyers are not.

It’s sad to see because the Flyers were among this group just a few years ago. Trading Carter, (Although I love that trade) Richards, Bob, JVR and losing Pronger to a career ending injury, Jarg to FA who has gas in the tank and is effective, this team has been in a downward spiral.

What I wouldn’t have done: Traded Richards, (or made him captain) Traded Bob, Traded JVR or lose Jagr.

What the Flyers need to do: Let Kimmo retire, trade Coburn, trade Luke and Braydon Schenn as a package, trade Hartnell, find a true #1 defenseman, bring back Gagne as a 3rd line winger for 1million, resign Mez to a 1yr 2mi or under contract, never play Rosehill again, bring up Lauridsen, Akeson and McGinn. Look for competing next year. Let’s face it, I want the Flyers to win the cup and even if they manage to squeeze into the Playoffs, they’re not going to go far with this roster.

Next year’s roster:

Voracek-Giroux-Raffl

Read-Coots-Simmonds

Lecavalier-Laughton-Akeson/McGinn/Gagne (if only)

Rinaldo-Hall-Akeson/McGinn

Defense-Figure this out based on who played well with one another and their defensive production during training camp/preseason:

Streit, Gus,Lauridsen, Morin and trade for or sign a #1 defenseman resign Mez for cheap and short-term if possible. When healthy he can be very valuable.

Here are a few names to throw in the hat for upcoming UFA:

Joni Pitkanen, Brooks Orpik, Dan Girardi, Matt Niskanen.

Possible trade routes for an RFA: Justin Shultz, PK Subban (although I fully expect MTL to resign him), Jamie McBain, Brenden Dillon (decent 5/6th).

Possible Trade Routes: Byfuglien, Wisniewski, Yandle, Ehrhoff, Franson.

There are several possibilities and the Flyers need to explore them. Hopefully the team will let Homer go out into the sunset and not renew his GM contract. Let a fresh GM take over. (Hextall) If something isn’t done soon, we’re looking at a subpar team with aging players losing trade value and young talent going to waste. Let’s open up a new era now and build an elite team. Let’s go Flyers.

Follow me on Twitter @iban3zhead

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blog-0006372001387726450.jpgAs the Flyers roller coaster season goes on, where some of it excites us while other parts just makes us fans sick, there is a question that needs to be answered. What are the Flyers going to do with Scott Hartnell?

Throughout the past seven seasons I’ve grown to love Hartnell. I loved him for his heart and his unwillingness to give up. He may have not found the score sheet night in and night out but he did things that made a difference. Hartnell became my favorite Flyer on Dec 11, 2008. I was in attendance. Rod Brind’amour was on the jumbo-tron during a commercial break, speaking of his memories of the Spectrum. Just after the puck dropped to resume play, Hartnell drilled Brind’amour then dropped the gloves and gave a bloody beating to Casey Borer. Here’s a link to the video. (

) At the time it was 1-0. Going into the 3rd period it was 5-1 Carolina and Hartnell has the lone goal. Just a few min into the 3rd, Hartnell scored his second and later on went to record a hattrick and the Flyers came back and won the game 6-5. That was it for me and Hartnell instantly became by favorite Flyer.

I’ve dealt with a lot of backlash for standing up for a guy who skated hard but would go games without a point. Despite posting a 37 goal season two years ago, Hartnell has fallen. Last season, despite being injured and the team having issues offensively, Hartnell’s value on the ice continues to plummet this season.

Currently Hartnell has 6 goals and 8 assists for 14 points through 32 games. The Flyers are only five games away from the half way mark and if he gets 1 or even 2 points before that he’s on pace for a 32-34 point season which is below his average. Minus last season, Hartnell has given the Flyers several good seasons in point production with an average of 45 points in the last six seasons. However if you look at his totals last year he played 32 games and finished with 11 points and here we are, same amount of games played and he has 14 points. If you multiply last year to a full season, he's right on pace for the same totals.

Hartnell is in the first year of six year contract extension with a 4.7mil cap hit. At age 31 if his numbers are dwindling, they’re more than likely not going to get better. As a fan, it pains me to say this, but I have to be realistic about it. It’s obvious his magic with Giroux is gone. The past two seasons at 32 games each is proof of this theory.

The issue is, Hartnell was thrown down to the 2nd line with Simmonds and Schenn in the absence of Vinny Lecavalier. Vinny returned last night however, forward Steve Downie is going to miss 7-10 games. When he returns, Downie will more than likely return to the 3rd line where he, Read and Couturier have been nothing short of dominant. The top line which consists of Giroux, Voracek and Raffl has done nothing but shine since Hartnell was removed. Then the 2nd line has Lecavalier, Schenn and Simmonds. Where does that leave Scotty? Now many have stated that he’ll end up on the fourth line with Hall and Rinaldo but I will tell you this; there’s no such thing as a 4.7mil fourth line winger. The Flyers didn’t sign Hartnell to play on the fourth line. They signed him to be a big body, board crashing, puck winning and garbage goal winger to create some space for Giroux. However, Hartnell has failed to fulfill his roles as such.

Sometimes it’s the system. Coach Berube’s system is vastly different from Lavy’s and perhaps Hartnell doesn’t play well into the system. It happens and maybe it’s happening here. Truth is, as much as I love Hartnell in a Flyers uniform, I just don’t see it anymore. After years of being mediocre and not being the dominate team that everyone expects them to be, have gelled some chemistry. Although, they’re far from being the final product of what I think the organization is finally shaping them up to be, Hartnell isn’t part of this plan. It’s going to be hard to move him. For one, he has a No Trade Clause. Hartnell could waive it, or he could chose to blow GM Paul Holmgren off and say no, although I doubt he’d do that. Second, he has a very unfriendly contract with a cap hit that is just shy of 5 mil. Finding a buyer can be hard. The Flyers are not going to just give him away and they’ll want something of value in his return. In the right setting, Hartnell can be very valuable just like his 37 goal season back in 11/12.

The way the lines flow right now, Hartnell doesn’t fit anywhere. Even though they’ve been scratching Meszaros who has a cap hit at 4mil, I can’t see them healthy scratching 8.7mil worth of salary. From what I’ve heard the Flyers haven’t attempted to shop Meszaros and are keeping him simply as depth. (Silly if you ask me.) That does not mean he can be dealt by the deadline. Hartnell however, isn’t depth. There are plenty of injured plagued teams out there that could use a guy like Hartnell.

However, that all depends on if they want to pay his contract.

I will miss Hartnell. I’ve enjoyed his service, his humor and his clutch in the 2010 Cup run. However, like everything times change, teams change and it’s time that the Flyers and Hartnell move on.

iban3z

blog-0823144001384958366.jpgThe Flyers are turning the page, righting the ship and doing a bunch of metaphors that can fill this entire article. The Flyers are 4-0-1 in their last five and are playing good team hockey. I’ll admit when I’m wrong and maybe I was little too quick to dismiss the newly assembled coaching staff.

I’ve criticized Head Coach Craig Berube in the past as an assistant. His duties as the PP and PK coach had me scratching my head while he was in charge. We would see long periods of horror on special teams. I know teams go through droughts or rough patches but I can remember them, going 2 for 37 of the PP and to me that is downright unacceptable. I even wrote an article three hours prior to Peter Laviolette’s firing that they should let Berube go and a change was needed.

Although I still think Lavy was let go way to fast but a change was obviously needed. (Personally I thought Lavy should have been let go in April, but once he wasn’t I figured he’d have one more year to get his shot.) I didn’t think given Berube’s duties as an assistant would warrant a shot as the head coach.

The thing is we only see so much as fans. We’re not in the locker rooms. Only 15 % of what actually goes on is revealed to us. (Yeah I pretty much made that number up but that’s not the point) GM Paul Holmgren obviously saw something I didn’t in Berube. Sometimes assistant coaches only have so much pull or influence towards a head coach. The head coach is the one responsible for everyone. If the players aren’t performing on the PP or PK, it’s the head coach’s job to get on that. I often overlooked that and Lavy apparently didn’t hold anyone responsible. That’s here and gone and the fact of the matter is this, Berube is doing it right and here’s why:

System: At first Berube had his team playing the dump and chase. I’m not a fan and it can only be executed by a fast and good hard forechecking team. I personally think he had the Flyers doing this to make them “work”. You have to move your legs and skate hard. Now that he has the team collectively working together he’s abandoned the dump and chase as has them playing a good offensive attack system and it’s paying off. 11 of the first 12 games under Berube the Flyers scored no more than 2 goals per game. (3 of those, the Flyers were shutout.) Now the Flyers are 4-0-1 and have scored 18 goals in those five games.

Holding players accountable: It was rumored that Berube would be tough on his players and that rumor is showing to be true. Several players saw their ice time cut if they weren’t skating hard or playing with heart. Most notably is four million dollar veteran Andrej Meszaros. Meszaros has been a healthy scratch for a number of games now. Meszaros when healthy has been known to play very well, however his play this season seems to be without any confidence and his play has been horrendous. It doesn’t look like Berube is going to let him back in without confidence. It also doesn’t look like he may get back in at all unless an injury happens. Mez could be dealt anytime between now in the deadline because there is no such thing as a four million dollar 7th depth defenseman.

Correcting player mistakes: If you’ve followed me on these blogs, twitter or facebook, you will know that I have an undying hatred for Braydon Coburn. I’ve had it for years. It’s easy to have when you see a defenseman play so poorly and game in and game out, turns over the puck that leads to a goal seconds later. But I can’t overlook that during the Flyers five game point streak he’s played some of the best hockey in his career. He’s playing his position, he’s causing the opposition to turnover rather than him being the turnover, he’s scoring goals, he’s playing as a shutdown defenseman and for once he looks comfortable. Players that have played so poor for years don’t turn that around on their own overnight. Coburn has played for 2 other coaches and now Berube seems to have corrected those mistakes. Coburn is a +5 in the past five games after going -6 in the first 15 games.

The same could be said about Wayne Simmonds who has 2 goals and 2 assists in the past five games. He’s also been winning hard battles on the boards, playing physical and creating chances, stuff that isn’t shown on the score sheet. His turnaround can’t be overlooked and it looks like proper coaching has corrected his play.

I’m not saying Berube is best coach ever but I can’t overlook his work with the Flyers so far and how they can turn around this season and make it exciting to be a Flyers fan again. He has the right attitude, the right forwards, shockingly the right defenseman (currently) and the right goaltender. The Flyers may not win the cup this year, but if they can put the right pieces together and have a good year, we may be a year or two away. Perhaps Berube is putting his name in for the Jack Adams award. I know it’s only been five good games so far for the Flyers but during these five games it’s been a completely different team. A team that gives hope, a team that’s scoring goals, a team that has solid goaltending and a team that is winning.

iban3z

My View on Emery's Fight

blog-0711810001383654896.jpgLast Friday some people headed out to the mall, the movies or simply stayed home to enjoy a relaxing night. Others headed down to the Wells Fargo Center to catch what they hoped would be a good hockey game. A win is always a plus but a good close hockey game is always entertaining. Keeping in mind that Ovechkin was out with an injury and that the Flyers were 3-8, there was very little to cheer about. Never-the-less, the sellout crowd piled in and got ready to see a hockey game.

The first 20 min was a close hockey game, but the Flyers seemed lifeless and were hanging on. Despite the 1-0 deficit, the arena was filled with boos. Flash forward to the second period, you would have thought that the Flyers didn’t show up and they placed a trash can in front of the net and hoped for the Caps so spend the next 20 min shooting at a trash can. Instead, the Flyers did show up but didn’t play and Mason was hung out to dry.

In comes Ray Emery in relief.

Ray Emery hadn’t seen action since Oct 12. Sources say he’d been frustrated that he’s been the “assumed” backup when he believed that two starts weren’t enough for him to prove himself, especially with that defense in front of him but said he would be ready when called upon. He just came from a Stanley Cup winning team and he had his role in their winning season going 17-1 with 3 shutouts. He hadn’t been able to help the sinking ship that he’s on and all he’s been able to do is watch.

The third period comes and it’s pretty much over. It was 6-0 at the start, all you could hope was for a couple of goals and no injuries. After the Caps scored their seventh goal, enough was enough for the Flyers. Rage built in. A wake up call was needed. 17 seconds later Wayne Simmonds dropped the gloves after delivering a hard check. As that fight went down, Brayden Schenn and Vinny Lecavalier began to find dancing partners as well. Frustrated, pissed and feeling left out, Ray Emery a known goalie fighter, raced to the other end and challenged Capitals goalie Holtby.

Having watched the game live I can tell you how excited I was as a fan to see a goalie fight. I was also excited just to see some life in the Flyers. And finally, I was very excited to see a player get his butt kicked. What I have just described to you is how I felt in the “moment” with what had transpired. After several instant replay reviews and multiple lashings toward Emery for his fight, I decided to wonder if I may have got caught up in the moment and thought maybe what I saw wasn’t something to be excited about.

I took this into affect first. The line Brawl I thought wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Flyers have had no life in any of their games. Four fights at once in a 7-0 womping is something I thought they needed.

Now Ray Emery:

As I said before, Emery hadn’t seen action since Oct 12. His team is 3-9 and currently getting flat out embarrassed. The fans are booing and chanting to fire the GM. His Captain and veterans aren’t stepping up. Emery had enough. Emery skated down with one thing in mind: “I’m fighting no matter what.”

I watched the video several times. Emery skated up to Holtby and began tugging on him. Holtby didn’t seem interested and the ref was right between them. What you see next is Holtby dropping his blocker and he starts swinging, which in my eyes means “I accept.” Even if he doesn’t want to fight, he still dropped his equipment. The ref then stepped back. Ray Emery, a huge boxing fan, did what everyone expected. He beat up Holtby. What everyone didn’t expect was for it to look like a slaughter.

Emery didn’t let up and the ref never stepped in. I personally didn’t see anything wrong with the fight other than that once the fight was decide,d which was after Ray Emery’s fourth punch , he just kept going and going. If he had stopped once Holtby was on his knees and pleading for his life, maybe it wouldn’t have looked so bad. But Emery was a man possessed and he kept pounding away. The whole point was to send a message and it wasn’t to the Capitals. It was to each other. The message was, “We need to wake up! We need to step up! We need to get our heads out of our *****. This is unacceptable!”

Now did Ray Emery lose sight of this message during his fight? Most likely, I say. Was it classless? Not entirely. Was it wrong? No. How many times have we seen this? This happens a few times a season and we love it… however we usually see goalies meet one another in the middle.

His message seemed to somewhat carry over and he started the following night and posted his first shutout of the season. Granted he faced only 14 shots, but never-the-less a win is a win and a shutout is a shutout.

There has been major media backlash towards Emery. The Philadelphia beat writers as CSN and Philly.com won’t let up on Emery. You’d of thought he was Marty McSorley. The close minded writers obviously don’t like fighting and love negativity so they’ve been bashing Emery since Friday and it is continuing. Enough already! He didn’t do anything wrong in the NHL’s eyes. This is coming from the well hated Commissioner. “He didn’t break any rules, therefore a suspension isn’t warranted.” Tim Panacccio from CSNPhilly.com believes Emery should have been fined, suspended and fighting needs to be removed. Are you kidding me? I’ve seen far worse and nothing even happen. Problem with Tim is, he hates fighting and never liked Emery, even in his first stint with the Flyers. Tim uses his bully pulpit to try and bully his way through the article and make it seem that everyone else is wrong. To me, that’s no different than what Emery did.

Fans are also split down the middle. “He was classes, it was a massacre” or “He did the right thing, it was ok.” My view is this; he wanted to step up and do something. He wanted to light a fire under his team. He did that without breaking any rules that would warrant any additional discipline other than the penalty minutes he received. Should he have let up? Yes. Even though Holtby didn’t really want to fight and I say didn’t really because he did drop his equipment and if he really didn’t want to fight, he would have either skated away or turtle. He actually skated toward Emery. I’m saying Emery was 100% right but in the sense of his message yes he’s right. If Holtby cowered with his equipment on and Emery began punching with the ref in between then that is a whole different story. This is not what happened, yet people are making it out so be just that and worse.

Captain Claude hasn’t done anything to step up and help right this team. Neither has Kimmo, Hartnell, Streit, Talbot (who was traded) nor anyone else for that matter. The guy who hasn’t played in 3 weeks decided “Ok, I’ve had enough of this. I’ll send everyone a message.” Then after that he sent another one by posting a shutout in the very next game. This team needed a wakeup call and the fans needed something to cheer about. I have nothing against what Emery did. It wasn’t bush league because Holtby did attempt to defend himself. He just didn’t do a good job and is not a fighter by any means. Nobody had an issue when Ron Hextall did it. He slashed players skating away from him. He chased down Chris Chellios. He constantly left his crease to brawl. Why is Emery any different, especially is he didn’t break any rules?

Now I’m not advocating that he and the Flyers should do this on a regular basis. This is an isolated incident and it should be left as such. I hope the writers at CSNphilly and Philly.com would open their eyes more and realize that they cover hockey and should stick to hockey. Enough of this bashing the players crap. I mean they don’t bash the players for their lackluster play, they bash for other things.

This is just my view on this incident and everyone can have a different view. My reasons for my view are explained. I’m not going to act like “The professional writers” (if you want to call them that) and keep my view as if’s the only and correct way. I just want the bashing and backlash to stop. Tonight is another game. Let’s go Flyers!

Follow me on Twitter @http://www.twitter.com/iban3zhead

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The NHL's Fighting Issue

blog-0391549001382963385.jpgA couple of years ago I wrote an article on the NHL’s concussion issue. As the NHL seems to become more of a “do what we say league,” their latest installment of rules has me scratching my head.

Last week Darren Dreger of TSN reported that the linesmen have been instructed to stop a fight if the players remove their helmets beforehand. Earlier in the season the NHL implemented a rule to issue a 2 min minor penalty to players who decided to remove their helmets before a fight. When it became clear that this didn’t matter to any of the players the League informed the Linesman to just stop the fight from happening if the players removed their helmets.

What I don’t understand is there is already a rule for players with visors who engage in fighting. They can be penalized if they DON’T remove their helmet. Here’s the Rule from the NHL’s website:

46.6 Face Protection - If a player penalized as an instigator of an altercation is wearing a face shield (including a goalkeeper), he shall be assessed an additional unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Should the player (including a goalkeeper) who instigates the fight be wearing a face shield, but removes it before instigating the altercation, the additional unsportsmanlike conduct penalty shall not apply.

Am I the only one who’s confused here? The NHL is contradicting itself. If you don’t remove your visor prior to fighting, you will be assessed a 2min penalty. However if you remove your helmet (visor or not) you will be assessed a 2 min penalty and they will stop the fight. This makes it confusing for not only the fans but the players as well. Fighting is part of the game. It’s a way for them to police themselves. With all of these extra rules to figure out, it’s going to end up costing them after the fight with penalties. Prior to a fight, players don’t stand there and think about what they can or cannot do. They just fight.

Removing fighting from the NHL has been something that’s been brought up more and more due to serious head injuries that have occurred recently. However, these serious head injuries have happened in College or Juniors. For example:

“Dylan Chanter, an 18-year-old defenseman with the Dubuque Fighting Saints, fell backward and hit his bare head on the ice while fighting with Corey Petrash of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. Chanter, whose helmet had been knocked off, started convulsing. His convulsions lasted two minutes as trainers attended to him.” (Source NY TIMES)

“Michael Sanderson of The Whitby Dunlops, a senior-league club team in Ontario, died on Jan. 2, 20 days after banging his head on the ice during a hockey fight.” (Source NY Daily News)

Many of these serious incidents are occurring in amateur or college leagues. I agree that fighting should be reserved for the big leagues. (AHL/NHL) College is a place for Hockey players to learn how to play adult hockey and develop. They don’t need to fight. But the AHL and NHL is a whole different ball game.

Fighting is something that made the NHL what it is today. When the NHL expanded in 1967, fighting is what drew in big crowds in the new markets in America. Hockey is already an established sport in Canada so those in the US went to Hockey because it’s different. That’s what makes Hockey so great. It’s different. There is full contact constantly, fighting, dazzling plays and the game pace is better than any of the 3 other major sports.

Baseball is slow with very little to no contact, Basketball has no contact and football’s contact and plays last for anywhere from 3-15 seconds. In Hockey, if the play stops, the clock stops. If you want to upend a player with the puck you can hit him pretty hard and the play continues. In football, if you hit someone with the ball, the play is usually over but the clock keeps on ticking. Basketball if you as much as slightly push a player it’s a foul. And above all if your emotions are running high, you can’t fight in baseball, football or basketball without getting thrown out of the game, fined and suspended. In Hockey, you fight and you sit in a box for 5 min to cool off. After that you’re back to playing and could fight again if need be.

Why would the NHL even think to remove this aspect from the game especially if it’s been there since the year 1922. “In 1922, the NHL introduced Rule 56 that formally regulated fighting or "fisticuffs" as it was called in the official NHL rulebook. Rather than ejecting players from the game, players would be given a five-minute major penalty. This is why hockey is so unique.

Fighting has not only been getting a bad rap from players falling and hitting their heads during a fight, but long term effects of “blows to the head” have been a past accusation. Former NHL Enforcer Derek Boogaard’s sudden death five months after a season-ending concussion raised questions. His family donated his brain to the Boston University project and they found he had signs of brain trauma resulting from blows to the head.

But is fighting really to blame here? What about the “enforcer” role? Back in the 70s 80s and even the 90s teams had at least one enforcer to help protect a few star players but most of the players in that era had talent and the grit to protect themselves. Now-a-days, hockey has a plethora of talented finesse players and most teams have that one guy who can “only fight.” I think all hockey players should police and not just have one designated “tough guy” with no actual skill. I think removing the enforcer is the way to go about this.

Staged fighting is the issue here. More injuries happen when something is staged because the end result of it is to just win. Therefore players are going to go to the extreme to win because enforcers have something to prove. That is “who is tougher?” They go out on the ice looking for a fight because it’s their “Role”. Spontaneous fighting which is what I refer to as “old time hockey” is players whose emotions are high or they’re policing themselves. They drop the gloves to say “hey we’re not going to take that.” Regardless of who wins, dropping the gloves and fighting is how their statement is made. I think lesser injuries would occur here.

Former NHL Enforcer Riley Cote actually took boxing lessons. He had one career NHL goal. Why would a hockey player need to take boxing lessons? It’s simple, his job was to go out, find a fight and win. Scoring goals, killing penalties, or making passes wasn’t in his vocabulary. When Cote stopped winning fights and doing his role, he became a healthy scratch and that forced him to retire at the age of 28. The Enforcer days are over. The sooner teams realize this you’ll see a decrease in head injuries from fighting. Finesse players will have to stand up for themselves. Power forwards will have to step in as well defensemen.

Staged fighting is what needs to be removed, not fighting all together. With the NHL hammering down the rules with helmet removal, number of fights at a time, number of fights per player and the jersey strap it’s just going to make matters worse. Professional Hockey should be for players who can actually play and not hold a reservation for a boxer with skates. But like one NHL Source said “It will take a death before the NHL considers the removal of fighting.” However it will take a commissioner with power-trip a matter of seconds to make things his way.

Follow me on Twitter @ Iban3zhead

My article on the NHL’s Concussion issue can be read here: http://www.hockeyforums.net/index.php/blog/20/entry-38-the-nhls-concussion-issue/

iban3z

The Flyers have six days between games after suffering a loss to the Penguins on Thursday night. Now it being the weekend, the Flyers have had a couple of days to skate hard, bond and work on their weaknesses. One weakness I’m constantly seeing is the horrible play of Defenseman Braydon Coburn and the rest of the defense.

Tuesday’s Game against the Vancouver Canucks, a game where the Flyers let the lead slip away, was a game that saw a severe break down in the Defense. Braydon Coburn, who’s been notorious for not covering his zone or covering his man, fell victim of that again on the second Canucks goal.

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To Coburn’s credit, (and I don’t really give him any) the entire Flyers line completely fell apart on this play. It’s not quite clear if the Flyers are playing zone coverage or man-to-man. In this picture above, The Flyers have Nick Grossman covering the side of the net. Claude Giroux has dropped deep in the zone to cover the same man. Coburn instead, covers his zone to where no players are located. Instead a wide open player in front of the net is over behind Grossman and receives a pass from the man behind the net. (Sedin) The wide open player scored the tying goal. Now even if Coburn is covering his zone, he should know, he has to skate over to cover an open man and cover him. In this still shot it appear he’s thinking about it, but just doesn’t do it. (If you saw the video, he’s coasting.) You also have all three Flyer forwards deep into the circles. Who are they covering? There’s an open man in the middle and there’re two open defenseman up on top. This falls on coaching. The coaches are either having them play the wrong coverage, or they’re not working with them in the practices. Everybody needs work. It’s up to the Coach to identify the issue and work on it. Judging by the last 4 years of Braydon Coburn, someone has been letting that slip away or the guy just doesn’t get it and he never will.

Thursday night, I saw multiple breakdowns in the defensive zone. Most of them occurred in the 2nd period and led to a goal. Here is a picture of the 2nd Penguins’ goal.

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Prior to this still shot, the Flyers failed on three occasions to clear the zone. Every clearing attempt became a turnover. The final turn over led to this. If you look, you can see the wide open man taking the rebound and the position of the Flyer who should be covering him. His back is turned and he’s not covering anyone, as there are no Penguins in front of him. What makes matters worse is that’s not even a defenseman. That is Brayden Schenn.

Things didn’t get better. The Flyers who played a pretty dominate period in the third, saw their hopes of tying and perhaps coming back slip away at the fault of Braydon Coburn, again.

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Here we can see Coburn being double covered by Crosby and Kuniz. Coburn has two outlets. Wayne Simmonds is off to the top corner and Luke Schenn is behind Coburn. Instead Coburn throws the puck in front on his own net. Yes Giroux is there and the Still Shot doesn’t show it, but that pass was went through his legs. (It looks like Giroux is playing the puck, but that is not what is happening.) It was also a blind pass from Coburn and Giroux was not anticipating that play as it was not the correct play. You never throw the puck in front of your own net when the opposing team is deep in the zone attacking, especially when you have two open guys on the boards. You can tell by Giroux’s body position that he’s expecting the play to transition into a rush. The blind pass is intercepted by a Penguin who fires it towards the net and finds its way in off a deflection from a wide open Crosby. Not only did Coburn throw a blind pass across his own net to a wide open Penguin, he failed to cover the guy who was covering him and it all led to a goal.

The Flyers seem to fail the fundamentals of hockey in every aspect. The defensive break downs, the lack of scoring chances, the failure to fore-check on the “Dump and Chase” are simple things the Flyers can’t execute. The question is if the Flyers can’t do any of this, whose fault is this? Is it coaching or is it the players? The Flyers brass thought it was the coaching when the Flyers were 0-3 and made some coaching changes. But here we are now 1-7 (NHL Worst) and the same issues are still plaguing the Flyers. Do the Flyers have the right players? Are they incapable of playing hockey with this system, this team, this organization?

The stats are just ugly. How ugly you ask? Well there are two players are in the plus for the +/- column. Those players are Max Talbot and Chris Newbury. (YIKES) With a Zero the Flyers have three players, McGinn, Lecavalier and Meszaros who has been a healthy scratch for 3 games. The rest, (16) are in the minus. Simmonds is the worst for forwards with a -7 and Coburn is a worse for the Defenseman with a -5.

Your Points leader is Brayden Schenn with five (2G, 3A) through eight games. 14 Flyers have yet to register a goal, and the goal scoring leader has been a call-up and has only played in three games. Things look that bad right now.

However there is the good. How? How could there be any good? That answer is Steve Mason. Mason has been the Flyers best player. His record of 1-5 doesn’t show it, but if you’ve watched the games, he’s been their backbone. He’s kept them in games, has made some 2nd and 3rd incredible saves and looks comfortable in net. He has a GAA 2.37 and Save % of .923. His current Save % is ranked higher than last year’s Stanley Cup Winner Cory Crawford, former Cup winner Antti Niemi, last years’ Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky, Mike Smith, James Reimer, Jimmy Howard, Jonathan Quick, Roberto Luongo, Pekka Rinne, Marty Brodeur and yes the king, Henrik Lundqvist. All of these goaltenders have been brought up in the past and compared to what the Flyers needed and didn’t have in a goaltender. Well they currently have a goalie with a higher Save % than all of the notable names. His GAA is also ranked higher than Luongo, Quick, Rinne, Howard, Bobrosvky, Miller, Smith, and Lundqvist. That should give something for the fans to be happy about.

The Flyers are 1-7 and have a goalie outplaying some of the best names in the NHL. I know, it’s only eight games into the season, but what do the fans have to be happy about right now? You have to take the good with the bad and the Flyers are bad, very bad.

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The Flyers Future

blog-0818868001381842527.jpgWhile many of us attempt to get situated for this current year and hope to see a big turnaround, let’s pause for a moment and take a look into the future. Hop in the Delorean and let’s go to Oct 2015.

It’s 2015 and the Flyers are now ready to send Scott Laughton, Tye McGinn, Jason Akeson, Sam Morin and Anthony Stolarz out for opening night. The Flyers still have Captain Claude Giroux, Vinny Lecavalier, Jake Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Matt Read and Mark Streit. Keeping in mind that they didn’t get resigned, traded or they’ve been traded, you no longer have Kimmo Timonen, Andrej Meszaros, and perhaps Braydon Coburn.

The Flyers have poised themselves to have the players, to carry them for the future. Let’s take a look at the prospects.

Scott Laughton

Laughton, the Flyers 1st round draft choice (20th overall) may have his first season under his belt by that point (2015). Laughton currently has five goals and seven assists through 12 games with the Oshawa Generals. In his previous seasons he finished with 23 goals, 33 assists for 56 point in 49 games. Laughton is a type of player that is going to be a fast skater, quick stick handler and will have the defense guessing. He may remind some of a young Danny Briere with a good sense on how to play two-way hockey. Hopefully if won’t be long until Laughton has Flyers fans amazed as a 2nd line center coming off the bench to relieve Claude Giroux.

Anthony Stolarz

Stolarz has been nothing short of sensational in his outings in Juniors. In seven games through the 2013/14 season (thus far), Stolarz is 6-0-1 with a 2.14 GAA and .934 Save %. He also has one Shutout. In his previous season with the London Knights, Stolarz went 13-3-1 and he continues to develop and get better. He could finally be the “Home Grown Goalie” the Flyers have been waiting for, since they’ve dropped the ball on 2013 Vezina Winner Sergei Bobrovsky. He is a butterfly goalie and likes to challenge shooters, which is something the Flyers haven’t seen in a while. If the Flyers can rebuild their defense with a young and solid group, Stolarz will shine and we will forget players like Bryzgalov, Biron, Esche, and Ray Emery.

Sam Morin

Speaking of the Flyers getting young and solid on the back end, Sam Morin should be nice and seasoned for an NHL debut for 2015. Morin was drafted 11th overall in 2013 by the Flyers. He’s been compared to Chris Pronger, and based on his film he could very well mold into a Pronger-type player. He’s 6’6. His feistiness and willing to hit hard and drop the gloves, already make him a Flyer at heart. He has a good “out of the zone passing”, which is something the Flyers have been missing. Once he develops more he can become a one/two defenseman over time and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him begin in the NHL as third or fourth D-Man.

Tye McGinn

Tye has already seen some NHL time and was just recently called up to help fill the injuries. In his first game being called up, he scored a goal. McGinn has the potential to be a Matt Read type of player. I’d call him a role player. He’s had a good career in Juniors with 27 goals, 35 assists for 62 points through 50 games in 09/10 and scored 31 goals and 33 assists the following year. He’s still developing and could be a go-to-guy for the Flyers in the future.

Jason Akeson

Akeson played his first NHL game during the final game of the 2013 Season against Ottawa. He scored a goal on his very first shift. I was a bit surprised to not see him make the team at the start of the 2013/14 season, but given the roster, it was a stiff competition and Akeson failed to show off his talents. In the 2010-11 Akeson was tied for the lead in points with 108 but lead the league in assists with 84 (Juniors). He’s a fast skater and can put up points. Given the Flyers clutter offensive line-up Akeson was sent down to the Phantoms. He can only develop more there and get ready for when the call comes. Last season he led the Phantoms in points with 14 goals and 41 assists. Once the Flyers make the changes to their offense, he should be there and he’ll accompany a nice young scoring corps.

In 2015 I could see a forward line-up combination that may look something like this:

Voracek-Giroux-Simmonds

Akeson-Laughton-Hartnell

Read-Lecavalier-McGinn

Cousins-Talbot-Rinaldo

Assuming the Flyers part ways with Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn this is what I think the lines could look like. It’s something to be excited about. Young players need time to play and grow to develop chemistry and it may take a year or two for it to flourish greatly but that’s how it needs to work.

The Defense could use some tuning but I see Luke Schenn, Nick Grossmann, Erik Gustafsson , and Streit still on the team. My idea of that defense would look like this for Oct 2015.

Streit-Schenn

Gustafsson-Morin

Grossman-*TBD*

Coburn is signed through 2015-16 but I think the Flyers trade him before that. I also see the Flyers sticking with Goaltender Steve Mason for a few years and possibly still starting ahead of Stolarz for his rookie season.

Mason

(Stolarz)

I know it is rough right now in Flyer-land at the moment but the future is something to be excited about. This is assuming GM Paul Holmgren doesn’t mess things up before his contract is up. I can see this team being great again and something hopeful with our prospects and some of our current line-up. Maybe just maybe, this could be the beginning of the end of the Flyers Cup drought.

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Flyers Need a Virtue

blog-0729099001381673846.jpgThe Flyers are 1-5 to start the season. This is the 2nd season in a row where the Flyers are off to a poor start and the fans are restless. Needless to say, the organization is restless and it’s shown for 38 years.

To begin, we can pick any moment in Flyers history dating back to the 1969 when Flyers’ Chairman Ed Snider ordered then GM Bud Polie to change the team to which would make them the “Broad Street Bullies.” Unfortunately, it seems like the Flyers are stuck in 1970s and refuse to change their culture. This is evident as recent as last week when Snider blasted the media by saying “We don’t need a culture change, we know what we’re doing.” Well, I have no idea what they’re doing but I can tell you what they don’t have and that would be patience.

I’ll begin with the 2006/2007 season. The Flyers fired Coach Ken Hitchcock along with GM Bob Clarke and hired Paul Holmgren, and John Stevens. The Flyers promoted both within the organization which seems to be their motto. Homer began building his team for the future and it looked like the Flyers could actually see a “rebuilding” phase. Instead, the moves Homer conducted made him look like a genus and the Flyers went from worst to the Eastern Conference Finals. But the Flyers failed to beat the Penguins. That would be where the “rebuilding” phase ended and the Flyers would emphasize the word “Retooling” and refused to “rebuild.” Why you might ask? Snider was quoted in an interview once saying, “We don’t rebuild, we retool.” This is further proof that he does not have any patience.

The Flyers refuse to be patient with any of their players. I’ll go back to 2005. Here is a list the Players the Flyers gave up on because they either didn’t reach their potential yet and they refused to wait, or they traded them for older veterans who’ve already won and are passed their prime.

The list:

Patrick Sharp (05): Won the cup with the Blackhawks in 2010 and 2013.

Denis Seidenberg (06): Was traded for Petr Nedved and Won the Cup with the Bruins in 2011.

Michal Handzus (06): Was traded for Kyle Calder and Won the Cup with the Blackhawks in 2013.

The Flyers in (08): traded Alexandre Picard and a 2nd round pick for Vinny Prospal who was solid only to trade him back to Tampa at the end of the season and only gained 7th Rd pick and a conditional 09 pick. That’s a loss to me.

Scottie Upshall (09): Traded along with a 2nd round pick for Dan Carcillo who had a career 41 pts over 3 seasons. Note: The Flyers decided not to resign Carcillo and he ended up winning the Cup in 2013 with the Blackhawks.

Luca Sbisa & Joffery Lupal (09): Both along with two first round picks were traded for 35 year old

Chris Pronger who played only 1 full season with the Flyers. Pronger played two more injury plagued seasons before sustaining an unofficial career ending concussion. This was a classic “We must win now” Trade.

Simon Gagne (10): Traded for Matt Walker, won the Cup with the Kings in 2012.

2011’s First Rounder and 2011’s 3rd Rounder : These were traded for Kris Versteeg who was later traded for a 3rd rounder. This was a horrible trade and a classic “We must win now” Trade.

Mike Richards (11): The Flyers traded away their franchise face and captain due what Holmgren described as “An offer he couldn’t refuse.” However Richards, the good player he was, was immature and the Flyers refused to help him grow into a mature Hockey player so they shipped him off to the Kings for unproven Prospect Brayden Schenn and Gritty Power forward Wayne Simmonds. Richards responded to the trade by helping the Kings win the Cup the following season.

Jeff Carter (11): Although, I like Jakub Voracek and have a personal hatred for Carter because of my off ice encounters with him, he was the Flyers Goal leader for several seasons (29,23,46,33,36). He also responded to his trade by winning the Cup the following season with the Kings.

Sergei Bobrovsky (12): The Flyers finally found the goalie of the future and first home grown goaltender since Ron Hextall. However, despite playing solid through the regular season in his rookie year (28-13-8) He had a poor performance in the Post Season mainly due to Coach Peter Laviolette’s goalie carousal. Ed Snider refused to be patient and forced the Flyers to sign Illya Bryzgalov to an outrageous contract for 9 years thus making the guarantee that Bobrovsky wasn’t in the Flyers future plans. Bobrovsky responded by winning the 2013 Vezina Trophy. (Note, the Flyers would buy out Bryzgalov 11 months later.)

James Van Riemsdyk (12): JVR had a hard time finding his role and development with the Flyers. Injuries weren’t kind to him in a season where the Flyers made it a make or break season. He was traded for Luke Schenn and in the 2012 season, JVR has his best ratio for points vs. games played. He scored 18 goals.

The Flyers refuse to sit and wait and let the team get to know one another and develop. Instead, year in and year out, the Flyers give up youth for veterans who are passed their prime. Three examples would be the 2013 offseason where the Flyers signed 35 year old Mark Streit, 38 year old Hal Gill and 33 year old Vinny Lecavalier. The Flyers want to win it all every year and that’s a given however that’s not a reality. Winning takes planning, development and yes you guessed it, patience. The Flyers don’t have any of this. Building and developing takes a couple of years, but if you’re patient enough, you can win it all and have the glory. Flyers fans have been thirsty for 38 years, but until Snider eases up and Paul Holmgren is fired, fans may grow to become just like the Flyers. Impatient.

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Simple Changes

blog-0318040001381146733.jpgSo here we are. We’re three games into the season and the Flyers are 0-3. Not the start the players wanted. Not the start the organization wanted. It’s definitely not the fans wanted, yet we are here and we’re frustrated. Before we go firing the coach or firing the GM (which I’m in favor of) simple changes can be made to help right this ship before it sinks.

First off let’s see where things went wrong. I’m going to go all the way back to July when Homer had a chance to trade Brayden Coburn (4.5 Mil) and get a prospect or a pick. The Flyers all off a sudden have an abundance of defense now and moving him not only would have made some room for a young player like Gustafsson who’s a solid 5th/6th man but it would have taken 4.5mil off the books!

Second, the Simon Gagne situation, which left some people scratching their heads including Gagne. This wasn’t a rumor or myth but Gagne’s agent and Homer did have an understanding, given the cap situation. Gagne couldn’t be signed for a reported 1.3-1.5mil contract until the season began so Pronger could be placed on LTIR. Instead Homer had a change of heart and thought he could sign Dan Cleary to replace him (to a much larger contract). Instead that came to bite Homer in the rear. Cleary, seemingly used the Flyers to get Detroit to offer him a contract (which he denies) and decided to say no to Philly leaving the Flyers without a solid two-way player. Homer then decided not to revisit the option of Gagne and sever ties with one of the organization’s most beloved players.

Third, he did not give Scott Laughton a chance. When it seemed that the rookie beat out the others for a roster spot, he was scratched for the opener in favor of Jay Rosehill. (Rosehill has a life time of six points through an eight year professional career.)The following day instead of giving Laughton his nine game window, it was slammed shut. Laughton was sent packing and he headed to back to Juniors for another year. For what it is worth, Laughton has nine points in three games so far on his Junior team.

I

nstead of fixing an aging team and finding younger defense, Homer signed 35 year old Mark Streit. However, from what I’ve seen I think it’s a good signing as of now. But 38 year old Hal Gill who is labeled as the eight defenseman, was signed and is only going to action if an injury occurs.

Before this becomes a rant of the GM, I’ll get to my original point and say that all the Flyers need are simple changes.

First and foremost I’ll tag Brayden Coburn. He’s the worst of all the defenseman. He was brought to the Flyers because of his potential, not because of skill. He has not lived up to his potential and he’s had six years to do so. A change of scenery is what Coburn needs. There are plenty of teams asking for a defenseman.

If you trade Coburn, you have a defensive corps that would look like this:

Meszaros –Timonen

Schenn-Streit

Grossman-Gustafsson

Mez the younger, faster and more offensive mined defenseman is paired with the teams’ best defensive defenseman.

Schenn, the hit machine is paired with a puck carrying and big bodied defenseman that is Streit.

The same reasons would apply the Grossman-Gustafsson pairing.

Those are simple changes to help make your defense better.

Next you move Max Talbot down to the fourth line. He’s a clutch player that’s great for the penalty kill but he’s not your everyday third line player. You put him on a line that should look like this. Rinaldo-Talbot-Newbury (If he stays up). You take your fourth line which is commonly known as the “Checking line” and form a line that can create offensive chances and still check.

The Flyers’ lines should look more like this:

Voracek-Giroux-Hartnell

Read-Lecavalier-Simmonds

Couturier-Schenn-Read

Rinaldo-Talbot-Newbury

These are easy changes that would provide a spark and create some offensive chances.

Next, you have to consider reassigning your power play responsibilities to another assistant coach that is not Craig Berube. For the last 4 seasons, he’s been in charge of the Flyers Power play. It’s been terrible. I think the Flyers need to cut ties with their assistants but that’s not here or there. A new face needs to be behind the special teams because scoring on the power play is what can make a difference in hockey games.

The Flyers don’t have to blow this team up or make coaching/GM changes yet. These simple changes can be just what the Flyers need, before things get really ugly.

iban3z

blog-0356033001381052261.jpgThe Flyers seemed to lack some jump during their 60 minutes of play in Montreal. Peter Laviolette’s club came out flat against a hungry Canadians team, only firing 23 shots on Carey Price. The Flyers are lacked their discipline and took 11 minor penalties that resulted in nine power play chances for the Habs. Despite killing off seven of those chances, the Flyers handcuffed themselves being shorthanded for 18 minutes of the game.

Some of them you can argue that they were just bad calls like Ray Emery’s “Embellishing” after he was run into for Goalie Interference. (I’ll come back to that later.) But it was Grossman’s tripping, Timonen’s holding, and Couturier’s hooking which are simple mistakes that takes time and chances away from the Flyers. “It seemed the first two periods, every time we got going 5-on-5 it lasted about two to three minutes and then the penalty killers went back on the ice,” Laviolette said. “After they scored the goal to start the third, the penalties happened and we lost our composure. It unraveled from there. We’re not going to win a lot of hockey games if we go to the box as much as we did tonight.”

Despite not having any jump, the game was close going into the 3rd with the score being 1-0. Just 12 seconds in, the Habs took control and never looked back. Lars Eller took a fortuitous bounce and fired it passed Ray Emery.

It took almost halfway through the 3rd period for Laviolette to finally reunite last year’s top scoring line: Giroux, Hartnell and Voracek but it was too little too late. I don’t understand why, this line hasn’t been together since the beginning, but in a move of desperation, they’re were reunited, but the Habs had full control and didn’t let off the gas.

My other concern is that Jay Rosehill is being dressed. Rosehill is simply an enforcer and brings no hockey skill to the table. Even though I’m a fan at times to have an enforcer in, the Flyers have several players who can stand up and fight. In fact the Flyers have 3 fights so far this season and none of them involve Jay Rosehill. I’d rather see a young 4th line winger who can score if other Flyers are going to police themselves and you have Zac Rinaldo in the line-up.

The new guys: Streit and Lecavalier have two points in two games, but the old guys such has Giroux, Hartnell and Voracek have yet to record a point. It’s only two games in and it’s not time to panic yet, but some simple adjustments need to be made. Once these are made and hopefully before 5 PM tonight, we can start to see some success.

So settle down Flyers fans. It’s only two games in. It’s easy to be frustrated, but before we bash the goalies, the coach, the GM, the captain or the refs remember there are 80 games left to play.

Going back to the Ray Emery Penalty, I hate when the refs try to even up calls when they’re not warranted. Especially when an obvious infraction happens and you try to even it up. Take Ray Emery’s “Unsportsmanlike” call for embellishment last night. He was bumped into Brendan Gallagher which is a penalty. Emery falls from being bumped, which I didn’t think he embellished. Even if he did, it doesn’t take away the fact that he was interfered with. If he wasn’t touched and then fell down trying to get a call, then yes that’s embellishing. But Emery was hit and he fell. I attended a game back in 2006 when

Peter Forsberg was crosschecked from behind by a player for the Predators. He went face first into the boards. The Nashville player was called for crosschecking but Forsberg was also called for diving. I don’t understand how you can be crosschecked from behind, and called for “diving.” Last night’s call against Emery was the same thing.

We all yell at Sidney Crosby for diving, game in and game out and he can sell himself and get away with it. But the league lets that stuff go and it happens to a lot of other players in the league. “Diving” goes uncalled constantly. But when it happens, they seem to get the call wrong by still calling an initial infraction that caused the so called “dive.” I’ll tell you this, if I’m playing and I get hooked, crosschecked, or interfered with and I fall, I’m not diving! I’m being impeded with! That’s what happened last night.

The league should look at all the “diving” calls and come up with an action plan to ensure that they can get it right in the future.

iban3z

blog-0726623001380925484.jpgThe Flyers season opener at home is like Christmas day for Philadelphia Hockey fans. Philadelphia is labeled as a football town, but if you remember Philadelphia was voted the #1 hockey city in North America for 7 straight years. It also has the biggest numbers of amateur hockey leagues throughout the Delaware Valley than anywhere in the United States. This is a hockey town. The media won’t say that though. So when I’m not driving around seeing other fans in the off season wearing jerseys, sporting Flyers license plates, or playing recreational hockey at the park, I’m attending the other part of my life, Flyers home games.

On Wednesday, I drove down to the Wells Fargo Center with my wife. I’ve been a season ticket holder since 2007 and have attended every opening game. I got down there just after 5, and the parking lot was packed with thousands of tailgaters. Everyone had Flyers fever. Despite being heavily favored to have a poor season by the media and some skeptic fans, the Flyers faithful showed up in mass numbers (19,000+) to support the boys in orange in hopes that this could finally be the beginning of the end of a long cup drought. Recently the Flyers passed their 14,000th day since they last hoisted the cup.

I, dressed in my Scott Hartnell Jersey and Hartnell wig, entered the arena, grabbed my opening night puck and met up with some regulars who I haven’t seen since April. Everyone seemed to be in a wonderful mood. The Flyers came out to warm up with thunderous cheers. Before long, the rest of the crowd settled in and the game got underway.

The Flyers looked great during the first period. They looked like they had a lot of jump. The defense played well, and the new comers looked comfortable. Then in the final seconds they scored the games’ first goal. The arena roared. The only thing that took life out of the fact that the flyers scored a goal was the sounds of the hideous goal song. Thousands of fans began to sing “the doop song” but were met with something different. “TNT” came across the speakers. AC/DC’s hit song from forever ago was played instead of “the doop” (Maria, Maria). Several fans seemed bummed. I personally liked “the doop” but I’m all in favor of change however, “TNT” is an awful choice for a goal song. It’s just not something you can jump up to. If several other fans think the same thing, I hope they voice their opinion. I don’t care if they bring the “doop” back, but please, change it from “TNT.”

The final two periods the Flyers seemed to lollygag. They looked awful on the power play, couldn't keep good puck possession and the crowd got out of it. The Flyers ended up losing a game they could have simply won, but failed on 6 other PP chances. But it’s the first game of the season. Despite the loss and the finish, I was happy with what I saw. Mason made some spectacular saves and it’s a shame he got a loss. If Emery plays as good or even better than how Mason played, then the Flyers goalie problem is no longer a problem. Perhaps special teams may still be the problem. That will fall on the assistant coaches, but if these issues linger for the next 10 games, will the assistant coaches take the fall or will the head coach take the fall.

The Flyers will see a familiar face on Saturday as they face Danny Briere and the Canadians at 7pm.

Follow me on Twitter @ iban3zhead

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blog-0198166001380626383.jpgYesterday the Flyers submitted their opening day roster. They did so without making any trades. “It’s tricky, but that’s all part of being a GM” said Paul Holmgren. When asked if a trade was going to help them get compliant Homer simply responded “No I don’t see that happening.” Below is the Flyers’ Roster (for now). An asterisk marks those who new to the roster.

FORWARDS (12)

#10 - Brayden Schenn

#14 - Sean Couturier

#17 - Wayne Simmonds

#19 - Scott Hartnell

#21 - Scott Laughton *

#24 - Matt Read

#25 - Max Talbot

#28 - Claude Giroux

#36 - Zac Rinaldo

#37 - Jay Rosehill

#40 - Vincent Lecavalier *

#93 - Jakub Voracek

DEFENSE (7)

#5 - Braydon Coburn

#8 - Nicklas Grossmann

#22 - Luke Schenn

#26 - Erik Gustafsson

#32 - Mark Streit *

#41 - Andrej Meszaros

#44 - Kimmo Timonen

GOALTENDERS (2)

#29 - Ray Emery *

#35 - Steve Mason *

I marked Scott Laughton because he only played a few games last season before being sent back to Juniors. According to Holmgren, they may also go that route again this year. Holmgren said it was “too soon” to fully commit to keeping Laughton for a full season. So basically he may be on a 9 game tryout.

Peter Laviolette has yet to name a starter for the opening night, although I expect it to be Ray Emery. The Flyers probably will wait several games to fully commit to naming a starter. However, both are capable of playing #1 and it is a major upgrade from last year.

Mark Streit has looked good in the Preseason and for a 35 year old, seems to have a lot left in the tank.

Hall Gill is still without a contract. Holmgren stated “He liked what he saw “in Gill. I simply don’t see the reason for another Defenseman in their late 30s to be added on their roster. I know he brings experience and leadership but if you look at this roster, there are several who are qualified leaders. Timonen, Hartnell,Giroux, Lecavalier, and Talbot.

Vinny Lecavalier is also prepared to make his Flyers debut. This is an upgrade over Briere in my opinion because he’s slightly younger and more skilled. Plus he knows what it takes to win a cup. Playing with Superstars Marin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos for several years brings a wealth of knowledge to the team.

The top line which will consist of Hartnell-Giroux-Voracek has big expectations. Voracek who had a breakout year last year, is expected to only get better and Captain Claude is expected to rise above his performance last year. (Even though I think 48pts in 48 games is really good.) Since Giroux was labeled as “the best player in the world” by Coach Lavy, he’s expected to be a top 5 player in the NHL. He finished 15th overall last year. Hartnell was very disappointed in his performance last year. He broke his foot 3 games in, missed 16 games and wasn’t in shape. He’s spent all summer training for this season. "He's in the best shape of his life. His body fat is 7 percent lower than it's ever been.” said Holmgren. Hartnell also needs to live up to the 37 goal performance he had in 2011/12

season.

Brayden Schenn is in the final year of his contract and is still looking to have a breakout year. He’s going to want to earn a contract. The Flyers are also counting that he has a great year. He’s young, he’s fast he just needs to prove he can play at the level of his potential.

The only question mark is the defense. If the Flyers can keep a healthy Meszaros and a healthy Grossman, throw in Streit and you have yourself an upgraded and powerful Defense. The issue you ask? The system. The Flyers play an offensive minded system and their Defense are “Defensive minded.” The Flyers don’t have a stable puck carrying Defenseman, nor can they (as of now), properly make clear cut passes through the defensive zone. That will all fall on coaching but not just on Lavy. The assistant coaches are responsible as well to work on their game. We’ll see how it all pans out.

The Flyers don’t just have high expectations from the front office and ownership, but from the fans as well.

iban3z

blog-0403303001380494819.jpg This is my first blog in a year. I was left with a bitter taste in my mouth from the Lockout but this is a game that I love. I play it, I live it and I breathe it. If I had any type of talent passed my amateur talent, I’d be playing professional Ice hockey. But since I don’t, I can only observe the pros and write about them. So onto the Flyers and on what can we’ve seen during the preseason.

The Flyers had a very poor preseason going 1-5-1. The only thing that you can say that went well was, we got to see a good look at the Flyers Future. 1st round pick (11th overall) Sam Morin, surprised several coaches, fans and team mates during his brief stay in training camp. “He makes plays that are pure hockey plays, which you don’t expect from an 18-year-old,” said John Paddock Director of Player personnel. “He was really composed out there with the puck. That’s the thing that jumped out at me. Playing in his first exhibition in the NHL, I thought he was tremendous. He did some really good things with the puck.” added Assistant coach Craig Berube. Morin will play this year in Juniors and will work on his game and probably will put on some muscle. He will have a better chance of cracking the lineup next year and by the looks of things, he’ll be a very good defenseman once he’s developed.

We only got to see goalie prospect Anthony Stolarz for half a game in the first preseason contest. Stolarz looked strong stopping 15 of 16 shots. He’s played in 2 games so far this season with the London Knights with a shutout in his first game and winning the 2nd. Last season, he played in 20 games for the Knights going 13-3-1 with a shutout and a .920 Save % and a 2.29 GAA. He’s a good two years before he’s NHL ready and perhaps he could finally be the Flyers savior in goal. And maybe the Flyers won’t ship this one off in a trade and be patient for Stolarz to develop. (I’m referring to the Bobrovsky trade)

The Flyers look like they have decided who they’re going to roll with on opening night. On Saturday the Flyers waived Dman Bruno Gervais, Adam Hall, and sent down Chris VandeVelde. On Friday they sent Austrian winger Raffl and Dman Lauridsen to the Phantoms. Hal Gills future still remains up in the air and I hope the Flyers don’t end up taking him. Although he brings a wealth of experience, Gill is 38 years old, and not the Defenseman he once was. The Flyers need to get younger hand have quite a few younger defenseman capable of handling the 6th and 7th positions. Your top 5 are, Timmonen, Meszaros, Coburn, Streit and Schenn.

By making all these cuts, the Flyers have decided they are going to commit on young center Scott Laughton. I think Laughton will be a good player in this league, but the Flyers need to put him on a 3rd line. He won’t develop playing limited minutes on the 4th line. He does have a 9 game window. The Flyers could send him back to Juniors and not have year on his contract count. But once, he plays that 10th game, he’s here for good.

The Flyers shouldn’t have any issues on offensive this year as they have plenty of skaters you can put the puck into the back of the net. I still think the issue is the defense. I’m not saying they’re bad, but Peter Laviolette’s system is offensive minded and I don’t think this Blue line can handle it. Lavy may have to change it up soon because he’s on a short leash and maybe even shorter after a 1-5-1 preseason.

The Flyers open up the season at home versus the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday. If you're going, get there early. Flyers fans who are known for being passionate, loud and crazy have their work cut out from what I've seen from Jets, Rangers and Habs fans. We can do better than them!

iban3z

blog-0539984001326164689.jpgIt’s been the story of the Flyers’ life this season. Bad bounces + deflections = a goal past Ilya Bryzgalov.

Nothing changed during last night’s finale of a Home-and-Home series against the Ottawa Senators.

With just 1:11 left in the third, Filip Kuba took a shot from the point that changed direction and went passed Bryzgalov. That was the 2nd time that game that a Sens goal went off a Flyers’ stick. However, the Flyers had plenty of chances to take command of the game, but failed to cash in on special teams. The Flyers went 1 for 6 on the Power Play.

The other thing that may have cost the Flyers some chances was the return of Jagr. Normally that would be a good thing, but Jagr didn’t look the same. It appeared he was favoring some sort of injury which was probably his groin. Jagr, who doesn’t like to miss much time, only missed two games which is really not typical for a groin injury. Most Groin injuries take at least 10-14 days to heal and that’s if it’s not serious. Groin injuries could actually take months to heal and may require surgery if it’s the worst case scenario. (See Briere three years ago.)

The Flyers are struggling to stay consistent since their seven game win streak last month. At first, the Flyers reacted well to the news of losing team captain, Chris Pronger but now I think the absence is catching up to them. Since December 17, the Flyers have gone 5-6-1. Not great numbers if your team has players named; Claude Giroux, Jaromir Jagr, Danny Briere and Ilya Bryzgalov.

The Flyers Defense seems lost. I don’t think it’s the talent we have because the Flyers on paper have one of the deepest Defenses in the NHL. I think it’s the direction that’s causing the Flyers’ D to loosen their ends. Kimmo Timmonen is the leader of the Defense right now. Kimmo needs to band this defense together and get them going. Matt Carle and Brayden Coburn tend to disappear in some games which are causing them issues. Coburn and Carle are turning over the puck in the defensive zone with failed clears or lapse in communication and it’s costing them. Marc-Andre Burdon turned over the puck in the game against Chicago. He was being pressured and attempted a pass but it landed right on the tape of a Blackhawk and led to the game tying goal.

The Defense needs to look up first before they pass. A lot of blind passes are happening and it’s not working. The Defense needs to slow the pace down and look around. If they don’t find any options and are being pressured, the need to just get rid of it. Let me clarify; don’t attempt to carry the puck through a man, or pass it when being pressured. Flipping it out of the zone is the safest choice. Turnovers on the defensive are leading to too many goals.

The other issue with the Flyers that could be costing them would be their discipline. The Flyers are currently number one in PIMs in the NHL. 200 of their 240 penalties are minors. Their PK ranks at 16th with 82.5%. This is disastrous. The Flyers can’t afford to be spending time on the PK and using energy night in and night out not only on the PK but on the attack if they’re playing “catch-up.”

Down the stretch the Flyers need to establish some consistency with the defense, limit their penalties and rest some key players. The Flyers have a good checking line to keep the puck in the zone and help wear down their opponents, but they won’t be on the ice if the Flyers are trailing. This also makes their stars more vulnerable to injuries. The Flyers cannot afford any more injuries to the defense.

Even though I believe the Flyers have plenty of depth with the defense I expect them to make a move within the next month. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens due to the cap and certain players playing very well. Last year Hartnell would have been trade bait but since he’s become the 2nd player in points on the team and a very valuable asset to the “G” line, I don’t see him going anywhere. (He also has a NTC.)

Homer is a hard GM to read. Nobody thought he’d move Mike Richards or Jeff Carter especially after signing him to an 11 year contract. Unless the Flyers find consistency, someone is going to be brought in. I know the Flyers faithful are shouting for Shea Weber. Can we bring another big name in? Time will tell. The Flyers are in full control of their destiny.

NHL Trivia:

Which two teams opened the 1997-98 regular season, with a two-game series in Tokyo Japan?

iban3z

blog-0711912001325645149.jpgRing around the goalie, pocket full of? Nothing rhymes with goalie that would sound relevant. However, some may look at the Flyers current goalie situation as a ring around. To begin, Bryz started off the season playing very well going 3-1-1 in his first five games which included a shutout, something the Flyers didn’t see last season. Then Bryz began to slowly decline and admitted after the Winnipeg game that he “was lost in the woods” and that he had “zero” confidence in himself, but Lavy kept with him and Bryz found what the Flyers believe he had when they signed him to a nine year contract. Since the Flyers went a season high of winning seven straight games, the Flyers and Bryzgalov were met with a familiar foe, inconsistency.

The Flyers have played seven games since the winning streak had ended in a 6-0 defeat against the reigning Stanley Cup Champion, the Boston Bruins, and have gone 2-4-1 and have only scored 15 goals during that span. The goalies, have given up 23 goals in those seven games. This is not something the Flyers want to see, neither is this, what the fans expect to see.

However the Flyers have seen their fair share of triple deflections that superman couldn’t stop, or crazy bounces that happen to find their way passed the goal line and even miraculously falling right on the opposition’s tape for an easy garbage goal. These goals are going to happen and unfortunately, it’s been happening more than once and on a regular basis for the Flyers. On the contrary, several goals are pretty legit goals that were created by gifted set-ups, crashing the net and of course the power play. I’ve seen several goals that were scored due to a lapse of defense. I’ve seen several defensemen, stop covering their man and go after the puck carrier, leaving the open man alone in the front of the net. This happened several times during the Tampa game as Stamkos (The guy who you should never stop covering) was left alone on the door step and guess what happened? He scored two against the Flyers that night.

However, you can blame the defense for only so long however, and it can’t be on injuries. Yes they’re playing without their top defenseman and captain, Chris Pronger, but when your defense is getting beat you have that last line of defense for a reason. It’s a very good $52 Million reason at that if you’re paying close attention. Bryzgalov and Bobrovsky have let in their share of weak goals this season including the most recent two goals that Mike Rupp scored in the Winter Classic. Mike Rupp should not being scoring goals from the circle on a goalie like Sergei Bobrovsky.

This brings me to Lavy’s decision to start Bobrovsky over Bryz. Lavy decided to go with who’s been hotter more recently and realized that even though the Classic was the “mid season big stage,” he gave the start to a goalie who’s been trying to prove himself and has been playing well. On the other hand, I disagreed with the decision, only because Bryz seems to be lacking confidence right now. Lavy played him before with the “lost in the woods” debacle and he turned out to play a successful slew of games. I think sitting Bryz for the Winter Classic does send him a message, but it could send him the wrong message. Like it or not, Bryz is the guy. The contract states that. The team needs to buy into that, the coaches need to buy into that, the FANS need to buy in to that and most importantly, Bryzgalov and Bobrovsky need to buy into that. This guy needs his confidence back. Playing him during a extremely important divisional game on National Television shows that you (the coach) have confidence that he’s going to turn it around and play the way you expect him to play. As long as you have two goalies capable at playing the number one position and the coach keeps going with the hotter hand with each string of games, you’re going to have the same mistake and problem the Flyers had last year. It was a nightmare and if we have this, then all we’ve is set ourselves back.

You can blame the goalie on a loss, you can blame the defense on a loss but many seem to forget the score and take a look at the offense at the end of the game. As Bill Clement would say “In order to win the game, you have to score goals.” Yes the Defense can blow a game, the goalie can blow a game and the offense can come out flat and blow the game. In the end, you lose as a team and you win as a team. With the Flyers’ PP and PK numbers and their ability to not play the first period, the Flyers have bigger problems then just their goaltending. Look at the big picture, it’s a team game. The Team wins the Stanley Cup, not the goalie.

Next we’ll cover the boy on the milk carton, James VanRiemsdyk in the III part of this blog.

Follow me on Twitter for Flyers and NHL Updates @iban3zhead.

iban3z

blog-0116013001325213320.jpgWhat is four out of five? Four is the place the Flyers sit at, out of the Top 5 teams in the Eastern Conference. Four out of the last five Flyer injuries were “head” injuries. Finally, four out of five represents the current Flyers five game span, four losses. (Before Pittsburgh Game)

Many fans have some concern and are asking questions. Is our defense missing Pronger and do we need to make a trade for an upgrade? Is Ilya Bryzgalov the goalie we asked for when he signed the 9 year, 50+ million dollar contract? Where is the JVR from last years’ playoffs? All valid questions and a lot of fans who have posted on several message boards are worried and upset. Also for a lot of those forum posters who are quick to post before they think, I’ll walk you through some of the issues and why we shouldn’t be too concerned. Over the next three days we’ll cover these topics. Today we’ll look at the Defense.

I’m always concerned about the Flyers defense with or without Pronger. The Flyers have some serious depth at defense which include; Erik Gustafsson, Marc-Andre Burdon, and Kevin Marshall. All of these players have shown they can carry their own in the NHL. I actually think Burdon and Marshall are better than some of our veteran players.

If you break it down, Kimmo Timmonen has carried much of the load. He’s a warrior, who spends his off days working on his conditioning and prepping for the next game. His defensive-mind is much like Pronger’s and is a huge team leader both on and off the ice. He is our number one without Pronger. Then there is Matt Carle, who’s been Pronger’s partner. He plays really well and seems to be getting more mature on the blue line, game in and game out. The mistakes that he used to make are becoming more of ancient history. The Flyers will need him to continue this type of play to continue their success. Andrej Meszaros has finally come out of his early season funk and is looking like the Defenseman we saw last season. I’d currently rank him 2nd next to Timmonen on the squad. He’s been playing the puck well, creating turnovers and he like to carry the puck and create chances.

The defensemen who scare me are Andreas Lijia and Brayden Coburn. Coburn, shows flashes of greatness from time to time. His skate speed is his biggest asset. He also can clear the porch if the opportunity arises. However he is constantly turning over the puck in his own zone and several times it has led to goals. He’ll also take his eye off his man in the zone and cover someone else’s man, leaving him open in front of the goalie. That all can’t be blamed on him however, it is a lapse in communication. Whether it’s on his part or a teammates’ your communication needs to be established when you’re defending your zone. Bryzgalov threw his D-men under the bus earlier this season, claiming they had a communication problem. (This came after Bryzgalov played the puck to Coburn, but Coburn didn’t take it, thus leading to a goal.) Coburn is a streaky defenseman, who can play very well, but can cost you a goal.

Lijia has been a downgrade from Sean O’Donnell who signed with Chicago during the offseason. Lijia lacks speed and his defensive sense is more on an AHL Level. During his injury, his presence wasn’t missed at all, and since his return, he has struggled as the sixth defenseman. I wouldn’t be surprised one, Gustafsson returns from injury, we’ll see him scratch in favor of Burdon or maybe even Marshall if he is called back up. For now, both Lijia and Coburn need to find their strengths and ride them. The coaching staff also needs to point out their weaknesses and help them develop. The great thing about a professional hockey player is that they never stop developing until they hang their skates up. Every game is a learning opportunity.

With the Flyers depth at Defense and playing well, minus the little spurt they’ve had over the last five games, I don’t see them making a move. Most Flyer fans have been calling for a trade that would bring in Shea Webber. I don’t see that happening for several reasons. Reason one, being he’s out with a concussion. Before his injury I still didn’t see him being moved. For one, he has one season left on his contract. The Flyers would also have to move major salary in order to get him on the roster. I don’t see the Flyers moving a core player for a rental player. With Pronger coming back next year, Weber would not sign in the offseason. I can’t see that helping the team, even short term. I also don’t see them trading for anyone, personally. The Flyers have played very well without Pronger and with the defensive depth I think they’ll be just fine. Each team is going to have their droughts and I’m comfortable with them having it at Christmas, rather than April.

Tomorrow we’ll look at Bryzgalov and is he really to blame for the Flyers’ current sinking streak? Look for tomorrow’s blog.

Follow me on Twitter @iban3zhead

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