Saturday, February 28, 2009

Flyers send Giroux, Kukkonen to minors to make room for Briere

The mass exodus of Flyers players continues as they make room for the return of Danny Briere. This time, luckily, the Flyers didn't have to outright waive players, but the latest moves are nevertheless shocking: Phenom Claude Giroux and defenseman Lasse Kukkonen were both sent to the Phantoms. The Flyers also called up defenseman Nate Guenin to play tomorrow against the Devils because Kimmo Timonen is sick and the team doesn't have enough healthy d-men.

Sending Giroux down is a perplexing move. He has been one of the Flyers best forwards for the last month and was just starting to hit his stride in the NHL. Flyers GM Paul Holmgren hinted that the Flyers would likely call Giroux back up once Timonen was healthy and Guenin could be sent down, but you would think the Flyers could have figured out another way to get rid of a few dollars, like sending Darroll Powe and Jared Ross down to the Phantoms. Losing Kukkonen isn't a big deal but it does leave the Flyers with no depth on the blue line.

The Flyers are playing a tough game with the salary cap. The move to acquire Matt Carle earlier in the season essentially left them with no choice but to get rid of several players once everyone was healthy. All of the mess they are in now could also hinder them as they try to make a move at the trade deadline. The Flyers are usually always one of the more active teams at the deadline, but they will need to dump some salary before they can make any kind of move for a quality player.

Let's hope that Claude Giroux will only play a few games with the Phantoms and that the Flyers can figure out a better solution to their salary cap woes. Giroux is ready for the NHL now and the Flyers would really be doing a disservice to his development if they make him play in the AHL.

It's official: Dawkins signs 5 year deal with Broncos

If this is what it would have taken to keep Brian Dawkins in Philly, maybe the Eagles were smart to let him go. Dawkins has officially signed with the Broncos, getting a 5 year, 17 million dollar deal. According to Adam Schefter of NFL Network, the deal could be worth as much as 27 million over the 5 years and it could also be reduced to 2 years, 9 million.

Really, Denver, 5 years? There is no way that the 35 year old Dawkins will be playing for 5 more seasons, so this deal is probably really just for the 2 year minimum. B-Dawk should be a solid player and a great leader over those 2 years.

The Eagles have now officially lost their heart and soul. The only positive to come from this move is they will now get signicantly younger on defense. The Birds are still way under the cap so it will be interesting to see what they do next to plug some of their holes.

Dawkins to the Broncos appears done

Bad news, Eagles fans. The signing that was off and on and back off again appears to be pretty much official: Brian Dawkins is going to sign with the Broncos. Barring some 11th hour offer, the Eagles are going to lose their defensive leader.

The story was initially leaked as a rumor by the San Francisco Chronicle and was then refuted by several sources, including Adam Schefter of NFL Network. Unfortunately, two reliable sources have come out late Friday night and confirmed that Dawkins has all but signed on the dotted line: Fox 29 of Philadelphia and Derrick Gunn of Comcast Sportsnet.

The shocking part about Dawkins leaving is the fact that the Eagles sit some 40 plus million dollars under the cap. You can't tell me they can't afford to pay Dawkins a few extra bucks over two years to let him retire an Eagle. We know that Dawkins isn't asking for a ton of money, he simply wants more than a one year deal.

The Eagles better have a plan up their sleeve about how they are going to make this team better because all they have done this offseason is lose players. Losing Correll Buckhalter, Lito Sheppard and L.J. Smith aren't huge blows but when you add in a veteran leader like Dawkins, you have to wonder if the team will remain one of the best in the NFC again next year.

I hope that it isn't true as much as the next Eagles fan, but it appears that Brian Dawkins will not be wearing Eagles green next season. Seeing him in a Broncos uniform is going to make me sick.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Lito Sheppard traded to the Jets

It looks like the Eagles will be losing at least one player from their secondary today. No, there is no confirmation yet that Brian Dawkins has signed with the Broncos. Instead, disgruntled cornerback Lito Sheppard, who has been on the trading block for about a year, is about to be traded to the New York Jets. Sheppard has wanted out of Philly ever since the Birds brought in Asante Samuel, and with the recent signing of Joselio Hansen to a long-term deal, the writing was on the wall that Sheppard was a goner.

There is no word yet on what the Eagles would receive in return for Sheppard. Anything above a third round pick would be a surprise. Sheppard would step right in and be a starter in New York. I guess one team's garbage is another team's gold.

Updated: It's now official. Lito to the Jets for a 2009 5th round pick and a conditional 2010 pick. That's even less than I thought they would get for Lito.

Brian Dawkins is a Bronco?

It's now official (?). Brian Dawkins has signed with the Denver Broncos. The Eagles were too cheap to offer a multi-year deal to a guy that has given everything he had to the team so he left town. Yet another Philly legend will end his career in another place. Good luck, B-Dawk, and thanks for everything you have done for the Birds. You were the heart and soul of the defense and you truly bled Eagles green.

In other news, the Eagles will now start Quintin Demps at free safety.

Update: Not so fast! There are a ton of conflicting reports out there about whether Dawkins has actually signed with the Broncos. The original story came from the San Francisco Chronicle (why would they be the one breaking it?), but Adam Schefter of the NFL Network reports that no deal has been signed and that Dawkins hasn't even landed in Denver yet. Stay tuned, B-Dawk may not be a Bronco. Yet.

Update #2: Well, now it's official. Dawkins is a Bronco.

Smith, Buckhalter, Considine on the move, Dawkins next to leave the Eagles?

Day one of NFL Free Agency is always filled with rumors and speculation about where each player is going to land. The Eagles have signed only one player so far but there is plenty of news about players who are leaving town. So far, the Eagles have either lost or are close to losing L.J. Smith, Correll Buckhalter and Sean Considine. There is also word that Brian Dawkins is off visiting another team.

L.J. Smith is expected to sign with the Atlanta Falcons. The Eagles never had any intention of bringing back their former "franchise tag" player. Smith was nothing but a disapointment in his years in Philly, he was so full of promise but he just couldn't hang on to the ball. Brent Celek is currently the starting tight end.

Correll Buckhalter is also expected to leave town and sign with the Denver Broncos. Buck wants a chance at a starting gig and should get a chance to compete for one in Denver. The Eagles had some interest in bringing Buckhalter back, but only at the right price. You can bet the Broncos offered more years and more money than the Birds were willing to offer. The Eagles are now left to search for a backup running back. There are rumors that Derrick Ward of the Giants may come in for a visit.

In a move that won't upset any Eagles fan, safety Sean Considine has set up a visit with the Jaguars. It will be the ultimate move of addition by subtraction, anyone who watched Considine play last year knows that he is just not a good football player.

Finally, there was also some bad news for the Eagles. Free agent safety Brian Dawkins was offered a one year deal by the Birds but he has yet to accept it. Instead, he is on his way to Denver to visit the Broncos. Dawkins is likely seeing if he can get a multi-year deal and he may also be putting pressure on the Eagles to up the offer. I would still put my money on Dawkins returning to Philly for one last season.

There is no other word on any players the Eagles have interest in. You can bet they are talking to several free agents but they are very good about not letting word leak out until they are ready to sign.

Flyers lose both Metropolit and Vaananen

To clear salary space for the returning Danny Briere, the Flyers waived both Glen Metropolit and Ossi Vaananen yesterday. The Flyers exposed them to waivers hoping that one or both of them would clear and they could be sent to the Phantoms. Unfortunately, both players were claimed: Metro by the Canadiens and Vaananen by the Canucks.

As I said yesterday, losing Vaananen isn't a huge blow, he wasn't playing much anyway. Losing Metropolit is a bigger deal since he was such a valuable penalty killer and a solid checking center. It hurts even more than he went to a rival of the Flyers like the Canadiens.

The Flyers knew the risk they were taking by exposing Metropolit and Vaananen to waivers. Both players had reasonable salaries and can be contributing players on most NHL clubs. Oh well, I guess that's the price you pay to bring a talent like Briere back in the fold.

Eagles sign Stacy Andrews

The Eagles have signed a former member of the Cincinnati Bengals, but probably not the one that most fans were hoping for. Offensive tackle Stacy Andrews, brother of Eagle Shawn Andrews, has signed with the Birds, pending a physical. Terms for the contract are not known at this point, but is saying he will get about 7 million per season in a multiyear deal.

Andrews is a right tackle so this could signify the end of Jon Runyan's tenure in Philly. He is only 27 and has a lot of upside if he can stay healthy. Apparently, passing his physical might not be a sure thing because he tore two ligaments in his knee in the final game of the season.

This signing could also help out the mental state of Shawn Andrews. Having his brother on the team might help him if he ever starts going in a funk again.

Overall, not a bad signing for the Birds. Andrews was the best tackle available in free agency and, if he stays healthy, he should be an impact player.

Houshmandzadeh leaning towards returning to Bengals

As of 12:01 Friday, Free agency is officially underway. Unfortunately, it already looks like Donovan McNabb might not get a top offensive weapon. T.J. Houshmandzadeh is the number one wide receiver available and many speculated that he would be signing with either the Eagles or the New York Giants. Well, word has come from The National Football Post that Housh is close to returning to the Cincinnati Bengals with the chances he will sign with Cincy being set at 70%. That's right, instead of signing with a good team where he might have a chance to win a championship, Houshmandzadeh is leaning towards going back to his old, crappy team.

While Housh wouldn't be the cure for everything that ails the Eagles offense, he would have helped give the Eagles one of the best receiver trios in the league. Any quarterback would love to throw to Housh, Kevin Curtis and DeSean Jackson. Alas, it doesn't look like it is meant to be. The Eagles had better double their efforts in trying to pry Anquan Boldin out of the desert.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Metropolit, Vaananen out; Briere in for the Flyers

A star Flyers player is set to return to the ice but it will be at the expense of a pair of veteran players.

Danny Briere is set to make his return to the ice on Friday, meaning the Flyers have to clear some space. Briere makes 6.5 million and adding him to the active roster will put the Flyers over the salary cap. To make room, the team has waived Glen Metropolit and Ossi Vaananen and are also expected to waive Lasse Kukkonen. The Flyers may also send Darroll Powe to the minors to make even more space.

While Metro and Vaananen were both waived, that doesn't mean they won't be Flyers anymore. Guys get waived all the time in the NHL and they still stay with their teams. I think Kukkonen has been waived at least half a dozen times by the Flyers at this point. Metro and Vaananen can still clear waivers and be sent down to the minors, a move that takes their salary off the NHL books.

Metropolit has been a solid player for the Flyers this season, doing everything you would want a checking center to do. The Flyers hand has been forced as they try to get under the cap, but I think they will still do whatever they can to keep Metro around. Ossi Vaananen is another story. Once Ryan Parent returned, Vaananen has found it nearly impossible to get on the ice unless another defenseman is sick or injured. He makes a solid 7th defenseman but the Flyers wouldn't shed a tear if he was gone.

The most important thing about these moves is the fact that Danny Briere is returning to the Flyers. The team has already been on a roll as of late, adding a top line forward like Briere to the mix can only make them better. It will be interesting to see how the lines shape up with Briere back, could John Stevens re-unite the Simon Gagne/Mike Richards/Briere line from earlier in the season? What a line that could be!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Phillies drop Spring Training Opener

Thank goodness it was a completely meaningless game, otherwise we would all be worried that the Phillies lost to the Pirates 8-2. Jamie Moyer started for the Phils and pitched two scoreless innings, but two pitchers not likely to be on the major league club this year, Joe Bisenius and Scott Nestor, gave up 7 of the runs.

The batters didn't fare much better, accumulating only 7 hits. New Phillie Raul Ibanez had an RBI single in the third inning, providing the only highlight for any every day player. Outfielder Jeremy Slaydon was the only Phillie with two hits.

While the outcome wasn't great, the fact that baseball is starting up again is what matters. As we all know, you can't take anything from these early Spring Traning games, especially considering the 11-6 loss the Phils had last season to kick off Spring Training against these same Pirates. And we all know how last season turned out!

The World Champs are back on the field

In case you haven't been paying attention amongst all the Eagles rumors, the World Champion Phillies are down in Florida getting ready to defend their title. They take the field for their first Spring Training game today against the Pirates at 1:05.

Here is the lineup the Phils will be using:

  1. Jimmy Rollins SS
  2. Shane Victorino CF
  3. Raul Ibanez LF
  4. Ryan Howard 1B
  5. Geoff Jenkins RF
  6. Matt Stairs DH
  7. Jason Donald 2B
  8. Eric Bruntlett 3B
  9. Chris Coste C
Notice how lefty-heavy that lineup is? The Phils should murder right handed pitching this year.

Pitching for the Phillies will be Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton. While most won't be watching this game, it is still going to be exciting to have some baseball to follow. I can't wait to see if the World Champs can do it again.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Phillies to be featured in reality show!

Now this is a reality show worth watching.

The ultimate "reality show", of course, is watching a live sporting event, but the MLB Network has announced it will be making a must-see reality program on our World Champion Philadelphia Phillies. The show will be called "The Pen", and it will follow the Phillies bullpen through the first few months of the season. It won't be a show that follows the players around 24/7 like Big Brother, instead they will film a few times a month.

Get ready to know more than you ever wanted to know about Brad Lidge and Scott Eyre and to see what kinds of things these guys get into with all of their down time. The show will debut on June 1st on the MLB Network so make sure you get the channel or know someone that does!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Video: Sixers lose to Nets on crazy halfcourt shot

We've all seen halfcourt shots to win basketball games before, but what Devin Harris does to beat the Sixers at the buzzer on Monday Night is just ridiculous:

No matter how many times I watch this clip, I think there is no way he can get enough control on the ball to actually put it anywhere close to the basket, let alone swishing it home. The other thing I can't believe is how close Andre Iguodala is to fouling Harris and giving him a chance to win the game at the free throw line.

The Sixers, now losers of four games in a row, just keep finding new ways to lose a basketball game.

Thanks to for uploading this to YouTube.

McNabb wants Eagles to upgrade before he signs an extension

I have avoided talking about Donovan McNabb this offseason on purpose. Based on his solid play at the end of last season and what Kevin Kolb has shown us so far, I figured that McNabb was definitely going to be the starter next season and the Eagles would likely give him the extension that he has been wanting. McNabb was unhappy with the way the Eagles treated him after being benched in Week 12, but he would have his sit down meeting with the Birds and the front office would eventually give Donovan what he wants.

Apparently, it's not the Eagles who are hesitant to give McNabb an extension, it's the quarterback himself who might not be ready to sign the dotted line. According to a report from ESPN, McNabb met with the Eagles last week and not only discussed his benching last season, but also made it known, once again, that he wants more playmakers. McNabb wants to hold off on discussing a long term contract with the Eagles until he sees what, if anything, the Eagles do in free agency and the draft to upgrade the team. Essentially, he doesn't want to sign an extension with the Eagles until they prove to him that they are serious about winning right now, not sometime down the road.

This is a complete reversal of what McNabb had been saying up to this point. Everything we have been hearing from McNabb and the Eagles has been how the quarterback wanted an extension from the Eagles and he wasn't going to be happy until he got one. Now it appears that McNabb is trying a new strategy to put pressure on the Eagles.

Donovan McNabb sees that his football career is winding down and he wants to win a championship. By basically demanding the Eagles upgrade their roster or he won't be around for long, McNabb is putting pressure on the front office to get something done. The ESPN article even speculates that McNabb could demand a trade out of town if the Eagles don't make moves to make the team better. While that seems a bit extreme, it does signify that McNabb is serious about winning a championship, whether it be with the Eagles or another team, in the next few years.

So, the ball is in your court, Eagles. I think trading for Anquan Boldin would be a nice start to appeasing your quarterback!

Marvin Harrison and the Eagles: a perfect match?

Why is it that every available receiver be linked to the Eagles? The next wideout linked to the Birds is Colts veteran Marvin Harrison, who is likely to get cut in the coming days due to his large salary and dwindling statistics. The Eagles make a possible landing spot for Harrison because he is a native Philadelphian and he has ties with Donovan McNabb, a fellow teammate at Syracuse.

However, why the Eagles would want this aging receiver is beyond me. Yes, he is an 8 time Pro Bowler, but he will turn 37 in August and is way past his prime. In the last two seasons combined, Harrison has caught only 80 passes for only 883 yards. He has dealt with a number of injuries, but those two seasons combined are much worse than anything he put up in his prime, when he routinely had 100 catches and 1500 yards. He has lost more than a step or two since those days.

So, while Harrison will very likely want to come home to Philly should he get cut, let's hope the Eagles don't make the interest mutual. Harrison could be had for a cheap price, but he would be nothing more than a number three wideout on this team behind Kevin Curtis and DeSean Jackson. Even then, is he really much better than Jason Avant?

If signing Marvin Harrison would mean the end of any possibility of the Eagles getting Anquan Boldin or T.J. Houshmandzadeh, then I am against the move. If the Eagles have no other options, then a year of a broken down Harrison catching 45 passes wouldn't be so bad. Just don't expect Harrison to be the playmaker the team sorely needs.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Anquan Boldin wants a new deal by Tuesday or he wants out of Arizona

The Anquan Boldin saga continues. The disgruntled Cardinals wide receiver, who had recently softened on his demands to be traded out of Arizona, has given the Cardinals an ultimatum: give me a contract extension by Tuesday (Feb. 24) or trade me.

Boldin made this statement while being interviewed on radio station XTRA 910 in Arizona. Apparently his change of heart about wanting out of town was only for a limited time. I am not sure what the significance is of a Tuesday deadline, but presumably that would give the Cardinals enough time to trade Boldin before free agency begins, should they choose to do so.

However, according to Arizona GM Rod Graves, the Cardinals stance with Anquan Boldin hasn't changed. In a quote from an article written by Paul Domowitch for, Graves made it pretty clear the team wasn't going to be pressured into extending Boldin's contract: "Anquan has 2 years left on his contract. We understand how he feels and we’re taking all of that into consideration. And hopefully, we’ll address it over time."

Sounds like Boldin won't get his extension before Tuesday, but Eagles fans shouldn't start buying their Boldin jerseys yet. Just because Boldin wants out doesn't mean the Cardinals are going to trade him. They may be forced to down the road, especially if Boldin continues to create problems or he chooses to hold out, but for now he is still an Arizona Cardinal.

With Drew Rosenhaus representing Boldin, it may be only a matter of time before enough things are said for Boldin to be shipped out of town. Should that happen, the Eagles better be ready and waiting to make an offer the moment Boldin goes on the market.

See you later, Lito: Eagles sign Joselio Hanson to 5 year deal

It looks like the Eagles will finally be getting rid of Lito Sheppard. Nickel cornerback Joselio Hanson, who stepped up big time last year as the Birds dealt with the disgruntled Lito, signed a 5 year deal with the Eagles worth 21 million. Hanson is coming off his best season where he had lots of big hits and his first career interception. While this may seem like a lot of money for a third string cornerback, Hanson has proven himself to be a valuable member of the Eagles secondary.

This move should signify the end of Lito Sheppard with the Eagles. With Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown locked in as starters, there is no room on the team for four cornerbacks making big money, so I would expect the Eagles to trade Lito in the near future. They probably won't get much for Sheppard, but getting anything at this point is a bonus.

The Eagles screwed up in not trading Lito Sheppard when he had more value, but the emergence of Hanson has forced the Eagles hand. Let the speculation for where Lito will end up, and what the Birds will get in return, begin.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Eagles to bring back Dawkins, Thomas

After their free agent possibilities took a major hit yesterday, it was nice to get some good news on the Eagles front today. According to Andy Reid, the Eagles are closing in on re-signing veterans Brian Dawkins and Tra Thomas. Reid believes that deals will happen for both "in the next few days".

Both players are unrestricted free agents. After learning that Jordan Gross, the best available free agent offensive lineman, signed a long-term deal with the Panthers, the Eagles had no choice but to bring back Thomas. With Jon Runyan coming off of major surgery, the Birds would have had two glaring holes at the offensive tackle position. Thomas will turn 35 next season but he is still an effective player when healthy. I would expect him to sign a one or two year deal.

Bringing Dawkins, a 7 time Pro Bowler, back for another season also makes a lot of sense. He is the vocal leader on defense and played extremely well last season. Many thought that the Eagles would let Dawkins go because that has been their tendency with players on the other side of 35, but given his Pro Bowl play last season, he needs to be back with the Birds for at least one more year.

The Eagles are left with three possible unrestricted free agents: Jon Runyan, Correll Buckhalter and L.J. Smith. Buck and Smith are as good as gone, Runyan is still up in the air.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Bad news for the Eagles: Gross signed, Peppers tagged, Boldin willing to stay in Arizona

With free agency just over a week away, Eagles fans have been salivating at the idea of signing some of the top available talent. The Birds need help along the offensive line and at wide receiver so rumors have been running rampant over which free agents the team is targeting. Unfortunately for the Eagles, three players believed to be on the radar have now been taken off.

The Carolina Panthers had a pair of free agents, tackle Jordan Gross and defensive end Julius Peppers, and it didn't look like they would be able to keep both of them. Speculation around the league was that the Panthers would slap the franchise tag on one of the players and the other would be able to leave via free agency, possibly going to Philly. Well, the Panthers found a solution to their dilemma: they signed Gross to a 6 year contract and then subsequently franchised Peppers. Both are returning to Carolina, neither will be an Eagle.

The other hot free agent Birds fans desperately want to see in an Eagle uniform is Anquan Boldin. Boldin has been saying all offseason that he wants out of Arizona, citing unhappiness with his contract and irreparable differences with the Cardinals. The Eagles would be one of many teams that would be a likely landing spot for Boldin and they have the draft picks and the money to welcome him with open arms. There is word today, however, that Boldin has changed his mind about leaving Arizona. Now, instead of wanting out of town, Boldin is willing to stay with the Cardinals if they are willing to give him a new contract. Of course, with the team already paying Larry Fitzgerald a ton of money, there is no guarantee that the Cards will fork over top dollar for another receiver, but Boldin has taken the first step towards another season in the desert.

So, where does this leave the Eagles? For the most part, they will now probably have to rely much more on the draft that on free agency. With Gross out of the picture, the Eagles will also likely re-sign Tra Thomas. Peppers staying in Carolina doesn't affect what they will do on defense since they really don't have any major holes along the line. At wide receiver, the Eagles have publicly stated they won't pursue another wideout, but T.J. Houshmandzadeh will still be on the market and he becomes the number one free agent receiver.

None of the news that has come out today is good news. The Eagles will now need to look at less glamorous ways to shore up holes on their team. Getting Gross, Peppers or Boldin were never sure things but having them out of the picture will certainly limit the Birds options going forward. The draft now becomes that much more important for the Eagles.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Eagles won't use franchise tag, are shopping Justice

With free agency just around the corner, the Eagles are making their final adjustments as they prepare to, hopefully, solidify their offense this offseason.

One move the Eagles won't make is they won't use their franchise tag on any of their possible free agents. This move was expected since the Birds don't really have anyone that they would want to retain for the high price of a franchised player. With both offensive tackles Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan set to be free agents, there was some thought the Eagles might use the tag on Thomas. That would ensure that the Eagles wouldn't have to completely rebuild their offensive line but the Eagles must not want to pay the 34 year old lineman top dollar. L.J. Smith was franchised last season and was a waste of a contract; the Eagles smartly did not franchise him again.

Another player likely on his way out of town is offensive lineman Winston Justice. Justice, a former second round pick, has been a disappointment for the Eagles and had never rebounded from the pounding he took against the Giants two years ago. According to the Daily News, the Birds are ready to move Justice and have put him on the trading block. I'm not sure what they will get for a backup offensive lineman who has shown nothing in his limited playing time but it can't hurt to see who might want him.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Phantoms to wear jersey honoring the Broad Street Bullies

The Philadelphia Phantoms, in their final season playing across the street from the Flyers, are honoring their NHL club by wearing a special jersey commemorating the best Flyers teams ever. As we all know, the Flyers won two Stanley Cup in the 70's with a team nicknamed the Broad Street Bullies for the way they beat teams down while they beat them on the scoreboard. The Phantoms will wear a jersey that features an orange and black color scheme along with the name "Broad Street Bullies" across the front for a home game on February 20th. These aren't throwback jerseys, they are jerseys specifically designed for this event.

The idea sounds cool, but I'm not too crazy about the jersey design. The horizontal black and white stripes remind me too much of a prison uniform. It's also interesting they chose to feature Claude Giroux's jersey on the website considering he won't be playing for the Phantoms any time soon. At least it isn't as ugly as the throwback uni's the Canadiens wore a few weeks back:

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Flyers rout Rangers on National TV

(AP Photo/John Dunn)
There's nothing better than a little Sunday afternoon hockey, especially when it's the Flyers whipping the Rangers. The Flyers beat the Rangers 5-2 in a game that was even more of a blowout than the final score indicated.

The Flyers scored first in the opening period when Claude Giroux netted his 3rd career NHL goal. Philly then blew the game wide open with a 4 goal second period to take a commanding 5-0 lead and never looked back. The Rangers played listlessly throughout the game although they were able to net two inconsequential goals.

Philly had several great efforts in the game. Mike Richards had a spectacular breakaway 5 on 3 shorthanded goal early in the second period. That goal was the third 3 on 5 goal scored by Richards in his career, an NHL record. Giroux also played one of the best games of his career, scoring that early goal and adding a pair of assists. Martin Biron also played well in net, stopping 35 of 37 shots.

As one would expect in a lopsided contest between two rivals, the game was chippy throughout and had a pair of fights and a couple of game misconducts. In a weird scheduling quirk, it was the first time the Rangers and Flyers had played each other since the Flyers first game of the season on October 11th. Now the two teams will play each other 4 more times in the final 27 games so expect a lot more bad blood as the two teams battle for playoff positioning. Of course, with the way the Rangers, losers of 7 of their last 8, are playing, they may be out of playoff contention when these two teams meet up again.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Cole Hamels is your Opening Day starter

It could have been the easiest decision Charlie Manuel has ever had to make: World Series MVP Cole Hamels will be the Opening Day starter for the Phillies. While this isn't surprising news, it is interesting that Manuel made the decision on the first day that pitchers and catchers report. Normally, Manuel makes the announcement a few weeks into Spring Training.

It will be the first of hopefully many Opening Day starts for Cole Hamels. It will be on April 5th against the Atlanta Braves, who will likely have Derek Lowe on the mound.

Can't wait until the Phillies start defending their World F'n Championship!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Heckert: Eagles to target offensive line, not wideouts

While all the rumors about Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh coming to the Eagles are intriguing, they're only rumors unless the Birds actually do something about it. Ever since the Eagles had the T.O. experience, they have been hesitant to go out and acquire a big name free agent wide receiver. It appears that will be the case again this offseason, at least according to GM Tom Heckert.

Heckert sat down for an interview with Fox 29 and laid out the Eagles plans for the offseason. He said the number one priority for the Birds is to "figure out the offensive line situation", whether it's through the draft or free agency. The team has two aging, unsigned tackles and will need to find a way to build for the future while still protecting Donovan McNabb next season.

The only other area of need that Heckert said the team will address is at backup running back. With Correll Buckhalter likely out the door as a free agent, the Eagles will need to find someone else to get 5 touches a game when Brian Westbrook is healthy and be able to carry the load for those 2 games that Westbrook misses every year. Lorenzo Booker is not the answer for the Eagles and they know it, so I would look for them to draft a running back with one of their first round picks.

The line and the running backs were the only needs addressed by Heckert, meaning the wide receivers aren't a priority for the Eagles. Heckert even said that with the drafting of DeSean Jackson last year, the team has already gotten all the receiver help it needs. I hope you are all comfortable with another year of Jackson and Kevin Curtis as the main targets because that looks like all we are going to get.

While none of this news comes as a shock, it's still disappointing. The Eagles saw what having a top wideout did for the Cardinals and you would think they would do everything they could to give Donovan McNabb that kind of weapon. Unfortunately, they just don't view wide receivers as being as important as other positions. They are simply happy with the depth they have at wideout and aren't concerned with adding top-end targets. McNabb has proven that he can flourish no matter who he is throwing to so the Eagles feel like they don't need to waste their resources on playmakers on the outside.

None of the statements made by Heckert completely rule out the Eagles acquiring a wide receiver this offseason. Even if the Birds were going all-out in searching for a wideout, this wouldn't come out and say that was an area of need. The Eagles have always played things close to the vest so Heckert is likely not playing all of his cards in this interview. He stuck to the more obvious needs that everyone already knew about and kept any other thoughts to himself. That's just the Eagle way.

Watch the Heckert interview for yourself:

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Eagles could be landing spot for Holt, Pace?

Another day, another Eagles rumor. This one seems pretty far fetched, however.

The St. Louis Rams have two players with hefty contracts: wide receiver Torry Holt and tackle Orlando Pace. Holt has recently switched agents so he is represented by the same agent as Pace. The two veteran players now appear to be linked together as the Rams decide whether to release them, trade them or try to re-structure their contracts. The Rams would save the most money if they could find another team willing to take the two veterans off their hands.

Enter the Eagles, who could use a receiver and a tackle. While both players are aging veterans, believes that the Eagles and Rams make perfect trading partners. New Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo has connections with the Birds, but even that probably wouldn't be enough to get a deal done between the two teams. The Eagles aren't in the business of taking hefty contracts off the hands of other teams, especially for players on the downsides of their careers.

While Torry Holt isn't as exciting an option as Anquan Boldin or T.J. Houshmandzadeh (see the poll at the left), the Eagles would be interested in him at the right price. If Holt is willing to take a pay cut, he would be a decent fallback option but he definitely shouldn't be the first option for the Eagles. As far as Pace goes, the Eagles should stay away. He's too old and injury-prone to make an impact in the twilight of his career.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

If Cardinals trade Boldin, Eagles are "frontrunners"

Two reports have come out in recent days regarding Anquan Boldin and the Eagles continuing search for a top wide receiver. The reports aren't earth-shattering, it's the typical information and misinformation we have been hearing all along.

The first report is encouraging to Birds fans. According to John Clayton of ESPN, the Eagles are the frontrunners to acquire Anquan Boldin with the Giants the next team in line. Clayton believes it would take a 1st and 3rd rounder to get Boldin, certainly a reasonable price for the Eagles since they have that extra first round pick to dangle.

The second report is not as promising. According to, the Cardinals have no interest in trading Boldin. Boldin is under contract for 2 more years so Arizona doesn't feel any pressure to move him right now. Despite his requests for a trade, the Cards want to hold on to the disgruntled receiver, much like the Bengals held onto to Chad Johnson despite his many trade demands. Boldin may just have to wait it out and play for his measly 2.75 million next season. He won't have any leverage to leave town unless he holds out during training camp.

So, what's the bottom line from these two reports? We don't really know anything yet. We don't know if the Cardinals will trade Boldin. We don't know what it would take to get him if they did. Just about the only thing we do know is that the Eagles should be in the mix should Boldin ever hit the market.

We'll have to continue to wait this one out. Like I said last offseason, don't hold your breath waiting for the Eagles to get a top wideout.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Who needs Brand? Speights is great!

(AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)
Who needs Elton Brand when you have a rookie who is playing like this?

The Sixers thought highly of Marreese Speights when they selected him with the 16th pick in the 2008 draft but I don't think even they expected this kind of production. Speights, taking advantage of extended minutes with Elton Brand out for the season, exploded for a career-high 24 points as the Sixers knocked off the visiting Phoenix Suns, 108-91. It was the Sixers third straight victory.

Speights played his best game as a pro and completely took over the game in the second quarter, scoring 16 of 18 Sixer points over a 7 minute stretch. During that time, Speights was flying through the air and had three alley-oop dunks. The impressive rookie added 7 boards and 2 blocks while playing just 24 minutes.

The Suns aren't exactly known for their defense but that doesn't diminish from Speights' spectacular performance. When he gets minutes, he consistently produces big numbers. If you extrapolate his numbers out to 40 minutes a game, Speights would score 20 points and pull in just under 10 rebounds. Not bad for a rookie.

With Brand out for the rest of the year, expect Speights to only get better. The quick development of the rookie makes the signing of Brand look even more questionable, although no one could have expected this kind of performance right away. Unfortunately, since Brand and Speights are both power forwards, there may not be room for both to get the minutes they need next season. Just ask yourself if you would rather see the plodding Brand or the high-flying Speights and you know what Ed Stefanski will have to do.

Monday, February 9, 2009

20/20 Hindsight: Elton Brand vs. Josh Smith

Just throwing this thought out there. Remember back in the offseason when the Sixers were looking to sign a power forward and the rumor was they were going to sign either Elton Brand or Josh Smith? I know we are only halfway into Brand's first season as a Sixer, but compare the stats of the two so far this season:

Brand: 29 games, 13.8 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.6 SPG, 1.5 BPG
Smith: 38 games, 16.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.6 BPG

Both players have missed some time due to injuries, of course Brand is currently out for the year. Josh Smith is a box score stuffer who would have fit right in with the Sixers run-and-gun style of play that Brand has issues keeping up with. Throw in the fact that Smith is 23 and Brand is almost 30 and out for the season and it's almost a no-brainer which player the Sixers should have pursued. Of course, there is no way to know if the Sixers would have made an offer to Smith, a restricted free agent, that was high enough that the Atlanta Hawks couldn't have matched. The Grizzlies did manage to sign Smith to an offer sheet but the Hawks matched it, keeping Smith in Atlanta.

Hindsight is 20/20 but you won't find a Sixer fan anywhere who wouldn't rather have the young, athletic Smith on the team than the injured Elton Brand. I hope Brand does everything in his power to prove us all wrong.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Eagles receiver search continues: Housh, Boldin, Holt?

The NFL offseason is barely a week old and already the Eagles rumor mill is churning with speculation that the Birds will go after one of possibly several available wide receivers. It's a rumor that never dies because it's a need that never gets filled. Kevin Curtis and DeSean Jackson are both excellent number two receivers but neither is the big possession receiver that the Eagles really need. Fans have been clamoring for a star receiver in Eagles green since last spring when Randy Moss, Roy Williams and Anquan Boldin all were rumored targets. The following three receivers are players the Eagles should be targeting this offseason:

T.J. Houshmandzadeh is the candidate who seems to be the most available and makes the most sense. Housh is a free agent who seems highly unlikely to re-sign with the crappy Bengals and is looking to join a Super Bowl contender. He has even gone so far as to come on Philadelphia radio and proclaim his interest in the Eagles. Of course, he will probably go to every city and say the same thing about every team, that's just what free agents do. Regardless, Housh's ability to make the tough catches across the middle would be the perfect complement to the speedy Curtis and Jackson. At 31, he isn't young, but how can you argue with 90+ catches the last three years? He isn't a big-play guy but he could fill the role of possession receiver that Reggie Brown will never be.

Another player who could be available is Anquan Boldin. Much has been written on this website and many others about Boldin wanting out of Arizona. He has long been unhappy with the huge contract his teammate Larry Fitzgerald has and has repeatedly said that he wants a new deal or he is leaving town. Boldin has even recently said that his relationship with the Cardinals has gotten so bad that he doesn't think it will ever be repaired. While Boldin is often injured, he is still young and would be another great target for Donovan McNabb. He would look great in the Eagles offense with his ability to make short catches and turn them into big plays with his size and speed. If he wants out of Arizona, that Eagles had better be making an offer. One possible snag is that his agent is the nefarious Drew Rosenhaus, someone the Eagles would prefer not to work with.

One last possible receiver on the Eagles radar has to be Torry Holt. The Rams are looking for some cap space and they have made it known that the former Pro Bowl receiver is available. Holt is 32 but has still averaged 83 catches over the last 3 seasons. He has certainly lost a step but he is still a solid possession receiver. The biggest issue with Holt has to be his contract. He is scheduled to make 10 million dollars next season, a price that the Eagles will be reluctant to pay for an aging veteran.

All three of the above players would be upgrades for the Eagles. While none is extremely likely to end up in Philly, you can bet that the Eagles will at least inquire about their availability. It became painfully obvious in the NFC Championship game that the Arizona Cardinals had horses on offense that the Eagles lacked. With a solid defense already in place, the Eagles have a team that looks ready to compete for the Super Bowl again next year. If they can just find one more weapon on offense for Donovan McNabb, the Birds might finally have a receiving core that would strike fear into opposing defenses.

Of course, the Eagles could easily choose to do what they do every offseason and not address the receiver position at all. Then we'll all be right back here again next year, wondering whether the Birds will finally make a move for a top receiver.

Phillies sign Ryan Howard to 3 year deal

Your 2009 Phillies are now ready to defend their championship.

After a flurry of players avoided arbitration in the last few weeks, the Phillies had just one player left to sign: Ryan Howard. The Phils were set to go to arbitration with their big slugger and it figured to be a dicey situation since the two sides were 4 million apart in their thinking.

All of that goes out the window now as the Phillies have signed Howard to a 3 year, 54 million dollar contract. The contract averages out to 18 million a year, the exact number that Howard wanted in arbitration. The three year contract buys out Howard's remaining years of arbitration, making him a free agent in 2011.

Some may look at this as the Phillies caving into the demands of their big slugger because he got the exact amount he wanted but they also will be saving money because you have to figure that Howard would have asked for more and more every year. You have to give Howard some credit for settling for a shorter contract than he probably would have liked as speculation had been circulating that he wanted something like 5 to 6 years and upwards of 100 million.

18 million a year is a lot for any player but I think a perennial MVP candidate like Howard deserves it. The Phillies also made a smart move in not giving him too long of a deal. The big man figures to be at his peak for the next 3 years and then he will look to cash in as a free agent in 2011. At that point the Phillies will probably let him go rather than shell out big bucks for someone on the tail end of their career.

The Phillies 2009 roster is now set. It looks a lot like their World Series team with the exception of Raul Ibanez swapped in for Pat Burrell. With everyone happy and under contract, you have to like their chances at repeating.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Flash Gordon signs with the D-backs

At least he got himself a ring.

Former Phillies closer Flash Gordon signed a one year, $500,000 deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Gordon, a 20 year veteran, spent the last 3 seasons with the Phillies and racked up 42 saves. Gordon signed on to be the Phillies closer back in 2006 and put together one good season followed by a pair of injury-riddled mediocre years. He finished last season with a 5.16 ERA.

I wish I could say that we will miss Gordon, but I'm glad to see him go. He was a forgotten man last year after he went down with injury; few fans even remembered he was on the team at all in 2008 despite starting the season as the closer and pitching nearly 30 innings. The only memory fans likely have of Gordon in 2008 is his pathetic effort on Opening Day.

With the emergence of Brad Lidge as a dominating closer and the bullpen locking games down late, it's a new era in the Phillies pen. Enjoy Arizona, Flash, the Phillies can't wait to face you.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Money well spent: Elton Brand out for the year

I guess 80 million dollars doesn't buy what it used to.

Elton Brand, the Sixers big free agent acquisition in the off-season, has been in and out of the line-up all year, playing 29 of 47 games. After missing an entire month due to an ailing shoulder, a month in which the Sixers played their best basketball of the season, Brand has been slowly worked back into the line-up, coming off the bench and getting limited opportunities. He hasn't looked at all like a player worth the huge contract the Sixers gave him.

Now his contract looks even worse. News came out today that Brand will miss the rest of the season after he has shoulder surgery on his right shoulder. At least now the Sixers can get back to playing their preferred run and gun style and don't have to worry about easing Brand back into the fold.

So Brand's worst season as a professional basketball player has come to an end. He finishes averaging 13.8 points per game and 8.8 boards per game, numbers that are way below his career average of 20 and 10. The hope for the Sixers is that Brand has the surgery and can come back next season ready to finish out the remaining 4 years of his contract. If he can't play much better than he did this season then the signing that looked like the Sixers were taking the next step could hold back the franchise for years.

Elton Brand better come back strong next season or GM Ed Stefanski is going to need to get his resume together.

Ugh, Boston owns Philly

I guess we should just be happy owning New York.

With a pair of Boston teams coming to town the last two days, the Sixers and Flyers had a chance help Philadelphia stake claim over another city in the Northeast. Unfortunately, both came up short against a pair of juggernaut teams.

The Sixers loss, as I am sure you have heard about, was the more dramatic game. Philly appeared to have the game in hand after Andre Iguodala hit a shot with 6.8 seconds left to give the Sixers a two point lead. All the Sixers had to do was D up and not allow a three point shot and they were guaranteed at least overtime against the Celtics. Unfortunately, and unbelievably, three point ace Ray Allen found a way to get open and helped the Celtics win their 12th straight game:

The Flyers took the ice on Wednesday night looking to get revenge against the Bruins, a team who is far and away the best in the Eastern Conference. Philly was forced to play without Mike Richards, Scottie Upshall and Braydon Coburn, all of whom were battling the flu. Despite the short-handed line-up, the Flyers played the Bruins tough for two periods until Boston pulled away in the 3rd period and won 3-1. It was a well-played game with nothing coming easy for either team. None of the Bruins goals was of the "pretty" variety as they scored on deflections and bounces. The Flyers play the Bruins again in Boston on Saturday afternoon. If they can get some of the sick guys back, that game should be much different.

Both Boston teams sit atop the Eastern Conferences of their respective leagues and look down (way down for the Celtics) at their Philly counterparts. While Philadelphia was riding a bit of a high after the Phillies title and the Eagles playoff run we still can't come close to comparing to the recent success of the Boston sports scene. Championships have been a dime a dozen up there and it doesn't appear that their grip over our city, and really every other city, will loosen any time soon.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Flyers send Sbisa back to juniors

19 year-old Flyers defenseman Luca Sbisa made the team out of training camp because the Flyers was decimated by injuries. He stayed with the club because he proved he belonged. Unfortunately, as the injured players got healthy and returned to the ice, Sbisa saw his playing time dwindle until he found himself a healthy scratch on a regular basis.

Determing that the young defenseman is better of getting lots of ice team than rotting away on the bench, the Flyers sent Sbisa back to his junior club, the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Western Hockey League, a move that ends his NHL season. Sbisa's final stats don't look all that impressive as he notched 7 points, all assists, in 39 games and had a plus/minus of -6. The mere fact that he was in the NHL at all this season is the real story with Sbisa. He was drafted 19th overall by the Flyers in the 2008 draft and seized an opportunity to make the NHL after injuries to defensemen Randy Jones and Ryan Parent left a roster spot open.

Sbisa still has plenty to work on before he can be considered a top 4 defenseman. He is excellent with the puck and can make solid passes but he needs to work on being stronger both with and without the puck. There were many instances where Sbisa simply got pushed aside but luckily he's only a kid and the strength should come in due time.

The Flyers made the right choice in sending Sbisa down and letting him get some much needed ice time. He will truly be a man among boys in the juniors so at the very least he will gain a ton of confidence heading into the 2009 Flyers training camp where he will be a lock to make the team.

Good luck in the WHL, Sbisa, we can't wait to see you back with the big club.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Pittsburgh 6, Philadelphia 0

(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
All seems right in the NFL.

The Cardinals did their best to pull off an upset with a late charge but the Steelers orchestrated a flawless drive to ensure that the NFL wouldn't be turned on its head by an unlikely Super Bowl winner. I'm not sure the world was ready for the World Champion Arizona Cardinals.

It was the 6th Super Bowl victory for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the most titles for any team in the Super Bowl era. As an Eagles fan, watching our cross-state rival have all the glory is depressing. We all live and die with every play hoping that the Birds can have just one championship season, we have no idea what it would feel like to climb to the top of the mountain six times. At least Arizona, a team that had been so bad for so long, didn't win their first Super Bowl in their first try. That might have been more depressing for Eagles fans.

Congratulations to the Pittsburgh Steelers. While Philadelphia owns New York, Pittsburgh has proven once again that it has ownership over Philly in two major sports. Thank goodness for the Pirates.