Sunday, February 28, 2010
Medal Round theme: Why did it have to be Crosby?
Gold Medal Game:
Canada 3, USA 2, OT After starting slow, the US clawed their way back into this one, getting a goal from Zach Parise in the final minute of regulation to force overtime. Ryan Miller was stellar in net all game long and only made one bad play; unfortunately, that bad play was in overtime on a shot by Sidney Crosby that won gold for Canada. While the US deserves a ton of credit for overcoming the odds and getting the silver medal, it was nice to see them not be happy with coming in second place after they lost the game. It's important to remember that this US team is really young and they just got a ton of experience on the world stage. If NHL players are going to Russia in 2014, the US has to be considered one of the favorites.
As for the Flyers in the game, both Mike Richards and Chris Pronger did their part to earn the gold. Richards had an assist on the first goal of the game by Jonathan Toews and he really settled into his checking role nicely for Canada. Richards played just under 15 minutes in the game and also had two shots on goal. Despite being largely criticized for his play in the tournament, Pronger put together a nice effort, leading the Canadian team with 23 minutes of ice time. He wasn't always out there when the Canadians needed to shut down the US but he was never on the ice when a goal was scored against him on Sunday. Let's hope Richards and Pronger can take this experience with Canada back to the Flyers and lead them to a championship of their own.
Bronze Medal Game:
Finland 5, Slovakia 3 Kimmo Timonen and the Fins knocked off Slovakia to earn the bronze medal. Timonen continued to be one of the best players on the ice for Finland, notching a team high 26 minutes of ice time and a pair of assists. He was a great player throughout the tournament, whatever the Fins needed him to do, Timonen did it. Hopefully he didn't get too worn down by the big minutes in pressure situations and now he can come back to the Flyers and continue to be his usual consistent self.
That's it for my daily game recaps of how the Flyers did on each day of the Olympics. Look for a complete statistical recap of each Flyer in the Olympics coming tomorrow. After that, this blog will return to its regular Flyers programming with the focus on what the orange and black can do to bring home the Cup.
With the Olympics winding down (USA! USA!), the NHL is getting ready to ramp up once again. Teams have already begun practicing and games are starting up again Monday, a little over 24 hours after the Gold Medal Game. Oh, and then there's the trade deadline, which is just 3 days away, on March 3rd. It's going to be a wild few days of roster moves as teams position themselves for a playoff run.
The Flyers made their first post-Olympic roster moves today, activating defenseman Ryan Parent, who has been on injured reserve since December 26th, and waiving defenseman Danny Syvret, who has also been on injured reserve. Syvret was likely just about ready to come back from his injury, but, since the acquisition of Lukas Krajicek, he has been pushed back to the 8th d-man in the organization. Syvret only makes 575,000 and is a serviceable defenseman so I wouldn't be surprised if he was claimed.
The waiving of Syvret could be a move by the Flyers to free up some cap space prior to the trade deadline. While Syvret's salary is small, every bit of money helps when you are a team close to the cap like the Flyers. What the Flyers might pursuing at the deadline is a mystery, however. They seem pretty set with depth at forward and on defense and I doubt they will make a move for a top goaltender. Basically, don't get your hopes up that the Flyers will do anything major in the coming days, what you see might be what you get for the playoffs.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
I've been trying to stay away from the Eagles quarterback rumor mill lately, what with the daily updates about suitors for Donovan McNabb who probably won't even be traded and talk of Kevin Kolb getting a contract extension that never actually happened. The latest rumor about Michael Vick, however, seems to make a lot of sense so I thought it was worth passing along.
According to Geoff Mosher of Delaware Online, sources around the NFL believe the Eagles will give Vick his 1.5 million dollar roster bonus that he is due on March 5th and then they will look to trade him to the highest bidder. The thought is that the Eagles would basically be dropping that investment into Vick with the idea that they can turn him around into a mid-level draft pick. They wouldn't be in any rush to make a trade after they give him his bonus, either, since Vick could be moved at any point before the draft and up to training camp without the Eagles having to pay him anything else.
This plan of action makes a lot of sense for the Eagles, who essentially rented Vick for a season and now are looking to get some value in return as he gets shipped out of town. While the list of teams who might want Vick might not be that long (Rams, Bills, Browns?), all it takes is for one team to look at Vick as a potential short-term solution as a starting quarterback and the Eagles should get the price they are looking for. What the Eagles do from there with McNabb and Kolb is anyone's guess, although I'm still on record believing that the Eagles will stick with McNabb as the starter for at least one last season before the Kevin Kolb era begins.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Semifinals theme: Bring on the rematch
U.S. 6, Finland 1 Talk about an explosion. The usually defensively sound Fins got hammered right out of the gate by the U.S., who scored 6 goals in the first, including 5 in a 5 minute span. The one Flyer in the game, Kimmo Timonen, didn't play terrible, notching a team-leading 23+ minutes of ice time and finishing with a plus/minus of 0, a remarkable feat considering the score. The Fins will still have a chance to take home a medal on Saturday when the take on Slovakia. As for the U.S., they played about as well as they possibly could as they tuned up for their rematch with the Canadians. They are going to need the offensive roll to continue if they are going to knock off their North American rivals for the second time and take home the gold.
Canada 3, Slovakia 2 This one sure got interesting at the end. Canada seemed to be coasting to a win, leading 3-0 halfway through the 3rd period, when Slovakia started their comeback, scoring a pair goals to make things interesting. Canada managed to just enough to withstand the Slovakia attack and advance to a rematch with the U.S. with gold on the line. As for the two Flyers in the game, both Chris Pronger and Mike Richards had solid games. Pronger had his highest scoring game of the Olympics, picking up 2 assists in 18 minutes on the ice. While Richards didn't score a point, he did have three shots on goal in his 12 minutes of ice time. Canada was fortunate to get past Slovakia, who played a great last 10 minutes of desperation hockey.
Saturday's Bronze Medal Game: Finland (Timonen) vs. Slovakia, 10:00 pm
Sunday's Gold Medal Game: USA vs. Canada (Pronger, Richards), 3:15 pm
Thursday, February 25, 2010
On to the Semifinals! Here is a recap of how your Flyers did during the Quarterfinals:
Quaterfinals theme: Um, Canada is really good
U.S. 2, Switzerland 0 They made us sweat a little more than they should have but the end result is what we expected. After many near-misses and disallowed goals, the U.S. outlasted the Swiss and their stellar goaltender, Jonas Hiller. While the U.S. only had a one goal lead for most of the game, you can't really say they looked past Switzerland considering how tough the Swiss have been to play against this Olympics. Let's hope the U.S. got all the near-misses out of their system as they are set to take on a tough Finland team in the Semifinals.
Canada 7, Russia 3 Was this a hockey game or a football game between two teams with great defenses? Canada definitely came into this one on a mission to just wipe out the Russians early and not look back. While they were certainly helped by some shaky goaltending by Evgeni Nabokov, the Canadian attack looked extremely dangerous as they poured in goal after goal in the first two periods. As for the Flyers playing in the game, both Mike Richards and Chris Pronger registered one assist. Richards played nearly 16 minutes in the game and didn't have a shot on goal and somehow managed to have a 0 plus/minus. Pronger played 14 and a half minutes and didn't do much of note except for a late holding penalty. The Canadians face Slovakia in the Semifinals. I'll be shocked if they slow down the Canadian attack at all.
Finland 2, Czech Republic 0 Kimmo Timonen and the Fins won a tough, low-scoring contest against the Czechs to move into the semifinals. No goals were scored in this game until deep into the third period when Niklas Hagman scored for Finland. Timonen continued his strong play for the Fins, leading the team with nearly 26 minutes of ice time. He has been out on the ice for nearly every big moment for Finland, including when they added the empty netter at the end of the game. Expect to see plenty more of Timonen against the top U.S. lines on Friday.
Slovakia 4, Sweden 3 Slovakia jumped out to a 2 goal lead twice in this game and they hung on in the third period to pull off the minor upset. The only former Flyer to have an impact in this game was Peter Forsberg, who picked up an assist. Some thought that if Forsberg turned in a good performance at the Olympics, he might make a comeback to the NHL. Foppa is clearly a shell of his former self, though, so I'm not sure teams are going to be knocking down his door with offers.
Friday's Semifinal games: Finland vs. U.S., 3:00 pm; Canada vs. Slovakia, 9:30 pm.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Day 7 theme: Canadians beat up the little guys
Switzerland 3, Belarus 2, SO No Flyers in the first elimination game but it was still a pretty entertaining contest between two evenly matched teams. You knew the Swiss would win once the game went into a shootout because Jonas Hiller is that much better than anything Belarus can throw out there. Up next for the Swiss? Another loss to the US in the quarterfinals.
Canada 8, Germany 2 After scoring only 1 goal in the first period and probably making their entire country nervous, the Canadians exploded in the final two periods against the Germans and cruised into their quaterfinal match with the Russians. Despite being moved off the Sidney Crosby line (as if he's upset by that), Mike Richards had a goal and an assist in just over 10 minutes of ice time. Chris Pronger also had an assist on a Rick Nash goal. The Canadians looked strong but I didn't expect anything less from them against poor Germany.
Czech Republic 3, Latvia 2, OT The first Flyer has been eliminated: Oskars Bartulis of Latvia. Despite making a valiant effort to come back from a 2-0 deficit and forcing overtime, Latvia fell to the Czech Republic after David Krejci scored the game winner. Bartulis played 22 minutes and once again failed to score a point. While he didn't register even a single assist for Latvia throughout the Olympics, Bartulis played a ton of minutes as part on the top defensive pairing and did as well as you could expect. Next up for the Czechs will be Finland.
Slovakia 4, Norway 3 Norway gave them a bit of a scare in the late game but Slovakia hangs on and moves on to face Sweden tomorrow. Former Flyer Michal Handzus had a goal for Slovakia.
Wednesday's Quarterfinal games: USA vs. Switzerland, 3:00 pm; Russia vs. Canada (Chris Pronger, Mike Richards), 7:30 pm; Czech Republic vs. Finland (Timonen), 10:00 pm; Sweden vs. Slovakia, 12:00 am.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
It all seems to fit perfectly, doesn't it? The Eagles have announced that they will release Brian Westbrook, meaning they will likely want to bring in a veteran running back to backup LeSean McCoy. Hmm, veteran LaDainian Tomlinson was released by the Chargers yesterday. Putting two and two together, the Eagles want to replace Westbrook with Tomlinson, right?
Wrong. While I'm sure there will be rumors flying around for the next few weeks that the Birds will pursue L.T., don't count on him putting on an Eagles uniform next season for two reasons: age and money.
Age: While Tomlinson is a very different running back than Westbrook, what sense would it make for the Eagles to replace their recently released 30+ year old running back on his last legs with another 30+ running back on his last legs? There are entire books written about running backs and how they fall off once they get over 30 and have thousands of carries under their belt. If the Eagles wanted to take a risk on an old RB, wouldn't they just try to sign Westbrook back first? It's just not in the Eagles style to sign someone who is past their prime in the NFL.
Money: While L.T. wasn't nearly as effective last year as he had been throughout his career, given that he had 12 touchdowns last year, there is no doubt that he could still be a solid goal line back. The salary he is going to look for next year, while significantly lower than what the 7 million the Eagles owed Westbrook for 2010, is way too much for someone who would only get the ball in very specialized situations. While the Eagles struggled (like always) at the goal line and in short yardage situations last year, even they aren't going to spend millions of dollars on a specialist.
Barring the market for him dropping so far that he is willing to sign for 1-2 million dollars, L.T. won't be signing with the Eagles. Look for the Birds to first re-sign Leonard Weaver, who acted as a backup RB last season anyway, and then pursue a cheap veteran as an emergency option. It just doesn't make any sense that the Eagles would get rid of a franchise-favorite RB like Westbrook due to his age and productivity and replace him with the equally old and unproductive Tomlinson.
While this was something we all should have expected, what with his mounting injuries and the emergence of LeSean McCoy, it is still no less surprising: the Eagles have released Brian Westbrook. Westbrook spent 8 years with the Eagles and emerged from a part-time player to one of the biggest weapons in the league. Injuries throughout his career limited his availability but you always knew, when he suited up, that Westbrook was a threat to score every time he touched the ball.
Westbrook was set to earn 7 million dollars next year and clearly the Eagles figured he wasn't going to earn that money. Look for the Birds to try to find a cheaper veteran running back to back up McCoy next season. I suppose there is a minute chance the Eagles could sign Westbrook again to be the backup, but I really doubt it, knowing how the Birds work.
So long, Brian Westbrook. I hope you get to end your NFL career on your own terms, whether that means catching on with another team for a few years or it means riding off into the sunset.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Almost as quickly as it re-started, the Allen Iverson era may be coming to an end in Philadelphia. Due to family concerns, Iverson won't be with the Sixers on their current road trip and he might not be back with the team ever again. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, the Sixers are currently debating whether they should simply get rid of Iverson, who hasn't been able to consistently suit up for the team since he signed. Apparently Eddie Jordan has already met with the team to discuss Iverson's future but the front office has yet to decide whether to cut the veteran guard loose.
If it was any other player who didn't have a long history with the club, the Sixers would have little problem cutting Iverson. As it is, he really isn't needed on a team that is looking towards the future. Since all Iverson is doing right now on the Sixers is taking playing time away from Lou Williams and Jrue Holiday, dropping him really won't have a big impact on the club. For a team that has little hope of making the playoffs anyway, there is no reason to have Iverson around.
It's safe to say the Allen Iverson experiment this season has been a failure. He brought back the fans for a game or two but since then he hasn't added much. Sure, he has been a nice veteran influence when he has been around but he has missed too many games to have a positive impact on the young guys on the team. While it will certainly be a anticlimactic ending to his career in Philly, it's time for the Sixers to move on without him.
If you can't beat 'em, join 'em? One of the most reliable pieces from the Phillies bullpen in 2009 has joined the Yankees: Chan Ho Park signed a one year deal to play for the World Champs. Park signed for 1.2 million plus incentives, a drop from what the Phillies were offering him following last season.
Why Park didn't want to come back to the Phillies initially and why the Phillies couldn't sign him at such a meager price are a mystery. The Phillies made enough moves (Contreras, Baez) to get past the loss of Park but he sure would have been a nice piece to still have around. As we all know, you can never have enough consistent bullpen arms.
One thing is for sure: Chan Ho Park, like Chris Coste, is now dead to me.
Day 6 theme: USA! USA!
Belarus 5, Germany 3 The Germans ended their preliminary action without picking up a win. Former Flyer Dennis Seidenberg scored a goal for Germany but it wasn't enough to knock off Belarus. The Germans now get the privilege of playing against a pissed off Canadian team in the first round of elimination games. Good luck with that.
Russia 4, Czech Republic 2 No Flyers in this game, either, but it was an intense, hard-fought game between two countries that definitely hate each other. And that hit by Alexander Ovechkin on Jaromir Jagr? OUCH. Hated Penguin Evgeni Malkin netted a pair of goals for the Russians.
U.S. 5, Canada 3 What a game! For more of my thoughts on it, see the previous post. Ryan Miller had to stand on his head but the US made noise when it mattered. As for Mike Richards and Chris Pronger, they were thankfully quiet for Team Canada. Richards had a few good shifts with Rick Nash and Sidney Crosby but he was a poor -2 in his 12 minutes of ice time. Chris Pronger made a bad play that led directly to a US goal and was a -1 in the contest. Neither Richards or Pronger had a point.
Sweden 3, Finland 0 With Sweden's win, the U.S. is now the #1 seed for the Olympic playoff. Obviously, given the shutout, Kimmo Timonen didn't have any points for Finland in 21 minutes of ice time. Former Flyer Peter Forsberg still hasn't registered a point for Sweden. It's safe to say a comeback to the NHL probably isn't in the cards for Forsberg.
Next games are on Tuesday, 2/23: Belarus vs. Switzerland, 3 pm; Germany vs. Canada (Richards, Pronger), 7:30 pm; Latvia (Bartulis) vs. Czech Republic, 10 pm; Norway vs. Slovakia, 12 am.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Can you imagine if these two teams play again at some point? Maybe with a gold medal on the line? It would be incredible, to say the least.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Day 5 theme: Kimmo!
Finland 5, Germany 0 Finally, a Flyer leads his team to victory! Kimmo Timonen notched a pair of powerplay goals as the Fins rolled past the Germans. Timonen deftly ran the point on the Fin powerplay, keeping the puck moving and even firing it on net from deep for one of his goals. His play helped the Fins score 4 times with the man advantage to coast past the usually solid German defense. Former Flyer Joni Pitkanen also had a power play goal for Finland.
Switzerland 5, Norway 4 The Swiss squeaked out their first win of the tournament over the Norwegians when they scored a goal in overtime. After the effort the Swiss showed against the Canadians, this game had to be a letdown for them. Former Flyer Patrick Thoreson (Yep, he's the guy that took that shot to the groin) had three assists for Norway. Both of these countries will need miracles to advance to the semifinals of the tournament.
Slovakia 6, Latvia 0 Oskars Bartulis and the Latvians appear to be the worst team at the Olympics as they have now been outscored 19-4 in their three losses. Miraculously for Bartulis, he had a plus/minus of 0 despite getting 21 minutes of icetime in this blowout. The Latvians need the second coming of Arturs Irbe if they want to compete at the Olympics.
Games tomorrow (2/21): Germany vs. Belarus, 12 am; Russia vs. Czech Republic, 3 pm; Canada (Richards, Pronger) vs. US, 7:30 pm; Sweden vs. Finland (Timonen), 12 am. Now that's a good slate of games.
Friday, February 19, 2010
Day 4 theme: Finally, an upset!
Late Thursday: Slovakia 2, Russia 1, SO The Slovaks pulled off the first upset of the tournament after they capped an exciting day of hockey by beating Russia in a shootout. Jaroslav Halak was the MVP in this one, stopping 36 shots and holding the Russian attack at bay. The two ex-Flyers playing for Slovakia, Michal Handzus and Branko Radivojevic, did nothing of note.
Sweden 4, Belarus 2 Belarus hung tough and made the defending Olympic champs fight to earn the win. There were no current Flyers playing in this one and only one former Flyer, Peter Forsberg, who still hasn't registered a point in the Olympics.
Czech Republic 5, Latvia 2 Oskars Bartulis and the Latvians came up short yet again against a superior opponent. The Czech's got 3 quick goals in the first period and the game looked like it was going to be a blowout but Latvia hunkered down and played better from there. Despite committing a ton of penalties, the Latvians were just a bounce away from making things interesting in the third. As for Bartulis, he logged over 20 minutes of ice time and did plenty of penalty killing against the top Czech forwards. He's being asked to play way over his head for the Latvians and hasn't done anything to embarrass himself.
Games tomorrow (2/20): Finland (Timonen) vs. Germany, 12 am; Norway vs. Switzerland, 3 pm; Latvia vs. Slovakia, 7:30 pm; Germany vs. Belarus, 12 am. Look for my recap of Timonen from Friday's late game tomorrow.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Day 3 theme: The Swiss are good for something besides cocoa and knives!
Czech Republic 3, Slovakia 1 No Flyers in this one but it was interesting to see that Jaromir Jagr had a goal and an assist. We'll see how he does against some tougher opponents.
U.S. 6, Norway 1 On the scoreboard, it looked like the U.S. rolled yet again, meeting very little resistance from former Flyer Ole-Kristian Tollefsen and the Norwegians. On the ice, though, the Americans didn't put away this weak Norway team like they should have. This game was within reach for Norway until late in the third period when the U.S. tallied three goals to turn the game into a blowout. If the U.S. wants to hang with the big boys in the coming days, they are going to have to put together 60 minutes of solid hockey
Canada 3, Switzerland 2, SO This was by far the best game of the day and of the tournament to this point. The Swiss goaltender, Jonas Hiller, stood on his head for 65 minutes and forced the game to go into a shootout. The Canadian team squeaked out the win after Sidney Crosby finally got one past Hiller but the Swiss really made the rest of the tournament stand up and take notice with their effort. We all know that a hot goaltender can carry you in a tournament situation so the Swiss might be a team to watch for in the coming days. As for the two Flyers on the Canadian roster, Mike Richards and Chris Pronger, neither had a single point. Richards didn't get a ton of minutes in the game but did provide good energy when he was out there. Pronger didn't seem to get quite as much ice time in this one for whatever reason.
Games tomorrow (2/19): Slovakia vs. Russia, 12 am; Belarus vs. Sweden, 3 pm; Czech Republic vs. Latvia (Bartulis), 7:30 pm; Finland (Timonen) vs. Germany, 12 am.
Talk about a letdown. After hearing rumors about the Sixers shedding salary by moving Andre Iguodala or Samuel Dalembert for weeks, this is all they could come up with? The Sixers have traded Royal Ivey, Primoz Brezec and a second round pick to the Milwaukee Bucks for Jodie Meeks and Francisco Elson. Have you ever seen a more irrelevant trade?
Basically, this deal comes down to two teams trading deep bench players, as Ivey gets just under 10 minutes a game for the Sixers while Brezec has only played in 7 games. Apparently the big prize in the deal for the Sixers is Meeks, who is a rookie with a decent scoring touch. Elson is a complete nonfactor big man who has been injured most of the season, much like Brezec. To me, Brezec and Elson are a wash so the Sixers basically swapped a defensive guard in Ivey and a second rounder for a little better scoring with Meeks. The Sixers weren't likely so sign Ivey after this season, anyway, so really the trade boils down even further to the Sixers using a second round pick on Meeks, someone who they targeted in the draft last year.
While Meeks seems to have some decent upside, is this really the best Ed Stefanski could do? He couldn't make any moves to get the team more cap space for next year so they could sign someone to help them rebuild? Sigh, isn't it a great time to be a Sixers fan?
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
The theme for Day 2: Favorites still rule
Russia 8, Lativa 2 As expected, the Russians rolled over the Latvians, who feature Oskars Bartulis as their top defenseman. Given Bartulis had the task of shutting down some serious Russian firepower, he did about as well as could be expected. Bartulis did have a cross-checking penalty in the first period of the game but it didn't lead to a PP goal. Russia looks mighty dangerous.
Finland 5, Belarus 1 The only Flyer in this game was Kimmo Timonen of Finland. Timonen didn't notch any points in this one but he did log plenty of ice time and helped to shut down the Belarus offense. Former Flyers Lasse Kukkonen and Joni Pitkanen each had assists for Finland. Anyone else find it interesting that the Finn defense features three players who have suited up for the Flyers? Not sure if that is a good or bad thing for Finland's medal hopes.
Sweden 2, Germany 0 This game was closer than expected as the Germans played their usual lockdown defense and the Swedes failed to really get into any kind of flow offensively. Former Flyer Dennis Seidenberg racked up a ton of PK time with Germany and is their best defender. Of note for Sweden was the fact that Peter Forsberg survived the game with both feet intact.
Games tomorrow (2/18): Czech Republic vs. Slovakia, 12 am; USA vs. Norway, 3pm; Switzerland vs. Canada (Pronger, Richards), 7:30 pm; Slovakia vs. Russia, 12 am.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
The theme for day one: Go North America!
United States 3, Switzerland 1 The U.S. doesn't feature any Flyers players but they cruised past the Swiss behind solid goaltending by Ryan Miller and timely goals. Former Flyer Luca Sbisa is on the Swiss team and didn't do much.
Canada 8, Norway 0 There was speculation early in the day that Mike Richards wasn't going to play for Canada in this one which would have been quite a surprise. Richards had practiced with Canada's top power play line so it didn't make much sense for him not to play. Fortunately, Richards did suit up and he even netted a goal (although he should have had two--he missed a gimme earlier in the game). Chris Pronger also saw a ton of ice time on Canada's top defensive unit and picked up an assist when Dany Heatley deflected his shot from the point for a goal. Overall, this game was simply a breeze for Canada as Norway put up a fight for a period but then folded against the mighty Canadian attack.
Games tomorrow (2/17): Russia vs. Latvia (Bartulis), 12 am; Finland (Timonen) vs. Belarus, 3pm; Sweden vs. Germany, 7:30 pm; Czech Republic vs. Slovakia, 12 am. Check back tomorrow to see how Oskars Bartulis does against the potent Russian offense in the late game tonight.
Monday, February 15, 2010
We've officially hit a lull in Philly sports action. The Eagles have long been eliminated, the Phillies are just getting under way, the Sixers are more interested in trading for next year and the Flyers are off for two weeks for the Winter Olympic break. Fortunately, just because the Flyers aren't playing any games as a team, there are still a few individuals headed to Vancouver to represent their countries.
While Jeff Carter just missed being added to Canada's roster today and Matt Carle arguably should be on the U.S. roster, there will be four current Flyers playing in the Olympics this year. Here's what to expect from them:
Oskars Bartulis, D, Latvia: Will be top defender on a weak team
Chris Pronger, D, Canada: Could be on top D pairing for Gold favorite
Mike Richards, C, Canada: Expect more of a checking/PK role
Kimmo Timonen, D, Finland: Should get plenty of ice time
If you are feeling a little more nostalgic, there are also ten former Flyers at the Olympics:
Peter Forsberg, C (Sweden)
Michal Handzus, C (Slovakia)
Lasse Kukkonen, D (Finland)
Antero Niitymaki, G (Finland)
Joni Pitkanen, D (Finland)
Branko Radivojevic, W (Slovakia)
Luca Sbisa, D (Switzerland)
Dennis Seidenberg, D (Germany)
Patrick Thoreson, W (Norway)
Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, D (Norway)
While all indications are that it's Canada's Gold to lose, there should be some entertaining games along the way, especially the Canada/U.S. and Canada/Russia tilts. As for who you should root for in the Olympics, that's your call. Despite not having any Flyers on the roster, I'll certainly be rooting for the U.S. but I'll have my eye on how the Philly guys are doing. As long as the U.S. has a decent showing (Top 4) and none of the Flyers get hurt, I will consider the Olympics a success.
It all kicks off tomorrow at 3 pm when the U.S. takes on Switzerland and it ends on Sunday, February 28th in the Gold Medal game. Click here for the complete Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Schedule.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
After sweeping the Devils last week in a home and home series, the Flyers repeated that feat today after followed up yesterday's win in Philadelphia with a 6-2 beatdown of the Canadiens in Montreal. The star of the game was Danny Briere, who, much to the chagrin of the Montreal crowd, broke out of his slumber to register a hat trick. Briere stuck it to the Canadiens fans who boo him lustily every time he touched the puck by netting his first hat trick of the season.
The Flyers also got goals on the night from Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Blair Betts. Suddenly, the Flyers offense that had gone ice cold in recent games is brimming with hot hands. There's Richards, who scored his 2nd goal in 4 games, and Carter, who has 5 goals in 4 games, to go with Briere and Simon Gagne, who appear to be breaking out of season-long slumps. All of the Flyers top forwards are contributing right now, an excellent sign that this team has turned things around.
Oh, and Jeff Carter haters? The man has been on a tear recently, scoring 11 goals in his last 14 games. I think all of you who have been screaming for him to be traded and that he "has no heart" can be quiet now. Carter is rapidly rising up the leader board in the NHL in goals and is proving why the Flyers aren't willing to trade him. Yeah, the guy can be inconsistent but you can put up with the lulls because you know he has goal outbursts like this in him.
The Flyers now enter the Olympic break solidly in the playoff hunt. With the recent wins over the Canadiens, the Flyers have leapfrogged them and moved into 6th place in the Eastern Conference. With 22 games left after the break, it's going to be a sprint to the finish for the Flyers as they look to move up into an even better position. If this hot streak somehow carries over to March then the Flyers will try to make a late push for a top seed.
I'm not sure I should even bother to post this, but here is what some crazy Montreal sportswriter said about the Flyers after they beat the Canadiens last night:
"There's not a franchise in sports I hate more than the Philadlphia Flyers.
Not the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Not the New York Yankees.
Not the Dallas Cowboys or L.A. Lakers.
No, you'd have to have an Olympic Games flashback to 1936 and watch the pride of Hitler's Germany marching into the Berlin stadium to match the feeling of revulsion I experience every time I see the Flyers play.
Especially against the Canadiens."
Look, I know the Flyers can play a rough style of hockey. Sure, they sometimes get a little overzealous with the fighting and they do have the occasional dirty hit. But, comparing them to Nazis? Come on. They don't play that "pure" hockey that Montreal fans love so much but you cross so many lines when you bring Hitler into the discussion.
By the way, all typos in that article were made by the author, Mike Boone. Philadlphia? Really? Learn to spell the name of the city that just beat your team.
Friday, February 12, 2010
Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard at least a dozen different rumors about the Eagles quarterbacks this offseason. Every day it seems that another "NFL source" has new information about what the Eagles are going to do with Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick and/or Kevin Kolb. Since all three quarterbacks have contracts that run out at the end of the 2010 season, all three are being rumored to be the Eagles starting QB for the coming season while simultaneously being rumored to be shipped out of town. At this point, no one knows what to believe about any of the QB's and I'm pretty sure that's exactly how the Eagles want it.
The latest rumor to hit the internet is that the Eagles have offered a contract extension to Kevin Kolb. While this rumor was immediately shot down by the Eagles, extending Kolb would be a very telling move. What it likely would mean is that McNabb will be given one last season to take the Birds to a title or that he will be placed on the trading block right away. Of course, rumors are also circulating that the Eagles won't trade McNabb or Kolb, leaving us to speculate that they would trade Michael Vick. Then there has been the talk that the Eagles have no intention of moving Vick, which leads us right back to where we started, with three QB's that could be staying or could be going.
So, what should we believe? I still think that all three Eagles QB's could be traded for the right price and that at least one of them will be moved. I don't see how the Eagles can go into next season with all three on the roster when all three have made it clear that they want a chance to play. I would also expect that, after one is traded, the Eagles will try to extend the contract of whoever they plan to start at QB next year. So, while the talk of a contract extension for Kolb makes a lot of sense, the timing is all wrong. If you extend Kolb now, you are showing the rest of the league your hand and driving down the price for McNabb or Vick. In an ideal world, the Eagles would probably like to trade Vick for a draft pick and then go into next season with McNabb the starter and Kolb ready to take over should he falter. Whether McNabb would be happy playing out the season without a contract extension is another story.
Basically, nobody knows anything right now about the Eagles quarterback situation. You are going to hear a ton of rumors in the coming weeks that the Eagles want to trade this QB or sign that one. Take each and every one with a grain of salt and know that the Eagles probably don't even know exactly how this is going to play out. About all we know right now is that one of Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick or Kevin Kolb will be the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2010. Unless, of course, they trade for someone else.
You can make the argument that Blair Betts is one of the most important Flyers. No, he doesn't score a lot of points. And, no, he doesn't get time on the power play, fight or rack up a ton of hits. Still, what Betts does for the Flyers is something every team in the NHL needs. He's a glue guy that plays great defensive hockey and kills penalties with the best of them. He's a 4th line center who will win you the important faceoffs. He will also be a Flyer for 2 more years.
The Flyers and Betts have agreed to a 2 year, 1.4 million dollar extension. On a Flyers team filled with players with multi-million dollar contracts, having a guy like Betts around for just 700,000 per year is a steal and a necessity, given the Flyers cap issues. Betts likely could have commanded closer to a million dollars if he went on the open market so the Flyers were smart to get him locked up at this price when they could.
With the number of penalties the Flyers take, they need to have several smart penalty killers on the roster. While Betts has issues staying healthy, when he's out there, he allows guys like Mike Richards and Jeff Carter to spend a little less time on the PK and a little more time trying to score goals. For the price of 700k a year, I'm not sure you can find a more valuable hockey player.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
I guess there was no point in getting upset at the fact that Allen Iverson was elected to start in the All-Star Game this season. Iverson, who hasn't suited up for the Sixers since January 31st, has announced that he will not play this weekend in the All-Star Game due to family issues. Apparently, Iverson's daughter has some health issues and he is going to continue to stay with his family at this time. With the way Iverson loves the game of basketball, you know something very serious must be going on with his daughter. I hope that everything works out for her and the Iverson family.
To replace Iverson, the NBA added Knick David Lee to the team. Lee is a worthy replacement who is certainly having a much better season than Iverson. Also being replaced in the All-Star Game is Kobe Bryant, who will sit the weekend out as he continues to deal with an ankle injury. He was replaced by Jason Kidd.
The Sixers will now be without representation at any event this All-Star weekend. No Sixer is playing in the Rookie/Sophomore Game, the 3-point contest or the dunk contest. What a time to be a Sixer fan!
While Iverson never deserved to be in the All-Star Game, I still hope his family situation clears up soon and he can get back on the court. While the Sixers are playing well without him, the sooner he comes back means the sooner his daughter is healthy.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Let's make a deal! The Dallas Stars acquired Kari Lehtonen on Tuesday night, meaning they are likely going to trade former starting goaltender Marty Turco. The Flyers, on the other hand, are unsure as to when Ray Emery will be able to return to the ice and could conceivably look to trade for a goalie to take his place. Seems like we have perfect trading partners in the Stars and Flyers, right?
Wrong. Despite the rumors you might be hearing, Turco coming to the Flyers is purely speculation by the media at this point, mostly because it doesn't make any sense. Sure, if Emery is out for the rest of the season, the Flyers might look around for another goaltender, but they already have Michael Leighton doing a pretty solid job in net. Plus, adding Turco and his mammoth salary (5.7 million) to the roster simply doesn't work unless the Flyers trade Danny Briere or Scott Hartnell, two players who have no-trade clauses. Trading Jeff Carter would also work but if the Flyers were unwilling to part with Carter to get a stud like Ilya Kovalchuk, they won't move him to get an old goalie.
Would I like to see the Flyers trade Briere or Hartnell for Turco? Of course, getting rid of either salary would be a great move for the cap-strapped Flyers and getting a quality goalie in return would be a bonus. Will it happen? Nope. Just like the Ilya Kovalchuk rumors from last week, these rumors are completely baseless. The Flyers simply can't afford to add anyone with that kind of salary at this time.
So, what has suddenly changed to make the Sixers jump from NBA doormat to a decent team? Part of the win streak could be attributed to the weak opponents the Sixers have been playing; the Nets, Bulls, Hornets, Rockets and Timberwolves are all mediocre to bad basketball teams. Scoring has also been up for the Sixers, especially in the last 4 games where they broke 100.
One other factor that could have something to do with the recent winning streak is the absence of Allen Iverson. Iverson misses four games due to illness in his family and the Sixers go on a winning streak? Coincidence? While AI hasn't been terrible in recent weeks, the offense does seem to flow a lot better when he isn't out there.
Does the recent winning streak mean the Sixers are suddenly a good basketball team? No. Does it mean the Sixers shouldn't pursue trading Andre Iguodala to clear up some cap space? No. Unfortunately, we seem headed down a familiar path with these Sixers. The last few seasons they have done just enough to sneak into the playoffs and ruin their chances at a top draft pick. At some point, the Sixers need to make a move to push themselves into the upper echelon in the East or find a way to drop to the bottom so they can retool with a solid draft pick. They won't be able to get out of the rut they are in until they make a change that sends them one way or the other. The current winning streak is nice but it will be much easier for the Sixers to take a dive than it will be to climb out of the mess they are in.
Monday, February 8, 2010
Monday night was different, however. Despite their constant march to the penalty box, the Flyers fought back with 2 goals late in the second period to claw their way back to a tie and steal all the momentum in the game. What followed was an exciting third period filled with tense penalty kills, plenty of near misses, a few amazing saves and the game winning goal by Mike Richards halfway into the period.
This was a big win for the Flyers as they managed to beat the first-place Devils with their new prize, Ilya Kovalchuk, who had 9 shots in the game but didn't register a point. Michael Leighton, who we may be seeing even more of as Ray Emery may be on the shelf for a while, turned in another solid performance as he made the big stops when he had to.
Of course, people may be talking a lot more about one incident on the ice than the outcome of the game. Yep, folks, we have another controversy over a Flyers hit. Moments after scoring a goal in the second period, Anssi Salmela was nailed by Jeff Carter and laid motionless on the ice. Carter was not whistled for a penalty on the play but you can bet the NHL will take a close look at this one:
My take? Carter shouldn't be suspended. Sure, it was a rough hit, but Carter didn't elbow Salmela and the fact that his face hit the ice is why the hit looked so bad. You can't penalize Carter for the hit just because Salmela scored, either, since Carter had no way of knowing if that shot was going to be stopped by Leighton. Luckily, word has come out that Salmela is ok after being stretchered off the ice.
Looking past the hit, the Flyers have given us hope once again. If they can play with the same passion they showed on the ice on Monday night, this team has a playoff run in them. I'm looking forward to seeing which Flyers team shows up when they face the Devils again on Wednesday.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
After 266 games, it all comes down to this. You've heard all the hype, you've seen all the puff pieces on New Orleans and Peyton Manning's "God-like abilities", you've placed all your bets on who will win the coin toss and how long the national anthem will last. When you wade past all the BS that surrounds the Super Bowl this week, you are left with a game that has the potential for a lot of points and a lot of fun. Of course, since the last two Super Bowls have been incredibly entertaining, we are due for a stinker.
After a season of picking every NFL game, here is my final pick of the year. Remember, all picks are made strictly based on who I think will win and do not take the spread into consideration.
Last Week: 2-0, 1.000
Playoff Overall: 5-5, .500
Super Bowl 44
Saints @ Colts, 6:25 pm
How this game will go should be determined by the Colts first drive. If Peyton Manning marches the team right down the field for a touchdown, it's going to be a long game for New Orleans. Should the Saints throw some different looks at Peyton and force the Colts to punt, we should have a good game on our hands. Really, this entire game comes down to whether the Saints defense can come up with that elusive gameplan that forces Manning to make mistakes. Since there isn't enough talent on the Saints D to make up for poor gameplanning, all of the pressure is on what Gregg Williams has come up with to disrupt and confuse the Colts QB. Of course, we all know Manning has seen everything you can possibly throw at him, so that's going to be a tall order. As for the Saints offense, I expect them to put up at least 20 points as they will be able to move the ball all day on the Colts. If both defenses completely fail, a distinct possibility, this game will simply come down to who has the ball last. I see Manning and the Colts marching on the Saints all day in this one, forcing New Orleans in some mistakes as they play catch up. My pick: Colts 34, Saints 28
That is my final pick of this NFL season. Check back next season for my picks for the 2010 season! Feel free to discuss, argue or make your own picks in the comments section.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Clearly upset about not getting Ilya Kovalchuk the other day, the Flyers made a trade to get the next best thing: Ville Leino. Okay, he's not really the next best thing or even the 50th best thing, but this is still a good move by the Flyers.
The Flyers acquired Leino from the Red Wings for Ole-Kristian Tollefsen and a 5th round pick. Leino, who has 55 games of NHL experience, is mostly a depth forward. He showed some real potential last season in Detroit when he scored 9 points in 13 games but fell off this season, notching only 7 points in 42 games. Leino is known to have a good touch around the net and put up great numbers back when he played in the AHL and in Finland.
Leino figures to just be a 3rd or 4th liner with the Flyers. If he somehow finds his scoring touch, he could be a solid contributor, but I wouldn't expect anything more than 5 or 6 goals out of him for the rest of the season. The Red Wings likely dealt Leino because they were tired of waiting for him to break out and they have injured players they needed to make room for; the Flyers are taking a chance on Leino that a change of scenery will jump-start his career.
As for Tollefsen, his time in Philadelphia had run its course. With the recent signing of Lukas Krajicek, Tollefsen was the odd man out on defense. With Danny Syvret set to return at some point after the Olympics, Tollefsen was going to be the odd man out so the Flyers were smart to turn him into an asset rather then simply waive him and lose him for nothing.
As for the cap implications, Leino will be around this year and next for 800,000. He makes 200K more than Tollefsen so the Flyers find themselves inching closer to the cap. There is some early speculation that this is just the first of a few moves for the Flyers, who still find themselves thin on defense and deep at forward. Paul Holmgren could be working on another deal that would land a bigger name defenseman at some point before the roster freeze due to the Olympic break.
While this isn't an impact move or even the Flyers answer to the Devils acquisition of Kovalchuk, Holmgren deserves some credit for ridding the team of a player who had become useless and actually getting something in return. If Leino develops into that sniping forward the Flyers have been desperate for, that would be all the better.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Due to budget constraints and not having any draft picks to deal, the Flyers were never really in the running for Ilya Kovalchuk. Despite all the rumors you heard over the last few days, it simply wasn't feasible for the Flyers to pick up the young sniper who was placed on the trading block by the Atlanta Thrashers. Unless the Flyers found a way to unload Danny Briere and/or Scott Hartnell, two players with no trade clauses, the Flyers simply didn't have enough room under the cap to get Kovalchuk, let alone sign him to a long-term deal.
With the Flyers out of the picture, Flyers fans were left to hope Kovalchuk wouldn't get traded to a rival. Unfortunately, that's exactly what happened: Ilya Kovalchuk has been traded to the Atlantic Division leader, the Devils. As of this writing, details as to who the Devils will be giving up aren't known, but it's likely that it took a solid young NHL player, a top prospect and a 1st round draft pick.
The move immediately makes the Devils one of the favorites, if not the favorite to win the Eastern Conference. While the Devils still have the personality of a grind-it-out team and Kovalchuk isn't known for his play in the defensive end, adding a top goal scorer to a team that has issues putting the puck in the net will surely help a Devils squad that is already one of the best in the East.
Don't be angry that the Flyers couldn't find a way to get Kovalchuk. Paul Holmgren's hands were tied with all of the contracts he has given out and the lack of a first round pick next year. Okay, so maybe you can be a little angry about that, Homer is the one who created this salary cap mess.
The reality is, Ilya Kovalchuk will be skating for a Devils team that looks poised to be a Cup contender for several years while the Flyers have hamstrung themselves from acquiring a truly elite impact player at this time.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Donovan McNabb isn't the only Eagles quarterback whose future is in question: conflicting reports have arisen over the last few days as to what the Eagles will do with backup quarterback Michael Vick. As you may recall, Vick signed a two year deal with the Eagles prior to last season but the second year is a team option that will see his salary jump to 5 million dollars per year.
On the one hand, Michael Lombardi of NFL Network says that the Eagles will keep Vick around for next season and pay him the big salary he is owed. On the other hand, several reporters, including Sal Paolantonio of ESPN, are saying that the Eagles have told Vick's agent to start shopping him around the league, looking for a team willing to make a trade.
So, what's the real story? The more likely scenario of the two is that the Eagles are exploring trade options for Vick and gauging how much the rest of the league is willing to give up. Pro Football Talk even speculated that Mike Lombardi was told the Eagles wouldn't trade Vick by someone working for the Eagles to drive up the price. That seems like a much more reasonable explanation than the Eagles wanting to pay Vick 5 million dollars to be a backup QB and get on the field three or four times a game next year.
Of course, the fate of Kevin Kolb also has to play into this situation. If the Eagles look to deal Kolb, keeping Vick around makes a lot more sense. What the Eagles could be doing right now is putting out feelers on Vick and Kolb and seeing which one draws more interest with the intention of dealing whichever one nets the higher draft pick.
The Eagles quarterback situation is certainly in flux as any one of the three QB's could be shipped out of town if the right offer is made. With such a glut at the position, I'm willing to bet one of them will be traded and that Vick is the most likely candidate. With Donovan McNabb likely locked in for one more year and Andy Reid not wanting to give up on Kolb just yet, Vick seems like the odd man out. In fact, if someone offered the Eagles a 3rd round pick for Vick, I bet the Eagles will start packing Vick's bags for him.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
The Eagles will sure have one overqualified defensive backs coach. Dick Jauron, who was the head coach of the Buffalo Bills for the last four years before being fired, has been named the Eagles new secondary coach. While the move appears to be a big demotion for Jauron, he is likely taking the job so he can work with Andy Reid again, whom Jauron assisted with in Green Bay in the early 90's.
Jauron, who has a career head coaching record of 60-82 in 10 seasons with the Bills, Lions and Bears, will be given the task of shoring up a secondary that, given all of their talent, underachieved last season. Hopefully Jauron's experience playing free safety in the NFL can influence Macho Harris and make him into a reliable football player. Let's hope he is more successful in this low-stress position coach job than he was as the Bills head man.
Given Jauron's experience and Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott's inexperience, this should be an excellent addition to the coaching staff. Now if he could just get Asante Samuel to tackle somebody...
Monday, February 1, 2010
With the recent signing of Jose Contreras, the Phillies roster appears set for the 2010 season. While I have some work to do to update my How They Were Built: Phillies post, I figured now is as good a time as any to look at which Phillies from 2009 won't be returning to the team.
Listed below are all of the players who were on the Phillies MLB roster in 2009 that will be with new teams in 2010 and how they got there:
Clay Condrey: Twins, Free Agency (1 year deal)
Scott Eyre: Retired
Cliff Lee: Mariners, Trade
Rodrigo Lopez: Diamondbacks, Free Agency (Minor league deal)
Pedro Martinez: Unsigned free agent
Brett Myers: Astros, Free Agency (1 year deal)
Chan Ho Park: Unsigned free agent
Steven Register: Blue Jays, Free Agency (Minor league deal)
Jack Taschner: Pirates, Free Agency (Minor league deal)
Tyler Walker: Nationals, Free Agency (1 year deal)
Paul Bako: Unsigned free agent
Eric Bruntlett: Nationals, Free Agency (Minor league deal)
Miguel Cairo: Reds, Free Agency (Minor league deal)
Pedro Feliz: Astros, Free Agency (1 year deal)
Matt Stairs: Padres, Free Agency (Minor league deal)
The only possible player from this list that might come back to the Phillies is Pedro Martinez. There are some grumblings that the Phillies want to bring back Pedro for the right price but it's not known whether the team can actually afford him.
Let me know if I'm missing anyone!