Monday, February 28, 2011

Flyers make just a minor deal at the trade deadline

Obviously comfortable with their roster, the Flyers were mostly spectators during today's NHL Trade Deadline, making just one minor deal. While fans expecting a big addition were disappointed, with their recent additions of Kris Versteeg and Nick Boynton, the Flyers already had taken care of their need for depth so there really wasn't much else the team needed to do.

The one player they did acquire was LW Tom Sestito, who was brought over from Columbus for fellow minor leaguers Greg Moore and Michael Chaput. While he is huge (6 foot 5, 209 pounds), Sestito is nothing more than minor league depth and doesn't figure to get any playing time with the Flyers this season unless there are a bad string of injuries. Sestito, who has already been assigned to the Phantoms, is known as a physical player who likes to mix it up but doesn't have much skill, so he sounds like a perfect future 4th wing Flyer.

While the Flyers left around 2 million dollars of cap space on the table, they should be commended for not shaking up the team just to make a deal. With most of their minor league assets and draft picks already shipped out in other trades, if the Flyers wanted to get something done, they likely would have had to move someone from the NHL roster. Not wanting to upset the chemistry of the best team in the Eastern Conference, Paul Holmgren wisely chose to stand pat. With their big move to get Versteeg a few weeks back, the Flyers are banking on already having all the pieces in place to make a deep run into the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Flyers claim Boynton, demote JVR for a day

Not wasting any time finding a replacement for the injured Oskars Bartulis, the Flyers acquired their new 7th defenseman, claiming Nick Boynton off waivers from the Blackhawks. Boynton, an 11 year NHL veteran, is a physical d-man who doesn't contribute anything offensively but can be pretty reliable in his own end. The former Bruin, Coyote, Panther and Duck as well as Blackhawk has a cap hit of $500,000 and will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

The need for an extra body like Boynton came up because of Chris Pronger's hand injury. With Pronger possibly going to miss a game or two, the Flyers need someone they can rely on to play a few shifts. While rookie d-man Erik Gustafsson was called up for that role, Gustafsson needs to get ice time in the minors and would not be an option to sit in the press box as a 7th d-man when everyone is healthy. Enter Boynton, who has gotten pretty familiar sitting in the press box with the Blackhawks in the recent weeks.

To make room for Boynton on the roster, the Flyers had to make an interesting, though necessary, move. Not wanting to risk losing anyone to waivers, the Flyers have temporarily sent James van Riemsdyk to the minors. Since JVR has a contract that allows him to go down and come back up without any waiver issues, the Flyers are sending him down just for tonight's game so Gustafsson can play against Ottawa. After tonight's game, the Flyers will then re-call JVR and send Gustafsson back to the AHL. The most surprising revelation from all of these moves is that recently waived Nikolay Zherdev will likely get to suit up tonight against Ottawa. Talk about a strange turn of events for Zherdev.

While that's a somewhat complicated movement of pieces, the Flyers are making the necessary moves to keep their roster intact. Sure, they could have sent Zherdev to the minors but then they would have risked losing him in the re-entry waivers should they want to call him back up. Getting Boynton isn't a big move for the Flyers but it was a smart move to get some dependable defensive depth. If everything goes to plan, we won't even see Boynton in the lineup come playoff time but he will be a nice insurance policy.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Flyers place Nikolay Zherdev on waivers

UPDATED: Zherdev has cleared waivers. No word yet on what the Flyers will do with him.

So ends the Nikolay Zherdev experiment: according to Bob McKenzie of TSN, in a cap clearing move, the Flyers have waived the enigmatic winger. With the Flyers likely needing to add a healthy defenseman to the roster, Zherdev, who hasn't suited up for the Flyers since February 10th, was the logical choice to go. Despite his ability to score goals (15 in 47 games), Zherdev wasn't reliable in his own end and clearly was in Peter Laviolette's doghouse.

Whether he gets claimed is unknown at this point but I would bet there is a team in the NHL willing to put up with Zherdev's inconsistency if he nets them 8-10 goals. With all of his skill, I'm still a bit surprised that the Flyers couldn't even get a draft pick for Zherdev. No matter what happens, I don't see any way Zherdev suits up for the Flyers again this season.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Scottie Upshall is a fan favorite no more

Despite being traded out of town nearly two years ago, Scottie Upshall has remained a crowd favorite in Philadelphia. Perhaps it was his role in helping the Flyers make a deep playoff run in 2008 or perhaps it was the way he was shown the door in a questionable trade for Dan Carcillo, but Upshall has been someone Flyers fans have always wished they had back.

Upshall undid all of that in his first game back in Philly when he laid the following questionable hit on Oskars Bartulis:

With one hit, Upshall became public enemy number one by Flyers fans as he was booed every time he touched the puck. He can forget about the welcome mat being laid out for him next time he comes to Philly.

As for Bartulis, the early word is that he has a shoulder injury and that we'll know more later. With Sean O'Donnell already out, look for the Flyers to hit the trade market looking for defensive depth should Bartulis miss any time.

UPDATE: Upshall was suspended two games by the league for this hit. Justice served.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Eagles sign LB Rashad Jeanty

The Eagles added another defensive player today, signing LB Rashad Jeanty to a one year contract. Jeanty, who played in 53 career games with the Bengals from 2006 to 2009, was out of the NFL last year after suffering a broken fibula on the opening kickoff of a 2009 Wild Card game.

If Jeanty, who is 27, has fully recovered from his injury, he could be a good depth addition to the linebacking group, where he fits in at the SAM position. Where Jeanty may be even more valuable is on special teams and as a team leader, two roles he filled for the Bengals during his tenure there.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Jimmy Rollins makes his latest "guarantee"

In what has become an annual right of spring, Jimmy Rollins has made his "guarantee" for the upcoming Phillies season. According to the Phillies beat writers, Rollins told the media: "Yeah, we'll win 100 games". Okay, so its not that controversial of a statement given the Phillies pitching staff and its not as bold as his "team to beat" comments from recent years, but Rollins is plenty confident about the upcoming season.

With the pitching the Phillies have and the fact that they won 97 games last year, 100 wins isn't an outlandish prediction, but it still won't be easy. The Phils will need Rollins, who is entering the final year of his contract, to stay healthy and have a big year at the plate. Let's hope Jimmy can live up to another one of his predictions.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Shouldn't the Flyers retire John LeClair's number?

With the announcement that newest Flyer Kris Versteeg will be wearing number 10 when he suits up for the Flyers tonight, I can't help but think of John LeClair, who wore number 10 for the Flyers for a decade. Given that LeClair scored 50 goals three times in his Flyers tenure and he accumulated 333 goals in 649 career games in the orange and black, I assumed that his number would be retired by the Flyers. Considering the Flyers gave the number to a young player like Versteeg, who could be with the team for a long stretch, retiring LeClair's jersey apparently isn't in the cards, at least in the immediate future.

Should LeClair's jersey be retired by the Flyers? While he wasn't their best player during his stretch of time with the team, he certainly is the best American player to ever suit up for the Flyers. He was also one of the best power forwards in the game and a tremendous goal scorer, so LeClair definitely has the credentials. Sure, he didn't win a Cup, but no other Flyer in the recent era did either. Perhaps the Flyers feel LeClair's success was simply a by-product of Eric Lindros?

What say you, Flyers fans, should LeClair's number 10 jersey be retired? Leave a comment below or vote in the poll to the left.

Eagles franchise tag Vick, transition tag Akers

The Eagles announced a pair of moves today that will help them retain the services of two of their best players: they have placed the franchise tag on Michael Vick and the transition tag on David Akers.

We've known for a while now that the Eagles were going to place the franchise tag on Vick. The franchise tag ensures that Vick isn't going anywhere and will be one of the Top 5 paid quarterbacks next season.

As for Akers, placing the transition tag does not ensure he will be back with the Eagles next season. While the Eagles will be required to offer Akers a contract that pays him amongst the Top 10 kickers in the league, other teams can also make offers that the Eagles have the right to match. If another team gives him a huge deal, don't be surprised if the Eagles let him walk.

If a new CBA is reached, it's possible the Eagles may have to void one or both of these moves. Count on the team still finding a way to franchise Vick but don't count on them bending over backwards to keep Akers.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Flyers acquire Kris Versteeg for draft picks

The deepest set of forwards in hockey just got deeper. According to TSN, the Flyers have acquired forward Kris Versteeg from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for first and third round picks in the 2011 draft. You are likely familiar with Versteeg because he won a Cup with the Blackhawks last year.

Versteeg, who is just 24, is a solid all-around player who can play on the powerplay and the penalty kill. This is his third year in the NHL and he scored 20 goals in his first two seasons and currently has 14 goals and 21 assists for Toronto this season. Versteeg has a cap hit of just over 3 million dollars and will be a restricted free agent after next season, so we could be seeing him in Flyers orange for several years.

The acquisition of Versteeg gives the Flyers quite possibly the best group of forwards in the league. Adding Versteeg to a list of playmakers that already includes Danny Briere and Claude Giroux makes an already dangerous Flyers attack that much more potent. Sure, giving up a pair of draft picks is a pretty steep price, but the Flyers are clearly going for broke this year and want to put the best possible team out on the ice. Given that the Flyers now have an extra forward on the roster, don't be surprised if they make another move in the coming days.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy Pitchers and Catchers Day!

With pitchers and catchers reporting today, we've moved one step closer to baseball season. In the coming days, expect a flood of pictures of the big four pitchers, plus Joe Blanton, and the usual stretching and drills footage. Sure, it's all pretty boring, but anything that gets us closer to Opening Day is a good thing.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Eagles to sign CFL star DE Phillip Hunt

If there is a football season next year, the Birds will have at least one new defensive end in their pass-rushing rotation. According to Adam Caplan of Fox Sports, CFL star DE Phillip Hunt, who had 16 sacks last season with the Winnipeg Bombers, is set to sign a multi-year deal with the Eagles.

Hunt, who was never drafted out of college but did spend some time in camp with the Browns in 2009, figures to be more than just another training camp body. As Caplan speculates, Hunt could see 10-20 snaps a game with the Eagles next year as a pass-rushing specialist. While his success in the CFL will translate into success in the NFL is in question, Hunt is only 25 and could develop into a nice asset for the Eagles defense.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Phillies showed interest in Michael Young

Since they signed Cliff Lee back in December, things around the Phillies have been very quiet. That changed today after Jerry Crasnick of ESPN broke the news that the Phillies contacted the Rangers about the possibility of acquiring third baseman Michael Young, who has requested a trade out of Texas. While Crasnick makes it very clear that the talks were short between the two teams and they didn't amount to much of anything, it's still an interesting situation given that the Phillies have no need for a third basemen.

With Placido Polanco at least as good if not better a third baseman than Young, it's curious that the Phillies would even contact the Rangers at all. It's possible the Phillies were just doing their due diligence or perhaps they could have been looking to get Young and then flip him to another team. It isn't known what the Phils were offering the Rangers in return for Young, but you can bet Joe Blanton's name was mentioned. The Rangers were at one point thought to have some interest in acquiring Blanton,but since the signing of Brandon Webb, that interest has likely faded.

Does this trade inquiry for Young mean that the Phillies are actively looking to upgrade at third base? Absolutely not. Ruben Amaro was likely looking to see if he could get a quality player at a bargain price. With the price likely too high for a player with a salary that the Phillies probably can't afford, Amaro quickly moved along.

Brent Celek's Captain Morgan Commercial

Brent Celek had a pretty substantial dip in production in the 2010 season, but that hasn't hurt his endorsement status. As you may remember, Celek did the Captain Morgan pose last year after scoring a touchdown against the Cowboys:

Now, he's in a commercial for Captain Morgan that discusses why he lifted up his leg:

I don't think any amount of rum will help him get over the dropsies he had last year.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Eagles have 16/1 odds to win Super Bowl 46

If there is a Super Bowl in 2012, you can already place bets on it. From, here are the odds for each team to win Super Bowl 46:

Odds to win the 2012 Super Bowl XLVI:
Green Bay Packers 7/1
New England Patriots 8/1
Pittsburgh Steelers 10/1
San Diego Chargers 12/1
Indianapolis Colts 14/1
New Orleans Saints 14/1
Baltimore Ravens 14/1
Atlanta Falcons 16/1
Dallas Cowboys 16/1
New York Jets 16/1
Philadelphia Eagles 16/1
New York Giants 20/1
Chicago Bears 22/1
Houston Texans 35/1
Kansas City Chiefs 35/1
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 35/1
Minnesota Vikings 35/1
San Francisco 49ers 40/1
St. Louis Rams 40/1
Tennessee Titans 40/1
Miami Dolphins 45/1
Washington Redskins 50/1
Detroit Lions 50/1
Oakland Raiders 50/1
Cincinnati Bengals 60/1
Cleveland Browns 60/1
Denver Broncos 60/1
Jacksonville Jaguars 60/1
Arizona Cardinals 75/1
Seattle Seahawks 85/1
Buffalo Bills 100/1
Carolina Panthers 100/1

The Packers as the favorite is the obvious choice, especially given all of the injuries they had to endure to win it all this year. The Eagles at 16/1 actually seems a bit low, especially considering the Cowboys are also 16/1. I guess Bodog isn't impressed with Juan Castillo, either.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Flyers interested in bringing back Ray Emery?

I'm not sure where he would fit in, but, according to Darren Dreger of TSN, the Flyers are one of three teams interested in signing goaltender Ray Emery, who is ready to make his return to hockey. Where Emery would fit in on a team that already has Sergei Bobrovksy and Brian Boucher, not to mention Michael Leighton in the AHL, is beyond me.

While Emery expects to start in the AHL as he begins his comeback, I'm not sure there is even enough ice time for him with Adirondack. Perhaps the Flyers are thinking about signing Emery to a multi-year deal, letting him play out the season in the AHL and then promote him to backup goaltender next year after Brian Boucher's contract runs out.

According to Dreger, teams are looking to sign Emery in the next 48 hours, so we will see very soon whether this is just another rumor or if the Flyers really want to muddle up their goaltending situation even more.

Guest Post: Trying to make sense of the Juan Castillo promotion

Guest Poster Mark Trible gives his thoughts on the Eagles curious promotion of Juan Castillo:

Andy Reid’s vacation-long decision was announced, as the Eagles’ Offensive Line Coach became their Defensive Coordinator on Wednesday. Sounds shocking, I know. And, for those of you out there that heard the news, I’m sure the opening sentence of this piece is helping you digest the move again. I couldn’t quite digest it either.

Juan Castillo is as qualified to run an NFL defense as Rex Ryan is to run a humility clinic. With a few years of high school coaching and a brief USFL stint as a linebacker as the only key points on his résumé, the move brings about bewilderment to Eagles fans everywhere.

How did it come to this? It’s really quite amusing to try to come up with an answer. Of course, this all started with the tragic loss of Jim Johnson to Cancer in the off-season prior to the 2009-10 season. Johnson gave the franchise and the fans an identity for the defense. His impressive blitz packages were eccentric, beautiful and for the opposing offenses, bewildering. There seemed little harm in promoting his assistant at the time, Sean McDermott to replace him. Wrong.

McDermott’s unit struggled when he was in charge, and after a disappointing playoff exit, the heat was on Reid to make a move. He made that move by firing McDermott. Reid then brought in Jim Washburn to coach the defensive line, a move that was applauded by everyone in the NFL community. So as it came down to a few linebacker and secondary coaches in the Super Bowl for the job, it became apparent that the Eagles would grab a solid coach coming off a successful season.

Wrong again. The reason this move is puzzling goes far beyond the fact that Castillo has been an offensive coach. It goes beyond the fact that his offensive lines haven’t been great lately. The most puzzling part about the move is that Andy Reid needed to get the heat off his back. Step one was clearly to fire McDermott. Step two was to hire a defensive mind that would restore credibility. Reid didn’t exactly use the second step.

There’s little doubt that the reviews of Castillo’s work ethic are accurate. I’m sure he will be in the Novacare Complex all day and night, if for no reason other than to save his boss’ you-know-what. I believe Leslie Frazier when he says that Castillo is a great football mind, and when Ron Rivera raves about his preparation. But, I don’t believe for a second that the team can move forward with Castillo and Washburn without going outside of the franchise for a secondary coach and a linebackers coach.

Perhaps, the plan was to throw a ton of money at Washburn, throw a ton of money at a linebackers coach like Green Bay’s Winston Moss. Then, throw a ton of money at a secondary coach like Minnesota’s Joe Woods, who was interviewed earlier in the week. For Eagles fans everywhere, they had better hope that’s the plan. Because when the team goes looking for a starting cornerback, I would highly doubt the fans want to lean on what two line coaches feel is best. And, it goes without saying that fans aren’t interested in what Reid thinks is best on the defensive side of the ball.

The hiring of Washburn does give hope to the fans that the team will spend a good amount of money putting together a stellar defensive staff. If they can’t do that, Castillo will be on less than a short leash with those in Philadelphia. In a city that remembers the great defenses of Buddy Ryan and Jim Johnson, he has big shoes to fill. There will be no ‘grace period’ for him to find his footing.

McDermott found that out the hard way, and he had nine more years of NFL defensive coaching on his résumé.

Follow Mark on Twitter (@Mtrible) for more great Flyers and Eagles thoughts.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Eagles promote Juan Castillo to defensive coordinator

After an extensive search where they interviewed a number of defensive gurus from around the league, the Eagles have decided to promote Juan Castillo, their offensive line coach, to defensive coordinator. Yeah, that isn't a typo, the Eagles have decided that a guy who has been their offensive line coach since 1998 will coach their defense.

To call this move curious would be an understatement. The last time Castillo coached a defense was 1989 and it was a high school team. While Castillo will certainly have no problem fitting in on the Eagles coaching staff, it's definitely fair to question his knowledge of the defensive side of the ball since he has no NFL experience there. Needless to say, Castillo has a lot to prove.

To replace Castillo, the Eagles have hired Howard Mudd to coach the offensive line. Mudd had the same position with the Colts for nearly a decade and is considered one of the best o-line coaches in the game.

My Super Bowl XLV Prediction

Finally, we've reached the end. After 266 football games, a ton of hype and a handful of controversies, we're finally ready for the best two teams in the league to compete for the title. And make no mistake, unlike years past, these are the two best teams in the league, starting with their elite quarterbacks and defenses and going right through to their coaching. We really could be in store for anything in Super Bowl 45, including a high-scoring shootout like the two teams had last year or a low-scoring slugfest where the defenses take over. No matter what happens, you better enjoy the game because it could be the last NFL football you see for a long, long time.

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: 6-4, .600

Super Bowl 45
Packers vs. Steelers
Not to toot my own horn too much, but way back in the preseason I picked the Packers the get to the Super Bowl. Of course, I didn't pick the Steelers to get to the Big Game, leaving them out of the playoffs completely in favor of the Ravens in the AFC North. As for who wins this one, much has been said about how even these two teams are but I have to give the edge to the Packers. If you look at the games that the Steelers defense has struggled this season, its against teams with high-powered offensive attacks. Sure, Pittsburgh can stop the run with the best of them, but they can have problems with teams that spread out and throw the ball all over the field. Count on the Packers to abandon the run early and force the Steelers out of their usual element. That being said, I don't see the Packers running away with this one as the Steelers offense should be able to put some points on the board. This game will be close enough that it will probably come down to who makes fewer turnovers. My pick: Packers 24, Steelers 20

That is my final pick of this NFL season. Check back next season for my picks for the 2011 season, if there is one! Feel free to discuss, argue or make your own picks in the comments section.