Thursday, June 30, 2011

Let the rumors die: Flyers out on Stamkos

The rumors have been there ever since the Flyers dealt Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. While it seemed completely far-fetched, Flyers beat writers started spreading the idea that the Flyers were going to try to pry restricted free agent Steven Stamkos away from the Lightning. Sure, the Flyers didn't really have enough cap space and, sure, they would have to rip their team apart even more, but the rumors persisted that the Flyers were going to pursue Stamkos.

Those rumors die today with the news from the Flyers beat writers that the Flyers will not offer Stamkos a contract. Instead of forking over 100+ million dollars to Stamkos, the Flyers will instead sign their restricted free agents, probably bring back Ville Leino and then focus on signing a quality UFA forward. In other words, the Flyers are being sensible.

As much fun as it would have been for the Flyers to add Stamkos to the roster, I never bought into any of the rumors. Even if the Flyers did put together an offer, I didn't see any way that the Lightning wouldn't match the offer and keep their star player. The Flyers, and their fans, can move on now and focus on the several other quality unrestricted free agents out there. Sure, no free agent they bring in will be as good as Stamkos but they also won't cripple the franchise with a bloated contract and the loss of four draft picks, either.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Phillies place Madson on the DL

With the best offensive team in baseball coming to town, who needs a bullpen? The Phillies announced today that closer Ryan Madson has been placed on the disabled list with a bruised hand. Madson suffered the injury in late May against the Rangers and hasn't pitched since June 19th. Since his placement on the DL is retroactive, he could be back as soon as early next week.

To replace Madson on the roster, the Phillies have called up Andrew Carpenter. Look for Antonio Bastardo and Michael Stutes to continue to carry the load for a severely depleted Phillies bullpen. Let's hope every starter can go the distance against the Red Sox because the late innings could be a real adventure against that lineup.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Flyers deal Darroll Powe to the Wild

The Flyers have traded yet another forward! Ok, so this one isn't as big a deal as what happened a few days back, but the Flyers have dealt Darroll Powe to the Minnesota Wild for a 2013 3rd round pick.

Powe is a solid penalty killer and a great role player but the Flyers simply didn't have room for him on the roster. With the acquisitions of Brayden Schenn, Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds and the recent re-signing of RFA Andreas Nodl, Powe was likely the odd man out. Factoring in the new guys gives the Flyers 11 forwards and when you add in the likely signing up Ville Leino, that makes the 12 forwards you need to suit up on a given night. Of course, the Flyers still might have something up their sleeves, like ridding themselves of Jody Shelley's contract or going out and signing a free agent forward with their available cap space.

With free agency set to start on Friday, I think the Flyers still have a few moves left in them. Nothing they will do can possibly be as shocking as what happened last week, though. Right?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Phillies moves: Oswalt to the DL, Romero released

The Phillies announced a flurry of moves today, none of which is too surprising:

-Roy Oswalt has been placed on the DL. Despite not getting an MRI until Monday, the Phillies decided to stash Oswalt on the disabled list. That certainly isn't a good sign. Like I said yesterday, your Phillies rotation now features Vance Worley and Kyle Kendrick. Scott Mathieson was recalled to take Oswalt's spot on the roster.

-J.C. Romero has officially been released. After being DFA'd last week, Romero went unclaimed by the rest of the league, so the Phillies released him. So long, J.C. Don't be surprised if another team signs him in the next few days.

-Brian Schneider, who hasn't played for the Phillies since May 11th, was activated from the disabled list and will resume his role as backup catcher. Dane Sardinha was sent to the minors.

With the addition of Oswalt to the disabled list, the Phillies now have four players on the DL: Oswalt, Joe Blanton, Jose Contreras and Brad Lidge. It's unclear when Oswalt will be back but the other three should be back sometime around August.

The experts grade the Sixers 2011 draft

The 2011 NBA Draft is in the books and the Sixers accomplished what they set out to do in drafting the best big man available to them. According to most reports, the Sixers had targeted Nikola Vucevic from the start and were happy to see him there for the taking at pick 16. While the Sixers got who they wanted, the draft experts were less than excited with the selection. Here is a sampling of what some experts are saying about the Sixers draft:

Chad Ford, ESPN: C
The Sixers needed size and so they took the biggest guy on the board, but this was a case of drafting need over talent. I think better players were on the board, even if they weren't 7-footers. Vucevic will be solid in the NBA, but he's far from being a potential star. Allen doesn't exactly get you excited after a lackluster four years at Temple.

Tom Ziller, SB Nation: C-
Most mocks had Vucevic here for the past couple weeks; even's pathetic mock drafter, Tom Ziller, got it right! But that doesn't make it a good pick. Not at all.

You've gotta beware these workout wonders. Before the NBA Draft Combine, where Vucevic measured as the biggest player in the draft, he was a borderline first-round pick. He played at USC for three years. He's a well-known entity by the people who play closest attention, and he was a borderline first-round pick until everyone realized he was tall. That's not good!

Fit has to be balanced with talent. The Sixers needed a big man and can probably give Vucevic more early minutes than they could a wing. But guys like Chris Singleton looked like such better prospects, it's hard to cheer such an uninspiring punt.

Mike Misek,
: B
Philadelphia wanted to go big, and they came away with the safest NCAA big man selection in the draft. Nikola Vucevic is a skilled scorer inside and out, makes good decisions with the basketball, and given the snail's pace of USC did not receive the proper appreciation for being a solid rebounder. Additionally, having played for Kevin O'Neill and Tim Floyd, he is a step ahead in terms of defensive preparation. While Vucevic is not going to be Dwight Howard, he has learned to be committed on that end, and has three years of former NBA coaches drilling man-to-man defensive principles into him. In the second round, the Sixers took a local kid in Temple’s Lavoy Allen. He won over Philadelphia in his two predraft workouts with the team, and worked his way to having the right to compete for a roster spot. C+
The Sixers needed size. They would have taken any big that was available here and Vucevic was the best available at 6-10. Taking Motiejunas would have been a bigger gamble and at least Vucevic has work ethic. He has no athleticism, none to speak of, and is, in a lot of ways, Spencer Hawes. But there's no point in creating a logjam for yourself just to avoid drafting for need. The Sixers could have done worse for how their roster is constructed. Lavoy Allen will not be joining us next year.

Chris Mannix,
There wasn't much size in the draft, and Vucevic can provide that and much more for a team that was relying on Spencer Hawes at the center spot. Vucevic is a physical and solid player who measured out as the biggest prospect of this class. His improved post game and mid-range game played a big part in his rise, too.

For more on my thoughts of the Vucevic selection, read my piece from yesterday.

Oswalt leaves game early, could be out a while

We may need to get used to only having three aces on the Phillies for a while. Roy Oswalt, who was forced to leave his start against the Cardinals on Thursday night due to back soreness, will miss at least his next start and will have an MRI on Monday.

Oswalt discussed his condition with the Phillies beat reporters after the game and sounded very negative, hinting that he may not be able to throw another pitch. With a history of back problems, it could be only a matter of time before Oswalt decides that the pain he is going through simply isn't worth it anymore. With a contract that has a mutual option after this season, Oswalt might decide to just walk away from the Phillies. Luckily, he's a fighter and I'd be willing to bet he's going to do everything he can to be healthy by October.

What this all means is that we should get used to seeing Vance Worley and Kyle Kendrick on the mound for the Phillies. With Joe Blanton still out until at least the All Star break, the Phillies will be forced to trot Worley and Kendrick out 2 out of every 5 games for at least the next month. While the three aces are still very good, the Phillies rotation suddenly looks very thin. Hurry back, Oswalt, and let's hope you still have a few good pitches left in you.
(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sixers draft PF/C Nikola Vucevic

As we all suspected, with the 16th overall pick in the NBA Draft, the Sixers went with a big man: 7 footer Nikola Vucevic.

Originally born in Switzerland and raised in Belgium, Vucevic was a three year player at USC and figures to be a PF/C in the NBA. He's known as a decent rebounder and a good shooter for a big man. He isn't the most athletic guy and has drawn comparisons to Mehmet Okur, which is good thing for shooting ability but not exactly a ringing endorsement as an inside presence. How he will fit in with a Sixers team that likes to get up and down the floor is questionable but you can't blame the team for trying to upgrade their very thin frontcourt. Still, it's hard to get too excited about Vucevic, who doesn't appear to have a ton of upside.

The Sixers still have one more pick in the second round. I would expect them to not target any specific position, rather get the best player available. Second round picks don't have a strong track record with the Sixers, so I wouldn't hold your breath for anything special.

Flyers sign Ilya Bryzgalov to 9 year contract

After the two huge trades, we knew it was a matter of time before this was announced: according to TSN, the Flyers have signed Ilya Brygalov to a 9 year, 51 million dollar contract. He will have a cap hit worth 5.67 million dollars per year, a nice value considering he wanted 7 million per year.

The Flyers have made a statement today: no longer will their goaltending be the laughing stock of the NHL. They dealt away two huge pieces to get it done but the Flyers have solidified the goalie position for the first time in many years. Let's hope they have enough pieces left around Bryzgalov to still be an elite team.

Flyers deal Mike Richards to the Kings

This will be a day that Flyers fans will never forget. Two players that were looked at as cornerstones of the franchise have been dealt away. First, it was Jeff Carter to the Blue Jackets. Now, the captain Mike Richards has been traded to the Kings for forwards Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds and a second round pick. That's a lot to process.

Once again, these deals are all about being able to sign Ilya Bryzgalov, who wants 7 million dollars per year. With this deal, the Flyers trade away Richards, who was set to make 5.75 million a year through 2020, and receive Schenn, who will make just over 3 million a year for the next three years, and Simmonds, who is an RFA and made under a million dollars last season. This move, coupled with the Carter move, should give the Flyers all the cap space they need.

I'm not sure what I can say about what the loss of Richards will mean to the team. He was a polarizing figure in the Philadelphia sports scene but he did have some great moments with the Flyers. Just like Carter, he signed a huge long-term deal but was dealt right before his no movement clause started. Rather than be a Flyer for life and be the captain that brings this city a Cup, Richards will now likely spend the rest of his career in Los Angeles.

As for what the Flyers got in return, Schenn is an absolute stud. He will be 20 when the season starts and has played in just 9 regular season games and a handful of playoff games. He has tremendous playmaking ability and will someday be the number one center on the Flyers. As for Simmonds, he will quickly become a fan favorite as he has a ton of energy and hits everything that moves. He won't be a big-time scorer on an offensive line but he should develop into a solid 3rd line winger.

I'm still in shock that the Flyers blew things up like this. Yes, they got great returns for Carter and Richards but it's crazy that both possible franchise players were dealt within an hour of one another. It's a given now that Bryzgalov will be the Flyers goaltender but now we have to wonder if they have enough offense to compete for the Cup next year. I'll have more later once I've processed all of this. Who knows, the Flyers could have more deals in the works, too. At this point, the only untouchable player has to be Claude Giroux.

Flyers deal Jeff Carter to the Blue Jackets

With the signing of Ilya Bryzgalov likely to happen any day now, we knew the Flyers were going to have to trade someone to clear cap space. The first casualty: Jeff Carter, who has been traded to the Blue Jackets for RW Jakub Voracek and a 1st and 3rd round pick. The first round pick is 8th overall.

First, let's deal with the cap implications. Trading Carter, who signed an 11 year contract that kicks in next year, clears 5.75 million dollars off the cap. The Flyers will need to sign Voracek, who made 1.27 million last year and is now a restricted free agent, and he could demand somewhere around 3 million per year. That should get the Flyers closer to having enough space to sign Bryzgalov, who is rumored to want close to 7 million dollars a year, but they will still need to make another move.

Getting rid of Carter and his 30+ goal per season output will certainly hurt the offense but the Flyers should be a better team in the long run. Not only do they add the pieces in this deal, which include two draft picks and a young skater with some upside, but the Flyers essentially also got Bryzgalov in the deal since they can now almost afford to sign him.

As for the one player the Flyers got in the deal who will suit up for them next season, Voracek will be 22 when the season starts and already has three NHL season under his belt. He's a former 7th overall pick in the 2007 draft and has shown some solid offensive skills, averaging 13 goals and 45 assists per season. He's also a right winger, so the dealing of Carter should help the Flyers clear up their center logjam.

This is a huge deal for the Flyers that represents a new way of thinking for the club. They are now building from the goaltender out, giving up some of their depth to ensure some stability in net. Count on another deal or two in the coming days as the Flyers might have to shed a little more salary to fit Bryzgalov under the cap. I'd put money on Kris Versteeg being the next to go but they could also move a bigger name.

Flyers 2011/12 schedule released: Winter Classic confirmed

The Flyers schedule for the upcoming season has been announced and we finally have official word that they will be hosting the Winter Classic on January 2nd at Citizens Bank Park against the Rangers. Here are some key dates for the upcoming season:

Season Opener: October 6th, at Boston
Home Opener: October 12th, vs. Vancouver
Winter Classic: January 2nd, Winter Classic vs. Rangers
All-Star break: January 24th through January 31st
Last Game: April 7th, vs. Pittsburgh

Click here for the complete schedule.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Laperriere wins the Masterton Award

Ian Laperriere was the lone Flyer to win an award for the 2010-11 season and he didn't even play in a single game. Lappy, who last played in the 2010 Stanley Cup run, has won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, an award given for perseverance and sportsmanship. It's pretty fair to call it a lifetime achievement award for Lappy, who has been the ultimate team guy throughout his entire career. The other finalists for the award were former Flyers Ray Emery and Daymond Langkow.

Despite the award, I wouldn't count on Lappy returning to the Flyers or even playing hockey ever again. Already 37 and still not fully recovered from taking a slapshot to the face, it might take a miracle to get him back on the ice.

No other Flyer was even a finalist for any other NHL award. Future (hopefully) Flyer Ilya Bryzgalov finished 6th in the voting for the Vezina award.

2011 NBA Mock Draft Round-up: Who will the Sixers draft?

With the NBA Draft coming Thursday, it's time to take a closer look at who the Sixers might pick with the 16th overall selection in the first round. While there isn't as much to get excited about as last year when they had the number 2 overall pick, there should still be some interesting talent available to the Sixers. While they could make a trade and move up, I'm guessing they stand pat and take the best big man available.

Here is a round-up of some various mock drafts from around the internet to get a good idea of who the Sixers might select with their first round pick:

Sam Amick,
Jordan Hamilton, SF, Texas
For weeks, the Sixers told rival teams that they were going big with their pick. But now comes word that Hamilton is a strong possibility, a change that could be taken as a sign that Philadelphia officials are confident they can find a worthy taker for small forward Andre Iguodala sometime soon. Otherwise, Markieff Morris and Motiejunas would be seen as the most likely big men to be taken here.
Bismack Biyombo, PF, Spain
The Sixers would like to add a beast inside to do the dirtywork and Biyombo fits the bill. Bismack's lack of offensive skills were readily apparent in his workout in Treviso. How much offensive game he can develop is debatable as is his true age. A tremendous shot blocker using his quick reflexes, length (7-foot-7 wingspan) and explosiveness to protect the rim. Nikola Vucevic and Markieff Morris are possibilities here too. If the team indeed decides to move Iguodala, a forward such as Hamilton or Singleton are possibilities.
Nikola Vucevic, C, USC
The Sixers have one of the deeper teams in the NBA, but Vucevic would fill a niche they need.
Nikola Vucevic, C, USC

Mike Finewax,
Kenneth Faried, PF, Morehead State
Faried has a great nose for the ball, is one of the best rebounders in college history and will dive for loose balls without hesitation. Hustle is a word that best describes him, and with Elton Brand likely declining with age and health, Faried appears to be a good fit. There's also talk the Sixers want USC center Nikola Vucevic here, but I'm not sure he's really a top-20 pick.
Markieff Morris, PF, Kansas
The Sixers are looking to add a rugged PF in this draft and will hope a player such as Morris is available to them. Bismack Biyombo is also a possibility as the team is desperate for an athletic post, but Morris would be the safer option. The Morris twins have built a reputation for bringing intensity and toughness every time out. Some envision Markieff becoming the better pro (over Marcus) because of his size and better ability to fit a position (PF).
Jordan Hamilton, SF, Texas
A scorer who rebounds well but forces some shots and needs to improving awareness

My take: Grab the best big man available. The Sixers need frontcourt depth, and though none of the guys that will be available will be special players in the league, they can still get someone who can rebound and block shots. Whatever they do, they better not take another SG/SF tweener unless they plan on trading Andre Iguodala.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Crazy 8th inning leads Phillies past Cardinals

Entering the 8th inning of Tuesday's game, the Phillies trailed 2-1 and looked like they were headed towards another depressing, offense-less loss. A ridiculous 14 batters and 9 runs later, the Phils coasted to a 10-2 win over the Cardinals.

There were a number of oddities in their 9 run outburst, including the fact that the Phillies only had 5 hits and they were all singles. The Phils mostly took advantage of a Cardinals bullpen implosion, as all 5 of the pitchers Tony LaRussa sent to the mound had difficulty finding the strike zone and walked 4 batters and hit 2 others in the inning. Yeah, that's right, crazy ol' La Russa used 5 pitchers in the inning after removing his starting pitcher who was mowing the Phillies down left and right. Imagine the roasting he would get from the Philly media if he was the manager here.

The only possible negative from the inning could be a possible injury to Placido Polanco, who got nailed on the hand by a pitch and left the game. He hasn't been hitting well lately but the Phillies would rather not have to use Wilson Valdez for a long stretch of games.

Here's the rundown of the inning in all it's glory: