Thursday, August 9, 2012

Blockbuster Sixers trade: Philly picks up Bynum, deals Iguodala

As part of a huge 4 team trade involving Dwight Howard, the Sixers have pulled off a major addition, acquiring Andrew Bynum from the Lakers while dealing off Andre Iguodala to the Nuggets.  The details of the trade are still emerging, but as of now the deal looks something like this:

Sixers get:
Andrew Bynum
Jason Richardson

Lakers get:
Dwight Howard

Nuggets get:
Andre Iguodala

Magic get:
Arron Afflalo
Al Harrington
Nikola Vucevic
Moe Harkless
Three 1st round picks

While the Sixers did have to give up several more pieces besides Iguodala, including their two most recent first round picks, Bynum and Jason Richardson are huge additions for the Sixers.  Bynum is certainly enigmatic but he is also one of the best centers in the league, probably better than all big men besides Dwight Howard.  The one drawback to Bynum is that he is a free agent after the coming season and has indicated that he won't re-sign but he is from New Jersey so perhaps he will consider staying closer to home.  Adding Richardson and his three point prowess to the team will also help spread the floor.

As for Iguodala, he been a key member of the Sixers for nearly a decade and he will be missed.  While he was miscast as the leader of a team, Iguodala is still a great defender and a solid all-around basketball player.  It's unfortunate that all of this went down when he was in London representing our country but the Sixers likely had to strike now to make sure the deal got done.

Huge, franchise changing move for the Sixers, and one that I applaud.  Bynum could certainly leave after just one season but the Sixers have taken their first step towards becoming a team that can compete with the Heat in the Eastern Conference.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Phillies extend Cole Hamels for 6 more years

Forget all the trade speculation: Cole Hamels is going to be a Phillie for a long, long time.  The Phillies announced this morning that they have signed their home-grown ace to a 6 year, 144 million dollar contract extension.  The deal also includes an option for a 7th year and a limited no-trade provision.

Forgetting that the Phillies are already paying 20+ million to two other pitchers, this is a great deal for both Hamels, who gets market value, and the team, who gets a great pitcher locked up for his prime years.  While he will certainly be on the downside of his career when the contract runs out, Hamels still has plenty of good years left in his arm and its awesome to know they will all be in a Phillies uniform.

What the Phillies do next will be interesting.  They have a ton of money locked into starting pitching for the next several years, so will they feel compelled to move Cliff Lee?  Will they ship out Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence?  If so, what are they going to do for an outfield next season?  With the trade deadline less than a week away, we will likely know their plan soon enough.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Flyers lose out on Weber as Nashville matches

We all had our hopes up.  Certainly the cash-strapped Predators couldn't afford to lock up Shea Weber to a 110 million dollar contract, right?  We all essentially penciled Weber into the Flyers line-up and started dreaming about an unstoppable defensive unit.

All of those hopes and dreams have now disappeared as Nashville has announced that they will match the Flyers offer sheet to Weber.  While it will be difficult for the Predators to cough up the money necessary for Weber, they determined that their star defenseman was worth every penny.

After losing Weber, where do the Flyers turn now?  They clearly are in the market for a top defenseman but there aren't any left on the market.  The Flyers could throw a bunch of money at forward Shane Doan but that isn't going to do anything for their back end.  While the offer sheet showed plenty of creativity, Paul Holmgren is now going to have to get even more creative if he wants to add a top defenseman to the Flyers.  Homer has shown to have plenty of moves up his sleeve but he is now in danger of leaving the offseason table with nothing.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Flyers sign Shea Weber to massive offer sheet

The Flyers made huge news late last night when they signed Predators defenseman Shea Weber to a 14 year, 110 million dollar contract.  Since Weber is a restricted free agent, Nashville will have one week to match the Flyers offer if they want to keep their star defenseman.  Should they not match, the Flyers would get Weber but they would be forced to fork over 4 future first round picks.

While Weber is certainly worth the money, it isn't a guarantee that the Predators will match.  The way the Flyers structured the contract, Weber will made 26 million dollars in the first year alone and make more than half of the money in the first 4 years.  For a team without a ton of cash laying around like the Predators, this might not be a deal they can afford to match.

Should the Predators not match, the Flyers will be adding one of the best d-men in the league.  Not only is Weber known for doling out big hits, he has a big shot from the point and can log a ton of ice time.  As the Nashville captain, Weber would also bring leadership to the Flyers and would replace the huge hole left by the injured Chris Pronger.

Speaking of Pronger, this offer sheet likely confirms that Pronger will never again play hockey.  Should the Flyers get Weber, they will also have to make a few moves to shed some salary.  It could mean that Andrej Meszaros and Jakub Voracek have to be shipped out or the Flyers could move an even bigger contract off the books.

It wouldn't be a hockey offseason if Paul Holmgren didn't make a gutsy move.  Adding Weber to one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference would further cement the Flyers as a Stanley Cup favorite.  Early indications are that the Predators can't afford to match but they still have a week to figure out whether they can make it work.  It will be a long week of waiting for the Flyers and their fans.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Sixers sign Nick Young, amnesty Elton Brand

While they might not be making earth-shattering moves, at least the Sixers are making things interesting this offseason.  First, they draft another extremely talented swing player that can't shoot from the outside.  Then, they re-sign the much-maligned but actually decent Spencer Hawes to a reasonable 2 year, 13 million dollar contract.  Today they have made two more moves, signing swingman Nick Young and amnestying Elton Brand.

Young is another shooting guard/small forward to add to the Sixers collection, though he can actually shoot the three ball a little bit.  He signed a one year, 6 million dollar contract which could prove to be a good value for a player that can come off the bench and average around 10 points a game.  Given his penchant for volume shooting, it's a fair guess that he is a replacement for Lou Williams.

To have room to sign Young, the Sixers had to use the amnesty clause on Elton Brand, buying out the last year of his contract that would have paid him 18 million next season.  While Brand has been a great leader on the Sixers, he hasn't lived up to his huge contract, averaging just 11 points and 7 boards last season.  Expect him to latch on with another team in need of his veteran presence but he is completely off the Sixers cap this season.

The Sixers were one game away from the Eastern Conference Finals last season.  Have the moves they made so far this offseason made them any better?  Not really, but perhaps they aren't quite done re-tooling.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Flyers sign Gervais, bring back Fedotenko

After missing out on Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, the Flyers have moved on to Plan B.  That Plan B apparently involves picking up much lesser talent as the team announced today that they have signed defenseman Bruno Gervais and forward Ruslan Fedotenko.

Gervais signed a two year deal worth $825,000 per season to be the Flyers 6th defenseman.  While he certainly won't replace the departed Matt Carle, Gervais, a 7 year veteran who has played for the Islanders and Lightning, gives the Flyers good depth in the back end.  There is no expectation that Gervais will develop into a big contributor for the Flyers but he probably won't embarass himself on the 3rd defensive pairing.

As for Fedotenko, he is certainly a blast from the past for Flyers fans, as he last suited up for Philly in 2001.  Since being traded to the Lightning in 2002, Fedotenko has won a Cup in Tampa and also played for the Islanders, Penguins (where he won another Cup) and Rangers.  The Flyers signed him to a one year, 1.75 million dollar contract to play on the third line and chip in about a dozen goals.  Nice pickup but certainly not something that will drastically improve the Flyers and certainly not a move that will replace the production of the departed Jaromir Jagr.

The Flyers moves in free agency have been fairly underwhelming to this point, not that that is necessarily a bad thing.  With a ton of young talent that figures to still be improving, the Flyers have plenty of room to grow into a better team.  Of course, Paul Holmgren could also just be biding his time before he pulls the trigger on a huge trade for Bobby Ryan or Rick Nash.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Flyers bring back Michael Leighton

NHL free agency kicks off today and the Flyers started things off by re-signing a familiar name: Michael Leighton, who signed a one year deal worth $900,000 to be the backup goaltender.  Yep, that's the same Michael Leighton who took the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals and then spent the last two seasons in the AHL.

While the move is perplexing initially, there aren't a lot of other backup goaltending options out there in free agency, especially at that price.  The Flyers are likely trying to go cheap at backup goaltender so they have some extra money to go after a big name, whether it's Ryan Suter or Zach Parise.  If Leighton only has to play a few games behind Ilya Bryzgalov, then the signing looks fine.  If Bryz struggles or gets injured, handing the reigns over to Leighton could prove disastrous.

Look for the Flyers to stay plenty busy today, just like they always do on July 1st.  While this first signing isn't exciting or impressive, it allows the Flyers to now concentrate on making a big splash.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Phillies trade Jim Thome to the Orioles

According to Ken Rosenthal, the Phillies have traded Jim Thome for the second time, shipping him off to the Orioles this time.  The deal will be officially announced following the game today but don't expect the Phillies to get much in return as this deal was about getting Thome to an AL team where he could get consistent at-bats.

With Ryan Howard missing at least half of the season, the Thome signing in the offseason made sense if he could step in and play first base.  When his back didn't prove up to the task, Thome was left to waste away on the Phillies bench once interleague play in the American League parks ended.  Given how ineffective he was as a pinch-hitter yet how dominant he was as DH, Thome will be a nice piece for the Orioles and should be a big contributor when he gets consistent at-bats.

It is unfortunate that Thome's second stint with the Phillies wasn't nearly as memorable as his first due to a faulty back.  He still has a few good swings left so its nice to see him back in the American League where he belongs.

Update: The Phillies got single-A pitcher Kyle Simon and catcher Gabriel Lino in the deal.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Flyers swap JVR for Luke Schenn

The man that has been rumored to be traded seemingly ever since he was drafted has finally been dealt: the Flyers have traded James van Riemsdyk to the Maple Leafs for defenseman Luke Schenn.  This deal has been rumored to be happening for the last year or so and the Flyers finally pulled the trigger to trade the two straight up for one another.

Schenn, who is indeed the brother of current Flyer Brayden Schenn, is a young defenseman who has shown plenty of promise but has yet to live up to his potential.  His cap hit is lower than JVR's by nearly a million and he is under contract for fewer seasons so the Flyers are also freeing up money that will likely be used to re-sign Matt Carle as well as bring in a free agent or two.  If Schenn ever lives up to his potential as a top defenseman, this deal could turn out to be a steal for the Flyers.

Much like Schenn, JVR has never quite lived up to his potential.  He has long been coveted by the Leafs for his size and his occasional flashes of brilliance.  He could be the type of player that will thrive with a change of scenery and could eventually become a star and make the Flyers regret ever trading him.

It's pretty apparent that Paul Holmgren loves trading and isn't afraid to take chances.  On paper, JVR is currently the better player in the deal but neither player has fully developed yet so it is impossible to love or hate the deal.  Given the complete over-pay of his contract, I can't say I'm all that upset that JVR has been shipped out of town.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Flyers deal Bobrovsky to Columbus

This isn't the rumored "big trade" but the Flyers have made a move, dealing Sergei Bobrovsky to the Columbus Blue Jackets for three draft picks, including a 2nd round pick and two 4ths.  While the Flyers are now lacking a backup goaltender, they got a great return for Bob and may have the pieces necessary to make a bigger move.

While Bobrovsky had his moments with the Flyers, he seems destined to be a starter in the NHL and he wasn't going to get that opportunity in Philadelphia.  If the move is the first step towards grabbing a big name player or even if it allows the Flyers to make a smaller move, it was the right time to deal Bob since he still has a good amount of upside.

With the NHL Draft coming tonight, expect the rumors to continue to swirl around the Flyers, who always seem to make a big splash this time of the year.  Don't expect anything as drastic as last offseason but don't be surprised when a young player gets moved for an established star, either.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Eagles sign safety O.J. Atogwe

According to a report out of Washington, the Eagles have added some depth to their secondary, signing veteran safety O.J. Atogwe.  Atogwe is a former Ram and most recently played a season with the Redskins and figures to slide into the backup free safety spot behind Nate Allen.

While Atogwe has had his injury issues the last few seasons, if healthy, he could be a useful addition to the Eagles secondary.  He should provide great depth and can step in and start if needed.  While he isn't the same player that picked off 8 passes for the Rams in 2007, Atogwe is definitely a player worth taking a flier on, assuming he signed a one year contract for very little guaranteed money.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Phillies lose Halladay for 6-8 weeks

After leaving the game early on Sunday, you knew this was coming: the Phillies have placed Roy Halladay on the 15 day disabled list due to a strained lat.  The early word is that Halladay hopes to only miss 6-8 weeks.

While losing Halladay for two months is never a good thing, the injury could have been much, much worse.  Halladay expects to be back by August, just in time for the Phillies to (hopefully) make a playoff run.  Since he has been dealing with shoulder issues all season, if he comes back at full strength, the time off could even be a good thing for Halladay.

With Vance Worley also out, the Phillies rotation suddenly has a hole.  Could this mean the Phillies sign Roy Oswalt?  Since he is apparently about to sign with the Rangers, barring a trade, the Phillies will have to look within for their 5th starter.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Eagles lock up LeSean McCoy for 5 more years

The Eagles have once again made it clear: if you are young and you perform, you are going to get paid.  LeSean McCoy got rich today, signing a 5 year, 45 million dollar contract that will keep him with the Eagles through 2017.  The deal includes 20.765 million dollars in guaranteed money and makes Shady one of the highest paid running backs in the league.

Given that McCoy could possibly be the best running back in the NFL, locking him up was a priority.  Though he still had another year on his rookie contract, the Eagles rewarded him for a strong 2011 season and have guaranteed that he won't hit the open market for several more years.

Despite the lofty figures in the contract, it's hard to complain about this deal.  The Eagles have plenty of cap space and they are giving a lot of money to an elite player that is still getting better.  Barring an injury, McCoy should more than earn his paycheck.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

On to the second round: the Sixers??!?

It may need an asterisk but a number 8 seed knocking off a number 1 seed is always a tremendous accomplishment.  The Sixers pulled off that task after beating the Bulls on Thursday and winning their first round series, 4-2.

Fittingly, the hero for the Sixers was Andre Iguodala, who has taken a ton of heat over the years for not stepping up in the clutch and hitting the big shots.  After the Bulls foolishly tried to add to their 1 point lead in the final seconds of the game, Iguodala grabbed a rebound and took the ball coast-to-coast and got fouled with 2 seconds left.  Iguodala had ice in his veins, hitting both free throws to give the Sixers a series win.

The Sixers now await the winner of the Celtics/Hawks series, which will likely be Boston.  Don't expect a Celtics/Sixers series to be pretty but also don't expect the Celtics to simply walk all over the Sixers.  It's been a long, long time since the Sixers got to the second round of the playoffs and they deserve a ton of credit for getting there.  While their path was easier due to injuries, the Sixers still deserve a ton of credit for knocking off one of the elite teams in the league.
(Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Another Flyers season ends but the future remains bright

It really wasn't supposed to happen this way for the Flyers, at least not this season.  No, I'm not talking about how the Flyers weren't supposed to lose to the Devils; the Flyers weren't supposed to even get to the second round this season.

After making drastic changes last offseason, the Flyers instantly entered a rebuilding mode, one that will feature a number of young players who are years away from their primes.  Sure, the Flyers were still supposed to be competitive but they really weren't expected to be serious Cup contenders until the kids had a chance to develop.  Really, anything that happened this season was gravy.

So why is it still so disappointing to see them lose to the Devils on Tuesday and get ousted from the playoffs?  Mostly because of how much fun it was to see these upstart Flyers stick it to the Penguins in one of the most entertaining series of games in many years.  To follow up all of that entertainment with four straight losses to the Devils in a series of games that were very uneventful was what was so disappointing.

The future is very bright with these Flyers. Claude Giroux could still get better.  The 8 rookies that hogged all the ice time this season should only improve with even more experience.  Chris Pronger hopefully will return.  Ilya Bryzgalov will hopefully keep his head on straight.  There is a lot to like about the future of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Despite all of this, it still hurts to see them lose to a Devils team that doesn't really feel like a great team. Hey, we'll always have that Penguins series.
(Getty Images)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Danny Briere wins Game 1 in OT

After a slow first period, the Flyers picked up their play and took out the Devils in overtime in Game 1, 4-3.  Mr. Playoffs, Danny Briere, was the hero in this one, putting the puck into the back of the net twice in overtime, though the first was called off due to Briere kicking it in.  Here's Briere's game winner:

The Flyers have to be happy with how they played after the first period.  Should that carry over into the next few games, they should make short of the Devils.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Eagles 2012 NFL Draft Day 3 Round-up

The Eagles wrapped up their draft with 5 more selections on Sunday, going for depth at several positions.  Here is a look at each player the Eagles selected:

Round 4, Pick 28 (123): Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia
The Eagles may have found their slot corner.  Boykin is another great athlete, one who should compete right away for a starting spot in the Eagles secondary.  A dynamic kick returner in college, Boykin could also immediately be the best return man on the Eagles roster.  Boykin also played some receiver in college so he certainly is versatile.  While he is small (5 foot 9) and has had a history of concussions, Boykin appears to be another great value pick.

Round 5, Pick 18 (153): Dennis Kelly, OT, Purdue
The Eagles finally grab a lineman and he looks like a project.  Kelly, who was the offensive player of the year at Purdue in 2010, is huge (6 foot 8) and was a three year starter in college.  Expect Howard Mudd to take this kid under his wing and develop him into a usable piece somewhere down the road.

Round 6, Pick 24 (194): Marvin McNutt, WR, Iowa
McNutt has good size (6 foot 3) and hands and could be a decent depth receiver for the Eagles.  With 170 career catches for 2861 yards, he put up some solid numbers at Iowa, even setting a school record for number of career receiving touchdowns with 28.  With the Eagles seemingly interminable red zone issues, McNutt could develop into a nice target for Michael Vick near the goalline.  There are some questions about his effort and blocking skills.

Round 6, Pick 30 (200): Brandon Washington, G, Miami
Washington played tackle at Miami but will likely move to Guard in the NFL.  He spent three years at Miami and has the size (6 foot 3, 320 pounds) to be an NFL lineman.  Best case scenario for him is probably a practice squad spot.

Round 7, Pick 22 (229): Bryce Brown, RB, Kansas St.
I expected the Eagles to take a backup running back with an earlier pick; instead, they waited until their final pick and took Brown, who transferred from Tennessee in 2010.  He is a complete question mark, a guy with a ton of talent who never really did anything in college.  He's a 7th round pick so I wouldn't expect much from him.

Go here and here for my analysis on the Eagles Day 1 and Day 2 picks.

Derrick Rose out for the playoffs

The Sixers may suddenly have a chance: it is being reported that point guard Derrick Rose tore his ACL and will be lost for the remainder of the playoffs.  Rose suffered the injury in Game 1 against the Sixers and that will certainly put a damper on any championship run the Bulls thought they were making.

Why Rose was in a blowout game with just over a minute to play is beyond me but you can bet the Bulls regret not taking him out.  Expect the Bulls to take care of the Sixers, though it may take an extra game or two than it should have.

Eagles upgrade defense, grab quarterback on Day 2 of NFL Draft

On day 2, the Eagles continued their solid showing at the 2012 NFL Draft, focusing once again on upgrading the defense by taking the best available defenders in the second round.  The Birds also selected their next project quarterback in the third round.  Here is a look at the Eagles day 2 picks:

Round 2, Pick 14 (46): Mychal Kendricks, LB, Cal
The Eagles actually took a linebacker, something they don't often do in the draft, and it appears that they got themselves a good one.  Kendricks, the Pac-12 defensive of the year last season at Cal, has tremendous speed and could slide into a starting outside linebacker role with the Eagles.  While he is small (5 foot 11), he has a good motor and is a physical tackler.  The Eagles took the best available defensive player that fit their system so its hard to find fault with this pick.

Round 2, Pick 27 (59): Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall
The Eagles don't really need more defensive linemen but they couldn't resist taking Curry and his ability to rush the quarterback.  I'm not really sure where he fits into the Eagles stacked d-line rotation but they will make room for a guy who loves getting to the quarterback as much as Curry does.  He is yet another high-motor guy who Eagles fans will love.

Round 3, Pick 25 (88): Nick Foles, QB, Arizona
Foles is a bit of a question mark as the Eagles don't really need yet another project quarterback.  Does this selection mean that they have already soured on Mike Kafka?  Foles has a good arm but very little mobility and shouldn't be counted on to ever be anything more than a backup quarterback.  With the way Andy Reid can develop QB's, though, count on him eventually being traded for a second round pick.

The Eagles still have a few needs that need filling, including some secondary help and possibly a backup running back.  Luckily, they still have the following 5 picks remaining:

Round 4, Pick 28 (123)
Round 5, Pick 18 (153)
Round 6, Pick 24 (194)
Round 6, Pick 30 (200)
Round 7, Pick 22 (229)

I'll have more analysis on the remaining picks on Saturday.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Report: Brian Dawkins will retire as an Eagle

The player that still remains in the hearts of all Eagles fans is coming home.  According to Jeff McLane of the Inquirer, Brian Dawkins, who announced his retirement last week, will sign a one day contract and retire as an Eagle.  Dawkins had been with the Broncos for the last three seasons but will certainly be better remembered for being the anchor of the Eagles defense through all of those NFC Championship games.

Expect Dawkins to get a celebration at an Eagles game this season and for his #20 to be retired.  After that, expect plenty of Hall of Fame debates.  I know how we all feel about B-Dawk but its not exactly easy for safeties to get into the Hall.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Eagles trade up, draft DT Fletcher Cox

The Eagles have struck at the NFL Draft, trading up from to take Mississippi State DT Fletcher Cox with the 12th pick in the draft.  Cox was considered the best defensive tackle in the draft by some and the Eagles made a great move to grab him, trading their 15th pick in the first round and a 4th and a 6th rounder to move up 3 spots to ensure they could take him.

Cox is an incredible athlete who is big, strong and fast and plays with a high motor.  With his pass-rushing skills, he'll be ready to play right away and should make an instant impact.  Cox could even be ready to step right into the Eagles starting defensive line that suddenly looks unstoppable with Trent Cole, Cullen Jenkins and Jason Babin.  Add in Darryl Tapp and Mike Patterson and the Eagles are loaded with pass rushers that should create havoc for the opposing offensive lines.

The Eagles get an A for their first pick.  Most experts didn't expect Cox to be their with the 15th pick in the draft so the Eagles made the necessary and fairly painless move to trade up and grab him.  With plenty of picks left in the draft, the Eagles should have plenty of time to address their needs in the secondary and grab a linebacker and possibly a quarterback.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Eagles deal Asante Samuel to the Falcons

After having him on the trade block for almost a year, the Eagles have finally shipped Asante Samuel out of town, trading him to the Falcons for a mere 7th round pick.  Samuel restructured his contract with Atlanta to earn less money as a requirement of the deal.

Why the Eagles traded a still very good cornerback for just a late round pick is somewhat puzzling on the surface.  While the Eagles certainly didn't get much value in return for Samuel, they are freeing up the money needed to sign LeSean McCoy to a huge contract while still allowing themselves plenty of room under the cap to remain flexible.  If you think it sounds like the Eagles are being cheap, you are probably right, but they always like to have extra cap space should they need it.  It's a tough trade to swallow, however, with Samuel still playing at a nearly elite level.

The Eagles "dream secondary" is no more though it will still be one of the best in the league with Nnamdi and DRC and whoever they trot out at the two safety positions.  While it would have been nice for the Eagles to try to restructure Samuel's deal to keep him around, NFL teams don't like to invest too much money into one position and clearly he didn't fit into the teams long term plans.  As long as the Eagles lock up McCoy to a long deal, I'm okay with dumping Samuel's contract.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Flyers kick Penguins to the curb

Pennsylvania now belongs to the Flyers. 

There was certainly reason to be nervous after how Games 4 and 5 went but the Flyers quickly put any thoughts of a possible Penguins series win to bed by jumping out to an early lead in Game 6 and never looking back.  In the series that had a little bit of everything, Game 6 was fairly normal as the Flyers dominated from start to finish, winning 5-1 to send the Penguins packing.

Claude Giroux set the early tone for the Flyers, first crushing Sidney Crosby then picking up a goal 32 seconds into the game.  Giroux later added a pair of assists and continues his emergence into the upper echelon of hockey players.  In a series that featured Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, supposedly two of the top 5 players in the world, Claude Giroux was often the best player on the ice.

The series was also a coming out party for Sean Couturier, who not only had a hat trick in Game 2 but also made it his personal mission to shut down Malkin.  While Malkin had a fair amount of points, Couturier shut him down at critical moments and continually got under his skin.  It will be a lot of fun watching the 19 year old Couturier own Malkin for years to come.

With the Penguins pushed aside, the Flyers now wait for their next opponent.  Who they will play is still pretty up in the air depending on the outcomes of the Rangers/Senators and Bruins/Capitals series.  With the Flyers already having beaten the supposed Cup favorite, a deep playoff run certainly seems like a strong possibility.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Eagles 2012 schedule released

We've known for awhile who the Eagles will be facing in 2012 but now we know exactly when they will be playing each opponent:

Week 1: 9/9 Eagles @ Browns, 1 pm
Week 2: 9/16 Ravens @ Eagles, 1 pm
Week 3: 9/23 Eagles @ Cardinals, 4:05 pm
Week 4: 9/30 Giants @ Eagles, 8:30 pm (Sunday Night)
Week 5: 10/7 Eagles @ Steelers, 1 pm
Week 6: 10/14 Lions @ Eagles, 1 pm
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: 10/28 Falcons @ Eagles, 1 pm
Week 9: 11/5 Eagles @ Saints, 8:30 pm (Monday Night)
Week 10: 11/11 Cowboys @ Eagles, 4:15 pm
Week 11: 11/18 Eagles @ Redskins, 1 pm
Week 12: 11/26 Panthers @ Eagles, 8:30 pm (Monday Night)
Week 13: 12/2 Eagles @ Cowboys, 8:20 pm (Sunday Night)
Week 14: 12/9 Eagles @ Bucs, 1 pm
Week 15: 12/13 Bengals @ Eagles, 8:30 pm (Thursday Night)
Week 16: 12/23 Redskins @ Eagles, 1 pm
Week 17: 12/30 Eagles @ Giants, 1 pm

Note the Sunday Night games in Weeks 4 and 13, the Monday Night games Weeks 9 and 12 and the Thursday Night game in Week 15.

You can't tell anything about the strength of a schedule in April but the Eagles appear to have a tough road from Weeks 4 through 11 as they play divisional opponents and (presumably) good Steelers, Lions, Falcons and Saints teams.  The division will likely be decided from Week 10 and on as the Eagles play 5 of their 6 divisional games in that stretch.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Flyers continue to own classless Penguins, take 3-0 series lead

It's pretty clear at this point that the Flyers are in the Penguins heads.  After two thrilling comeback victories in Games 1 and 2, the Flyers completely embarrassed the Penguins in Game 3, dominating the ice in a 8-4 win.  The Flyers are now just one win away from sweeping the supposed Cup favorites out of the playoffs.

The Penguins showed a real lack of class in the game, melting down and turning to cheap hits when they couldn't keep up with the Flyers on the scoreboard.  From Sidney Crosby poking a glove aside to Arron Asham cheap-shotting Sean Couturier for no reason to James Neal taking shots on Flyers stars to Craig Adams pulling Scott Hartnell's hair, the Penguins made a mockery out of the game and turned in an ugly performance for the ages.  Expect at least Asham and Adams to get suspended and Neal to get a serious look at losing a game.

Nothing is over until the Flyers win that 4th game but it has been obvious which team is more poised, determined and willing to do the work necessary to make a deep playoff run.  This Flyers team is filled with young, hungry players that have no fear and won't back down from anyone.  No matter what happens in the next few games of this series and beyond, this is one incredibly exciting hockey team.  We'll see if they can keep it up against a team that actually plays defense.  For now, I'm relishing every minute against the team that "can't beat us!"

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Voracek caps Flyers comeback with OT winner

Huge win for the Flyers in Game 1, erasing a three goal deficit to defeat the hated Penguins, 4-3.  With the Phillies and Sixers also winning, it was quite a night for Philly sports.

Here is Jakub Voracek's game winner:

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Eagles sign tackle Demetress Bell

The Eagles, wasting little time finding their new left tackle after losing Jason Peters for the season, announced the signing of tackle Demetress Bell to a 5 year contract.  While the length of the contract seems a little long, count on the Eagles having an out clause a year or two into the deal.

Demetress Bell is the formerly spelled "Demetrius" Bell who played for the Bills for three seasons and took over as their starting left tackle when Peters signed with the Eagles.  He was one of the better available free agent linemen although he has dealt with a few injuries in his career.  With Peters out for the year, Bell will be counted on to start at left tackle right away.  Barring injuries, he should be a serviceable replacement.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Phillies set 2012 Opening Day Roster

The Phillies 2012 Opening Day roster is missing a few big names but it still has plenty of interesting stories.  The biggest surprise is Joe Savery, who was a first baseman last year and is now holding down a spot in the bullpen.

Here is the Phillies Opening Day Roster:

Starting Pitchers (5): Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Vance Worley, Joe Blanton

Relief Pitchers (7): Jonathan Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo, Mike Stutes, Chad Qualls, David Herndon, Kyle Kendrick, Joe Savery

Catchers (2): Carlos Ruiz, Brian Schneider

Infielders (6): Jim Thome, Freddy Galvis, Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, Ty Wiggington, Pete Orr

Outfielders (5): Juan Pierre, Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence, John Mayberry Jr., Laynce Nix

On the DL (4): Jose Contreras, Ryan Howard, Michael Martinez, Chase Utley

Prepare yourself for Juan Pierre to get an inordinate number of at-bats.

Nike unveils new Eagles jerseys

Nike has taken over the NFL jersey market from Reebok and unveiled their new designs for every team today.  As you can see by the picture above, not much of anything has changed with the Eagles jersey, save for the swooshes on the front of the pants and the sides of the jersey.  There had been speculation of color changes and slight modifications but it appears that the Eagles jersey will essentially remain the same for next season.
(Photo via Darren Rovell)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Jason Peters ruptures Achilles tendon, may be lost for the season

The Eagles got some terrible news today: Pro Bowl offensive tackle Jason Peters suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon and will have surgery next week.  Peters suffered the injury while training for the upcoming season and likely won't be ready to play until late in the 2012 season, if at all.

This is a huge blow to the Eagles who now must fill a big hole on their offensive line.  They did announce the re-signing of King Dunlap today but that won't be a solution.  Look for them to draft an o-lineman in the first round and possibly look to trade for or sign another veteran left tackle in free agency.

For a team that looked set heading into the 2012 season, losing their best offensive lineman certainly throws a wrench into the Eagles plans.  What looked like a smooth, successful offseason plan now has been thrown off course.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Eagles land a LB, acquire DeMeco Ryans

All offseason, we've been left to wonder what the Eagles will do to shore up their weakest position: linebacker.  After passing on most of the bigger name free agents, the Eagles pulled off a huge trade today, acquiring DeMeco Ryans from the Texans for a 4th round draft pick.  Ryans, who does have some issues with an Achilles tendon, still has to pass a physical before the trade becomes official but all indications are that the Eagles are confident he will pass.

Ryans, a 6 year veteran and a 2-time Pro Bowler, brings a hefty salary with him to the Eagles as he earns over 6 million a year through 2015.  He is a huge pickup for the Eagles and he will be the best linebacker they've had on the roster in years.  The reason the Texans were willing to trade Ryans for very little was his salary and he is better suited for the 4-3 defense that the Eagles employ.

It will be a strange sight to see the Eagles actually have a legitimate Pro Bowler playing middle linebacker for them next season.  At 27, Ryans is young and should be a force in the middle for years to come.  Great move by the Birds to get a young stud player in a position of extreme need for little cost.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Eagles kick off free agency by extending Herremans, Cole

The NFL free agency period began today and the Eagles started it off by making sure two of their better players were going to remain with the team for several more years.  Both Todd Herremans and Trent Cole signed contract extensions today, with Herremans being extended through 2016 and Cole's exact contract not yet announced but expected to be for about the same number of years.

Herremans was rewarded for his versatile play along the line as the deal could give him about 20 million dollars of guaranteed money.  Cole also is much deserving of more guaranteed money given how valuable he is as one of the best pass rushers in the NFL.

What the Eagles do next in free agency isn't clear, though there have been some rumblings about LB's and backup running backs being on their wishlist.  With DeSean Jackson getting good money with the franchise tag and the Eagles giving extensions to a few of their own, there likely isn't a ton of money left for the Birds to make a big splash.  In other words, don't expect anything like what happened last year.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Eagles officially tag DeSean Jackson

As expected, the Eagles announced that they have placed the franchise tag on wideout DeSean Jackson.  The move locks Jackson into a one year deal next season with the Eagles for 9.4 million dollars, quite a substantial raise over what he has made the last few seasons.  Jackson is looking for more years and a bigger payday than that, however.

The tagging doesn't guarantee that Jackson will remain with the Eagles.  The Birds could take the tag off of Jackson at any time or even try to deal him to another team though I wouldn't expect many teams to be interested in him when there are so many other free agent receivers available.

DeSean Jackson's offseason story is just beginning.  Expect plenty of contract and trade speculation over the next few months as the Eagles try to work with their enigmatic and likely disgruntled wideout.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Eagles sign Trent Edwards, say goodbye to Vince Young?

According to Adam Schefter, the Eagles have signed QB Trent Edwards to a one year contract.  Edwards, who has played for the Bills and Jaguars, was cut right before the beginning of the 2011 season by the Raiders and didn't take a snap all season long.  His most significant playing time came in 2008 when he started 14 games for Buffalo.

What is the significance of the Eagles signing a quarterback who didn't even play last year?  Well, with Mike Vick locked in as the starter and Mike Kafka locked in as the quarterback of the future, Edwards figures to compete for the veteran backup role.  Given that his skills fit the Eagles offense much better than the 2011 backup, Vince Young, this signing could be a signal that Young won't be brought back this season.  If that's the case, so long Young and thanks so much for all the "Dream Team" crap.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

More D help: Flyers acquire Pavel Kubina

The Flyers are wasting little time shoring up their defense.  Just two days after trading for Nicklas Grossman, the Flyers made another move for another defenseman, acquiring Pavel Kubina from the Lightning for forward Jon Kalinski and a 2nd round pick in 2012 or 2013 and a 4th round pick in 2013.  Kubina is a 14 year NHL veteran who has also played for the Maple Leafs and the Thrashers.  At 6 foot 4 and 258 pounds, Kubina is big and physical and can even contribute a bit on the offensive end with a big shot.

The acquisition of Kubina once again gives the Flyers one of the deepest groups of defensemen in the league.  With Chris Pronger out, the Flyers now go six deep with Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, Andrej Meszaros, Matt Carle, Nicklas Grossman and Kubina.  That group should supply enough physicality and puck-moving skills to improve on the inconsistency the Flyers have been getting from the younger players they have been trying to plug in to be their 5th and 6th d-men.

Acquiring Kubina probably won't be the last move the Flyers make.  With the Flyers still in possession of some cap space and rumors swirling that they are in on Rick Nash, expect another move or two in the coming days.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Flyers acquire D Nicklas Grossman

With Chris Pronger out for the season, we knew the Flyers would be looking to add help along the blueline.  They got some today, acquiring D Nicklas Grossman from the Stars for a 2nd round pick in 2012 and a 3rd round pick in 2013.  Grossman, 27 and on the last year of his contract, is earning 1.625 million this year and will be a UFA next year.

Grossman, a 6 year NHL veteran, doesn't put up big scoring numbers but that isn't what the Flyers are missing with Pronger out of the lineup.  Grossman will provide the Flyers with plenty of size (6 foot 3, 227 pounds) and quality defensive play in the back end.  He will also provide some physicality and can kill penalties and block shots.

Is the acquisition of Grossman enough to replace everything the Flyers have lost with Pronger out of the lineup?  No, but they at least add another piece without giving up anything on their current roster.  The Flyers routinely give up draft picks so it's not at all shocking to see them give a few away for immediate help.  With the NHL trade deadline approaching, expect more moves in the coming days.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Yes, the Sixers are for real

Are you convinced now, NBA?  After the Sixers coasted to one of the best records in the league, NBA experts warned that the team wasn't all it was cracked up to be and their record was simply the product of a cupcake schedule.  Well, after wins against the Magic, Bulls, Hawks and Lakers in the last week, it is fair to say the Sixers are for real.

Their latest win came on Monday night against the Lakers, where a packed house watched the hometown Sixers "BEAT LA" thanks to Lou Williams and his 14 4th quarter points.  The win was the Sixers 6th in their last 7 and gives them a 4 game lead over the Celtics in the Atlantic Division.

The Sixers are proving that, at least in this shortened season, having tremendous depth trumps having stars on the roster.  Night in and night out the Sixers are getting contributions from any number of players, including the eight that had at least 8 points for the Sixers against the Lakers.  While not having any stars will likely come back to haunt them in the playoffs, the Sixers are ridiculously fun to watch and are putting together their best regular season since 2003. 

The proving grounds continue for the Sixers on Wednesday and Friday when the Spurs and Clippers come to town.  Hopefully by then those so-called experts will finally be on board.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Phillies add Chad Qualls to the bullpen

The Phillies made a solid addition to their bullpen today, signing reliever Chad Qualls to a one year, 1.15 million dollar contract.  Qualls put up some decent numbers (3.51 ERA, 1.25 WHIP) last season, though he was pitching mostly in the pitcher-friendly confines of San Diego.  An 8 year veteran, the Phillies will be his 5th MLB team.  He is capable of pitching a lot of innings out of the bullpen and will be a good 6th or 7th inning option.

With the addition of Qualls, the Phillies appear to have completed their bullpen.  With closer Jonathan Papelbon, set-up guy Antonio Bastardo and Dontrelle Willis, Michael Stutes, Jose Contreras if he ever gets healthy and now Qualls, the Phillies have plenty of depth and versatility to make a solid 'pen.  While it would have been nice to let another young arm or two play a role in the bullpen, it's never a bad thing to have plenty of veteran depth.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Report: Eagles will retain Juan Castillo as Defensive Coordinator

The Juan Castillo experiment will continue for at least another year.  According to Jeff McLane of the Inquirer, the Eagles are going to hire Todd Bowles as their defensive backs coach and keep Castillo as the defensive coordinator.  Bowles, who was the interim head coach for the Dolphins for the final 3 games last season, brings more than a decade of NFL experience as a secondary coach and should help the talented Eagles secondary live up their potential.

As for Castillo, once the Saints hired Steve Spagnuolo, it seemed inevitable that he would be back as D.C.  I am of two minds when it comes to Castillo; on the one hand, he awful in the beginning of the season as the defense looked unorganized and confused; on the other, the defense was awesome down the stretch and Castillo showed real improvement in his game-planning.  Sure, the offenses the Eagles faced were terrible in the final few games but Castillo had the defense clicking in December.  Hopefully, given a full training camp to prepare, Castillo can get the defense rolling starting in Week 1.

It's telling that Andy Reid's job is on the line this season and he is willing to keep Castillo around as the defensive coordinator.  This could either be something that costs Reid his job or a move that makes him look like a genius.  At least the Eagles defensive coordinator in 2012 now has actual experience coaching defense.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Phillies sign Juan Pierre to minor league deal

The Phillies made a solid no-risk addition today, signing OF Juan Pierre to a minor league deal.  Pierre, a 12 year veteran of 5 different teams, will be given an opportunity to win a spot on the Phillies bench in spring training.

The possible upside for Pierre, which would be as a solid 4th or 5th outfielder and decent pinch hitter with some speed, makes this signing a no-brainer.  While Pierre is certainly on the tail-end of his career, he still hit .279 in 639 at-bats with the White Sox last season and is just two years removed from a 68 steal season.  He will never hit for any semblance of power but he could be a useful bench part if he proves his worth in spring training.

The Phillies have certainly made a concerted effort to improve their bench this offseason, replacing several limp bats with veterans who can bring a little pop or a little speed to a pinch hitting situation or late inning defensive substitution.  Time will tell if this leads to more offensive production for the Phils.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

So long: Brad Lidge signs with the Nationals

The Phillies have lost yet another member of their 2008 championship team: Brad Lidge has signed with the Nationals.  Lidge, who will be forever remembered for getting the final out in the World Series, signed a 1 year deal for around a million dollars with the Nationals.  There was some talk that Lidge would return to the Phillies but ultimately the Nats offered him more money and a bigger role in their bullpen.

Lidge will always be remembered in Philadelphia for his perfect 2008 seasons that ultimately led to the first title in the city in decades.  While 2009 was rough and last season was filled with injuries, Lidge leaves under good terms and should get a standing ovation when he returns as a National this season.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Phillies deal Wilson Valdez to Reds

The Phillies bench in 2012 will have one less familiar face: utility infielder Wilson Valdez has been traded to the Reds for lefty pitcher Jeremy Horst.  Valdez spent two seasons with the Phillies and was a mediocre injury replacement for Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Placido Polanco.  While his bat was pretty awful, Valdez was at least a good-to-great fielder that was somewhat useful to have on the bench.

The trade of Valdez may trigger the Phillies to make another move or they could simply rely on Michael Martinez for all of their utility needs.  It would be nice if they could find another bench piece that could give them a few decent at-bats while filling in at the various infield positions.

As for Horst, he made his big league debut last season with the Reds at the age of 26.  He probably won't be a contender for a bullpen role with the Phils and should slide right into the Iron Pigs pen.  What, did you expect the Phillies to actually get a useful player in return for Valdez?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Claude Giroux fights?!?

The Flyers played one of their worst games of the season on Thursday night, losing to the Islanders 4-1, but there was one interesting development in the game: Claude Giroux fought:
He certainly is much better with the stick than the fists.  Perhaps this will help him snap out of his offensive funk.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Phillies avoid arbitration, sign Cole Hamels to one year deal

The Phillies have avoided arbitration with Cole Hamels, signing him to a one year, 15 million dollar contract, according to Jon Heyman of CBS.  This is a significant raise for Hamels, who made 9.5 million last season.

The next step for the Phillies will be to wrap up Hamels long-term, something that may be tricky given all of the other big contract already on the books.  Avoiding arbitration and the headaches and hassle that go with that will help the Phils stay on good terms with Hamels but they will still have to shell out big bucks over a number of years to keep Cole in Philly.

Wilson Valdez also reached an agreement with the Phils, leaving Hunter Pence as the only arbitration-eligible Phillie.  Expect Pence to get wrapped up very soon.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Flyers fall short in thrilling Winter Classic

It was just 1 game of 82 on the schedule but the Winter Classic lived up to all of the hype, producing an exciting game in a beautiful environment.  While the Flyers did end up falling short, losing 3-2 to the Rangers, it was still an experience that the team and the city won't soon forget.

The Flyers got on the board first after Brayden Schenn scored his first NHL goal in the second period of the game.  It was the second time that a Flyer scored his first NHL goal in a Winter Classic as Danny Syvret also accomplished that feat back in 2010.  The Flyers then added a second goal later in the second period after Claude Giroux scored off a pass from Max Talbot but everything went downhill from there for the Flyers.  Not only did the Rangers score just 30 seconds later but they dominated the play for much of the rest of the game, building a 3-2 lead after a pair of Mike Rupp (!!) goals and a Brad Richards tally.

The Flyers had their chances late, including a powerplay and a late penalty shot but Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist proved to be too good, stoning the Flyers on 34 of their 36 shots and playing like the elite goaltender he is.  If only the Flyers could ever have a goaltender as good as Lundqvist....

Things will now get back to normal for the Flyers, who still find themselves in the upper half of the Eastern Conference playoff picture but have been skidding as of late, losing 3 of their last 4.  Perhaps getting away from the HBO cameras will help someone like Ilya Bryzgalov remember how to play hockey again and help the team out of their slide.

The 2012 Winter Classic definitely lived up to everything it was expected to be.  How about we do that again sometime?