It's the Most Ruben Amaro Jr. Time of the Year

It's the Most Ruben Amaro Jr. Time of the Year

Maybe they'll resign Jimmy Rollins. Maybe Ryan Madson will be back. Perhaps they'll sign a super utility player that can help fill in at first while Ryan Howard is out. But the biggest move the Phillies make this offseason could be one that nobody is talking about just yet. That's how Ruben Amaro Jr. rolls. He's constantly crafting deals in his head that many might think are impossible to pull off.

But by looking at his track record over the past few seasons, it's foolish to say this guy can't pull off a shocker again heading into 2012.

Free agency officially opened at midnight last night, and we'll keep our eyes open for any moves that could impact the Phillies.

A couple of links:

-The Daily News' David Murphy makes the case for the Phillies spending big money to bring back Ryan Madson

-Murph also has a list of 5 free agents to watch. The most interesting to me: Aramis Ramirez to play third and using Polly as a super-utility man.

-If you're looking to refresh your memory on who is available throughout baseball this season, John Finger lists all the free agents with notes on who could fit in Philly

What would be your best case scenario? Are you in the Jose Reyes camp? Bring back Jimmy camp?

Here's what Jim Salisbury thinks the Phillies free agent signings will look like:

NBA draft profile: Oklahoma G Buddy Hield

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NBA draft profile: Oklahoma G Buddy Hield

Buddy Hield

Position: Guard

Height: 6-foot-4

Weight: 214 pounds

School: Oklahoma

It seems rare these days for juniors considering the NBA draft to return to school. It's even more unique for those players to take a leap from likely draft picks to lottery locks.

But that's exactly what Buddy Hield did during his dazzling senior season at Oklahoma. The guard demanded the country's attention as he shot his way to 25.0 points per game (second in the nation) and helped the Sooners reach the Final Four as he racked up both the prestigious Wooden and Naismith Awards in the process.

While the scoring was certainly worthy of praise, Hield's efficiency was even more impressive. Despite attempting career highs in field goals (16.2), three-pointers (8.7) and free throws per game (5.4), the sharpshooter increased his percentages across the board. Hield connected on 50.1 percent from the field, 45.7 percent from three-point range and 88.0 percent from the line.

Even though Hield capped off his decorated career with a dud in Oklahoma's Final Four loss to eventual national champion Villanova (nine points on 4 of 12 shooting), he proved throughout the course of the season that his ceiling is higher than expected and that he belongs among the top tier of this year's draft class.

Strengths
All of those days practicing on a milk crate back in the Bahamas paid off because Hield can flat out shoot the ball. His 147 threes led the nation last season and were tied for the most by any college player since some guy named Stephen Curry drained 162 in 2008.

But Hield isn't just a standstill shooter by any means. Yes, he can catch and shoot, but he also has the ability to fire off screens, pull up off the dribble and get to the rim at times.

Hield also showed he wasn't afraid to stick his nose into the trees by pulling down 5.7 rebounds per game a season ago and 4.9 a night during his time at Oklahoma.

Weaknesses
There is some concern about whether Hield will be able to get that silky shot off the way he wants to at the next level. He does have a lower release point than typical jumpers, and, at 6-foot-4, he won't be able to just rise up to shoot over smaller defenders in the NBA. That means to get open, he will have to rely more on his ball handling, which could use some work and helped lend itself to Hield's 3.1 turnovers per game as a senior. Hield will also have to improve his defense, which has never been a strong suit.

How he'd fit with the Sixers
Seamlessly. In case you haven't heard, the Sixers can use all of the outside shooting help they can get. With so many big bodies doing their work down in the paint, Hield would be able to spot up for one open jumper after another.

However, with the two perceived transcendent talents at the top of the draft, the only way we would be able to see how Hield looks in a Sixers jersey would be if Bryan Colangelo pulls the trigger on a trade to acquire another high draft pick.

NBA comparison
Sure, Hield's game has some similarities to Curry and he received a co-sign from Kobe Bryant during the NCAA Tournament, but let's not get too carried away. A more accurate comparison would be Portland guard and Lehigh product C.J. McCollum. Like McCollum, Hield is a natural shooter who can score from just about anywhere on the floor. Hield also has the drive to get even better in common with McCollum, who walked away with the NBA's Most Improved Player Award this season.

Draft projection
Hield is an early- to mid-lottery selection. Look for him to go somewhere between picks Nos. 5-9.

Flyers legend Rick MacLeish dies at 66

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Philadelphia Flyers

Flyers legend Rick MacLeish dies at 66

Rick MacLeish, the smooth-skating centerman with a potent wrist shot whose goal lifted the Flyers to their first Stanley Cup, has died.

MacLeish was 66.
 
The center from Lindsay, Ontario, had been hospitalized in Philadelphia since mid-May while suffering from multiple medical issues, according to his daughter Brianna.
 
MacLeish was the Flyers’ first 50-goal scorer and second 100-point player behind Bobby Clarke, with both milestones achieved in 1972-73. A three-time NHL All-Star, he won two Cups with the Flyers.
 
He will forever be known for his power-play-tip goal in front of Boston goalie Gilles Gilbert in the first period of Game 6 of the 1974 Cup Final. Bernie Parent made the goal stand the remainder of the game.
 
MacLeish played 16 seasons, including 12 as a Flyer. He was an integral member of the Flyers’ 1974 and 1975 Cup squads.
 
MacLeish's 697 points are second only to Clarke (1,210) in club history among centers, and he ranks fourth in all-time points (697), fifth in assists (369) and sixth in goal-scoring (328).
 
His 741 games in orange and black are tied for sixth overall, and his 12 hat tricks are second only to Tim Kerr (17). MacLeish scored 54 goals with 53 assists (107 points) in 114 playoff games.
 
After leaving the Flyers, he also played in Pittsburgh, Hartford and Detroit, amassing 759 career points in 846 games.
 
Drafted fourth overall by Boston in 1970, MacLeish became a Flyer as part of three-team trade involving the Bruins and Toronto that same year.
 
Known for his effortless motion and blazing speed on the ice, MacLeish had a reputation as an unmotivated player early in his career until his breakout season in 1972-73.
 
“You can’t motivate someone who doesn’t want to play, and the Flyers didn’t keep you if you weren’t committed to winning,” teammate Gary Dornhoefer once said.
 
“It might have taken MacLeish a few years to mature as a hockey player, but he earned his keep as a member of the team.”
 
MacLeish was the Flyers’ first legitimate sniper, often wristing his deadly shot from the circles.
 
During the 1974 playoffs, he led the Flyers in both goals (13) and points (22) and finished second to Parent in the Conn Smythe Trophy voting for playoff MVP.
 
After his retirement, MacLeish dabbled in owning race horses and worked with the Flyers' alumni.
 
Among his last major public appearances with Cup teammates in Philadelphia was at the closing of the Spectrum party on Jan. 16, 2010, hosted by Flyers chairman Ed Snider, who died in April.

Late goal lifts Penguins over Sharks in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

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USA Today Images

Late goal lifts Penguins over Sharks in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- Nick Bonino looks the part. Thatchy beard that juts out well below his chinstrap. Nose a bit askew. The rugged forward has etched out a career making a living in tight spaces, putting his body in places on the ice that aren't for the meek.

Those instincts, honed from years of finding order in the middle of chaos, lifted the Pittsburgh Penguins to the early lead in the Stanley Cup Final.

Bonino darted to the net and knocked in Kris Letang's centering pass with 2:33 remaining, lifting the Penguins to a 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks in Game 1 on Monday night.

Pittsburgh recovered after blowing an early two-goal lead and spoiled San Jose's long-awaited debut on the league's biggest stage. Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Letang and Carl Hagelin took turns digging the puck out of the corner behind the San Jose net when Letang emerged with it and slipped it to Bonino, who collected himself and flicked it past Martin Jones' blocker for his fourth goal of the playoffs.

"Tanger put it right on my stick," Bonino said. "It was a shot that wasn't my hardest shot by any means but I kind of found a way to flip it over him."

Bonino has spent much of the last two months as the heady, understated center on Pittsburgh's hottest line while playing between hard-shooting Phil Kessel and Hagelin. Dubbed "HBK" -- a chant that occasionally greets them when they flip over the boards and onto the ice -- they have powered the Penguins to their first Cup Final in seven years. Yet it was Bonino, whose hockey IQ is considered his greatest attribute by Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan, who scored the group's biggest goal of the postseason.

"He does all the things right and found himself in a great position and capitalized on it," Pittsburgh forward Chris Kunitz said. "Any time you're in the slot, get him the puck. It seems like we find a way to win when he scores."

Rookies Bryan Rust and Conor Sheary also scored for the Penguins, though Rust left in the third period after absorbing a shot to the head from San Jose's Patrick Marleau. Matt Murray -- who like Rust and Sheary spent a significant amount of time this season with the team's American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton -- finished with 24 saves.

Jones made 38 stops but couldn't get over in time on Bonino's knuckler. The Penguins threw 41 shots at Jones, the most he has faced in a regulation game during the playoffs. Marleau and Tomas Hertl scored during San Jose's dominant second period, but the Sharks spent a large portion of the third period on their heels and their dynamic power play failed to record a single shot when Ben Lovejoy went to the penalty box with 2:09 to play.

"They played their game for longer stretches than we did and that's what happens," San Jose coach Peter DeBoer said.

The Sharks made it to the first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history by rebuilding themselves on the fly. Two years removed from a brutal collapse from a 3-0 series lead in the first round against Los Angeles, San Jose ended a 9,005 day wait to play in the NHL's championship round by relying on a tough, aggressive style that squeezes opponents with a relentless forecheck while limiting chances in front of Jones.

Yet veterans Marleau and Joe Thornton -- the top two picks in the 1997 draft held in Pittsburgh who had waited nearly two decades to make it to the league's biggest stage -- insisted the Sharks were hardly satisfied after dispatching St. Louis in a cathartic Western Conference finals.

Maybe, but the Sharks looked a step slow -- maybe two steps slow -- while searching for their footing early on against the Penguins, who rallied from a 3-2 deficit to edge Tampa Bay in seven games to advance to their first Cup Final since 2009.

Rust, who surprisingly made the team out of training camp and became an unlikely playoff star by scoring both of Pittsburgh's goals in Game 7 against the Lightning, gave the Penguins the lead 12:46 into the first when he slammed home a rebound off a Justin Schultz shot for his sixth of the postseason, a franchise record for playoff goals by a rookie.

Less than a minute later, Sheary, who didn't become a regular until the middle of January, made it 2-0 when Sidney Crosby whipped a blind backhand cross-ice pass to Sheary's stick. Sheary's wrist shot from the right circle zipped by Jones, and the Penguins appeared to be in complete command by overwhelming the Sharks in a way few have in months.

Maybe it was the Penguins. Maybe it was jitters.

"You try to keep everything normal but you've been dreaming about it for a while," San Jose defenseman Brent Burns said. "Now we know what we're in for and we'll be better."

San Jose regained its composure during the first intermission and responded with a big surge. Hertl jammed a power-play shot from just outside the crease between Murray's legs 3:02 into the second to give the Sharks momentum. Late in the second, Marleau collected a rebound off a Burns one-timer behind the Pittsburgh net and then beat Murray on a wraparound that caromed off Murray's extended right leg and into the net.

Yet Bonino, who arrived in an offseason trade with Vancouver, helped the Penguins improve to 9-3 at home all-time in the Cup Final by sliding to a familiar spot in search of a familiar result.

Notes
San Jose went 1 for 2 on the power play. The Penguins were 0 for 3. ... The Sharks are 5-1 following a loss during the postseason.