What Philly Is Overreacting To: The Phillies' Injuries

What Philly Is Overreacting To: The Phillies' Injuries

If baseball games
are won in the hearts and minds of fans, the Phillies have already lost.
Chase Utley would be the perfect metaphor for this team right now, as
they come limping a bit more literally into the regular season with a
pair of players who will return to the diamond, well, whenever they get
around to it.

We've all experienced together the doom and gloom side of being a
Philadelphia sports fan. Unstoppable forces have met immovable objects.
What's meant to be turned out was not to be. The fear is the Phillies,
for all their aces, all their accolades, all the hype, will somehow fall
short of our expectations, lofty as they are.

They will not be undone in April though. The Phils will begin this
season without two critical pieces, and those absences will undoubtedly
be felt in ninth innings and clutch situations. Still, it's a little
early to be hitting the panic button, don't you think?

Utley will be back. Let's say for the sake of
discussion it's not until after the All Star break, and the Phillies
would have to scrape by for the next three months or so.

Raise your hand if you think they'll be out of the pennant race at
that point. Shoot, raise your hand if you think they won't be in first

That's not intended as a slight on the rest of the NL East. The
Phillies are just that good. They still have five All Stars and two Most
Valuable Players in the starting lineup. They still have four aces, two
Cy Youngs, and a World Series MVP in their rotation.

With or without Utley, the team is going to be right there. You could
make the case the Fightins could win the whole thing without him.,
that's how loaded they are. The fact that he's expected back is a bonus.

And before you go all he might not be 100% on me, that's
fine. 50% of Chase Utley is better than most second basemen. It's not
ideal, but stick him in the lineup somewhere, and he's going to make
good things happen through sheer determination.

Brad Lidge... okay. This certainly is a concern, but
again, not so much because he's going to miss a portion of the season.
With his ever ongoing durability issues, and one very forgettable '09
season lingering in the rear view mirror, it's becoming harder and
harder to gamble on his success.

Which isn't to say there definitely will be rocky roads ahead either. Maybe Lidge returns healthy, and it's Lights Out again.

Or maybe not. Here's the good news though: this gives them plenty of
time to sort it out. I would imagine there will be a few save situations
before Lidge returns, perhaps even a handful in April. (Hey, you don't
know with this caliber starting pitching.) So it stands to reason that
if something should happen and Lidge can't go again, or simply doesn't
have it, Charlie Manuel will know where to turn.

And if nobody takes the ball? Supposing it can't be Madson—or
Contreras, or Romero, or even Matthieson—why not deal for another
closer? Certainly there should be some idea as to whether there is a
finisher in that bullpen by July 31.

Honestly, it's hardly worth getting distressed over so early, not with the roto they have.

Injuries? You haven't seen injuries. Yeah, the rest
of the team isn't exactly a picture of health. Placido Polanco has a
banged up elbow. Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard both missed significant
time last season. They're all pretty much in their 30's, which Matt P.
can tell you means everything breaks easier.

It would be foolish not to acknowledge an increasing number of
injuries could derail the Phillies' season, just as it could any team in
any sport. It's the nature of the game.

Well you can only worry about what you know. Utley and Lidge are
hurting. That's not a good start, but it's April. Right now, both guys
are expected back wellll before the post-season begins.

That's what's important. While anything could happen between now and
October, the Phillies not reaching the playoffs should be the last thing
on anybody's mind. What they look like when they get there, that's a
little more difficult to predict, but a couple of injuries on Opening
Day shouldn't leave anybody believing this season is spiraling out of


Flyers Notes: Travis Konecny sparks power play with 1st NHL goal

Flyers Notes: Travis Konecny sparks power play with 1st NHL goal

The kid finally has his first NHL goal.

Travis Konecny scored at 4:30 of the third period (see video) during the Flyers' 4-3 shootout win over Buffalo on Tuesday night (see story).  

His was the first of three power-play goals to erase a 3-0 deficit and get the Flyers into overtime.

First markers are always that much more special when they make a difference in a comeback victory, such as this one with the Flyers in a brutal stretch of six games in nine days.

“I am just excited that it happened,” Konecny said. “But the thing for me that was more exciting was coming back after that 3-0 [deficit] and an overall exciting night for us.”

The three power-play goals were a season high for the Flyers.

“We got going those two power plays ... our power plays set a tone,” Konecny said. “When that gets going, it makes it hard for the other team to stop us.

“It’s awesome because we know what they can do [on the top power-play unit]. They have been sticking with it and fighting the puck, whatever it’s been the past couple of games, but you know what they are capable of — you can see it the past couple of years. 

“You knew it was coming and tonight is the perfect night to get it going and I am sure that they are going to keep rolling with it.”

Schultz sits
The decision to sit 15-year veteran blueliner Nick Schultz to get Radko Gudas back into the lineup wasn’t easy but it made sense on several levels. Gudas had been suspended for six games.

First, Schultz doesn’t play on the power play, whereas Andrew MacDonald carries heavy minutes with the power play and penalty kill.

Brandon Manning? Not happening. He’s been the Flyers' best defenseman this season. Mark Streit? Doesn’t work because he quarterbacks the second-unit PP and is essentially teaching that duty to rookie Ivan Provorov.

“It’s real tough,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “It’s part of the business and [Schultz has] done an excellent job. He’s always very well-prepared.

“We talked about what’s best for our team and we feel like Gudy going in, especially on a back-to-back, gives us fresh legs and a fresh body coming back into the lineup.”

Hakstol recently has had to switch around his defensive pairs to get more defensive coverage and consistency on the ice. For instance, moving Provorov from Streit to Manning.

He discounted Schultz’s age (34) as a true factor in the decision.

“I think the more flexibility you have, the better, whether it be for rest or for the injury situations,” Hakstol said. “First and foremost, I think we’re still looking for the true consistency that we need through our entire team, but certainly your D pairs are a big part of that. 

“Before we start getting to a comfort level of guys playing with different people, first we have to find true consistency. We’ve been pretty good, but we’ve had stretches where the consistency needs to improve, as well.”

Give and Go: Predicting Sixers' MVP, win total and more for 2016-17

Give and Go: Predicting Sixers' MVP, win total and more for 2016-17

The Sixers officially get back to work Wednesday night in their regular-season opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder (see game notes).

Before tip-off, CSNPhilly.com Sixers insider Jessica Camerato, CSNPhilly.com producer/reporter Matt Haughton and CSNPhilly.com producer/reporter Paul Hudrick run the Give and Go to break down some burning questions surrounding the team.

What is the one stat that will most define the Sixers' season?

Turnovers: The Sixers want to build a defensive identity and understandably so — they ranked last in the league in rebounds with a minus-518 differential and were outscored by a last-placed 10.2 points per game. That being said, I am looking at turnovers this season. Last season, they were prone to throwing away points with errors. They ranked 29th (second to the Suns) with 16.6 turnovers per game. The team is down two ball handlers in Jerryd Bayless and Ben Simmons (both injured), which heightens the challenge. In order for the Sixers to get into any type of rhythm and build an offensive flow, they have to actually maintain possession.

It's got to be defense. Brett Brown is banking on Joel Embiid being the centerpiece to the team's defense, and he better be for the head coach's sake. Embiid also better get some help from the guys around him on that end of the floor or it will be another year-long parade of bad rotations, easy buckets at the rim and wide-open jumpers. In Brown's three years as Sixers head coach, the team has ranked 29th, 20th and 30th in opponents' points per game. That has to change if the Sixers want to take the next step in their rebuild.

With an abundance of big men and Simmons eventually taking the court as the team's main facilitator, the Sixers need players that can shoot. Last season, they took the eighth-most three-point attempts in the NBA while finishing 24th in three-point percentage. That second number has to go up if the Sixers ever want to create floor space.

Who will be the Sixers' MVP?

Embiid: The towering 7-foot-2 presence is going to be the dominating force on both ends. Brown intends for Embiid to become the “crown jewel” of the defense and the offense to go through Embiid and Jahlil Okafor, whose role is restricted (knee). Embiid has shown in a small sampling of preseason games he is capable of leading the team on all sides of the floor.

Of course the answer is Embiid, but let's go another route and say Brown. The coach got an extension last season and also received a boost in roster talent. Now he just has to figure out how the pieces fit together. That didn't go so well with Okafor and Nerlens Noel a season ago, but playing those two together was essentially the only intriguing thing about the Sixers in 2015-16, which is why Brown stuck with the pairing. With better players to mix and match this time around, I believe Brown will figure out some solid options to have the squad in better position to compete on a nightly basis.

The easy pick is Embiid, but I'm going a little outside the box with Dario Saric. The 22-year-old Croatian showed off the versatility of his game during the preseason. He's an old school player that excels in the team game. He's what's often referred to as a "glue guy." He has skill, but the skills he lacks he makes up for with grit and basketball savvy.

What is your season projection for the Sixers?

This season was supposed to be a bridge year, the start of rebuilding. That will be delayed until the team is healthy with key players like Simmons, Okafor and Noel back at 100 percent. In the meantime, the Sixers' outlook is better than last season’s 10-win total but less than earlier projections with Simmons in the lineup. Because of injuries, I am shifting their win projection to 19.

The injury bug, starting with No. 1 overall pick Simmons, has certainly put a damper on the Sixers' projected win total. Las Vegas odds books originally set the mark at 27½, which seemed like a long shot even with a full roster. I say they show strides but fall just shy of doubling last season's win total and finish with 19.

This really depends on the return of Simmons. Simmons will make this team so much better on both ends of the floor. Bayless' absence early will hurt this team as well. And don't forget about all the minutes restrictions. They're going to struggle early on, but if Simmons returns in January, I think this team can double its win total from last season and win 20 games.