Broken Twigs: Paul Holmgren takes a bullet for Bryz and your FGSB mailbag questions

Broken Twigs: Paul Holmgren takes a bullet for Bryz and your FGSB mailbag questions

Broken Twigs is a weekly collection of Q&A, timely thoughts, and randomness from the Hockey Universe. If you want your Q’s A’d, slide an apple over to @flygoalscoredby or flyersgoalscoredby@gmail.com and we’ll tuck it firmly in the back of the net (we’ll answer it, that’s what that metaphor means, it means that if you send us questions we’ll answer them).

Good Guy Paul Holmgren?

Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren is taking a lot of heat now that the Ilya Bryzgalaov buyout has become a reality – and rightfully so. Homer is ultimately responsible for answering to the fans for all personnel moves that the organization makes. But he’s also taking a lot of bullets for people that had a hand in the Bryz signing, people who he is actually accountable to. One thing that has impressed me during the fallout is Holmgren’s unwillingness to sacrifice Bryzgalov in an attempt to shift some of the blame off of his own shoulders. That’s good character right there in an industry plagued by subtle hypocrisy (See: injuries, saying you're not going to blame poor performance on them, and then blaming poor performance on them).

Anything that’s come out regarding Bryzgalov’s relationship with teammates and executives isn’t news. It doesn’t validate what everyone pretends to have been tip-toeing around for the past two years – Ilya Bryzgalov is a weird dude. Now don’t get me wrong, from what I’ve seen I think he’s a pretty interesting character. But you put someone like that in a room with 19 other guys and he’s going to get eaten alive. Have any of you ever been in a group of people before? Oh you have? What happens to the person who says weird stuff all the time. Yep, they get dumped on. The only way they avoid getting ganged up on is if they are so good at what they do that everyone is willing to live with it. Bryz wasn’t playing well enough to counterbalance his personality. That’s the bottom line. Not that he was too much of a disruption or not good enough – it was that the latter did not outweigh the former.

But in all of Paul Holmgren’s remarks he has remained consistent in one area – Bryz wasn’t ditched because of his “interesting” personality, but because of his on-ice performance. The thing is, that is simply not true. One and a half regular seasons ago the Flyers believed in Bryz enough to sign him to a 9 year $51M contract. 99 games later they don’t think that same guy, that NINE YEAR GUY, can stop pucks? Bryzgalov wasn’t actually that bad for most of the this past season and he had a March 2012 for the record books. You don’t just sit down at a time when you have no idea there will be such a thing as compliance buyouts and commit to a guy for 9 years only to decide his skill level is not up to snub 2 years later. You use the word “investment” and make analogies to turning ships or say you think he’s really just settling in now. You don’t say “wow I had no idea what I was doing 2 years ago, this guy stinks let's give him free money."

Don’t you think that if Bryz had Ryan Miller or Roberto Loungo’s personality (and hair) that the Flyers at least give him one more chance this next season instead basically giving his money to a 4th defenseman, 2nd PP Swiss chocolatier? Remember, this morning wasn’t their only chance to buy him out. They could hold onto the guy they thought just two years ago was an elite goaltender and see if he couldn’t regain his old form in a regular length season with a healthy defensive corps. But they didn’t do that.

I actually admire the route Paul Holmgren has taken in the wake of this announcement. He could easily have set the tiniest of traps for the MSM by saying that “it just wasn’t working out here”, and the articles confirming Bryz as a locker room cancer would have flowed like the salmon of Capistrano. Homer would have been partially absolved of the blame because hey, who could have predicted Bryz was a tiger-loving cosmonaut (literally). But Homer has kept realitvely quiet, bordering on positive, in regards to the Bryzgalov-as-a-person discussion. And Homer taking that bullet for Bryz is an admirable thing to do for a guy who dared to have a personality in Philadelphia.

And now your questions…

From @GoingHard_inger: when will this team be run competently? Does Ed Snider need to die for that to happen?
That is an utterly macabre question, and I refuse to…the answer is yes. I often find myself daydreaming about the Comcast-Spectacor Org Chart and it always leads to the same vision – Ed Snider sitting on a throne on top of the board table with all the other big wigs sitting around it. I don’t know how you get him out of that chair. I mean I know how, the board members vote him out, but that would have to be an old fashioned coup d’etate. Unless Snider plans on living forever, which he probably does, he should understand better than anyone that the Flyers could use a youth injection in the front office. If his son didn’t run off to The Orient  back in 1993 you’d have to assume a certain level of nepotism would have already led to a natural transition. But as it stands there is no heir apparent. I’d bring in Billy Beane. Honest to God. He wouldn’t even need to understand hockey to make those advanced stats work, baby!

From Amy: What do you think the terms of Giroux’s contract will be?
A lot of years, a lot of money, unlimited grilled cheeses, Flyers pick up all bills related to upkeep and feeding of his horse training partner, final editing rights on all articles on Philly.com, weekly meetings with Kim and Kanye to discuss strategic goals for Earth, a “don’t do me like Richie and Carts” clause. Also, after he turns 30 he doesn’t have to wear a helmet, everyone must call him Reg Dunlop, and he’s officially named player/coach.

From Frank: Which Flyer could throw a watermelon the farthest off of the roof of the Wells Fargo Center?
Occam’s Razor states that all things equal, the simplest solution is the best. And that’s why I’m going with Zac Rinaldo. He’s strong, insane, competitive and well-trained. Other guys would think it was a joke, whereas I’d be scared Rinaldo would go so hard we’d have to put a safety harness on him.

From @estebomb: If you could found a small business with one former Flyers goaltender, who would it be and why?
Bad Joke Answer: Robbie Moore. He was only 5’5.
Worse Joke Answer #2: Neil Little.
Real Answer: Garth Snow. He’s a cheater. And at business you need to cheat to win. I saw Wall Street. I know what’s happening out there. I heard about that bail out. Remember those shoulder pads? Dude thinks outside the bun.

From Mark: Do you think the Flyers will move up in the draft from the 11th spot?
Who cares. This isn’t football. The chances that you or I are alive to watch whoever they do draft develop into anything more than trade bait are slim-to-none. Since the Ultimate Letdown of missing out on the first overall in 2007, the drafts have been more about the possibility of going all Pronger for me. If you go in caring about who they pick you’re going to be left with a “well….that was….something” feeling on Monday morning. Look at our first rounders over the past decade:

Laughton – gave me a slight immediate-impact chub then disappeared to Canada for the rest of the season
Couturier – did we give him too large of a role? Is his development coming along s scheduled? Should we trade him for Keith Yandle? What’s with all the questions?
Sbisa – gone
JVR – gone
Giroux – Our Aladdin, our diamond in the rough. Buuuutttt besides 2 emergency call up games, it took him 916 days o crack the Flyers roster. CLAUDE GRIOUX. 916 DAYS!
Downie - gone
Carter – gone
Richards – gone

Maybe I’m just an emotional guy, but it’s best not to get too attached to Rasmus Wristshotlightning just to have your heart broken when 3 years later their packaging him up for 44 year old Jaromir Jagr because THIS IS THE YEAR.

Yinztweet Breakdown of the Week

I believe what @redempschenn is getting at is that Flyers fans butts are (or will be) sore because we can’t stop the Penguins from winning (the Cup?) because they have Sidney Crosby, and that a serious lack of “swag” (which I believe has more to do with YOLO-ing than playing hockey) will result in the Flyers playing more golf than the average NHLer, because they will not make the playoffs, and as a result have the opportunity to get on the course earlier in the off-season.

Flyers skate update: Matt Read's 400th game; Andrew MacDonald scratched

Flyers skate update: Matt Read's 400th game; Andrew MacDonald scratched

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Matt Read did not have to worry about being an NHL draft bust.

He did not impress scouts enough to be drafted at all while playing collegiate hockey at Bemidji State in Minnesota. Instead, the Flyers' winger had to make the NHL the hard way — as a free agent.

“Out of college, I signed with the Flyers and was just doing everything I could to get an opportunity to make the team,” Read, 30, recalled after the team’s morning skate before the Flyers take on the Vancouver Canucks.

His hard work and determination were rewarded here as he drew into the Flyers lineup for his 400th NHL career game.

“If you told me as a 12-year-old self I was playing 400 games in the NHL, I’d be pretty happy, obviously,” Read said. “I don’t have enough words to describe (what the accomplishment means.) Every day in the NHL is a blessing, I guess. You show up every day, work hard and have fun. As a kid, I wanted to be a professional hockey player, and I get to live it out everyday, which is amazing.”

Read originally signed as a free agent with the Flyers in 2011. Unlike many other NHLers, he has played his entire career with the same organization.

“The opportunity to play for the same team for six years is almost unheard of in the National Hockey League these days, so (I) take advantage of it and enjoy it,” Read said.

What has enabled him to stick?

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m just showing up at the rink every day to work hard, have fun, be a team guy and do as much as I can to make this team better.”

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said he has a “solid level of trust” in Read.

“There’s a lot of different pathways towards the NHL,” Hakstol said. “I think what you see in that guys that are able to hit a milestone like 400 is, there’s a level of dedication and consistency in terms of work habits to get there. Obviously, Matt has demonstrated those. It’s a hell of a milestone. (But) probably first and foremost on his mind, I would think, tonight is playing a good hockey game and helping our team.”

MacDonald gets night off
Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald received the night off as Hakstol made him a healthy scratch. The move was somewhat surprising, because MacDonald has played every game since he was scratched Nov. 19 against Tampa Bay.

Hakstol said MacDonald needed a rest. As a result, Brandon Manning was shifted to the right side from the left and paired with Ivan Provorov.

According to the coach, Manning has not had trouble switching sides this season.

“He’s done a pretty good job,” Hakstol said. “If you look at it, particularly this year, he’s been pretty efficient in making that transition. Is it easy? No.”

Neuvy gets the nod again
Hakstol did not think goaltender Michal Neuvirth needed a rest. He got the nod for his fourth straight start and sixth in the last seven games overall.

“He’s been the guy that’s been in a rhythm for us and he’s done a pretty good job and he’ll go back tonight,” Hakstol said.

Neuvirth was not complaining about the heavy workload.

“It’s good to be playing,” Neuvirth said. “The more I play, the more comfortable I feel. It’s been good.”

He also prepared to be comfortable with the risk of added fatigue.

“It is what it is — you’ve gotta be ready anytime, any day,” Neuvirth said. “It’s a good opportunity for me and it’s gonna be a good challenge.”

Former Flyers coach enshrined
Late former Flyers coach Pat Quinn has been honored with a life-sized statue outside the home of the Canucks. The monument, funded by a group of Quinn’s friends and business partners, was unveiled over the weekend.

Quinn began his coaching career with the Flyers in 1977-78 before holding coaching and managing positions with the AHL Phantoms and four other NHL clubs, including the Canucks. He guided the Flyers to a 35-game unbeaten streak — a record for North American sports — in 1979-80, when they reached the Stanley Cup finals.

Loose pucks
• The Flyers’ .667 winning percentage in Vancouver ranks as their best in any current NHL city. 

• Despite outshooting their opponents in 15 of 20 games dating to Jan. 1, the Flyers are 5-8-2 in the 15 contests.

Scratches: Defensemen Andrew MacDonald and Nick Schultz

Lineup
F: Schenn-Giroux-Simmonds

Weise-Couturier-Voracek

Raffl-Cousins-Read

VandeVelde-Bellemare-Lyubimov

D: Provorov-Manning

Gostisbehere-Streit

Del  Zotto-Gudas

G: Neuvirth

Phillies prospect Andrew Knapp is determined to win a job in the majors

Phillies prospect Andrew Knapp is determined to win a job in the majors

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The dew on the infield grass had barely dried when Andrew Knapp was marched out to the firing squad at Phillies camp early Sunday morning.
 
He took his position at first base and looked across the diamond where Phillies instructors Doug Mansolino, Chris Truby and Larry Bowa were lined up at third base, shortstop and second base, respectively. Armed with fungo bats and a dozens baseballs each, the trio of sharpshooters proceeded to smash bullet one- and two-hoppers at Knapp, who was tasked with pulling them out of the dirt to complete the putout.
 
“Good job,” shouted Bowa, a tough grader when it comes to infield work, as Knapp finished up the hellacious early-morning drill.
 
Knapp is a catcher by trade, but he will continue these intense individual sessions at first base throughout the spring — in addition to his regular defensive work behind the plate.
 
A 25-year-old switch-hitter, Knapp was the Phillies’ second-round selection in the 2013 draft. He’s getting a lot attention in this camp because he has a shot to make the club as a reserve player. The Phils are in need of a backup catcher and a backup first baseman and Knapp, in big-league camp for the second time, is trying to show he can handle both assignments in one package.
 
“Last year it was more of a happy-to-be-here thing,” he said. “I was just trying to pick as many brains as I could and take in as much knowledge as I could.
 
“But this year it’s more of a let’s-go-win-a-job kind of deal.”
 
General manager Matt Klentak and manager Pete Mackanin first floated the idea of carrying Knapp as a two-position reserve at the winter meetings.
 
Of course, it came with a lot of qualifiers. Knapp is still considered a developing player and team decision-makers would have to consider what impact a reserve role would have on his development. Also, the prototypical backup catcher in the majors is a plus defender who has experience handling a big-league pitching staff. Knapp has never played in the majors and his defense is considered a work in progress. Later in the winter, the Phillies signed two big-league veteran catchers (Bryan Holaday and Ryan Hanigan) to minor-league deals and they are very much in the mix for the job.
 
“I kind of understand there’s a definite value in having a veteran guy as a backup, but I think I can do the job on the field,” Knapp said.
 
A potential separator for Knapp could be his bat and his versatility if he can continue to develop it. He is not a novice at first base. He played there as a sophomore at the University of California. Knapp also has this going for him: He’s on the 40-man roster and with so many young prospects on it and the probable need to add an outfielder like Chris Coughlan later in camp, that could work in Knapp’s favor.
 
Another factor that could held Knapp’s chances: The Phillies’ development blueprint calls for Rhys Hoskins and Jorge Alfaro to get the bulk of the playing time at first base and catcher, respectively, at Triple A.
 
“You’d like to see him get 500 at-bats, but it’s not a perfect world,” Bowa said. “Our Triple A team is loaded. He might find himself in the same role at Triple A. if that’s the case, it might be best if he came here if he swings the bat like he can and he can provide versatility.
 
“A guy like him can give you some options and flexibility. When you face the Mets and they have three stud right-handers throwing 95, it might be nice to have a guy like that to give (first baseman) Tommy Joseph a blow.”
 
Knapp had a brilliant season with the bat at Double A in 2015. He hit .360 with 11 homers, 56 RBIs and a 1.050 OPS in 55 games, earning him the franchise’s Paul Owens Award as minor-league player of the year.
 
Knapp tapered off at Triple A last season. He hit .266 with eight homers, 46 RBIs and a .719 OPS over a full season. Knapp’s day last summer typically started with defensive work at 1:30 in the afternoon.
 
“I would get my hitting in, but I don’t think there was as much of a focus on it as there was the year before,” he said. “I do think last year I took a real step forward defensively, especially in the second half of the year. I kind of had a tough first half, but the second half I really honed in on the defensive part, blocking and throwing mostly, just kind of keeping everything in front and shutting down the running game.”

A lot of eyes will be on Knapp when the exhibition games start next week.
 
“We need to find out if he’s capable of doing it,” Mackanin said. “Catching is a defensive-oriented position. We need good defense. We need good game calling, a catcher who can handle pitchers, and that’s what we’re going to be looking at from a guy like Knapp as well as the other guys. We’re going to take a good long look at that.
 
“He’s definitely in the mix. I want to play him a lot to see him. We all want to see what he can do offensively and defensively. From what I’ve been told he’s shown a lot of improvement and we’re going to look for that. We’re looking for the 25 best men. There’s a good chance he might be one of them.”
 
Knapp is determined to show that he is.
 
“It’s open for someone to go take it and I want to be that guy,” he said.