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.

After epically bad game, Odubel Herrera maintains he's 'making good swings'

After epically bad game, Odubel Herrera maintains he's 'making good swings'

Don't be shocked if Pete Mackanin gives Odubel Herrera the Maikel Franco treatment this weekend after Herrera's epically bad game Thursday afternoon.

Herrera, batting third for the first time since May 9, went 0 for 5 with five strikeouts in the Phillies' 2-1, extra-inning win over the Rockies (see Instant Replay).

He's the first player in the majors this season to go 0 for 5 with five Ks and the first Phillie to do so since Pat Burrell in September 2008.

(And no, that doesn't mean the Phillies are winning the World Series this season.)

Herrera is in a very bad place right now. He's hitting .226 with a .275 on-base percentage, and he has 28 strikeouts with one walk in May.

But you wouldn't know it from talking to him after the game Thursday. Herrera wasn't downtrodden or beside himself. He was typical Odubel, flashing a few smiles and remaining positive.

"I feel that I am making good swings but I'm just missing the pitches," Herrera said. "But I feel I am swinging the bat well. 

"I don't really know what it is exactly. But I am seeing the ball well. I don't know if it's when I charge at the ball or the timing of my swing. It's definitely at that point. Maybe it has something to do with the balance of the bat and my body. 

"Besides being positive, I have to check the video to see what I'm doing wrong and make some adjustment. But I'm staying positive, for sure."

Herrera and Franco, batting third and fourth, went 1 for 10 with seven strikeouts Thursday. They're both hitting below .230. They're supposed to be cornerstone pieces for the Phillies, so it's extremely troubling. Even if the Phillies were winning games recently it would be troubling.

Mackanin was elusive when asked if he'd consider benching Herrera Friday. But there's no real reason to believe it would do any good anyway. There's a fine line between giving a player time to clear his head and preventing him from having chances to bounce back.

"You know what, let me enjoy this. We'll discuss that tomorrow. Let me smile for a while," Mackanin said. 

"It's a tough decision. That's a tough decision. You wonder if he needs to be in there seeing pitches and batting or does he need time off? I'll think about that."

Herrera did say that he and Franco have leaned on each other during this rough period. They talk and try to motivate each other every day, but right now the results aren't there. Both are swinging wildly at too many pitches out of the strike zone and just making it too easy for opposing pitchers. When that's coming from the middle of your order, you're going to have problems scoring runs. 

On this date a year ago, Herrera was hitting .327 with a .901 OPS. Franco was hitting .260 with a .748 OPS.

Some of the struggles are because of pitchers adjusting to Herrera and Franco as the book on them expands. 

When asked if that's the case for his two young players, Mackanin referenced the Phillies' own adjustment to Rockies slugger Charlie Blackmon.

"I was pretty happy we got to Blackmon, that guy is a heckuva hitter and we pitched him really well today. There's an example of what you're talking about," Mackanin said. "Little by little, we're going to get there. We're going to start playing better."

Like Herrera and Franco, Mackanin has no choice but to think positive and hope for the best. It's a long summer, after all.

Instant Replay: Phillies 2, Rockies 1 (11 innings)

Instant Replay: Phillies 2, Rockies 1 (11 innings)

BOX SCORE

Tommy Joseph hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the 11th inning Thursday to score Michael Saunders and snap the Phillies' five-game losing streak with a 2-1 win over the Rockies.

The win is their first victory in a game not started by Jeremy Hellickson since May 1. It also prevented the Phillies from being swept by Colorado.

At 16-29, the Phillies have the second-worst record in the majors. The Rockies, 32-17, have the second-best record in the majors.

Starting pitching report
Vince Velasquez pitched well, allowing one run over five innings to a stacked Rockies lineup, but he again had a short outing because of a high pitch count.

Velasquez put nine men on base and struck out seven. He threw 94 pitches, 70 for strikes.

After Velasquez's last start in Pittsburgh, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said the right-hander's secondary pitches simply need to improve, that he needs to be able to show more than just a mid-90s fastball.

On Thursday, Velasquez threw 72 fastballs, 14 curveballs, four sliders and four changeups. The Rockies swung through only two of those 22 off-speed pitches and went 4 for 6 when putting them in play.

Mackanin left Velasquez in to hit for himself with runners on first and second and no outs in the bottom of the fifth and Velasquez popped out on a sacrifice attempt. Many fans have already questioned the decision, but let's keep in mind Velasquez has handled the bat well. He's 6 for 17 (.353) on the season and tied for the major-league lead in hits among pitchers. He had an infield single in his first at-bat.

Rockies left-hander Tyler Anderson continued the theme of mediocre starting pitchers stymying the Phillies. Anderson allowed just one run on six hits over seven innings with seven strikeouts.

In the series, Rockies starting pitchers allowed three runs in 27 innings. They had a 1.00 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP and more than a strikeout per inning. And these four starters — Jeff Hoffman, German Marquez, Tyler Chatwood and Anderson — entered the series with a combined 5.27 ERA.

Bullpen report
Edubray Ramos, Pat Neshek, Joaquin Benoit, Hector Neris, Luis Garcia and Jeanmar Gomez each pitched one scoreless inning. It's understandably been overlooked during the Phillies' skid, but the bullpen is finally in a groove. Over their last seven games, Phillies relievers have allowed just two earned runs in 22 2/3 innings for a 0.79 ERA.

Neris threw 10 pitches, all of them strikes. He's allowed one run in 9 2/3 innings since his meltdown at Dodger Stadium.

At the plate
Before the walk-off hit, Joseph stayed hot with a home run off the ivy wall in dead-center to start the bottom of the seventh.

Joseph is hitting .329 in May with six doubles, six homers, 15 RBIs and a .657 slugging percentage. The only first basemen in the majors with a higher slugging percentage this month are Yonder Alonso, Justin Bour and Paul Goldschmidt.

Joseph has now played 148 games with 498 plate appearances in the majors — slightly less than a full season. He's hit .255 with an .804 OPS, 28 home runs and 23 doubles. Those numbers are just above the league average for first basemen over that span.

Batting third, Odubel Herrera went 0 for 5 with five strikeouts. He's the first player in the majors this season to do that and the first Phillie since Pat Burrell in September 2008. Herrera is hitting .226 with a .275 OBP. 

Maikel Franco returned to the lineup after a two-game benching and went 1 for 5, singling up the middle in his first at-bat and flailing at a low-and-away, two-strike breaking ball to strike out with two on and one out in the eighth inning. He then struck out on three pitches to lead off the 11th.

Cameron Rupp walked three times, raising his on-base percentage from .330 to .345.

Up next
The Phillies start a three-game series at home against the Cincinnati Reds, who they haven't seen since the opening week of the season.

Friday, 7:05 p.m. — Aaron Nola (2-1, 3.52) vs. Bronson Arroyo (3-4, 6.75)

Saturday, 4:05 p.m. — Jerad Eickhoff (0-5, 4.70) vs. Scott Feldman (3-4, 3.99)

Sunday, 1:35 p.m. — Zach Eflin (0-2, 5.36) vs. Amir Garrett (3-3, 6.00)