Goalie Watch 2011: On Short-Term Solutions and the Flyers 'Targeting Tim Thomas'

Goalie Watch 2011: On Short-Term Solutions and the Flyers 'Targeting Tim Thomas'

The 2011 Flyers Goalie Watch continues, this time with an interesting item posted at ESPN.com over the Memorial Day weekend featuring a name that will be painfully familiar to all Flyers fans—Tim Thomas.

Veteran hockey scribe Jay Greenberg pens this story, parts of which are somewhat subtly presented while others are notably more direct. The article is immediately declarative in stating the Flyers' interest in Thomas, with its pointed title reading, "Philadelphia targets Tim Thomas."

No question mark at the end. No "likely to," "may," or "should."

Without giving too much away about what's behind the pay wall of this ESPN Insider story, much of the discussion on the Flyers' interest in Thomas is viewable without the subscription, and it boils down to: They want him, because if Boston again makes him available, he'd be a good fit with the timing of the Flyers' plans.

The article mentions the well-discussed Thomas-for-Jeff Carter trade proposed last year, which the Flyers reportedly declined. There was a different perception of Tim Thomas then though, and I admit, even if Carter had not been the Bruins' target at that time, I was hoping the Flyers wouldn't wind up pinning their hopes (and salary cap space) on Thomas. Whether or not he would have been the difference in 2010-2011, I was wrong about Thomas, who provided a good lesson that a goalie's performance in any given season will not definitively tell you what to expect in the next. The Bruins themselves were willing to deal a goalie that would ultimately earn a 2.00 regular season GAA and take them at least to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Would they be willing to again this summer? If so, would they trade him to the Eastern Conference power franchise they've faced in consecutive postseasons?

That part is obviously unknown at this point, but Greenberg's stated reasoning on the Flyers' current interest in Thomas makes sense given what the organization has already publicly said since their ouster early last month. Although the team is likely looking to add another goalie, they don't want to bring in a long-term guy. According to Ed Snider in previous interviews, the team thinks Sergei Bobrovsky is the long-term answer in goal. GM Paul Holmgren had previously said that he believes Bobrovsky "will be the number 1 goalie" but isn't sure when, very much leaving open that it could still be next season. Given the confidence in Bob but uncertainty as to his developmental timing, combined with Snider's insistence that there won't be another goalie carousel next season, a veteran goalie who is not necessarily looking for a long-term deal would presumably be a good fit.

Thomas, 37, has two years remaining on his existing contract.

Greenberg's article additionally discusses a few other goaltending options, the salary cap issues that must be overcome to add a big piece, and other well-traveled Flyers Goalie Watch roads. There are a few interesting items that I'm leaving out because I don't want to provide everything that appears in his article, as well as information that was viewed beyond a pay wall.

But what's also of interest to me is what isn't there. There are no statements regarding the source of the information. Not Holmgren or another Flyers source (no surprise given that, ya know, Thomas is still playing), or even a softly placed "Sources close to the team" or "NHL sources say." And yet, it doesn't read as though Greenberg is just throwing a popular name out there and attaching it to the Flyers, which is often the case this time of year as we've discussed in previous posts. Upon first read, due to the firmness of its few statements as to the Flyers thinking, it leaves the impression he does have some kind of source.

Who that source is, we don't know, but Greenberg is no stranger to the organization. He has been a hockey writer for more than three decades, including 14 years covering the Flyers for the Daily News and the Bulletin from 1975-1989, after which he was on staff at the New York Post. In 2000, Greenberg published a book on the history of the Flyers called Full Spectrum, and he's recently contributed to CSNPhilly.com.

Perhaps that's just the craft of the experienced writer convincingly building a stable narrative on a speculative topic. But in articles like these in which major outlets discuss a team's intentions, a source is often named or alluded to. In this case, I don't think the lack of a mention means there is a lack of a source, and that's what grabbed my attention as much as the subject being Tim Thomas.

We won't know for sure whether the Flyers will try to trade for Thomas or at least kick the tires with Boston again until the postseason ends and the player movement window opens, and perhaps we won't even know after that. The article doesn't state that Thomas is the only option the Flyers are targeting, nor even the first; several other possible options are mentioned. But the prevailing notion I tend to agree with in the report isn't so much the team's interest in Thomas, but their interest in a short-term but stable answer. It's been on my mind since first hearing the comments of the GM and the Chairman on Bobrovsky. If Bob is believed to be the goalie of the future, why sign an expensive free agent to a long-term deal? Gambling on a goaltender's future performance is scary enough.

Meanwhile, I could also imagine Ed Snider saying the same thing most of us were as the Flyers got swept out of the second round by the Bruins… What's it going to take to get THAT guy in our net?

We'll hold off on delving into whether or not a deal for Thomas is the right fit for the Flyers until we hear more, and possibly until the information comes from a named source. The evaluation of any such deal would heavily involve what the team had to give up both to pry Thomas loose and free up any needed cap space. The "Insert Thomas" part has its obvious advantages.

For now, we're just adding another name to the 2011 Flyers Goalie Watch, but also taking a look at the Flyers' possible short-term line of thinking when it comes to the acquisitions market.

Photo: Greg M. Cooper-US Presswire

Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford learning to fight through failure

Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford learning to fight through failure

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Plastered on a wall outside the press box in Coca-Cola Park is a sign — "Pigs to the Bigs" — surrounded by dozens of stars.

Each has upon it the name of a player who has made the leap from the Triple A Lehigh Valley IronPigs to the parent Phillies since Lehigh Valley began operations in 2008 — everyone from outfielder Chris Snelling (April 30, 2008) to pitcher Nick Pivetta (April 29, 2017), the latter of whom has since returned to the IronPigs.

It is a study in the star-crossed, of guys who bounced up and down (Pete Orr, July 8, 2011), guys who flamed out (Domonic Brown, July 28, 2010), guys whose fate is yet to be determined (Maikel Franco, Sept. 3, 2014).

The point being that the path to major-league stardom seldom follows a straight line.

That has been demonstrated once again by the Phillies' top prospect, shortstop J.P. Crawford, who spent weeks in bounce-back mode earlier this season.

And now finds himself there again.

His 0-for-4 night in Thursday's 8-4 loss to Indianapolis left him hitless in his last 16 at-bats, his slash line for the season at .175/.291/.221.

Recall that Crawford, the 16th overall pick in the 2013 draft, had exactly four hits in 48 at-bats over his first 14 games of the season, an average of .083.

Never before had the 22-year-old experienced anything like it, and he took a methodical approach to remedying the problem. He did some video work. He tinkered with his stance. He consulted with hitting coach Sal Rende and roving minor-league hitting instructor Andy Tracy. And slowly but surely, he began coming around.

The thinking at that point was that his slump might serve as a valuable lesson, a blessing in disguise.

As Crawford put it hours before Thursday's first pitch, "I'd rather struggle here than if I ever make it to the big leagues, God willing. I'd much rather have it [happen] down here than up there."

Though it will happen there, too. Baseball, everyone always says, is a game of failure. It's just a matter of how each player deals with it, works through it, minimizes it.

Lehigh Valley manager Dusty Wathan has said repeatedly that he was impressed by Crawford's approach to his scuffling start, that he thought the youngster treated it as "a growing opportunity" that can only help him down the line.

It was all Wathan could have hoped for, for Crawford or anybody else.

"I think it's a good thing to be able to have some experience to look back on, later on," he said. "Now, when they're going through it they probably don't think of it that way, but those of us who have been around baseball and been in situations like that personally, too, know that it's going to get better."

Wathan, seated at his office desk in a T-shirt and shorts before Thursday's game, has been around the block. He previously managed Crawford at Double A Reading, and believes those 14 games in April represent a blip.

"We know that J.P.'s a great player," Wathan said. "I think [such struggles] can actually end up being a good thing for these guys."

If Crawford, a native Californian, had few previous failures to draw upon — "He hasn't really had any," Wathan said — he at least had a ready roster of big-time athletes in his family with whom he could commiserate. His dad, Larry, was a CFL defensive back from 1981-89. His cousin, Carl, was a major-league outfielder for 15 years, ending last season. His older sister, Eliza, played softball at Cal State-Fullerton.

Certainly it appears they have kept him grounded, because he is singularly unimpressed by his draft status or ranking with various scouting services.

"I [couldn't] care less about that," he said. "All that doesn't really matter. Once you get on the field, everyone's the same. Everyone's the same player."

Though he was somewhat less than that early on. He was admittedly frustrated, but far from defeated.

"You've got to stay on the positive [side] on everything," he said. "You can't get too down on yourself, or else you're just going to do worse."

Had it been a major-league situation instead of a player-development situation, it is entirely possible that Wathan would have held him out of the lineup a day or two, just to let him clear his head.

"Or maybe not, because he contributes every night, somehow," the manager said.

And as Crawford said, "You're not going to get better sitting. You've got to go out there and play."

He admitted earlier this month that while he had once been reluctant about video study, he found great benefit in it when he was looking for answers in late April.

He decided to raise his hands while at the plate, and the hits began to come. He batted at a .253 clip over 24 games, including a six-game hitting streak, bringing his average to a season-best .196 on May 20.

Now it's back to the drawing board. It is, after all, a game of failure. It's just a matter of dealing with it, working through it, minimizing it.

He has become well-acquainted with the concept.

The case for Kansas' Josh Jackson to the Sixers at No. 3

The case for Kansas' Josh Jackson to the Sixers at No. 3

Over the weeks leading up to the 2017 NBA draft, we'll be making cases for the Sixers to draft several prospects. Our series will kick off with options at No. 3 (or trade downs) followed by second-round possibilities. The 2017 NBA draft will take place on June 22 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Josh Jackson

Position: SF
School: Kansas
Height: 6-8
Weight: 203
Wingspan: 6-9¾

Jackson enjoyed an excellent season in his one year with the Jayhawks. Regarded as one of the top high school recruits in the country, Jackson didn't disappoint. The super athletic swingman averaged 16.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and three assists per game.

Jackson is without a doubt the best two-way player in this draft. He can guard positions one through four. He averaged an impressive 2.2 steals and 1.4 blocks per 40 minutes, using his length and athleticism to disrupt passing lanes. He's also strong and physical, with the ability to body up ball handlers and cutters, and redirect them.

He's a bit underrated offensively. He struggled with his shot early on, but improved as the season went on. In his last 17 games, he shot 48 percent from three on over three attempts per game. As his three assists a night indicates, he's a good and willing passer. He's also a better ball handler than he gets credit for, with the ability to get to the rim using his left or his right. Oh, and he can finish.

The case for Jackson
He fits the Sixers as an elite wing defender who plays well off the ball. If his shot continues to improve, he could be a great complement to Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. 

No, he's not an obvious fit, but he's way too talented at a position they really don't have. And talented wings aren't easy to find. Robert Covington has been a find for the Sixers and should definitely be given a contract extension, but Jackson simply brings more to the table on both ends of the court. The shot is a concern, but we've seen almost every player improve their shot with head coach Brett Brown and the Sixers' staff.

The case against Jackson
You can't just overlook the fact that he shot an abysmal 57 percent from the free throw line. That simply won't get it done. Free throw shooting can also be an indicator of whether a player can improve his stroke from the field. If the Sixers take Jackson, you have to hope that 57 percent is an aberration. 

Jackson also had some trouble off the court. There were two separate incidents. Both cases were recently resolved, but they both show a lack of maturity and, quite frankly, stupidity. 

One case involved Jackson backing up his car into another and then leaving the scene. He was given probation and forced to pay a $250 fine. In a more troubling incident, Jackson kicked the driver's side door and kicked out a tail light of a member of Kansas' women's basketball team after an argument. He reached a diversion agreement that requires him to attend anger management classes, write a letter of apology and refrain from using alcohol or recreational drugs for a year.

The Sixers will have to vet Jackson long and hard to determine if these incidents were out of a character or part of a troubling pattern.

Analysis
Washington guard Markelle Fultz is the No. 1 player on the board and will likely be picked by the Celtics. The consensus seems to be that the Lakers will take UCLA guard Lonzo Ball. With those two players off the board, Jackson is the clear-cut pick at No. 3.

At worst, you have an elite wing defender that can help slow down the likes of LeBron James, Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Giannis Antetokounmpo in the Eastern Conference. He's also going to be a nightmare in the open court running the floor with Simmons. I'd bank on him having at least a modest improvement on his shot.

The off-the-court stuff is definitely a concern, but it's possible they're just dumb decisions by a young kid. He's so talented, you better be certain that there's an issue if you decide to pass on him at No. 3. If he stays out of trouble, he's absolutely worthy of the No. 3 pick.