Are 2013-14 Flyers pulling in too many different directions?

Are 2013-14 Flyers pulling in too many different directions?

A new season is dawning for the Flyers, and with any new season comes hope. The road to the Stanley Cup Playoffs is a long one, and there surely will be bumps along the way, but if the Orange & Black can return to the postseason, anything can happen in the NHL.

Are the Flyers a playoff team? I think so. They are healthier than they were heading into last season, their young players have another year under their belts, and they only built on to the roster over the offseason—unless you’re of the belief Danny Briere’s and Ilya Bryzgalov’s modest contributions will be sorely missed.

But are the Flyers a Cup contender? Sure. Anything. Can. Happen. GM Paul Holmgren could swing a monumental trade at the deadline that alters the landscape of the Eastern Conference. Either Ray Emery or Steve Mason could theoretically get hot in net at the right time. Brayden Schenn and/or Sean Couturier could elevate their game to superstar levels. We just don’t know.

But as the Flyers stand today, on Day 1 of the NHL season, do they look like a Cup contender? I’d have to venture a no. To me, they look like a team that’s stuck in between too many opposing philosophies at work.

In June of 2011, Holmgren sent Mike Richards and Jeff Carter packing only one year removed from a Finals appearance. The deals signaled a youth movement that for all intents and purposes is still ongoing. Jakub Voracek (24) and Wayne Simmonds (25) are just now starting to establish themselves as core contributors for this franchise, while we wait patiently for B. Schenn (22) and Couturier (20) to join them.

To complete the picture, Claude Giroux (25) was named captain prior to the 2013 campaign. At that point, Flyers management could have decided to sink or swim with these kids—a pair of whom might be a year or two away from truly blossoming yet (and several others in their minor league system)—watching players grow and picking up more draft picks.

Clearly that was not the direction the organization decided to go in based on their offseason. The Flyers’ additions of Vincent Lecavalier (33) and Mark Streit (35) look like win-now moves, which flies in the face of the very concept of a youth movement. They bring tremendous veteran leadership and one can only hope a couple quality seasons left in the tank. They would be tremendous players to have for a Cup run.

But if that’s not where the rest of this team is at, the moves are perplexing and perhaps demonstrate some confusion over what the next step was supposed to be. By the time everything comes together, Lecavalier and Streit could be another year or three older and further in decline, perhaps even detriments to the Flyers’ progress. They’re here now though, and likely give the club some polish as a playoff contender, but a championship?

That vision doesn’t even align with the situation the front office has created in goal, where the Flyers once again own a timeshare. It’s not a question of whether they were justified in moving on from Bryzgalov—they were—or if a tandem of Emery and Mason is a decent stopgap for one season—it is. But can either man carry an NHL team through the trials of the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

Again, my best guess is no. Emery’s comeback has been amazing, and he posted incredible numbers in Chicago last season, but while facing fewer shots against per start than any entire club in the league on average—it won’t be that easy in Orange & Black. Mason has looked good since his arrival, but it was only seven games. History suggests he’ll come back down to earth.

The Flyers are stuck in a holding pattern at goaltender, either until 2012 second-round pick Anthony Stolarz is ready (and he’s probably a ways off) or somebody else becomes available. Either way, that person is not in Philadelphia right now. Veterans are. And so are a bunch of players that are still developing.

It’s an odd mix to say the least. If the front office goal was to put a legitimate championship contender on the ice this season, I’m not sure they achieved that, or could have for that matter. They tried anyway, and now I’m not sure what they have.

If nothing else, the journey should be fun to watch. Giroux wants to get back in the conversation with the Ovechkins and Stamkos and Crosbys and Malkins. The young core is exciting, and I do want to see what Lecavalier and Streit do to give the Flyers a makeover. I’m just not certain all of the pieces fit.

But then I guess we won’t know until they fall away.

NL East Wrap: Mets SP Matt Harvey gets back on track in win over White Sox

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NL East Wrap: Mets SP Matt Harvey gets back on track in win over White Sox

NEW YORK -- On the mound in the seventh inning for the first time this season, Matt Harvey gave up his first walk of the game and his second hit, leading to a sacrifice bunt and a second-and-third jam.

"You kind of think about the worst at that point," he said. "You start getting some negative thoughts that creep in your head."

But 11 days after disappointed fans at Citi Field booed him like a villain, the Dark Knight was back - at least for one afternoon.

Harvey retired Todd Frazier on a foulout and J.B. Shuck on a grounder to escape trouble, Neil Walker homered off Jose Quintana on the second pitch of the bottom half and the New York Mets beat Chicago 1-0 Monday to send the reeling White Sox to their seventh straight loss.

"Today's a big first step," Mets manager Terry Collins said.

Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia got six straight outs to complete the two-hitter, preserving Harvey's first win since May 8. Harvey struck out six, walked two and threw four pitches of 98-98.5 mph after not topping 97.5 mph previously this season. He threw 61 of 87 pitches for strikes (see full recap).

Mallex Smith's 3-run triple powers Braves past Giants
ATLANTA -- Mike Foltynewicz is showing he can be more than just a fastball pitcher - and that he can be part of the Braves' long-term rotation.

Foltynewicz continued his recent upswing by allowing only three hits and one run in six-plus innings, Mallex Smith hit a three-run triple and Atlanta beat Jeff Samardzija and the San Francisco Giants 5-3 on Monday.

The Braves survived San Francisco's two-run, ninth-inning rally. They have won three of four and are 5-21 at home, still easily the worst in the majors.

Foltynewicz (2-2) gave up a leadoff homer to Brandon Belt in the second inning, but allowed only one other runner to advance to second.

Foltynewicz, 24, has had other recent strong starts, including eight scoreless innings in a 5-0 win at Kansas City on May 14. His start on Monday may have been his most impressive demonstration of altering the speeds of his fastball while mixing in a curveball and slider (see full recap).

Locke tosses three-hit shutout against Marlins
MIAMI -- Jeff Locke tossed a three-hitter and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Miami Marlins 10-0 on Monday night.

Gregory Polanco's grand slam, Sean Rodriguez's two-run homer, and David Freese's four hits helped power the offense for the Pirates, who won the first of a four-game series in Miami. The first two games were originally scheduled to be played in Puerto Rico, but were moved due to concerns of the Zika virus.

Locke (4-3) struck out one and did not walk a batter while throwing 67 of 105 pitches for strikes. It was his first complete game in 101 career starts. Locke retired 19 straight at one point and needed just six pitches to get through the seventh inning.

The announced crowd of 10,856 was a season-low for the Marlins, who entered the day averaging just under 20,000.

Gary Bettman talks NHL expansion, missing Ed Snider's presence, 2018 Winter Olympics

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Gary Bettman talks NHL expansion, missing Ed Snider's presence, 2018 Winter Olympics

PITTSBURGH -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman offered no clues on Monday during his annual Stanley Cup Final address as to the state of NHL expansion or the current odds that Las Vegas gets a franchise.
 
The league’s Board of Governors will meet on June 22 to make a decision on expansion. The earliest a team(s) could play would be 2017-18.
 
Quebec City is also in the running, but the value of the Canadian dollars weighs heavily against another team being added north of the border at the moment.
 
If a Vegas franchise is added, it would have a direct impact on Pacific Division clubs such as the Sharks, who take on the Penguins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final Monday night at CONSOL Energy Center.
 
Bettman refused to “handicap” the situation but said he expected to know at least a week in advance as to what the committee’s recommendation will be.
 
Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said there are “a lot of on-going” issues related to expansion and some involve input from third parties.
 
“We’ve made good progress ... it hasn’t been quick progress,” Daly said.
 
Asked about rumors of the NFL, specifically the Oakland Raiders, going to Vegas and what that impact would mean to hockey, Bettman said he hasn’t even broached the topic of having two pro sports there with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or even considered such.
 
“If the NFL comes to Vegas at some point, so be it,” Bettman said. “We’re judging the application we have before us on the merits of that application.”
 
Bettman said the thought the NFL moving to Vegas, in his opinion, wasn’t “anywhere close to a done deal.”
 
Daly added that even if there is movement by the NFL toward Vegas, it would not be seen as a “deterrent” to the NHL expanding there.
 
Snider not replaced
Bettman said that former Flyers chairman Ed Snider’s spot on the 10-person executive and competition committees has not been filled since Snider's death in April.
 
Snider was an original member of the league’s competition committee and the only owner on it.
 
“He was a great owner and is terribly missed,” Bettman said.

More Olympic issues  
IOC President Thomas Bach and IIHF President Rene Fasel have gone on record they want to end paying the out-of-pocket expenses for NHL players to attend the Olympics.
 
That’s a non-starter for the NHL if both organizations want participation of the NHL's players at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. The practice of subsidy has been in effect for the past five Winter Olympics.
 
“If they are unable to resolve the issue, I have no doubt it will have an impact on our decision,” Bettman said, adding the NHL would have to take a hard look at continued Olympic participation since its member clubs aren’t interested in putting up the “many, many millions” it would take to make up the financial gap.
 
Whenever there is change in the IOC leadership, Bettman said, there are always discussions of whether some sports, such as hockey, should receive subsidies.