Are You Even a Fan, Bro?

Are You Even a Fan, Bro?

Twigs crunch under the Timbos on my toes, and this is how it goes.

Blindfolded, I’m following. Following forever. For years, for decades. And then, just when I start to think, when I really start to think about why I’m wearing a blindfold in the first place, and why I’m following someone that I didn’t even choose as the leader, a person who has led me into a number of trees already, I tumble off the cliff.

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Yesterday on Twitter, Fran and I were giving the Flyers front office a good old-fashioned ribbing as the natural result of a pending contract that is largely perceived as a joke by everyone outside of Philadelphia. No official poll has been undertaken by the mayor’s office, but I would venture to guess that most of Philadelphia met the news of Mark Streit’s impending signing with an exacerbated groan. He has a great offensive upside but our defense is not good defensively, and he’s not good defensively. Throw that in a pot with the fact that he’s 35 and mix in $22 million and you’ve got a stew, baby.

So it was in the middle of a streak of some clever and some not so clever 140 character odes to Paul Holmgren that a masked avenger felt the urge to share his own commonplace, knee-jerk retort to someone making fun of his team. I honestly don’t feel like scrolling back to Ctrl+V it verbatim, but it was something along the lines of “are you even a fan? shut up jerk.”

Back when we used to publish what Philadelphia Magazine never called One of the Top 100 Flyers Blogs of 2008, this kind of stuff used to really get under my skin. Am I a fan??? I write 1,000 words about this flipping team every flipping day and then spend 2 hours photoshopping Handzus hair on Patrik Thorensen!! Are you flipping kidding me?!?! But now I’m old and my balls are old and I prefer Dadspin to the Funbag and ain’t nobody got time for that. But from a more philosophical point of view, it is an interesting question.

When I was younger, growing up in South Jersey, dry humping my bed while staring at my Legion of Doom poster, I used to italics-hate when my dad would criticize the Flyers. He was an idiot, he wasn’t a true fan, and what did he know about hockey anyway. But time always proves the youths ignorant, or at the very least naïve. And I’m not reaching into the Pedestrian Complaint Box to let you know that “I’m paying good money to watch this product” or that I think I personally could do a better job. The simple fact of the matter is that I am a fan and, like Will Smiff but certainly not his long jacket wearing son, was born in Philadelphia and have rooted for the Flyers my entire life – living in MA, then ME, then NY and now back in MA. I want the Flyers to be good so that in the tiny escapism opportunities I actually partake in, I can feel a sense of reserved pride. I can wear a Flyers cap while I steer my riding mower around (never grow up) my 30k feet of America, and when my neighbor Masshole Paul comes over to tell me about the Bruins he knows that like Wu-tang, I am nothing to F with, as indicated by the Flyers logo on my forehead. And for 30 years this has not been possible.

And now that I look at the club with a more critical eye it is disconcerting that the ONLY consistency in the organization since 2007 is the front office – specifically Paul Holmgren. That doesn’t smell right. That smells like a double beef Doritos Loco fart in the mouth. And while we’re on the subject of beef and beefing, my main beefs with Holmgren all result from his failed strategic vision. Please note the following comedy of errors:

-       Holmgren brought in Pronger with too little concern for the current chemistry of the room, or otherwise understanding of the possible repercussions this move would have

-       Holmgren then dug that hole a little deeper by off-loading Mike Richards to right his own wrong

-       Which was tied to bringing in Bryzgalov, who we are now going to pay 10’s of millions of dollars to not play for us.

Paul Holmgren brought in two captains that lived on polar opposites of the Captain Spectrum, and when it caused a rift in the locker room he chose a horse that marked a dramatic shift in the long-term outlook of this team. And I already know where you’re going with this, but Marc Savard averaged 83 points per season before his career was ended and the Bruins still moved forward. Do you want a GM that hasn’t won because of injuries or one who has built such a strong organization that he has won in spite of them?

All the other Modrys, Emingers, Parents, Alberts, Boyntons, Fritsches, Sloanes, Fitzpatricks, Krajiceks, Liljas, Bartuliseseses, and Shelleys, I can forgive. All the silly “low risk, high reward” signings that have turned out to be “low risk, no reward” don’t bother me.

Shoot, I can even forgive the Bobrovsky thing. Holmgren chose a strategy again. It was wrong. Again.

And that is the point, exactly. Paul Holmgren has been holding the reins for almost 6 years, and the Flyers are not discernibly better than they were on July 2, 2007. If anything, their bell-curved success over this time period proves that Holmgren’s time is over – he built a supernova and now none of it remains. Holmgren had his miracle run and now the sun is set. But everyone in that front office is just too busy basking in the warm glow of the Bullies’ Cups to notice.

The Flyers are broken. Paul Holmgren had a strategy and it didn’t work out. And the wake continues to grow more dangerous, by the day apparently. The residual impact is leaving us the laughing stock of the league. Every $5M piece of duct tape this guy buys sets us that much further back. We don’t need a short-term fix anymore. We need a new architect and a new engineer.

In the end, I think the organization’s lack of patience, embodied in the always-externally-praised “win now” mentality, has actually done the Flyers a disservice. Do you want to “always be in the discussion” or to have missed the playoffs 5 out of the last 10 years but also had a cup to show for it in that period? That’s the future of the game. Build the core. Keep the core. Add parts. Win one or two. Rinse and repeat.

No matter which of the above options you choose, as evidenced by last season and his continued incompetence, Paul Holmgren is not your man. And as a proud fan of the team and city, I believe they need a change. Someone in that organization needs to get it together, and see what’s happening.

You can follow FlyersGoalScoredBy on Twitter here.

Flyers-Oilers 10 observations: Two big rallies and the win streak pushes forward

Flyers-Oilers 10 observations: Two big rallies and the win streak pushes forward

Ten observations from the Flyers' 6-5 win over the Edmonton Oilers Thursday night, their seventh straight win and longest win streak since Dec. 2-15, 2011 (see Instant Replay).

1. And the Flyers (somehow) did it. They won their seventh straight game on a night Steve Mason wasn't his best — five goals allowed for the third time this season — and the team defense was largely atrocious. Michael Raffl scored a beautiful goal for the game-winner at 18:31 of the third period and the Flyers held on. This game had a 1980s feel to it. Lots of scoring. Highly entertaining. And the Flyers found a way to win it. This team is on a roll.

2. From the Flyers' perspective, the most entertaining moment of the opening 20 minutes came with 5:31 left in the first period, when Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning and Oilers center Connor McDavid exchanged words post-whistle in the Philadelphia zone.

Manning broke McDavid's collarbone last season, which forced McDavid to miss a chunk of his rookie season. Nothing more than a little pushing and shoving with some trash talk.

Still, the sequence brought the most excitement in the first period. Speaking of which …

3. For a team that entered on a six-game winning streak, the Flyers' first-period effort was disheartening. They needed more than nine minutes to get their first shot on goal, and had more shots in the final two minutes — five — than they did the first 18 minutes.

No real scoring chances, either, out of the nine first-period shots. Raffl had a nice chance, but Oilers goalie Jonas Gustavsson was able to make the stop.

That's two straight games the Flyers have had poor first periods. Tuesday, they were tied, 1-1, with the Panthers, but faced a 1-0 deficit Thursday. Better first periods are needed.

4. Boy, the Flyers woke up quick after the 10-minute mark of the second period.

Down 2-0, the Flyers scored three goals in one minute and 12 seconds in the second period — 12:31, 13:24 and 13:43 — to get the Wells Fargo Center jumping.

Mark Streit started it off with a power-play goal, followed by Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and then Claude Giroux. Bellamare beat Gustavsson with a well-placed wrist shot, which may have been the fourth-liner's best shot of his NHL career, for his first of the year.

Giroux's diving slapper gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead 19 seconds later. The loudest the building may have been this season. It had a playoff atmosphere after Giroux's goal.

5. Let's talk about McDavid. We hear about how fast he is, how skilled he is, how special he is, and he is every bit as advertised. You see it more when you see him in person.

McDavid scored his first power-play goal of the season at 4:35 of the second period, his 12th goal of the campaign. He rocketed home a one-timer from Leon Draisaitl off a rebound.

The 19-year-old kid leads the NHL in scoring and just scored his first PPG. The kid is special. Very special. Side note, McDavid chirped Manning after his PPG.

6. And, of course, McDavid was a factor in another Oilers goal. After the Flyers took momentum with their three goals in just over a minute, McDavid took it right back.

While the Oilers were shorthanded, McDavid was double-teamed in the corner left of Mason by Andrew MacDonald and Bellamare, but he was able to shovel the puck to Mark Letestu, who then found Andrej Sekera for a blast by Mason to make it 3-3 at 16:15 of the second period.

The credit for that goal goes all to McDavid. Tremendous strength by a 19-year-old who was being pinned against the boards by a 30-year-old and 31-year-old, respectively.

Sekera's goal was the seventh shorthanded goal allowed by the Flyers — most in the NHL.

7. I was skeptical of using the Bellemare line against McDavid, but at 5-on-5, Bellemare, Chris VandeVelde and Roman Lyubimov did a decent job against McDavid. Still, the Oilers' captain finished with a goal and assist. The Flyers held McDavid without a breakaway.

The Bellemare line did a tremendous job at 5-on-5.

8. The fans grew restless with the referees in the third period. First, Brayden Schenn put a loose puck into the net, but Gustavsson had covered it and the whistle had blown quickly. And then, McDavid tackled Ivan Provorov on a break. Should have been a penalty.

9. We hear about McDavid all the time, but Edmonton has another young star in Draisaitl, who found himself off the McDavid line against the Flyers.

No problem for the 2014 No. 3 overall pick. Draisaitl had a goal and two assists and displayed an uncanny ability to find open players and get them the puck.

In a game featuring McDavid, it was Draisaitl who stole the show. Wow.

10. It was Goaltender Heritage Night at the Wells Fargo Center, but there were no special ceremonies. The honorees, voted by the fans, were Bernie Parent, Ron Hextall, Pelle Lindberg, Pete Peeters and Brian Boucher. Outside of some interviews during stoppages and a cool, little presentation during introductions, there was nothing to write home about. There was an uptick in goalie jerseys in the crowd.

Personal favorite? A Brian Boucher No. 1 Philadelphia Phantoms sweater.

Instant Replay: Sixers 99, Pelicans 88

Instant Replay: Sixers 99, Pelicans 88

BOX SCORE

NEW ORLEANS — The Sixers avoided setting a franchise mark of consecutive road losses with a 99-88 win over the Pelicans in New Orleans.

Prior to Thursday’s victory, the Sixers had lost 23 straight away from Philadelphia. Their last road win was Jan. 20, 2016, against the Magic. They also had dropped 23 consecutive games on the road from March 29-Dec. 23, 2015. 

The Sixers held Anthony Davis, the NBA’s leading scorer, to 26 points, below his season average of 31.6. They were led by Ersan Ilyasova, who dropped 23 points again after scoring 23 in the Sixers’ last game against the Grizzlies. 

Third-quarter transformation
The Sixers trailed the Pelicans, 57-52, at halftime and struck back defensively in the third. They held the Pelicans to 5 for 25 shooting from the field and 2 for 12 from three in the quarter. The Sixers outscored the Pelicans, 19-12, in the quarter to regain the lead. 

Inside the box score
• Davis recorded a 26-point, 11-rebound double-double. He shot 8 for 21 from the field, 0 for 2 from three and 10 for 12 from the line. 

• Ilyasova scored 23 points (9 for 16 from the field, 2 for 6 from three, 3 for 4 from the line) to go with eight rebounds and four assists.

• Joel Embiid contributed 14 points (5 for 15 from the field, 0 for 5 from three, 4 for 5 from the line), seven rebounds, two assists, four blocks and three steals in 27 minutes.

• Sergio Rodriguez gave a solid 16 points (6 for 13 from the field, 4 for 8 from three) and eight dimes.

• Nik Stauskas and Dario Saric combined for 27 points off the bench.

• St. Joe’s alum Langston Galloway dropped 19 points (8 for 16 from the field, 3 for 6 from long range) off the Pelicans’ bench.

Trusting the process in New Orleans
It follows Embiid on the road. Fans chanted “trust the process” while he was at the free throw line. The volume was more quiet than at the Wells Fargo Center, but the effort was there nonetheless. 

Injury updates
The Sixers were without Jahlil Okafor, who remained in Philadelphia battling gastroenteritis. Jerryd Bayless also missed the trip because of left wrist soreness. Former Sixer Jrue Holiday sat out with turf toe. 

Up next
The Sixers will return home to Philadelphia to get in some practice before heading back on the road. They will play the Pistons in Detroit on Sunday.