Brad McCrimmon's Impact on the NHL Still Felt in Every Chris Pronger Hit

Brad McCrimmon's Impact on the NHL Still Felt in Every Chris Pronger Hit

My own memories of Brad McCrimmon's career with the Flyers are not crystal clear. I was pretty young and just seeing hockey for the first time during his final seasons in Philadelphia. I remember him out there with Mark Howe though, and retrospectively built respect for his role through the words of others over the years. Upon the news of his passing, I've learned that much more about him and his impact outside of Philadelphia, where he was highly regarded as half of the best defensive pairing in Flyers history.  

I've read quite a few tributes to McCrimmon since the news of his passing in the plane crash that took the lives of 43 people in Russia, some talking about the "Beast" on the ice, others the mentor on and off it. His story is more impressive with every different person you hear tell it, from Ed Snider to Howe, to Chris Pronger and others who played or coached with him in any of his six NHL cities.  

Among the most interesting things to read about McCrimmon was the vital role he played in the early stages of the careers of several certain Hall of Fame players. In addition to Bill Meltzer and others catching up with Howe, Craig Custance of AOL shared the words of Nicklas Lidstrom, one of the greatest blueliners of all time, and Sam Carchidi spoke with Chris Pronger, both of whom were paired with McCrimmon to begin what would be long and productive NHL careers.  

From Custance:

In all, McCrimmon played in 1,222 NHL games as a physical stay-at-home defenseman, finishing an astonishing plus-444.   

“He was my partner every game my first year,” Lidstrom said on Wednesday. “He was that steady defenseman who stayed home all the time. He protected me in certain situations too when things got a little too heated. He was a great partner to have.”  It wasn’t just Lidstrom. McCrimmon partnered with a young Chris Pronger during Pronger’s first season with the Hartford Whalers and also helped break in a young Gary Suter with the Calgary Flames. NHL coaches tended to pair McCrimmon with their young defensemen because they knew he’d take care of them.   

And Carchidi:

"My first two years, he was my roommate and my [defensive] partner," Pronger said. "I was green, coming into a league with grown men. I'm from a small town in the middle of nowhere, and all of a sudden playing in the National Hockey League with all these superstars."

Pronger paused.

"You can either be big-eyed and naive, or you can play the game the right way - and learn and work hard and be open to do things the right way."

McCrimmon, Pronger said, helped him make a smooth transition.

"He was the right leader in helping me to do that," he said. "He was vocal, and he knew why they brought him in. We'd have long talks about the game. He was a very huge influence on me."

And finally, Meltzer relays the words of Howe, prior to McCrimmon's passing:

"My pairing with Brad was the best chemistry I ever experienced, in the way we read off one another,” Howe recalled. “He was a horse and an excellent all-around hockey player. I would play 33 and a half minutes a game and Brad played 27. He never got the credit he deserved but if you look at the defensemen playing then – or now for that matter – Brad was the kind of player who is rare to find.”

And, upon hearing about it:

“I found out about it from the Detroit office,” Howe wrote via text. “Brad was one of my three closest friends. A man of his word. [He was] the best partner I ever had on the ice, but a better husband, friend and father off the ice. It’s a very sad day for the hockey world. My prayers go out to his family.”  

I encourage any Flyers fan to read each of the stories linked above, and if you have some extra time this weekend, just google 'Brad McCrimmon' and see how many stories just like these are being told in remembrance of him. Doing so gave me a much better appreciation for a hockey player I knew only some surface level things about, and a man of whom I knew nothing.  

The first time Chris Pronger puts a skate blade to the ice this season, and follows it soon after with a hip check that stops a forward cold, or a poke check that eats up a breakaway, let's remember to think of Brad McCrimmon and raise a glass to him. His impact was clear for all to see when he was paired with Howe, but it's also still a huge part of this Flyers team.

Jim Schwartz already gushing about Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod

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Jim Schwartz already gushing about Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod

Anyone who follows the NFL knows to avoid reading too much into spring workouts. You don't gain valuable insight into a player's game-day ability by observing his speed in shorts or run-stuffing technique when tackles aren't being made.

First-year Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz sidestepped several questions after Tuesday's OTA about how specific players are fitting into his defensive scheme, but he made an exception for one position group in particular: his starting safeties.

The Eagles this offseason spent $35 million apiece to extend Malcolm Jenkins and sign Rodney McLeod away from the Rams. Jenkins got $21 million guaranteed, McLeod got $17 million, and they rank fifth and ninth among NFL safeties, respectively, in annual average salary.

"That was money well spent," Schwartz said Tuesday. "I'm sort of violating my rule of judging too much into this time of year — saying linemen need the pads on before we can judge, rookies let's not judge yet — but both [Jenkins and McLeod] are veteran players. And you can see that right away that both are multi-dimensional. They communicate very well, cover a lot of ground. They can blitz, they can play man (coverage), they can play zone. I'd be very surprised as the year went along if they're not one of the better safety tandems in the NFL. They've been very impressive so far."

Jenkins, who has emerged as the Eagles' most vocal leader, is coming off two terrific seasons. He set career-highs last year in tackles (109) and forced fumbles (three), intercepted two passes and returned one 99 yards for a touchdown. He graded out as the best safety in the NFL by Pro Football Focus. 

McLeod ranked 10th, eight spots ahead of Walter Thurmond, Jenkins' partner last season.

"I think we all believe that," Jenkins said when asked about the safety duo's chances of being one of the NFL's best. "The way that practice has been going so far and just what Rodney adds to the secondary, I think we're real excited about that tandem and what we'll be able to do. Both of us are very versatile, both of us know the defense and can get guys lined up and can problem-solve. All the rest of it we can do, but when you have guys that can quarterback the defense and problem-solve, it gets you out of a lot of bad looks."

Jenkins had watched McLeod on tape so he knew the type of player the Eagles were adding. What stood out most to him was how "violent" McLeod played in St. Louis, how he played much bigger than his 5-10/195-pound frame. But what's impressed Jenkins most in OTAs with McLeod is how he sees the field and reads situations. Those instincts are what Jenkins thinks can make the pairing special.

"Now playing next to him, you really start to see the smarts and his football IQ, knowing different defenses, ways to adjust things, having the ability to use tools for different situations," Jenkins said of McLeod. "He's an extension of a coach on the field. Talk about a guy being able to quarterback your defense on the field, he's somebody who understands the totality of the defense and has that ability to communicate and get guys lined up. It's just good to have two guys back there now that can do that.

"I think from what he brings to the table and what I bring to the table from a football standpoint, I think our talent level can put us in that conversation (of the NFL's top safety tandems). But once we really get in tune with each other as far as calls, tools that we can use ... when you got two guys with high football IQs, you can really be special."

Jenkins and McLeod have been playing left and right safety interchangeably so far in practice. McLeod says that this voluntary workout period for the safeties has been about figuring out which of them does what better. He'll have a better idea of their specific roles once training camp comes.

Jenkins and McLeod were in constant communication on the sidelines after coming off the field for certain plays at Tuesday's practice. Jenkins was doing a lot of the talking and McLeod a lot of the listening. McLeod would explain what he saw and why he broke the way he did, and Jenkins would coach him up and advise him what to do next time they see a certain look. 

"Big competitor, man. Just from Day 1, offseason drills and things like that when we compete, even in the weight room you can just see how he gets after it," McLeod said of Jenkins. "It carries over into the field, big trash talker. He carries a swagger about him. Very smart and instinctive player.

"Me and Malcolm, I think we're gonna build something great here and you can see glimpses of it in practice now."

Sixers reportedly covet additional high first-round pick in 2016

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Sixers reportedly covet additional high first-round pick in 2016

The Philadelphia 76ers haven't found themselves in a position of power much on the hardwood over the past few seasons, but when it comes to the 2016 NBA Draft, the Sixers are in the driver's seat.

As longtime NBA reporter David Aldridge put it in a column on Monday, the Sixers are one of four teams that will "run the show" on draft night. The Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, and Phoenix Suns are all poised for a big draft night as well.

Not only do the Sixers have the first gigantic decision of the evening but they have a handful of assets, in the form of additional picks as well as moveable players, to make another big splash on draft night (Thanks, Sam Hinkie).

The first debate in Philly will clearly be Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram. Once that decision is made though, things could still be very interesting for Bryan Colangelo.

Aldridge goes on to discuss the logjam in the Sixers frontcourt that Sixers' observers have been talking about forever, but he also adds that, "There is strong support within the organization for Nerlens Noel, who provides defense and rebounding that none of Philly's other bigs provide."

Not only does Aldridge state that there is strong support for Noel, he also says that the team would like to get back up into the early portion of the draft.

Yet the Sixers already have Okafor at the four, and possibly Saric next year. Taking Simmons wouldn't make sense unless they were determined to trade Okafor, whose up and down rookie season hasn't adversely affected his value around the league. And trading Okafor would be the easiest and best way for Philly to get another high first-round pick, which the Sixers covet.

Coveting another high first-round pick and actually obtaining it are clearly different things. Unless the front office finds a way to put a package together involving the 24th or 26th picks this year and some sort of future considerations, the player who can certainly get you back near the front of this year's draft is clearly Jahlil Okafor.

The Sixers fan base is mixed on the idea of trading Jahlil Okafor. Boston seems like an obvious fit with their No. 3 overall pick being the prized target.

June 23rd will be a very interesting night to see how Bryan Colangelo, his father, Josh Harris, and his co-owners feel about such a deal.

Savon Goodman transfers to La Salle for 2016-17 season

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USA Today Images

Savon Goodman transfers to La Salle for 2016-17 season

Forward Savon Goodman has enrolled in graduate classes at La Salle and will play the 2016-17 season with the Explorers.

“Savon is the perfect addition to our team next year,” La Salle head coach Dr. John Giannini said in a statement released by the school. “He shoots a great percentage and rebounds and defends with a tough, athletic style of play. He was a key part of an Arizona State NIT team and has had big games against great competition.”

Goodman, a Philadelphia native, graduated from Arizona State and is not subject to transfer rules. 

He averaged 9.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game in 28 contests as a junior in 2015-16. He shot 55 percent from the field overall.

In leading Constitution High School to the PIAA State Championship as well as the Philadelphia Public League title during his senior year, Goodman earned Public League MVP honors.