Broken Twigs: Flyers Hockey League of Nations Lady Byngers

Broken Twigs: Flyers Hockey League of Nations Lady Byngers

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FGSB is off vacationing in the woods with Rocky IV this week, please leave your mailbag questions after the beep and we’ll try to get to them next week. In the meantime, enjoy the following hack job:

Over at Puck Daddy they’re running a segment called National Hockey League of Nations in which local bloggers pick the their franchises best all-time player from like 8 countries. Obviously there’s not much wiggle room with the Flyers (or probably any club) when it comes to selecting Bobby Clarke, John Leclair, Ilya Bryzgalov and a couple other greats. Not much room for debate. But because we’re wild and crazy kids, instead of coming up with our own list of just the greatest players, we decided to take it in a slightly different direction and hit you with the Flyers Hockey League of Nations Lady Byngers. The criteria were as follows: you should have more than 200 games played and less than 200 PIM. And that’s it.  Without further ado, here you have the best, most gentlemanly players from the biggest, baddest ugliest franchise in the history of hockey (Mutant League Hockey aside).

Canada: Claude Giroux, 2007-present, 333 GP, 290 pts., 135 PIM


Although he does have 7 NHL fights (:o), Captain Claude was easily the best player to fit the 200+ game/200- PIM criteria. Claude’s never going to win an actual Lady Byng as he plays with an edge , as displayed in the Pittsburgh series two years ago. But all-in-all he’s just so damn skilled that he doesn’t have time to be taking slashing penalties. Steve Hartnell could learn something from the guy.

Worth mentioning is Jody Hull. I’m not sure this is a record that any Flyer would or should be proud of owning, but Hull has the lowest PIM per game all-time of guys that have played 200 games in the orange and black. The dude had 26 PIM in 210 games as a Flyer. Had I known about this at the time I would have revoked is goatee pass. All his penalties were minors. In fact, Hull’s second year as a Flyer he had 4 PIM in 67 games. How is that even possible? He either wasn’t trying hard enough or was the sneakiest bastard to ever lace up skates.

Finland: Ilkka Sinisalo, 1981-1990, 526 GP, 408 pts., 180 PIM

Ilkka is well-renowned as the greatest Finn to ever don the flying P, and he also played a clean game. Ilkka had two fighting majors in his NHL career, the first came 2:22 into a game where in the third period some ja-moke broke his stick over Bobby Clarke’s head. Du Hast!

Coming in as a close second was The Next Generation’s favorite Finn, Sami Kapanen. Sami only had 70 PIM in 311 games, but his offensive stats just don’t come close to Ilkka-Score-a-Hat-Tricka.

USA: Matt Carle, 2008-2012, 308 GP, 137 pts., 91 PIM


No one would ever accuse Matt Carle of aggressive play. If the Pronger-Carle pairing was Between Two Ferns then Carle was the ferns. I’m not even sure he could talk. The guy just like, wasn’t there. But pairing up with Chris Pronger is a good way to avoid opponents getting in your face as well as pad your stat sheet. Pre-Pronger Carle had 24 points in 64 games in 2008-09. Post-Pronger Carle averaged 81 games and 38 points a season. So yeah, Matt Carle owes Chris Pronger a Christmas card every year that says “Thanks for getting me a 6 year $33m contract, Love the Carles and Rocko the Bulldog.”

He didn’t make the Columbus list as even an honorable mention, but I think RJ Hamberger should be in the conversation here. 78 PM over 3 seasons? That smells gentlemanly to me. But Umberger did have 3 fights as a Flyer, most notably the payback match for the only hit of Brian Campbell’s career. Wow he got cream pied (no? I’m not using that right?). In a fairly uneventful fight RJ got the upper hand, which was easier to do because he was throwing punches before Campbell’s gloves were even off. Earned an instigator for that one. Instigating is not very lady like.

Russia: Dimitri Yushkevich, 1992-1995 and 2003, 215 GP, 80 pts., 212 PIM

I assure you that Russian cyborg pictured above was at one time a Flyers defenseman. No Russian fit the criteria, but The Russian Tank was closest at just 12 PIM over the limit. DY was a thick, physical dude but managed to stay out of the box for the most part. My only real Yushkevich memory is the time that Rod Brind’Amour scored a goal and DY kissed him right on the mouth in the group hug. That is lady like. These days the Westboro Baptist Church would have been outside the Spectrum for the very next home game. That probably would have been a good thing because now they wouldn’t exist (Note to youngsters: before cell phone cameras and video and the 24 hour news cycle you used to be able to just “eliminate” radical groups like that.).

Slovakia: Stanley Cup Champion Michal Handzus, 2002-2006, 237 GP, 146 pts., 166 PIM

(Faces of Zeus)

Zeus was lucky that he had a cool nickname because otherwise people would have been all over him for not using his giant body to totally level punks from the opposing team. Zeus is the only guy on this list that was involved in the infamous Flyers-Senators brawl of 2004, during which he got absolutely smashed up by Carrie Underwood’s husband.

Czech Republic: Miroslav Dvorak, 1982-1985, 193 GP, 85 pts., 51 PIM


To tell you the truth I’m not even sure I’ve ever heard of this guy, and I take great pleasure in knowing obscure Flyers. Dvorak is 7 games short of meeting the criteria but there were no other Czechs that even came close. Hockey Legends had this to say about Dvorak:

Miroslav Dvorak was a rock hard square built defenseman who did not make his NHL debut until he was 31 years old in 1982. That's when the Czechoslovakian Ice Hockey Federation made him available for the Flyers. Miroslav was a tough defenseman who was very hard to get by. He excelled in one on one situations and was excellent positionally. Miroslav played the body very well but he didn't pick up many penalties. He was aggressive but not stupid. When he played in Philadelphia his play was highly appreciated by the Philadelphia organization. In 1983-84 he was named as the team's top defenseman. The popular teammate nicknamed "Cookie" also got to play in the Stanley Cup finals in 1985 where Philadelphia lost in six games to Edmonton. He spoke no English when he first arrived in Philadelphia. Defense partner Brad Marsh took him under his wing both on and off the ice. With a Czech-English dictionary and a common appreciation for beer the two became best friends.

Now that I think about it, I believe I’ve read of Bill Meltzer’s fondness for Dvorak who died in 2008 at the age of 56. RIP Miroslav.

Sweden: Pelle Eklund, 1985-1994, 589 GP, 452 pts., 107 PIM


Pelle Eklund is indubitably the greatest Swedish Flyer of all-time. Not the best Swede to play for the Flyers, but greatest Swede Flyer of all-time. Some of my earliest memories are of him dishing the puck across that dark ‘80’s ice, between boards that had no ads on them, to wide open line mates. I also remember my dad telling me to stay high in the slot and pick up garbage like Eklund did sometimes, ripping home wristers on goalies that wore less equipment that Darryl Sydor.

Eklund also owns the honor of being one of three Flyers who played two hundred games and somehow had less PIM per game than BERNIE PARENT. The goalie. Andre Lacroix joins Jody Hull and Eklund in that category.

Rest of the World, Lithuania: Dainius Zubrus, 1996-1999, 200 GP, 62 pts., 89 PIM

From Tim Panaccio the day Zubrus was traded away for 31 year old Mark Recchi:
As for the struggling Zubrus, 20, he had three goals and five assists in 63 games for the Flyers this season. In fairness to him, he was rushed into the NHL three seasons ago at Clarke's urging. He played every forward position and went from the first line to fourth line under three coaches - Terry Murray, Wayne Cashman and Roger Neilson. His ice time varied from a season-high 19 minutes on Jan. 3 to less than 10 minutes in the last 10 games. Zubrus never figured out whether he was a finesse player, such as Saku Koivu, or a power forward such as Lindros. He scored 19 career goals in 200 regular-season games as a Flyer.

Zubrus has gone on to score almost 600 points in over 1,000 NHL games so…yeah, who knows.

Penn at Dartmouth: Quakers begin Ivy play on national TV

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Penn at Dartmouth: Quakers begin Ivy play on national TV

Penn (0-2, 0-0) at Dartmouth (2-0, 0-0)
Memorial Field, Hanover, N.H.
Friday, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Network

Penn certainly isn’t happy with how its first two non-conference games of the season went, but things get more serious now as the Quakers open Ivy League play on national TV. Here’s a look at what’s on tap.

Scouting Penn
Despite coming into the season with high expectations, the Quakers have gotten off to a slow start. After struggling defensively in a 49-28 loss to Lehigh in its season opener, the Quakers committed three turnovers in a 31-17 setback to Fordham last week. One bright spot vs. Fordham was the play of running back Tre Solomon, who led the way in both rushing (93 yards) and receiving (52 yards). But through two games, Penn has given up 494 yards per game, which ranks 110th out of 122 FCS teams.

Scouting Dartmouth
After sharing last year’s Ivy League title with Harvard and Penn last season, the Big Green enter conference play as one of the favorites again. Picked to finish third in the preseason (behind Harvard and Penn), Dartmouth opened the year by upsetting nationally ranked New Hampshire for the first time in 40 years and trouncing Holy Cross. Junior quarterback Jack Heneghan, a first-year starter who currently ranks second in the Ivies in total offense, led the way in last week’s win by completing 18 of 29 passes for 240 yards, a touchdown and zero interceptions. Ten different receivers caught passes for the Big Green, who are also employing a running back-by-committee approach with the team averaging over 200 rushing yards per game. Defensively, Dartmouth ranks 15th in the FCS in yards allowed per contest (311.5).

Series history
After winning 15 out of 16 games vs. Dartmouth heading into 2014, Penn has dropped its last two to the Big Green, including a home loss in last year’s Ivy League opener. Overall, the Quakers lead the series 47-34-2, and have won seven of their last nine games in Hanover. 

Storyline to watch
Penn’s dynamic duo of quarterback Alek Torgersen and receiver Justin Watson were on fire in the first half of Penn’s first game. But since then, they’ve struggled to keep their connection purring as Fordham, doubling Watson throughout the day, held Torgersen without a touchdown and limited Watson to just three catches for 33 yards. The two players have since looked at a lot of tape and have tried to figure out new schemes, so it will be interesting to see if they can bounce back at Dartmouth, especially if Watson again faces double-teams. 

What’s at stake?
This is a huge Ivy League opener under the lights with the winner getting an early leg up in the chase for the conference title. The loser can also still end up winning the crown (as Penn proved last season) but it will make it very difficult not to share it.

Prediction
Even though the Quakers are 0-2 and the Big Green are 2-0, Penn probably has the more experienced team. And even though it’s a tough trip to New Hampshire, the Quakers will be out for vengeance after last season’s loss.

Penn 31, Dartmouth 28

Eagles film review: To double or not to double Fletcher Cox?

Eagles film review: To double or not to double Fletcher Cox?

Ben Roethlisberger probably knew he was in for a long game against the Eagles defense on Sunday from the opening snap. Why? Because on the very first play, Fletcher Cox had already driven Pro Bowl right guard David DeCastro right into the Steelers quarterback's lap.

After registering 9.5 sacks in 2015, Cox's dominance is not in dispute. That was in an entirely different scheme though. Now that the fifth-year veteran is freed from his responsibilities as a five-technique defensive end in a 3-4 defense, he's allowed to go on the attack more as a wide-nine defensive tackle in a 4-3 alignment. What does that mean for opposing offenses?

The better question might be what does it mean for Cox's teammates?

As the film shows, the Steelers were faced with an impossible dilemma: try to block Cox one-on-one knowing his potential to take over a game, or double-team the NFC Defensive Player of the Month for September and force the rest of the defensive line to beat them. It turns out, there was no right answer, because the Eagles' front four is more than capable of winning up front too.

Let's go back to the opening play from scrimmage though. The Steelers probably went in hoping DeCastro could hold his own at least a little bit against Cox — they did just award the guard a five-year contract extension worth $50 million. Take notice of where he begins the play, at about the Pittsburgh 23-yard line.

It looks like DeCastro is on roller skates, as Cox just pushes him straight into the backfield and right on top of Roethlisberger, impacting the quarterback's vision and ability to throw the football. He does manage to get rid of it, completing a pass to Antonio Brown for no gain.

That was only the beginning for DeCastro, who according to Football Outsiders Almanac had not allowed a sack since 2013 coming into this season. Cox would later fix that for him.

Here we are at 2nd-and-18 from the Eagles' 46-yard line in the third quarter, an obvious passing situation with the score 27-3 and the game quickly slipping away from the Steelers. DeCastro has already taken his share of lumps by this point, and Cox is coming again.

No. 66 is six yards deep in the backfield this time, and Cox has help. Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham are collapsing the pocket off the edges this time as well, leaving Roethlisberger nowhere to go.

Cox gets to the quarterback and knocks the ball loose for his second sack of the game, the recovery on the play going to Graham. The Eagles score again off of the turnover, and the rout is officially on.

Of course, Cox's ability to single-handedly take over a game is nothing new. Excluding nine plays labeled as screen or quick throws, he was on the field for 26 pass-rush opportunities on Sunday. 12 times, the Steelers tried to block him up one-on-one. The result of those snaps: Roethlisberger was 6 for 11 for 66 yards — a 6.0 average — with the sack fumble.

The problem is the Steelers didn't fare much better when Cox was double-teamed. It works to perfection in the frame above, giving Roethlisberger a huge pocket and all the time in the world on 3rd-and-6 to complete a 32-yard pass to Eli Rogers during the game's opening possession.

This was the exception though, not the rule. In fact, the Steelers hit on more big plays through the air, otherwise the passing attack was even worse when Cox was doubled. In those instances, Roethlisberger was 3 for 9 for 56 yards — a 6.2 average — with a seven-yard scramble and a 19-yard pass interference call, but also three sacks and an interception.

Because even if two bodies manage to take Cox out of the play, then the other three rushers are left in one-on-one. This is the play before the Roethlisberger fumble. On 1st-and-10, guard B.J. Finney and four-time Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey have the double team.

The tight end and running back are both there to chip, but Barwin, Graham and Bennie Logan at the other tackle spot are essentially all working one-on-one matchups.

Cox is taken completely out of the play. He's probably been moved a good six or seven yards away from where he started and is a total non-factor — well, except for the part where he took the attention away from Barwin, Logan and Graham. All three win their assignment and are collapsing the pocket, leaving no room to step and throw and no room to escape. Logan utlimately gets there first, beating DeCastro.

That type of attention on Cox can create all kinds of favorable situations for the Eagles defense.

This time, DeCastro and Pouncey have the double on Cox, but note that Vinny Curry has slid inside from his normal spot at end and is tucked in front of No. 58 Jordan Hicks on 3rd-and-6 from the Eagles' 22-yard line in the first quarter.

At 6-foot-3, 279 pounds, Curry is an excellent fastball to use situationally on the interior, especially when Cox draws all of the focus from the two best offensive lineman on the field. Veteran guard Foster escorts the pass-rusher to Roethlisberger, who somehow winds up getting out of this jam, scrambling for seven yards and a first down.

Despite the end result, Cox changed the entire outlook of a play, and he barely had to move. Escapes such as these are going to be rare against the wide-nine as well, just as long as there's pressure like this coming up the middle. Getting to the outside when Barwin and Graham are collapsing the pocket from those extreme angles off the edge is not easy.

Of course, a double team isn't necessarily going to stop Cox, even if it is a couple of Pro Bowlers in DeCastro and Pouncey. It's 3rd-and-7 at the Eagles' 13-yard line in the second quarter, and it's still a tight ball game at 10-0, so the defense needs a stop.

It looks like they have Cox contained, but he's not going to be denied.

Pouncey senses Graham breaking inside and leaves DeCastro to make the save there, which isn't going to have the desired result. The guard loses his leverage, and Cox has one of his two sacks for the game, holding the Steelers to three points in the process.

Again, we're not exactly breaking the news that Cox is a disruptive force or anything. That being said, there was some question whether he would live up to the six-year, $103 million contract extension he signed over the summer, or if he was ever worth that in the first place.

The reality is in this wide-nine, Cox can make this defense go. His very presence gives offenses impossible options — block him one-one-one and let him collapse the pocket by himself, or double team him and leave the rest of the offensive linemen on an island with the likes of Barwin, Graham, Logan and Curry.

The Steelers found out the hard way that there is no easy solution, or perhaps even no solution at all.

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