Broken Twigs: Most Hated Players in the NHL and Your Flyers Mailbag

Broken Twigs: Most Hated Players in the NHL and Your Flyers Mailbag

I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of the Arron Asham signing when it happened. For years I had loathed that Metis meatball and now he was coming to my home town team. But like it has happened with so many before and so many since (read: Daniel Carcillo), I rooted for him when he wore the orange and black. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I just wouldn’t really think about it. And if I did it was to try and trick myself into getting pumped up about him. Like “Arron Asham's gonna give you the Kung Fu, beeeyyyaaaatttccchhhhh!” I’m not sure it ever really worked but it got me through a difficult time, although I'm not sure the bad taste ever left my mouth.

Since he’s left the organization I can categorize my opinion of Asham as “he’s not the worst.” That might not seem like a big difference but it’s quite the leap for me.

There are just some guys that I just never want to see in a Flyers jersey. There are a handful of current NHLers that would ruin the whole team for me. They’d be like meeting someone on the beach who had a dead toe. It’s like yeah, you got 19 good ones but I don’t want to be around you because that thing is like blackish grey and stinks and if it touches me I will die face first in a sand castle so now I'm packing up my things and going home. Kinda like that...

So in the spirit of Bleacher Report here is a slide show (j/k you guys) showcasing a group of tool boxes I hope get groin pulls, and when Homer finally signs them, I will drop a dookie on his doorstep that will be so historic IT will become the primary owner of the Wikipedia page for Dookie, and Greenday’s seminal work of alt-rock genius will become just another entry on a disambiguated list.

Chris Neil – Chris Neil is actually the inspiration for this list. I saw Danny Syvret the other night and thought it was Chris Neil for a split second and walked over and punched a hole in my living room window. Chris Neil is that big of a turkey. He’s not particularly dirty or anything, he doesn’t “play the game the wrong way” like the next entry, he’s just…I don’t care to be reminded he exists much less have to force myself to think “nice hit Chris Neil” if the Flyers ever sign him.

Matt Cooke – This guy is going to make any list about NHL shitbirds. Cooke is a great example of how terrible the people of Pittsburgh are. He’s a head-shoting, achilles stomping, chromosome collecting horrible human. And they root for him. Worse than that they DEFEND HIM. If he became a Flyer I’d quit. That’s it, I'm outta here. I’d rather eat sad desk lunches every single meal for the rest of my life than see that pie-shaped, it-wasn’t-me rest stop glory hole wearing my flying P.

Colton Orr – Oh my Lord something is wrong with this guy. He’s legitimately insane. If his non-stop Here’s Johnny expression wasn’t enough to convince you of that go re-watch what he did to poor Todd Fedoruk. Also, he’s easily the worst hockey player, possibly in NHL history. When people talk about wasting roster spots on a guy who can’t play hockey they’re talking about Colton Orr. Guy skates like he just stopped pushing a chair around at practice.

Patrick Kaleta – Google Satyr and then write me a five page paper on how Patrick Kaleta is not a time traveling mythical musical goat man from the past. The Sabres janitors are required to keep 45 lbs. of soda and beer cans behind the Zamboni at all times so Kaleta can graze between periods.

Steve Ott – Steve Ott is what I imagine would happen if Ron Weasley had sex with a Chihuahua in a pile of vomit while wearing Buffalo’s new jersey. YOU DON’T PUSH OUR COACH AND THEN CALL HIM CLASSLESS. I don’t care how good you are at face-offs.

God, that was gross. And now your XXX Flyers Mailbag!

@smasterson3 If you directed an episode of Flyers Flight Plan what would it be about?
That’s the great thing about a tiny little project like this – the ideas don’t need to be fresh or novel or anything. Given the fact that a lot of people who are a lot funnier than me have already had some pretty great ideas I would just steal them. Or pay tribute to them or whatever. But right off the top of my head I’m going with a Drunk History starring Scott Hartnell. I’d want him to drink 8 neat whiskeys and then recount the Day the Music and Drinking Died, aka the day that Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were traded. We could have local celebrities like weather man John Bolaris and non-local celebrities like Blake from Workaholics act out how it went down. The only problem with this is that professional athletes are only allowed to have Puritan School Marm levels of fun when something is being recorded or there are reporters around. This is because the media has ruined everything. Therefore Scott Hartnell would not agree to do this (rightfully so) so it might have to be called Someone Slipped a Mickey In My Drink History. Either way it would be real solid Philadelphia gold that would be woven into the fabric of this great city for the rest of time or at least until the zombies come.

Derek T: You ever notice how all the Pittsburgh teams are black and gold and Philadelphia is orange, black, white, red, blue, green and silver?
Hmm, maybe? Are there other cities that all have the same color scheme? Somehow I feel like the government mandated that Pittsburgh teams be yellow like pee and black like death so that all other cities would be repeatedly warned about the awfulness that is Pittsburgh. “No, no hopeful colors. You can throw the piss color in if you absolutely need one.” It was probably originally yellow and brown, but the brown turned to black amid all the despair floating around the air outside any Pittsburgh bar/school/is there a difference.

@mager_pls when do the Flyers give Hal Gill a max contract?
I must not be the only one wondering what in the world Hal Gill has on our GM that he’s here at training camp. Every time I see him I’m surprised. “What’s he doing here?” It’s awful nice that we’re putting on a Hal Gill Showcase but since when are we in the business of charity? It’s not even like he’s a former Flyer or missing an eye like Bryan Berard. I’d rather them select a random 18 year old out of the crowd every night and let him touch a dream he’ll never even come close to so he can use the story to get laid for the next 10 years. Hal Gill…how did you trick our GM into trotting you around like a show pony for the rest of the NHL? Why do you even want to get embarrassed for another year? Do you have a gambling problem?

@lonis119 Would you trade Jay Rosehill for Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Vladimir Tarasenko?
Can’t do it. Salary cap, bub. Which makes me think – it’s sad that we’ll never get to see super teams again, and equally amazing that the Hawks have managed to win 2 cups in 4 tries. Our kids will never grow up seeing a team that is far and away better than the rest that you can’t help but root for them despite your dad cautioning you not to because they’re a bunch of assholes. Not in hockey anyway. On a semi-related note do you think the Canadian Olympic Team would be a lock for the Cup for the next 5 years? I bet some scrappy team could beat them in a best out of 7 two years out of the five. The cap has made the game a little different in the NHL. People are getting so accustomed to their specialized roles that they become expert 3rd line wings or 6th defensemen. I’d like to see a KHL all-star team play a season in the NHL, and not just to see Lou Lamerillo snipe Ilya Kovalchuk Goldeneye-style from the owner’s box.

Gracie B: Who’s your long-shot to make the team?
I don’t know why exactly but Chris Vande Velde has caught my eye. It might just be his name though. He’s like, not out on the ice but then sometimes he is? I don’t know how to explain it but a perfect analogy is I went to look at the box score from the Rangers game on Tuesday to see how to spell his name and he wasn’t in it. 17 Flyers were, but he wasn’t. That’s weird right? Before I heard he had actually signed a contract with the Flyers I thought he was the product of my crowd-sourced dreams coming true at Flyers camp. I thought he was some HS kid that was making the run of his life. That being said, I don’t think he’ll make the team, but when our first place club gets decimated by injuries in December I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the lineup on some random night. Dude has NHL games under his belt and coaches love when a call-up is responsible defensively. Which he must be as he certainly isn’t responsible offensively, as evidenced by his stat sheet.

Closing thought:
How about the balls on Raffl, eh? Gagne’s body isn’t even cold and this Sound of Music extra is wearing his number.

Phillies pitching prospect Mark Appel hits DL with shoulder strain

joseph-slide.jpg

Phillies pitching prospect Mark Appel hits DL with shoulder strain

Mark Appel, whose fastball velocity was down considerably in the first inning of his last start, was placed on the disabled list Friday with a shoulder strain.

Appel, 24, is 3-3 with a 4.46 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in eight starts for Triple A Lehigh Valley in his first year in the Phillies' system. He's struggled his last four times out, allowing 18 runs (15 earned) in 16⅓ innings on 20 hits and 11 walks.

The No. 1 overall pick in 2013 out of Stanford, Appel has had a disappointing pro career to this point. In 62 minor-league games (61 starts), he has a 5.04 ERA. The Phillies acquired him from Houston as part of the Ken Giles trade this past winter.

Appel's trip to the DL creates an opportunity for right-hander Ben Lively, who was promoted from Double A Reading to Triple A to take Appel's place in the IronPigs' rotation. Lively, acquired from the Reds for Marlon Byrd prior to the 2015 season, is 7-0 with a 1.87 ERA this season.

Phillies-Cubs 5 things: Challenging series begins with Jon Lester

joseph-slide.jpg

Phillies-Cubs 5 things: Challenging series begins with Jon Lester

Phillies (26-21) at Cubs (31-14)
2:20 p.m. on CSN

After their having their second straight Thursday off, the Phillies open up a challenging three-game weekend series Friday afternoon against the Cubs, owners of the majors' best record.

Let's take a look at what to expect:

1. Best in the bigs
The Cubs are three games better than any team in baseball. Their run differential of plus-119 is 47 better than the next-best team. They've scored the most third-most runs (256) and allowed just 137, which is 12 fewer than any other club.

With Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs probably have the deepest starting rotation in baseball. 

With Dexter Fowler, Ben Zobrist, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Jason Heyward and Addison Russell, they have the National League's top offense.

With guys like Tommy La Stella, Matt Szczur and David Ross making key contributions, they have one of the best benches in baseball.

There is no real weakness with this team. Even the mostly anonymous bullpen has been among the game's best, posting a 3.09 ERA with 135 strikeouts in 122⅓ innings.

This is, however, the right time to be playing the Cubs. Chicago is 4-6 in its last 10 games and 6-8 in its last 14. The Cubs did appear to get back on track by beating the Cardinals in the final two games of a nine-game road trip that ended Wednesday.

At Wrigley, the Cubs are 14-6. They've lost two home series this season to the Padres and Rockies.

2. Cool Lester Smooth
Props if you get The Wire reference.

The Phillies open the series against left-hander Jon Lester, who is 4-3 with a 2.60 ERA this season but is coming off his worst start. Lester allowed five runs in just 2⅔ innings in last weekend's loss at San Francisco.

Aside from that, he's enjoyed another very good season. The 32-year-old joined the Cubs in free agency prior to last season on a six-year, $155 million deal, and has gone 15-15 with a 3.18 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 41 starts with Chicago. He's struck out 259 batters in 260⅓ innings.

The Phillies have faced Lester six times — five when he was with the Red Sox — and they've never beaten him. He's 4-0 with a 1.76 ERA against them and has allowed just 30 hits in 41 innings. He's gone seven innings in five of the six starts.

Lester's repertoire has remained consistent through the years. He throws mostly four-seam fastballs, cutters and curveballs. He'll also mix in sinkers and changeups, but 85 percent of his pitches this season have been four-seamers, cutters and curves.

Lester's cutter is his great equalizer against right-handed hitters, who have hit .240 against him the last four seasons. He can back-door it, starting it outside and having it break back over the outside corner, or start it over the middle and have it break in to jam a righty.

Current Phillies are 10 for 55 (.182) against Lester with two walks and 18 strikeouts. Ryan Howard and Freddy Galvis have each homered off him. Carlos Ruiz is 0 for 11, Cameron Rupp is 0 for 3 and Maikel Franco is 0 for 6. Odubel Herrera has never faced him.

3. Tommy time
Facing a lefty means an automatic start for Tommy Joseph at first base. Joseph went 4 for 11 in the Tigers series with a double and a homer, hitting the ball hard even when he made outs. 

What will be interesting is how Pete Mackanin uses Joseph the rest of the series. The Phillies will face right-handers on Saturday and Sunday in Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey. Only once since Joseph came up from Triple A has he started against a right-hander in place of Howard. Joseph faced two righties in the Tigers series, but Howard was the designated hitter. The only game in which Joseph replaced Howard at first base against a right-hander was last Sunday in the Phils' win over Casey Kelly and the Braves.

Joseph hit .324 with seven extra-base hits against right-handed pitchers at Triple A this season, and is 4 for 18 (.222) with a double and a homer against them with the Phils. Both extra-base hits came Monday off Mike Pelfrey.

Here's the Phillies' lineup Friday:

1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Carlos Ruiz, C
6. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
7. Tyler Goeddel, LF
8. Adam Morgan, P
9. Peter Bourjos, RF

4. Morgan's command must be perfect
It's the same thing every time Adam Morgan takes the mound but it's especially true this afternoon: He needs to throw quality strikes early in counts and command his fastball nearly flawlessly on the inside and outside corners.

Morgan (1-2, 5.61) is coming off a decent start against the Braves in which he allowed two runs over six innings. But the Braves and Cubs are about as different as two offenses can be. 

Morgan held lefties last season to a .225 batting average, but this year they're 8 for 26 (.308) against him with two doubles and a homer. He's not the kind of lefty who makes it uncomfortable for a same-handed hitter, but Rizzo and Heyward are both out of the Cubs' lineup Friday.

Morgan faced the Cubs last season and allowed four runs in five innings in a loss. Fowler, Heyward and Javier Baez all had multi-hit games against him.

5. Model for success?
The Cubs endured several years of losing during their own rebuild and have emerged as one of the most talented teams in recent years. It took a little luck along the way. The Astros drafted Mark Appel first overall and left Kris Bryant at No. 2. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took advantage of a rare win-now move from Billy Beane in trading a half-season of Jeff Samardzija and Hammel for Russell. 

But the Cubs also identified Kyle Schwarber (out for the season, but a very good young hitter) and drafted him higher than most analysts predicted he'd go. They found lights-out closer Hector Rondon in the Rule 5 draft. They clearly won the 1-for-1 swap of Andrew Cashner for Rizzo. Most importantly, they bought low on a highly-touted Arrieta, who was struggling with the Orioles before emerging into one of the three-best starting pitchers in the majors.

And when the prospects began graduating to the majors, the Cubs did what the Phillies will likely do in a year or two: They spent. 

As much as everyone loves to talk about Chicago's young talent, they also spent $184 million on Heyward, $155 million on Lester, $56 million on Zobrist and $60 million on catcher Miguel Montero. They filled in their roster with veterans who fit the plan, and it's allowed them to continue to ease in guys like Baez and Jorge Soler.

It would take a ton of breaks for the Phillies to be as exciting or as successful a team as the Cubs in a few years, but Chicago has shown that this model can work in a major market.

In aggressive D, Mike Martin trying to show Eagles his worth

052516_kendrick_gunn_pkg_webbestvideo3_1920x1080_693091907745.jpg

In aggressive D, Mike Martin trying to show Eagles his worth

When Ray Horton brought his two-gapping 3-4 defense to the Tennessee Titans in 2014, Mike Martin wasn’t thrilled. 

After all, the former third-round defensive tackle thought he was at his best in an aggressive get-up-the-field type defense, not the one full of lateral motion that Horton established in Tennessee. 

But without recourse, Martin played out the last two seasons of his rookie deal in Horton’s defense, before joining the Eagles in free agency this offseason. 

“That’s something that I was kind of disappointed in Tennessee when we were playing that, but you gotta adjust,” Martin said this week. “That’s this game. Coaches switch and you have to be able to change to stay in this game. But to be back in a system like this, excites me a lot.”

Martin, 25, admitted part of the reason he joined the Eagles was the opportunity based on the lack of depth the team had at his position, but an even bigger reason was the opportunity to play in Jim Schwartz’s downhill scheme. 

Really, it’s the main reason the 6-1, 306-pound interior defensive lineman decided to sign a one-year deal to join the Eagles in April. 

“I already knew what they were all about and then when I got to see what type of scheme they were bringing in and what Coach Schwartz wanted to emphasize, with getting off the ball and getting to our landmarks and things like that, really excited me and solidified it for me, because I know I can flourish in a system like that.”

In fact, Martin thinks he fits best in the kind of defense the Eagles will run this year. 

“Oh yeah. Oh yeah,” Martin said. “My quickness and my get-off and the type of player I am, it suits me well, so it’s exciting.”

Martin came to Philadelphia because of the defensive scheme, but he already knows a couple players on the team. Martin played at Michigan with Brandon Graham; the two have been good friends ever since. And Vinny Curry was Martin’s roommate at the Senior Bowl back in 2012. 

This offseason, as Fletcher Cox stays away from the Eagles’ spring practices while he awaits a new contract, other guys are getting extended reps. One of those guys is Martin. While Taylor Hart lined up next to Bennie Logan on the first-team defense last Tuesday, it was Martin next to him this week during the practice open to the media. 

Martin said he’s been sporadically working with the first unit and has been switching sides with Logan too. 

Eventually, Cox will return and reclaim his rightful spot as the starter and Martin will be sent back to his spot in the depth chart with the likes of Hart, Beau Allen, Destiny Vaeao and Connor Wujciak. 

In the meantime, Martin is just focused on showing his coaches as much as he possibly can, which isn’t very easy in May. During these practices players aren’t in pads and the hitting won’t start until training camp — even then, it’s limited. 

Still, Martin thinks he can show something over the next few weeks. 

“Really, I’m just trying to focus on my hands because we’re not allowed to have a lot of contact,” he said. “If I’m good with my hands, I can show them how I can move in this defense. I think that’s something that they can see and you can’t really deny. I’m just going to continue to improve and show them those things. When it comes time to put the pads on, it will just translate.”