Broken Twigs: Paul Holmgren takes a bullet for Bryz and your FGSB mailbag questions

Broken Twigs: Paul Holmgren takes a bullet for Bryz and your FGSB mailbag questions

Broken Twigs is a weekly collection of Q&A, timely thoughts, and randomness from the Hockey Universe. If you want your Q’s A’d, slide an apple over to @flygoalscoredby or flyersgoalscoredby@gmail.com and we’ll tuck it firmly in the back of the net (we’ll answer it, that’s what that metaphor means, it means that if you send us questions we’ll answer them).

Good Guy Paul Holmgren?

Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren is taking a lot of heat now that the Ilya Bryzgalaov buyout has become a reality – and rightfully so. Homer is ultimately responsible for answering to the fans for all personnel moves that the organization makes. But he’s also taking a lot of bullets for people that had a hand in the Bryz signing, people who he is actually accountable to. One thing that has impressed me during the fallout is Holmgren’s unwillingness to sacrifice Bryzgalov in an attempt to shift some of the blame off of his own shoulders. That’s good character right there in an industry plagued by subtle hypocrisy (See: injuries, saying you're not going to blame poor performance on them, and then blaming poor performance on them).

Anything that’s come out regarding Bryzgalov’s relationship with teammates and executives isn’t news. It doesn’t validate what everyone pretends to have been tip-toeing around for the past two years – Ilya Bryzgalov is a weird dude. Now don’t get me wrong, from what I’ve seen I think he’s a pretty interesting character. But you put someone like that in a room with 19 other guys and he’s going to get eaten alive. Have any of you ever been in a group of people before? Oh you have? What happens to the person who says weird stuff all the time. Yep, they get dumped on. The only way they avoid getting ganged up on is if they are so good at what they do that everyone is willing to live with it. Bryz wasn’t playing well enough to counterbalance his personality. That’s the bottom line. Not that he was too much of a disruption or not good enough – it was that the latter did not outweigh the former.

But in all of Paul Holmgren’s remarks he has remained consistent in one area – Bryz wasn’t ditched because of his “interesting” personality, but because of his on-ice performance. The thing is, that is simply not true. One and a half regular seasons ago the Flyers believed in Bryz enough to sign him to a 9 year $51M contract. 99 games later they don’t think that same guy, that NINE YEAR GUY, can stop pucks? Bryzgalov wasn’t actually that bad for most of the this past season and he had a March 2012 for the record books. You don’t just sit down at a time when you have no idea there will be such a thing as compliance buyouts and commit to a guy for 9 years only to decide his skill level is not up to snub 2 years later. You use the word “investment” and make analogies to turning ships or say you think he’s really just settling in now. You don’t say “wow I had no idea what I was doing 2 years ago, this guy stinks let's give him free money."

Don’t you think that if Bryz had Ryan Miller or Roberto Loungo’s personality (and hair) that the Flyers at least give him one more chance this next season instead basically giving his money to a 4th defenseman, 2nd PP Swiss chocolatier? Remember, this morning wasn’t their only chance to buy him out. They could hold onto the guy they thought just two years ago was an elite goaltender and see if he couldn’t regain his old form in a regular length season with a healthy defensive corps. But they didn’t do that.

I actually admire the route Paul Holmgren has taken in the wake of this announcement. He could easily have set the tiniest of traps for the MSM by saying that “it just wasn’t working out here”, and the articles confirming Bryz as a locker room cancer would have flowed like the salmon of Capistrano. Homer would have been partially absolved of the blame because hey, who could have predicted Bryz was a tiger-loving cosmonaut (literally). But Homer has kept realitvely quiet, bordering on positive, in regards to the Bryzgalov-as-a-person discussion. And Homer taking that bullet for Bryz is an admirable thing to do for a guy who dared to have a personality in Philadelphia.

And now your questions…

From @GoingHard_inger: when will this team be run competently? Does Ed Snider need to die for that to happen?
That is an utterly macabre question, and I refuse to…the answer is yes. I often find myself daydreaming about the Comcast-Spectacor Org Chart and it always leads to the same vision – Ed Snider sitting on a throne on top of the board table with all the other big wigs sitting around it. I don’t know how you get him out of that chair. I mean I know how, the board members vote him out, but that would have to be an old fashioned coup d’etate. Unless Snider plans on living forever, which he probably does, he should understand better than anyone that the Flyers could use a youth injection in the front office. If his son didn’t run off to The Orient  back in 1993 you’d have to assume a certain level of nepotism would have already led to a natural transition. But as it stands there is no heir apparent. I’d bring in Billy Beane. Honest to God. He wouldn’t even need to understand hockey to make those advanced stats work, baby!

From Amy: What do you think the terms of Giroux’s contract will be?
A lot of years, a lot of money, unlimited grilled cheeses, Flyers pick up all bills related to upkeep and feeding of his horse training partner, final editing rights on all articles on Philly.com, weekly meetings with Kim and Kanye to discuss strategic goals for Earth, a “don’t do me like Richie and Carts” clause. Also, after he turns 30 he doesn’t have to wear a helmet, everyone must call him Reg Dunlop, and he’s officially named player/coach.

From Frank: Which Flyer could throw a watermelon the farthest off of the roof of the Wells Fargo Center?
Occam’s Razor states that all things equal, the simplest solution is the best. And that’s why I’m going with Zac Rinaldo. He’s strong, insane, competitive and well-trained. Other guys would think it was a joke, whereas I’d be scared Rinaldo would go so hard we’d have to put a safety harness on him.

From @estebomb: If you could found a small business with one former Flyers goaltender, who would it be and why?
Bad Joke Answer: Robbie Moore. He was only 5’5.
Worse Joke Answer #2: Neil Little.
Real Answer: Garth Snow. He’s a cheater. And at business you need to cheat to win. I saw Wall Street. I know what’s happening out there. I heard about that bail out. Remember those shoulder pads? Dude thinks outside the bun.

From Mark: Do you think the Flyers will move up in the draft from the 11th spot?
Who cares. This isn’t football. The chances that you or I are alive to watch whoever they do draft develop into anything more than trade bait are slim-to-none. Since the Ultimate Letdown of missing out on the first overall in 2007, the drafts have been more about the possibility of going all Pronger for me. If you go in caring about who they pick you’re going to be left with a “well….that was….something” feeling on Monday morning. Look at our first rounders over the past decade:

Laughton – gave me a slight immediate-impact chub then disappeared to Canada for the rest of the season
Couturier – did we give him too large of a role? Is his development coming along s scheduled? Should we trade him for Keith Yandle? What’s with all the questions?
Sbisa – gone
JVR – gone
Giroux – Our Aladdin, our diamond in the rough. Buuuutttt besides 2 emergency call up games, it took him 916 days o crack the Flyers roster. CLAUDE GRIOUX. 916 DAYS!
Downie - gone
Carter – gone
Richards – gone

Maybe I’m just an emotional guy, but it’s best not to get too attached to Rasmus Wristshotlightning just to have your heart broken when 3 years later their packaging him up for 44 year old Jaromir Jagr because THIS IS THE YEAR.

Yinztweet Breakdown of the Week

I believe what @redempschenn is getting at is that Flyers fans butts are (or will be) sore because we can’t stop the Penguins from winning (the Cup?) because they have Sidney Crosby, and that a serious lack of “swag” (which I believe has more to do with YOLO-ing than playing hockey) will result in the Flyers playing more golf than the average NHLer, because they will not make the playoffs, and as a result have the opportunity to get on the course earlier in the off-season.

As Aaron Altherr's audition begins, Pete Mackanin says Cody Asche 'needs to step it up'

As Aaron Altherr's audition begins, Pete Mackanin says Cody Asche 'needs to step it up'

ATLANTA — Nearly four months late, Aaron Altherr is finally getting his shot to show the Phillies he deserves to be part of their future outfield plans.

Altherr, 25, was activated from the disabled list before Thursday night’s game against the Braves and was in the lineup, batting fifth (see story). Altherr will see a lot of playing time over the final two-plus months of the season. He’s essentially auditioning.

“We want to see him play as much as possible,” manager Pete Mackanin said before the game. “So if he stays healthy, I’m going to keep running him out there. That’s what this year is all about. We’re finding out about the guys that are here. He is a potentially important part so we want to see what he does. I’m anxious to see what he does.”

Altherr, a ninth-round draft pick in 2009, played in 39 games for the Phillies last season. He hit just .241, but 20 of his 33 hits were for extra bases and he had a .827 OPS. He was slated to be the team’s everyday rightfielder before suffering a wrist injury that required surgery early in spring training.

Altherr is healthy now and eager for his chance.

“I’m good to go mentally and physically,” he said Thursday afternoon. “I’m definitely excited to be back up.”

Altherr took Peter Bourjos' spot on the roster. Bourjos was placed on the disabled list with a sprained right shoulder two days after running into the outfield wall in Miami.

With Mackanin committed to giving Altherr playing time, it will be interesting to see how the skipper divides up playing time with the remaining outfielders, especially when Bourjos recovers. Bourjos was a trade candidate before his injury. He could still be moved in a waiver deal once he’s healthy in August. Tyler Goeddel, Cody Asche and Jimmy Paredes also play corner outfield spots and much heralded prospect Nick Williams is expected to be here at some point (see Future Phillies Report).

Asche is walking a tightrope. He entered Thursday night’s game mired in a 4-for-51 skid and Mackanin seems to be losing patience.

“As I said earlier in the season, this is a very big year for Cody to prove that he can be part of the future and he needs to step it up,” Mackanin said.

Jason Peters impressed by Doug Pederson, questions Chip Kelly

Jason Peters impressed by Doug Pederson, questions Chip Kelly

Heading into his 13th season, Jason Peters has experienced a lot during his exceptional NFL career. So when the eight-time Pro Bowler says head coach Doug Pederson is more respectful of veteran players than the previous regime under Chip Kelly, you take notice.

"I think so," Peters stated frankly on Thursday at training camp (see Day 4 notes). "The last couple years, there wasn't a lot of vets, and any vet that stood up and had something to say, we got rid of him.

"Doug was a player here, he understands veteran players and he understands the game, so I think it's better."

Addressing the media for the first time since last season, Peters faced a series of questions about how Pederson differs from his unique predecessor. Schemes and philosophies were topics of discussion, as well, but perhaps the sharpest criticism levied by Peters was Kelly's lack of appreciation for what an NFL player goes through to be ready on Sunday.

"Any time you've got a coach who's been there, done that, he knows about the trenches and he knows about the two-a-days, it definitely helps with a veteran team as a whole," Peters said.

Peters admitted Kelly's practices took their toll on players. If that sounds like a familiar complaint, it's probably because former Eagles cornerback Cary Williams voiced a similar opinion in 2014. On Thursday, Peters echoed and expanded upon Williams' sentiments.

"The same practices that we did in training camp were the same spring practices, exactly the same, so it's pretty much we had training camp the whole offseason," Peters said. "Even OTAs were the same exact practice. It kind of wore us down."

Peters also maintained the unusual practice schedule during the regular season was no help, either.

Most teams practice Monday and take Tuesday off. Kelly did the opposite, so there was no real break leading up to gameday.

"We practiced on Tuesdays when Chip was here, and you felt it on Sundays," Peters said. "I did anyway."

Pederson has mentioned on several occasions the Eagles intend to do everything they can to keep Peters fresh and prepared for Sundays this season, which the 34-year-old says is "just being smart." One way that could manifest itself is an occasional day off during the week.

Although Peters' criticisms of Kelly weren't limited to the workload on veterans, the left tackle indicated the constant uptempo attack may not have done the offense many favors, either.

"If you run 100 times in a row, back to back to back, don't you think your 50th time you're going to be a little slower?" Peters asked. "But if you get a little bit of a rest, you're going to be a little bit faster.

"It's give and take. When you go back to the huddle and you get that wind, you're just a little stronger when you go back to the line, so I think it will help."

Peters added that the simplicity and predictability of Kelly's system became a problem, as well.

"I mean, this is the National Football League, and if the running back is to the left and you're running the zone read, where do you think the ball is going?" Peters asked rhetorically. "To the right.

"They caught up to us. We had some good years there back to back, then last year we had that down year. We just needed to change a little bit up, especially with [quarterback Sam Bradford] back there. They know he's not gonna run it, so it kind of put our hands behind our back."

While Peters believes the return to a more sophisticated, traditional NFL offense under Pederson — one that uses snap counts and chip blocks to help its offensive linemen — will be an enormous improvement for the Eagles.

Peters knows it's on the players to do a better job in 2016, too. At the same time, he feels as though the deck might've been just a little stacked against them.

"We can't really blame it on that, we're professionals," Peters said.

"[The coaches] call the play, and we execute it. But when the [opponents] know, and they're professionals too, and they know what the play is, it's tough."

Eagles camp Day 4 notes: Brandon Brooks out; starting O & D

Eagles camp Day 4 notes: Brandon Brooks out; starting O & D

As the Eagles kicked off their first full-squad practice in the bubble on Thursday afternoon, a big part of the offense was missing. 

Starting right guard Brandon Brooks was nowhere to be found. In his place, with the first-team offense, was veteran Stefen Wisniewski. 

Brooks, who signed a five-year, $40 million deal to join the Eagles this offseason, missed practice with a hamstring injury and is listed by the team as day to day. 

The only other player that missed practice is running back Ryan Mathews, who is on the Active/Non-football Injury list with an ankle injury he suffered while training last week (see story).

Offensive starters
Thursday’s light afternoon practice was what Andy Reid used to call a “10-10-10” practice. The term is back under Doug Pederson. Basically, it’s a light practice that goes continually through offense, defense and special teams. But it’s not very conducive for observations because of the format, which is meant to allow the offense or defense to look good. 

But we did get a chance to see the starting units. 

Here’s what the first-team offense (they came out in 11 personnel) looked like to start practice: 

QB: Sam Bradford
RB: Darren Sproles (Mathews was out)
TE: Zach Ertz
WR1: Nelson Agholor
WR2: Chris Givens
Slot: Jordan Matthews
LT: Jason Peters
LG: Allen Barbre
C: Jason Kelce
RG Stefen Wisniewski (Brooks was out)
RT: Lane Johnson

Notes: It’s worth noting that Matthews is still working in the slot way more than he is outside. And Givens, after a nice spring, got the nod to work outside with the first team.

Defensive starters
The defense first came onto the field in the nickel package, so we’ll start there: 

LDE: Vinny Curry
RDE: Connor Barwin
LDT: Fletcher Cox
RDT: Bennie Logan
LB: Jordan Hicks
LB: Mychal Kendricks
LCB: Leodis McKelvin
RCB: Nolan Carroll
Slot: Ron Brooks
S: Malcolm Jenkins
S: Rodney McLeod

Notes: We listed the defense in nickel, but when the Eagles were in base, Nigel Bradham was on the field as the strongside linebacker. The most important thing to note is that when the team was in base, Ron Brooks stayed on the field and moved outside. That’s what the team did most of the spring and it hasn’t changed yet. We’ll have to keep an eye on that. 

North Dakota’s hero
Earlier this week, there were several reporters and a TV crew from North Dakota to watch the progress of their hometown hero Carson Wentz. Wentz said it was cool to see some familiar media faces, especially because he knows how closely fans in his home state are still following his career. 

The rookie hasn’t been home much recently, so he wasn’t sure if the buzz has died down at all since the draft, but he suspects there are many more Eagles fans at home now. 

“I know now that football season is starting to kick up, it’s starting to heat up back home,” he said. “Everyone’s all interested in the Eagles, more than just the local teams around there. It’s pretty exciting. Exciting time for the state of North Dakota, for sure.” 

Odds and ends
• We’ll start with Wentz, who made a great toss on Thursday down the field about 40 yards to shifty wideout Paul Turner. Just a beautiful ball from the rookie. 

• Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Jalen Mills made another play. This time, he was able to get between the ball and Jordan Matthews near the right sideline. Perfect coverage. If he keeps this up once the pads go on Saturday, he’ll earn some playing time this season. 

• Jason Peters spoke for the first time this year after Thursday’s practice. We’ll have plenty on his thoughts and comments, but here’s what stuck out to me: He really didn’t like the way Chip Kelly did some things. He clearly didn’t like the tempo offense or Kelly’s management style. When asked, Peters agreed that Pederson’s staff is way more veteran player-friendly. 

“Any vet that stood up and had something to say, we got rid of him,” Peters said. Yikes. 

• Sproles, Agholor and Rueben Randle worked as the punt returners on Thursday. Obviously, Sproles is the guy, but this gives us an idea of the depth there. 

• Pads go on Saturday. 

• The first open practice (of two) is this Sunday at the Linc at 10 a.m. No tickets needed, just show up.