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.

Flyers 2015-16 Evaluations Part 1: Goaltenders

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Flyers 2015-16 Evaluations Part 1: Goaltenders

If there's one thing the Flyers proved during the 2015-16 season, it's that you can never understate the importance of having two capable goaltenders.

Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth both shared the top spot at various points, as goaltending was one of the club's strengths.
 
Without strong performances from both, Dave Hakstol's team never would have made the playoffs.

Among the more intriguing questions that will arise in training camp next fall is who wins the starter's job. If the playoffs proved anything, it's not a lock Mason is ordained the starter.
 
Competition in goal made the Flyers better.
 
“To have inner competition is a good thing,” general manager Ron Hextall said after the season. “We've got two good goalies and I think, as we saw this year, it's nice to have.
 
“If we have one of them this year, then we're probably nowhere near the playoffs. They were a strength of ours and I give them both credit for giving us a chance to win those nights.”
 
Neuvirth has made it clear that he sees himself as a No. 1.
 
“Michal Neuvirth's become a better player this year and I think that Michal Neuvirth has a belief that he can be a No. 1, maybe for the first time, maybe when he was younger he did,” Hextall said.
 
“He proved it to himself, he proved it to us, and on the other hand, Mase did the same thing. Mase has played the last month and a half and was terrific. He played a great game and quite honestly, there is no rounds to go, we didn't have another guy to go to.”
 
Hextall feels Anthony Stolarz likely needs one more year of AHL grooming.
 
“Stolie is a good, young prospect, but he's young and he's not ready to take the ball at this level, so Mase took the ball and ran with it,” Hextall said. “We get two guys that I think our team feels very comfortable with and so do I.”
 
The Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning have both demonstrated during this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs that you can win with a young goalie coming off the bench and stealing the top spot with a strong run.
 
He’s a recap of the goaltenders - not including Stolarz, who was on the roster for 16 games but did not play:

Steve Mason
Age: 28
Stats: 54 GP; 23-19-10; 2.51 GAA; .918 SV%
Cap hit: $4.1 million
 
Mason played his 400th career game in March. Despite a terrible start that had more to do with a serious personal matter off the ice, Mason was the Flyers' late-season MVP, starting 12 consecutive games down the stretch and enabling the Flyers to erase a three-point gap and claim the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

After a stellar showing in the season-opener in Tampa, Mason's off-ice issue hit full brunt. His focus was gone the remainder of October and it showed with a 3.39 goals-against average heading into November. More bad luck came as he got the flu and missed a series of games before returning as the Flyers struggled through a series of overtimes and shootouts during which Mason came up small.

While Mason has shown he can make a critical save on a breakaway during games, he seems to make himself small in net during shootouts, during which he was 2-6 this season.

True, you can argue the Flyers have lacked for goal-scoring in the shootout for years now. Yet, the point is, Mason's confidence in shootouts is poor.

A knee injury bothered him in the start of the second half, as he lost his job to Neuvirth, who kept the Flyers afloat. Mason's return to full health began in March.

Mason finally hit .500 — 15-15-7 — with a 4-2 win over Tampa Bay on March 7. His sprint to the finish began March 19 and he went 6-4-2 to help push the Flyers into the playoffs.

In Game 1 against Washington, Mason played well, but he was terrible the next two games in which he allowed 10 goals, three of which were horrific, and then lost the net to Neuvirth as the Flyers faced a 3-0 deficit.

His playoff goals-against average of 4.09 and .852 save percentage were proof of his poor play. Puzzling stat: His save percentage when the Flyers were on the power play this season was just .878 after being .958 the year before when he faced more shots against.

Mason continues to mystify as to whether he has the mental toughness to overcome adversity. While he proven his value in the regular season, until he shows he can carry this team deep into the playoffs on his own, there will forever be a question as to whether he's capable of winning a Stanley Cup.
 
Michal Neuvirth
Age: 28
Stats: 32 GP; 18-8-4; 2.27 GAA; .924 SV%
Cap hit: $1.625 million

Where would the Flyers have been this season without Neuvirth, especially at the start?

You could make a compelling argument Neuvirth was the club's first-half MVP while Mason struggled. Neuvirth was 11-6-2 at the All-Star break compared to Mason's 10-12-6.

Bang vs. buck. He's a steal at $1.625 million. The only knock on Neuvirth, which has dogged him throughout his nine-year career, is his health. He has an uncanny way of getting hit with freak injuries and admits it's held him back.

In all, he had six different injuries that caused him to miss 18 games — almost a quarter of the season. Yet despite late-season knee surgery, which forced him to miss eight games, Neuvirth came on strong in replacing Mason for Games 4 through 6 in the postseason.

Neuvirth clearly showed he was far more on top of his game than Mason, winning two of three, one of which he faced 44 shots and earned a brilliant 2-0 shutout. Neuvirth has played half as many games as Mason in his career yet he has a chance in camp to get that coveted starter's job back, which he once briefly held in Washington.

Neuvirth's 2.27 goals-against average and .924 save percentage during the regular season were career bests. Interestingly, this is a contract year for both Neuvirth and Mason to show their value for that next deal.

In Neuvirth's case, it's about getting starter's money — not back-up. That said, even if this shy Czech becomes the Flyers' starter, his penchant for injury dictates wariness over the long haul.

Best of MLB: Stephen Strasburg stays unbeaten as Nats pound Cards

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Best of MLB: Stephen Strasburg stays unbeaten as Nats pound Cards

WASHINGTON -- Stephen Strasburg (9-0) won his 12th consecutive decision dating to last season, pitching six innings of one-run ball as Washington salvaged a four-game split.

Strasburg improved to 12-0 in 15 starts since losing to the Mets on Sept. 9, and the Nationals have won all 15 of those games. The 12 consecutive winning decisions is a franchise record for a starter, breaking a mark shared by Livan Hernandez (2005) and Dennis Martinez (1989).

Jayson Werth connected for a pinch-hit grand slam. Wilson Ramos had three hits, including a two-run homer, and drove in four runs. Bryce Harper hit an RBI single during a three-run fourth off Michael Wacha (2-6), who lost his sixth straight decision (see full recap).

Dodgers score twice in 9th to top Mets
NEW YORK -- Adrian Gonzalez snapped a ninth-inning tie with a two-run single off suddenly struggling closer Jeurys Familia, and Los Angeles beat New York.

Curtis Granderson hit a tying triple for the Mets immediately after Clayton Kershaw was lifted with two outs in the eighth. But the Dodgers quickly regrouped for their sixth victory in seven games since losing four straight.

Kershaw struck out 10, walked none and capped a magnificent May with another sublime performance.

Adam Liberatore (1-0) got the win. Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his 15th save.

Familia (2-1) allowed two runs on two hits and two walks (see full recap).

Castro's homer Yanks' only hit in victory
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Starlin Castro's two-run, seventh-inning homer off Jake Odorizzi was the Yankees' only hit of the game, enough to give New York a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday.

According to Baseball Reference data going back to 1913, the Yankees' only other one-hit win was when Charlie Mullen had an RBI single to beat Cleveland in six innings in a doubleheader nightcap on July 10, 1914.

Nathan Eovaldi (6-2) gave up one run and six hits in six innings to win his career-best fifth consecutive start and beat Odorizzi (2-3).

Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman each pitched a perfect inning and combined for seven strikeouts. Chapman got his seventh save (see full recap).

Deitrich hurt on odd play in Marlins' win over Braves
ATLANTA -- Derek Dietrich hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer and drove in four runs before getting hurt on a foul ball hit into Miami's dugout.

Dietrich's homer landed deep in the lower section of the right-field seats in the sixth, giving Miami a 3-1 lead. A former Georgia Tech star, Dietrich added a two-run double off Eric O'Flaherty in the seventh inning, then was hit by a foul ball off the bat of Christian Yelich in the ninth.

The team said X-rays were negative and Dietrich was to remain in Atlanta on Sunday night for further evaluations.

Tom Koehler (3-5) allowed three runs -- two earned -- three hits and five walks in seven-plus innings. Julio Teheran (1-5) gave up three runs, five hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings (see full recap).

Correa's home run lifts Astros over Angels in 13
ANAHEIM, Calif.  -- Pinch-hitter Carlos Correa had a three-run homer off Mike Morin (1-1) in the 13th inning.

Correa got a run-scoring hit in the 13th inning for the second time in six games, following up his game-ending single against Baltimore on Tuesday.

Albert Pujols had three hits for the Angels, who blew an eighth-inning lead and stranded 14 runners while losing for the fourth time in five games.

Michael Feliz (3-1) pitched the 12th for Houston (see full recap).

Report: P.J. Carlesimo won't join Sixers' coaching staff

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Report: P.J. Carlesimo won't join Sixers' coaching staff

It doesn't sound like the Sixers' replacement for Mike D'Antoni will be the most rumored name for the position.

NBA coaching veteran P.J. Carlesimo has decided to not join Brett Brown's staff as associate head coach and instead will remain a television analyst, according to tweets Sunday night by ESPN's Mark Stein.

Stein added that despite "strong mutual interest," Carlesimo made the decision for family reasons.

The 67-year-old Carlesimo has spent parts of nine seasons as a head coach in the league and five more as an assistant. He was last on a NBA bench when he took over as the Brooklyn Nets' interim head coach in 2012-13.

So the Sixers still have a vacancy on their bench after D'Antoni, who joined the Sixers in the middle of last season after Jerry Colangelo joined the organization, signed on to become head coach of the Houston Rockets last week. Who the team's next choice for the role is remains to be seen.