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.

Temple vs. SMU: Get ready for offensive firepower in AAC opener

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Temple vs. SMU: Get ready for offensive firepower in AAC opener

Temple (2-2, 0-0 AAC) vs. SMU (2-2, 0-0 AAC)
Lincoln Financial Field
Saturday, Noon, ESPNews

If recent history tells us anything, we should expect to see some crooked numbers on Lincoln Financial Field’s scoreboard Saturday afternoon when SMU visits Temple in the conference opener for each team.

The last two times these AAC programs have met, the final scores have wound up 59-49 (a SMU win in Dallas in 2013) and 60-40 (a Temple win in Dallas last season).

Temple is coming off a 48-20 homecoming demolition of Charlotte. The game was basically over early in the second quarter, a frame in which the Owls scored 28 points to blow away the 49ers. SMU is coming off a 33-3 home loss to in-state rival TCU. The Mustangs hung tough for the first half and the score was 6-3 at the break, but the Big 12 powerhouse Horned Frogs took over in the second half.

Weather could play a factor Saturday, though, as current forecasts call for a chance of scattered thunderstorms in the Philadelphia area all afternoon.

Let’s take a closer look at Saturday’s the matchup.

Scouting Temple
The Owls’ offense has been in a much-needed groove since the second half of the narrow loss at Penn State two weeks ago.

Last week, Walker went 15 of 26 for 268 yards and two touchdowns – a 51-yard bomb to Adonis Jennings and a 40-yard quick strike to Brodrick Yancy. On the season, Walker has completed 57.8 percent of his passes for 846 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions. His favorite target has been Keith Kirkwood, who has 14 grabs for 191 yards and two touchdowns through four games.

It should be no coincidence that Temple’s offensive revival has come with the return of star senior running back Jahad Thomas, who missed the first two games of the year with a dislocated left thumb. In the two games Thomas has played, he’s got 127 yards on the ground and four touchdowns. Sophomore Ryquell Armstead, who also has four rushing scores, leads the Owls with 166 yards on the ground. Last year against SMU, then-freshman Jager Gardner ripped off a school-record 94-yard touchdown run.

One other offensive note: Temple head coach Matt Rhule was finally pleased with his offensive line after the way it played against Charlotte. Earlier this week, he praised offensive line coach George DeLeone and the job he’s done recently trying to get work out the issues on the line. The Owls didn’t give up a sack last week. True freshman Matt Hennessy started at left guard last week while redshirt sophomore Jaelin Robinson saw time at right tackle. Don’t be surprised if they see significant playing time again.

Two things have concerned Rhule defensively – a lackluster pass rush and the tendency to give up big plays.

Through four games, the Owls have yet to establish any sort of consistent pass rush. They have just four sacks through four games. They had 10 in last year’s opener against Penn State alone. The good news for Temple’s pass rush is that SMU starts a freshman QB and his given up nine sacks through four games, so opportunities to disrupt the pocket should be there on Saturday.

Temple’s defense has allowed 10 plays of 20 yards or more from scrimmage this season, including a 66-yard touchdown run by Charlotte’s Kalif Phillips last week.

Injury-wise, the Owls are relatively healthy. Sophomore wideout Ventell Bryant, who was believed to be dealing with a shoulder injury, announced on his Instagram this week that he’d been cleared to play.

Scouting SMU
The Mustangs’ rebuilding efforts took a big hit during the first game of the season when senior quarterback Matt Davis, who played very well against Temple last season and hurt the Owls with both his arm and legs, was lost for the year with a knee injury. Redshirt freshman Ben Hicks has stepped in and his tenure so far hasn’t been so hot. He’s completed just 50 percent of his passes this year and has thrown just two touchdowns compared to seven picks.

Despite the inexperience and lack of production at quarterback, SMU will still push the tempo with a fast-paced offense that can rip off chunks of yardage instantly and averages 448 yards per game. A big reason for that is the play of sophomore wideout Cortland Sutton, who has 449 receiving yards and four touchdowns already this season. Sutton, whom Rhule had very high praise for earlier this week, averages 24.9 yards per reception. Sophomore tailback Braeden West is no slouch, either. He’s averaged 93.8 yards per game on the ground this season and has two rushing touchdowns.

Defensively, SMU has a couple of ballhawks in its secondary. The Mustangs are tied for tops in the nation with 10 interceptions through four games. Sophomore corner Jordan Wyatt is tied for the team lead in picks with three and also leads the Mustangs with 25 total tackles and two forced fumbles. Walker will have to be wary of where Wyatt is at on the field. Senior Horace Richardson also has three picks already for the Mustangs.

While SMU’s takeaway numbers are pretty, the Mustangs’ total defense numbers are ugly. They give up an average of 449.8 yards per game, which ranks 98th out of 128 teams in the FBS. The 27 points the Mustangs allow per game are good 70th in the FBS.

History
Saturday will mark the third meeting between the schools in the last four years and fifth overall. As mentioned above, the two teams combined for 208 points the last two times they’ve met. Those last two meetings have been the only meetings between Temple and SMU that have had definitive finals. They tied in both 1942 (6-6) and 1947 (7-7). So feel free to call Saturday’s game a rubber match.

Storyline to watch: Second test for Temple's secondary
Thus far this season, Temple has faced a triple-option team in Army, an FCS team in Stony Brook, a weapon-filled offense in Penn State and a second-year FBS team in Charlotte. Needless to say, Penn State was the only true test Temple's defense, specifically the new-look secondary, has had to face and it didn't go so well, especially in the first half when the Nittany Lions tore the Owls apart with slant plays for huge chunks of yardage. While the Owls' defense calmed down, the Nittany Lions still finished with 287 passing yards and 403 total yards. Temple's secondary will have its next test on Saturday with Sutton and SMU's receivers. Corners Derrek Thomas, Artrel Foster and Nate Hairston and safety Delvon Randall have a prime opportunity to gain more confidence against a young quarterback with a tendency to make mistakes. Junior safety Sean Chandler is still the unquestioned leader of the group.

What’s at stake: Getting conference play started on the right foot
If the Owls want to be taken as a serious threat to repeat in the AAC East, this is a game they have to have against an inferior SMU team. This is the first of nine straight AAC games, and even though SMU is in the AAC West, this game is still a tonesetter for rest of conference play. The Owls don’t want to fall behind right off the bat. And they really don’t want to fall behind right of the bat this week, with a short week and travel to Memphis for a game on Thursday looming. Yes, that’s two games in five days coming up for Temple.

Prediction
Even if the weather doesn’t hold out, points will be scored at the Linc on Saturday. Just not as many as the past couple of years. At this point in time, Temple just has more talent and it looks like the Owls are finally getting things in sync. Temple 38, SMU 21

No. 12 Villanova at Elon: Wildcats eager for CAA road win

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No. 12 Villanova at Elon: Wildcats eager for CAA road win

No. 17 Villanova (3-1, 1-0) at Elon (2-2, 1-0)
Rhodes Stadium, Elon, N.C.
Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

Climbing in the national rankings, Villanova looks for its fourth straight win this weekend in a road CAA contest. Here’s a look at the matchup:

Scouting Villanova
After a season-opening loss to Pittsburgh, the Wildcats have won three straight, including a 31-14 rout of Lafayette last week. The Wildcats’ defense continued to flex its muscle in that victory with senior defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon scoring on a 25-yard fumble return to go along with his two sacks and sophomore linebacker Jeff Steeb returning an interception 45 yards for a TD. For the season, Villanova’s defense has now scored four touchdowns in four games while its rushing defense ranks 21st in the country, allowing just over 100 yards per game. Offensively, running backs Aaron Forbes and Javon White formed a nice tandem last week with both scoring and Forbes running for a career-high 111 yards on 11 carries.

Scouting Elon
The Phoenix bounced back from two straight losses to start the year with a home rout of Fayetteville State and a massive 27-10 road win over nationally ranked William & Mary last week. Just its second victory over over a top-10 FCS program, Elon was led by a 120-yard, two-TD rushing game from Malcolm Summers and an opportunistic defense that intercepted three passes. Elon does have some question marks offensively with several underclassmen in prominent roles, including sophomore Daniel Thompson, who took over for the injured Connor Christiansen at quarterback after the first game. But Elon’s passing offense still ranks third in the CAA with 206.5 yards per game.

Series history
This will be Villanova’s first-ever game vs. Elon, which joined the CAA in 2014.

Storyline to watch
Kpassagnon, an NFL prospect, was the biggest reason why Villanova extended its winning streak to three, putting all kinds of pressure on Lafayette and setting the tone by scoring a defensive touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. He’ll have a chance to do that again and try to rattle a young quarterback early. And he may need to have another big game in what figures to be a low-scoring affair between two hot defenses.

What’s at stake?
Elon and Villanova are among six teams that are 1-0 in the conference, meaning the winner of this game could rise to the top of the conference after just two games.

Prediction
Elon’s win last week was very impressive, but it seems unlikely that this young Phoenix squad can knock off two nationally ranked teams in a row. Villanova 24, Elon 14.