Broken Twigs: The Casual Flyers Fan Off-season Recap

Broken Twigs: The Casual Flyers Fan Off-season Recap

Ain’t nothing wrong with taking the summer off from the Flyers. The players all retreat to their mill towns to pave roads and paint highway rest stops to earn some extra cash and you have artificially flavored beer to drink on the beach. No worries.

But hockey is officially officially back now. It was just officially back last week when a bunch of prospects you don’t know, and most likely will never have to take the time to get to know, had a little camp at the Skate Zone. But the real deal starts today – full MFing training camp. So what do you need to know about this year’s team that's different from the club that didn't make the playoffs last year? This:

1. Ron Hextall is back.
You may have seen this throwback’s name in the headlines this summer. It’s because he left the Kings and is now the Assistant GM here in Flipadelphia. He’s not like Dwight Schrute either, he’s really the Assistant GM, not the Assistant to the GM. This is the first step to Hexy becoming the the full-time GM once Paul Holmgren gets called back to the mother ship. People even say that his finger prints are all over this Cleary deal. Isn't it weird that the Flyers brought a former player back to work for them?? So weird. No word on whether or no Bob Froese has accepted the offer to come back Hexy up as Assistant Assistant GM.

2. Whoa whoa whoa what Cleary deal?
The Flyers have probably (illegally?) promised to sign 34 year old forward Daniel Cleary to a 3 year deal. They don’t have cap space at this particular moment because hockey likes to be all dramatic and rulesy, so he’s officially coming to Philly on a tryout. This means no Simon Gagne.

[nbcsports_video src=http://www.youtube.com/embed/eLsO6YFc2uw?feature=player_detailpage service=youtube width=590 height=332]

3. Why no Gagne?

Because we already signed a bunch of dudes this off-season! Jiminy Christmas, you don’t know anything! Tampa Bay captain Vincent Lecavalier was bought out by the Lightning and we scooped him up. We also signed free agent defenseman Mark Streit. Just like a Philadelphia fan should be, everyone is cautiously optimistic about these high profile signings of relatively old, but nonetheless talented players. There’s kind of this “maybe Homer knows something we don’t know” vibe about the whole situation. That attitude is furthered by our goaltending situation.

4. Because Bryzgalov is so weird? I know that much…
Bryzgalov is gone. He and Briere were bought out. There were about 700 articles devoted to the millions of dollars Bryz is going to be making off the Flyers for the next decade and a half, but everyone agrees the Briere signing had its benefits but didn’t make sense in the new new NHL. So what we have in net this season is former Calder (Rookie) Trophy winner Steve Mason, who was Bob’s (who won the Vezina for best goalie in the NHL this summer) back up in Columbus and free agent signee and Stanley Cup winner Ray Emery.

5. Wasn’t Ray Emery a Flyers before?
Yes he was. Then he had a career-threatening injury. Now he is back to platoon with Mason after successfully doing the same in Chicago last year. Someone else who was a Flyers before was Adam Hall.

6. Who is Adam Hall?
Don’t worry about it. Wears Mike Richards number on the 4th line. Is good at faceoffs. Oh yeah, people be creamin’ ‘bout how good we’re going to be at faceoffs this season. Especially when Claude Giroux returns to full strength.

7. Oh yeah didn’t he get hit with a golf club at the Olympics?
Yeah no. He broke a golf club and it went up into his finger and resulted in him missing Canada’s Olympic Training Camp. He says he’ll be 100% for the season opener.

8. The Olympics are this winter? But it’s 2013.
It is 2013, you’re right. But most of the winter is actually in 2014. And the Olympics are in Russia so all the games will be played in the middle of the night and in the morning here in the Eastern Time Zone. Also, this means that there will be a 2+ week break in the NHL season, so the schedule will look a little different than you’re used to. Something else that will look a little different is our opponents. The Hurricanes, Caps, and Blow Jobs (there I said it) are joining our Division this season and there are now only 2 Divisions per conference. Detroit is also joining our Conference. Also our Division is called the Metropolitan Division and despite some early cracks at the name everyone already seem to be comfortable with calling it The Metro Division, so be sure to save your mis-guided ice cream jokes for the proper audience.

9. What does that mean for the playoffs?
In the Eastern conference, the top 3 teams (out of 8) in each Division make the playoffs. So that’s 6 of the 8 spots in the East filled. Then it’s the top two point earners regardless of Division that get the wild card. Emphasis is on divisional play, kind of like baseball.

10. What else should I know to impress the bartender at The Locust Bar? I mean my friends.
- The Flyers HAVE to trade a defenseman before the season starts. Everyone’s money is on Big Mesz, but I could see Coburn coming in as the Charlie Kelley in this situation. A good rule of thumb when trying to anticipate Paul Holmgren's next move is to smoke a pound of crank and then have a Magic 8 Ball tell you.
- Ent Mike Knuble refuses to retire and is coaching/skating with the Grand Rapid Griffins in the AHL again. But no one wants him, probably because he is immobile, so he is going to retire.
- There’s not much chance of any young guys spending any significant time in the NHL this season, so no new names! We've got a full roster once Cleary is added and then we re-sign Jay Rosehill and traded that AHLer Danny Syvret to the Rags for some former Baskin Robins Employee of the Month sounding dude called Kris Newbury.
- If the Flyers don’t blow Kimmo will probably sign for the 2014-15 season instead of retiring. (In rereading that I almost changed the order of words to make it sound less like the Flyers needed to blow Kimmo, but in the end I thought it might actually work better that way, because they better buy some chap stick if they want to keep that old cat around!)

- Matt Read is going to be a UFA at the end of the season, take that for what it’s worth. What's worth is the Flyers might have to sacrifice him to the Salary Cap Gods. If he has a bang up season he'll test the free agent market for sure. Unless The Hextall-Clarke-Holmgren Sucubus can trick him into taking gaurunteed money sometime early in the season.
- Rusty Fedotenko and Kurtis "Don't Call Me Kurt" Foster are off in Russia getting their Putin on.
- Bookend Jody Shelley retired and is doing play-by-play for the BJs.
- Flyers have a new BEHIND THE SCENES show that isn’t very behind the scenes and doesn’t have awesome music and slow-mo like 24/7.
- To that end, the Flyers selected a giant defenseman (7'4!) from the Quebec league with the 11th pick in this year’s draft. Don’t expect to see him contribute until 2015 and you’ll be all set.
- Speaking of giants, everyone's favorite Derian Hatcher impersonator, Hall Gill, was invited to Flyers training camp on a tryout and has a Mark Bell’s shot in hell of making the team.
- Goalies have smaller pads, there’s talk of 3-on-3 OT before a possible shootout, and hybrid icing is being tested in the preseason.

I think that’s the summer in a nutshell. As you might remember from previous Octobers where you had no idea who half the team was, GM Paul Holmgren has an itchy trigger finger in the summer and this one was no exception. We’re bringing in 3 decent 33+ year old players on multi-year deals and going with the second cheapest goalie combination in the league. Seems like we're primed for a run at the Cup after a year in the basement. So take that Forsberg alternate jersey out of the attic, sit back and enjoy the Flyers worst to first resurrection, baby.

But before that know that if you like you can now hit snooze on your fandom until Wednesday October 2nd when the season really really REALLY gets started with a home game against the Leafs. Get there early, as the Flyers are inducting Kyle Calder into the Flyers Hall of Fame before the game.

Best of MLB: Nationals clinch NL East with win over Pirates

usa-jayson-werth-anthony-rendon.jpg
USA Today Images

Best of MLB: Nationals clinch NL East with win over Pirates

PITTSBURGH -- The Washington Nationals clinched their third National League East title in five years, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-1 Saturday night behind 5 1/3 scoreless innings from rookie reliever Reynaldo Lopez.

Stephen Drew's two-run single capped a three-run first inning for the Nationals, who return to the postseason after a one-year absence. Their win ensured a playoff berth, and they won the division about 20 minutes later when the second-place New York Mets lost to Philadelphia.

Lopez (4-3) came on to the start the bottom of the fourth inning with a 6-1 lead and allowed three hits while striking out five and walking one. He was removed a runner on first and one out in the ninth inning.

Marc Rzepczynski and Blake Treinen got one out each to end the game, and a pocket of Nationals' fans behind the visiting dugout cheered (see full recap).

Cardinals solve Wrigley again, crush Hammel, Cubs 10-4
CHICAGO -- The St. Louis Cardinals have a lot to accomplish if they want to return to Chicago in two weeks for a rematch of last year's NL Division Series. They would have to qualify for one of the wild-card spots, then win the single-elimination playoff game.

If they do, the Cardinals may be the one club that won't be fazed by Wrigley Field and the Cubs.

Yadier Molina drove in four runs, Stephen Piscotty homered and the Cardinals boosted their playoff hopes by getting to Jason Hammel early in a 10-4 rout of Chicago on Saturday.

Randal Grichuk added three RBIs and Jhonny Peralta had three hits and scored three runs for the Cardinals, who stopped a two-game skid and moved into a tie with San Francisco for the final NL wild-card spot pending the Giants' game at San Diego (see full recap).

Yanks shut out for 3rd straight game in 3-0 loss to Jays
TORONTO -- The New York Yankees' offense has disappeared, and their playoffs chances have pretty much vanished, too.

Jose Bautista hit a three-run homer off Tyler Clippard in the eighth inning, and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Yankees 3-0 Saturday.

New York has been shut out in three straight games for the first time July 27-28, 1975.

"Whatever we're doing right now, it's not working," first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "We just seem to have lost it the last few days."

The Yankees have lost 10 of 13 following a seven-game winning streak and dropped 4 1/2 games back for the AL's second wild card with eight games left. They likely will miss the playoffs for the third time in four years (see full recap).

Dietrich homers, Marlins end Braves' streak at 7 win
MIAMI -- Derek Dietrich hit a two-run homer to help the Miami Marlins end the Atlanta Braves' winning streak at seven games, winning 6-4 on Saturday night.

Dee Gordon had two hits, two walks and three stolen bases - one shy of tying the Marlins' single-game franchise high, which he has done on two separate occasions.

Atlanta's Freddie Freeman extended his hitting streak to 28 games in the first inning and has reached base in 44 straight. He also hit a solo home run in the sixth, his 32nd.

Brian Ellington (4-2) earned the win in relief and A.J. Ramos recorded his 39th save in 42 chances.

The Braves pulled within 5-4 on a wild pitch by Fernando Rodney in the seventh inning (see full recap).

Instant Replay: Phillies 10, Mets 8

usa-maikel-franco-home-run-vs-mets.jpg
USA Today Images

Instant Replay: Phillies 10, Mets 8

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Noah Syndergaard’s throat probably closed up a little bit more when he saw how the Phillies treated his replacement on Saturday night.
 
Third baseman Maikel Franco’s three-run home run to left field and starting pitcher Alec Asher’s two-run single to center chased spot starter Sean Gilmartin after just 2/3 of an inning in the Phillies’ 10-8 win over the Mets. Syndergaard, the Mets’ last ace standing, had been scratched from the start earlier in the week due to strep throat.
 
Despite a long string of shaky moments from the bullpen, the Phillies were able to make the 10-0 lead they built in the first four innings stick.
 
The Mets’ grip on the first wild card spot in the NL loosened. The Cardinals defeated the Cubs, 10-3 to pull into a tie — for the moment — with the Giants for the second wild card spot, a half-game behind the Mets.
 
The Giants were a full game behind the Mets for the first wild card spot entering Saturday. They had a 6-5 lead over the Padres when the Mets’ game concluded.
 
The Phillies improved to 70-85. They scored at least 10 runs in a game for the sixth time this season and finished with 17 hits, tying their season high.
 
Starting pitching report
Asher was effective at first and displayed excellent command of his two-seam fastball as he retired the first nine Mets hitters he faced. He was touched up for four unearned runs in his fifth and final inning on two errors, two singles, a double and a sacrifice fly.
 
With a runner on third and two outs, Asher quelled the rally by inducing a groundout from pinch-hitter James Loney to first baseman Tommy Joseph. His night ended after just 76 pitches.
 
The runs Asher knocked in on his single were the first two runs batted in of his young career.
 
Gilmartin walked three batters, surrendered four hits and was booed off the mound by a full house of Mets fans.
 
Bullpen report
Joely Rodriguez entered in the sixth inning and quickly worked himself into trouble. He gave up two runs on a Gavin Cecchini double — his first major league hit — and T.J. Rivera single. Rodriguez survived a two-out, runners-on-the-corners jam by striking out Brandon Nimmo swinging with a slider in the dirt.
 
David Hernandez pitched a scoreless seventh. He erased a leadoff single by eliciting a 4-6-3 double play ground ball from Eric Campbell.
 
Hector Neris struck out his 100th batter of the season but walked two batters and gave up an RBI double to Cecchini that brought the remaining Mets fans to life. With the tying run at the plate, he got Rivera and Nimmo to fly out.
 
Given first crack at temporarily supplanting Jeanmar Gomez in the closer role, Michael Mariot gave up a solo home run to Jay Bruce to bring the Mets within two runs and then walked Campbell and Michael Conforto to bring the winning run to the plate. He got Lucas Duda to pop out and then got Travis D’Arnaud to ground out.
 
At the plate
Cesar Hernandez extended his streak of reaching base safely to 29 consecutive contests when he walked to lead off the game.
 
After going over a month without a home run, Maikel Franco has now homered in three consecutive games.
 
Darin Ruf homered for the second consecutive game, demolishing a Rafael Montero offering to center in the fourth to score three runs.
 
Joseph had two RBIs on a single and a groundout to short.
 
In the field
Franco threw a potential around-the-horn double play ball into center field in the fifth, allowing the Mets’ first run to score.
 
Shortstop Freddy Galvis handled a rundown with Jose Reyes perfectly to complete a 3-6-1 double play in the fourth but also bobbled a ground ball in the fifth for an error.
 
Health check
Tyler Goeddel sat as he continues to recuperate from a concussion he suffered on Wednesday.
 
Up next
The Phillies will round out their four-game swing at Citi Field at 1:10 PM on Sunday. Jake Thompson (3-5, 5.62 ERA) will take the hill for the Phillies. The Mets will counter with Robert Gsellman (2-2, 3.13).
 
Thompson only struck out one batter and surrendered a three-run homer to Melky Cabrera in his last start against the White Sox on Tuesday but earned the win. Gsellman, thrust into the Mets’ rotation after a spate of injuries, has only pitched into the seventh inning of one his five starts this year, a 5-1 loss to the Phillies on Aug. 28.