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.

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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.

Stephen Tulloch gets feet wet, thinks Eagles could have top-ranked D

Stephen Tulloch gets feet wet, thinks Eagles could have top-ranked D

INDIANAPOLIS – Veteran Stephen Tulloch made his Eagles debut Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium … late in the second half.

Tulloch, 31, was just signed earlier in the week. And after years of being a starter in the NFL, Tulloch comes to Philadelphia as role player. 

When was the last time he played in the fourth quarter of a preseason game?

“Wow. Two thouuusaaandd,” he said, trying to think. “Six, maybe … seven. But I didn’t have any training camp here, so it’s good to be out here and just run around.”

On one of Tulloch’s first plays of the night he was called for a 15-yard unnecessary roughness, and didn’t appear on the stat sheet otherwise after playing 19 snaps. Still, he was happy just to be back on the field. 

After spending all of training camp on the street and missing the first two preseason games, this was his first real football action in a long time. And he didn’t feel much rust. 

“Not really, man,” he said. “Just get my feet back under me again. It’s just different. I haven’t played since Jan. 3, but to get out there and see the calls and get familiarized with everything.”

There isn’t too much with which to get familiarized since Tulloch is not just a veteran of the NFL but also Jim Schwartz’s defense. He played in it in Tennessee and then Detroit. In fact, it’s what made it possible for him to even see the field during Saturday’s 33-23 win. 

How did the defense look to him? 

“The same way it always looks when my man Schwartz puts it together,” he said. “It’s very simple. He’s going to work to the guys’ strengths and it’s always been a productive defense as long as I’ve been a part of it. He has the talent here, the talent on this team, to be able to execute the defense.”

Aside from the defense on the field, there was something else familiar about Saturday night. As a MIKE linebacker, he had the earpiece in his helmet, which means direct communication with Schwartz. 

“You know how Jim is, he’s going to make sure you know everything,” Tulloch said. “Not just give you the call, but tell you what to look out for. He’s a madman when it comes to that. He’s studying film, he knows to look for certain down and distances. It’s good to have him back in my ear again.”

In his six seasons under Schwartz, Tulloch was a piece in two top-10 defenses, so he’s seen this scheme work at a high level. 

Now that he’s been with the Eagles for a few days and has seen what they have to offer, he thinks this defense should be a very good one. 

“A lot of talent,” Tulloch said. “Like I said, that D-line is special. [Malcolm Jenkins] on the back end, [Rodney McLeod]. There’s a lot of good young talent here and this is perfect for this defense. Guys will fit very well here and this defense should be a top-ranked defense.”

Source: Jeremy Hellickson ineligible for late trade, here for remainder of ‘16

Source: Jeremy Hellickson ineligible for late trade, here for remainder of ‘16

NEW YORK – Jeremy Hellickson will be with the Phillies for the remainder of the season.
 
According to sources, the veteran right-hander was recently claimed on waivers. The Phillies were unable to work out a deal with the claiming team and Hellickson was pulled back, making him ineligible to be traded the remainder of the season.
 
Hellickson drew interest before the Aug. 1 trade deadline, but the Phillies did not receive an offer that they liked so they hung on to the pitcher. A player traded after Aug. 1 must first go through waivers.
 
Players traded in August must be on their new team’s roster by Sept. 1 — Thursday — to gain playoff eligibility. Players can still be traded in waiver deals after Sept. 1, but they would be ineligible for the playoffs.
 
Even though Hellickson, 29, can be a free agent at season’s end, Phillies officials did not view trading him as an imperative. The Phillies believe they can get good value for Hellickson with a compensatory pick in next June’s draft. But first the Phils must extend Hellickson a qualifying salary offer for 2017. That could be close to $17 million. Hellickson would have to turn the offer down and opt for the free-agent market for the Phils to get that pick.
 
Hellickson is 10-8 with a 3.80 ERA in 26 starts for the Phillies this season. He struggled against the Mets on Saturday night, but had a 2.60 ERA in his previous 11 starts. Chances seem good that he will find a multi-year deal on the free-agent market and reject the Phillies’ one-year qualifying offer, thus giving the team a draft pick between the first and second rounds.

Defensive line proving to be Eagles' biggest strength

Defensive line proving to be Eagles' biggest strength

INDIANAPOLIS – If this was a realistic glimpse at what the Eagles’ defensive line is going to be, watch out.
 
This D-line has a chance to be something special.
 
All the usual preseason disclaimers apply. We don’t know how much the Colts game planned. We don’t know if they can all stay healthy. It’s always dangerous to project too much from a preseason game into the regular season.
 
Still.
 
This was dominating stuff Saturday night from a defensive line that is clearly the strength of this football team.
 
If they can keep it up … watch out.
 
“You don’t want to get carried away and go out there after a preseason game and say how great we are, but it’s still exciting,” defensive tackle Beau Allen said.
 
“I think we an be a really good crew. I think it’s a mature group, and we’ve all played in a lot of football games and we get out there we just feel comfortable with each other."

In the final tuneup for the starters, the Eagles beat the Colts, 33-23, at Lucas Oil Stadium (see story).
 
With the starting defense on the field, the Colts scored only on a field goal following a turnover and on a blocked punt. The Colts, with all-pro Andrew Luck playing into the third quarter, managed just 206 yards and those three points on six drives.
 
The Eagles sacked Luck three times, held Colts ball carriers to 24 yards on 13 carries and didn’t give Luck any time to get the ball down the field.
 
“They didn’t run the ball on us, which is always important early in the game,” Barwin said. “And then we were consistently getting Andrew off his spot, making him move around a little bit, making him uncomfortable.”
 
Yes, it’s preseason. But as Pro Bowl safety Malcolm Jenkins points out, an effective pass rush is an effective pass rush. No matter when you see it.
 
“One thing I think you can really evaluate in the preseason is a pass rush,” Jenkins said. “Especially if it’s a four-man rush. Because there’s not much of scheme to it. You cut ‘em loose and you either can beat him 1-on-1 or you can’t, and the consistent pressure we got from a four-man rush was definitely encouraging.
 
“We got more guys in coverage, the quarterback has to hold the ball a little bit longer, and every time we made him double clutch, he got put on the ground. 
 
“It goes hand and hand, coverage and pressure, so that’s obviously something we want to continue to excel at. … This was our last real opportuity to get out there together and play in some signifiant time and we wanted to make sure we had a clean run, had the small mistakes that we might have made earlier in camp, make sure those things are eradicated. Make sure we communicated well and played fast.”
 
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz used seven defensive linemen with the first group — starters Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Brandon Graham and Connor Barwin, plus Vinny Curry, Taylor Hart and Allen.
 
It’s a talented group and it’s a deep group, and it's a group that's been together a long time.
 
"There’s a comfort level that comes with playing a lot of snaps with your guys and I think it shows out there on the field," Allen said. "It was a fun game and it seemed like we were flying around.”
 
Graham is in his seventh year with the Eagles, Cox and Curry in their fifth, Barwin and Logan in their fourth and Hart and Allen in their third.
 
Of the 16 players who’ve been here at least four years, five are defensive linemen. Of the eight Andy Reid holdovers, three are defensive linemen.
 
“I think we have great communication, great rapport,” Allen said. “It’s things like that you don’t really think about but it really goes a long way. We’ve all been here a while and it’s great when you get that.”
 
Every defensive coordinator talks about playing all his guys, about depth. From what we saw Saturday night, Schwartz truly believes in it.

He worked just about everybody in with the first group.
 
“We’re going to continue to move guys around, rotate guys in, keep guys fresh and play with that kind of speed all game long,” Barwin said.
 
“I know we’re pretty deep at defensive line. Everybody can play. Everybody’s capable of making plays. When you are playing at that speed every single snap and you know your’e only going to play three, four, five plays in a row? And you can go as hard as you can possibly go? That allows you to make plays.”
 
Logan, Barwin and Allen sacked Luck Saturday night, and Logan, Allen, Barwin, Graham, Hart and Cox were all credited with quarterback hits.
 
It was dominating stuff. It didn’t count but it sure was promising.
 
“It was just fun, man, when you’re out there flying around,” Graham said. “We know we still have to keep getting better. It’s preseason and a lot of guys don’t really game plan us and stuff like that, but it’s definitely good that the effort part is there. You don’t have to coach that.
 
“We’re all out there going hard and playing fast and for us we just want to keep getting better and it’s going to be nice when we actually game plan a team and really start getting after it, man.
 
“I’m excited. I’m just excited about where this defense is going to go if we continue to stay together.”