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: Beltre's 2 home runs lift Rangers over A's

Best of MLB: Beltre's 2 home runs lift Rangers over A's

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Adrian Beltre hit his second home run of the game with two outs in the ninth inning, a two-run shot that rallied the Texas Rangers past the Oakland Athletics 7-6 on Monday night for their third straight win.

Beltre, who finished with four hits, had two singles in his first three at-bats before hitting a solo homer in the seventh. His game-winning drive came on the first pitch from Ryan Madson (3-4).

Until then, Texas had trailed since Danny Valencia hit a two-run homer for Oakland with two outs in the first. All 13 runs in the game were scored with two outs.

Texas turned three double plays behind starter Martin Perez, who has induced a major league-best 25 in 21 games.

Valencia also had the first of three run-scoring doubles in a three-run third that gave the A's a 5-1 lead (see full recap).

Blue Jays' Sanchez wins 10th straight decision
TORONTO  -- Aaron Sanchez pitched seven shutout innings to win his 10th consecutive decision, Kevin Pillar had three hits and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the San Diego Padres 4-2 on Monday night.

Sanchez (11-1) became the first Blue Jays pitcher to win 10 straight since Roy Halladay won 15 decisions in a row in 2003. Halladay and Roger Clemens (1998) hold the club record.

Making their first appearance in Toronto, the Padres were held scoreless until Alex Dickerson hit a two-run homer off Bo Schultz in the ninth.

Dickeerson's drive into the fifth deck extended San Diego's team-record streak of games with at least one home run to 23. The 2006 Atlanta Braves were the last National League team to homer in 23 straight games.

Roberto Osuna replaced Schultz and got two outs for his 21st save (see full recap).

Orioles top Rockies for 5th straight win
BALTIMORE -- Adam Jones scored the winning run in the 10th inning on a low throw to the plate by pitcher Jordan Lyles, and the Baltimore Orioles beat the Colorado Rockies 3-2 on Monday night for their fifth straight victory.

Jones reached on a one-out single off the third-base bag and took third on a single by Jonathan Schoop. Manny Machado followed with a comebacker to Lyles, who fumbled the ball before throwing home. Catcher Nick Hundley caught the ball near the ground and lost the handle while attempting to tag the sliding Jones.

Lyles (2-3) was charged with an error on the play.

Getting two RBIs from Jones, the Orioles climbed a season-high 18 games over .500 (58-40) and improved to 37-14 at home.

Chaz Roe (1-0) worked the 10th for the win (see full recap).

Trade candidates — especially Jeremy Hellickson — lead Phils to shutout of Marlins

Trade candidates — especially Jeremy Hellickson — lead Phils to shutout of Marlins

BOX SCORE

MIAMI — Jeremy Hellickson was standing in front of his locker speaking with reporters after his second strong outing in a week against the Miami Marlins when Cameron Rupp walked by an offered his take on all the trade talk surrounding the veteran pitcher.

“He’s not going anywhere,” Rupp said loud enough for everyone in the room to hear.

Hellickson laughed at his catcher’s commentary.

“I hope not,” he said.

If Hellickson really wants to stay with the Phillies and finish out this rebuilding season instead of moving to a contender for the final two months — and possibly beyond — he did himself a disservice Monday night.

He enhanced his attractiveness to potential buyers by pitching six shutout innings in the Phillies’ 4-0 win over the Miami Marlins (see Instant Replay).

Hellickson, who sports a 3.65 ERA in 21 starts, needed just 70 pitches to get through the six innings. He was lifted for a pinch-hitter with runners on second and third and two outs in a scoreless game in the top of the seventh. Ryan Howard struck out, following Cody Asche and Peter Bourjos, as the Phillies whiffed on a golden scoring chance.

“I hated taking Hellickson out of the game there, but we had an opportunity to score and I had to go for it,” manager Pete Mackanin said.

“After we didn’t score, I didn’t think we had a chance to win this game. I just thought that with their bullpen we were in trouble.”

The Phillies ended up winning with a rally against Miami’s bullpen. Tommy Joseph delivered a clutch, two-out double against Fernando Rodney in the eighth to score Maikel Franco from first. That was the only run the Phillies needed. They tacked on three against the sloppy Marlins in the ninth to finish it off.

Hellickson, David Hernandez, Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez then combined to allow just one base runner in three innings to finish off the Phillies’ 11th shutout of the season. That’s the most in the majors.

“Our bullpen did a great job,” Mackanin said.

Three of the four pitchers that the Phillies used in the game — Hellickson, Hernandez and Gomez — are very much available for trades. They all pitched well with a gaggle of scouts sitting behind the backstop. A number of contending clubs — the Cubs, Orioles, Giants, Rangers and Blue Jays — had scouts at the game. Pitching, starting and relief, is high on the needs list for most of those teams.

Of course, the Marlins are looking for pitching, too. They have interest in Hellickson, though it’s not clear whether he is a top target of theirs. Maybe he will become a top target after what he’s done to the Marlins in the last week. Hellickson has pitched 14 innings over two starts against the Marlins. He has given up just six hits and a run.

“Just executing,” said the pitcher, explaining his success. “In my last two games the ball has been down for the most part. I’ve just gotten a lot of easy outs. The ball's down and not missing too many spots right now.”

Hellickson will be a free agent this winter and does not appear to be in the club’s future plan. Nonetheless, he has steadfastly said he would like to remain with the club for the rest of this season. Phillies management is not opposed to keeping Hellickson. He provides veteran stability and innings to a young rotation. But management would move Hellickson for a player that has the potential to help in the future.

Trade rumors can be distracting for a player. But Hellickson, who has been dealt twice in his career, is locked in.

“It doesn't bother me,” he said. “Once I'm in this locker room — obviously you still see it on TV and stuff — my focus is on helping us win today. Now it's on to the next start. It's been like this for a few years now so it's pretty easy to go out there right now.”

Mackanin said he had no idea what will become of Hellickson’s fate. But if the pitcher stays, he won’t complain.

“At this point, I don’t want to lose him,” Mackanin said. “I wish he could stay here. He’s that solid for us. He’s been like that the whole year.”

The Phillies needed a good pitching effort to pull this one out. Their hitters struck out 13 times, left 11 men on base and went just 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position.

“We don’t show plate discipline,” Mackanin lamented. “We’re taking fastballs early in the count that are hittable pitches. If you’re going to take fastballs early in the count that are hittable pitches, you cannot swing at breaking balls in the dirt. That’s all I can say about that. We have to have more plate discipline.”

On the positive side of that, Franco and Rupp both walked three times, and Franco’s two-out walk in the eighth became the biggest run of the game on a night when Jeremy Hellickson and his status with the Phillies was the biggest storyline.

Instant Replay: Phillies 4, Marlins 0

Instant Replay: Phillies 4, Marlins 0

BOX SCORE

MIAMI — Jeremy Hellickson continued to enhance his trade value and Tommy Joseph had the big hit in the Phillies’ 4-0 win over the Miami Marlins on Monday night.

Hellickson shut down the Marlins for the second time in a week. The next time he pitches, it could be for them. The Marlins are one of the teams interested in the veteran right-hander. Scouts from several other contending teams were in attendance for Hellickson’s strong outing.

Joseph’s two-out double in the top of the eighth broke a scoreless tie.

Phillies pitching held the Marlins to two hits. The Phils have 11 shutouts this season.

Starting pitching report
Hellickson pitched six scoreless innings and gave up just a hit and a walk while striking out one. He exited for a pinch-hitter after just 70 pitches. The right-hander has pitched 14 innings and allowed just one run in his last two starts, both against the Marlins. He has lowered his season ERA to 3.65.

Miami’s Jarred Cosart came up from Triple A and pitched five scoreless innings. However, he threw 92 pitches. He allowed three hits, a walk and struck out one.

Bullpen report 
Trade candidate David Hernandez pitched a strong seventh inning for the Phils, picking up the win. Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez closed it out.

Miami right-hander Kyle Barraclough came up big in the top of the seventh inning. He struck out Cody Asche, Peter Bourjos and pinch-hitter Ryan Howard with runners on second and third to preserve a 0-0 tie.

Marlins right-hander Fernando Rodney struck out the first two batters in the eighth then gave up a four-pitch walk to Maikel Franco before Joseph’s two-out double delivered the game’s first run.

Rodney took the loss.

A.J. Ramos was charged with three runs in the ninth, two unearned.

At the plate
The Phillies survived 13 strikeouts, a 1-for-9 performance with runners in scoring position and 11 men left on base to score the win.

The Phils had just six hits. Joseph had a pair of them and now has 25 RBIs in 54 games.

Cesar Hernandez gave the Phils some cushion with an RBI single in the top of the ninth. Miami’s defense fell apart after that and the Phils scored two more runs to put the game away.

Asche had a hit to break an 0-for-26 skid. Bourjos is 0 for his last 17.

Trade talk
Andres Blanco is out for six weeks so he’s no longer a trade candidate, but others are (see story).

Up next
Jerad Eickhoff (6-11, 3.98) pitches against Miami right-hander Tom Koehler (7-8, 4.42) on Tuesday night. Koehler pitched eight innings of two-run ball in beating the Phillies last week at Citizens Bank Park.