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.

NFL Notes: Atlanta, Miami, Los Angeles awarded Super Bowls

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NFL Notes: Atlanta, Miami, Los Angeles awarded Super Bowls

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- If you spend billions of dollars to build it, they will come.

Three times over.

The NFL awarded Super Bowls to Atlanta, Miami and Los Angeles, three cities that made significant financial investments in new stadiums or recently upgraded an existing one. Atlanta will host the game in 2019, followed by Miami (2020) and Los Angeles (2021), it was announced Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings.

"I think if they find guys like me that are willing to do it, I think they want to show them that it is worthwhile," Rams owner Stan Kroenke said.

Atlanta will host its third Super Bowl, but the first at its new $1.4 billion stadium which opens in 2017. The previous two were at the Georgia Dome.

Miami will have its record-setting 11th Super Bowl following a $450 million stadium renovation.

Los Angeles, which gets the relocated Rams this season, has not had a Super Bowl in the area since 1993 in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The game will be played at the new $2.6 billion stadium in Inglewood, California, which opens in 2019.

Tampa Bay and New Orleans were also in the running to host a Super Bowl (see full story).

Steelers: Bell believes Bengals targeted him
PITTSBURGH -- Le'Veon Bell considers the first injury of his NFL career -- a sprained foot in a preseason game three years ago -- a freak accident.

The last two? Not so much.

The Pittsburgh Steelers running back took the field with his teammates Tuesday for the first time since tearing the MCL in his right knee last November against Cincinnati. Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict twisted Bell awkwardly as the two tumbled out of bounds just a few yards away from where Bell's 2014 season ended after taking a shot to the same knee from Cincinnati's Reggie Nelson.

Burfict celebrated openly as Bell writhed in pain, a memory that lingers even after Burfict reached out on social media in March to express support as Bell worked his way through rehab.

"Obviously it looked like they were happy about it," Bell said. "I'll take the liberty of just thinking everybody plays just football to love the game. But people aren't out here playing like that. People are playing to take people out. Obviously I know that now" (see full story).

Cardinals: Fitzgerald not thinking beyond this season
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Larry Fitzgerald has been an Arizona Cardinal all 12 of his NFL seasons, breaking every franchise receiving record along the way.

Now, he enters the final year of a two-year, $22 million contract, and he said Tuesday that he doesn't even think about whether he will play football beyond this season, with the Cardinals or anyone else.

"We're just in OTAs right now, man," he said. "We've got training camp and minicamp and the regular season. We've got a long ways to go before that's even a point of discussion. So I'm enjoying this. I'm trying to make it the best year yet."

Fitzgerald will turn 33 before next season begins. And last season proved he remains one of the most prolific receivers in the NFL.

"I think Larry has a lot of tread left on the tire," Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. "Obviously he's in the last year of his deal. That's out of my pay scale. But obviously I think he's still got juice in the system" (see full story).

Report: Sixers attend New York workout for Ingram, Murray, Maker

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Report: Sixers attend New York workout for Ingram, Murray, Maker

The Sixers are taking their talent evaluation on the road.

On Tuesday, members of the front office attended a workout for Excel Sports Management in New York, which included Brandon Ingram, the projected No. 1 or No. 2 pick in the 2016 NBA draft, Jamal Murray, a projected lottery pick, and Thon Maker, according to the Inquirer.

The Sixers have held two workouts at their own facility, and it is common for teams to attend organized workouts for higher-rated prospects. Head coach Brett Brown, managing owner Josh Harris and vice president of player personnel Marc Eversley traveled to the session, but president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo was in Toronto for his son's high school graduation, according to the report.

The Sixers hold the first, 24th and 26th picks in the upcoming draft. The decision between one and two is widely considered to be between Ingram and Ben Simmons (see story). The Sixers have the assets on their roster to move up from Nos. 24 and 26 through a trade, which makes scouting prospects outside of the top two an integral part to their evaluation.

The team has worked out 12 players in Philadelphia and will continue to do so up until the draft on June 23. 

10 observations from Eagles OTA practice Tuesday

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10 observations from Eagles OTA practice Tuesday

Finally some nice weather.

The Eagles began their second round of OTAs on Tuesday under the beaming sun, in near-80 degree temperatures. That’s a departure from the first day of rookie camp and the first day of last week’s OTAs, which both brought rain.

So without the confinements of the practice bubble and without a slick football, we got a chance to see the 2016 Eagles in desirable conditions Tuesday.

Here are 10 observations from Tuesday’s practice:

1. Overall, a pretty sloppy day for the defense. As soon as the team portion of the practice began, Sam Bradford got the defensive line to jump about three times in the first several plays of practice. Late in the practice, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz had enough and ripped into a second-year defensive back.

During his nearly 30-minute press conference after practice, Schwartz was asked about his past experience grooming a first-round quarterback (Matthew Stafford), but said he doesn’t have much time to worry about Carson Wentz.

“We’ve got enough worries on defense right now,” he said.

2. If you’re looking for a bright spot on defense, we’ll offer up rookie defensive back Jalen Mills. On Tuesday, Mills got a chance to work against the first-team offense in the Nickel package. When Mills came on the field, Ron Brooks moved inside, while Leodis McKelvin remained outside.

Mills made the defensive play of the day, when he got in between Jordan Matthews and a deep sideline pass.

“He’s been impressive so far,” Schwartz said of the seventh-rounder Mills. “But we haven’t even really started yet, to tell you the truth.”

Schwartz said the team wanted to see how Mills would look going against veterans; before Tuesday, he had mostly been going against rookies.

“We don’t have a depth chart right now,” Schwartz cautioned.

While those three worked with the first team on Tuesday, there could be different players there Wednesday. And Nolan Carroll, who’s still recovering, isn’t yet able to do team drills.

3. Rueben Randle (gallbladder surgery) and Ryan Mathews (illness) both missed practice on Tuesday, which gave some other guys more reps.

At running back, it meant Kenjon Barner worked with the first team, while rookie fifth-rounder Wendell Smallwood worked with the twos. With Mathews out and with Darren Sproles still away, the team had just three running backs suited up on Tuesday. Barner looked pretty good with the first team on Tuesday.

The starting widouts were Nelson Agholor, Josh Huff and Jordan Matthews. When all three were on the field, Matthews was mostly in the slot. But one guy who did a lot with his reps on Tuesday was free-agent signing Chris Givens. Now, obviously, these guys are still in shorts, but Givens showed off his speed and hands. He’s making a push for the roster as the last receiver to make the team.

4. Fletcher Cox is still not with the team (see story). Last week, during the open practice, Taylor Hart worked next to Bennie Logan in his spot. Tuesday, it was free-agent pickup Mike Martin.

“I’ve been working with them,” Martin said after practice. “We’ve been switching and working both sides. But it’s a great advantage to be able to work with the first-team guys and get those reps.”

5. You’re probably wondering how Wentz looked. He again showed off his strong arm on Tuesday, while working with the threes. Overall, he probably had the best day of the quarterbacks.

He delivered a perfect 25-yard sideline pass to Givens over the shoulder. On another play, he tripped over his offensive lineman’s foot, but was still able to complete an out to Trey Burton while falling. That’s all arm strength, because he couldn’t use his legs to complete the pass.

The one thing we have seen a couple times from Wentz is this: he has a strong arm, but sometimes he has overthrown his targets. Nothing major yet, but something to keep an eye on.

6. Jordan Hicks was back at MIKE with the defense during Tuesday’s team portion of practice, which is a good sign for a team that’s relying on him heavily. Last Tuesday, he was held out with some tightness in his legs.

While Hicks has been playing the middle linebacker spot, Schwartz talked about the versatility of that group.

“All of those guys are pretty much interchangeable, and you have to be now,” Schwartz said.

7. Last Tuesday, head coach Doug Pederson said Cody Parkey wouldn’t be a full-go until perhaps training camp, but the kicker was hitting field goals on Tuesday and looked pretty good.

He did miss about a 43-yarder, but he still has a really good shot to make the team over Caleb Sturgis, who did a nice job filling in last season. It’s not definitely Parkey’s job yet, though. Sturgis looked good Tuesday and that’ll definitely be a competition to watch come training camp.

8. Donnie Jones is the only punter left in the building after the team cut Ryan Quigley earlier this week.

Jones celebrated by booming several punts on Tuesday. He’s still pretty good.

9. Burton has been moving around the field quite a bit in the early going. He’s been lining up on the line as a tight end, in the backfield as a fullback and in the slot as a receiver. It’s pretty clear that in some packages, Pederson and the offense will have a fullback of some kind.

Come training camp, when the hitting begins, Burton will really need to show he can handle that role.

10. Perhaps the most notable change in practice under Pederson, as opposed to Chip Kelly, comes in the form of pace. Under Kelly, the emphasis was on running as many plays as possible in the time allotted, which meant correcting mistakes after practice.

“His approach was to get no-huddle,” left guard Allen Barbre said of Kelly (more on Barbre). “If you stop to correct it all the time, you wouldn’t be getting a no-huddle practice.”

Under Pederson, there’s much more on-field teaching during practice. At one point on Tuesday, Pederson actually stopped the practice, taught technique and made them run it again. Under Kelly, the offense would have been five plays down the line.