Chris Pronger Reacts to Flyers Blockbusters, Likes Fishing

Chris Pronger Reacts to Flyers Blockbusters, Likes Fishing

We polled you earlier on whether you thought the Flyers were closer to winning a Stanley Cup after Jeff Carter and Mike Richards were traded away and Ilya Bryzgalov was locked up long-term. During his conference call this afternoon, Chris Pronger was asked the same question.

Is the team closer to winning a Cup now?
 
“I don’t know.  I haven’t really thought about that too much.  I just heard about the trades last night so I haven’t really put a whole lot of thought to it, I’m up in the bush with my kids, fishing.  I haven’t put the Xs and Os together – I’m sure you guys have looked at it seven ways from Sunday and tried to figure out who wins or loses.  At the end of the day, as I said before, having been traded a number of times, it’s always difficult.  They both played their hearts out in Philly, but sometimes as I said, you’ve got to make tough decisions and you’ve got to make moves, and sometimes it may hurt and may feel like you’re making your team worse to make it better," Pronger said. [full transcript below]

What was your reaction to yesterday’s events? 

“I think when you make a move like that to get a goalie and you’ve got to pay him, you’ve got to get the money somewhere.  Time and again in the salary cap era, you’ve got to give to get.  Unfortunately for us, those two guys were traded.  It sucks as a teammate.  You hate to see guys go.  They were for all intents and purposes the face of the franchise for four of those six years, if not for the six years they were here.  I’m sure it’s tough for them.  The Philadelphia Flyers, it’s all they really know.  I’ve gone through it a number of times, and sometimes a move is healthy for you.” 

Were you able to reach out to Jeff or Mike? 

“I’m going to give them a call today.  Having gone through it a number of times, you kind of need a day to gather your thoughts and kind of get your wits about you.  It’s certainly not an easy thing.  I think it makes it a little bit easier that they’re both single and don’t have to lug around kids and logistically and that stuff, but it’s still very tough to be traded and I’m sure both of them have mixed emotions.” 

Is the team closer to winning a Cup now? 

 “I don’t know.  I haven’t really thought about that too much.  I just heard about the trades last night so I haven’t really put a whole lot of thought to it, I’m up in the bush with my kids, fishing.  I haven’t put the Xs and Os together – I’m sure you guys have looked at it seven ways from Sunday and tried to figure out who wins or loses.  At the end of the day, as I said before, having been traded a number of times, it’s always difficult.  They both played their hearts out in Philly, but sometimes as I said, you’ve got to make tough decisions and you’ve got to make moves, and sometimes it may hurt and may feel like you’re making your team worse to make it better.”  

Does this team have a better locker room today? 

“I don’t know.  I don’t really know those other guys they brought in.  I played against Wayne Simmonds for one or two years when I was in Anaheim, but other than that, when you play on the East Coast, you don’t really play the West very often, and vice-versa.  When I was coming out here I didn’t really know many of the guys here, because I’d played in the West pretty much my whole career.  I can’t really speak to that right now, having no luxury to know any of the three guys we picked up.” 

Did you think there was a problem in the room? 

 “I don’t think anybody would say a year ago when we went to the Stanley Cup Final that there was a chemistry problem.  [That year] I think our play was very inconsistent, and we were trying to find ourselves as a team with a new coach and a new system.  I think the players were trying to find where they needed to be and how we needed to play to be successful as a group.  Last year, you’re coming off a tough defeat in the Stanley Cup Final in overtime, we got off to a good start, and nobody seemed to think we had a problem then.  As the season wore on, for whatever reason, we just didn’t turn that corner and continue to get better and peak at the right time.  That’s disappointing, and it’s tough.  I don’t think there was necessarily a rift, I think we just needed more life in the locker room.  It all has to do with your play on the ice.  If you’re playing well on the ice, there’s never any questions as to who’s doing what or is there a rift, does this guy like that guy, and all of the rest of the stuff that gets thrown out.  If you play well on the ice, nobody wants to write about that because everything’s going good.” 

Do you want to be the captain? 

 “You know what, I haven’t put much thought in it to be honest with you.  This is all very, very fresh to a lot of us.  Obviously I’d have to talk to Homer and Lavi and see what their thoughts are, and kind of go from there.  You don’t nominate yourself.  I’ve never been part of a team where somebody nominates himself.  I think that may be a little bit premature to start talking about stuff like that.  It’s one day after two huge trades on our team and in the history of the Flyers, so I don’t think that’s in anybody’s minds right now.”

Roland Alberg's goal, assist propel Union past Sporting Kansas City, 2-0

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Roland Alberg's goal, assist propel Union past Sporting Kansas City, 2-0

CHESTER, Pa. -- Roland Alberg entered the game at the perfect time.

With his club holding the man advantage as a result of Jimmy Medranda’s second yellow card in the 57th minute, Union manager Jim Curtin tapped Alberg off the bench to replace Fabian Herbers in the 65th minute. 

Two minutes later, the Union took the lead. From the left side, Fabinho found Alberg at the top of the box, where he teed off a shot at that ripped past Alec Kann to open scoring in the eventual 2-0 Union win over Sporting Kansas City on Saturday at Talen Energy Stadium.

It was Alberg’s ninth goal of the season.

The Union now have wins in back-to-back games for the first time since March, pushing their record to 11-9-7 and temporarily jumping them over the New York Red Bulls for third in the Eastern Conference. SKC falls to 11-12-5.

Facing Sporting Kansas City at Talen Energy Stadium for the first time since the 2015 U.S. Open Cup title game, the Union, who lost that game in penalty kicks, wanted to dictate tempo. However, the club was unable to break down SKC’s stout midfield until the red cards started flying.

Already down a man, things began to unravel for SKC in the 87th minute, when Roger Espinoza was shown a straight red for tossing what appeared like an inadvertent elbow to the midsection of Alberg. 

In stoppage time, up two men, the Union put the exclamation point on the win. Alberg found Tranquillo Barnetta in an open pocket of the SKC defense, and with space, the Swiss veteran placed his shot to the right and in, sealing the 2-0 win.

Joel Embiid says he's '100 percent' back from foot injury, excited to play with Ben Simmons

Joel Embiid says he's '100 percent' back from foot injury, excited to play with Ben Simmons

Avalon, N.J. -- Joel Embiid has been waiting since 2014 to make his NBA debut. Two years later, the former third overall pick is nearing that day.

“I feel a hundred percent,” Embiid said Saturday at the Sixers Beach Bash. “I’m ready to get started. My summer has been great. We’ve been working out a lot this past summer, just getting some runs in. I’ve gotten a chance to play a little bit against the guys.” 

Embiid’s pro career has been sidelined by injuries, undergoing two foot surgeries in as many years. The first was to repair a stress fracture in his right navicular bone. The second, a bone-graft operation on the same bone. 

The 7-foot-2 big man has been rehabbing since then, traveling as far as Qatar in the process. This offseason Embiid was cleared for monitored, five-on-five drills. He joined the Sixers during the Las Vegas Summer League to continue his recovery away from game competition.

“It’s been really tough,” Embiid said. “The main thing is, I haven’t gotten a chance to get on the court and play, or help my teammates, or play in front of Sixers fans. I look forward to it and I can’t wait.”

Embiid said he “definitely” plans to be a go for training camp. He expects there will be a transition period once cleared to play given the length of his rehab, but notes he is a quick learner. Embiid also anticipates having restrictions, but has not discussed the specifics with the Sixers. 

“Probably,” he said. “But I think the restrictions would probably be about the fact that I haven’t played in two years. It’s not going to be about because people are worried that I’m going to re-injure myself, which I don’t think is going to happen.”

One player who is eager for Embiid’s return is rookie first overall pick Ben Simmons. The two have been friends since high school. They easily gel off the court, and plan to do the same in games. 

“He has great footwork, he has great touch, so I’m looking forward to playing with him,” Simmons said, continuing, “Off the court, we’re like brothers. We have fun.” 

Embiid has been present with the Sixers for games and practices. He has had numerous conversations with head coach Brett Brown about his days on the San Antonio Spurs coaching staff and how the organization achieved success with fellow big Tim Duncan, one of Embiid’s basketball role models. 

With an abundance of bigs, the Sixers will have to determine how they share the floor. For Embiid, who can also knock down long-range shots, he plans to fill whatever role the coaches outline for him.

“I think I’ll take a couple threes, but I’ll do what’s best for the team and whatever I’ll feel comfortable doing,” he said. “Obviously they’re going to need my presence inside and that’s what I’m going to do. But when I’m open, I might fire some threes.”

After a series of setbacks, Embiid is enthusiastic about the thought of making his NBA debut. 

“It feels great,” he said. “Especially after the past two years, I haven’t been able to do what I love. It just feels great.”  

A.J. Ellis still adjusting, learning names as he joins the Phillies

A.J. Ellis still adjusting, learning names as he joins the Phillies

NEW YORK – It wasn’t easy leaving the only professional organization he’d ever been part of, but new Phillie A.J. Ellis, acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Carlos Ruiz trade Thursday, is coming to terms with it.

“To find out that the trade went down, it was hard,” Ellis said upon reporting to his new club Saturday. “It was so immediate and sudden, really hard to say goodbye to a lot of relationships I had been blessed to forge for more than a decade.

“But the waves of emotion are getting farther and farther apart, which is a good thing.”

Ellis, 35, was drafted by the Dodgers in 2003 and rose to the majors with them in 2008. With the Phillies, he will serve a similar role to the one he played with the Dodgers – backup catcher. Ellis wasted no time getting to know the pitching staff he will now work with. He arrived at Citi Field early Saturday afternoon and caught Jake Thompson and Jerad Eickhoff in their between-starts bullpen sessions.

Ellis said “Eichorn” when referring to Eickhoff. He’s forgiven. It’s been a whirlwind week.

“See?” he said. “I’m still learning names.”

Ellis, who served as the personal catcher for Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw, was blindsided by the trade.

“When I was summoned to the ballpark, that’s never really a good thing, especially when the front office wants to meet with you as far as where you’re at with the club, you know some kind of transition is happening,” he said. “The first 12 hours were definitely the hardest.

“But to arrive here and arrive in the clubhouse, meeting the staff, I’m starting to feel re-energized, refilled with a sense of purpose as to why I’ve been placed here, and why this is where I need to be at this time. I’m excited about that.

"I know I have huge shoes to fill. Carlos Ruiz is such a fixture in the Phillies organization. The work that he’s done here behind the plate, you can’t fill. This guy is a world champion catcher who has been back there for so many great baseball memories. So it’s up to me to do my part to fill the void.”

Manager Pete Mackanin thought about putting Ellis in the lineup Saturday night then had some mercy when he figured facing hard-throwing Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard might not be the best indoctrination for a guy who just flew cross-country. Ellis is likely to start Sunday afternoon’s series finale and catch Vince Velasquez.

That doesn’t mean he wasn’t asked to make a contribution to Saturday night’s game. Mackanin said he wanted Ellis to speak with the Phillies hitters about the weaknesses the Dodger pitchers tried to exploit.

“We talk to them about this stuff all the time, but it might help to hear it from an outside source,” Mackanin said.

Ellis left a first-place club for a rebuilding team. That’s not easy. He has come to terms with that. He likes the young talent on the Phillies’ roster and hopes to help it come to flower.

“Guys are playing for their careers,” he said. “Guys are playing to make their mark in this game and create a winning franchise once again in Philadelphia. 

"You see the talent, you see their desire to learn, their desire to get better. You just know the youth on this staff, the talent level on this staff. And if I can in some short time here impact some wisdom on those guys, share some of the wisdom along the way that I’ve picked up from some great mentors I’ve had in my time in the game, I need to pay it back, from what all has been given to me.”

Ellis hit just .197 with a .285 on-base percentage in 53 games for the Dodgers this season. That’s one of the reasons the Dodgers acquired Ruiz – to get more production from their right-handed-hitting backup catcher. Ruiz had a .369 on-base percentage at the time of the trade.

Phillies’ general manager Matt Klentak was “adamant” that Ellis come back on the deal because he wanted someone who could fill Ruiz’ void on (behind the plate) and off (with clubhouse leadership) the field. Ellis’ time with the Phillies might be short. He will be a free agent at the end of the season and his playing time might be scant as September unfolds. The Phils will probably add prospect Jorge Alfaro to the catching mix sometime during that month. Management seems eager to get a look at him while still getting No. 1 catcher Cameron Rupp the game reps he needs.