Does Steve Mason Spell the End for Ilya Bryzgalov in Philly?

Does Steve Mason Spell the End for Ilya Bryzgalov in Philly?

The Flyers lost out on Ryane Clowe, who wound up going to
the New York Rangers. They sat on their hands as Jaromir Jagr was shipped off
to the Boston Bruins. And according to reports, they were beat out for
26-year-old netminder Ben Bishop, who the Ottawa Senators wound up sending to
the Tampa Bay Lightning instead.

The Flyers did not come away empty-handed at the trade
deadline however, nor without a goalie, sending Michael Leighton and a
third-round pick in 2015 to Columbus in exchange for Steve Mason. With that, it
didn’t take very long for speculation to swirl over the future of one Ilya
Bryzgalov, because of course it didn’t.

Mason, 24, has been trending downward ever since his stellar
rookie season in 2008-09 when he led the NHL with 10 shutouts. He played just
46 games last season – the lowest total of his career – and finally surrendered
the starting job to Sergei Bobrovsky this year, posting a 3-6-1 record with a
2.95 goals against average and .899 save percentage.

Some have described it as ironic that the Flyers traded for
Bob’s backup. The real irony here is that they had to trade a goaltender
(Leighton) for goaltender help. But I digress.

Despite the fact that Mason has been increasingly less
impressive as the years have gone by, the natural leap is this acquisition sets
the team up to amnesty Bryzgalov in the offseason. This is fueled by several
factors, chiefly that there is some dissatisfaction with Bryz’s performance and
contract, but also that the Flyers were chasing young goalies at the deadline
to begin with.

There’s also the matter of Mason’s contract. He’ll become a
restricted free agent this summer, when at that time if the Flyers would like
to retain the player’s services they must render a qualifying offer that
matches his salary of $3.2 million, with a contract length of up to two years.

When combined with Bryzgalov’s average salary of $5.67 million,
that would be almost $9 million tied up in goaltending for the next two seasons.
That sounds like a lot.

So  a case can be made
that the Flyers are preparing to separate from Bryz, and the first step was to
acquire a cheaper option, in this case a salvage project. Paul Holmgren didn’t
exactly pour cold water all over the possibility, either. The general manager
told reporters the organization views Mason as part of the future.

“We see him as one of our two goalies, not only the rest of
this year, but moving forward," Holmgren said. "We’ll just leave it
at that for now.”

Then again, Homer was also optimistic they could reach a
deal with Mason that would pay him less than the value of the qualifying offer.
If that were true, it changes the dynamics quite a bit.

The Flyers have had to learn the hard way about going cheap
on a backup. We understood the reasoning behind it, that being Bryz is a goalie
who commands a lot of ice time, and they were up against the salary cap as
usual. Unfortunately it’s backfired. Head coach Peter Laviolette literally could
not afford to use Leighton or Brian Boucher, so Billy will be starting his 20th
straight game on Wednesday.

This trade may very well boil down to nothing more than
filling an obvious need. There’s even evidence to support that line of thinking.
Ed Snider defended Bryzgalov as recently as this past weekend, essentially
absolving the maligned netminder of the club’s issues.

“I don't think Bryzgalov has been the problem,” Snider said.
“I mean, he's had to face so many breakaways and 2-on-1s where we turn over the
puck suddenly. I think it's the team. I think we're fine in goal.”

Digging even further into the theory that ownership stands
behind Bryz is the reality that Snider wanted Homer to put an end to the goalie
carousel in Philly once and for all. You can argue whether signing the
cosmonaut to a nine-year deal – not to mention his 15-14-3 record, 2.81 GAA,
and .900 SV% this season – has truly accomplished that or not, yet where
exactly does Mason fit in with that vision?

Not to rule out the organization using amnesty on Bryzgalov
completely, if for no other reason than the Flyers might not wish to cut him
checks up to his 40th birthday, but this move doesn’t quite lend the appearance
that is indeed their intent. Bryz’s salary is not as excessive as many people
like to make it seem (8th in average salary among goalies this year), and the
front office doesn’t believe he’s the problem.

We shall see. As for the trade itself, it’s no blockbuster,
but certainly wise to pick up somebody that might be able to give Bryzgalov a
breather. Meanwhile, Mason flashed serious potential early in his career, so
who knows what could happen if he can recapture it. I’m just not convinced you’ll
ever see that for Philly on any kind of regular basis.

>>
Flyers acquire goalie Steve Mason from Columbus [CSN]

>> Flyers trade for goaltender Steve Mason [Frequent
Flyers]

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Eagles training camp Day 1 notes and observations: QB reps, Agholor and more

Eagles training camp Day 1 notes and observations: QB reps, Agholor and more

Day 1 is in the books. 

The Eagles practiced on the fields at the NovaCare Complex at 8:40 a.m. on Monday in 90-plus-degree weather. It was the first practice under new head coach Doug Pederson, who said he had trouble sleeping Sunday because of excitement and the massive thunderstorm that rolled through the area. 

For now, there are just 38 players (out of 90) in training camp. The rest of the team won’t report until Wednesday and the first full-team practice isn’t until Thursday afternoon. Pederson said the team will be in pads for the first time Saturday. The plan is to have pads on for three days, then off one, on three, etc. 

Here are some notes and observations from Day 1: 

Figuring out the reps
Four of the 38 players in camp right now are quarterbacks: Sam Bradford, Chase Daniel, Carson Wentz and recently-re-signed McLeod Bethel-Thompson. During the spring, while Bradford, Daniel and Wentz worked with the first, second and third teams, respectively, they did split reps evenly. 

Eventually, the bulk of those practice snaps will need to go to Bradford, as he prepares to be the starter. But does Pederson have a plan during camp? 

“Well, I'm not officially there yet,” he said. “I do know this: Your first two preseason games, typically your starters don't play a ton; you're trying to save them for that third game and get them ready for the regular season. So we'll focus on the twos and threes probably a little bit more early in camp, probably give them the bulk of the reps. Then we’ll ramp the guys up who we think are going to be the starters opening day, we'll get them more reps towards the end of camp.”

Pederson on Agholor
Second-year receiver Nelson Agholor won’t be reporting to camp until Wednesday, at which time he’ll finally be asked about his involvement in an incident at a gentlemen’s club in June. He was accused of sexual assault, but the district attorney decided there wasn’t enough evidence to charge him. 

Pederson said he hasn’t spoken to Agholor since the incident; he didn’t think it was necessary to speak to him at the time. Pederson did say the two of them will have a private chat once Agholor returns. 

“I'm still not going to comment too much on it,” Pederson said. “I just know this, that everybody, we all make mistakes, we learn from them, we move on, and we just look forward to him getting to camp and getting ready to go.”

The first three days
Training camp won’t really look or feel like training camp until Thursday, when the entire team practices together. Until then, it’s just a bunch of rookies and quarterbacks. 

Boring. 

But what does Pederson hope to accomplish during these days? 

“First of all, it's a great three days to get acclimated, number one, to the schedule,” he said. “It's great for the coaches to kind of get back into the swing of football and thinking football before we get the rest of the team in here. And then I think thirdly, just getting the quarterbacks in here and getting their arms loose and kind of getting into a full lather before they really get cranked up Friday, Saturday and the rest of camp.”

Observations
Not a ton of observations thanks to the lack of numbers in camp right now. But here are a few: 

• Credit Quentin Gause for the first kinda-hard hit of 2016 training camp. He popped Wendell Smallwood after the rookie running back caught a pass from Bradford during 7-on-7s. 

• Aaron Grymes, the former CFL cornerback, made a nice play down the left sideline to break up a Daniel pass to Marcus Johnson. Grymes has a little edge during camp right now because of his professional experience. 

• Johnson couldn’t haul that one in, but the wideout from Texas had a pretty good day, eventually grabbing some long balls. 

• Wentz, like he did in the spring, showed off the deep ball again Monday. He doesn’t always hit those passes — and some of them are ill-advised — but he likes to throw it deep more than Bradford and Daniel. 

• Former Oregon running back Byron Marshall, who missed all of OTAs thanks to the NCAA/NFL graduation rule, had a pretty nice day aside from a fumble. He is especially good catching the ball out of the backfield. 

• Because of the small numbers in camp right now, quarterback Bethel-Thompson played some tight end Monday and didn’t look great. At one point, a pass came his way and it looked like Gause might have interfered with him, while taking him to the ground. That red jersey doesn’t mean much when Bethel-Thompson lines up as a tight end. 

• A good sign for Smallwood: Saw him pick up a blitz without hesitation Monday. That’s important because that’s probably the area of his game that needs the most improvement. 

• The difference in the pace of practice between Pederson and Chip Kelly is shocking. There’s just a lot fewer plays run under Pederson, who chooses to do his coaching on the field instead of in the meeting room. At one point, there was about a 30-second delay between snaps. If that happened under Kelly, his head would have exploded. 

The Daily Show has a weird obsession with the Phillie Phanatic

phanatic-dailyshow.jpg
Daily Show Instagram

The Daily Show has a weird obsession with the Phillie Phanatic

Welcome America! The 2016 Democratic National Convention rolls into Philadelphia today and that means the national media's spotlight is squarely on our beautiful and angry city.

It also means thousands of media types will descend onto Philadelphia to sample our cheesesteaks and ... I'm not sure what else, maybe check out Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.

The Daily Show took this opportunity to show their love -- and totally normal obsession - with the Phillie Phanatic.

So kudos to the Daily Show for being the leader in the clubhouse of DNC peeps pandering to Philadelphians. This is solid.

Watch out, Philadelphia. @desilydic has a dark secret... #DNCinPHI #Phanatic

A video posted by The Daily Show (@thedailyshow) on

Phillies-Marlins 5 things: Could be locked-in Hellickson's final start with Phils

Phillies-Marlins 5 things: Could be locked-in Hellickson's final start with Phils

Phillies (45-55) at Marlins (53-45)
7:10 p.m. on CSN

After three straight series losses to begin the second half, the Phillies head to Miami for three games with the Marlins. It's the second leg of a 10-game road trip that takes the Phils to Atlanta for four games later in the week.

Let's take a look at the series opener:

1. Hellickson's sendoff?
Jeremy Hellickson makes his 21st and potentially final start for the Phillies tonight in South Florida. The Marlins are one of the teams after him, so it's possible he could just switch clubhouses later this week. 

Hellickson has boosted his trade value substantially over the last five weeks, posting a 2.54 ERA with five quality starts in six tries. He enters Monday's game 7-7 with a 3.84 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. Those are better and more consistent numbers than you'll find attached to many other pitchers on the trade market, rentals or otherwise. 

It was on this day last year that Cole Hamels threw a no-hitter against the Cubs which turned out to be the tipping point for the Rangers, who several days later traded the Phillies six players, four of whom were intriguing prospects now thriving in this organization. Hellickson isn't going to no-hit the Fish tonight, but if he has a similarly well-timed good start, it could result in a better return for the Phils this time around, too.

Hellickson's last start was against the Marlins in the only game in last week's four-game series that the Phillies won. He allowed one run on five hits over eight innings with eight strikeouts.

Hellickson's control has been superb this season. He's walked just 27 batters in 119⅔ innings, or 2.0 per nine innings. That's nearly a full walk per nine less than his previous career rate of 2.9. It's a major reason that Hellickson has been able to maintain a sub-4.00 ERA despite allowing 19 home runs in 20 starts.

2. Scouting Cosart
The Phillies will face their former farmhand Jarred Cosart, who is 0-1 with a 7.98 ERA in three starts this season. It's been a troubling year for Cosart, who missed a month with an oblique injury and has spent most of the season struggling at Triple A. He had a 5.22 ERA and 1.56 WHIP in 12 starts with Triple A New Orleans.

Way back in 2011, Cosart headlined the Astros' return in the Hunter Pence trade. Houston received Cosart, Jon Singleton, Josh Zeid and Domingo Santana for the rightfielder. None panned out in the Astros' organization, with Cosart getting traded three years later, Singleton continuing to struggle in the minors and Santana ending up in Milwaukee.

Cosart has disappointed the most of the bunch. After going 13-11 with a 3.69 ERA in 2014, his career has taken a downward trend. He's never been a big strikeout guy despite throwing in the mid-90s, and his control has always been poor. Cosart has walked 15 batters in 14⅔ innings this season and 4.3 per nine innings in his major-league career. 

He did have success, though, in three starts against the Phillies last season, going 1-1 with a 2.40 ERA and 12 strikeouts to three walks in 15 innings. But this lineup is much different than that one. 

Cosart is mostly a three-pitch pitcher who uses a cutter, sinker and curveball. The cutter is his main pitch, averaging 93 mph. 

3. Injuries piling up
In the span of just a few days, Maikel Franco was hit by a pitch on the wrist, Cameron Rupp was hit in the helmet and Andres Blanco fractured a finger. They've been three of the Phillies' five best offensive players this season.

Franco returned Sunday to replace Blanco, a good sign that he should be ready to go this week in Miami and Atlanta. But each Franco at-bat bears watching because wrist injuries can sap a player of his power. 

Rupp, too, could return to the starting lineup as soon as tonight after passing MLB's concussion protocol. He's hitting .276 with 17 doubles, 10 home runs and an .810 OPS in his breakout 2016 season.

4. Bourjos back to Earth
After hitting .410 in June, Peter Bourjos has hit .227 in July with a meager .263 on-base percentage. He's 4 for 36 (.111) over his last nine games with one walk, one RBI and 10 strikeouts.

Bourjos is another player the Phillies could trade this week to clear up room on the roster for Aaron Altherr and/or Nick Williams. In Bourjos and Jimmy Paredes, the Phils have replaceable outfielders who don't figure to factor too much into their future. It wouldn't simply be wishful thinking to say that by next week, the Phils' starting outfield could be Williams in left field, Odubel Herrera in center and Altherr in right.

Altherr's rehab assignment ends Wednesday. At that point the Phillies must decide whether to call him up or option him to Triple A. 

5. Almost Thompson time?
It's no coincidence that IronPigs ace Jake Thompson pitches tonight, the same night as Hellickson. Thompson would be a ready-made replacement for Hellickson in the rotation if/when Hellickson is dealt. Thompson is on a ridiculous roll at Triple A, having allowed just four earned runs over his last 62⅓ innings spanning nine starts. He's lowered his ERA from 4.23 to 2.29 over that stretch thanks to a sky-high rate of weak groundballs.

Even if Thompson were to struggle tonight, the Phillies would still likely turn to him to replace Hellickson. There doesn't seem to be much left for him to prove at Triple A, where every International League starting pitcher with an ERA even close to his 2.29 has been called up to the majors.