Fan Rant: Letting Loose on the Penguins

Fan Rant: Letting Loose on the Penguins

Level reader and creator of the great Philly Sports Power Hour video, John Gallagher, sends in a Bundy-like rant of his own. These are his words.

In Philadelphia, we’ve always enjoyed making a mockery of the Pittsburgh Penguins fan base.

Where do we start? Their love for soft, whiny players who always get their way? The fact that it's only because of Lemieux that their team isn’t playing in Kansas City? The
fact that most of them wear those shiny new bandwagon baby blues after the empty
hockey building in Pittsburgh welcomed three straight number one or two overall
draft picks? Pittsburgh was given it all.

But this isn’t about the Pittsburgh fans. It’s about their beloved team, who until now
was always perceived as a talented, hardworking franchise with at least an ounce
of respect.

That all changed on Sunday.

The world finally got to see the Penguins for who they really are. They put on the
most gutless display of hockey seen in years. It’s one thing to fight—to challenge an
opponent. That’s fair; that’s hockey. That’s actually what Philadelphia enjoys and
respects. It’s another thing to take unwarranted runs at talented young players with
a clear intent to injure. It’s beyond disgraceful and disrespectful. It’s cowardly.

The Penguins captain, Sidney Crosby, started everything and finished nothing.

I love fighting and rough play in this league, but it’s the not the same anymore. Why? Because it was changed for Crosby.

People love to praise Crosby as one of the world’s best players—his strength on his skates, his unreal stickhandling and playmaking ability. But some people who have never played hockey don’t understand how he truly works. Philadelphians don’t chant “Crosby sucks” because of his abilities—his skill level is on another planet; Philadelphians chant that because they can see straight through him.

He’s a phony. The antithesis of our ideal hockey player—a dirty coward who dives and starts fights but doesn’t finish them himself.

It’s a catch-22 for a defender. He knows Crosby’s strong on his skates. He creates space on the ice because honestly, yes, he’s damn good and fast. The defender plays him as hard as he can, but the problem is that he knows if he so much as taps him the wrong way, he’s going down, diving. And Crosby’s going to the get the call more often than not, because the league protects its “superstar.”

How do you, as a player, prevent that? You either defend him and get called, or back off and run a greater risk his talent prevails with a goal. That’s how he’s created himself; that’s how he creates space on the ice. Not merely because of his playmaking/scoring ability, but his diving/coercing ability. How can a hockey fan honestly respect that? His slashes and other on-ice antics could fill an entire article by itself. There are countless examples of every sneaky dive from Crosby, and it’s obviously contagious on the team.

Even though the Flyers were branded as the Broad Street Bullies (only after they were bludgeoned by the St. Louis Blues early in their existence) and they’re known for being aggressive, as a Flyers fan, I’ve never enjoyed dirty hits or unnecessary runs. I’ve always cringed when I see nasty, disrespectful things. But the Flyers are well aware of their aggressive reputation, and they know the second anything is questionable, it’s going against them. There is a code on the ice. If you’re challenged, you answer the bell. I’ve always been proud of the Flyers for largely sticking to it. Case in point: Mike Richards fought David Booth.

This current Flyers team is a bunch of kids, nothing like the team, or the sport, in the 70s. However, the Penguins made it perfectly clear yesterday that they were going to be relentlessly dirty in an age when their sport protects its stars from the very actions they displayed.

Not a proud day in Penguins history, and even their own fans are proclaiming their disgust.

In the first period when the Flyers were up 3-1, I could sense and see it; the Penguins were going after Flyers, and they needed to worry about injuries at that point. Matt Cooke, who has been surprisingly calm collected (probably because after being the dirtiest player in the league, he only has one more strike) took a run at Jagr at center ice. You could argue he was trying to disrupt a stick handling legend. It was clearly a run, though.

But it was only the start. It didn’t take long after that to realize the Penguins weren’t trying to score or prevent goals anymore. They were trying to disrupt the Flyers’ momentum. But the blatant intent to injure, the unprovoked picking on smaller, younger kids is what I have a huge problem with, and that was the Penguins’ mission.

Here are just a few specifics:

1) Crosby started almost everything. The ridiculous hacking of Bryzgalov’s glove after a play and then hitting away at Voracek’s glove as a scrum dissipated. Jumping Kimmo Timonen. All on one shift. Cute, Crosby.

2) He got away with a vicious slash on Talbot, his long-time friend. No call.

3) Crosby wouldn’t drop the gloves, yet he punched randomly with the gloves on. Never once did he truly answer the bell.

4) The fight with Giroux doesn’t count. Did you see how quickly the referee jumped in? Crosby didn’t start throwing punches until the referee stepped in. The unwritten code is if you initiate things in the National Hockey League, you need to finish them, but that’s the captain of the Penguins for you.

5) Arron Asham crosschecking Brayden Schenn in the neck, then punching him in the head as he went to the ice. Brutal. The start of the unraveling of the Penguins.

6) James Neal plowing Sean Couturier without the puck, not looking. Unnecessary. Unprovoked. Yet, no game misconduct?

7) James Neal, again literally going for Claude Giroux’s head. Unnecessary. Unprovoked. Clear intent to injure. Possibly incurring a concussion. Easily suspendable.

8) Crosby horse-collars Hartnell. Lays a good hook into him. Starts everything and keeps his mouth guard in, with his gloves and helmet on. Won’t fight Schenn.

9) Then Craig Adams, third man in, is punching Hartnell from behind before actually fighting.

10) Zac Rinaldo got a game misconduct for trying to respond, not Neal or Crosby. So where does the league stand?

Not once did the Flyers take a serious run at Crosby or Malkin. The Flyers, thankfully, took the high road. They fought back, but didn’t stoop to the same level of cheap-shotting. That’s a testament to Laviolette, his team, and their mission.

It doesn’t take a genius to see who’s in the wrong and who’s in the right.

Bylsma has been pushing this crap because his “world
class” players have been dominated by a bunch of kids. That’s why Laviolette pointed at him. It was to call him out for being the disrespectful hack he truly is.

Finally the world got to the see the Penguins, and Sidney Crosby for who they really are. Crosby’s always been known as a diver and a whiner. Pens fans loved to wash aside those comments as Philadelphians were “jealous” or “paranoid.”

Hockey fans are finally starting to wake up, and even most Pens fans can’t defend their team during this series.

Bitter. Arrogant. Cowardly. Gutless.

And, hopefully, the first chapter a Flyers’ Cup run.

Go Flyers.

Gary Bettman talks NHL expansion, missing Ed Snider's presence, 2018 Winter Olympics

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Gary Bettman talks NHL expansion, missing Ed Snider's presence, 2018 Winter Olympics

PITTSBURGH -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman offered no clues on Monday during his annual Stanley Cup Final address as to the state of NHL expansion or the current odds that Las Vegas gets a franchise.
 
The league’s Board of Governors will meet on June 22 to make a decision on expansion. The earliest a team(s) could play would be 2017-18.
 
Quebec City is also in the running, but the value of the Canadian dollars weighs heavily against another team being added north of the border at the moment.
 
If a Vegas franchise is added, it would have a direct impact on Pacific Division clubs such as the Sharks, who take on the Penguins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final Monday night at CONSOL Energy Center.
 
Bettman refused to “handicap” the situation but said he expected to know at least a week in advance as to what the committee’s recommendation will be.
 
Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said there are “a lot of on-going” issues related to expansion and some involve input from third parties.
 
“We’ve made good progress ... it hasn’t been quick progress,” Daly said.
 
Asked about rumors of the NFL, specifically the Oakland Raiders, going to Vegas and what that impact would mean to hockey, Bettman said he hasn’t even broached the topic of having two pro sports there with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or even considered such.
 
“If the NFL comes to Vegas at some point, so be it,” Bettman said. “We’re judging the application we have before us on the merits of that application.”
 
Bettman said the thought the NFL moving to Vegas, in his opinion, wasn’t “anywhere close to a done deal.”
 
Daly added that even if there is movement by the NFL toward Vegas, it would not be seen as a “deterrent” to the NHL expanding there.
 
Snider not replaced
Bettman said that former Flyers chairman Ed Snider’s spot on the 10-person executive and competition committees has not been filled since Snider's death in April.
 
Snider was an original member of the league’s competition committee and the only owner on it.
 
“He was a great owner and is terribly missed,” Bettman said.

More Olympic issues  
IOC President Thomas Bach and IIHF President Rene Fasel have gone on record they want to end paying the out-of-pocket expenses for NHL players to attend the Olympics.
 
That’s a non-starter for the NHL if both organizations want participation of the NHL's players at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. The practice of subsidy has been in effect for the past five Winter Olympics.
 
“If they are unable to resolve the issue, I have no doubt it will have an impact on our decision,” Bettman said, adding the NHL would have to take a hard look at continued Olympic participation since its member clubs aren’t interested in putting up the “many, many millions” it would take to make up the financial gap.
 
Whenever there is change in the IOC leadership, Bettman said, there are always discussions of whether some sports, such as hockey, should receive subsidies.

P.J. Carlesimo turns down Sixers' associate head coach job for 'family reasons'

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P.J. Carlesimo turns down Sixers' associate head coach job for 'family reasons'

Thirty-five years is more than enough time to get a sense of who a person is and how they do their job. That is how long Brett Brown has known P.J. Carlesimo, which made it easy for the Sixers' head coach to have interest in adding him to the staff. 

With Mike D’Antoni leaving to coach the Rockets, the Sixers had a vacancy at the associate head coach position. On Sunday, though, Carlesimo decided not to join the Sixers’ staff and remain a television analyst.

“He was a natural fit for me,” Brown said Monday following a pre-draft workout. “For family reasons, he just couldn’t do it. We talked a lot and it was an emotional thing from P.J.’s perspective. 

“P.J. is a very close friend of mine and he made that decision for family reasons and I understand it. The phone call really didn’t surprise me knowing what I know of him and how he views his family, having to travel across the country the whole time.”

Like D’Antoni, Carlesimo has a lengthy résumé on the NBA sidelines. He was a head coach for parts of nine seasons and worked five as an assistant coach. Brown called working with D’Antoni “a real learning experience,” and an ideal candidate would have similar experience to help both the staff and the young roster.

“That role will be filled with maybe that type of flavor,” Brown said. “I know this, we are still in a complete development mode. We still have a bunch of 20 year olds, guys that could be with us for a long time, but they’re not old, that we have to make sure that the city and me, we remember that. We still need people and teachers that can teach and coach and establish relationships. 

“So you tick boxes on relationships, teaching, development, those still rule the day. If you can do that with some veteran wisdom and some type of experiences like Mike’s, say, or P.J. had, well then you’re really knocking it out of the park.”

Coaching vacancies are coveted at this level. With the No. 1 pick in the draft, a revamped front office, and a 125,000-square foot training facility under construction, the Sixers have enhanced the appeal of the role. 

"My phone is very active, as you can imagine," Brown said. "I think it’s a highly attractive position. … Like our draft picks, I too spend a lot of time studying who will be the best fit for me and our program."

Tonight's Lineup: Ryan Howard (surprisingly) starts at 1B

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Tonight's Lineup: Ryan Howard (surprisingly) starts at 1B

So much for trimming Ryan Howard's playing time.

One day after Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said he plans on giving 24-year-old Tommy Joseph more starts against right-handed pitchers, Mackanin flipped the switch Monday.

Howard is penciled in as the starting first baseman for the Phils' series-opener against the Nationals on Monday night at Citizens Bank Park against Tanner Roark (3-4, 2.71).

After the Phillies were clobbered by the MLB-best Chicago Cubs on Sunday — and the weekend, really — Mackanin said the Phils have to get a longer look at Joseph.

"We brought up Joseph up here for a reason, to get a look at him," the manager said after the Phillies' 7-2 on Sunday afternoon (see story). "I can't let him stagnate on the bench like (Darin) Ruf ended up doing, so he's going to face some right-handed pitchers to keep his timing."

Joseph will have to wait another day to get in the lineup. To be fair, Joseph did face five righties last week, but three of those came with the designated hitter in play.

For Howard, however, the club icon is in a major rut that has had many outsiders calling for him to retire or for the team to release him. He's hitting .154 with eight home runs and 18 RBIs in 136 at-bats and is 6 for 62 (.097) with 25 strikeouts in May.

Here's the silver lining, however. Howard is a career .333 hitter in 12 at-bats against Roark, who he's taken deep once and has six RBIs against.

The Phillies turn to Jeremy Hellickson (4-3, 3.97) to snap their three-game skid. He's faced the Nationals twice this season, allowing six — five earned — runs over 10⅓ innings.

Here is the Phillies' full lineup:

Phillies
1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Carlos Ruiz, C
6. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
7. Tyler Goeddel, LF
8. Jeremy Hellickson, P
9. Peter Bourjos, RF

For more on tonight's game, check out Steven Tyding's game notes.