Flyers 0-3, Time to Panic?

Flyers 0-3, Time to Panic?

Out of sync would probably be the simplest way to describe
the Flyers through three games so far, but at least in the first two they
managed to make it competitive. On Tuesday night in Newark, they had dug
themselves into a hole little more than a minute into the game, and kept on
digging until it was 3-0 Devils early in the second period, which wound up the final
tally.

Not much has gone right for Philadelphia. Cluade Giroux is
doing his thing, lighting the lamp twice this season already, or the equivalent
of two-thirds of Philly’s goals. Ilya Bryzgalov looks sharp enough, though you wouldn’t
know it from looking at his stats thanks to the numerous breakdowns in front
of him. There are rumblings that 18-year-old Scott Laughton could stick with
the big club, so I suppose that’s positive.

Then there are these special teams numbers which tell a big part of the
story. The Flyers have scored one power play goal on 15 tries, tied for the
third-highest number of opportunities in the NHL. They have allowed opponents
to convert on six of 16 tries, both the goals allowed and amount of times they were
short-handed being tied for the most in the league. Their power-play (6.7%) and
penalty-kill percentages (62.5%) rank 27th and 25th respectively.

Then there are the things you can’t necessarily quantify.
The lack of chemistry has been disappointing on every line starting from the
top. Everybody is playing the same sloppy brand of post-lockout hockey, but the
Flyers really seem to be pressing more than others, forcing bad passes in the
offensive and neutral zones, and making generally poor decisions with or
without the puck all-around.

When you list it all like that, it sounds heavy. When you state
it frankly – zero points through three games of a 48-game season – it sounds
downright desperate. You might be tempted to panic.

Naturally it’s too soon for all of that. Those special teams
numbers can’t keep up at their current rate, and head coach Peter Laviolette
will find the right pairings to spark the offense – he’ll get reinforcements
soon once Danny Briere returns to the lineup. And nothing can account for the
bad bounces that have come the Flyers’ direction, like having a pair of goals waved
off in Buffalo on Sunday, or having two deflect past Bryz off of teammates already.

It also just so happens the last time Philly started 0-3 was in the lockout-shortened 94-95 season, when they wound up finishing first
in the Atlantic Division and going all the way to the Eastern Conference
Finals.

We certainly understand the reasons for concern however, even
if the team is only 6% of the way through the schedule. The Flyers’ sluggish starts
in all three games have become the personification of the early goings of this
season. There is plenty of time to climb back in, but as they demonstrated last
night, sometimes the holes run too deep.

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Penn State president 'pleased' to see Penn State thriving again

ap-psu-team-celebrate.jpg
Associated Press

Penn State president 'pleased' to see Penn State thriving again

NEW YORK -- NCAA President Mark Emmert says he is pleased to see how well Penn State's football team has bounced back from the sanctions the program received in 2012 after the Sandusky scandal.

No. 5 Penn State (11-2) is having its best season since Jerry Sandusky, a longtime assistant of late Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno, was arrested in 2011 for sexually abusing boys. The Nittany Lions won their last nine games and the Big Ten title.

"I think it's terrific," said Emmert, who spoke at an intercollegiate athletics forum sponsored by Learfield Communications on Wednesday in Manhattan.

"I think what Penn State went through is an awful situation and it's still playing out sadly. But the football program is still Penn State and they showed it and they did really well. The university has done an amazing job to put in place all of the things their board wanted and our board wanted."

The NCAA went outside its usual process to sanction Penn State in 2012. The school was hit with massive scholarship limitations and a four-year bowl ban, along with fines. The school also agreed to enact dozens of reforms recommended in a report by former FBI director Louis Freeh on the scandal.

The original scholarship and postseason penalties were eventually rolled back. Emmert said he was pleased the roll back helped Penn State recover more quickly, and that NCAA sanctions are not meant to cripple an athletic program.

"I've always said and always believed that Penn State first and foremost is a great university ... and secondly it's got wonderful sports traditions. How could you not be pleased that they're playing good football again? That's very good stuff," he said.

Emmert covered numerous topics in a 30-minute question-and-answer session, and after he spoke with group of reporters for 15 more minutes.

-- He declined to weigh in on whether the College Football Playoff selection committee made the right decision with the four teams it chose to compete for the national championship, but he did say he would prefer an eight-team playoff that would include automatic bids for the Power Five conference champions.

"I think a conference championship ought to count for something. I think how you determine your champion is up to somebody else," Emmert said. "I'd like to see all five of the conference champions get in the playoff."

The NCAA has no authority over the College Football Playoff.

"That's why we live in America. Everybody can have an opinion," Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany joked, when asked about Emmert's comments. "He doesn't have a vote, though."

-- Emmert said he would like to see the new NCAA football oversight committee better define the purpose of bowl games. There are 40 and some spots are given to teams with sub.-500 records. The NCAA does not run bowl games. It does have a sanctioning process, but mostly it lets conferences decide whether they want to put on games.

"What do we, the membership of intercollegiate athletics, want bowl games to be?" Emmert said. "Are they a 13th game that's an exhibition game? Are they a reward for having won something? We have teams in now that can get into a bowl game having won two or three of their conferences games."

-- The NCAA pulled its championship events out of North Carolina in September because of a state law that limits anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people. The decision was later criticized by Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins in an Wall Street Journal op-ed. Jenkins said the NCAA should not be a moral arbiter.

"He and I have chatted a lot about that issue, and obviously I disagree and obviously, more importantly the board of governors disagreed," Emmert said.
The NCAA will choose sites for future championship events in April and part of that is a "fairly complex process," Emmert said, of looking at the local and state laws of potential host locations.

"One of the considerations we have now as we make those decisions, as the sport committees make decisions about where they go, is going to be LGBT rights," he said. "I think and hope and believe, maybe wishfully, that North Carolina will modify their position because citizens want that."

-- Emmert said the Big 12 deciding not to expand was a "good thing for college sports."

"I think the last round was very disruptive. It had a negative impact on so many schools, even personal relationships. It was hard and I'm glad we didn't have to go through that again. Even on a smaller scale," Emmert said.

Trade front quiet, but Phillies could lose a player or 2 in Rule 5 draft

Trade front quiet, but Phillies could lose a player or 2 in Rule 5 draft

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Phillies have a history of adding players in the Rule 5 draft. The annual event, designed to prevent teams from stockpiling minor-league talent without giving it a shot in the majors, has netted the Phillies players such as Dave Hollins, Shane Victorino and Odubel Herrera over the years.

The year’s Rule 5 draft will be held Thursday morning at the conclusion of the winter meetings, but it’s highly unlikely that the Phillies will be active. After adding 11 prospects to their 40-man roster two weeks ago, the Phillies are simply out of room. Selecting a player in the Rule 5 draft would first require the Phils to cut a player loose and that did not seem to be the plan as the sun set Wednesday.

While an addition is unlikely, there’s a strong possibility that the Phils will lose a player or two in the draft. Outfielder Andrew Pullin, a 2012 draft pick, is the likeliest to go. He hit .322 with a .885 OPS between Single A and Double A in 2016 and a number of teams are buzzing about him. A late-season elbow injury prevented Pullin from playing in the Arizona Fall League and factored into the Phillies’ decision to leave him unprotected.

If a team rolls the dice on Pullin, it must keep him in the majors all season or offer him back to the Phillies.

Other players who could go include first baseman/outfielder Brock Stassi, outfielder Carlos Tocci and pitchers Miguel Nunez and Hoby Milner.

All quiet for now
Phillies general manager Matt Klentak spent Wednesday meeting with agents and representatives from other clubs.

“Nothing is hot at the moment,” he said late in the day.

Klentak has brought back starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, added relievers Joaquin Benoit and Pat Neshek and traded for outfielder Howie Kendrick this offseason. The biggest remaining issue/question on his plate is whether to add a veteran hitter in a corner outfield spot or keep the pathway open for young players such as Roman Quinn and eventually Dylan Cozens and Nick Williams. 

“Successfully balancing the present and the future is the single greatest challenge that a baseball operations department faces,” Klentak said. “We’ve talked about it all offseason. The decisions that we are making right now about giving playing time to a young player that has cut his teeth in Triple A and needs that opportunity to take the next step as opposed to a shorter-term solution from the outside — that’s one of the main challenges that we’ve run into this offseason.”

While it’s uncertain whether the Phils will add a hitter, they most surely will make other roster tweaks as the winter moves on. They are likely to fill their backup catcher’s spot in-house (see story), but could add a utility infielder and more bullpen depth on minor-league contracts.

“I think there will probably be another move or two before we get to Clearwater,” Klentak said. “Who and when remains to be seen.”