Flyers Are Special When It Comes to Developing Defensemen

Flyers Are Special When It Comes to Developing Defensemen

There is plenty of blame to go around this offseason for the Flyers missing the playoffs, but for much of the year defense was their biggest pitfall. The back end was prone to turnovers and complete meltdowns that often led to rushes the other way, a situation no goaltender could possibly thrive.

The thing is, the front office tried to address the problem. The Flyers traded for Chris Pronger in 2009, but his career was cut short by post-concussion syndrome, leaving the club in a bind. They tried to sign Ryan Suter last summer, and gave Shea Weber a huge offer sheet in attempt to steal him away from Nashville. No luck.

Both efforts exposed the Flyers’ real problem though: they haven’t been developing any blueliners on their own. Tim Panaccio wrote at length about the organization’s crippling problem, but the crux of the issue is so powerful in its simplicity.

The Flyers are the only NHL club without a single active defenseman that they drafted since the decade began playing regular minutes for them – not someone else.

Think about that. Thirteen Flyers drafts. Not one every-day player on the Flyers' blue line to show for it.

I would rather not think about that, thank you very much.

Panotch points to the front office’s reluctance to draft defensemen, instead taking the “best player available” approach. He further finds the lack of focus placed on building up the back end from in-house is an approach that dates back to the 1980s. As such, you find very few examples in recent history that the team drafted and developed into a top player.

Honestly, you have to go back to 1990 to find a defenseman drafted and developed by the Flyers who lasted here a significant amount of time and established himself on a No. 1 pairing.

That one player would be Chris Therien, who lasted a decade.

Since Therien was taken with the 47th pick (in the third round), the Flyers have drafted 198 players, including supplemental picks.

Of those 198 players, only three remain as surviving defensemen playing somewhere in the NHL:

It’s a fascinating albeit long read that makes you wonder why there is so little value or at least emphasis placed on the position.

The good news is the Flyers have some promising, young D-men who contributed this year and helped stabilize the back end toward the finish. Erik Gustafsson and Oliver Lauridsen earned more than lip-service opportunities to make the team next season through their performances, outplaying several veterans in the process – at least from this vantage point. Lauridsen was drafted by the team in 2009, while the team signed Gus as a free agent out of Northern Michigan University in 2010.

It’s too early to say whether either player will pan out though, much less become a top blueliner. Perhaps the Flyers should change up their strategy a bit with the 11th pick in the draft this summer.

>> Why haven’t the Flyers drafted and kept top defensemen? [CSN]

Instant Replay: Phillies 5, White Sox 3

Instant Replay: Phillies 5, White Sox 3

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO — The Phillies got a nice start from Jerad Eickhoff, mostly good bullpen work and plenty of timely hitting in posting a 5-3 win over the Chicago White Sox in interleague play Wednesday night.
 
The Phils had been outscored 18-1 in losing their previous two games to the White Sox and St. Louis Cardinals.
 
The Phillies are 59-68. They are four wins shy of last year’s majors-low total of 63.
 
Starting pitching report
Eickhoff (9-12) pitched six innings of two-run ball and left with a 4-2 lead after throwing just 71 pitches. Eickhoff scattered four hits, walked nine and struck out two. The sixth inning has been a problem for him this season. He has allowed 26 earned runs over 19 innings for a 12.32 ERA in the frame. Eickhoff did hold it together and limited the damage to two runs in the sixth before handing off to the bullpen.
 
Eickhoff’s ERA in the first five innings of a game this season is 2.64.
 
White Sox right-hander James Shields gave up four runs over six innings. He is 5-16 with a 5.98 ERA.
 
Bullpen report
The trio of Edubray Ramos, Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez closed it out for the Phillies.
 
Gomez survived a run in the ninth for his 34th save.
 
Ramos and Neris both pitched a scoreless inning.

Since the All-Star break, Neris has pitched 18 1/3 innings and allowed one run and two walks while striking out 26.
 
At the plate
Tommy Joseph had a nice game with a double, his 17th homer and two runs scored. Aaron Altherr had a pair of RBI singles and scored a run. Freddy Galvis doubled home a run and Cesar Hernandez homered.
 
Dioner Navarro smacked a two-run homer off Eickhoff in the sixth.
 
Trade talk
There’s interest in Carlos Ruiz (see story).
 
Up next
The Phillies are off on Thursday. They open a three-game series against the Mets in New York on Friday night. Here are the pitching matchups:
 
Friday night — LHP Adam Morgan (1-7, 6.21) vs. RHP Bartolo Colon (11-7, 3.36)
 
Saturday night — RHP Jeremy Hellickson (10-7, 3.60) vs. RHP Noah Syndergaard (11-7, 2.61)
 
Sunday afternoon — RHP Vince Velasquez (8-6, 4.31) vs. RHP Robert Gsellman (1-0, 0.00).

Rookies Keegan Rosenberry, Fabian Herbers help Union top Crew

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Rookies Keegan Rosenberry, Fabian Herbers help Union top Crew

BOX SCORE

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Rookies Keegan Rosenberry and Fabian Herbers scored to help the Union beat the Columbus Crew 2-1 on Wednesday night.

Rosenberry gave the Union (10-9-7) a 2-1 lead in the 74th minute. Tranquillo Barnetta one-timed a feed to Rosenberry who trapped it with his right foot and blasted a left-footer through a pair of defenders and past goalkeeper Steve Clark.

Herbers, making his fifth start of the season, opened the scoring in the 60th. Chris Pontius tapped it to Herbers who, from the top of the box, had a shot blocked by Hector Jimenez before side-netting the rebound. Both of his two career goals have come against Columbus (4-9-11).

Adam Jahn tied it in the 73rd minute. Tony Tchani's header, off the corner by Federico Higuain, was deflected off the crossbar by goalkeeper Andre Blake and -- after a failed clearance by the Union -- Jahn tapped it in from close range.

It was the Union's third consecutive home win.

Columbus has one win in its last 11 matches.

Source: Phillies have gotten trade 'nibbles' on Carlos Ruiz

Source: Phillies have gotten trade 'nibbles' on Carlos Ruiz

CHICAGO — Another trade deadline arrives next Wednesday.

Could a Phillies veteran such as Ryan Howard or Carlos Ruiz, the lone holdovers from the 2008 World Series championship team, be on the move?

ESPN reports that both players have cleared waivers, which would make them eligible to be dealt. Players traded after Aug. 1 must first clear waivers. They have to be on a new team’s roster by Sept. 1 to gain postseason eligibility. Players traded after Sept. 1 are not eligible for the postseason.

Howard has been available for a trade for a couple of seasons, but there has been no interest. Even now, with him hitting .339 with seven homers, 16 RBIs and a .742 slugging percentage since the All-Star break (entering Wednesday), there remains little interest, according to sources. Howard is still owed about $16 million in the form of salary and a $10 million contract buyout for 2017, but that would not be an impediment to a deal as the Phils would eat that. Still, it’s unlikely he will be traded because most of the American League contenders are set at designated hitter, which would be his optimal role.

So, Howard, 36, is likely to play out the final year of his contract with the Phils, take his well-earned bows and exit either to retirement or a new team next season. He says he wants to keep playing.

Ruiz, 37, is also in the final year of his contract. Like Howard, he has swung the bat well recently, hitting .298 with a .433 on-base percentage in his last 26 games. He’s a backup catcher at this stage of his career, but that could appeal to a team like Cleveland or Boston, contenders who could be in the market for catching depth.

A baseball source said the Phillies have received some recent “nibbles” on Ruiz. It’s unclear if a deal will reach the finish line.

As players with 10 seasons in the majors and five consecutive with the same team, Howard and Ruiz both have the power to block a trade. It’s doubtful that either would because both have stated that their goal is to play in the postseason again.

“I’m still happy here,” Ruiz said. “We’ll see what happens. If that happens, it happens. If it doesn't, I'm going to play.”

Howard has taken the same attitude.

“Those are situations where I guess you’ve got to see what presents itself,” he said. “You know me. The last 12 years I’ve just been focused on playing ball. If it presents itself, it presents itself. You handle that situation. Otherwise, I just try to stay in the moment, stay in the now and prepare for the game.”