Flyers Extras: Simmonds Concussion and Aftermath, Possible Trade Targets, & More

Flyers Extras: Simmonds Concussion and Aftermath, Possible Trade Targets, & More

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Washington Capitals defenseman John
Erskine was suspended three games on Saturday for throwing an illegal flying
elbow to the face of Wayne Simmonds one night earlier. Unfortunately, the
Orange & Black will probably wind up getting the worse end of the deal.
Shortly after the NHL came down on Erskine, Flyers general manager Paul
Holmgren revealed Simmonds is out of action indefinitely from a concussion
sustained as a result of the hit.

According to reports, Simmonds also
experienced whiplash.
Thankfully the winger’s noggin didn’t hit the ice, or
perhaps the whole ordeal could have been worse. Then again, we always have to
wait and see about the full extent of head and neck injuries. Officially there
is no timetable for Simmonds’ return, but he was not practicing as of Monday morning. [CSN]

The end result tends to make the
punishment handed down to Erskine seem a tad arbitrary. The Capitals lose their
man for three games – none of which are against the Flyers – yet who knows when
Simmonds can return. Erskine got off somewhat easier with the league’s
department of player safety thanks to a squeaky clean record, and head
disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan’s explanation of the incident holds up well
enough [via Puck Daddy].

Washington assistant coach and NHL
Hall of Famer Adam Oates shared something of a debatable position on the
subject though. Defending a 10-year veteran for playing the game, fine; calling
it “simultaneous contact” when one guy clearly hit another is over-the-top
defensive. Comments made before the suspension was handed down to the
Washington Post:

“I think
it’s really tough, because you’ve got two guys going for the puck
simultaneously and two big boys and it looked like simultaneous contact to me.
And he’s a clean player, so we’ll see.”

DEADLINE IS ONLY TWO MONTHS AWAY

It’s never too early – and I mean
never, Sam Carchidi – to start targeting players who might make the Flyers
better. 48-game season, 82 games, doesn’t matter. If a player is even so much
as rumored to be rumored-to-be on the trading block soon, we demand a full
investigation into the plausibility!

In Sunday’s edition of The Inquirer,
Carchidi looked at eight players Homer might be making calls about,
specifically names that could help spark an offense that is still tied for 25th
in the NHL even after this weekend’s five-goal outburst versus the Carolina
Hurricanes. Interestingly enough, the list includes three-time All Star Corey
Perry of the Anaheim Ducks, but only mentions Cherry Hill native Bobby Ryan as
an afterthought [Inq].

Extra attention is already being
paid to a pair of forwards who were on Carchidi’s mind. First, colleague Frank
Seravalli makes a note in Monday’s Daily News that long-time Florida center
Stephen Weiss could be in the Flyers’ plans, based on a visit director of
player personnel Don Luce had at a Panthers-Sabres game over the weekend.
Seravalli describes Weiss as a consistent 60-point scorer who would serve as a
one-year rental, and one that wouldn’t require the front office to make any
additional moves to accommodate his $3.1M cap figure, either. [DN]

Our own Tim Panaccio suggested
even-longer-time Calgary Flame Jarome Iginla could be the right fit in
Philadelphia. The 35 year old is off to a slow start for the even
slower-staring Flame – four points and zero goals scored – but he has yet to
light the lamp fewer than 28 times in a season since 98-99. Given Iginla's
advanced age, Panotch speculates the six-time All Star could be available with
first-round Scott Laughton as the key piece of the deal. Hm… worth discussing at least, no? [CSN]

DE-FENSE! DE-FENSE!

Is there a person on the roster
Flyers fans dread seeing in the lineup more right now than Andreas Lilja? The
37-year-old defenseman has only appeared in one game so far this season, but it
was a doozy. Broad Street Hockey led with the relatively tame “rough night” to
describe Lilja’s efforts in last Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers
while providing a shift-by-shift breakdown of the performance. All told it was
less than 10 minutes of ice time, but Lilja clearly did more harm than good,
including a costly turnover in Philly’s zone that led to a goal – on his very
first shift no less [BSH].

BSH’s breakdown is a few days old of
course, and the fact that Lilja is a liability shouldn’t exactly qualify as
news. It is curious however what Lilja was doing out there for Kurtis Foster in
the first place. We can only hope it’s a mistake the Flyers won’t be forced to
endure again, especially after Foster scored a power-play goal and was credited
with an assist over the weekend.

We also bring it up now because
Seravalli believes reinforcements could be on the way for Philadelphia’s
defense. Blueliner Erik Gustafsson has returned to the Adirondack Phantoms
after an ankle injury, and the Daily News beat believes he could be back on the
big club before long.
Gustafsson was headed for the AHL All Star game before he
was knocked out, and Seravalli suggests he would have beaten out Foster or
Bruno Gervais or even both of them for a roster spot had he been healthy
for training camp. [DN]

NBA Draft Profile: F Dragan Bender

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NBA Draft Profile: F Dragan Bender

Dragan Bender

Position: Power forward
Height/weight: 7-1, 225
Team: Maccabi Tel Aviv

Croatia’s latest basketball export is just 18 years old. He won’t turn 19 until November. Like a lot of teenagers, he’s hardly a fully finished product. The kid is raw, but his obvious potential figures to make him a high lottery pick in the upcoming draft.

Through 38 games with Maccabi Tel Aviv this season, Bender averaged just 12.9 minutes. He took 3.7 shots per game. He shot 42.3 percent from the floor, 33.8 percent from deep (on 2.0 attempts per game) and 71.9 percent from the line. He didn’t get to the line very often, by the way. In fact, he hardly got there at all, taking less than one attempt per game from the stripe.

But Bender’s appeal isn’t about what he is right now; it’s rooted in what he could become with time. There’s a reason why all 30 NBA teams sent someone to watch him play this year, according to DraftExpress. Investing in him could yield a significant return. Also, dude’s name is Dragan Bender. He was destined to become a pro athlete or conquer King’s Landing. Either way, good things ahead.

Strengths
Bender has been on the NBA’s projection radar for a while now. He’s worked hard to develop his shooting. Initially thought of as a non-shooter with wonky mechanics, Bender changed his stroke. It’s more compact and efficient now. Despite the small sample size, Bender had a 54.1 true shooting percentage and a 51.4 effective field goal percentage through 38 games this season.

He could pass more, but when he does he’s pretty savvy — particularly with the full-court outlet pass. Defensively, he’s not a rim protector, but he has a long wingspan (7-2) that should help him be a good pick-and-roll defender with time. In the increasingly switch-everything NBA, that’s a plus.

Also, did we mention his name is Dragan Bender? Donald Bender works in Croatian finance. Dave Bender has a nice B&B on Hvar Island. Dragan Bender is a potential NBA star.

Weaknesses
He’s reportedly put on some weight recently and worked hard to develop a better base, but he’s 7-1 and 225 pounds. Someone needs to feed him lots of sandwiches and protein shakes. Adding muscle for the long-slog NBA season will be important.

In addition to having a still-developing body and skill set, he hasn’t faced top-level international competition yet on a regular basis. He needs minutes against the best in the world, and in order to get those minutes he’ll have to refine his game – particularly his ball-handling and driving, which are still works in progress.

Unlike some other recent NBA imports (Nikola Mirotic and Kristaps Porzingis among them), it’s probably going to take a while before Bender can be a consistent contributor in the league. Any team that takes him has to acknowledge the inherent time commitment.

How he’d fit with the Sixers 
If we’re talking about how he’d fit with the Sixers, who had a long-term plan and weren’t in a hurry to rush anything, the Sixers who embarked on an open-ended journey with no fixed timetable or end point, you could make a case for Bender (but not with the first overall pick). Five or seven years from now, Bender could be a polished product – an outside shooting threat with, perhaps, an expanded offensive game that allows him to put the ball on the floor and optimize his passing and scoring. You could imagine him growing defensively and creating mismatch problems. You could envision it – over time.

The question is whether these Sixers, who keep talking about transitioning from the rebuild into whatever comes next, are about to scrap the slow-and-low approach to cooking their roster in favor of adding on-court heat and off-court PR sizzle. If that’s the case, Bender wouldn’t fit well at all. Not to mention that taking Bender means adding another body to an already clogged frontcourt.

NBA comparison
Lots of people have drawn a parallel between Bender and Porzingis. That’s the easy, reflexive comparison. Both are tall, lanky stretch fours from a not dissimilar region of the world. But really that’s unfair to Bender. Porzingis declared for the NBA draft back in 2014, only to withdraw his name and wait until last year. The wait helped elevate him to more of a known commodity. At that point, he had played three seasons for Sevilla of Liga ACB in Spain, one of the best leagues in Europe that features some of the premiere international talent. Bender isn’t there yet in terms of experience, and their games aren’t one-to-one equivelants anyway. Bender might ultimately shake out as something closer to Andrei Kirilenko (if he can improve his handle) or Nikola Mirotic.

Draft projection
Top five. If he lasts any longer, it will be a surprise.

Phillies pitching prospect Mark Appel hits DL with shoulder strain

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Phillies pitching prospect Mark Appel hits DL with shoulder strain

Mark Appel, whose fastball velocity was down considerably in the first inning of his last start, was placed on the disabled list Friday with a shoulder strain.

Appel, 24, is 3-3 with a 4.46 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in eight starts for Triple A Lehigh Valley in his first year in the Phillies' system. He's struggled his last four times out, allowing 18 runs (15 earned) in 16⅓ innings on 20 hits and 11 walks.

The No. 1 overall pick in 2013 out of Stanford, Appel has had a disappointing pro career to this point. In 62 minor-league games (61 starts), he has a 5.04 ERA. The Phillies acquired him from Houston as part of the Ken Giles trade this past winter.

Appel's trip to the DL creates an opportunity for right-hander Ben Lively, who was promoted from Double A Reading to Triple A to take Appel's place in the IronPigs' rotation. Lively, acquired from the Reds for Marlon Byrd prior to the 2015 season, is 7-0 with a 1.87 ERA this season.

In aggressive D, Mike Martin trying to show Eagles his worth

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In aggressive D, Mike Martin trying to show Eagles his worth

When Ray Horton brought his two-gapping 3-4 defense to the Tennessee Titans in 2014, Mike Martin wasn’t thrilled. 

After all, the former third-round defensive tackle thought he was at his best in an aggressive get-up-the-field type defense, not the one full of lateral motion that Horton established in Tennessee. 

But without recourse, Martin played out the last two seasons of his rookie deal in Horton’s defense, before joining the Eagles in free agency this offseason. 

“That’s something that I was kind of disappointed in Tennessee when we were playing that, but you gotta adjust,” Martin said this week. “That’s this game. Coaches switch and you have to be able to change to stay in this game. But to be back in a system like this, excites me a lot.”

Martin, 25, admitted part of the reason he joined the Eagles was the opportunity based on the lack of depth the team had at his position, but an even bigger reason was the opportunity to play in Jim Schwartz’s downhill scheme. 

Really, it’s the main reason the 6-1, 306-pound interior defensive lineman decided to sign a one-year deal to join the Eagles in April. 

“I already knew what they were all about and then when I got to see what type of scheme they were bringing in and what Coach Schwartz wanted to emphasize, with getting off the ball and getting to our landmarks and things like that, really excited me and solidified it for me, because I know I can flourish in a system like that.”

In fact, Martin thinks he fits best in the kind of defense the Eagles will run this year. 

“Oh yeah. Oh yeah,” Martin said. “My quickness and my get-off and the type of player I am, it suits me well, so it’s exciting.”

Martin came to Philadelphia because of the defensive scheme, but he already knows a couple players on the team. Martin played at Michigan with Brandon Graham; the two have been good friends ever since. And Vinny Curry was Martin’s roommate at the Senior Bowl back in 2012. 

This offseason, as Fletcher Cox stays away from the Eagles’ spring practices while he awaits a new contract, other guys are getting extended reps. One of those guys is Martin. While Taylor Hart lined up next to Bennie Logan on the first-team defense last Tuesday, it was Martin next to him this week during the practice open to the media. 

Martin said he’s been sporadically working with the first unit and has been switching sides with Logan too. 

Eventually, Cox will return and reclaim his rightful spot as the starter and Martin will be sent back to his spot in the depth chart with the likes of Hart, Beau Allen, Destiny Vaeao and Connor Wujciak. 

In the meantime, Martin is just focused on showing his coaches as much as he possibly can, which isn’t very easy in May. During these practices players aren’t in pads and the hitting won’t start until training camp — even then, it’s limited. 

Still, Martin thinks he can show something over the next few weeks. 

“Really, I’m just trying to focus on my hands because we’re not allowed to have a lot of contact,” he said. “If I’m good with my hands, I can show them how I can move in this defense. I think that’s something that they can see and you can’t really deny. I’m just going to continue to improve and show them those things. When it comes time to put the pads on, it will just translate.”