Flyers finalize roster, add Hal Gill—puck drops on Wednesday

Flyers finalize roster, add Hal Gill—puck drops on Wednesday

The Flyers had some hoops to jump through, but they managed to slip below the NHL salary cap just in time for Monday’s 5 p.m. deadline. With that hurdle cleared, the front office went back to work on adding the final pieces of the puzzle that is the club’s 23-man roster.

They wasted no time in placing Chris Pronger on long-term injured reserve as anticipated, freeing up the space to make some final moves ahead of their first scheduled game. With the cap successfully circumvented, the Flyers recalled Adam Hall from Adirondack, where the fourth-line winger was loaned until all the financial stuff could blow over.

The big news however was the official welcoming of defenseman Hal Gill to Philadelphia. Gill was with the squad during training camp on a tryout basis, and now is set to begin his 16th season in the NHL donning the Orange & Black for the first time.

Gill has always been purely a stay-at-home defender, but still a decent one considering he's 38 years of age. He should only further bolster a group of bluelines that's healthy and looks improved over last season’s unit.

Unlike Hall, Bruno Gervais was not recalled after his salary was dumped to the minors. He will remain with the Phantoms until further notice.

The other roster move of note was 19-year-old Scott Laughton making the team—for now anyway. Once again, the Flyers will have nine games to evaluate the 2012 first-round pick, after which his NHL contract will kick in. If he’s demoted before then, he’ll keep his junior eligibility.

It seems the plan is to have Laughton skate as a third-line wing, a job there was an ongoing battle over at camp. Chris VandeVelde and Michael Raffl were the primary competition, and both are currently stationed at Adirondack, so another move might be on the horizon eventually.

Here’s a look at the full roster as it stands now. How would you construct the lines?

Forwards (13):
Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux, Adam Hall, Scott Hartnell, Scott Laughton, Vincent Lecavalier, Matt Read, Zac Rinaldo, Jay Rosehill, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Maxine Talbot, Kakub Voracek

Defensemen (8):
Braydon Coburn, Nicklas Grossmann, Hal Gill, Erik Gustafsson, Andrej Meszaros, Luke Schenn, Mark Streit, Kimmo Timonen

Goalies (2):
Ray Emery, Steve Mason

The 2013-14 NHL season begins tonight in a handful of arenas across North America, followed by a few more on Wednesday—the Wells Fargo Center included. By Thursday evening, hockey season will be in full effect.

>> Flyers sign Hal Gill to one-year deal [CSN]

No. 1 Villanova vs. La Salle: Wildcats look to stay hot vs. Explorers at Palestra

No. 1 Villanova vs. La Salle: Wildcats look to stay hot vs. Explorers at Palestra

No. 1 Villanova (8-0) at La Salle (4-2) 
7 p.m. at The Palestra

Villanova, now the top-ranked team in the country, travels to the Palestra on Tuesday night for another Big 5 game, this one against La Salle (the home team), which has won three straight games.

Let's get you ready for the matchup:

Last time out
La Salle beat Bucknell, 83-73, on Saturday.

Villanova won, 88-47, over Saint Joseph’s.

Scouting report
Villanova, which is undefeated, has become the No. 1 team in the country after beating St. Joe’s handily on Saturday. Josh Hart, who had a triple-double in the game, has been a major reason for the Wildcats' success so far this season. The senior is averaging 17.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. 

La Salle has won three games in a row after losing at the buzzer to Texas Southern on its homecoming game. Against Bucknell, Jordan Price had 20 points, while B.J. Johnson had 22. Johnson, a transfer from Syracuse, leads the team in scoring with 18.7 points per game.

What it means
Villanova is the best in the country right now, and it moved up to No. 1 after Kentucky lost to UCLA. Another win will give the Wildcats good momentum heading into their Saturday matchup with No. 23 Notre Dame. A victory would also extend Villanova's all-time record Big 5 winning streak to 16 games.

La Salle head coach John Gianinni could potentially be on the hot seat if the Explorers suffer another poor season. A win against the defending national champions would alleviate any chatter about his status.

Series history
This is the first and only time the Big 5 rivals will meet this season. Jay Wright is 13-2 all-time against the Explorers, and his group blew them out last season, 76-47.

What’s next?
La Salle will head to Miami for the Hoophall Miami Invitational to take on Georgetown this Saturday at the American Airlines Arena.

Villanova travels to Newark, New Jersey, to meet No. 23 Notre Dame at the Prudential Center.

Doug Pederson doesn't think 2016 struggles will ruin Carson Wentz in long term

Doug Pederson doesn't think 2016 struggles will ruin Carson Wentz in long term

In his first month in the NFL, Carson Wentz's trophy case was filling up quickly. 

He won two NFL Rookie of the Week awards to go along with being named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week in Week 3 and the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Month for September. 

It's hard to believe all of that happened this year. 

Since September, the Eagles have gone 2-7 and Wentz has looked like a rookie. Sure, the Eagles have some major deficiencies on offense that haven't made his life any easier, but it's no longer possible to simply overlook the regression of the No. 2 overall pick. 

Could this tough stretch negatively affect Wentz long term?  

"I don't think it's going to affect Carson going forward," head coach Doug Pederson said on Monday. "I just don't think it's going to affect him at all, because he's really a pro's pro and he's learning how to handle adversity for the first time, probably, in his career. It's something that we get to the OTAs and we get a full offseason in and we just continue to work on it."

It's fair to say the 2016 season was probably never really about this year and making the playoffs. It's clear the more important thing is to develop Wentz into the franchise quarterback they drafted him to be. But the one thing the team probably didn't want to see was regression. It seems like that's what has happened. 

In the first four games of the season, Wentz had a passer rating over 100 three times and hasn't done it since then. Take a look at the difference in the first quarter of his season compared to the next two. 

First four games: Completion percentage of 67 percent, 7 touchdowns, 1 interception, passer rating of 103.5. 

Next eight: Completion percentage of 61 percent, 5 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, passer rating of 70.1. 

The Eagles will enter their final quarter of the season when they host Washington on Sunday. The best way to avoid any long-term issues stemming from a tough rookie season is to end on a stronger note. 

"Well, you avoid it by trying to win a football game, and you try to win as many as you can now with these last four that we've got," Pederson said. "If you're looking towards next season, you always want to go out with a bang and try to win as many as you can down the stretch."

Way back in training camp, the plan was for 2016 to be a redshirt year for Wentz. He was supposed to sit behind Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel, but Bradford was traded and the Eagles elected to start their prized quarterback from the onset. 

Wentz went from a redshirt season to being on pace to throw 603 passes, which would shatter the Eagles' record for a single season. 

"These are some of the decisions that I made back when the trade was made that if there was going to be some growing pains, these were going to be some of the pains we were going to have to go through," Pederson said. "And just him understanding and him learning and us growing together as an offense, he and I growing as coach and quarterback together, it's all part of the process."

Wentz and Pederson seemingly had a disagreement after Sunday's game, when Pederson attributed Wentz's struggles to mechanical problems, while Wentz denied that was the case. Pederson held firm to his belief that those mechanical issues can be corrected and it's probable Wentz spoke out of frustration on Sunday night. 

If Wentz is frustrated, it would be understandable. It hasn't been an easy couple of months. 

"I see him handling it well," Pederson said. "These are discussions that we will have, myself, [Eagles offensive coordinator] Frank [Reich], Carson [Wentz], as we talk to him, because we've played obviously at this level, and my experience, even in this city playing and knowing what that's all about, we can really help him. It’s our job to help him and make sure that he stays on track and stays focused and he doesn't get derailed by anything that's coming from the outside."