Flyers Week Ahead Doesn't Look So Bad, But

Flyers Week Ahead Doesn't Look So Bad, But

Our Philadelphia
Flyers hockey club has been through a gauntlet of challenging teams and
scenarios lately, including playing elite competition, a grueling
stretch of away games, and the scrutiny of playing in the sport's most
visible game, followed by the top team in the West and a home-and-home
with an upstart conference foe. Fans, players, coaches, and owners alike
probably wouldn't have it any other way. While the stretch hasn't been
easy, it's been a great experience.

Win or lose, I don't think any of us would trade the privilege of
having the Flyers featured in the Winter Classic. And, even though the
lesson learned in a pair of recent matchups with the New York Rangers is
that the Flyers aren't currently playing as well as the the Blueshits,
the timing of that schooling was ideal (aside from the fact that one of
the games happened to be the Winter Classic). Finding out you don't
quite measure up in April is a huge problem. In December and January,
it's a welcome reminder that nothing will come easy in a long series
against a great team, no matter how pretty your record on the last day
of the season. There are a lot of new faces on the Flyers, guys who
weren't around when that lesson was learned by their teammates last
season. And, there's still room for improvement in some significant
areas.

So, with one of the most difficult regular season stretches of the
season, the Flyers now settle in for the second half, which begins with a
couple of on-paper cupcakes. Don't be fooled though—there could be
poison in the frosting.

Tonight, Lavy's boys will skate in the city he once gave a Stanley
Cup. The Carolina Hurricanes are just one point out of last place in the
East, topping only the Flyers' Thursday night opponent—the New York
Islanders.

Carolina has allowed a league-worst 146 goals, and no NHL team has
scored fewer goals than the Islanders (who in their meager defense have
played few games than most). Both are also perennial oft-picked on nerds
in the Bullies' schoolyard, with few wins over the Flyers in recent
years.

Still, the Flyers are in a vulnerable position right now. Losses in
either game wouldn't be devastating or anything close to it, but after a
brilliant early December stretch, the Flyers have traded wins with
losses, and need to regain form. Failure to do so against clearly
inferior opponents could have a solidifying effect on areas of downward
tendency.

Dominant scoring is often enough, but costly turnovers and poor
clearing of screens and slot traffic have seen the Flyers concede very
early leads as well as some dramatic come-from-ahead losses. Those kinds
of defensive miscues have a way of being opponent-neutral. Some of
these goals have hardly been skill shots, and NHL-caliber players will
bury you for mistakes in your own zone no matter what logo is on their
sweater.

It's never a bad time to be facing a few weaker opponents though.
The Flyers are by no means playing terrible hockey, but they have some
work to do, and the Hurricanes and Islanders aren't quite as dangerous
as the Blackhawks and the surprising Senators.

Flyers-Canes
Tonight, Ilya Bryzgalov gets a rest, with Sergei Bobrovsky likely facing Cam Ward.

Anthony San Filippo says Harry Z will play, with Zac Rinaldo getting the healthy scratch. Not a bad bit of rookie depth to be able to choose between those players as to which role you want in a given night.

Carolina has lost four of their last six, including a 5-2 defeat in
Nashville on Saturday that followed a 4-2 win over the Sabres.

Peter
Laviolette's preceder and succeeder in Carolina, Paul Maurice, was
replaced by former Montreal Canadien Kirk Muller on November 29th. The
Hurricanes had lost their previous three games, and they lost the next
four as well. In 18 games with Muller behind the bench, they've won only
five times.

The Flyers may have the Canes' number in most matchups, including
5-1 and 5-3 wins already this season, but they did lose the last time
they faced Carolina, 4-2. An L tonight wouldn't wear well after a
clunker of a third period in Ottawa.

Stay or Go Part 8: Ryan Mathews to Steven Means

Stay or Go Part 8: Ryan Mathews to Steven Means

In the eighth of our 12-part offseason series examining the future of the Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster in 2017. We go alphabetically — Part 8 is Mathews to Means.

Ryan Mathews
Cap hit: $5M

Roob: The Eagles have to get better, younger, faster, healthier, more durable and more reliable at running back. I love the way Mathews runs when he’s healthy. The guy runs hard and he runs physical and he runs aggressive. Then he always gets hurt. Mathews actually has the third-highest per-carry average among running backs in Eagles history, but they just can’t rely on him anymore. How can you count on a running back who misses significant time every year? Time to move on. Factor in the cap savings — $4 million if the Eagles release him — and it’s a no-brainer.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The Eagles can save $4 million in cap room to cut the running back who needed serious neck surgery after his season was ended in the Giants game. Mathews played pretty well in his two seasons with the Eagles, but, as has been the case during his career, health was an issue. And now he’s 29 and will turn 30 early into next season. Time to move on. 

Verdict: GOES

Jordan Matthews
Cap hit: $1.57M

Roob: Matthews is going into Year 4 and I’d still like to see him make a jump and become a 1,200-yard type of receiver. Maybe it will happen with another year under his belt with Carson Wentz. Matthews has the 11th-most catches in NFL history by a player in his first three seasons — 225, or 75 per year — but his 2,673 yards are 50th most. Matthews is as hard a worker and as committed a player as you’ll see. He'll get the most out of his ability. I’d just like to see him take his game up one more level, and I think he will.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: It’s a shame the Eagles don’t have any legitimate threats at their outside receiver positions, because if they did, so much of the burden wouldn’t fall on Matthews. No, he’s not a great receiver, but he’s a very good one who has been solid in his first three years in the league. In his first three seasons, Matthews has 225 catches for 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns. There have been just 10 receivers in the league to put up those numbers or better: Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas, Odell Beckham Jr., DeAndre Hopkins, Emmanuel Sanders, Doug Baldwin, Mike Evans, Randall Cobb and Brandon Marshall. Matthews isn’t going anywhere and it’s time to think about an extension. 

Verdict: STAYS

Alex McCalister
Cap hit: $557K

Roob: McCalister, a seventh-round defensive end, spent the year on injured reserve but considering the Eagles’ lack of pass-rush potency, he’ll definitely get a look this summer. McCalister had 17½ sacks at Florida, so he’s got that going for him. Still a long shot.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: This is tough because McCalister was a seventh-round draft pick who was placed on IR with a injury that didn’t appear to be serious. The last year was a redshirt season for the defensive end who has some pass-rush ability but needed to work on packing more muscle onto his frame. Haven’t seen enough to think he sticks. 

Verdict: GOES

Leodis McKelvin
Cap hit: $3.45M

Roob: The Eagles have to do better than McKelvin. He made a few plays, gave up a lot more, and as far as I’m concerned, the Eagles should hang onto Jalen Mills and get rid of all their other corners. Not to mention the $3.2 million in cap savings the Eagles would gain if McKelvin is released. See ya.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The Eagles can save $3.2 million by cutting McKelvin, which will probably happen. If it doesn’t, it’ll be because the Eagles think his lingering hamstring issue played a big role in his play and because defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz goes to bat for him. Ultimately, I think McKelvin’s days in Philly are over. 

Verdict: GOES

Rodney McLeod
Cap hit: $5.6M

Roob: McLeod played really well most of the season, tailed off the last few weeks, and goes into next year a question mark because of that inconsistency. When he’s right, McLeod is a sure tackler, willing run supporter, big hitter and capable in coverage. But those last few weeks raised some eyebrows. There were times you just wondered what he was doing out there. If the Eagles can have the first-10-games McLeod for a full season, they’re fine. But he has to be consistent. He’ll be here through 2017 but after that is anybody’s guess. Another mixed year will likely spell the end here for McLeod.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: There were a few plays that showed questionable effort from McLeod this season, which was shocking based on his past. He was an undrafted rookie who worked his way into the league and into a contract with the Eagles. This ended up being a pretty good signing; he had a nice season. He’s under contract through 2020 and the Eagles hope he hasn’t yet fulfilled his potential. He and Malcolm Jenkins should only get better after more time playing together. 

Verdict: STAYS

Steven Means
Cap hit: $690K

Roob: Means, a veteran journeyman defensive end, played only 36 snaps all year. He did pick up one sack against the Vikings, but as far as his future? Most likely, he won’t be back.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Means did everything in his power last training camp to make the 2016 roster. He flashed every day and in the preseason games. But in 2016, he didn’t get to play very much and was clearly buried on the depth chart behind Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and Marcus Smith. The Eagles need to upgrade at the defensive end spot, which might be bad news for Means if more bodies come in. But for now, he's a good depth piece. 

Verdict: STAYS

Temple names Keith Gaither wide receivers coach

usa-temple-football-aac-title.jpg
USA Today inage

Temple names Keith Gaither wide receivers coach

Temple head coach Geoff Collins on Monday added two new members to his coaching staff.

Keith Gaither will take over as the wide receivers’ coach and Kyle Lane is the new video coordinator. 

Gaither comes to Temple with 21 years of coaching experience. He spent last season as Army's wide receivers coach. Prior to that, he spent time with Tusculum College (1998-99), Thomasville City Schools (2000-04), Winston-Salem State (2005-08), Elon (2009-10) and Ball State (2010-14).

Gaither spent his collegiate career at Elon, where he was a four-year starter and voted all-region at defensive end before graduating in 1997. Collins originally had retained Frisman Jackson from the 2016 staff, but Jackson was hired by the Tennessee Titans. 

Lane is a Temple alum who spent time with Kansas during the 2016 season as its assistant video coordinator.