Hartnell's Huge Weekend Comes With Dad in Attendance

Hartnell's Huge Weekend Comes With Dad in Attendance

The following is guest coverage from Flyers reporter Dave Isaac. Follow Dave on twitter at @davegisaac.

For the past two days, Scott Hartnell has
palled around with his father, Bill. He may want to keep him around a bit
longer, because in the last two games, Scott has five goals. In the second period of the Flyers' 6-5 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins, Hartnell tallied a natural hat trick.

Bill will join the Flyers in Sunrise, Florida, too, but after
that, the trip may end if Minnesota’s Mikko Koivu doesn’t bow out of the
All-Star Game and allow the Flyer to make his first trip to the NHL’s All-Star
Game. Did the father's presence have an impact on his son's game?

“Yeah, he was sort of ‘on’ I guess you’d say,” said Bill,
after watching Scott score a natural hat trick. “Opportunities were there,
eh? Linemates are getting him the puck and he happened to be able to connect in
his spot. It was pretty exciting.”

After 30 years as a teacher and principal in Lloydminster,
Alberta, Bill Hartnell retired and now finds joy in watching his son Scott play
live as much as he can.

“It’s just quality time is what it is,” said Bill. “You’re
away from home. It’s quality time. It’s great."

If witnessing five goals in two games is any indication, the
Flyers might want to keep him around. In fact, Jaromir Jagr interrupted the
interview to lobby for just that.

“Did the Flyers just offer you two years, $6 million?” asked
the injured Jagr. “Scottie’s going to have to take a pay cut a little bit.
You’ve got until tomorrow. Make a decision.”

“I need an agent,” said Hartnell’s father.

“I’ll be the agent,” said Jagr. “Five percent.”

Maybe while he’s lobbying, Jagr can help Hartnell get to
Ottawa on Thursday when the top players report for the All-Star festivities. He
has scored 25 goals and 19 assists on the season and is on pace to score 44
goals on the year with 33 helpers. But still no call to the All-Star Game. Not
yet, anyway. The school of thought exists that Koivu won’t play due to injury
and that if he can’t go, Hartnell might be at the top of a short list of
replacements. But he can’t bank on that.

“I have plans made already,” said Hartnell. “But obviously
if the call does come, I’ll be there in a heartbeat. That’s about it.”

Keeping in line with his son, Bill says he won’t let himself
think about his son’s potential to go to his first All-Star Game either.

“No, what happens, happens,” said the elder Hartnell. “It’s a big league and there are a lot of good players out there. Sure it’s a feather to be asked to go, but there’s an awful lot of other ones, too.”

Phillie Phodder: Aaron Nola's health, Roman Quinn's status, closer job

Phillie Phodder: Aaron Nola's health, Roman Quinn's status, closer job

READING, Pa. — Perhaps the most important issue facing the Phillies as they get set to open spring training is the health of pitcher Aaron Nola.

It won’t be possible to fully gauge the right-hander’s condition until he starts firing pitches against hitters in a competitive situation in February and March.

But less than a month before camp opens, Nola is optimistic that the elbow problems that forced him to miss the final two months of the 2016 season are resolved.

“I feel like the injury is past me,” he said during a Phillies winter caravan stop sponsored by the Double A Reading Fightin Phils on Tuesday night. “I feel back to normal.

“My arm is all good. One-hundred percent.”

Nola, 23, did not pitch after July 28 last season after being diagnosed with a pair of injuries near his elbow — a sprained ulnar collateral ligament and a strained flexor tendon.

Nola and the team opted for a conservative treatment plan that included rest, rehab and a PRP injection. The pitcher spent much of the fall on a rehab program in Clearwater that included his throwing from a bullpen mound. He took a couple of months off and recently began throwing again near his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“All through the rehab, I had no pain,” Nola said. “Probably in the middle of the rehab, I started feeling really good. Towards the end, I started upping the intensity a little bit. I knew after I took two months off I was going to be good. I started back up, throwing after Christmas and it felt really good when I cranked up. I’ve been throwing for a few weeks now. No pain, no hesitation. Not any of it.”

The Phillies selected Nola with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft with the hopes that he would be a foundation piece in the rotation for many years. Nola ascended to the majors in the summer of 2015 and recorded a 3.12 ERA in his first 25 big-league starts before hitting severe turbulence last summer. He had a 9.82 ERA in his final eight starts of 2016 before injuring his elbow during his final start.

Nola said he would report to Clearwater on Feb. 1. He does not expect to have any limitations in camp.

Manager Pete Mackanin is eager to see what Nola looks like in Clearwater.

“There's a part of me that’s concerned,” Mackanin said. “When guys don't have surgery and they mend with just rest, that makes me a little nervous. I don't want that to crop up again because then you lose a couple years instead of one year. But I defer to the medical people and believe in what they say and how he feels.”

Mackanin said he expected Nola to be in the five-man rotation along with Jeremy Hellickson, Jerad Eickhoff, Clay Buchholz and Vince Velasquez to open the season. Mackanin also mentioned Zach Eflin and others as being in the mix. The Phillies have some starting pitching depth and that’s a plus because pitchers' arms are fragile. Nola was the latest example of that last season. He said he’s healthy now, but he'll still be a center of attention in spring training.

More seasoning for Quinn
Mackanin acknowledged that the addition of veteran outfielder Michael Saunders probably means that Roman Quinn will open the season in Triple A.

“I don’t think it’s in our best interest or [Quinn’s] to be a part-time player at the big-league level, so I would think if things stay the way they are and if Saunders is on the team, I think it would behoove Quinn to play a full year of Triple A,” Mackanin said. “We have to find out if he can play 120 or 140 games, which he hasn’t done up to this point. We hope he can because, to me, he’s a potential game changer.”

Morgan to the bullpen?
Mackanin suggested that lefty Adam Morgan could be used as a reliever in camp. The Phillies have just one lefty reliever (Joely Rodriguez) on their 40-man roster. If Morgan pitches well out of the bullpen, he could be a candidate to make the club. Non-roster lefties Sean Burnett and Cesar Ramos could also be in the mix.

Another chance for Gomez
Jeanmar Gomez saved 37 games in 2016 before struggling down the stretch and losing the closer’s job. Hector Neris finished up in the role.

So how will competition for the job shake out in Clearwater?

“I wouldn’t say it’s wide open,” Mackanin said. “I’m going to give Gomez every opportunity to show that he’s the guy that pitched the first five months and not the guy that pitched in September.”

PFF ranks Eagles' front seven as the second best in NFL

PFF ranks Eagles' front seven as the second best in NFL

At times during the 2016 season, the Eagles' defense looked like the best unit in the league. And at other times … it didn't. 

By the end of the season, the Eagles averaged out to be a middle-of-the-road defense. And the way ProFootballFocus ranked it makes sense.

PFF ranked the Eagles' secondary as the absolute worst in the league, but in it's list of front sevens, released on Tuesday, the Eagles came in at No. 2 behind just Seattle. 

Here's what PFF said about the Eagles' front seven: 

"It was a difficult decision between the Eagles and the Seahawks for the No. 1 spot, as this front-seven propped up a hodge-podge secondary to form one of the league’s most effective defenses for a good portion of the season. Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox finished with the third- and fourth-highest pass-rushing productivity marks at their respective positions. Philadelphia’s front-seven also features a budding star in second-year linebacker Jordan Hicks, who led all players at the position with five interceptions."

Graham received the highest grade among the Eagles' front seven with a 93.3, while Connor Barwin received the worst at 42.1. Graham was the only Eagles player to make the PFF All-Pro team this year. To prove that stats don't always tell the full story, Graham finished with a half sack more than Barwin (6 1/2 to 6). 

While the Eagles' cornerback trio of Leodis McKelvin, Nolan Carroll and Jalen Mills ranked 79th, 107th and 120th out of 120, respectively, their players across the front seven were much, much better. 

Hicks was ranked as the seventh-best middle linebacker and Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks were both top-10 outside linebackers in 4-3 defenses. Graham was the top-ranked 4-3 defensive end and Cox was the fifth-best interior lineman.