Hockey Came Back Yesterday, So How Long Will It Take for the Flyers to Be Short on Defensemen?

Hockey Came Back Yesterday, So How Long Will It Take for the Flyers to Be Short on Defensemen?

There are three certainties in life:

1) Death

2) Taxes

3) The Flyers will always be short on quality defensemen

Andrej Meszaros underwent surgery in early August to repair a torn right Achilles tendon. He injured himself while training in Slovakia and did so just weeks after getting over a back issue that allowed him to resume training.

The last time we heard anything about his status was in November, when he was skating with the team in player-organized workouts.

Well, according to Tim Panaccio, Meszaros might not be ready to go when the season gets underway (likely on Jan. 19):

“I don’t know,” Meszaros replied after a player scrimmage Monday. “It’s tough to say. I really didn’t have a full practice with everything. Or a scrimmage.
 
“The speed of the game … it’s a great tempo but it’s not – I have to try it. Once we start practicing, with the whole team and do scrimmages, then I can actually say whether I can. I can’t really tell right now.”

Erik Gustafsson, meanwhile, has a bone bruise in his foot, and Marc-Andre Bourdon is concussed.

So, who we working with?
Besides Meszaros, Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, Nicklas Grossman and Andreas Lilja are joined by newcomers Luke Schenn and Bruno Gervais. Then there's an assortment of guys with varying degrees of potential in Gustafsson, Bourdon, Brandon Manning and Danny Syvret — the first Flyer to ever officially score a goal outside.

Will they hold up?
Starting with Kimmo, Timonen's been the Flyers' best defenseman since he got here, other than Chris Pronger, who doesn't figure to ever see the ice again. But Timonen, 37, is getting older, and this condensed season is going to take its toll on everyone. The Flyers will obviously need to Timonen in the playoffs, meaning Peter Laviolette may want to take a page out of Gregg Popovich's book when it comes to managing his aging defenseman's minutes.

As for Grossmann, who signed a four-year extension with the Flyers early last April, he was a vital cog on a Flyers blue line that, prior to his arrival from Dallas, desperately needed size and grit. And over the latter part of the season, he was arguably their most important piece — when healthy. Grossmann battled knee injuries and was concussed following an Evgeni Malkin elbow to the head — there's a shocker — during last year's playoffs. Rather than undergo knee surgery, Grossmann opted for physical therapy in Sweden and is apparently OK.

The Flyers will need him to stay that way. They were a radically different team with and without his presence in the lineup and figure to be again this year.

And, of course, the three guys mentioned at the top are already injured.


Coby
While most will focus on Timonen and Grossmann, Braydon Coburn, much as he did last season, will need to quietly go about logging a bulk of the minutes on the back end. Coburn's play can be a little inconsistent at times, but his low moments are usually blown out proportion relative to his value. He averaged 22 minutes per night in the regular season last year and 27 minutes per game in the playoffs. Playing under a new contract, and with Timonen figuring to require maintenance time, Coburn and Grossmann are the likely candidates to lead the Flyers in TOI.

Brayden's brother
Luke Schenn brings additional depth, size and physicality, but Flyers and
Leafs traded two young guys with tons of potential for one another
because neither of the two has found a way in their early careers to
channel their talent into a consistent product on the ice.

A change of scenery will hopefully help, as the Flyers need someone other than Grossmann to clear the porch in front of Bryzgalov (just think back to some of Rangers games last year).

His contributions, if he can put his game together, could prove vital.

Don't know what you've got 'til it's gone
One other small note, internet commenters are obliged to hate him, but Matt Carle was severely undervalued in Philadelphia, his turnover issues were greatly exaggerated and, unless Erik Gustafsson is ready to take a big step forward, the Flyers will run into an all-too-familiar problem, albeit one they haven't had in a few years:

A distinct lack of puck-carrying defenseman who can skate the team out of its own zone.

--

The NHL doesn't even have an official agreement to resume play, so it's naturally time to start worrying about the Flyers' blue line.

It's good to be back.

Phillies-Mets 5 things: Howard, Phils can spoil Mets' season

Phillies-Mets 5 things: Howard, Phils can spoil Mets' season

Phillies (70-89) vs. Mets (85-74)
7:05 p.m. on CSN

Just three games remain in the Phillies' season. After a 24-17 start, the season went predictably downhill. However, the Phils have a chance to play spoiler to a big-time rival with the New York Mets in town. Alec Asher is on the hill for the Phillies while Robert Gsellman faces the Phillies for a third times this year.

Here are five things to watch on Friday night.

1. End of the road for the Big Ticket
There are just three games left in Ryan Howard's tenure with the Phillies.

It's been a long ride for Howard. There'll be plenty on Howard this weekend (and there's a pregame ceremony for him on Sunday), but here are some of his stats from his 13 years in Philadelphia.

Howard has hit 381 home runs and has 1,192 RBI with the Phils. He has 10 seasons of at least 20 home runs and has a run of six straight seasons from 2006 to 2011, his first six full seasons, with at least 30 home runs and 100 RBI. He twice walked more than 100 times in a season and he racked up 276 doubles.

The long-time first baseman has hit 47 home runs against the Mets, his second highest total against any team (52 vs. Atlanta). In 174 games, Howard has 157 hits and 73 walks against the Mets.

Howard goes into the weekend with 197 home runs at Citizens Bank Park. Overall, he's racked up 1,465 total bases at CBP. He has, however, struck out 880 times in 769 games there as well.

2. Playing spoilers
While the Phillies are firmly outside of the playoff race, the New York Mets are in the driver's seat for a wild card spot. The Phillies could have something to say about that.

The San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals both won on Thursday while the Mets were off. That leaves the Mets one game ahead of the Giants for the first wild card spot and two games up on the Cardinals for a playoff spot. 

If the Mets win two of three this weekend, they clinch homefield advantage in the Wild Card game on Wednesday. With one win, they guarantee that they cannot be eliminated this weekend. Their magic number is two to clinch a playoff berth, so a combination of wins and Cardinals' losses can get them into the postseason. 

The Phillies can throw a wrench into the Mets' gameplan with a strong showing this weekend. While they've lost six of seven, the Phillies will likely get up for games with playoff implications. Furthermore, the Mets have the incentive to clinch as soon as possible as to avoid needing Noah Syndergaard to pitch on Sunday, so they can hold him for the National League wild card game on Wednesday.

3. Asher closes out impressive month 
Asher has made four starts since coming up earlier this month and has been much more impressive than his late season stint in 2015. 

After going 0-6 with a 9.31 ERA last year, he's 2-0 with a 1.66 ERA. However, despite picking up a win last weekend against the Mets, he struggled late and left room for improvement. 

Asher began his start Saturday vs. the Mets with a perfect game through three innings. He worked around three baserunners in the fourth inning, but came unglued after a couple errors in the fifth inning. While poor defense is not his fault, it would have been a good sign if he could have picked up his defense. Instead, he barely made it through the inning after four unearned runs.

Normally, a team would look for length out of their starter when handed such a large lead, so Asher only making it through five is disappointing. He still hasn't allowed more than two earned runs and has induced plenty of weak contact with his two-seam fastball.

The Mets will be the first (and only) team he faces twice this season.

4. Third time the charm vs. Gsellman?
Gsellman will be making his seventh career MLB start on Friday and it will be his third against the Phillies.

In two starts against the Phils, Gsellman is 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA over 13 innings. He has 13 strikeouts against them while allowing 10 hits and three walks. 

All four runs he allowed to the Phillies came in his first start. He had held the Phils to one run over six innings but departed after loading the bases with none out. The Mets' bullpen promptly allowed all three inherited runners to score.

On Sunday, Gsellman dominated, shutting out the Phils for seven innings. He allowed just five baserunners and struck out eight in the 17-0 win. 

The 23-year-old rookie has a 2.56 ERA through seven appearances in the majors. He started the season in Double A, but he will likely get a playoff start if the Mets gets to the Division Series.

5. This and that
• The Phillies have just two extra base hits in 50 plate appearances against Gsellman. They are hitting .222/.271/.267 against him. 

• Eight Phils have hits off Gsellman. Freddy Galvis is 2 for 5 with a double and Jimmy Paredes is 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI. 

• Michael Conforto hit a home run off Asher last season. No Mets hitter has more than one hit against him, in part because none of them have faced him more than three times.

• The Phillies have 601 runs on the season, the fewest in baseball by 39 runs. The Mets have the fifth worst total with 659 runs.

• Jeanmar Gomez is 0-3 with a 19.13 ERA in September. He's allowed 18 runs (17 earned) in eight innings.

An Attack on Carson Wentz is an Attack on All of Us

An Attack on Carson Wentz is an Attack on All of Us

Carson Wentz. He’s a phenom. He’s a star. He’s the franchise quarterback we’ve been waiting for for all this time. Wentz has led the Eagles to a 3-0 start, showing poise well beyond his years, and establishing himself, without a doubt, as the best quarterback in Eagles history, or at least the best since Jeff Garcia. Who else would it be? McNabb? Please. How many times was he undefeated at the bye? 

Wentz, especially after crushing the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday, is unquestionably the real deal -- and I have only two questions: Should I order my flight to Houston for the Super Bowl now, or wait until the rates come down? And should the parade go up Broad Street towards City Hall, or down, towards the Sports Complex? 

Carson Wentz has already been named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month, which is clearly only a small steppingstone to Rookie of the Year, MVP, having his number retired, and ultimately the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I mean, did you see some of those throws last Sunday? 

But even with all the excitement, some are skeptical. After Week 1, we heard “it’s just one game, and besides -- it’s Cleveland!” After week 2? “the Browns and Bears suck -- wake me up when he beats a good team. After week 3? “He hasn’t even played a division game yet!” Worst of all was CBS’ Bart Scott, who called Wentz "fool’s gold." 

Please. What you have to understand is that people like Scott aren’t just mouthing off on a pregame show or sharing a meaningless NFL opinion. They are launching a vicious attack on Carson Wentz, the Philadelphia Eagles organization, every Philadelphia fan, and the city of Philadelphia itself. We should all be horribly insulted, and demanding action. 

It’s bad enough when the national guys bring up snowballs and Santa Claus. But let’s be real: Bad-mouthing Carson Wentz must not be tolerated, ever. I call for a boycott of all CBS-owned properties (other than WIP), until Bart Scott apologizes or is fired. 

Sure, I know a lot of people are more upset about the national anthem stuff. But make no mistake: Questioning Carson Wentz is way worse. 

Other Philly sports takes: 

- Of course, I’d be even happier with the Eagles’ start if the long snapper hadn’t unfairly lost a televised talent show to a little girl. 

- For those of you who asked: Now that Buddy has passed, I’ll be writing in Carson Wentz for president. 

- Assuming Jim Schwartz leaves the Eagles for a head coaching job, who should replace him as defensive coordinator? It’ll be a tough choice between Rex Ryan and Rob Ryan.  

- The only downside to the Eagles’ 3-0 start? Josh Innes isn’t around for it. Poor guy. 

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