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.

A.J. Ellis still adjusting, learning names as he joins the Phillies

A.J. Ellis still adjusting, learning names as he joins the Phillies

NEW YORK – It wasn’t easy leaving the only professional organization he’d ever been part of, but new Phillie A.J. Ellis, acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Carlos Ruiz trade Thursday, is coming to terms with it.

“To find out that the trade went down, it was hard,” Ellis said upon reporting to his new club Saturday. “It was so immediate and sudden, really hard to say goodbye to a lot of relationships I had been blessed to forge for more than a decade.

“But the waves of emotion are getting farther and farther apart, which is a good thing.”

Ellis, 35, was drafted by the Dodgers in 2003 and rose to the majors with them in 2008. With the Phillies, he will serve a similar role to the one he played with the Dodgers – backup catcher. Ellis wasted no time getting to know the pitching staff he will now work with. He arrived at Citi Field early Saturday afternoon and caught Jake Thompson and Jerad Eickhoff in their between-starts bullpen sessions.

Ellis said “Eichorn” when referring to Eickhoff. He’s forgiven. It’s been a whirlwind week.

“See?” he said. “I’m still learning names.”

Ellis, who served as the personal catcher for Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw, was blindsided by the trade.

“When I was summoned to the ballpark, that’s never really a good thing, especially when the front office wants to meet with you as far as where you’re at with the club, you know some kind of transition is happening,” he said. “The first 12 hours were definitely the hardest.

“But to arrive here and arrive in the clubhouse, meeting the staff, I’m starting to feel re-energized, refilled with a sense of purpose as to why I’ve been placed here, and why this is where I need to be at this time. I’m excited about that.

"I know I have huge shoes to fill. Carlos Ruiz is such a fixture in the Phillies organization. The work that he’s done here behind the plate, you can’t fill. This guy is a world champion catcher who has been back there for so many great baseball memories. So it’s up to me to do my part to fill the void.”

Manager Pete Mackanin thought about putting Ellis in the lineup Saturday night then had some mercy when he figured facing hard-throwing Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard might not be the best indoctrination for a guy who just flew cross-country. Ellis is likely to start Sunday afternoon’s series finale and catch Vince Velasquez.

That doesn’t mean he wasn’t asked to make a contribution to Saturday night’s game. Mackanin said he wanted Ellis to speak with the Phillies hitters about the weaknesses the Dodger pitchers tried to exploit.

“We talk to them about this stuff all the time, but it might help to hear it from an outside source,” Mackanin said.

Ellis left a first-place club for a rebuilding team. That’s not easy. He has come to terms with that. He likes the young talent on the Phillies’ roster and hopes to help it come to flower.

“Guys are playing for their careers,” he said. “Guys are playing to make their mark in this game and create a winning franchise once again in Philadelphia. 

"You see the talent, you see their desire to learn, their desire to get better. You just know the youth on this staff, the talent level on this staff. And if I can in some short time here impact some wisdom on those guys, share some of the wisdom along the way that I’ve picked up from some great mentors I’ve had in my time in the game, I need to pay it back, from what all has been given to me.”

Ellis hit just .197 with a .285 on-base percentage in 53 games for the Dodgers this season. That’s one of the reasons the Dodgers acquired Ruiz – to get more production from their right-handed-hitting backup catcher. Ruiz had a .369 on-base percentage at the time of the trade.

Phillies’ general manager Matt Klentak was “adamant” that Ellis come back on the deal because he wanted someone who could fill Ruiz’ void on (behind the plate) and off (with clubhouse leadership) the field. Ellis’ time with the Phillies might be short. He will be a free agent at the end of the season and his playing time might be scant as September unfolds. The Phils will probably add prospect Jorge Alfaro to the catching mix sometime during that month. Management seems eager to get a look at him while still getting No. 1 catcher Cameron Rupp the game reps he needs.

Carson Wentz goes through lengthy pregame warmup in Indy

Carson Wentz goes through lengthy pregame warmup in Indy

INDIANAPOLIS -- Carson Wentz isn't playing on Saturday night against the Colts, but the No. 2 overall pick might have a chance to play in the preseason finale on Thursday, which has been the hope all along. 

Wentz went through a lengthy pregame warmup -- about an hour -- on Saturday as his teammates prepared to face Andrew Luck and the Colts. Long after Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel went into the locker room, Wentz continued to throw. 

This week's pregame warmup was much more intense than the one he was put through last week in Pittsburgh. On Saturday, he dropped back to throw and looked smooth throwing on the run, even across his body. Quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo put Wentz through the hour-long workout on Saturday. Leaving the field after the workout, offensive coordinator Frank Reich agreed that Wentz looked good. 

The real test will be the X-ray, because no matter how good he feels or how much he lobbies, he'll need to be cleared before he's allowed to return. Shortly after the injury, Wentz said practice would be determined by his pain tolerance and game action would be determined by medical personnel. If he doesn't play against the Jets, it could be a while before Eagles fans get to see their quarterback of the future. 

Another hurdle is the short week of practice thanks to a Thursday game coming after a Saturday game. 

"It's interesting because next week we only got really two days of practice," Doug Pederson said earlier in the week. "We'll see. We'll evaluate him through the weekend. [We’ll] take him on this trip and work him out a little bit when we get to Indy [Indianapolis], and then again next Monday and Tuesday. We've got to at least get a day's work with him in order for him to go in the game next Thursday."

Along with Wentz, there are several other Eagles who won't play against the Colts: Aaron Grymes, Alex McCalister, Joe Walker, Jordan Matthews, Isaac Seumalo and Mike Martin.

Tonight's Lineup: After hitting 6th Friday, Odubel Herrera moves up to 2-hole

Tonight's Lineup: After hitting 6th Friday, Odubel Herrera moves up to 2-hole

After watching his club get smacked around in a 9-4 loss to the Mets on Friday, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin has tinkered with his lineup for Saturday's game at Citi Field.

Odubel Herrera moves up to the two-hole after hitting sixth Friday, while Aaron Altherr goes from second to third and Jimmy Paredes gets the start in left and bats seventh. Ryan Howard starts again at first base and bats fifth.

Herrera, who has been struggling since the All-Star break with a .257 average, has lost his leadoff spot to Cesar Hernandez but is starting to find his swing again.

In the last seven days, Herrera is 5 for 17 with a double and a run scored. In August, the centerfielder is hitting .288 with two homers and five RBIs.

Altherr, who played left field Friday, moves over to right field and Peter Bourjos gets the night off. Altherr is hitting .255 with four home runs and 19 RBIs on the season.

Here is the full Phillies lineup:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Aaron Altherr, RF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Ryan Howard, 1B
6. Cameron Rupp, C
7. Jimmy Paredes, LF
8. Freddy Galvis, SS
9. Jeremy Hellickson, P

For more on tonight's's game, check out Steven Tydings' game notes.