Inside the Flyers' seven-game home winning streak

Inside the Flyers' seven-game home winning streak

Lately, it may seem like the Philadelphia Flyers have been on the road for an eternity.  You’re not crazy if you think that way because the Flyers basically have been on the road for the last month.

The Orange and Black have played nine of their last twelve games away from Wells Fargo Center and have dropped the last four of those nine games.

But on the rare occasion the Flyers have been home recently, they’ve been damn good. Try like seven straight wins at home good.

Granted the wins have been spread out over the course of about six weeks, but the Flyers have won seven straight games on Wells Fargo Center ice. It’s the team’s longest home winning streak since they won eight in a row in South Philly from Dec. 9, 2008 to Jan. 10, 2009.

The current streak started way back on Nov. 9 with a 4-2 win over Edmonton. You may remember that Saturday afternoon matinee as the game where Claude Giroux finally scored his first goal of the season and the team responded from a demoralizing, 3-0 shutout at the hands of New Jersey in their previous game.

The comfy stretch of home cooking has included wins over Ottawa, Buffalo, the New York Islanders, Winnipeg, Montreal and Tuesday’s 5-2 win over Washington. Not the sexiest teams the NHL has to offer and only Montreal and Washington really pose a legitimate threat according to the standings, but, hey, a seven-game home winning streak is a seven-game home winning streak. Am I right?

But why have the Flyers been so good at home recently after starting the campaign 2-7 on home ice?

Let’s start with the goaltending.

Steve Mason has been in net for six of the seven games. In those games, he’s allowed just 10 goals total on 171 shots faced. If my math is correct, that’s good for a 1.42 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage. Not too shabby, Mr. Mason.

Ray Emery started the Nov. 21 game against Buffalo and allowed just one Sabres goal on 30 shots faced in a 4-1 Flyers win.

It’s fair to say that type of spectacular goaltending has been the backbone of the Orange and Black’s recent home success.

The much-maligned Flyers’ offense has done its part, too.

During this seven-game streak, the Flyers have scored 27 goals. That’s an average of 3.85 goals per game and quite a bump for a team that enters Thursday in the bottom third of the league with just 2.35 goals scored per game.

The offensive effort has been spread throughout the team, too.

Starting with Jay Rosehill’s – yes, that Jay Rosehill – goal in the first period of the Edmonton game, 13 different Flyers have scored those 27 goals. Matt Read leads the way with five while Giroux is right behind him with four. Headed by Jake Voracek with five to his name, 16 different Flyers have recorded an assist. Giroux and Voracek lead the way with eight points each during the streak.

That’s what is known as an all-around offensive effort.

The Flyers will look to make it eight in a row at home tonight when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets, a new Metropolitan Division foe. Because Columbus, Ohio is so metropolitan, but I digress. It’ll be the start of another home-and-home series. The return match will take place Saturday night in Columbus.

The Blue Jackets – who sit two points behind the Flyers in the Metropolitan standings - have been able to hold their heads above water despite injuries to key players like sniper Marian Gaborik, free-agent acquisition Nathan Horton and reigning Vezina Trophy-winner - and No. 1 goaltender in your hearts – Sergei Bobrovsky.

Don’t worry, guys. Bob won’t be able to stick it to the Flyers tonight because he’s still slated to be out a few more weeks with a groin injury.  Something called a Curtis McElhinney will start between the pipes for the Jackets.

Look out for the young talent the Blue Jackets feature in forwards like leading-scorer Ryan Johansen and Cam Atkinson and defensemen Jack Johnson and Ryan Murray.

As far as the Flyers are concerned, Mason will start for the first time against his former team. And somehow, someway Brayden Schenn will play after taking that frightening hit from the Captials’ Tom Wilson the other night. With as ugly as that was, it’s almost a small Christmas miracle he’s ready to play.

In case you were wondering, the Flyers franchise record for a home winning streak is 20 games during the 1975-76 season.

Only 13 more to go!

But that might take awhile because they leave for another six-game road trip after Monday’s game against visiting Minnesota.

Stupid Disney On Ice.

49ers promote former Eagles VP of player personnel Tom Gamble to assistant GM

49ers promote former Eagles VP of player personnel Tom Gamble to assistant GM

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers have promoted Tom Gamble to assistant general manager.

General manager Trent Baalke announced the move on Monday, calling Gamble an "accomplished talent evaluator."

Gamble returned to the 49ers in January 2015 as a senior personnel executive after spending two seasons in Philadelphia as vice president of player personnel. Gamble worked with current 49ers coach Chip Kelly during his time with the Eagles.

Gamble had spent eight seasons previously in San Francisco and was director of player personnel in his final two seasons. Gamble is entering his 29th season in the NFL.

Browns WR Josh Gordon reinstated by NFL after missing all of 2015

Browns WR Josh Gordon reinstated by NFL after missing all of 2015

CLEVELAND — Josh Gordon's curious and complicated career has taken a new turn.

He's getting yet another chance.

The talented but troubled wide receiver has been reinstated on a conditional basis by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who met face to face with Gordon last week and said he believes the 25-year-old can "make the right choices" going forward.

Gordon has been banned since February 2015 for multiple violations of the league's drug policies. He will be suspended for the first four games of the 2016-17, but he's allowed to join the team in its upcoming training camp and can participate in meetings and conditioning work. The league said once Gordon meets clinical requirements, he can take part in preseason activities, including practices and games.

It's a fresh start for Gordon, who emerged as one of the league's rising stars in 2013 before several missteps led to his banishment.

As long as he stays clean, Gordon, who met with Goodell in New York on July 19, is eligible to return to the team on Oct. 3. During his four-game suspension, Gordon may participate in team meetings and other activities but can't practice or play in games.

Gordon was suspended 10 games in 2014 and the entire 2015 season for substance violations, a pattern that began during his college career at Baylor and Utah. He was denied reinstatement in April after failing a drug test because of samples that also tested positive for marijuana.

In a letter to Gordon, Goodell made it clear the onus is on the 25-year-old former Pro Bowler to stay clean.

"As we discussed at our (July 19) meeting, as Commissioner, I want nothing more than to see you turn your circumstances around and succeed," Goodell said. "Countless others including your agent, teammates and coaches, (owner) Jimmy Haslam and the leadership of the organization, the Program professionals and Jim Brown also have pledged to provide you with every resource at their disposal. But as you acknowledged, ultimately, your future is your responsibility. I have every belief that you can make the right choices, but it will be up to you to do so."

The Browns open training camp on Friday under first-year coach Hue Jackson, who has mostly steered clear of discussing Gordon or his future.

The team has not yet commented on Gordon's conditional reinstatement.

Gordon broke out in 2013, when he led the league with 1,646 yards receiving, scored nine touchdowns and averaged 117.6 yards per game.

With his future unclear, the Browns selected Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman in the first round of this year's draft.

Ron Hextall sees benefit in Brayden Schenn's 'market deal'

Ron Hextall sees benefit in Brayden Schenn's 'market deal'

Expensive at the start, cheaper at the finish.
 
That’s how Flyers general manager Ron Hextall views the four-year, $20.5 million contract he gave Brayden Schenn on Monday morning to avoid salary arbitration (see story).
 
Hextall admitted the club is overpaying up front on the deal, but believes it got a “fair” number for the final two years when Schenn would have become an unrestricted free agent.
 
“We took a higher cap hit for the first two years and essentially a lower hit than we would have taken in years three and four if we piece meal it together,” Hextall said.
 
Hextall said he was walking into the 9 a.m. Toronto hearing with agent Don Meehan already deep in a conversation on a deal but prepared to go through with arbitration.
 
Both parties asked arbitrator Elizabeth Neumeier for additional time and completed the contract by 9:45 a.m.
 
Schenn, a restricted free agent, turned down the Flyers’ two-year offer of $4.25 million for this coming season and $4.369 million in 2017-18. That averaged to $4.30 million.
 
His new contract averages $5.125 million.
 
“The benefit for us is our cap number stays flat for four years rather than having have a cap at a lower number then taking a run at him for two years, if in fact he’d sign for two years at a higher cap number,” Hextall said.
 
Hextall denied he was concerned he might get whacked in arbitration. Yet Schenn has had just one very good season in five years as a Flyer. That was last season with 26 goals and 59 points.
 
Hextall described Schenn as a player who has been “average” in his development, yet has improved in the subtle “intricacies” of the game such as finding open spots, avoiding shot blocks and coming cleanly across the blue line without turning the puck over.
 
Schenn’s true market value is closer to what New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri, a 25-year-old right wing, signed earlier this month: a five-year deal worth $23.25 with an AAV of $4.65 million.
 
Then again, St. Louis’ Jaden Schwartz signed a five-year, $26.5 million deal with a $5.35 million AAV. That’s above market value.
 
Meehan originally sought an AAV of $5.5 million for Schenn. In arbitration, it’s likely the Flyers would have received a two-year award in the middle of both numbers.
 
“Nothing really concerned me [about arbitration],” Hextall said. “We had a range and in the end our range was close to what Brayden’s camp felt the range was. Both sides had a range on a two-year deal.

“It’s a market deal … Brayden has been a good player. Top six forwards are hard to find and there’s a premium to pay. There’s no question we paid a premium for a top six forward whose 24-years-old and essentially coming into his prime.”
 
While Hextall labeled Schenn as a top six forward, he tap-danced around whether he sees him as a “core” player for the Flyers, even though this makes him the third highest-paid forward behind Claude Giroux ($8.275 million) and Jakub Voracek ($8.25 million).
 
“What is a core [player]?” Hextall asked. “That’s arguable … What we do know is Brayden is a very good young player who is getting better and we hope he continues to get better.”
 
This signing leaves the Flyers with just $1.38 million in salary cap space, but with 14 forwards, the club will lose at least one by the end of training camp.
 
Thinking ahead, Jordan Weal could be sent to the Phantoms, shaving $650,000 off the cap. That’s the most likely option for the Flyers, but not their only option.
 
Scott Laughton, whose role was diminished by a strong presence from Nick Cousins, is a lesser possibility. His cap hit is $863,333.
 
Losing either of those two salaries would provide the Flyers over $2 million in cap space.
 
Schenn’s contract lacks a no-trade/no-movement clause that he would have been eligible for starting in 2018-19. He turns 25 in August.
 
The Flyers have one more arbitration to settle: defenseman Brandon Manning on Aug. 2.