Jason Akeson doesn’t deserve to be portrayed as goat

Jason Akeson doesn’t deserve to be portrayed as goat

If the Philadelphia Flyers eventually lose their first-round playoff series with the New York Rangers as they did Game 1, Jason Akeson’s four-minute high-sticking penalty will live in infamy as one of the turning points.

Should the orange and black go on to win, the penalty and resulting outcome will be as good as forgotten. Or, should Akeson ever develop into a productive NHL player, the transgression might turn out to be nothing more than a footnote in his career. Maybe.

If the Flyers are knocked out—especially in six or seven—the name Akeson will forever become a part of Philly sports lore. Only his having a hand in winning a future Stanley Cup here could erase that.

Otherwise, people will always wonder how a player who had not dressed until the final day of the regular season, who had only two career NHL games under his belt, found himself on the ice in the third period of a tie game during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They’ll ask how Akeson could make such a stupid, careless mistake, never mind he just lost his balance and the high stick was clearly an accident.

The passage of time will undoubtedly forget Akeson was actually the best, most active forward on the ice that night.

Revisionist history won’t recall the ineffectiveness of Claude Giroux and the captain’s top line. Akeson along with Michael Raffl paced the stagnant Philly offense with three shots each, each more than the entire G line combined.

Akeson’s blunder will be talked about as if killing off at least half the power play wasn’t an option. One day, it will seem almost as if the Flyers didn’t go the first seven minutes without a shot on goal, or the entire third period with only one, or 15 total for the whole game.

Jason Akeson will just be that dude who clumsily whacked Carl Hagelin in the face while falling down. And it just happened to draw blood, an arbitrary rule that causes a double minor. And the Rangers scored on both ends of it to seal the Flyers’ fate.

Yeah, the kid messed up. He got overly aggressive and used poor technique, a combination that directly led to the mistake, a penalty in a spot Philadelphia could ill-afford one. Akeson doesn’t get left off the hook for showing poor judgment.

The stick wasn’t the reason the Flyers lost though. Nor was Ray Emery starting in goal in place of Steve Mason, out with an upper-body injury.

New York plain dominated the game from start to finish. Akeson just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The perfect scapegoat.

It will be interesting to see whether head coach Craig Berube has the fortitude to go with the 23-year-old in Game 2, or again at all this postseason.

It wasn’t like he was the only player wearing orange and black who appeared to have his skates laced up tight or anything. Jason Akeson was just the rookie who made the dumb rookie mistake that predictably brought down the entire house of cards, the one that was leaning already.

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

The Sixers finished in the basement of the NBA standings last season with a league-low 10 wins. But with the influx of young talent and addition of a couple veterans to the roster, the Las Vegas oddsmakers are betting on the Sixers to make some strides upward in the 2016-17 standings.  

Last week, the WestGate Superbook in Las Vegas set the Sixers' over/under for wins this season at an optimistic 27½, which was the fourth-lowest projection in the league.

Similarly, while Bovada is projecting another season of basketball filled with mostly losses in Philadelphia, the sportsbook doesn't view the Sixers as a shoo-in to finish as the league's worst team for the second consecutive year.

Per Bovada, the Sixers have the fourth-longest odds (125/1) to capture the Atlantic Divison title for the first time since 2001-02, beating out the Nets (250/1) by a considerable margin.

The favorite to win the division is the Celtics at 20/21, trailed closely by the defending division champion Raptors (21/20). The Knicks are between the Raptors and Sixers at 10/1.

The Sixers (150/1) also edged out the Nets (200/1) in odds to win the Eastern Conference championship. The two teams in the conference directly ahead of the Sixers in that futures bet are the Hornets (100/1) and Magic (50/1).

The Cavaliers are the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference at 5/11, followed by the Celtics (5/1) and Raptors (14/1).

Least surprising of all futures odds, Bovada has the Sixers tied with four other teams for the longest odds to win the NBA title. The Nuggets, Kings, Nets and Suns were tied with the Sixers at 500/1 odds to win the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy.

The early favorites to win it all are the same two teams that met in the 2016 Finals. The Warriors are alone at top with the shortest odds at 4/5 trailed by the Cavaliers at 3/1.

Pete Mackanin will push to add hitter in meeting with front-office brass Friday

Pete Mackanin will push to add hitter in meeting with front-office brass Friday

ATLANTA — The Phillies entered Tuesday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves — No. 157 of 162 — ranked last in the majors in runs scored (591) and were hanging out near the bottom in a slew of other important offensive categories.
 
The stat sheet says the Phillies need more offense.
 
So does the manager.
 
Pete Mackanin plans to make his case for adding a bat this winter — the best fit would be in the outfield — in an end-of-season meeting with the front office Friday at Citizens Bank Park.
 
“Basically, having talked to the rest of the coaching staff, we’re all pretty much in agreement with what our needs are,” Mackanin said Tuesday afternoon. “I’m anxious to hear from (general manager) Matt Klentak and from (president) Andy MacPhail and if there’s an owner there. We’d like to hear what they have to say. We’re pretty much in agreement on a lot of what we need.
 
“I, for one, think we need at least one hitter that gives you quality at-bats.”
 
There could be hurdles in adding a bat. Money is not one of them. All of the team’s big contracts will be gone when Ryan Howard rides off into the sunset on Sunday. The team that spent over a half-billion in salaries from 2012 to 2014 (and missed the playoffs each time) has plenty of money and has vowed to spend it in due time. But that time might not arrive until team leaders believe the club has built a nucleus that would benefit from the signing of a "finishing" talent or two. The team is committed to building that nucleus from within, and there lies the potential hurdle in adding the difference-making bat that Mackanin craves. Building from within requires eventually giving players from the system an opportunity to prove themselves and grow at the major-league level. The front office, still very much committed to a rebuild, will be cognizant of blocking those players (the list includes Roman Quinn, Nick Williams, Dylan Cozens and others) and their opportunities. Klentak has said as much on several occasions this year.
 
Even Mackanin acknowledged that the situation is a Catch-22.
 
“I know I don’t want to block a prospect that has a chance to be a big part of it,” he said.
 
“But at the same time, I think by having one guy in the middle of the lineup or somewhere in the lineup that can take a little pressure off (Maikel) Franco and (Odubel) Herrera and the rest of them could do wonders. You look at when (Matt) Kemp joined the Braves. They all went off. They’re all hitting. They’ve scored more runs than anybody, I think, since the All-Star break. Last year, with (Yoenis) Cespedes, he joined the Mets and all of a sudden they all started hitting.
 
“I will give those examples. I feel that’s important.”
 
A number of outfield bats will be on the free-agent market this winter. Cespedes could be there if he opts out of his contract with the Mets, but he’s not likely to be interested in joining a rebuilding team and the Phillies are unlikely to want the long-term commitment a player like that would require. Dexter Fowler and Matt Holiday could be free agents if their options for 2017 are not exercised. Ian Desmond will be out there, but the Rangers will probably look to retain him. Jose Bautista, Josh Reddick, Brandon Moss and Colby Rasmus will also be out there. Martin Prado is the type of “professional hitter” that would appeal to Mackanin, but he agreed to a three-year contract extension with the Miami Marlins on Tuesday.