Later on, Collie: Brendan Shanahan Named NHL's New Head of Discipline

Later on, Collie: Brendan Shanahan Named NHL's New Head of Discipline

In keeping with some of the other changes happening within the National Hockey League, commissioner Gary Bettman announced this evening that future-Hall-of-Famer and current VP of Hockey and Business Development Brendan Shanahan will be the leader of the NHL's new Department of Player Safety. In addition to examining the legality of head shots and the evolution of protective equipment given hockey's ongoing concussion crisis, Shanahan will also be replacing Senior Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell as the NHL's new Head of Discipline.

Shanahan's ascendance to such a position can hardly be considered a surprise given his recent relationship with the league office. Credited, at least in part, with the idea of last year's "Captain's Pick" All-Star Draft and already, as mentioned above, a league executive, Shanny has been influencing the executive staff in clearly substantial ways since his retirement in 2009.

The legacy of Colin Campbell and Gary Bettman's other announcements from his yearly State of the League presser after the jump...

Let's just come out and say it—Flyers fans aren't exactly fond of Mr. Campbell. Quite frankly, it might be difficult to find any hockey fan with complimentary words for the now former Head of Discipline.

Campbell's decisions regarding supplemental discipline—read: fines and suspensions—were often derided as unfair and wildly inconsistent. Remembering Campbell from his days as a player during the era of the Broad Street Bullies and his later stint as the head coach of the New York Rangers in the mid-1990s, Flyers fans have always been wary of Colin's potential for a predisposition to judgement in cases involving members of the Orange & Black.

That said, Campbell has performed one of the single most thankless jobs in all sports for the past 17 years. Though local fans may feel Campbell exhibited a specific bias toward our fair city and its hockey club, the truth is that such a sentiment was fairly common around the league. After all, literally any fine or suspension could be criticized as inconsistent with previous disciplinary measures given the somewhat impossible task of establishing stone precedents in an evolving league and a sport with constant motion that can switch from fluid to violent in an instant.

Moreover, handing out punishments and aggravating fan-bases wasn't a job Campbell exactly relished. Indeed, as Gary Bettman detailed during his Wednesday evening press conference, it was Campbell himself who suggested the job be turned over to Shanahan. In agreement, Bettman joked that Campbell's nearly two decades in such a controversial position has certainly qualified as "punishment enough."

While excitement for a new head of discipline is certainly understandable, it remains to be seen if Shanahan can make any better of the disciplinary mess than his predecessor. Though Colin certainly appeared overwhelmingly inept when performing his job, time will tell if such a perceived incompetence is truly the shortcomings of Campbell or, rather, the inevitable thanklessness of the responsibility.

This discussion has, until this point, attempted to keep the discussion of Campbell's tenure somewhat balanced, but this 2010 post from MC79Hockey.com featuring a chain of messages between Collie and former Director of Officiating Stephen Walkom appears to point to some less than objective statements from key members of the league office. Is he a Flyer hating scumbag? Is he an alright guy with a tough job? Is the bend in the road a dead end if you round the corner and see Dean Warren standing there? We'll let you be the judge.

As for other league updates, commissioner Bettman revealed that the former Atlanta Thrashers will remain a member of the Southeastern Division for the 2011-2012 season despite their change in location. After the season, re-alignment will discussed to relieve the travel strain on both Winnipeg and its division rivals.

Though Bettman could not speak with any level of certainty, he did speculate on the future of the league's structure, commenting on the potential of a Winnipeg move to the Western Conference. Obviously, such a scenario would necessitate a Western conference club coming back East and a subsequent realignment of the Eastern divisions. Though a Central Division-Southeastern Division swap would be the cleanest in terms of preserving the current alignment, the issue is obviously complicated and resolution remains a long way from settled. Adding one extra nugget for the fans and media, Bettman also hinted that realignment could include a return to a more balanced schedule between Eastern and Western and division and non-division foes, similar to that which was utilized prior to the 2004-2005 lockout.

Game 1 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals between the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks begins begins this evening at 8ET. Alright 'Nucks.

NBA draft profile: F Dragan Bender

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NBA draft profile: F Dragan Bender

Dragan Bender

Position: Power forward
Height: 7-1
Weight: 225
Team: Maccabi Tel Aviv

Croatia’s latest basketball export is just 18 years old. He won’t turn 19 until November. Like a lot of teenagers, he’s hardly a fully finished product. The kid is raw, but his obvious potential figures to make him a high lottery pick in the upcoming draft.

Through 38 games with Maccabi Tel Aviv this season, Bender averaged just 12.9 minutes. He took 3.7 shots per game. He shot 42.3 percent from the floor, 33.8 percent from deep (on 2.0 attempts per game) and 71.9 percent from the line. He didn’t get to the line very often, by the way. In fact, he hardly got there at all, taking less than one attempt per game from the stripe.

But Bender’s appeal isn’t about what he is right now; it’s rooted in what he could become with time. There’s a reason why all 30 NBA teams sent someone to watch him play this year, according to DraftExpress. Investing in him could yield a significant return. Also, dude’s name is Dragan Bender. He was destined to become a pro athlete or conquer King’s Landing. Either way, good things ahead.

Strengths
Bender has been on the NBA’s projection radar for a while now. He’s worked hard to develop his shooting. Initially thought of as a non-shooter with wonky mechanics, Bender changed his stroke. It’s more compact and efficient now. Despite the small sample size, Bender had a 54.1 true shooting percentage and a 51.4 effective field goal percentage through 38 games this season.

He could pass more, but when he does he’s pretty savvy — particularly with the full-court outlet pass. Defensively, he’s not a rim protector, but he has a long wingspan (7-2) that should help him be a good pick-and-roll defender with time. In the increasingly switch-everything NBA, that’s a plus.

Also, did we mention his name is Dragan Bender? Donald Bender works in Croatian finance. Dave Bender has a nice B&B on Hvar Island. Dragan Bender is a potential NBA star.

Weaknesses
He’s reportedly put on some weight recently and worked hard to develop a better base, but he’s 7-1 and 225 pounds. Someone needs to feed him lots of sandwiches and protein shakes. Adding muscle for the long-slog NBA season will be important.

In addition to having a still-developing body and skill set, he hasn’t faced top-level international competition yet on a regular basis. He needs minutes against the best in the world, and in order to get those minutes he’ll have to refine his game – particularly his ball-handling and driving, which are still works in progress.

Unlike some other recent NBA imports (Nikola Mirotic and Kristaps Porzingis among them), it’s probably going to take a while before Bender can be a consistent contributor in the league. Any team that takes him has to acknowledge the inherent time commitment.

How he’d fit with the Sixers 
If we’re talking about how he’d fit with the Sixers, who had a long-term plan and weren’t in a hurry to rush anything, the Sixers who embarked on an open-ended journey with no fixed timetable or end point, you could make a case for Bender (but not with the first overall pick). Five or seven years from now, Bender could be a polished product – an outside shooting threat with, perhaps, an expanded offensive game that allows him to put the ball on the floor and optimize his passing and scoring. You could imagine him growing defensively and creating mismatch problems. You could envision it – over time.

The question is whether these Sixers, who keep talking about transitioning from the rebuild into whatever comes next, are about to scrap the slow-and-low approach to cooking their roster in favor of adding on-court heat and off-court PR sizzle. If that’s the case, Bender wouldn’t fit well at all. Not to mention that taking Bender means adding another body to an already clogged frontcourt.

NBA comparison
Lots of people have drawn a parallel between Bender and Porzingis. That’s the easy, reflexive comparison. Both are tall, lanky stretch fours from a not dissimilar region of the world. But really that’s unfair to Bender. Porzingis declared for the NBA draft back in 2014, only to withdraw his name and wait until last year. The wait helped elevate him to more of a known commodity. At that point, he had played three seasons for Sevilla of Liga ACB in Spain, one of the best leagues in Europe that features some of the premiere international talent. Bender isn’t there yet in terms of experience, and their games aren’t one-to-one equivelants anyway. Bender might ultimately shake out as something closer to Andrei Kirilenko (if he can improve his handle) or Nikola Mirotic.

Draft projection
Top five. If he lasts any longer, it will be a surprise.

Eagles mailbag: Jordan Matthews; injury concern, leading rusher

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Eagles mailbag: Jordan Matthews; injury concern, leading rusher

Another day, another mailbag. 

I hope you're enjoying your Memorial Day Weekend. If you're reading this on the beach or at a BBQ, well done. 

Yesterday, I answered the first round of your questions about Doug Pederson, Brandon Spikes and the possibility of adding another running back. 

Today, I'll answer some more: 

At times, Jordan Matthews will still be in the slot this season. But he won't be there all the time. 

In Doug Pederson's offense, the receivers will move around quite a bit, which means we'll see Matthews lining up out wide on both sides and in the slot. He has the ability to do both. Either way, he's going to be on the field. He's clearly the Eagles best receiver and they're not going to take him off the field. 

I think there's a good chance we'll see some Josh Huff in the slot this year, which would make a ton of sense to me. Huff is at his best when he gets the ball in his hands and can make something happen. He's shifty enough to play in the middle. 

The idea that slot receivers are just small, shifty guys is outdated. It's all about matchups and Pederson won't be afraid to move his receivers around to find the best ones. 

Good question. I'll give you two names. One on offense and one on defense. 

Now, I didn't just pick the best players, I picked the best players with the biggest drop off to their backups. So on offense, it's Jason Peters and on defense it's Jordan Hicks. 

The scary thing: it wouldn't be shocking if either of these two go down in 2016. 

If Peters goes down, the Eagles will be fine at left tackle, because Lane Johnson will shift over. But that means either Dennis Kelly or Halapoulivaati Vaitai will come in. We all know what's happened in the past when Kelly comes in, and Vaitai is just a rookie. Not a ton of great depth at tackle. 

As for Hicks, we saw what happened to the defense when he went out last season. And this year, the team has virtually no depth at linebacker. If Hicks went down, either veteran special teams player Najee Goode or rookie Joe Walker would need to fill in. Yikes. 

I understand it's kind of a cop-out to just pick the top running back on the depth chart, but that's what I'm doing. I know Ryan Mathews has a lengthy injury history, but I can't see Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood or Kenjon Barner being the team's leading rusher. 

And when healthy, Mathews was the team's best running back in 2015, going for 539 yards on 106 carries, an average of 5.1 yards per attempt. If he manages to play 12 games this year, I think he'll be the team's leading rusher. 

Phillies pitching prospect Mark Appel hits DL with shoulder strain

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Phillies pitching prospect Mark Appel hits DL with shoulder strain

Mark Appel, whose fastball velocity was down considerably in the first inning of his last start, was placed on the disabled list Friday with a shoulder strain.

Appel, 24, is 3-3 with a 4.46 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in eight starts for Triple A Lehigh Valley in his first year in the Phillies' system. He's struggled his last four times out, allowing 18 runs (15 earned) in 16⅓ innings on 20 hits and 11 walks.

The No. 1 overall pick in 2013 out of Stanford, Appel has had a disappointing pro career to this point. In 62 minor-league games (61 starts), he has a 5.04 ERA. The Phillies acquired him from Houston as part of the Ken Giles trade this past winter.

Appel's trip to the DL creates an opportunity for right-hander Ben Lively, who was promoted from Double A Reading to Triple A to take Appel's place in the IronPigs' rotation. Lively, acquired from the Reds for Marlon Byrd prior to the 2015 season, is 7-0 with a 1.87 ERA this season.

Rehab updates
Leftfielder Cody Asche and left-handed reliever Mario Hollands had their rehab assignments transferred to Triple A Lehigh Valley. 

Asche is 5 for 34 (.147) with two home runs and 12 strikeouts during his stints with Clearwater and Reading. 

Hollands has been sharp, posting a 1.04 ERA in 8⅔ innings with 12 strikeouts and one walk.