Peter Laviolette will not be fired this year so get used to it

Peter Laviolette will not be fired this year so get used to it

There are a lot of things that hockey analysts and announcers say that I think is just pure poppycock. They’re often too quick to run and hide behind their trusted clichés to try and explain things that deserve more in-depth attention. But one thing I do agree with is that a group of guys can take some time to become a team. Analysts will refer to this as gelling.

Did you honestly think a “successful” trip to Lake Placid was all that a group of 20+ guys needed to magically become a cohesive unit? Come on, brah.

Last night the Flyers were inconsistent to be sure, but it was a new kind of inconsistency. There were parts of the 1st and 2nd periods that the Flyers absolutely dominated the Leafs in a way that I can’t remember seeing for years. They just looked like a superior team. They were all over the Leafs. They were everywhere. It was just a matter of time before that second goal went in because the Leafs couldn’t even get the puck. It was like watching a real power house playing a team looking to get more balls in the draft lottery. And then, of course, there was the usual shit we’re used to – bad passes, no forecheck, not even putting two guys on the puck with the goalie pulled. But those highs were so high.

A big part of that top tier performance was the play of Vinny LeCavalier and Mark Streit. These guys are going to be difference makers. They play a brand of game we haven’t seen in Philly for some time outside of Claude Giroux and at times Danny Briere. They’re creative, hard-working, willing to take risks and very, very skilled. They’re also two new pieces of a team that had its head screwed on backwards last season. It’s going to take these two guys, former captains as you know, some time to adjust to this new environment. Actually, that’s wrong. It’s going to take this environment some time to adjust to these new pieces. Once that happens this team will without a doubt become more consistent. And when they’re consistent within the system the wins will start coming like unemployment checks, baby.

And that’s why I don’t think there is even a seed of doubt in Paul Holmgren’s or Senor Snider’s heads in regards to the coaching situation. Even if this team was 21-21 halfway through the season (which it won’t be) the hierarchy has been established, the king has spoken. Sure some players might move, some lines and pairings might change, but the repeated declarations by Homer and Snider that Laviolette is not on the hot seat weren’t meant merely to answer the media’s questions, they were also almost surely to let the players know that they’re not in an unstable environment where they can choose to opt out – they are playing for this coach, this GM and this owner all year so they better work through the rough spots because there is no one to blame and fire a quarter of the way through the season.

This helps Laviolette to keep the room. As will the presence of Lecavalier and Streit in addition to a pretty well-rounded leadership group that was already established.

Now the best Flyers Mailbag in the world not run by Dave Isaac!

@sbaicker…if you could grab any Flyer from history at their career best and plop them on this team, who'd it be?
I wanted to be clever and say Pronger during his Blues/Oilers/Ducks years (which might be true) or someone like Bill Barber that could score 60 playing with Claude Giroux, but I think I’m going to have to go with the layup and say Bernie Parent. Now, I’m young and sexy and as a matter of fact just swagged my YOLO this morning so I never saw Parent play, but from what I read he was a legend – like in the conversation for best goalie ever. That, and the fact that goalie is such an important position in hockey makes this a no brainer. It’s like, would you want Mike Schmidt in his prime or to compile the best starting rotation plucked from their prime. A goalie can win games all by his lonesome, even if Andrej Meszaros is “playing defense” in front of him.

Note: There was a 3 game stretch, right after he adopted the Breath-Rite, that Trent Klatt was possibly the best hockey player on the planet.

@Treblaw What Should The Goal Song Be?
Oh God, are you trying to get me e-murdered? One time in 2008 I named some songs I thought the Flyers should listen to in warm ups, keep in mind this is just warm ups, and some metal dudes came to my apartment and locked me in my refrigerator. If the Flyers wanted a throwback I think they could have done better with Black Betty. It’s gotta be something that’s a) intense for a short period of time and b) repeatable. I’m not sure TNT or Black Betty fits that criteria as they’re like classic rock intense, which is like beer when you need a shot of whiskey. Banana Phone and Mambo #5 fit the bill, but if I had my druthers they would play the National Anthem after every goal in honor of the troops. And if you disagree with that you should move to Mexico.

Greg H: You think Bryz can really play in the ECHL?
This is ludicrous. I really don’t understand why he would do this to himself. Surely there has to be some European team that he could play for and stay out of the North American limelight. I only say this because I actually like Bryz. I think it’s a shame that he’s been dragged through the streets for (oh my God!) having a personality! I think it sucks that it’s going serve as a lesson to all current and future NHLers to not tell the media that you like to read (gasp!) or that you have any interests outside of hockey besides eating chicken and pasta or sometimes fish and pasta. I’m assuming this is part of some attempt to make it back to the NHL so he can stick it up everyone’s ass and I’m rooting for him. He’s surely learned his lesson about how to act in the locker room and I’m sure he’ll keep his mouth shut or give hockey answers when he has to participate at all going forward. The guy has certainly been broken if this is where he’s at. Bryz for Masterson 2014.

Jack P: How effective is a 4th line that has jay rosehill on it?
That was a stupid decision. I’m all for fighting even though I know it’s dangerous but I am not all for wasting freaking roster spots. When you start making hockey decisions based on whether or not Colton Orr is in the lineup you’re screwed.

Billy L: Who is your favorite former Flyer still in the NHL?

I think I have an underdog fetish. I’ve always enjoyed seeing Steve Downie do well since he left Philly. The Downie/Carle trade worked out well for everyone involved but at the time I felt like they were giving up on a player they drafted too early for questionable reasons. A couple years removed from a 46 point year and some injury plagued seasons and now playing on the Avalanches 1st line with Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Rielly…good for him.

Report: Eagles to re-sign QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson

Report: Eagles to re-sign QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson

The Eagles are reportedly bringing back a familiar face at quarterback, and no, it's not Tim Tebow. 

The team will re-sign quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson, according to ESPN's Adam Caplan

With the addition, the current roster will be capped out at 90 after the reported signings of former Villanova LB Don Cherry and Alabama S Nick Perry go through (see story).  

The Eagles first signed Bethel-Thompson in February to pair with Mark Sanchez at the lone quarterback on the roster. A lot has changed since then, with the team re-signing Sam Bradford and drafting Carson Wentz. Bethel-Thompson was then cut by the Eagles in May. 

Bethel-Thompson has been in the NFL since 2011, after going undrafted out of Sacramento State. The 6-foot-4, 230 pounder has spent time with the Dolphins, the Vikings twice, Patriots and the 49ers three times. He has never played in a game. 

It'll be an uphill battle for the 27-year-old to make the roster with the quarterback position locked up with Bradford, Chase Daniel and Wentz. 

Today's Lineup: Rupp and Franco out, Howard, Ruiz in

Today's Lineup: Rupp and Franco out, Howard, Ruiz in

Going for the series win today, Pete Mackanin has shaken up the lineup.

Maikel Franco is still out. After taking a pitch off the wrist on Friday, Franco was listed as day to day with a sore wrist (see story). Andres Blanco will again hit and play third.

Both Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz crack the lineup today. Ruiz has caught Vince Velasquez just once this season, a five inning shutout with 10 strikeouts vs. the Marlins on May 17. 

Ruiz replaced Cameron Rupp in the third inning of Saturday's game as a precaution after Rupp took a pitch off the helmet. (see story)

After being on fire for much of the past month, Peter Bourjos has posted consecutive 0 for 5 nights in the leadoff spot. He will drop down to ninth today, allowing another hot hitter, Cesar Hernandez to hit leadoff.

Odubel Herrara will remain in the two-spot, where he has looked resurgent in this series, going 6 for 9 with four runs scored. 

Much like Bourjos, Cody Asche has not yet recorded a hit in this series and will be lowered to the seven-hole, while Freddy Galvis will hit sixth.

Velasquez takes the mound for the Phillies today. In his four starts since returning from a biceps injury in early June, Velasquez has been arguably the team's best pitcher. In those starts, the flamethrower has been going deeper into ball games than earlier this season, averaging six innings per start, while allowing just five runs during that span. 

Here is today's lineup:

1. Cesar Hernandez 2B
2. Odubel Herrara CF
3. Andres Blanco 3B
4. Ryan Howard 1B
5. Carlos Ruiz C
6. Freddy Galvis SS
7. Coday Asche LF
8. Peter Bourjos RF
9. Vince Velasquez P

Reuben Frank's way-too-early 2016 Eagles predictions

Reuben Frank's way-too-early 2016 Eagles predictions

Will offensive linemen Jason Peters and Jason Kelce bounce back from disappointing seasons? Who will the Eagles’ top cornerback be? How many games will Carson Wentz start? Will the Eagles win a playoff game for the first time since 2008?

We take our best shot at these questions and many others facing the Eagles in our way-too-early 2016 predictions.

See you in the comments section!

1. I’ll start with Zach Ertz. He caught 75 passes for 853 yards last year, but I feel like he can do so much more. Sam Bradford and Ertz really clicked late last season, connecting 35 times for 450 yards the last four games of the year. Nobody can keep that up for an entire season, but I think this is finally the huge breakout season we’ve been expecting from Ertz since he got here in 2013.

THE PREDICTION: 90 catches for 1,089 yards.

2. Staying on offense, much has been made of Kelce’s sub-par season in 2015. It was strange to see Kelce, coming off a Pro Bowl season, apparently healthy and in the prime of his career, struggle the way he did. But I still think Kelce is an elite center. Yeah, he’s a little undersized, but he was undersized when he dominated in 2013 and made the Pro Bowl in 2014. He succeeds when he keeps his technique and uses his strength and leverage to overcome his lack of bulk. I think Kelce returns to form.

THE PREDICTION: A second Pro Bowl in three years for Kelce.

3. Sticking with the offensive line, I see Jason Peters also rebounding in 2016. Nobody benefited less than Peters from Chip Kelly’s full-speed, non-stop practices. His body broke down and when he was healthy enough to start, he often wasn’t healthy enough to finish. He made another Pro Bowl, but it was really a lost season for Peters. But with the hurry-up offense gone and a head coach who promises to take it easy on the older guys the way Reid did, there’s no reason Peters shouldn’t rebound.

THE PREDICTION: Peters returns to form and continues his late-career Hall of Fame push with his ninth Pro Bowl in 10 years, the only exception being the 2012 season he missed while rehabbing his torn Achilles.

4. I know he’s No. 3 now, but I’m just going on common sense, which says that if Sam Bradford gets hurt or gets benched, Carson Wentz and not Chase Daniel will replace him. Imagine if it’s Week 13 and Bradford hobbles off the field and Daniel – who has one career touchdown pass in six NFL seasons – jogs out to replace him? It would not be pretty. I say Wentz starts the last four games this year and plays fairly well.

THE PREDICTION: Wentz completes 61 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and five interceptions.

5. I think Jordan Matthews is a good, solid, functional NFL wide receiver, but I don’t think there is a star in this wide receiver group. The Eagles last year were the only NFL team with just one wide receiver with 30 receptions, the first time that’s happened in 26 years (Cris Carter was the only one in 1989). And honestly, I don’t see the situation improving that much. Maybe Nelson Agholor or Josh Huff or Rueben Randle will surprise me, but I just feel like this wide receiving corps doesn’t have the oomph it needs to really compete at a high level.

THE PREDICTION: Matthews catches another 80 to 90 passes but nobody else emerges as a big-time second wide receiving threat, and the Eagles once again go into the offseason desperate for an over-the-top threat like DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin.

6. Moving to defense, I think when all is said and done, Eric Rowe will emerge as the Eagles’ No. 1 cornerback. I wonder about Leodis McKelvin’s ability at 31 years old to run the way a corner has to in a division with DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Odell Beckham and Dez Bryant. Think of some Eagles corners who were 31 and older. Nnamdi. Charles Dimry. Roynell Young and Herm Edwards at the end. The only one who played at a high level at that age was Troy Vincent, and Leodis McKelvin is not Troy Vincent. I think Rowe will have his ups and downs, but, by the end of the year, he’ll be a solid NFL starter.

THE PREDICTION: Rowe leads the Eagles with five interceptions.

7. The Eagles have a lot of different guys who can rush the passer, and in Jim Schwartz’s scheme, there should be plenty of opportunities for them to attack the quarterback. Two years ago, Connor Barwin had 14 ½ sacks and Vinny Curry had 9 and last year Fletcher Cox had 9 ½ sacks and Brandon Graham had a career-high 6 ½. Now, this is a new world, with a 4-3 defense, and nobody is quite sure how all the pieces will fit together. But I do think the Eagles will be among the NFL leaders in sacks.

THE PREDICTION: The Eagles had 37 sacks last year and averaged just 41 during the Bill Davis Era, but I say they get 50 this year, which they’ve only done once since 2003 – in 2011 under defensive coordinator Juan Castillo.

8. I’m less confident in the back seven, and I’m not convinced the Eagles have solved their pass defense issues. We’ve seen a lot of new faces come and go over the years – from DRC and Nnamdi to Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher – with nothing really changing. The Eagles are the only team in NFL history to allow 25 or more touchdown passes in seven straight years (after not allowing 25 passing TDs since 1989). Malcolm Jenkins is a beast, but a lot of question marks surround him in the defensive backfield.

THE PREDICTION: The Eagles extend their NFL record of allowing at least 25 touchdown passes to eight straight seasons.

9. This group of linebackers scares me. I feel like Mychal Kendricks has a ton of talent, but don’t think he’s ever put together the type of full season he’s capable of. I love what Jordan Hicks did the first half of last year, but I wonder if he can come close to repeating that or if he can stay healthy. Nigel Bradham? Not sure what he brings to the table. And behind that group there’s guys like Najee Goode, Deontae Skinner and Travis Long. There’s talent here, but it’s a precarious group.

THE PREDICTION: By the end of the season, only one of those three linebackers will still be in the starting lineup.

10. It’s silly to make a prediction for the season now, before we even know who’s on the team. But I’m going to do that anyway. I don’t think they’re that bad. But I don’t think they’re that good. I’m a Wentz guy and don’t think the Eagles are really going to accomplish anything substantial until Wentz is behind center. That said, I like Bradford more than most people. I think he’s an adequate NFL starter. But I don’t like his TD-INT ratio and don’t think he can generate enough points against good teams to get the Eagles beyond mediocre. I think the Eagles are missing the elite offensive weapons and defensive playmakers to be a playoff team. In this division, who knows? If the Eagles can go 4-2 in the division and scratch out five wins in their 10 games out of the gate, it could be enough to win the NFC East. But ultimately, I think they’ll fall short. Too many question marks. Too many areas that just aren’t good enough. Too many unknowns with Doug Pederson. The Eagles haven’t won a playoff game in seven years and I fear that number will increase to eight this year.

THE PREDICTION: Eagles go 7-9 this year and finish two games behind the Redskins in the NFC East.