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.

Penn State president 'pleased' to see Penn State thriving again

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Associated Press

Penn State president 'pleased' to see Penn State thriving again

NEW YORK -- NCAA President Mark Emmert says he is pleased to see how well Penn State's football team has bounced back from the sanctions the program received in 2012 after the Sandusky scandal.

No. 5 Penn State (11-2) is having its best season since Jerry Sandusky, a longtime assistant of late Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno, was arrested in 2011 for sexually abusing boys. The Nittany Lions won their last nine games and the Big Ten title.

"I think it's terrific," said Emmert, who spoke at an intercollegiate athletics forum sponsored by Learfield Communications on Wednesday in Manhattan.

"I think what Penn State went through is an awful situation and it's still playing out sadly. But the football program is still Penn State and they showed it and they did really well. The university has done an amazing job to put in place all of the things their board wanted and our board wanted."

The NCAA went outside its usual process to sanction Penn State in 2012. The school was hit with massive scholarship limitations and a four-year bowl ban, along with fines. The school also agreed to enact dozens of reforms recommended in a report by former FBI director Louis Freeh on the scandal.

The original scholarship and postseason penalties were eventually rolled back. Emmert said he was pleased the roll back helped Penn State recover more quickly, and that NCAA sanctions are not meant to cripple an athletic program.

"I've always said and always believed that Penn State first and foremost is a great university ... and secondly it's got wonderful sports traditions. How could you not be pleased that they're playing good football again? That's very good stuff," he said.

Emmert covered numerous topics in a 30-minute question-and-answer session, and after he spoke with group of reporters for 15 more minutes.

-- He declined to weigh in on whether the College Football Playoff selection committee made the right decision with the four teams it chose to compete for the national championship, but he did say he would prefer an eight-team playoff that would include automatic bids for the Power Five conference champions.

"I think a conference championship ought to count for something. I think how you determine your champion is up to somebody else," Emmert said. "I'd like to see all five of the conference champions get in the playoff."

The NCAA has no authority over the College Football Playoff.

"That's why we live in America. Everybody can have an opinion," Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany joked, when asked about Emmert's comments. "He doesn't have a vote, though."

-- Emmert said he would like to see the new NCAA football oversight committee better define the purpose of bowl games. There are 40 and some spots are given to teams with sub.-500 records. The NCAA does not run bowl games. It does have a sanctioning process, but mostly it lets conferences decide whether they want to put on games.

"What do we, the membership of intercollegiate athletics, want bowl games to be?" Emmert said. "Are they a 13th game that's an exhibition game? Are they a reward for having won something? We have teams in now that can get into a bowl game having won two or three of their conferences games."

-- The NCAA pulled its championship events out of North Carolina in September because of a state law that limits anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people. The decision was later criticized by Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins in an Wall Street Journal op-ed. Jenkins said the NCAA should not be a moral arbiter.

"He and I have chatted a lot about that issue, and obviously I disagree and obviously, more importantly the board of governors disagreed," Emmert said.
The NCAA will choose sites for future championship events in April and part of that is a "fairly complex process," Emmert said, of looking at the local and state laws of potential host locations.

"One of the considerations we have now as we make those decisions, as the sport committees make decisions about where they go, is going to be LGBT rights," he said. "I think and hope and believe, maybe wishfully, that North Carolina will modify their position because citizens want that."

-- Emmert said the Big 12 deciding not to expand was a "good thing for college sports."

"I think the last round was very disruptive. It had a negative impact on so many schools, even personal relationships. It was hard and I'm glad we didn't have to go through that again. Even on a smaller scale," Emmert said.

Trade front quiet, but Phillies could lose a player or 2 in Rule 5 draft

Trade front quiet, but Phillies could lose a player or 2 in Rule 5 draft

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Phillies have a history of adding players in the Rule 5 draft. The annual event, designed to prevent teams from stockpiling minor-league talent without giving it a shot in the majors, has netted the Phillies players such as Dave Hollins, Shane Victorino and Odubel Herrera over the years.

The year’s Rule 5 draft will be held Thursday morning at the conclusion of the winter meetings, but it’s highly unlikely that the Phillies will be active. After adding 11 prospects to their 40-man roster two weeks ago, the Phillies are simply out of room. Selecting a player in the Rule 5 draft would first require the Phils to cut a player loose and that did not seem to be the plan as the sun set Wednesday.

While an addition is unlikely, there’s a strong possibility that the Phils will lose a player or two in the draft. Outfielder Andrew Pullin, a 2012 draft pick, is the likeliest to go. He hit .322 with a .885 OPS between Single A and Double A in 2016 and a number of teams are buzzing about him. A late-season elbow injury prevented Pullin from playing in the Arizona Fall League and factored into the Phillies’ decision to leave him unprotected.

If a team rolls the dice on Pullin, it must keep him in the majors all season or offer him back to the Phillies.

Other players who could go include first baseman/outfielder Brock Stassi, outfielder Carlos Tocci and pitchers Miguel Nunez and Hoby Milner.

All quiet for now
Phillies general manager Matt Klentak spent Wednesday meeting with agents and representatives from other clubs.

“Nothing is hot at the moment,” he said late in the day.

Klentak has brought back starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, added relievers Joaquin Benoit and Pat Neshek and traded for outfielder Howie Kendrick this offseason. The biggest remaining issue/question on his plate is whether to add a veteran hitter in a corner outfield spot or keep the pathway open for young players such as Roman Quinn and eventually Dylan Cozens and Nick Williams. 

“Successfully balancing the present and the future is the single greatest challenge that a baseball operations department faces,” Klentak said. “We’ve talked about it all offseason. The decisions that we are making right now about giving playing time to a young player that has cut his teeth in Triple A and needs that opportunity to take the next step as opposed to a shorter-term solution from the outside — that’s one of the main challenges that we’ve run into this offseason.”

While it’s uncertain whether the Phils will add a hitter, they most surely will make other roster tweaks as the winter moves on. They are likely to fill their backup catcher’s spot in-house (see story), but could add a utility infielder and more bullpen depth on minor-league contracts.

“I think there will probably be another move or two before we get to Clearwater,” Klentak said. “Who and when remains to be seen.”