Philadelphia Redemption, Jake The Snake and Your FGSB Mailbag

Philadelphia Redemption, Jake The Snake and Your FGSB Mailbag

As a hockey fan, the internet sucks from July 15 to September 10, or thereabouts. After the Free Agent Frenzy dies down and before players start trickling into town with new haircuts and 10 more pounds of muscle, writers have to dig deep into their bag of tricks to come up with content that all too often materializes in the form of a Top 10 list or Best Dick Goal of the Year slideshow.

It’s strange then that during the slowest news cycle is when I get most excited for the upcoming season.

You know what August 8th smells like? Hope. In small towns and big cities across the world professional hockey players have completely done away with the notion of summer. The off-ice training has intensified and the on-ice stick practice has begun. No longer is Claude Giroux a local celebrity at the bar every Thursday, but a man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain.

I hope we'll win the Cup this season. I hope I’ll snipe 30 goals. I hope I’ll hit 100 points. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams.

There may not be much going on in terms of score sheets, injuries, line combinations and controversy. But even though I try to temper my excitement at this time of year visions of Vinny LeCavalier celebrating a goal with a 40 on his neon orange back keep popping into my head.

The standings and their 2013-14 are stats are as clean and pure as a freshly cut sheet of ice. Half of the guys haven’t played a competitive game of hockey in 4 months. The older guys verge on sentimental and the younger guys are nothing but hungry to prove themselves as they each begin really preparing in their similar but in the end drastically different ways.

Personally, I hope the Flyers win the Metro this season. I hope Claude Giroux leads the NHL in scoring. I hope Steve Hartnell nets 40 goals. I hope Ray Emery and Steve Mason draw comparisons to last year’s Blackhawks. I hope I look forward to watching games after the Olympics. I hope…

FGSB Mailbag

Me first. Here’s a question I’ve been asking myself internally for the past couple years instead of going to church on Sunday – would Jake The Snake Roberts' tactics have been allowed in the NHL of the ‘80’s? For those of you that don’t know, this wrestler (fake) used to come down to the ring with a brown canvas sack that had a snake (real) in it every freaking match! He would put it in his corner and you’d try to watch the wrestling but there was a SNAKE IN THE BAG (maybe that was inspiration for Snakes on a Plane, actually). Anyway, the imminent threat of this 6’6 dude putting this giant Python on anyone was enough to make me black out from fear before the match ever ended. My parents would come into the living room and find me splayed out on the floor in my Transformers (original) underoos and a Macho Man head band on the reg, which I think is why I started off going to school in a trailer. Anyway part deux, if you ever saw the NHL in the 80’s you know that it was an anything-goes type of league back then. There were guys with helmets, guys without helmets. There was no Instigator Rule so dudes would literally jump other dudes and just beat the piss out of them. There was Brian Propp doing the guffaw. There was fighting in warm ups… So, if during warm ups Dave Brown, or Jake Roberts himself had he learned how to skate, brought out a brown canvas bag and just dropped it at the red line, would anyone have done anything? Would guys have freaked? Would John Ziegler have come out of the stands and chopped its head off? Guess that’s the kind of thing you have to wait to find out in Heaven…

@Mager_Pls do you think Mac truck Schenn plays as well as he did last season?
Did he play well last season? Because from what I remember the Flyers are a team. And on a team, one part is only as good as the whole. And the whole sucked and missed the playoffs. So if you’re under the impression (I’m yelling now but not using caps) that anyone played “well” last season, then you are exactly what is wrong with this organization, this city, and America!

Jake Voracek had a pretty decent year, actually. He scored lotsa goals.

@CaseOfDanglitis why was prongs not wearing shoes?
Wow. Good eye. I actually didn’t notice that, probably because I don’t have a foot fetish. Some things I did notice are

1. Why blur out the names when you’re just going to talk about them all and point to them? Yes, we get that you LUV Samuel Morin and had him ranked very high, and you would consider him a steal based on where you got him. If you’re going to mention players 5-10 on your chart by name, and then point at them and say where you’re moving them, then just show them.

2. I know you get shot for mentioning Moneyball on a sports blog, but wasn’t that scene SO MUCH like Moneyball? “He’ll hit ya with his stick I tell ya!” “He knows what he’s going to be and he’s going to be it!” “I saw him drinking a coffee and he didn’t even blow on it to cool it down – kid’s MEEAAAANNNN.”

3. There were meetings prior to this one, as noted by Chris Pryor – who I’d be fine going through my life never meeting. But this final get together didn’t seem all that organized, did it? I mean, if they got a proper system in there and actually put in a process to rank the prospects based on weighted points-per-scout then they wouldn’t even need a final meeting where Chris Pryor had to yell at all the guys to tell him what he wanted to hear. Is this right? IS THIS RIGHT? I’m going to move this guy. Would that be right? WOULD. THAT. BE. RIGHT?

It’s a good start but it didn’t really show much. Or much of anything that anyone wanted to see, to be more specific. Except for one person who apparently was eager to see Chris Pronger’s dogs. And the simple answer to the question is that Chris Pronger does what he wants. If he wants a puck he takes it. If he wants to kick off his shoes, even if it was in the middle of a Congressional hearing, the shoes come off.

Rick: I’m headed to Maine for vacation to a place where there are no tvs. In 2013. Give me a hockey vacation book rec. Gimme.
You literally (ha) cannot go wrong with a Roy MacGregor book. He was once called Canada’s Poet Laureate of hockey (or something) for good reason. Dude is an excellent writer and captures the essence of the game perfectly. People will tell you to read The Game, which is for good reason the seminal work on sports to date, but they’re also telling you “I’m smarter than you.” That is a deep, rich book. If you’re on vacation Road Games is just plain awesome, Wayne Gretzky’s Ghost is capturing, and The Home Team is a book he also wrote.

The Last Season is about a fictitious Canadian kid who makes it big and wins two Cups as a member of your Broad Street Bullies. It’s actually more about his rise to and then fall from the NHL. It’s Shamalanian, but it’s a long route up a dirt road to get there.

Ourtweet Breakdown of the Week

The other day the only Flyers writer with a Flyers tattoo Anthony San Fillipo, asked for recommendations for upcoming episodes of the Flyers new web series Flight Plan. For those of you that have jobs, you missed out on some retro-awesome FGSB coffee-fueled fun. Here are, looking back, our Top 10 suggestions (TOP TEN!):

10. Matt Reading Rainbow
9. Flyers Wipeout
8. Nick Cage shows Flyers how to steal Declaration of Independence
7. Two words: Flyers. Karaoke.
6. Jake Voracek and Cloode Giroux recreate pot throwing scene from ghost. Grossmannnnn signs Unchained Melody.
5. Flyers surprise game against Team Comcast '99s
4. Take Flyers to random office. See who can sit in cubicle the longest.
3. Flyers play the Eagles in football, Phillies in baseball, and Royce White in basketball all in the same day #Champadelphia
2. Flyers Fantasy Football Draft coverage, hosted by Steve Coates
1. Flyers SVU

FIlm Review: What led to Eagles' poor run defense against Washington?

FIlm Review: What led to Eagles' poor run defense against Washington?

The Eagles have vowed to get better. 

They desperately don't want to have a performance from their run defense like the one against Washington, when they gave up 230 yards on the ground. 

Head coach Doug Pederson said the run defense is "a pride thing" and the guys responsible for the performance, Jim Schwartz included, say things will get better. The defensive coordinator cited bad angles as a reason there were so many missed tackles on Sunday afternoon. 

In all, the Eagles missed 10 tackles and gave up 156 yards after contact — both more than they had given up in the first four games of the season. 

Washington's rushing yards came in some big chunks. Here's a look at some of the key running plays from Sunday as we try to figure out what went wrong: 

This is a key 3rd-and-7 from the Washington 13-yard line. On this drive, Washington ends up scoring a touchdown to go up 14-0, but it doesn't happen without this key third down conversion. 

The Eagles collapse the pocket and force Kirk Cousins to his left. That's exactly what Schwartz said he wants, to force the quarterback to his non-throwing side. Everything at this point is working out perfectly. 

Here's the angle that's really troublesome. At this point, Nigel Bradham (circled in green) has Cousins in his sights, while Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham (farther behind) are in pursuit. Curry and Graham seem to let up in their pursuit when it looks like Cousins will go out of bounds. But he doesn't. 

Schwartz talked about bad angles, and this is the perfect example from Bradham. He overshoots it and when Cousins makes his cut back inside, all of Bradham's momentum is heading toward the sideline. Curry ends up making the tackle but tackles Cousins forward for a big first down. 

This next play was just a little counter draw that ended up going for a huge 45-yard gain. Rob Kelley takes the handoff, which looks to be going right. The entire Eagles' linebacking group bites hard. Still, right end Connor Barwin is free and has a chance to make the play. 

He doesn't. Just a missed tackle. 

Kelley finds some open field. Rodney McLeod is the next guy to beat and Kelley simply turns him around. You'll see Mychal Kendricks enter the frame. Kendricks showed great recovery speed to get back in the play and has a chance to finally bring the running back down. 

Nope. Can't do it. Eventually, McLeod recovers to bring him down. 

This last play ended the game on Sunday. The Eagles punted the ball away with the hope that their defense would stop Washington and give them the ball back. Instead, Matt Jones broke off a 57-yard run on 3rd-and-7. 

Jordan Hicks over pursues, probably thinking the run was going wide. But he loses his gap and Jones is off to the races. 

Once Jones gets past the first down, it doesn't really matter that it was a 57-yard run. It could have been an 8-yarder and the game was over. 

So what did we learn? 

Well, Schwartz was right. Angles absolutely killed the Eagles on Sunday. But when they have a guy wrapped up, they need to bring him down. Sure, that's not Earth-shattering, but they couldn't do it on Sunday and it led to a loss. 

Sixers to ease in Jahlil Okafor off bench, expect more from him on D

Sixers to ease in Jahlil Okafor off bench, expect more from him on D

The Sixers struggled to carve a clear role for Jahlil Okafor last season as he and Nerlens Noel split time out of position in the frontcourt. Brett Brown has a more clear picture of how to utilize Okafor in his second year, highlighted by goals and a shift to the bench. 

Okafor has been sidelined from preseason action because of his right knee. He underwent surgery to repair a meniscus tear in March and aggravated it during the final training camp scrimmage. 

Okafor said he felt “pretty sore” after scrimmaging Monday, his first since camp, and he was better after going through individualized training and work in the water on Tuesday. This setback has forced him to exercise patience. 

“I know I told you guys I wasn’t frustrated a few weeks ago, but at this point it has been frustrating because I’ve been doing all the right stuff and I want to see me back out there sooner,” Okafor said after practice Thursday. “But I can’t rush my body, I can’t rush my health. ... I would love to have the opportunity to be there for opening night and play in front of our fans. Right now it’s looking like that’s probable."

The Sixers plan to use Okafor in a reserve role to start the season. Okafor expects to be on a 12- to 15-minute restriction, similar to Joel Embiid, when he is cleared to play. 

“I think about it all the time, but I talk to him. We’ve talked about this for months,” Brown said of Okafor's coming off the bench. “It’s not anything that is going to surprise anybody. He’s been fantastic. ... I talked with Jahlil about a lot of things and that could be, to start the year it will be, a scenario.”

Okafor, the third overall pick in 2015, started 48 of his 53 games last season. He is approaching this year with realistic expectations given his restrictions and is not concerned about being out of the starting five. 

“I’ll be fine,” Okafor said. “That won’t be a tough adjustment for me. I came off the bench a couple of times last year.”

Brown’s focus is not necessarily on how Okafor starts the game, but how he finishes. He would like Okafor and Embiid to be able to play together at the end of games to give the team a fourth-quarter boost.

“If it ends up you’ve got Jahlil coming off the bench and he’s going against backup five men, you think you probably have an advantage there,” Brown said. “If he does anything, he scores the ball, he scores buckets, he gets points. You can see how that can be a really nice role for him and for us.”

Okafor led the Sixers in scoring last season with 17.5 points per game. Brown, though, is focusing on his defensive improvements. The Sixers are looking to play an uptempo system in which they will need Okafor to hustle on defense each possession. Okafor slimmed down and added muscle this summer to prepare for the season. 

“He has to be elite in two areas to me,” Brown said. “Transition defense first — A-plus-plus-plus, get back. If you’re tired, if you’ve got to conserve energy, it’s not that way. It’s running back on offense. We have to get him back on defense.

“Then he has to be better skilled, better drilled by me, [a] high level of accountability with pick-and-roll defense. ... You can go over to defensive rebounding (as) a close third, but those two things happen the most.”

Okafor expects to be more effective on the defensive end after getting adjusted to it as a rookie. 

“(I want) to be smarter on defense, knowing where to be,” Okafor said. “My first year playing in the NBA, it was just a lot going on. Everybody was so fast.” 

Brown sees a focused 20-year-old who is more disciplined and ready to embrace whatever role he is given this season. 

“I can’t wait to coach him this year," Brown said. "I think he’s going to come back and have a great year. His body tells me that, his attitude tells me that. He’s in a good place personally."