Positive Takeaways from a Lost Flyers Season

Positive Takeaways from a Lost Flyers Season

The Flyers have officially missed the playoffs for just the
second time in 18 years, which despite being a run that has likely left us a bit spoiled, it only adds to the disappointment when expectations are high to begin
with. Cheer up though, because it wasn’t all bad. There were several
developments as the season marched along that bode well for the future, so
before we jump into an offseason of finger pointing and blame games next week, let’s take
a look at those.

The Claude Giroux/Jakub
Voracek connection

It took Peter Laviolette 16 games to put Jake Voracek on the
top line with Claude Giroux, but the combination was worth the wait. Both
players got off to slow starts – Giroux with one goal and three assists,
Voracek one tally and seven helpers at even-strength. In the 29 games since
they’ve been paired together, G has gone for 5 and 13, while Jake has benefited
the most with 11 and 8.

With his All-Star linemate, Jake even managed to a set career high for goals with 20. Not too shabby in a shortened season.

And that’s with a revolving door at left wing. They've already tried Scott Hartnell, Wayne Simmonds, Tye McGinn, Matt Read, and Simon Gagne. Imagine how
potent the line could be as a whole with a little consistency from a third party.

Obviously the captain isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and
Voracek signed a four-year extension last summer that keeps him in
Philly until 2016, so Flyers fans should be enjoying this paring for seasons to
come. It doesn’t get a lot more positive than that.

Special teams are

Philadelphia has the third-best power play in the NHL in
2013, with practically all of the key components expected to return. They also
feature the league’s sixth-ranked penalty kill, and although Ruslan Fedotenko
(free agent) and Max Talbot (broken leg) may not be available in the future,
the unit continues to get the job done so far.

Clubs with quality special teams at both ends generally find
themselves in the playoffs. As long as these numbers hover around where they
are at now, you have to like the Flyers’ chances to get right next season.

At least there’s
another option in goal

How do we know heading into this season with only Michael
Leighton and Brian Boucher behind Ilya Bryzgalov was a mistake? Both guys were
so bad, Lavvy was afraid to put either one of them on the ice. In fact, it only
took a combined five appearances to reach that conclusion about the backup

That didn’t do Bryz any favors, who at one point started
22 games in a row. For the season he’s posted an 18-17-3 record with an
unflattering.898 save percentage and 2.84 goals against average.

Enter Steve Mason, a 24-year-old trade deadline addition.
After just five games himself, it’s much too early to tell whether he’ll ever regain
the form that led to his winning the NHL’s award for rookie of the year in
2009, but at least it’s another warm body to throw out there. So far Mason is
2-2 with a .931 SV% and 2.09 GAA, and his mere presence alone is giving
Bryzgalov detractors a little hope that amnesty is on the way.

A compliance buyout for Bryzgalov is far from assured at this
point, but like we said: at least they finally have another realistic option.

Simon Gagne still has

Once we got over the initial excitement for a true fan
favorite’s homecoming, we had to wonder what Simon Gagne would bring to the
table. The truth is at 33 Gagne is not the same player who posted 74 points
while wearing Orange & Black as recently as 08-09 – nor does he look as out
of place as he did with the Los Angeles Kings either.

Gagne’s numbers (four goals, five assists, -3 in 24 games)
aren’t going to light the world on fire, but he hasn’t exactly been useless since
rejoining the organization in a mid-season trade, either. He helps out on
special teams, and has further proved his versatility most recently by skating
on the Giroux line. As long as the impending free agent is willing to take a hometown discount, Gagne could potentially be a flexible, low-cost solution for a
franchise that is sure to be up against the salary cap once again.

Young defensemen are
stepping up

It’s kind of amazing to think amid the absences of Braydon
Coburn, Nicklas Grossmann, Andrej Meszaros, Kent Huskins, and Bruno Gervais due
to injuries, the defensive unit has actually seemed to stabilize somewhat in
recent weeks. It’s especially surprising given how chaotic they looked at times
when all those guys were healthy.

Luke Schenn deserves a ton of credit for that, as he’s
become an absolute workhorse since the blue line depth has taken these hits. He’s
regularly been skating for 25-plus minutes most nights, including almost 33
against Montreal last week, and the all-around performance is solid as well. The
fifth-overall pick of the ’08 draft leads all NHL players in the combined
category of hits and blocked shots with 260.

But it hasn’t just been Schenner of late. Call-ups from
Adirondack are looking competent as well. Oliver Lauridsen has no lack of confidence
and a bit of a nasty streak at that. Erik Gustafsson seems far more comfortable
in his latest stint with the big club. And while it’s only been three games,
Brandon Manning has shown some jump in his step already.

The sample size isn’t large enough for the Flyers’ young
D-men to call it a problem solved and move on. However, these kids – all 24 or younger – are giving observers
hope that some of the answers to the problems on the back end are already here,
and that this is not the complete disaster it appeared to be at the beginning of the

Sean Couturier is
still here

One of the most popular refrains leading up to the trade
deadline was, “The Flyers better not trade Couturier!” The concern was the
20-year-old forward would be shipped off in a panic move for some rental
or middle-of-the-road player.

That Cooter is still here is a small victory of its own.
Reports had several teams asking for the eighth overall pick from the 2011
draft, but Paul Holmgren refused to release his death grip on this particular budding
superstar, even despite a horrific sophomore slump.

What’s more, Couturier has rewarded the organization’s faith recently
by turning his season around. Since March 30 – just prior to the deadline – his offensive
output has increased with eight points in 12 games, and he’s a +2 over that
span despite being a -10 for the year.

If nothing else this season, we should all be
grateful Couturier made it through the year and will remain in Orange & Black.

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Ex-Penn State coach Tom Bradley recalls learning of Jerry Sandusky complaint

The Associated Press

Ex-Penn State coach Tom Bradley recalls learning of Jerry Sandusky complaint

BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- Jurors heard Thursday that a former Penn State head football coach testified that Mike McQueary told him years before Jerry Sandusky's arrest that he had made a complaint about Sandusky to university administrators.

The deposition by Tom Bradley was read during the fourth day of trial in McQueary's defamation and whistleblower lawsuit against the university over his treatment after Sandusky's 2011 child molestation arrest.

Bradley said he fielded a rumor that made him approach McQueary, a fellow assistant under Paterno, in 2004 or 2005.

"I'm not sure how this happened, but somebody said something and I asked Mike about it. He said there was an incident," Bradley said in May 2015. "I don't know his exact words."

Bradley said he asked McQueary what he did.

"He said, `I turned it in to Joe and Curley and Schultz,'" Bradley said, references to then-head coach Joe Paterno, then-athletic director Tim Curley and then-vice president Gary Schultz.

He said he did not remember if McQueary used the word, "sexual."

"It was not a long, detailed description, if that's what you're asking me," Bradley sad

Bradley also said he believes the school mistreated McQueary, citing a bowl game bonus McQueary wasn't given at the end of the 2011 season. Bradley was briefly the school's head coach after university trustees fired Paterno, in part over his handling of the McQueary complaint.

Bradley said he never discussed the McQueary incident with Sandusky, although he would occasionally see him in team facilities after Sandusky retired in 1999.

Questions about whether rumors regarding Sandusky had cropped up before the investigation that produced charges have long hung over the Penn State football program.

A lawyer for Bradley, now UCLA's defensive coordinator, told The Associated Press this summer he never witnessed any inappropriate behavior and had no knowledge of alleged incidents in the 1980s and 1990s.

The lawyer, Brett Senior, said Thursday he was not aware the testimony was being read. "I think whatever's been said is old and stale," Senior said.

Outside the courthouse after Thursday's session, McQueary declined comment about Bradley's deposition.

McQueary has testified he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a boy in a team shower one evening in 2001 and reported it the next day to Paterno. He then met with Curley and Schultz about the incident a few days later.

Nothing happened in the matter for more than a decade, when authorities investigating another complaint about Sandusky got a tip suggesting they contact McQueary.

McQueary testified against Sandusky at the 2012 criminal trial that resulted in a 45-count conviction.

In the civil case, McQueary is seeking more than $4 million in lost wages and other claims.

The school maintains it did not retaliate against McQueary and that he was damaged in the public's eye by questions about why he didn't physically intervene to help the boy or call police.

Earlier Thursday, former Penn State President Graham Spanier testified that he issued a statement the day Curley and Schultz, two of his top lieutenants, were charged, calling the allegations groundless because he trusted them and believed they were honest people.

McQueary's lawsuit against the university alleges Spanier's statement made it appear McQueary was a liar.

Spanier said he came to trust Curley and Schultz after working closely with them for many years. They were charged with perjury and failure to properly report suspected child abuse.

"This was an unbelievable injustice, that these two guys, who are like Boy Scouts, would be charged with a crime," Spanier said. "And that's what was in my head as I was giving this opinion."

Spanier began drafting the statement about a week earlier. He said that's when the school's then-general counsel got a tip through the attorney general's office that Sandusky, Curley and Schultz would be charged.

Spanier was forced out by the board of trustees a few days later, and the next year he also was charged over his handling of the Sandusky matter. A state appeals court earlier this year threw out several of the charges against all three administrators, but they remain accused of failure to properly report suspected abuse and endangering the welfare of children. They await trial in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

He said he wasn't thinking about McQueary when drafting the statement, and in fact didn't realize at that time that McQueary was a key figure in the investigation and an unnamed assistant described in the grand jury presentment used to help charge Sandusky.

Associated Press reporter Michael R. Sisak in Philadelphia contributed to this story.

Beau Allen prepared to start in place of Bennie Logan vs. Vikings

Beau Allen prepared to start in place of Bennie Logan vs. Vikings

It's not looking promising for Bennie Logan to get healthy in time for the Eagles' Week 7 tilt with the Vikings on Sunday (see Injury Update). If that's the case, Beau Allen is expected to get the start alongside Fletcher Cox at defensive tackle.

While Logan's presence would certainly be missed, it's a spot Allen isn't uncomfortable with or unaccustomed to being in. As the third-year player pointed out on Wednesday, he's not exactly in unfamiliar territory here.

"I've played a lot of snaps in this defense, I've played a lot over the last three years and I've started games for this team, so it's kind of nothing really new," Allen said. "It's the first start of this season, but it's not my first start in the NFL."

Aside from playing in all 16 games his first two seasons with the Eagles, Allen started at nose tackle in place of Logan for the final two games of 2015. Not surprisingly, those were by far the two most active games of his brief career with eight solo tackles and 11 total.

Even still, the 43 snaps Allen played in Sunday's loss at Washington were the second-highest he's seen in an NFL game, finishing with three total tackles and nearly doubling his playing time for the season. And if Logan can't suit up against the Vikings this week, his reps might be on the rise.

"It'll be more reps for guys like Beau and then maybe even a little bit more on a guy like Fletch," Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said on Thursday. "We'd like to rotate those guys as much, but sometimes you're not able to."

Allen is aware of the potential challenges he faces with an expanded workload. This is also exactly what the 6-foot-3, 327-pound lineman has been preparing for since he was taken in the seventh round of the 2014 draft.

"I really honestly don't think it changes a whole lot because of the way I prepare on a week-to-week basis," Allen said. "I've played the type of big role that — I've played with all of our starters, so many reps over the course of camp, preseason and during the season that it's really nothing new."

A couple of other things that aren't new for Allen are with respect to the Eagles' opponent on Sunday, particularly their quarterback.

Like everybody else, Allen is very much aware that Sam Bradford is making his return to Lincoln Financial Field. While the 24-year-old interior lineman recognizes Bradford is playing some of the best football of his career, leading the NFL in completion percentage with zero interceptions in four games, the signal-caller's time in an Eagles uniform can be helpful to the defense.

"We're pretty familiar with this quarterback, I'd say," Allen said. "He's playing at a very high level and he's been really accurate, really smart with the football, not a lot of turnovers.

"There are tendencies every week with every team. We know him and we know his strengths and weaknesses because he was here, and we're going to attack them."

Sunday will also be special for Allen in a personal way. The Wisconsin product is originally from Minnesota and will have plenty of friendly faces flying in to see him play.

"I've got a lot of family coming into town just because a lot of them have been Vikings fans historically, but they'll be cheering for the Eagles on Sunday," Allen said.

"I think it's fun to play against your hometown team. It's sweet that they're coming in here, so obviously a big game for me personally that way."

Allen will have big shoes to fill on Sunday, as Logan was playing very well prior to the injury. Not only that, but the Eagles' defensive line as a whole struggled with consistency the past two weeks, and is now relying on Allen to help turn their fortunes around in just his third career start.

It's no small ask, but Allen understands the task at hand.

"Our run defense last week, there were a lot of problems," Allen said. "Overpursuing was one of them. I think it's more about discipline, front-side to back-side, knowing where the ball carriers are trying to cut back, things like that. Those are things that we worked to correct this week too.

"Obviously, we didn't have any sacks last week, so we're going to everything in our power to pressure the quarterback, get him off his spot, disrupt those timing throws and get after him."