Simon Gagne Makes It Home in Time for Rivalry Night with the Washington Capitals

Simon Gagne Makes It Home in Time for Rivalry Night with the Washington Capitals

While Philly fans had to be happy on some level when they
heard Simon Gagne was coming home, the move did raise a few questions – not to
mention eyebrows. The Flyers are fighting for their playoff lives, and general manager
Paul Holmgren’s cure was to trade for a 33 year old who hasn’t played a full
season at a high level since 2008-’09?

That of course would be reading too much into the deal.
Gagne isn’t the answer to all of the Flyers’ problems, but he could be a viable
solution to one: the club’s increasingly-challenged depth at left wing.

Shortly after the trade with Los Angeles was announced, the
Flyers revealed Tye McGinn would miss two weeks with an orbital bone fracture, a
result of his fight with Toronto’s Mike Brown on Monday night. Check it out:

McGinn joins Matt Read, Tom Sestitio, and Jody Shelley on
the list of injured forwards. Read surprisingly skated on Wednesday, but is
expected to be out another five weeks with torn rib cage muscles. Sestito’s
timetable is six-to-eight weeks with a groin injury, while Shelley is on
injured reserve recovering from hip surgery.

All of which has left the Flyers thin at wing. That doesn’t
even include the prior absences of Scott Hartnell, Wayne Simmonds, or Zac
Rinaldo for varying lengths of time, nor does it account for the relative lack
of production from Ruslan Fedotenko or Mike Knuble up to this point.

As for whether Gagne can fill the void in ways that
Fedotenko and Knuble haven’t, or if he’s just another old timer temping for the
cash-strapped Flyers, that remains to be seen. On Wednesday, Tim Panaccio provided
some additional insight
on Homer’s line of thinking, as well as that of the
Kings.

"Simon is a guy who has a lot
of experience and played in a lot of positions -- penalty kill, power play and
regular shifts,” Holmgren said on a conference call. “He is a good two-way
player that can skate. We think he will add to us a lot.”

 

Gagne had fallen in disfavor with coach Darryl Sutter because he didn’t finish
his scoring chances and he is not a grinder who can play on a fourth line.
Gagne admitted he felt confused as to just what his role was.

So while Gagne’s best days are almost certainly behind him, the
belief is he could still be effective if utilized properly. Gagne’s zero goals
and five assists in 11 games were apparently a consequence of playing on the
Kings’ fourth line, and he was a healthy scratch in his final days with the
organization.

In the end, the Flyers spent a third-round pick at most to
bolster their depth, and in the process acquired a player who might stand to
benefit from familiar surroundings, plus another veteran presence inside the locker
room. And as several observers have noted, the addition of Gagne could give
Holmgren greater flexibility to make a bigger move down the road.

Ultimately how significant the trade is will depend on
Gagne’s own availability. He hasn’t played more than 63 games in a season since
08-09, so his health will be something to monitor. As long as Gagne can stay on
the ice though, there is reason to believe he can help in some capacity.

***

As for Gagne’s first game in Orange & Black, the Flyers
are back on NBC Sports’ Rivalry Night for the second week in a row, this time
drawing Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals. Washington has come on of late, winning back-to-back
games to jump out of sole possession of last place in the Eastern Conference,
and they can scramble out from the bottom of the pile with just one point tonight.

For what it’s worth, the Flyers and Caps are only separated
by six points – with Philadelphia playing three more games already – so they’re
really in no position to overlook any opponent. Puck drops at 7:30 for Rivalry
Night.

photo courtesy the Flyers

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Phillies-Mets 5 things: All the pressure on Mets, Gsellman

Phillies-Mets 5 things: All the pressure on Mets, Gsellman

Phillies (70-85) at Mets (82-73)
1:10 p.m. on CSN

After two rough losses for the Phillies and their pitching staff, the offense picked them up and came through with a 10-8 win. 22-year-old Jake Thompson takes the hill this afternoon while Robert Gsellman starts a crucial game for the Mets.

Here are five things to watch on Sunday.

1. All the pressure on New York, Gsellman
The Mets remain 0.5 games up on the final National League playoff spot. 

While their pitching staff was falling apart at the seams going into (and during) this series, the one saving grace for New York was its soft schedule, facing the Phillies seven times in its last 10. Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals have to deal with the MLB best Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants end the year vs. the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.

However, a loss on Saturday (thanks in part to Noah Syndergaard getting scratched with strep throat) puts the Mets in a precarious position. They're tied in the loss column with the Cards and Giants while fighting for one of two playoff spots and their rotation most closely resembles their Triple A team from Opening Day. 

Gsellman is one of those pitchers who started the year never having tasted the major leagues. In fact, he started the year in Double A. His first career start came at Citi Field last month against the Phillies and resulted in his first career loss after he allowed four runs in six innings. 

He's been better since that start, carrying a 3.13 ERA into Sunday. The 23-year-old righty will likely start vs. the Phillies again next weekend, meaning the Mets' season rides in part on a rookie with just 31 2/3 innings in the majors. 

2. Young man on a roll
While Gsellman lost his last start, Thompson has won his last two starts. The young righty is on a hot streak as his season nears an end.

Thompson's ERA has goe down in each of his last five starts, a stat made less impressive by the fact that he began that run with a 9.78 ERA. He has gone at least five innings in his last eight starts and has shown glimpses of why he was such a valued prospects.

In September, Thompson is 2-1 with a 3.09 ERA over four starts. He's still allowed 33 baserunners in 23 1/3 innings during that span, but it's been much better than his lackluster August.

While Thompson is in line to start next weekend against the Mets as well, today could be his final start of the season. He has already set a career-high in innings and the Phillies may not want to extend him one more start.

3. What to look for in the season's final week
Including Sunday, the Phillies have just seven games left in their season. They're eliminated from playoff contention, but there's still plenty to watch as the Phils take on Braves and Mets.

Ryan Howard's final fairwell: With his five-year, $125 million deal coming to a close this year, Howard is almost certainly playing his final games in Philadelphia next week. He'll get plenty of starts and may even face the Mets' Bartolo Colon, who he's smacked three home runs off of in his career.

Playing spoiler: As mentioned above, the Mets have everything on the line both today and next weekend in Philadelphia. There are few better ways to end a postseason-less season than knocking a rival out of playoff contention.

More looks at the kids: Roman Quinn's emergence over the last two weeks has been fun to watch and Jorge Alfaro may get more chances in the last seven games. Beyond them, Thompson, Tommy Joseph and others close out a nice first season. 

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Maikel Franco has looked more like his 2015 self over the last few weeks. He's batting .310 in September with three home runs, matching his August total. His 15 RBI this month are his most in a month other than July. 

Mets: Asdrubal Cabrera has been on fire this month as well. After battting .405 in August, he's batting .333 and has five home runs, including the walk-off homer on Thursday. He's slugging .628 this month after putting up a .786 slugging percentage in August. 

5. This and that
• In Gsellman's August start vs. the Phillies, he only allowed one run while he was in the game. However, he left the bases loaded in the 7th with no outs before A.J. Ellis knocked in the decisive two-run double to give the Phils a lead they would not relinquish.

• Six different Phillies batters had hits off Gsellman, including Jimmy Paredes who went 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI. 

• Despite pitching injuries, the Mets have the eighth-best team ERA in September with a 3.64 average. The Phillies are 15th in baseball with a 4.10 ERA this month.

• The Phillies are 6-9 against the Mets this year. They're already ensured of a better finish than last year's 5-14 mark vs. New York.

Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, 24, killed in boating accident

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Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, 24, killed in boating accident

MIAMI -- Jose Fernandez, the ace right-hander for the Miami Marlins who escaped Cuba to become one of baseball's brightest stars, was killed in boating accident early Sunday morning. Fernandez was 24.

The Marlins announced Fernandez's death, and the U.S. Coast Guard confirmed that Fernandez was one of three people killed in a boat crash off Miami Beach.

In the statement, the Marlins say they are "devastated by the tragic loss of Jose Fernandez. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this very difficult time."

Chief Petty Officer Nyxolyno Cangemi told The Associated Press that a Coast Guard patrol boat spotted an overturned boat at 3:30 a.m. on a jetty near Government Cut. The bodies were discovered a short time later.

Because the boat was on a jetty, the Coast Guard notified Miami-Dade police, which turned the investigation over to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Fernandez was on a 32-foot vessel that had a "severe impact" with a jetty, said Lorenzo Veloz of the Fish Commission.

A news conference was planned for later Sunday morning.

Fernandez was a two-time All-Star who went 38-17 in his four seasons with the Marlins, winning the NL's Rookie of the Year award in 2013. The native of Santa Clara, Cuba became a U.S. citizen last year.

He tried to defect from Cuba at least three times -- landing in jail after one of those unsuccessful tries -- before eventually getting to the U.S. and going to high school in Tampa, Florida. The Marlins drafted him in 2011 and Fernandez was in the majors two years later.

The Marlins' game Sunday at home against the Atlanta Braves has been cancelled.