The Old NHL, Penn State Hockey, and Your FGSB Mailbag

The Old NHL, Penn State Hockey, and Your FGSB Mailbag

I’ve seen a couple posts this summer that cite how the NHL is getting younger and younger, and I’d like to arm you all with some contrarian ammunition. I’m not even going to go into some deep explanation about it. I’ll let the numbers do the talking:

That's the average age of all NHL players during these 5 seasons. People with statistics degrees and Six Sigma Black Belts will tell you that averages (mean) don’t mean(ha!) anything, and that this data requires more in-depth analysis. But for us, people who have eaten part of a sandwich off of their clothes at some point this summer, the average will do just fine. But if you want to push the issue, the median has gone like this over the same period: 25>24>25>26>26. So there’s that too.

An argument that might hold some water is that there are more Young Bucks (20 & under) playing in the NHL than 10 years ago. That’s true, both on a gross aggregate comparison and a Young Buck per Team comparison:

But that's a very short-term view. As you can see, while the figure is higher since 2003 it’s still actually lower than any other point since 1973. Apparently GMs were pedos in the '80's.

Another argument that holds a thimble of water is that there are now more Young Bucks on any given team than the very scientific category of Old Fart (35+):

As you can see in this case, Old Farts were apparently dependent on the clutch and grab style of the late 90’s/early 2000’s because that was the only time that they actually outweighed the Young Bucks, and by more than 80%.

So all-in-all, the league is older than it’s ever been, and that makes sense. Advances in training, health and science will benefit old dudes just as much (if not more I’d argue) young dudes. There’s exponentially more money to be made by playing longer. Teams are more cognizant of rushing young players into the league because we’re America (and Canada) and run by bike helmet wearing pansies and ever since the Sopranos aired it’s OK for men to have feelings.

I do think that marketing is focused on younger guys like it never has been before, but that’s because the answer to 99 out of 100 questions is “money.” Ten, twenty, thirty years ago you marketed the guys who had already achieved, not the next big thing. But today there’s waaaayy more cash to be made by building a brand. Kimmo Timonen is by far the best Flyers defensemen but if I’m looking for a sponsor for Crazy Darryl’s Pumpkin Sweater Autumn Cheesesteak IPA I’m going with Luke Schenn because…kids and shit. Ya know?

Enough numbers, time for The FGSB Mailbag!

Shane W: How bad is Penn State Hockey going to get spanked this season?
Penn State’s move to The Big Ten is quite a big deal, especially for their hockey team, which I’m sure everyone knows went D1 last year. Their first year in D1 they were independent and actually didn’t do too badly for a really young team. On the official roster there were 14 freshman, 6 sophomores, and 7 juniors. Hey, you when go from club team to the big leagues that transition is going to take some time. With this young team they took down some big clubs in Wisconsin, Vermont, and Michigan State. The realignment has everyone saying they’re going to get whooped up on. On paper it looks like it, but I’m not so sure.

Penn State’s new conference is made up of them, obviously, and Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State. Those are some perennial power houses in the college hockey world, but Penn State is looking to be better than last year. They have their first ever NHL draft picks joining the program this season, and as you can see above have already done surprisingly decent with the guys that are ALL coming back this year (they went 13-14 last season).

I think they'll probably be about .500 again this season but the real question for me is how long until we see at Rutgers have a D1 hockey team? Is Philly going to become a college hockey town? How long until we see the D1 Florida vs. Florida State hockey match??

Rick D: How dirty is JVR going to play for the US this winter?
Headlines, man. I actually remember watching him not do much in his last WJC, but back then he was Flyers property and therefore cursed. This Olympics JVR will have 14 goals, 2 assists and lead the US to the gold. Luke Schenn will ‘go to Vegas with the boys’ and lose $11k at the blackjack table before getting stuck with a $8k bill at some club I don’t know the name of.

Pete Z: Fantasy Football has me thinking about Fantasy Hockey…is it wrong to have Crosby ranked number one in my draft?
Fantasy sports are a great example of how we don’t actually care about anything but ourselves. Allegiances are betrayed daily and we end up rooting for players and teams that we previously despised. I would definitely be PUMPED to get Sid the Middle Aged Kid in my draft. He’s flipping good. If he stays healthy he’s at a point in his career, especially seeming to have Magelled with Kunitz and Dewpus, that he might be able to put up 120 to 140 points. Of course I’d go through all the motions of pretending that I reluctantly root for him and root against him when he plays the Flyers, but when he lights up Steve Mason for 4 goals I’m still going to rub it in Fran’s face because in the end, nothing matters as much as me.

@tholzerman: Do you think the Flyers' inability to replace Dave Babych's mustache has kept them from being able to win the Cup?
For that reason I’m honestly surprised that Holmgren didn’t go after George Parros this off-season. A useless player with great character (and mustache) at almost $1M? That’s right in our wheelhouse. Florida probably wanted something like a 7th rounder and we would only give up a 2nd.

Rookie Alexander Rossi pulls off upset win at 100th Indianapolis 500

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USA Today Images

Rookie Alexander Rossi pulls off upset win at 100th Indianapolis 500

INDIANAPOLIS -- A new era for the Indianapolis 500 arrived in the form of a most unfamiliar driver.

An American, no less.

Alexander Rossi outlasted his faster rivals - and his fuel tank - for a stunning victory Sunday in the historic 100th running of "The Greatest Spectacle In Racing." The unlikely win allowed the long-suffering Andretti family to celebrate in the biggest race of their storied careers and it left the top drivers in the field fuming over Rossi's good fortune.

Rossi was a 66-to-1 long shot and certainly not the driver anyone would have picked to win. But the 24-year-old Californian used fuel strategy to outsmart a handful of drivers who had the most dominant cars in the race.

Rossi stretched his final tank of gas 90 miles to cycle into the lead as others had to duck into the pits for a splash of fuel in the waning laps. He was sputtering on the final lap, working his clutch and getting screamed at by team co-owner Bryan Herta to conserve fuel, and he ultimately ran out of gas after taking the checkered flag.

His victory celebration came only after his Honda was towed to the party. He sat in the car for some time before climbing out to take that sweet sip of milk.

"I have no idea how we pulled that off," he declared.

"I really was focused on taking it one lap at a time," Rossi said. "The emotional roller-coaster of this race is ridiculous. There were moments I was really stoked, really heartbroken, really stoked. I was like, `Wow, I'll need to see a psychiatrist after this.'"

Rossi didn't have the speed of Carlos Munoz, who was charging hard over the final 50 miles. But Munoz also had to stop for gas and didn't have a chance to race his teammate for the victory, even though Rossi was running on fumes and completed the final lap at a snail's pace of 179.784 mph.

The Colombian settled for second in a 1-2 finish for Andretti Autosport. He seemed devastated after his second runner-up finish in four years.

"I was really disappointed when it comes with fuel and you lose the race because of that," Munoz said. "I was really disappointed to get second. Half a lap short. What can I say? The only thing I'm clear about is that I will win this race one day."

Munoz has contended at Indy before and he's proven to be fast at the speedway.

Rossi? Well, not many know much about him at all.

He's an IndyCar rookie who has chased a ride in Formula One since he was 10. He left for Europe when he was 16 and never pursued a career in American open-wheel racing. But stuck without a ride this year, he made the decision to return to the United States to race and became the ninth rookie to win the 500 and the first since Helio Castroneves in 2001.

Rossi understood full well that it was strategy that got him this win, and he knows what an Indy 500 victory means.

"I have no doubt it's going to change my life," he said.

Although he's a relief driver for Manor Racing in F1, Rossi has no scheduled F1 races and IndyCar right now is his top commitment. He was lured back to America this year to drive for Herta in a partnership with Andretti Autosport. Herta was the winning car owner in 2011 with Dan Wheldon, the actual 100th anniversary of the first race in 1911, and now can claim a win in the 100th actual race.

"I can't compare (the wins) other than to say I am so happy," Herta said. " I can't overstate how hard it was for Alex to do what I was asking of him on the radio."

This Herta effort relied heavily on its alliance with Andretti, and the family was hoping Marco Andretti would give them their first Indy 500 title since patriarch Mario Andretti won in 1969.

Instead, Marco Andretti never contended on a day at least three of his teammates were clearly among the best in the field. Ryan Hunter-Reay and Townsend Bell combined to lead 64 of the first 119 laps, but the Americans were knocked from contention when Bell clipped Castroneves as he left pit road. The contact caused Bell to crash into Hunter-Reay.

"Ryan and Townsend looked really good up front, we thought they would be the team to beat," team owner Michael Andretti said. "Unfortunately, they had their problem in the pit, which I could not believe, and I thought that may have been our shot at winning."

Herta decided to gamble with Rossi on fuel strategy, and it's the only thing that made him a late contender.

As the laps wound down, American Josef Newgarden and Munoz repeatedly swapped the lead. Both had to stop for gas, Rossi moved into the lead and it was all his from there.

Michael Andretti earlier this month was voted by the 27 living winners as the best driver never to win the race, but he has now won the 500 four times as a car owner.

"I knew Alex was going to try (the fuel strategy), and we said `Alright, if he's going to try it, we're going to try something else (with Munoz)," Andretti said. "To come home 1-2 is just incredible. It was amazing. I don't know what to say, it's a great day, to be a part of history, to win the 100th running, and to win it with a 1-2 finish is just incredible."

Newgarden finished third and was followed by Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball and JR Hildebrand as Chevrolet drivers took spots three through six.

Newgarden, along with Hunter-Reay, Bell, Kanaan and James Hinchcliffe, had the strongest cars most of the race. Hinchcliffe, the pole winner who missed this race last year after a near-fatal accident in a practice session, faded to seventh despite being one of the best cars in the field.

"If I was in Alex's position, I'd be the happiest person in the world right now, I wouldn't care how we won the damn race," Newgarden said. "Everyone was on different strategies, and they played that strategy. Those guys, to put it politely, weren't as strong as us. They didn't have as strong a chance to win, so they had to mix it up. It worked out at the end for them."

In front of the first sellout in Indy 500 history, Rossi stunned the more than 350,000 fans in attendance. He was in Monaco this time last year for F1's signature race, unsure of what his future held.

"I had no idea I'd be in IndyCar, I had no idea I'd be in the Indy 500," said Rossi, who becomes the 70th winner in race history.

He will now also become the 103rd face on the famed Borg-Warner Trophy.

Instant Replay: Cubs 7, Phillies 2

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Instant Replay: Cubs 7, Phillies 2

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO – The Phillies completed a dreadful road trip with a 7-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on Sunday afternoon.
 
The Cubs swept the three-game series by a combined score of 17-5.
 
The Phils were 1-5 on the trip. They lost two of three in Detroit to start the trip.
 
The Cubs tagged Phillies starter Vince Velasquez for seven runs in 4 ⅔ innings Sunday.
 
The Cubs belted six homers in the three games. The Phillies had two and they both came late in Sunday's game after they were down, 7-0.
 
The Cubs have the majors’ best record at 34-14.
 
The Phillies have been held to two or fewer runs 19 times this season. They head home with a record of 26-24.
 
Starting pitching report
Velasquez was tagged for nine hits and seven runs in 4 ⅔ innings. He gave up two homers, a solo shot in the second and a three-run blow in the third.
 
Velasquez did not have a good trip. Against two of the toughest lineups in baseball, he pitched 8 ⅔ innings over two starts. He gave up 18 hits, five of which were homers, and 10 earned runs.
 
The righthander is 5-2 with a 3.63 ERA in 10 starts.
 
Cubs’ right-hander John Lackey gave up just four hits and one run in seven innings.
 
Cubs starting pitching held the Phils to three earned runs in 22 ⅓ innings in the series. And Jake Arrieta did not pitch.
 
Bullpen report
Brett Oberholtzer walked three in 1 ⅓ innings, but did not allow a run. 
 
At the plate
Tyler Goeddel homered for the Phillies’ first run. Tommy Joseph homered in the ninth.
 
The Phillies were out-hit, 10-6. They had just six extra-base hits in the series. The Cubs had 11.
 
The Cubs used three hits, none of which were hit particularly hard, to score a run in the first inning. Miguel Montero crushed a 2-0 fastball from Velasquez over the wall in right to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead in the second and Ben Zobrist made it a 5-0 game with a three-run shot off Velasquez in the third.
 
In the field
A day after manager Pete Mackanin praised him for his defense, shortstop Freddy Galvis had a tough day in the field.
 
His 44-game errorless streak ended in the fifth inning when made just his second error of the season.
 
Two innings earlier, with two outs in the third, Galvis failed to make a play on a scorching one-hopper by Kris Bryant. The play was scored a hit because it was hit so hard, but Galvis had made plays like that before. The play proved pivotal because it extended the inning. Velasquez then issued a two-out walk, setting the table for Zobrist’s three-run homer, which gave the Cubs a 5-0 lead.
 
Joseph started at first base as manager Pete Mackanin sat Ryan Howard for the second time in a week against a right-hander pitcher. Joseph made a nice defensive play with the bases loaded to end the sixth inning.
 
Health check
Cody Asche’s minor-league rehab stint ends Wednesday. The team can bring him to the majors at any time or option him to the minors when the rehab stint ends.
 
Up next
The Phillies return home Monday to start a 10-game homestand that includes visits from the Nationals, Brewers and Cubs. Here are the pitching matchups for the series against the Nats:
 
Monday night – RHP Jeremy Hellickson (4-3, 3.97) vs. RHP Tanner Roark (3-4, 2.71)
 
Tuesday night – RHP Aaron Nola (4-3, 2.86) vs. RHP Joe Ross (4-4, 2.52)
 
Wednesday night – LHP Adam Morgan (1-3, 6.67) vs. RHP Max Scherzer (5-4, 4.05)

NBA draft profile: Providence PG Kris Dunn

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NBA draft profile: Providence PG Kris Dunn

Kris Dunn

Position: Point guard

Height: 6-4

Weight: 205

School: Providence

Point guards are coveted on NBA rosters, and a team could land a long-term solution with Dunn. Last season, he averaged 16.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 2.5 steals in 33.0 minutes per game. The Sixers met with Dunn at the draft combine and plan to work him out as well. In order for the Sixers, who hold the first, 24th and 26th picks, to acquire Dunn, they would have to make a trade to move up in the selection order. 

Strengths
Dunn brings a physical presence to the one spot. At 6-foot-4, he has a 6-9 wingspan and can create size mismatches at the point guard position. Dunn is athletic with strong leaping abilities, which allows him to move well without the ball to the basket and attack the rim as well. While Dunn can score (16.4 points per game), he also averaged 2.5 steals per game this season.

Beyond the numbers, he has immeasurable mental strength and focus after overcoming obstacles to reach the highest level of basketball.

“You’re going to get someone who works hard every day,” Dunn said at the combine. “I like to say I’m a blue collar worker. Nothing was ever given to me and I go after it with everything I have.”

Weaknesses
As an NBA point guard, Dunn has to be disciplined running the floor. At times in college he went for the highlight play over fundamentals, resulting in turnovers (3.5 per game). He will have to improve shot selection in the pros. Dunn took 21 more field goal attempts from his junior to senior season but actually made one less year to year. He also shot 69.5 percent at the line. 

How he'd fit with the Sixers
The Sixers had a revolving door at the point guard position this season. They didn’t have a consistent starter until late December when they traded to re-acquire Ish Smith, who is a free agent this summer. Dunn could be their point guard for the future. 

NBA comparison
Dunn has been compared to Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall. At the combine, Dunn said he liked that comparison because of Wall’s defensive skillset.

Draft projection
Dunn is projected to be drafted as high as in the top five. He could be selected lower, though, given teams close to the top already have point guards.