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.

Flyers look to limit goals against, improve 5-on-5 play in second half

Flyers look to limit goals against, improve 5-on-5 play in second half

VOORHEES, N.J. — As bad as things have been for the Flyers – just three wins in their last 14 games – there was no massive shakeup during their mandatory, five-day “bye” week.
 
General manager Ron Hextall didn’t make a trade, nor did he make any roster moves involving a call-up from the Phantoms.
 
Coach Dave Hakstol took one day off, then got back to watching video and live games, almost in a scout mode.
 
When the players hit the ice Friday afternoon at Skate Zone, Hakstol’s lineup was pretty much the same.
 
The only change saw Matt Read re-enter the lineup on the top line with Claude Giroux and Michael Raffl after missing two games with a skate cut.
 
The lines and defensive pairs remained the same. Goalie Michael Neuvirth will start Saturday against New Jersey at Wells Fargo Center.
 
“For me, the biggest thing is our overall performance,” Hakstol said. “Coming out of a break, that may be a tough thing to do -- to put it all together. But I think the energy will be there both mentally and physically. That’s important. The overall performance.
 
“The results are important on a different level when you start looking at the playoff picture and the race. At the end of the day, two points are going to be important, as well.”
 
The Flyers begin anew with back-to-back games against New Jersey here on Saturday and then the Islanders on Sunday in Brooklyn.
 
They will play four Eastern Conference opponents between Saturday and next Thursday before they begin the three-day All-Stark break.
 
Three of these games are against Metro Division opponents while the fourth is against Toronto. The Maple Leafs happen to hold the second wild card that the Flyers previously had going into the bye week.
 
“Guys realize the situation we are in,” Brayden Schenn said. “We know the circumstances. The break came at a good time, mentally ... Guys know what we’re coming into there with the back-to-backs.
 
“You were kinda scoreboard watching. We know where we’re at. We’re in a dogfight battle with teams for those wild card spots. There’s a lot of hockey left. It’s no secret. Everyone pays attention where we’re at.”
 
Hakstol said after his one-day off, he went right back to work in evaluating where this team is. That the team remains intact without any kind of moves seems to send a message to the players.
 
That message is: it’s on you at this point. Don’t count on getting help from the outside. It has to come from within the current roster.
 
“Anything we’ve talked about is us as a group doing things we do well,” Hakstol said. “We’ve had a rough couple weeks where we haven’t been able to do the things we need to and want to consistently.
 
“I’m very confident in this group and this team. For us, what the players said is true. It was a real good time to have a mental and physical break. Now it’s time to get back to work.”
 
What has to improve right from the get-go is the Flyers' 5-on-5 play. Forget for a moment they have scored 75 goals and are 13th in the NHL averaging 2.76 goals a game.
 
The critical factor is 5-on-5 goals against. The Flyers have allowed 98 goals in that situation – only Colorado [100 GA] has allowed more. Their 3.13 goals against is 28th worst in the league.
 
Unless those number improve significantly, they won’t be in the playoffs.
 
“We have to stay within our system,” said defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere. “We give up too many odd-man rushes. Especially in those final games before the break. That’s a big thing.
 
“When we’re giving up that many, it’s not going to be in our favor. It’s not fair to judge our goalies in those games because we didn’t give them too much help out there.”
 
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who plays on a checking line, said the 5-on-5 goals against is a telling stat.
 
“You have it right there,” he said. “You don’t have to say much more than that. You cannot be a consistently, good team in the league if you are that low in goals against. It’s something we have to all work together at, as players.”
 
Hakstol said the Flyers enjoyed success 5-on-5 when they were winning because their team play was “consistent” game-to-game.
 
That hasn’t been the case during this 3-8-3 stretch.
 
“Our 5-on-5 game hasn’t necessarily regressed, but the consistency of it has,” Hakstol said. “That’s when you see the holes defensively. That’s when you see some of the problems you run into.
 
“We’ve got to get back to it. Back to a full 60-minutes of good 5-on-5 play. That’s up to each and every one of us, taking that responsibility and making the push to do that.”

In different spot after bye week, Flyers ready for playoff push with 'new perspective'

In different spot after bye week, Flyers ready for playoff push with 'new perspective'

VOORHEES, N.J. — When we last left the Flyers on Sunday evening, they were picking up pieces of themselves all over the ice at the Verizon Center after a 5-0 beatdown by the Washington Capitals.

They have had to stew over that defeat all through their five-day NHL mandated bye week, which ended Friday afternoon when they reported to Skate Zone for a rare 4 p.m. practice.

They’ll host the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night.

“You go into the break thinking about [hockey], but the whole point of it is to refresh mentally,” said Wayne Simmonds, who got engaged. “I didn’t drive myself crazy over it. This a little stretch here before the final playoff drive.”

When Claude Giroux became engaged in late November, the Flyers won eight straight as part of their 10-game streak.

“So to replicate that, we need everyone in here to get engaged,” Simmonds said. “We've got a lot of work to do. We know that. We got off to a good start compared to the past and then we faltered.

“We know we've got to be better. We all have to be accountable to each other. We’re not starting from scratch, but we need a new perspective here. Come out of the gate and do it the right way, again.”

A lot has happened since the loss in Washington. The Flyers remain fifth in the Metropolitan Division, but the layoff has seen them plummet to ninth overall in the Eastern Conference.

None of that, however, is as important as this: the Flyers no longer hold the second wild card. Toronto has it now with the same number of points as the Flyers — 50.

Difference is, the Maple Leafs also have two games in hand on Dave Hakstol’s club. Worse, the Carolina Hurricanes are snapping at the Flyers' skates with 49 points and they have three games in hand.

All of this is entirely the Flyers' fault as they’ve gone 3-8-3 since their 10-game win streak ended.

Yet they remain in striking distance of the wild card, although they are 11 points out of third, which is an automatic playoff spot.

They are fortunate they’re not farther behind in the wild-card standings.

“For sure, over those days there ... our division did lose a little bit,” Brayden Schenn said. “It’s going to happen. But at the end of the day, if we don’t win hockey games, it’s not going to matter what the other team will do.”

After Saturday’s game against the Devils, the Flyers head to Brooklyn for a Sunday night encounter with the Islanders. Sit five days, then play a back-to-back. Ah, the joys of the NHL schedule this season.

“We know we lost all that ground we gained with the 10-game winning streak,” said Jakub Voracek, who shaved off the beard he’s had for a year and a half during the break. “We are right there in a playoff spot. Now we keep pushing.

“We have 36 games left. We go game by game. I don’t remember how many points out we were last year with the playoffs, but we’re in a better position now.”

Last year after 46 games, the Flyers had 48 points, but were seven points out of a wild-card playoff spot. They have two more points now but are in better wild-card shape.

They know they have to get themselves going quickly but the harsh reality is, they seldom play well coming out of a four or five-day break.

Most of the players went away during the break and didn’t think about hockey. They said they wanted to come back refreshed with a new attitude and clean slate. It starts Saturday.

“We have to stop overthinking things,” Voracek said. “When we were winning, we just kept going. When you are losing, you begin to overthink things.

“You’re a half step slower thinking whether you should go or not. That’s our problem. We have to refocus. Everyone is excited to be back. Get back to work. Push this team to the playoffs.”