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.

Wideouts Rueben Randle, Chris Givens among 8 players cut by Eagles Sunday

Wideouts Rueben Randle, Chris Givens among 8 players cut by Eagles Sunday

The Eagles released Rueben Randle and Chris Givens on Sunday, ending the brief and disappointing Eagles careers of both veteran wide receivers.

The two receivers were among eight players released by the team on Sunday evening.

Randle caught five passes for 26 yards in the preseason and Givens caught one for 19 yards.

The Eagles tried to bolster their receiver corps by adding the two receivers this offseason, signing Randle to a one-year, $1,025,000 contract and Givens to a one-year $760,000 deal.

Randle got $500,000 guaranteed and Givens $180,000 guaranteed, so the two moves will count $680,000 against the Eagles’ 2016 adjusted salary cap of $161,570,362.

The moves leave the Eagles with eight wide receivers: Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham, Josh Huff, Paul Turner, Marcus Johnson, Cayleb Jones and David Watford.

Barring any other personnel moves, Matthews, Agholor, Green-Beckham, Huff and Turner appear headed for the final 53-man roster.

Randle’s decline is fairly astonishing.

Two years ago with the Giants, he caught 71 passes for 938 yards, and last year he caught 57 passes for 797 yards and eight touchdowns. He had four catches of 40 yards or more in 2015, fourth-most in the NFL. In four seasons in New York, he caught 188 passes for 2,644 yards and 20 TDs.

Yet the Giants had no interest in re-signing him. Now the former second-round pick’s career is in jeopardy at the age of 25.

Givens, a fourth-round pick of the Rams in 2012, was with his third team in two years this summer. His once-promising career could be over at the age of 26.

Most notable among the six other players released was offensive tackle Andrew Gardner, who started 11 games in an Eagles uniform.

Gardner, who had also spent time with the Dolphins and Texans, started eight games at right guard and right tackle for the Eagles in 2014 and was the Eagles’ opening-day starter last year at right guard. He suffered a Lisfranc injury in his left foot during a Week 3 game against the Jets at the Meadowlands and missed the rest of the season.

Also released was a member of last year’s draft class, sixth-round pick Randall Evans out of Kansas State. Evans spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad but was activated for the Pat Shurmur season finale against the Giants at the Meadowlands and got into the game on special teams.

The Eagles also released veteran defensive tackle Mike Martin, who played in 46 games for the Titans the last four years, including five starts. Also released were long snapper John DePalma and cornerback Denzel Rice, the latter of who played in five games last year and got 20 defensive snaps in the season finale against the Giants last year.

The Eagles also placed linebacker Joe Walker (knee) and defensive end Alex McCalister (calf), two rookie seventh-round picks, on season-ending Injured Reserve.

Teams have until Tuesday to reduce rosters to 75. The Eagles’ roster is currently at 73, and they have to reduce it to 53 by 4 p.m. next Sunday.

The Eagles finish the preseason on Thursday night at the Linc against the Jets.

Best of MLB: Josh Donaldson mashes 3 home runs to lead Blue Jays past Twins

Best of MLB: Josh Donaldson mashes 3 home runs to lead Blue Jays past Twins

TORONTO -- Josh Donaldson had his first career three-homer game, Troy Tulowitzki also went deep and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Minnesota Twins 9-6 on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep.

Donaldson hit a solo homer off Kyle Gibson in the second, then delivered a go-ahead, two-run blast off Pat Light (0-1) in the seventh.

Dozens of fans tossed hats onto the field to celebrate the home run hat trick after Donaldson, the AL MVP in 2015, hit a solo shot off Alex Wimmers in the eighth. Groundskeepers and even the Blue Jays mascot helped clear the hats away.

Donaldson's fourth multi-homer game this season and the 10th of his career also marked the 17th three-homer game in the majors this season.

Jose Bautista had his first three-hit game of the season for the AL East-leading Blue Jays.

Minnesota lost its season-worst 10th straight. The Twins have lost seven straight in Toronto.

Scott Feldman (7-4) earned the win by getting two outs in the seventh. Jason Grilli worked the eighth and Roberto Osuna finished (see full recap). 

Pirates win 8th straight on road, sweep Brewers 3-1
MILWAUKEE -- Ivan Nova threw six sharp innings before leaving early because of a hurting left hamstring and the Pittsburgh Pirates hit three solo homers to rally past the Milwaukee Brewers 3-1 on Sunday for their eighth straight road victory.

John Jaso and Gregory Polanco each homered in the sixth off Brewers starter Chase Anderson (7-11) to complete Pittsburgh's first sweep at Miller Park since 2004. Starling Marte added a solo shot in the eighth.

Nova (4-0) retired 10 of his final 11 batters after allowing Jonathan Villar's solo homer in the third. He scattered three hits and struck out four before being pinch hit for in the seventh.

Tony Watson pitched a clean ninth for his 10th save in 13 opportunities (see full recap).

Archer strikes out 10, Rays hit 3 HRs in 10-4 win vs Astros
HOUSTON -- Chris Archer struck out 10 in seven innings, Corey Dickerson hit a three-run homer and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Houston Astros 10-4 on Sunday.

Matt Duffy and Nick Franklin also went deep for the last-place Rays, who have homered in 21 of their last 24 games.

Houston, in the hunt for an AL wild card, had won three straight.

Archer (8-17) gave up three runs and four hits with two walks. With his strikeout of A.J. Reed in the sixth, the right-hander joined David Price and James Shields as the only Tampa Bay pitchers with multiple 200-strikeout seasons.

The Rays jumped out early against Doug Fister.

Fister (12-9) allowed four runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings, the fourth time in his past seven starts he has permitted four or more runs (see full recap). 

Calming presence behind plate, A.J. Ellis provides offensive spark in Phillies' win over Mets

Calming presence behind plate, A.J. Ellis provides offensive spark in Phillies' win over Mets

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- A.J. Ellis’ first game as a Phillie certainly went a lot better than Carlos Ruiz’s first game as a Dodger.

Ellis’ first hit with his new club helped the Phils salvage one game of a weekend series with the New York Mets on Sunday afternoon. The Phillies won it, 5-1 (see Instant Replay), behind a solid start from Vince Velasquez, excellent bullpen work and Ellis’ big hit, a tie-breaking, two-run double in the top of the seventh.

The Phillies had lost the first two games of the series by a combined score of 21-5. Their pitchers gave up eight homers in the first two games.

On Sunday, Velasquez and a quartet of relievers held the Mets to seven hits, all singles.

Ellis joined the Phillies just 24 hours earlier after being traded from the Dodgers on Thursday. He had been with that club his whole career.

Ruiz, of course, had been with the Phillies his whole career.

Ruiz’s first game with the Dodgers did not go nearly as smooth. The veteran catcher had trouble handling the pitches of closer Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning Friday night and that contributed to the Dodgers blowing a one-run lead and losing to the Chicago Cubs in 10 innings.

Leaving the Dodgers was difficult and emotional for Ellis. He was able to bury himself in the game Sunday and came away feeling pretty good.

“It’s just great to be playing baseball again,” he said, standing in front of his locker, a blue Dodgers equipment bag (that will soon be swapped out for a Phillies bag) at his feet. “You kind of lose yourself in the competition and then just play again.

“Regardless of what’s happened in the last four days, it feels good to drive in runs, feels good to help put your team ahead and help contribute to a team win.”

During his 24 or so hours with the Phillies, Ellis has immersed himself in learning a new staff of pitchers. He caught starters Jerad Eickhoff and Jake Thompson in the bullpen before Saturday’s game and warmed up several relievers during that game.

On Sunday morning, he arrived at Citi Field, saw his name in the lineup and immediately began prepping to catch Velasquez, the hardest-thrower on the Phillies’ starting staff.

Velasquez bounced back from three poor outings in which he gave up 19 runs in 17 1/3 innings and held a hot Mets lineup to a run over five innings. The only negative was that Velasquez could not pitch deeper into the game because his command was poor and needed 103 pitches to complete the five innings.

Nonetheless, Ellis, who was the personal catcher for Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw in Los Angeles, liked what he saw of Velasquez.

“His pitch count got elevated the first two innings and he was able to grind through the last three,” Ellis said. “The stuff is electric. He has so many weapons, so many options. When he keeps growing and keeps polishing that gift up, it’s going to be really, really special.

“So I’m excited to be able to continue to work with him, excited to work with him and (pitching coach) Bob McClure and (No. 1 catcher) Cameron Rupp, kind of talk to them about things, things he sees, things we see, and together we can build a plan for him going forward in his career.”

Two things are going to help the 24-year-old Velasquez reach his potential.

First is good health. He’s had arm problems in the past and there remain concerns about his long-term durability. That’s why the Phillies are closely monitoring his workload as this season winds down.

Second is command, control, economy of pitches – whatever you want to call it. Velasquez needs to be more efficient. Too many times he’s left games in the middle innings because of a high pitch count.

“Definitely,” he responded when asked if lowering his pitch counts and working deeper into games was the key to his improvement. “It’s going to help the longevity, it saves the bullpen, it helps out everybody. Not just on my end, but the whole team in general.

“And,” he joked, “then I can also work on my swing by getting some more at-bats.”

Despite the high pitch count, Velasquez walked just one. He struck out seven. He is up to 129 innings for the season. That includes five innings in a rehab game at Double A Reading. The Phillies will look to keep him at about 150 innings for the season. That could be three, four or five more starts, depending on how long the right-hander lasts. He’s averaged just over five innings in his starts this season.

“I think that would be the right move,” Velasquez said of the 150-inning target.