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.

Several reasons behind Brandon Graham's seemingly sudden emergence

Several reasons behind Brandon Graham's seemingly sudden emergence

With three sacks in three games, Brandon Graham is off to the fastest start of his career by far, already almost halfway to his career high of 6½. Naturally, the Eagles' defensive end is excited about the production, but not nearly as excited as he was with the defense as a whole after a 34-3 romp over the Steelers on Sunday.

"For us, I was just happy we stayed together, we played together and the outcome was good," Graham said postgame. "Hats off to Pittsburgh because we did a lot of planning for them. We respect them a lot.

"I am just happy to get this win and I am happy in the style we did it."

Graham was one of four Eagles players to bring down Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, marking the first time the seventh-year veteran has recorded at least one sack in three consecutive games. In fact, prior to this season, Graham had never posted a sack in Week 1.

For once, the numbers are taking care of themselves for Graham — although that's not what he's focused on.

"Since I've been here, I've never gotten a sack in the first game, and I've never been consistent," Graham said. "I'm just trying to be the leader, go out there, get W's and be relentless."

There are plenty of explanations for Graham's seemingly sudden emergence.

This is only his second season as a full-time player in the NFL after injuries, then depth conspired to keep the 2010 first-round pick on the bench early in his career. Perhaps all he needed was an opportunity. The switch back to a 4-3 defense and wide-nine front no doubt helped rejuvenate Graham's career as well, allowing him to move from outside linebacker back to his natural position at defensive end and focus on rushing the passer.

With Connor Barwin, Vinny Curry and Marcus Smith all rotating in at end, Graham is also being kept fresh. Last season, the Eagles lacked the quality reserves to provide many breathers for Barwin and Graham on the outside.

"It's a great feeling because there's no pressure to hurry up and get back out," Graham said. "I feel like everybody is just as good and there's no drop-off when we come out of there.

"It's definitely going to help us later on in the year. It's been helping now."

There are all sorts of schematic reasons why Graham could finally be on his way to a breakout season. This will be his first full season as a starter at D-end in a 4-3, it's the first time since 2012 he's in a wide-nine and the defense no longer has to be worried about being exhausted by Chip Kelly's offense's uptempo approach.

Graham was also blessed with a new addition to his family during the offseason — a baby girl. The 28-year-old admits that changed his perspective as well, making him want to work even harder toward achieving his goals.

"Just the preparation and then the work this offseason, I took it up to another level," Graham said. "I guess because I had a daughter this offseason, everything is kind of viewed a different way for me.

"I know we have a good defense — that helps out a lot, too. I couldn't ask for a better defense right now."

Clearly, those goals are not individually motivated. Graham wants to be part of something great, and with a dominant performance against the Steelers in Week 3, the Eagles and their defense passed a huge test.

"I feel like we improved," Graham said. "We got a lot better. We stopped a good team, a great team, a well-coached team. Our hats off to them because they made us work this week."

Few people were expecting the Eagles to handle a trendy Super Bowl pick the way they did, and Graham actually prefers it that way.

"I hope we still get overlooked because it feels so good when people are talking the way they did," Graham said. "It added a little fuel. We watched a little bit of the TV (Sunday) morning, and they were just saying how [the Steelers] were going to dog us.

"I'm just happy that we came out and did what we were supposed to do, and I hope we stay the underdog because, for us, nobody gave us a chance and we stayed together. If we stay together in here, that's all that matters."

Through three games, the Eagles lead the NFL in fewest points surrendered with a paltry 27 and rank fourth in yards allowed. They're also tied for third with 10 sacks and tied for seventh with six takeaways.

If the defense stays together the way Graham says they have, how far does he think the Eagles go this season?

"I don't know," Graham said. "If we keep playing like that, there is no ceiling."

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Flyers Notes: Promising performances from young defensemen

Flyers Notes: Promising performances from young defensemen

The most impressive thing about the Flyers' 4-0 preseason win over the Islanders on Tuesday night was the play of the their young defense and the outstanding work by the penalty kill.

Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers each gave a strong accounting of themselves while veteran Andrew MacDonald proved why experience helps with some terrific PK work during an extended five-on-three Islanders power play in the third period.

“Overall, they did a good job,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “I look at some of the opportunities we gave up, especially in the second period, we gave up three or four Grade A opportunities that Mase (goalie Steve Mason) was great on, but I put those on our forwards.

“We’re still not into regular-season form on our play without the puck. I thought as a whole, the group of defensemen did a good job and the young guys in there were good tonight.”

Sanheim had strong plays the entire game from the point and picked up two assists (see highlights). He gets the puck quickly on net and joins the play up front.

“It took me a little bit, even in this game,” Sanheim said. “As I play more, I started to jump up more and you start to see my game more. It’s something I want to bring to this next level.”

Provorov logged 21:43 of ice time following nearly 29 minutes at New Jersey. He had 5:17 on the PK. Some of his clears weren’t deep or hard enough, at times, possibly because of fatigue.

He also took a bad boarding hit on Joshua Ho-Sang in the third period that set up an Isles five-on-three power play. It became extended because of a trip call to Myers but MacDonald did yeoman’s work on the extended PK.

Provorov quarterbacks the first-unit man advantage for now until Shayne Gostisbehere joins the crowd. He had some very skillful passes. The Russian can find the seam up the ice on the breakout quickly and had a no-look, hard pass to Nick Cousins in the second period for a quality one-timer on net.

Expect Provorov to handle the second-unit power play during the season, should he make the roster.

The goals
Although the Flyers, using a better NHL lineup, were lacking for offensive chances early against the Isles' "B" squad, they found their way in the final four minutes of the opening period.

First, Dale Weise had one of those pinball goals as a bouncing puck hit a couple of players in the slot, including goalie Chris Gibson, to make it 1-0 during four-on-four play.

That was the Flyers' first goal of preseason in three games. A little more than a minute later, Wayne Simmonds scored off a rebound just as a Flyers power play ended. Simmonds had two goals in the game, including a wrister from the left circle to open the final period.

Smallish (5-foot-7) — but bullish — centerman Andy Miele, a former Hobey Baker Award winner as college hockey’s top player (Miami-Ohio), made it 3-0, out-battling Thomas Hickey for the rebound of Michael Raffl’s shot.

The shield
Simmonds is wearing a visor for the first time. It’s an experiment for now.

“Everyone is all over me about it,” he said. “We’ll see what happens. It wasn’t too bad tonight. The only thing is trying to track pucks in the sky when you are getting the glare from the lights. A little bit of an adjustment."

He said neither his mother nor girlfriend had pushed him as hard to wear the shield as someone else: “Ron Hextall,” he said flatly. “He gave me a call.”

Because of his tenacious play in the slot where sticks are high and pucks are deflected, a shield makes sense.

“Yeah, I think so, being that front guy and doing work on the PK,” he said. “Getting sticks in lanes like that, the game is really fast and pucks get deflected.

“Sometime you don’t know where they’re going and can’t react to that. Obviously, the shield is good for that."

He added he would wear the shield in a fight, too.

“Every time I fight and someone has a shield on, I’m at a disadvantage so I guess this evens it up,” he said.

Loose pucks
Weise did a nice job sticking up for teammates late during a melee after a Ben Holmstrom crosscheck to linemate Nick Cousins. “It was a bad crosscheck and you’re defending your teammates,” he said. “The ref was in the way and I kind of went overtop him. That’s what I’m about. Guys take liberties on my linemates, I’ll stand up for them.” … Matt Read had just 6:54 ice time through two periods. Fourth-liner Boyd Gordon had more ice time there — 9:39 — but Read finished with 13:55 to Gordon’s 13:41. More than half of Gordon’s ice time was on the penalty kill. … Goalie Steve Mason faced some point-blank chances among the first 17 shots he faced and finished with 23-save shutout.