The Philadelphia Flyers and the Eventual Melancholy of Consistency

The Philadelphia Flyers and the Eventual Melancholy of Consistency

The following is a guest post from Ryan of Flyers Goal Scored By fame. The FGSB guys had a fantastic and original blog for years, but decided to call it quits this season. Part of the story is that blogging in addition to a day job and all of life's other demands is more challenging every year you do it. But the other part is more complicated and gets to the root of being a fan in this day and age, in this case, a Flyers fan. Ryan's words:

This was always going to be the day of our last post anyway. That it can
appear on such a prestigious website, well, that just brings a love
spot to my pants.

Our little blog that you probably never heard
of started in the Fall of 2007, to absolutely no fanfare. After 4 full
seasons of developing a love/hate relationship with the organization,
the writers, the fans, and Chris Therien we announced, to possibly less
fanfare, that the 2011-12 season would be our final foray into the
treacherous yet predictable world of hockey blogging.

As it turns out, we couldn't even make it that far, disappearing in
the middle of the night during a long stretch of W-L-W-L-W in November.
Maybe December. Who knows.

We rode the typical blog Change Curve -
new and energetic, growing and entitled, too good for the game, burnt
out and lost at sea.

During those five years the Flyers have taken a similar ride.

When
we set sail on this Italian cruise ship in 2007 the addition of Danny
Briere, Kimmo Timonen, Scott Hartnell, and Marty Biron gave Flyers fans
reason for cautious optimism. We had just been molested by someone we
trusted - a close uncle or a distant parent - and Fin Tutuola wasn't
there to tell us everything was going to be ok. We were skeptical - of
the Curse of Billy Penn, of losing the NHL Draft Lottery, of rooting for
a team that finished so far in last place that they had packed the
finish line up in a truck before we even got there. But John Stevens
coached the crew - led up front by the future of the franchise, the
Bobby Clarke of the new millennium, Mike Richards, and Jeff "I'm going
to score 40 one day" Carter, and in the back by the gritty Jason Smith,
the surprising Randy Jones and Braydon Coburn - to a 95 point season.
Lupul scored the Game 7 overtime winner, Umberger single-handedly
Klumped the Canadiens, and then with our defense depleted, the Penguins
made us the star of their prison movie in the Conference Finals.

THE CONFERENCE FINALS!!

And despite a 0-3-3 start the next
season under new captain Mike Richards, we finished with 99 points. The
Phillies won the World Series and a new sense of true optimism swept the
city. The Flyers got their act together after Brad Lidge and Carlos
Ruiz awkwardly knee-hugged just in front the CBP's pitcher's mound, and
of course Scottie Upshall cried when he left. Not only was he leaving
his besties, but he was leaving a team that was obviously snow-balling
into a Stanley Cup champ. Jeff Carter got his 46 goals. Vets like Simon
Gagne and Mike Knuble did exactly what they were expected to do, and a
faster and younger defense had been carved out of traffic cones Jason
Smith and Derian Hatcher. We were on our way. Until the Penguins got us
again. First round. Shhhhhh. What time do we tee off tomorrow?

But no worries, right? Last in the league to the Conference Finals
to a better regular season with a playoff blip on the radar? That
happens - you lose hard-fought playoff series when you're not supposed
to. Overall, the season was a success. Please proceed to the off-season
like any other team. Draft some kids. Have a rookie camp. See you in
September for training camp.

Hold Up, heeeyyyyy (RIP Nate Dog) Oh. Oh, okay. The Flyers drafted
Chris Pronger. Wait? Wait what?!? Is that a good thing? I thought he was
too old. To be drafted for sure but even to still be effective in the
league. I've heard a lot about him but he hasn't been in the East since
he was a Whaler and I only really know the Whalers from NHL '94 and
Mitchell & Ness gear. Are we going to win the Cup? We're going to
win the Cup! We're going to win the Cup!

Please fast forward your DVR until you reach December 5, 2009. Who
is that guy on the bench where John Stevens usually stands? Why did
Daniel Carcillo break that guy's face? Why are we losing to the Caps
8-2? I thought Pronger was going to win us the Cup. Why is everyone
sucking. Why does Pronger have the third most points on our team? Please
call your parents and ask if you can come to my Captain Controversy
Party! Richards can't handle it! Oh wait. Bouch made the save. We're the
7th seed! Wow, did we just mirk the Devils on a DANIEL CARCILLO
overtime goal! Who is this Leino guy? Did we just make history and come
back from a 0-3 deficit to beat the Bruins!! There's no way Richards
scored that goal. The was the best shift ever by a Flyer. Did we just
bend Carey Price over our knee and spank him to win the East!?! Grab
that trophy, Mike! Fuck superstition. We are the TEAM OF DESTN…ah shit
you JVR, I mean Patrick Kane. Asshole.

Still though. Pronger = Cup Finals. I was never good at math, but
that's something I can understand. Now if we could ever get a goalie…ah
forget about that. We're so good we don't need one.

2010-2011 is
it, baby. Mike Richards is the best captain in the NHL. This is his
team. This Giroux kid is pretty good too. No one is killing it this
season but we sure are winning a hell of a lot of games. And bam. There
it is. 106 points and 2nd in the conference. One point from winning the
entire conference. This guy can coach. This team can play. These goalies
can do what you need. Dry Island, Wet Island - who cares. We are headed
back to the Cup Finals and this this year we're going to…You know what
Boston? You sure know how to hold a grudge, sweeping us like that. It's
rude is what it is. Grow up. We at least let you play 7 games last year.
Ya jerks.

Ok but next season it all comes together. Our kids are growing into
vets. We have Pronger, Kimmo, Coburn, Carle, and Mesz on the back-end
and who knows what we'll add this off-season.

Ring, ring.

"Oh
hey Fran, Are you kidding! We got Wayne Simmonds, Braydon Schenn, Jakub
Voracek, Max Talbot, JAROMIR JAGR, a 1st rounder and Ilya Bryzgalov!!
Why don't they just hand over the Cup now? Wait what? Ha, yeah right.
There's no way. You're not kidding? Holy shit."

- - - -

If I'm being honest, I don't even know what this
season was. We had great rookies. Jagr was fun for a time. Bryzgalov was
a roller coaster. We finished with 103 points but did you ever think
"this is the team that's going to win it all?" No, you shouldn't have
anyway. At most maybe "this team could do something." Giroux emerged
into a superstar but on the flip side we lost Pronger, possibly to spend
the rest of his career in the front office. Without Pronger this team
is carnival side show - and you have no idea what to expect. Ever.

We had 457 rookies play this year - many in significant roles that
might be better filled by a Dowdian veteran. Without Pronger our defense
has been exposed. Kimmo is still a stud, but an aging stud. He's
incredible but he's not Lidstrom. These past few years were really the
club's opportunity to take advantage of all his skill. Now he's quickly
turning into the sexy woodshop teacher all the young ladies dream of
seeing on their schedule. Not old but not young. He's an overworked
Portuguese Water Dog.

The future is no clearer than it has ever been. They'll talk about
the rookies. They'll talk about Simmonds', Hartnell's, Talbot's, and
Giroux's career years. They'll talk, they'll talk, they'll talk. But
this might be the over-arching problem with trying to win every year,
from the perspective of a General Manager. We have a huge gap of talent.
So many young kids that are good in their own right and then so many
old dudes that are past their prime or nearing that point. Where is our
true core? Where is our compass?

The truth is that I'm tired of caring this much, and Billy Beane was
right about losing the last game of the season. I'll be there rooting
for the Flyers in my own way, but no longer climbing into bed on a
Thursday night thinking "why did I just waste 3 hours." No longer
staying in on a beautiful Saturday afternoon because "the boys are on."
It's not that I don't have the time, it's not that I don't have the
energy. It's that the opportunity cost is too high when I can read the
box score and watch the highlights any time I want. It's a different
world, Denise Huxtable.

The thing is that they're just going to go out there and do it again
next season. There will be some new faces and some old. Some new
storylines (ha, yeah right), some new rules, some new banners, renewed
optimism.

But at the same time everything will be the same. There will be
injuries, suspensions, FA signings, a draft, trades, the Flyers will
win, lose and participate in shootouts. Their record will be 22-0-1 when
entering the 3rd period with the lead. They'll be 28-13 at home.
Whatever on the road. They'll go to Carolina. There will be fights,
goals, beautiful passes, horse shit penalties. This will all happen for 8
months. And then they'll come out and look, honest to God, like your
kid's Pee-wee team playing against the Selects and not even able to
break out of their own zone. Or they'll win the Cup and I'll celebrate
with everyone else. And then get up and go to work the next day. Just
like the day before.

Still a fan, still love the sport, but I just don't really care what
they do anymore. Not specifically anyway. Not in the "no no no no he's
our # 4 defenseman" kind of way. Hope to catch some games live next
year, but not as many as years before. And I'll definitely not feel like
any less of a fan when I have to text a friend or ask my buddy at the
bar "who is that No. 42 guy?"

Last night's Union game against Orlando was pretty crazy

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Last night's Union game against Orlando was pretty crazy

When the Union played in Orlando last year, the game was a relatively dull scoreless draw.

And for most of Wednesday’s game between the two teams in the same venue, it looked like history was going to repeat itself.

That’s when the Kaká hit the fan.

Here’s a quick recap of all the craziness that happened in the second half of the if-you-turned-away-you-probably-missed-something2-2 draw:

  • Tranquillo Barnetta, inspired by a story I wrote about him a day earlier, scored his second goal this season -- both of which have come against Orlando

  • Warren Creavalle was taken down from behind in the box but no penalty kick was given and no red card was shown, leading head coach Jim Curtin to call the sequence “embarrassing”

  • Orlando City responded with two rapid-fire semi-controversial goals, scoring the first after Philly goalie Andre Blake was wiped out and the second on a shot Blake appeared to make the save on but the ref ruled was in (where’s goal-line technology when you need it??)

  • Ken Tribbett, the pride of Drexel, scored his first MLS goal after early collecting his first MLS assist -- after only being called into the game because of an injury to Josh Yaro

  • Orlando’s David Mateos was shown a straight red card in the final minute but Barnetta couldn’t convert a close-range free kick to win it

  • Fabinho killed a guy with a trident

To think all but one of those things happened in one half is pretty wild -- and that doesn’t even factor in several other cards, calls, no-calls and a pretty cool set piece the Union ran.


Oh, and almost lost in all the commotion, was the fact that Andre Blake gave us another memorable moment in a season full of them when he saved a first-half penalty kick from freaking Kaká.


In the end, Curtin couldn’t get over some of the refereeing decisions, particularly the no-call on Creavalle -- which, as you can see, was in fact quite bad.


Still, the fact that the Union escaped a tough place like Orlando despite the ref and while playing without three of their top playmakers (Maurice Edu, Vincent Nogueria and Ilsinho) is quite a nice achievement that you would never have seen with past Philly teams.

It also moved their unbeaten streak to six heading into Saturday’s showdown between the first-place team in the East (your Philadelphia Union) and the first-place team in the West (the Colorado Rapids) -- who you might recall were two of the worst teams in MLS last season.

See ya in the rockies.

Opportunity with Eagles, talk with Le'Veon Bell has Kenjon Barner hungry

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Opportunity with Eagles, talk with Le'Veon Bell has Kenjon Barner hungry

Kenjon Barner is hungry, literally and figuratively.

After spending 2014 on the Eagles' practice squad and getting just 37 offensive touches in a crowded backfield last season, the running back is looking to carve out a bigger role with the Birds in 2016. DeMarco Murray is gone, and with Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles away from the team earlier this week at practice, it was Barner getting the first-team reps. 

Mathews missed Tuesday's practice with an illness, and Sproles hasn't reported to the Eagles' voluntary workouts, which become mandatory from June 7-9.

So Barner, the 27-year-old RB Chip Kelly coached in college and traded for prior to the 2014 season, has had some opportunities to impress new head coach Doug Pederson. And Barner wants to make clear that despite his Oregon ties — he's one of three remaining players from Oregon that Kelly brought to the Eagles, along with Josh Huff and Taylor Hart — he's not only here because of the coach he outlasted.

"It's a great opportunity," Barner said, "just a fresh start. Go out there and continue to show what you can do, continue to make plays and constantly have your name in the coaches' minds.

"For anybody who says, 'Oh, that's Chip Kelly's guy,' no, I'm a football player. I wouldn't be here if I wasn't a football player. I wouldn't have gotten drafted if I wasn't a football player.

"It's not a chip on my shoulder. Yes I went to Oregon, yes I played under Chip, I love Chip to death, but I'm a football player. I create my own lane. I'm not gonna let anybody place me in a box and tell me what I am."

At 5-9/195, Barner doesn't fit perfectly into the box of a classic bell cow back. He's more of a Sproles-lite, a shifty back who can catch passes out of the backfield. He showed that last preseason, when he rushed 13 times for 91 yards and a touchdown and also caught four passes for 72 yards, including a 50-yarder.

That kind of backfield versatility is necessary in the offense Pederson brings over from the Chiefs, the offense Andy Reid ran for many years here. In Kansas City, Pederson and Reid utilized their running backs often in the passing game, just as they did with the Eagles. Even when Jamaal Charles went down for the year after five games last season, that trend continued with Charcandrick West catching 20 passes and DeAnthony Thomas getting some grabs out of the backfield.

"I fit whatever role they want me to fit," Barner said. "Whether it's catching balls out of the backfield or whatever it is. Jamaal Charles is a great back and if I can do half of what he's done throughout his career I'd be lucky."

Barner has patiently waited three years for this kind of opportunity. Mathews and Sproles are expected to be the Eagles' top-two ball-carriers, but both are getting older and neither is an every-down back, Mathews because of all the injuries and Sproles because he's more of a situational matchup nightmare. So even with the addition of fifth-round pick Wendell Smallwood, there should be some opportunities for Barner, who has done all he can to further his own development.

"Just older, more mature, more professional than I've been in the past," Barner said. "Understanding the offense, really going home and studying, really knowing what my responsibility is.

"For me, man, it's just about being mature, growing. I feel like if you're not growing, what are you doing? You constantly have to grow, have to evolve, not only physically but mentally. That's kind of where I'm at.

"I did take it seriously last year, but having the opportunity to go through what I've been through, go home and be with my family, have guys like (Chris) Maragos, I talk to him on a daily basis about football, about life. Sproles constantly being in my ear still — he may not be here but he's still in my ear. It's a lot of things coming together."

One change Barner made this offseason was to his diet. It came from a conversation with the NFL's best all-around running back, Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell.

"I had a talk with Le'Veon Bell back in January," Barner said. "I spoke with him and we were just talking about eating. I'm the type of guy that if I see somebody and I see a change in them and I see it's positive, I have no problem telling you, 'I like what you're doing, tell me how you did it.' I reached out to him because I've been seeing pictures of him and I've seen his body change. We came in the draft together and he's always been a big guy, but he hasn't been that cut, that ripped. So I reached out to him like, 'Yo, what did you do, what's your diet, what have you been taking, what are you doing and what are you not doing?' Just really trying to pick his brain. 

"I'm trying to be great. And if I see you doing something that's pushing you to the next level I'm gonna ask you how you did it. 

"I'm not gonna say I've been perfect. I'm just really big on sweets, I have a sweet tooth like no other and I can thank my dad for that — growing up he always had candy and snacks by his bed so I would always sneak in his room and eat them. That's the hardest thing, that's like my kryptonite."

Sweets weren't a part of the Chip Kelly regimen, that's for sure. But with the coach who brought Barner to the Eagles now in San Francisco, it's more on the players to keep themselves on track, both in the kitchen and with their sleep schedule.

"It's different, a lot slower, obviously," Barner said of practices under Pederson. "Is that good? I mean, you don't get as tired. But you're not in as good of shape as you were in Chip's offense. Chip's offense, you have to be in tip-top shape. So we're still getting there, still certain times when we're tired, times when you shouldn't be tired. So you have to do a lot of the conditioning on your own outside of here.

"Today, [Pederson] asked us who's getting eight hours of sleep. Everybody cares about it because you want your players to be at their best and you can't be at your best if you're not getting enough sleep, (but they're) two completely different people."

Let the bidding begin for Mike Trout, whom Angels must move at some point

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Let the bidding begin for Mike Trout, whom Angels must move at some point

Yes, the Angels are going to trade Mike Trout.

It may not happen this year or even next year, but eventually Angels GM Billy Eppler will accept the reality of the bleak future ahead for his franchise. Albert Pujols, who has five years and $140 million remaining on his contract after this season, has taken the baton from Ryan Howard for the worst contract in baseball. Good luck getting out of that deal. Other than the increasingly rare Pujols hot streak, they have nobody equipped to protect Trout in the lineup. 

The starting rotation has been patched together, with both Garrett Richards and Andrew Heaney going down with elbow injuries early this season. Unless one of those guys comes back healthy, there isn’t a No. 1 or No. 2 starter on the roster. Theoretically, the Angels will have money to spend on the free-agent market with both C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver coming off the books after the season. But with Andrew Cashner and Jeremy Hellickson the likely headliners on the pitching market, a quick fix for the rotation seems unlikely. 

The 2017 free-agent market for hitters isn’t much better. Should Yoenis Cespedes opt out of his contract with the Mets, he could provide a potent presence behind Trout, but there will be stiff competition for his services and he’ll be in line for a massive payday. 

Toronto’s once-dynamic duo of Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista should be available, but both appear to be trending downward. Giving either player a long-term deal is a risky investment at best. 

Building around the young players in the organization isn’t a viable option. By all accounts, the Angels have the worst farm system in baseball. You can check out those rankings here or here. This is a franchise in dire need of an infusion of young talent. 

We’ve seen the Phillies in a similar situation with Cole Hamels. Once there was no way forward to win with him, the only reasonable option was to trade him. Even the most ardent Hamels supporters have to admit now that moving him made sense.  

Yes, Trout is only 24 years old and is the best all-around player in baseball. The Angels should certainly explore every possible option to build a winner around the South Jersey native, who is in the second season of a six-year deal that will pay him $119 million from 2017 through 2020. But the franchise is trending in the wrong direction. If they cannot honestly see a path to contending with him, they should look to move him and jump-start a rebuild. There will be no shortage of suitors. 

So ignore the notion that you never trade an “inner-circle Hall of Famer,” which Trout certainly is on track to become. He is signed through 2019 and the clock is ticking. 

Let the bidding begin.