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?"

Whose stocks are rising and falling after Eagles' third preseason game?

usa-bradford.jpg

Whose stocks are rising and falling after Eagles' third preseason game?

Sam Bradford was almost perfect in the Eagles' biggest preseason tune-up on Saturday night.

Heard that one before. Bradford's line is the perfect example of why we can only lend so much validity to preseason performance. On paper, 17 of 20 for 167 yards and two touchdowns — with two dropped passes mind you — looks like an incredible line. What the box score fails to mention however is the Colts were without seven regulars on defense, so a veteran quarterback should excel, particularly against vanilla schemes.

Bradford's performance was eerily reminiscent of almost one year ago to the day, when he was 10 of 10 for 121 yards and three touchdowns against the Packers in an exhibition game. We all know how that turned out — an up-and-down season for the signal-caller, and a 7-9 record for the Eagles.

At the same time, it's not as if there weren't positives to take away from Bradford's performance this summer. He's actually pushing the ball downfield a little bit, not necessarily deep, but working the intermediate passing attack. He looks confident and is stepping up in the pocket, making good decisions, throwing the football accurately and with anticipation. Bradford looks great.

Of course, he's looked great in the preseason before, yet once again, it doesn't mean much. What we've seen from the Eagles through three games — on both sides of the football — certainly is encouraging, especially to those of us who don't think this is a bad team to begin with. That being said, not sure this stuff should change any minds until they get it done in the real thing starting on September 11 versus the Browns.

STOCK UP

Dorial Green-Beckham, Josh Huff

Okay, if you weren't excited to see Green-Beckham sky over a cornerback to pluck a Bradford fade out of the air for a four-yard touchdown, you may not have a pulse. DGB made that play look effortless, which is exactly what you want to see from a 6-foot-5, 237-pound wideout on an overmatched defensive back. Not saying DGB is going to post prolific numbers in 2016, but he can be a dangerous weapon in the red zone if nowhere else.

Credit where credit is due to Huff, a frustrating player we like to have fun with. No miscues on Saturday, finishing with two receptions for 60 yards including a 38-yard catch-and-run, and scoring from nine yards out on a jet sweep. The Eagles have been making a conscious effort to put him in positions to showcase his talent, and he probably just made the team with this performance.

Trey Burton, Zach Ertz

Wouldn't it be something if Burton played a role in the offense this season? The hybrid tight end hauled in five passes for 35 yards and a touchdown while getting a long look with the first-team offense. Don't be surprised if the Eagles use a lot more three-tight end formations this season, because Burton is a real weapon.

Quick plug for Ertz here, who has impressed me in all three games with his work as a blocker. That was the area most in need of improvement when he entered the league, and it's reached a point where he's looked very effective thus far.

Jason Peters

The fact that we haven't been talking about Peters the past few weeks is probably the biggest reason why his stock is on the rise. The Eagles simply need their left tackle to be healthy, and even if he's not the dominant force he once was, the eight-time Pro Bowler should bring stability to their offensive line. Peters has made it through the past two games, which in itself is a promising sign.

Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Bennie Logan, Beau Allen

Fletcher Cox too, obviously. The front four has done exactly what is expected of it from a Jim Schwartz-coached defense, which is wreak havoc in opposing backfields.

Barwin has adjusted well to the move from 3-4 linebacker to 4-3 end, notching a sack on Saturday to give him 1.5 in the preseason. That takedown came on a pressure by Graham, who's been very active in all three games as well. Logan has eased concerns as to whether he is tailored for the attacking scheme, getting consistent penetration from the tackle position. And even Allen, a 2013 seventh-round draft pick, has flashed with 1.5 sacks this summer, perhaps cementing a roster spot in the process. We could list a number of players in this space. They've all been pretty good.

Nigel Bradham, Jordan Hicks

You have to love what you've seen from Bradham in the running game. The free-agent addition racked up five tackles against the Colts, constantly crashing the line of scrimmage and stopping ballcarriers for minimal gains, no gain, or losses. He hasn't been tested as much in coverage, but the 6-foot-2, 241-pound linebacker is proving his worth against the ground attack.

Hicks probably had his best game of the preseason as well, finishing with three tackles and a quarterback hurry to force an errant throw on a 4th-and-1 attempt. Nothing special, but a solid performance overall from a key player who's had kind of a quiet summer.

C.J. Smith III

Smith had a team-high seven tackles, which is not a good statistic for a cornerback. Then again, the undrafted rookie out of North Dakota State was guarding the likes of T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief much of the night. That's some legit NFL talent right there, and Smith didn't back down. There was no busted coverages, the coverage was generally tight even if the catch was made and he got the receivers to the ground. It was strange seeing him on the first-team defense, which makes you wonder what the Eagles' intentions are. He didn't earn a starting job or anything, but it was a solid effort.

Doug Pederson, Jim Schwartz

One last note, and it's a credit to the coaching staff. After watching Chip Kelly and Bill Davis pretend they could just plug personnel into their systems without any thought given to the players' strengths and weaknesses, Pederson and Schwartz are a breath of fresh air. Kelly's team was successful in the preseason in large part because opponents didn't game-plan for the uptempo offense. Pederson's Eagles have looked good because they've put players in the right position to succeed. This is one area I am convinced is a clear upgrade from last season.

STOCK DOWN

Mychal Kendricks

Kendricks was playing for the first time this preseason. Still, much like for large stretches of 2015, he was invisible out there, failing to so much as get in on a tackle. It's also worth noting he subbed off in the Eagles' nickel package and therefore appears to be facing a reduced role. The fifth-year linebacker can be excused to some extent for a slow start, but more will be expected of Kendricks going forward coming off of such a disappointing campaign.

Rueben Randle

Randle's absence from the first-team offense was notable, particularly while DGB and Huff were having big nights. Even Nelson Agholor, despite dropping a pass that went for an interception, has at least shown the ability to get open and a willingness to block. Randle had two catches for 12 yards on Saturday, with Jordan Matthews soon returning from injury and Chris Givens' downfield speed enticing to this Eagles coaching staff, Randle might be playing his final game in midnight green this Thursday.

Wendell Smallwood

To be fair, it's not Smallwood's fault he's been banged up this summer. Unfortunately, life often isn't fair, and the fact that the fifth-round rookie exited this game with a concussion will not help his chances of contributing this season. Smallwood simply hasn't had the reps in practice or games for the Eagles to feel comfortable that he knows the offense or could protect the quarterback. With Ryan Mathews looking good and Kenjon Barner having a strong summer, it seems likely Smallwood will be worked into the offense slowly in the season ahead.

Ed Reynolds

It looked bad for Reynolds when the Eagles drafted Blake Countess in the sixth round. Then Jaylen Watkins emerged as a credible option as the third safety this summer, rendering Reynolds an afterthought. Now the 2014 fifth-round pick may have been responsible for the missed assignment on a blocked punt, special teams ultimately being the area where backups must make their mark. He's played the position aggressively this summer, and it would not be surprising to see him land on his feet somewhere, but Reynolds has an uphill battle to make this roster.

Cody Parkey

Parkey's preseason was going much more smoothly than his training camp, right up until he missed an extra point on Saturday. If it were just one kick, it might be easier to overlook, but the 2014 Pro Bowler's accuracy has been shaky all summer. It was simply the first time we saw it in a game. Meanwhile, Caleb Sturgis has been money, which we'll see how that works out for the Eagles when the regular season rolls around, but the job is probably his.

Josh Huff flashes again, but can he finally find consistency?

Josh Huff flashes again, but can he finally find consistency?

INDIANAPOLIS – The main reason Josh Huff has been such a frustrating player during his young NFL career was on full display Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.
 
He flashed. Again.
 
The third-year wideout from Oregon was dynamic, elusive, productive. He didn’t look like a disappointment. He didn’t look like the player fans have grown to distrust. Instead, he looked like the guy they still hope he can become.
 
“Just get back to being me, get back to being myself,” Huff said. “I know every receiver, everybody’s gonna drop balls in this league. I just can’t beat myself up over that.
 
“I know that I belong in this league. I know that I’m able to make plays in this league, so I just have to play my game and be myself and let it sort itself out.”
 
Huff finished Saturday’s 33-23 win over the Colts with two catches for 60 yards and a nine-yard touchdown run. He again showed just how dangerous he can be when the ball’s in his hands.
 
His first catch of the day was a 38-yard catch-and-run, which clearly played to his strengths. His second was a 22-yard pickup on a critical 3rd-and-6 during a drive that ended with a touchdown.
 
And aside from the catches, he also ran into the end zone on a 9-yard jet sweep early in the second quarter.
 
“We had some plays designed to get him involved this week, to get him the ball,” quarterback Sam Bradford said. “I thought he did a great job. The play that really comes to my mind is the third down where it was man coverage. He beat the guy and made a nice catch, big conversion for us. He’s a guy, and I’ve said it all camp, that has big play potential for us. It’s just with his speed and his ability to run after the catch. To get him involved tonight and see those things from him, it was really nice.”
 
Huff said he tried to enter the game like it was any other. And he said he didn’t do anything differently. But it clearly seems like the 24-year-old is trying desperately to get out of his own way. Because when he does, he can be electric.
 
Saturday night was also about the coaching staff’s finding a way to use Huff — something that clearly eluded the last staff, despite Chip Kelly’s familiarity with the wideout.
 
With Jordan Matthews out against the Colts, Huff again played in the slot, a role that seems to fit his strengths, while the jet sweep for a touchdown was the culmination of plenty of similar plays run during practices.
 
“Coaches know what I can do with the ball in my hands,” Huff said. “So they’re trying to find ways to get the ball in my hands, whether it’s a pass or behind the line of scrimmage.“
 
The Eagles made sure to get the ball to Huff on Saturday night and he rewarded them with the kind of play he’s shown he’s capable of before.
 
He took a step forward Saturday night. Now, he just needs to make sure the step backward doesn’t follow this time.
 
“It’s just a mental game for me,” Huff said. “I know I can make all the plays that I made today. It’s just about doing it on a consistent basis and being the best I can be during that play or during that game.”

Today's Lineup: A.J. Ellis, as expected, catches Vince Velasquez

Today's Lineup: A.J. Ellis, as expected, catches Vince Velasquez

After arriving to the team Saturday, veteran backstop A.J. Ellis will see his first game action in a Phillies uniform, as expected, in Sunday's series finale against the Mets.

Ellis will catch right-handed starter Vince Velasquez and bat seventh. The catcher doesn't bring much to the plate with his bat, but he calls a good game and was Clayton Kershaw's personal catcher in Los Angeles. It'll be interesting to see how he handles Velasquez.

The 35-year-old is hitting just .194 this season with one home run and 13 RBIs.

In other lineup notes, Tommy Joseph gets the start at first base and will bat cleanup and Jimmy Paredes gets his second straight start in left field. Paredes will hit sixth.

Here is the Phillies' full lineup:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Aaron Altherr, RF
6. Jimmy Paredes, LF
7. A.J. Ellis, C
8. Freddy Galvis, SS
9. Vince Velasquez, P

For more on today's game, check out Steven Tydings' game notes.