The Top-10 bad Holmgren moves that aren't trading Richards, Carter

The Top-10 bad Holmgren moves that aren't trading Richards, Carter

Since Paul Holmgren replaced Bob Clarke as general manager of the Flyers in late 2006, life hasn’t been dull for the Orange and Black. If being general manager is to gamble, Holmgren is a whale. He wheels and deals aggressively and with little regard for the future, the feelings of his players or his own appearance as a manager.

Despite this strategy, he's won his fair share of deals like trading Alexei Zhitnik for Braydon Coburn, picking up Sergei Bobrovsky out of nowhere and landing Matt Read off the college waiver wire. But like most gamblers, he’s lost even more.

Here are the Top-10 head-scratching Holmgren moves that aren’t trading Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.

10. Signing Bruno Gervais for two years, $1.65m

Looking for a depth defender to start the 2012-13 NHL season, Holmgren tapped mobile unrestricted free agent Gervais to play the part. Best good friends with Max Talbot, the move made mild sense.

That is until Holmgren gave Gervais a two-year deal. Yes, Holmgren gave a fringe NHLer, who was also getting the proverbial signing bonus by playing with his childhood best friend, an extra year for no reason at all. Gervais wouldn’t be able to enjoy the second year though, as he is currently playing for the Adirondack Phantoms of the AHL after the Flyers realized he wasn’t very good.

This signing serves as the perfect example of how Holmgren does business.

9. Signing Jody Shelley for three-years, $3.3m

Why would any reasonable general manager spend $3.3 million ($1.1m per season) and three years locked into a 34-year-old enforcer? Why would anyone spend more than the veteran minimum on any enforcer ever? Go back to 2010 and ask Holmgren.

Shelley played just 89 games over three seasons and acted as a well-liked salary cap albatross over that span.

8. Signing Kimmo Timonen for One Year, $6m

It’s like Holmgren forgot that players age. Despite Timonen turning 38 at the time and slowed by a chronic bad back, Holmgren signed his prized disintegrating defender to one-year deal for a whopping $6 million.

Timonen, whose options were to play for the Flyers or retire, has no points in eight games and has already left the club’s latest game with a lower-body injury. Even without the fatigue of a grueling 82-game season he looks slow and seems to be playing to his age, not his paycheck.

7. Signing Mark Streit for Four Years, $21m

Once again, Holmgren spends a draft pick for the right to grossly overpay a player.

Not only did he give the New York Islanders AHL forward Shane Harper and a fourth round pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, but he delivered the 35-year-old Streit a ridiculous four-year deal worth $21 million, which will keep him on the Flyers’ books until he’s 39. The aging power play specialist, who has been designated the team’s fifth defenseman in terms of ice time and rolled out on the second power play unit, is a major reason why the future of the Flyers seems so bleak and in such a precarious financial position.

6. Not firing coach Peter Laviolette after the 2012-13 season, only to fire him three games into the 2013-14 season.

Holmgren must love criticism because his knack for it is uncanny. Instead of making the headstrong move to fire Laviolette following the Flyers’ 23-22-3 playoff miss last season, which would have been a perfectly understandable management move, he waited until three games into the 2013-14 season.

The transaction embarrassed Laviolette and the Flyers while also putting new coach Craig Berube in a hole. Instead give his new coach a training camp and pre-season to work out the kinks, Berube was thrown into the river and forced to swim upstream, giving the Flyers even less hope of successful season.

5. Trading Scottie Upshall and a Second Round Pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft for Dan Carcillo

It’s bad enough that Holmgren thought Dan Carcillo was more than your average undersized energy brawler but he moved reasonably-priced depth scoring Upshall for him and about $900k of cap space.

Making matters worse, cap-strapped Paul actually threw the Phoenix Coyotes a second-round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft for the privilege of that limited cap space. The pick ended up being winger Lucas Lessio, who is currently on the Coyotes roster and averaging 11 minutes per night.

4. Trading Sergei Bobrovsky to the Columbus Blue Jackets for a Second Round Pick and Fourth Round Pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and a Fourth Round Pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft

At the time, the move wasn’t viewed as a complete loss for the Flyers as they received promising young keeper Anthony Stolarz. But after Bobrovsky upgraded his game (as young, talented players do) and won the Vezina Trophy with the Blue Jackets, it was the clear the Flyers may have failed to properly evaluate his ability.

And while hindsight on players is always clear, this mistake was on a Patrick Sharp-level of misjudgment for Holmgren and the Flyers, who apparently wouldn’t know a good goaltender if it fell into their laps from Novokuznetsk.

3. Trading a Third-Round Pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft for the rights to sign Ilya Bryzgalov for nine-years, $51m, then buying him out.

Aiming for a legitimate starting goaltender was an honorable feat for an organization embarrassed by its ongoing goaltending woes. But in typical Flyers’ style, it turned into one of the most memorable Holmgren messes in recent team history.

Apparently, Holmgren believed that $51 million and nine years wouldn’t be enough to land 30-year-old Bryzgalov on the open market. So naturally, the GM tossed the Coyotes a free third-round pick for the right to offer the weirdo goalie a ridiculous amount of money.

The organization then quickly discovered that Bryzgalov was not only a loud mouth and disturbance but a pretty average goaltender when not locked into Coyotes’ coach Dave Tippett’s defensive system. Just two years into his nine-year deal, Holmgren erased his mistake with a massive buyout.

2. Trading James van Riemsdyk to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Luke Schenn

The oft-injured, inconsistent but highly-talented van Riemsdyk was just 23 years old. He never fully endeared himself to Holmgren and the Flyers, which provided little doubt that the former second-overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry draft would be eventually traded for defensive help.

In yet another case of Holmgren undervaluing his own player and overvaluing someone else, he moved JVR straight up for Schenn -- an underwhelming former fifth overall pick, who was slow, physical and little else.

Schenn is currently playing as the Flyers’ sixth defender and averaging just over 15 minutes per night, while JVR has become a first-line threat, scoring 38 points in 55 games.

1. Trading the 27th Overall Selection in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft for Steve Eminger and Jacob Deserres

It’s a move that often goes overlooked in the pantheon of Holmgren mistakes but could be his most egregious in terms of how it’s hampered today’s Flyers team. Whether the club didn’t value the 27th pick that year or simply overvalued Eminger as a full time NHL defenseman, the aggressive move turned into a massive mistake for the Flyers and a big reason for their current defensive roster problems.

And here’s the Holmgren kicker -- as a restricted free agent, Eminger wasn’t even signed at the time.

The 27th pick ended up being big defenseman John Carlson, who, at just 23 years old, has already played three full seasons on the Capitals’ blue line and is currently the team’s No. 2 defensemen in terms of ice time.

Don’t like Carlson? OK. Florida Panthers goaltender Jacob Markstrom and Stanley Cup-winning LA Kings defenseman Slava Voynov went No. 31 and No. 32. St. Louis Blues up-and-coming goalie Jake Allen went 34th, while Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi and Edmonton Oilers blue-liner Justin Schultz went No. 38 and No. 43. Don’t count out New York Rangers center Derek Stepan or New York Islanders defense Travis Hamonic, who also went late in the second round.


Challenges await Darryl Reynolds, Villanova in run to repeat as national champs

Challenges await Darryl Reynolds, Villanova in run to repeat as national champs

VILLANOVA, Pa. — Darryl Reynolds said it hurt. And he wasn’t alone. 

A month ago, Reynolds and the rest of the Villanova Wildcats found out five-star freshman big man Omari Spellman would not be eligible to play in 2016-17.

And despite Spellman — at 6-foot-9 and 260 pounds — being the biggest competition cutting into Reynolds’ playing time for his senior year, Reynolds understood the ramifications from losing what was expected to be a key cog in Villanova’s next run for glory.

“We lost a — no pun intended — big piece to the puzzle,” Reynolds said Tuesday at Villanova’s media day. “He went down, but everybody else has realized that we need that much more from everybody else.

“Me and Omari are close, in more ways than on the court. It would’ve been exciting to play with him. But it also provided that much more motivation.”

Motivation because Reynolds, a Lower Merion grad, also understands what the ramifications mean for him, too. The 6-foot-9, 240-pound senior may arguably be the most important player on the 2016-17 Wildcats. 

For three years, Reynolds has largely taken a backseat, hidden by the shadow of Daniel Ochefu. Now he’s front and center.

“He battled through that,” fellow senior Josh Hart said. “Never complained. Never had any down moments. Brought it every single day. We know he can play at this level.”

Reynolds heads a position in which Villanova was supposed to have depth. Now it has question marks. Reynolds and Spellman were going to be a 1-2 punch inside and a perfect supplement to a bevy of offensive talent around them. The question marks up front include sophomore Tim Delaney and freshman Dylan Painter. How quickly the two of them get going will be big. And so, too, will be figuring out where Fordham transfer forward Eric Paschall fits in the rotation.

Coach Jay Wright, who said Reynolds would be a starter, talked more about the other pieces behind Reynolds when asked what he’d be expecting from the senior big man.

“I think part of our challenge is Tim Delaney and Dylan Painter,” Wright said. “Which one of them, if not both of them, can step up and give us the depth that Darryl gave us last year up front when we needed size? Down the stretch in big games against big-time teams, you need that size. We’ve got to develop Tim and Dylan and see how they do with that, see how Eric Paschall can do. Can he play bigger? We definitely have our challenges.”

Those challenges also include replacing leadership roles vacated by Ryan Arcidiacono, Ochefu and a trio of walk-ons.

Insert Reynolds there, too. The Wildcats will start three seniors this year. Hart and Kris Jenkins may do most of the scoring, but they’re pretty reserved off the court and when talking to the media.

“Obviously Ryan (Arcidiacono) was a great leader for us. He was our rock,” Hart said. “When you look at this team, a lot of times we look at [Reynolds]. He calms everybody down. He vocally tries to make sure everybody’s on one accord. Basketball-wise, he’s always been good. You saw the Providence game last year when we needed him to step up and he had, what, like 19 and 11?”

Hart remembers the numbers well, even if he added an extra rebound to the ledger. Reynolds was 9 for 10 from the floor and had two blocks in 36 minutes of action to help the Wildcats earn revenge with a road win after the Friars beat them in Philadelphia two weeks prior.

That game was the last of a three-game stretch in late January into early February when Ochefu was sidelined with a concussion. Reynolds’ minutes over that stretch: 29, 31 and 36, respectively.

That experience, Reynolds says, coupled with the rest of 2015-16 — when he saw an uptick in minutes from his sophomore season’s 5.4 per game to 17.1 per game — will be easy to draw from in 2016-17.

“There’s nothing like getting out there and actually playing,” Reynolds said. “You see a lot from the sidelines. You learn a lot playing spot minutes. You get different things. But just being out there throughout entire games, playing 20-plus minutes, it teaches you things that you could never have learned from another perspective. I learned a lot from those experiences and I think it made me the player that I am in many ways. It’s the same thing with this year. I’m still going to learn a ton in a sense of being out there that much more and not having Daniel. 

“In many ways he taught me a lot. So not having him, not having that voice in my ear, not having that guy to go against in practice, it will make me grow up. 

“Nothing wrong with that,” he said with a smile.

Doug Pederson not afraid to get agressive with play-calling

Doug Pederson not afraid to get agressive with play-calling

Talk to Doug Pederson and he comes across … what’s a nice way to put it … dry?

Very nice guy. Very friendly. Very down to Earth. But not the most dynamic personality in public.

Which is why his personality on gameday has been so surprising.

Pederson is a risk taker as a playcaller. Aggressive and fearless.

Whether it’s going for it on fourth down with the lead, going for two after a successful PAT or throwing deep in a situation that doesn’t necessarily call for it, Pederson has proven to be the proverbial riverboat gambler that Chip Kelly was expected to be but never became.

“My personality is probably a little more conservative by nature, I think,” Pederson said Monday. “You'd probably agree with that.”

Pederson got a laugh with that comment because his public persona is exactly the opposite of his gameday demeanor.

It only took one day before we all got a taste of Pederson’s fearlessness.

In the season opener against the Browns, with the Eagles clinging to a 15-10 lead and a rookie quarterback making his first NFL appearance and a 4th-and-4 at the Browns’ 40--yard-line, he kept the offense on the field.

Carson Wentz responded by connecting with Zach Ertz on a five-yard gain to move the chains, and one play later, the Eagles took command on Wentz’s 35-yard TD pass to Nelson Agholor.

Six weeks in, the Eagles are 5 for 5 on fourth down. Only the Falcons have converted more fourth downs in the NFL this year, and they’re 6 for 10.

In the win over the Bears, the Eagles were 3 for 3 on fourth down, their best fourth-down conversion day in nine years.

This is the first time in 14 years the Eagles have converted five or more fourth downs through six games.

According to Pro Football Reference, the Eagles are one of only seven teams in NFL history to attempt five or more fourth down plays through six games and still be at 100 percent. The Lions are also 5 for 5 this year.

Pederson said analytics are a big part of his decision-making process, but he also trusts his instincts.

“I think it's both,” Pederson said. “But I trust our guys and I trust our offensive line and I think it sends a great message to the rest of the team, to the defense and special teams, that, ‘Hey, if we can convert this and stay on the field,’ it sends a good message.

“And on the other side of that, if you do convert, (it’s about) the message you send to the other team and the fact that you're going to stay aggressive.”

The Eagles are 29th-best in the NFL on third down at just 34 percent. But they’re one of only three teams that’s at 100 percent on fourth down.

“It's kind of a crazy deal when you're not great on third down, but you can be 5 for 5 on fourth down and convert them,” Pederson said. “It's a weird deal. But credit to the guys for the execution.

“I'm going to continue to look at it. I don't ever want to be in a position that I'm going to jeopardize the team at the time (by being too aggressive). Looking at the five fourth-down decisions this year, I don’t think they put us in any harm at that time.”

Wentz is 3 for 3 for 21 yards on fourth down, with the four-yard completion to Ertz, a seven-yard first down to Jordan Matthews in the Bears game and a nine-yard to Dorial Green-Beckham, also in the win in Chicago.

He also rushed six yards for a first down on a 4th-and-2 Sunday in the win over the Vikings. The Eagles’ other fourth-down conversion this year was Ryan Mathews’ one-yard TD on a 4th-and-goal against Chicago.

Pederson said as an assistant coach under Andy Reid, he always found himself asking himself whether he would be conservative or aggressive in crucial situations.

We’re all learning the answer now.

“Yeah, you definitely put yourself in those situations, as a coordinator and a position coach,” he said. “Putting yourself in those spots, it's a lot easier when you're not making the decision obviously to go, ‘Oh, yeah, I would have not gone for it there or not gone for it there.’

“Now, being in this position, it's my tail on the line if we don't convert.”