Will Flyers Answer the 'Wakeup Call' in Calgary?

Will Flyers Answer the 'Wakeup Call' in Calgary?

Thursday night's
2-0 loss to a lowly Edmonton Oilers team marked an 18-game stretch in
which the Flyers haven't won two straight. While that points to a slew
of questions facing the team as they look down the barrels of the trade
deadline, something we'll get into in more detail tomorrow, the loss
itself seemed to be particularly alarming. We don't have to look much
further than Peter Laviolette's reaction to see that.

But while blasting his team's effort in conceding two Edmonton goals
in a flat second period, Lavvy quickly grasped for the positive
straw—hoping the loss was a wakeup call for a playoff-bound team. In
other words, Lavvy is with the rest of us in hoping that in a few weeks,
we'll be looking at Thursday night as the team's rock bottom. Only time
will tell, but their effort needs to improve dramatically, starting
tonight against the Calgary Flames.

For the Flames, every game could mean the difference between making
or missing the playoffs. They're currently among three Western
Conference teams with 66 points, all of which are two points behind the
eight-seeded Dallas Stars. The Los Angeles Kings are among them, and as
you probably heard, they just made a deal aiming to spark their offense
enough to pull ahead of that pack.

Calgary is coming off a pair of home losses including a 6-1
trouncing by the Oilers and a shootout against the Phoenix Coyotes. They
too are in need of a wakeup call if they hope to avoid an early date
with the tee box.

The Flames are basically an unremarkable team, on the low end of the
goals-per-game table at 26th in the league, while only 12th in goals
against. Their power play is currently 15th (17.1%), though they have a
top-10 killing unit (83.5%).

Like the Oilers, we don't often see the Flames. However, they do
sport some familiar faces. Olli Jokinen leads the team in points and
being weird-looking, and he's dangerous in his ability to score and get
the Flyers to make mistakes including taking penalties. Jarome Iginla
once again leads the team in goals, sitting on 23. Both players have
four points in their last five games. Mikka Kiprusoff holds down the
fort in net, currently posting a 2.31 GAA and .922 save percentage, both
quite a bit better than his career marks. He's allowed eight goals over
his previous two starts, including five in 40 minutes against Edmonton,
but he shut out the Kings the game before that. Not that the Kings are
tearing up scoresheets lately, but after the Flyers were blanked by Some
Guy, here's hoping for better luck tonight.

The Flyers beats are tweeting about a possible Braydon Coburn
absence from the lineup tonight. No other lineup notes available just
yet, and we're headed out for some chili and beers before settling in
for the west-coast start. 

Late 10:00 pm start from Calgary this evening.

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

The Sixers finished in the basement of the NBA standings last season with a league-low 10 wins. But with the influx of young talent and addition of a couple veterans to the roster, the Las Vegas oddsmakers are betting on the Sixers to make some strides upward in the 2016-17 standings.  

Last week, the WestGate Superbook in Las Vegas set the Sixers' over/under for wins this season at an optimistic 27½, which was the fourth-lowest projection in the league.

Similarly, while Bovada is projecting another season of basketball filled with mostly losses in Philadelphia, the sportsbook doesn't view the Sixers as a shoo-in to finish as the league's worst team for the second consecutive year.

Per Bovada, the Sixers have the fourth-longest odds (125/1) to capture the Atlantic Divison title for the first time since 2001-02, beating out the Nets (250/1) by a considerable margin.

The favorite to win the division is the Celtics at 20/21, trailed closely by the defending division champion Raptors (21/20). The Knicks are between the Raptors and Sixers at 10/1.

The Sixers (150/1) also edged out the Nets (200/1) in odds to win the Eastern Conference championship. The two teams in the conference directly ahead of the Sixers in that futures bet are the Hornets (100/1) and Magic (50/1).

The Cavaliers are the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference at 5/11, followed by the Celtics (5/1) and Raptors (14/1).

Least surprising of all futures odds, Bovada has the Sixers tied with four other teams for the longest odds to win the NBA title. The Nuggets, Kings, Nets and Suns were tied with the Sixers at 500/1 odds to win the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy.

The early favorites to win it all are the same two teams that met in the 2016 Finals. The Warriors are alone at top with the shortest odds at 4/5 trailed by the Cavaliers at 3/1.

Pete Mackanin will push to add hitter in meeting with front-office brass Friday

Pete Mackanin will push to add hitter in meeting with front-office brass Friday

ATLANTA — The Phillies entered Tuesday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves — No. 157 of 162 — ranked last in the majors in runs scored (591) and were hanging out near the bottom in a slew of other important offensive categories.
 
The stat sheet says the Phillies need more offense.
 
So does the manager.
 
Pete Mackanin plans to make his case for adding a bat this winter — the best fit would be in the outfield — in an end-of-season meeting with the front office Friday at Citizens Bank Park.
 
“Basically, having talked to the rest of the coaching staff, we’re all pretty much in agreement with what our needs are,” Mackanin said Tuesday afternoon. “I’m anxious to hear from (general manager) Matt Klentak and from (president) Andy MacPhail and if there’s an owner there. We’d like to hear what they have to say. We’re pretty much in agreement on a lot of what we need.
 
“I, for one, think we need at least one hitter that gives you quality at-bats.”
 
There could be hurdles in adding a bat. Money is not one of them. All of the team’s big contracts will be gone when Ryan Howard rides off into the sunset on Sunday. The team that spent over a half-billion in salaries from 2012 to 2014 (and missed the playoffs each time) has plenty of money and has vowed to spend it in due time. But that time might not arrive until team leaders believe the club has built a nucleus that would benefit from the signing of a "finishing" talent or two. The team is committed to building that nucleus from within, and there lies the potential hurdle in adding the difference-making bat that Mackanin craves. Building from within requires eventually giving players from the system an opportunity to prove themselves and grow at the major-league level. The front office, still very much committed to a rebuild, will be cognizant of blocking those players (the list includes Roman Quinn, Nick Williams, Dylan Cozens and others) and their opportunities. Klentak has said as much on several occasions this year.
 
Even Mackanin acknowledged that the situation is a Catch-22.
 
“I know I don’t want to block a prospect that has a chance to be a big part of it,” he said.
 
“But at the same time, I think by having one guy in the middle of the lineup or somewhere in the lineup that can take a little pressure off (Maikel) Franco and (Odubel) Herrera and the rest of them could do wonders. You look at when (Matt) Kemp joined the Braves. They all went off. They’re all hitting. They’ve scored more runs than anybody, I think, since the All-Star break. Last year, with (Yoenis) Cespedes, he joined the Mets and all of a sudden they all started hitting.
 
“I will give those examples. I feel that’s important.”
 
A number of outfield bats will be on the free-agent market this winter. Cespedes could be there if he opts out of his contract with the Mets, but he’s not likely to be interested in joining a rebuilding team and the Phillies are unlikely to want the long-term commitment a player like that would require. Dexter Fowler and Matt Holliday could be free agents if their options for 2017 are not exercised. Ian Desmond will be out there, but the Rangers will probably look to retain him. Jose Bautista, Josh Reddick, Brandon Moss and Colby Rasmus will also be out there. Martin Prado is the type of “professional hitter” that would appeal to Mackanin, but he agreed to a three-year contract extension with the Miami Marlins on Tuesday.