Paul Holmgren Wasn't Always a Bean Counter

Paul Holmgren Wasn't Always a Bean Counter

Retired NHL players staying on in new roles with their former teams is one of the more common phenomena in hockey. We've just seen Derian Hatcher added to the coaching staff, which is led by a Phantoms legend in John Stevens. The Flyers' GM, Paul Holmgren, also has a long history with the team, as did his predecessor, whose number hangs from the Wachovia Center rafters. Long before he was GM though, Homer became the first former Flyer to later be named the team's head coach ('87-88). 

Some fans love this about hockey, while it drives others crazy. It's probably true that at times, former players are allowed to stay past the point where it's been illustrated that they probably aren't the guys to usher in the next Stanley Cup era, mostly because team officials and fans are too thankful for the roles those men played in the last one. But even with the NHL changing rapidly, we continue to see former players in positions that may in theory be better suited for business school grads, with little sign of imminent change. It's fun though, to think of these suited, straight-faced, dollars & sense men in their former on-ice roles...

Homer has come under fire for some difficulties he's faced in the new salary cap era of the NHL, challenges that are understandable when you think about it. The Flyers and many other teams long ago decided that former players were the best evaluators of talent, chemistry, and potential—back in a time when money wasn't quite the same animal it is today. He's made some great moves since taking over, quickly turning around a team that finished in dead last place, and I have faith in him as the team's personnel architect because I am, for lack of a better word, a homer. The question we're all asking ourselves though is, were last season's difficulties against the cap the crash course that will show Holmgren the way to enlightened money management, or a preview of what we can expect at every deadline? Can he combine his eye for talent with an acumen for forward-thinking number crunching? Only time and an under-the-microscope 2009-2010 season will tell. 
Until then, let's take some a few minutes on a summer day to watch a some myopic films of the player Homer was, which as you can see often included dropping the gloves. 

That was Homer's second tango with O'Reilly of that particular game. This is a good history reminder though: Next time you hear a guy like Milbury take a dated (or not...) cheapshot at the Flyers, you can bet there was probably some background incident, and it wasn't pretty. And, when considering some of Homer's moves, we should also remember that he racked up 1600 PIM as a Flyer, a club record at the time. Oh, and I said "myopic" before because these clips only show Homer's role as a willing pugilist, rather than a player who could also light the lamp. In the '79-80 season, he scored 30 regular season goals, followed by 10 in the playoffs to go with 10 assists. Those were career highs, but nothing to sneeze at either. 
So what are your thoughts on hockey lifers and the prominent role this trend plays in the NHL? Do you think there's no better judge than a guy who can say he's done all that and then some, or is it time for the league to take a Moneypuck approach and place accountant-types in charge of their books to gain an advantage in the off-ice salary cap game?
Thanks to the good guys over at HockeyFights.com for uploading some of these videos and so many more, and as you might imagine, Paul's wikipedia entry is an interesting read. I plugged in a few milestones here, but I encourage checking the rest out, including the time he almost died after a game but fortunately pulled through. There are a few details missing too though, like the time he had some trouble after a DUI/hit and run and ended up at the Betty Ford Clinic, which oddly enough took place a week after Chris Pronger and a group of Homer's Whalers were arrested in 1994. Again, we can see the possible historical links, like the second chances he's been willing to give, as in the case of Ray Emery. 

Instant Replay: Flyers 4, Predators 2

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Associated Press

Instant Replay: Flyers 4, Predators 2

BOX SCORE

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Wayne Simmonds scored two power-play goals and the Flyers won their fifth straight, extending their longest win streak of the season with a 4-2 win over the Nashville Predators on Sunday night at Bridgestone Arena.

Michael Raffl and Chris VandeVelde also scored for the Flyers (14-10-3), who have four straight wins over Nashville (11-9-4).

Calle Jarnkrok and Colin Wison scored for the Predators.

Simmonds’ first power-play goal gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead in the first period.

Nashville tied the game at 1-1 when Jarnkrok redirected Mattias Ekholm’s shot at 3:17 of the second period.

Simmonds struck again on the power play just over three minutes later when he batted a puck through Juuse Saros' legs for a 2-1 lead. Simmonds leads the Flyers with 13 goals on the year.

Wilson’s backhander tied it at 2-2 when he took a nice pass from Mike Fisher before beating Steve Mason blocker side at 11:19 of the second period.
    
Michael Raffl gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead on a 2-on-1 rush at of the second period. Raffl sped past a Nashville defender and used a power move at the front of the net before sliding the puck past Saros for game's deciding tally.

VandeVelde added an empty netter with 26.3 seconds left.
 
Moving up

Claude Gioux’s second-period assist moved him past Rod Brind-Amour into sixth in Flyers history with 367 helpers.

Giroux played in last year’s All-Star Game in Nashville.

Milestone
Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning played in his 100th career game.

Back and forth
The Flyers took three one-goal leads during the first two periods and the Predators tied the score twice before the visitors took a 3-2 lead into the final 20 minutes.

Double trouble
Simmonds tied his season high with two goals in a game. His first two-goal game came in a 6-3 loss at Toronto on Nov. 11.

The Flyers' winger has 10 goals in 20 career games against Nashville.

Back to backs
The Flyers improved to 5-1-1 on the back end of back-to-back games. The Flyers beat Chicago, 3-1, on Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia.

Goalie report
Mason improved to 9-8-3 after making 26 saves. He withstood a late push by Nashville.

Power play
The Flyers' power play went 2 for 7 with two goals by Simmonds.

The Flyers got a four-minute power play when Filip Forsberg was called for high sticking Nick Cousins at 3:12 of the third period, but couldn’t capitalize. That brought a roar from the sellout crowd of 17,113.

Penalty kill
The penalty kill went a perfect 3 for 3. The Flyers got some puck luck when Filip Forsberg’s wrist shot from the right faceoff circle bounced off the right post while Simmonds was in the box for tripping midway through the first period.
 
Scratches
Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas (sick), left wing Scott Laughton (healthy) and defenseman Nick Schultz (healthy) were scratched.

Up next
The Flyers host Florida on Tuesday to start a three-game homestand. Edmonton visits the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday and Dallas visits on Saturday afternoon.

Carson Wentz, Doug Pederson disagree on mechanical issues

Carson Wentz, Doug Pederson disagree on mechanical issues

CINCINNATI – Normally upbeat and positive, Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz gave a terse answer, at least by his standards.

After the Eagles’ 32-14 loss to the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium (see Instant Replay), a game that was probably the worst of his young career, Wentz was asked about his proclivity for overthrowing his targets.

“Bad throw,” Wentz said blankly. “Just like last week.”

Those bad throws have been coming more and more frequently in recent weeks for the second-overall pick. After throwing one interception in his first five games, he’s thrown 10 in his last seven, including his first three-interception day on Sunday. A common thread has been overthrows.

When head coach and former QBs coach Doug Pederson was asked about those high throws from his prized quarterback, he said, “It’s strictly mechanics.” Pederson elaborated, saying they need to get Wentz off his back foot and stepping into throws. And then there were batted passes too.

“There were opportunities, obviously,” Pederson said. “Again, he's a young quarterback who missed a lot of time in the preseason, but now we just need to keep cleaning those things up.”

There might be a problem, though.

Wentz doesn’t seem to think there’s anything to clean up.

After Sunday’s embarrassing loss, the rookie said his mechanics feel the same now as they did when the Eagles started the season with three consecutive wins, before he had ever thrown a pick in the NFL.

“I don't think it's the mechanics,” Wentz said. “You make mistakes. Things happen, and that's just the bottom line.”

Is there anything that could be affecting his mechanics?

“I don't think so,” Wentz said. “You throw the ball 60 times, you're going to miss some. That kind of happens.”

Wentz seemed hesitant to take blame for his shaky play on Sunday (see breakdown of Wentz's performance), but he is right. Sixty passing attempts is an awful lot. In fact, it’s a record for an Eagles rookie and it’s the second most passing attempts a rookie quarterback has ever thrown in a game (Chris Weinke threw 63 in 2001).  

The reason for that, at least partially, on Sunday was the Eagles’ never got going offensively and their defense was porous at best, which led to the Bengals’ taking a 19-0 lead into halftime (see 10 observations from the loss). They had to try to throw their way back into the game.

“You never want your quarterback to throw 60 times, coming from behind,” Pederson said. “We put ourselves in a bind early in the football game. It’s going to be a learning lesson for him, obviously. We have to take a hard look at it. But by no means, the fact that he stood in there and still led the football team. He took some shots, but still stood in there and just shows you the kind of character and the toughness we have.”

For Wentz, who was once though to be the clear frontrunner for Rookie of the Year, the last couple months have been understandably difficult.

In the first four games of the season, he had a passer rating over 100 three times. He hasn't broken 100 since then and his 58.2 rating on Sunday was the second-worst of the season, behind his 52.4 in a winning effort against the Vikings.

“You just can't get down,” Wentz said. “You've got to stay optimistic. Obviously, the results are tough as of late. We're kind of on a skid. Like I've been saying, this is a good group of guys, a good locker room. Guys are in it until the end.”

It’s important to remember that, initially, Wentz wasn’t drafted to play this season. The original plan was to have him sit this season, but he was thrust into action after the Eagles traded away Sam Bradford.

Ultimately, Wentz will be judged for his play in years to come. For now, though, he and the Eagles have to try to find a way to fix this.

How do they do it?

“Obviously, we're on a skid,” Wentz said. “There's nothing really to change. We've just got to lock in and we've got to be more disciplined. At the same time, you don't get down. That's what I've been saying. This locker room, guys aren't going to get down. We've just got to be better with our discipline and just keep attacking. Obviously, we're in a tough spot, but we've just got to take it one game at a time.”