Subject: Super Bowl 2017: An Open Thread
Today’s the day: the NFL season draws to a close with what we all hope will be an entertaining football game, because no matter what we’re all going to watch this dang thing, so it might as well be a good use of four hours.
If you’d like to watch today’s football game, here’s how you can do it:
How to watch
Date: Thursday, February 5, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM ET
Announcers: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews
Streaming: Fox Sports GO. You can use iOS, Android, Windows, and Amazon phones and tablets, or go through connected devices like Apple TV, Roku, Android TV, Chromecast, Amazon Fire and Xbox One. Or, you know, a good ol’ computer.
Location: NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas
Let’s take a quick look back at the Super Bowl week that was here on BGN.
Who’s going to win? Well, the odds say the Patriots. In fact, they’ve said the Patriots are going to win, unwaveringly, for the past couple weeks:
Since January 24, the line for this game at all 16 betting sites, according to OddsShark, has been:
I don’t see anything wrong with it. The Patriots are the dynasty. They’ve got the best quarterback ever, one of the best coaches ever, and the best defense (?!) in the league. The Falcons are the decided underdog, even with one of the best offenses of the decade.
The over/under, on the other hand, has fluctuated on a number of sites and sources, between +58 and +59.5. For some sites, like GT Bets, it’s been +58.5 for the past eight days. For others, like My Bookie, it’s fluctuated an entire point.
On Friday, I looked at a bunch of different predictions for this evening’s game. Folks seemed split. Three Eagles were asked at the Pro Bowl who they thought would win, but only Jason Kelce answered, and he picked the Falcons:
Jason Kelce, C, Eagles: ATLANTA
”It’s hard to go against Brady, but right now Atlanta’s playing as good as I’ve ever seen. The way they beat Green Bay was just so dominant. It’s going to be kind of hard to go against them.”
- Prince (of course)
- Michael Jackson
- Bruno Mars (unexpected, but yea, he was good!)
- Tom Petty
Here’s hoping Lady Gaga puts on a good show.
Oh, and for all the things surrounding the Super Bowl that don’t include the Xs and Os, there’s probably a prop bet you can still place before kickoff. Prop bets are funny, stupid, and entirely more enjoyable than analyzing defensive matchups for the nine zillionth time. My favorite:
Odds on what color Gatorade will be poured on the winning coach:
ORANGE, it is my favorite Gatorade flavor and I like to imagine everyone else realizes it’s the best, too.
Have a good Super Bowl, everyone. Feel free to chat it up in the comment thread below.
Subject: Defensive end, a bigger need than you may think
Help the QB by getting to the other team’s
The offseason for the Eagles is still in its infancy, and we’ve spent most of it talking about the biggest needs the team has. Wide receiver, cornerback and running back are the obvious short term holes, with draft needs at left guard/center and offensive tackle due to the age of the starters there and possible offseason moves creating vacancies. But there’s another position that’s both a long term need due to the age of starters and a short term one due to a starting job probably opening up that has mostly flown under the radar: defensive end.
Age is a consideration here even if no roster moves are made. Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry are 28, and Connor Barwin is 30. They’re not past their primes, but they’re not entering them either, and with the team finishing 17th in sacks and 14th in sack rate, help is needed anyway. It’s difficult to see Barwin returning to the Eagles in 2017 given that the team saves nearly $8 million in cap space and he was ineffective in 2016, and since Curry spent the entire season behind him on the depth chart, there will be a starting job up for grabs.
Free agency isn’t looking like a great option. Jason Pierre-Paul will probably be the top pass rusher to hit the open market (Chandler Jones isn’t going anywhere), he has eight sacks in 20 games over the last two years, is 28 and has one hand. Most of the top free agents are over 30 and the ones that aren’t most likely won’t hit free agency. It might be difficult to find a cheaper player in free agency who can just replace Barwin, let alone upgrade from him.
Last year, the Dolphins gave Mario Williams 2 years, $17 million with $12 million guaranteed after a 15 game, 5 sack season. He had 1.5 in 13 games in 2016. The Rams re-signed William Hayes, who notched 5, 4 and 5.5 sacks in the previous 3 seasons a 3 year, $17 million contract with $10 million guaranteed and he had 5 sacks in 2016. The Bucs gave Robert Ayers, whose 9 sacks in 2015 was nearly double his career best, 3 years, $19.5 million with $11.5 million guaranteed, he had just 6.5 sacks in 2016. The Falcons gave Derrick Shelby, who started 9 games in four years in Miami and recorded just 9 sacks a 4 years, $18 million contract with $7.5 million guaranteed. Suddenly Vinny Curry’s contract, that over 3 years is $27 million with $18 million guaranteed makes a little more sense, though it’s still a bad contract. The Eagles find themselves in a strange position: they should (and almost certainly will) move on from Connor Barwin’s $8.3 million cap hit, but other teams have spent about that for even less than Barwin contributed.
So the draft would seem to be the route to take, but that presents a problem. If you want a good pass rusher, you pretty much have to take him early.
Over the last five seasons, there have been 27 players who have averaged just 7 sacks a year. 15 were taken in the 1st round (just two in the 2nd). And recent drafts show a similar weight, of the three top sack getters in each draft from 2013-2015, six of the nine were 1st rounders. It’s a premium position in the draft.
The Eagles recent history bares that out. Since Trent Cole led the team in sacks in back-to-back seasons in 2009 and 2010, a player who was drafted in the 1st or 2nd round has led the team in sacks in all but one season (2013). And Cole is an exception to the rule, so much so that draft profiles of late round pass rushers use Cole as a comparison. Among others, in 2014 Michael Sam did, this year Lewis Neal has.
If the Eagles are to spend a 1st round pick on a DE, then they can’t take a top WR or CB. They could try to find help on day two, but then that means unless they somehow pick up another 2nd or 3rd round pick, they can’t grab a WR, a CB and a RB in the first two days of the draft.
And maybe they won’t. The team could sign two free agent WRs, giving them instant starters and allowing them to take one on day three of the draft and allowing him to develop as a backup. They could also sign a CB to fill one of the starting spots. In such a scenario, anything in the 1st round could make sense, especially with the depth of prospects at CB and RB in the 2nd and 3rd rounds.
There’s probably going to a pretty good pass rusher available for the Eagles at 14 or 15. Do they draft for a skill position player for Carson Wentz to grow with? There’s a lot of logic in that. Do they add a corner in the hopes they can have a long term solution at a position they are constantly overturning? Or do they draft purely on value, which depending on how the draft plays out ahead of them, could be a defensive end?
We’ve looked at running backs, offensive tackles and wide receivers the past few weeks. This week, we’ll turn to defensive ends, a need that isn’t as immediate as others, but is no less important.
Subject: Brian Dawkins snubbed from Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 2017 class
The class will be officially announced at 8:00, but reports from insiders, and his subsequent tweet, seem to indicate he won’t be making it in his first year of eligibility.
Brian Dawkins and John Lynch were voted down by the Hall of Fame Selection Committee. Still a logjam at the safety position.— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) February 5, 2017
Does not change the facts... I'm Blessed By The Best!! Thanks for all the love!!! #BBTB— Brian Dawkins (@BrianDawkins) February 5, 2017
Dawkins spent 13 years with the Eagles, from 1996 to 2008. He was drafted in the second round of the 1996 NFL Draft by the organization and spent the next decade-plus cementing himself as one of the best players in franchise history.
He played 183 games with the Eagles, racking up 34 interceptions, 36 forced fumbles, 19 fumble recoveries, and 26 sacks. He made six Pro Bowls and was named All-Pro four times.
Dawkins also spent three years with the Broncos, from 2009 to 2011, where he picked up three interceptions, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and five sacks while being named to another pair of Pro Bowls.
Owens didn’t make it this year, either.
Unfortunately I DID NOT MAKE IT again this year. Thanks to ALL my fans & supporters. #FlawedProcess— Terrell Owens (@terrellowens) February 4, 2017
Then, on the third day of this still-very-young year, Dawkins was named one of the 15 finalists for this year’s class.
Today, a bunch of men piled into a large conference room to vote on which players belonged in the Hall of Fame, to don the golden jackets and give teary speeches at Canton in August.
The meeting took... let’s double check here...
HOF voting complete. Took nearly nine hours. Long day. Announcements later. @ProFootballHOF— Clark Judge (@clarkjudgeTOF) February 4, 2017
And they still decided to not put Dawkins in the Hall of Fame? After nine hours? Yeesh. What were they talking about for so long?
Unfortunately, we kind of saw this coming. Way back in November, our man Dave took a look at why Dawkins was probably going to have a hard time ending up in the HOF:
The Hall of Fame hasn’t inducted a true safety since Paul Krause in 1998. The only other safeties inducted since then were Ronnie Lott and Rod Woodson, who started their careers as excellent cornerbacks. And there’s a worthy crop of safeties on the horizon beyond Dawkins as Ed Reed and Troy Polumalo will be eligible in two and three years, respectively. If Dawkins is not inducted this year or next, the line he is in will only grow, and grow with key players on Super Bowl winners at his position.
On the other hand, this year’s field could be favorable to Dawkins. Of other first ballot players, LaDainian Tomlinson is a shoo-in, Hines Ward and Jason Taylor are not. Everyone else has been waiting in part due to the selection committee’s backlog. However there’s not an absolute stand out candidate among them. Last year’s finalists who did not get in are Morten Anderson (3 time finalist), Steve Atwater, Don Coryell (3), Terrell Davis (2), Alan Faneca, Joe Jacoby, Edgerrin James, John Lynch (3), Terrell Owens and Kurt Warner (2). None of those players seem locks to make it either.
Dawkins is a deserved Hall of Famer, the best player on the Andy Reid Eagles teams, the cornerstone of Jim Johnson’s outstanding defenses that saw players come and go all around him. A playmaker, a fierce and hard hitting tackler, and a leader, he was the total package. The only argument against him is if he is a “first ballot” level of player, and unfortunately for him because of the HOF’s senseless induction policies and tendencies, if he’s not a first ballot HOFer he and fans are probably going to have to unfairly wait many years.
Update: Dawkins officially did not make the Hall of Fame this year. LaDainian Tomlinson, Kurt Warner, Terrell Davis, Jason Taylor and Morten Andersen were voted in.
He’s still got time to make it. All hope is not lost. But man, if Brian Dawkins and Terrell Owens aren’t in the Hall of Fame, who the hell is?
Subject: The Linc: Carson Wentz, de facto general manager?
News and notes for 2/4
"This is frustrating," said the Eagles quarterback, who is down here shilling for Gatorade and some other products he endorses. "I don't ever not want to be playing in January ever again."
It's actually February, but you get his drift. If you were bummed that the Eagles didn't make the playoffs, imagine how he feels.
"We realize there's a lot to be done," he said. "But, at the same time, we realize we were only a couple of plays away in some of those games this season. In some cases, one play away.
"We realize we're close. And then, this offseason of growing together will be huge."
In case you haven't noticed, the Eagles are all in on Wentz. If he turns out to be everything they hope he'll be, and they can manage to put a solid supporting cast around him, the next 10 years will be interesting. If he doesn't, well, how 'bout them Sixers?
"From our perspective, we want to make sure that he's on board with some of these things," Roseman said.
Such a comment should reaffirm the notion the Eagles' brass believes Carson Wentz is bound for NFL stardom after he broke the league's rookie record for completions this season.
And Friday, Wentz responded to Roseman's sentiment during a segment on a rival radio station, 97.5 The Fanatic.
"I don't know to what extent they'll involve me in all that, but to me personally, it's just cool to know they respect my opinion enough to even say that," Wentz said. "To just know they respect my opinion and my approach, it just shows they trust me."
Roseman said Wentz will probably have a chance to voice his a opinion more often in regards to free agent decisions, because scouting draft picks is more complex.
In any case, the Eagles are making it a priority to show Wentz they value him. Philly's front office seems intent on ensuring it is in lockstep with the face of the franchise.
"I really appreciate them giving me that chance," Wentz said.
The decisions aren’t particularly surprising, given the sensitive nature of the issues in light of Ray Rice, Michael Vick and other cases.
However, team officials have expressed frustration over the league’s shift in approach, since character issues are a primary focus at the combine and not inviting players with the most significant ones means they likely will have to make more team visits instead.
Last year, the NFL informed teams that it would no longer allow players with convictions for domestic violence, sexual assault or weapons offenses to attend the combine. The Mixon and Zamora incidents don’t fit that description, though.
Last month, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ordered the release of the gruesome video showing Mixon breaking the woman’s jaw and cheekbone with a punch after she shoved Mixon and slapped both sides of his neck during the July 2014 incident. Mixon entered an Alford plea at the time, acknowledging there was likely enough evidence to convict him of a misdemeanor charge while still asserting his innocence. He did not serve jail time and was ordered to perform 100 hours of community service and undergo counseling.
Police charged Zamora with a misdemeanor and he received a citation in the animal abuse case.
NFL Evaluators on Joe Mixon - Sports Illustrated
I went down to Mobile under the assumption that Mixon would fall mightily in the draft, not because of talent or the NFL’s moral high ground, but because teams didn’t want to deal with the public relations headache. I left feeling more confused. I heard that some teams would likely remove Mixon from their draft boards altogether. However, there seemed to be a stronger sentiment that Mixon could follow the model set by Tyreek Hill, who was picked in the fifth round by the Chiefs because the Kansas City organization felt they did their diligence and had a system in place to support Hill. I got a strong indication that Mixon might not plummet that far, and be picked up by the third or fourth round. As it was explained to me: “Had this incident just happened, no doubt Mixon would dive. But teams have had enough time to do their homework.” Scouts who visited Oklahoma this past year say that the coaching staff has endorsed Mixon glowingly. While that factors into the draft decision, ultimately I believe a team will take Mixon for one reason only: They are willing to withstand public backlash because they know he can help them win.
Hold it or don't flush: Super Bowl could harm sinkhole mess - Associated Press
A giant sinkhole in suburban Detroit is being threatened by the Super Bowl.
Macomb County public works chief Candice Miller is worried that thousands of football fans will flush toilets at halftime Sunday night. She tells radio station WWJ that it could overwhelm a broken sewer line blamed for the sinkhole.
Miller says her bathroom advice "sounds crazy." But she fears trouble unless people are willing to hold it — or at least not immediately flush.
Subject: Super Bowl 2017: Picks and predictions round-up
Can the Falcons finally hoist the Lombardi?
Two weeks in between the conference championships and the Super Bowl is too long. Like, way too long. Even the normal week between most football games might be too long. We talk about stuff for too long, we over-analyze it. I find it’s best to get your opinions out in the open early, so you don’t have time to think. Thinking just makes you indecisive. Don’t over-think that sentence.
Anyway, when you have so much time to ponder the outcome of one football game, folks will get into the weeds about a lot of stuff, and then make picks. I took a look at a bunch of people who made picks.
Brady has been similarly impressive against the Falcons. He’s 4-0 all-time against Atlanta with a 9:1 touchdown:interception ratio and an average 10-point margin of victory.
But none of those four wins came against a Dan Quinn defense, or with potential NFL Defensive Player of the Year Vic Beasley bearing down on him. Brady has struggled against ferocious pass rushes, and if there’s any coach who can find a way to make him uncomfortable, it’s Quinn, who previously bullied Brady as the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator.
Over at FOX Sports, two dozen Pro Bowl players were asked to pick the game. The Patriots garnered 12 votes, the Falcons picked up six, and six players declined to answer or said it was too close to call. Two Eagles, and a former Eagle, were asked!
Fletcher Cox, DT, Eagles: NO PICK
“I don’t even watch football. I really don’t even care.”
DeMarco Murray, RB, Titans: NO PICK
"Yeah, I’m not picking that.”
Jason Kelce, C, Eagles: ATLANTA
”It’s hard to go against Brady, but right now Atlanta’s playing as good as I’ve ever seen. The way they beat Green Bay was just so dominant. It’s going to be kind of hard to go against them.”
David Steele of the Sporting News thinks the Patriots pull this one out, in large part because TOM BRADY:
The Falcons' offense can hold its own; it won’t shrink from the moment. The Falcons’ defense, though, won’t be so fortunate.
The unit has gotten better over the last two months, in that it won’t cost its offense chances to win or make games closer than they should be. That won’t be nearly enough against Brady, though. Unless it can be that kind of punishing, non-blitzing pass rush that has bothered Brady over the years — including earlier in the playoffs by the Texans, and last year’s playoffs by the Broncos — Brady will do what Brady does.
Former BGN-er and current NJ.com internet whiz Eliot Shorr-Parks also believes in the power of BRADY, and the fact that he’s picked against the Falcons all year:
All year I've picked against Atlanta, and all year, they have proven me wrong. Can they do it again, and shock the Patriots? The Patriots are a bone-headed throw from Russell Wilson away from losing their last three Super Bowls, and don't have the fire power the Falcons have on offense. They do, however, have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, and as great as Matt Ryan has been this year, it's just hard to pick against perhaps the greatest quarterback and head coach duo of all time.
It could be one of the most exciting Super Bowls of all time. It's hard to dismiss the fooey-you factor Brady and the Patriots are playing with, but one would be fooey-lish to pick the game based upon that shoulder-sized chip alone.
While typing similar words as my friend and colleague, Larry Holder, did last week might spell doom for the Falcons, I can't help but see them as a team of destiny. I'll take destiny over fooey any day.
As for me, my heart says the Falcons win their first Super Bowl, but my head says the Patriots win their nine zillionth. It’s Tom Brady on the biggest stage. He’s the best quarterback to ever play the game, and while it’s hard to imagine a time when this is true, his window of opportunity is technically getting thinner by the season. He turns 40 in August. Don’t you think he realizes the weight of this Super Bowl, and looks at the likes of the Raiders and remembers that no dynasty lives forever, and tells himself he NEEDS to win this one?
The Falcons are a superb team offensively, and I think they’ll score points, but the Patriots’ No. 1-ranked defense is the best in the league for a reason. Matt Ryan is a very good quarterback. I don’t think he’s an ~ elite ~ crunch-time quarterback, and I think on Sunday the Patriots’ defense will be just a bit too much for him to handle. Then Brady takes the reins and does the rest.
My pick: Patriots 28, Falcons 23
Give me your best shot in the comments. Who wins on Sunday?
Subject: Carson Wentz’s 11 was the fifth-most popular jersey in the NFL this year
He also led a very bark-etable category.
Carson Wentz: he’s big with dogs!
The Eagles’ rookie had a very good first season in the NFL, and according to the NFL PA’s year-end numbers, the jersey sales showed it. Wentz finished No. 5 in the entire league in jersey sales, which is pretty darn cool. Here’s the Top 10, league-wide:
3. Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys
5. Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
8. Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys
9. Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
So, four of the top five, and five of the top 10 were from the NFC East. That’s... pretty insane.
Apparently, however, Wentz finished tops in more than one category.
Wentz became the new No. 1 seller for player-identified caps from New Era and Lids this season. Maybe his fans like hats? Is this true? Please tell me if this is true, I would like to know.
Wentz also led sales of kids jerseys, fleece, and t-shirts from Outerstuff, so he’s big with the next generation of football fans. Always good to corner the market early.
And my personal favorite, Wentz led the league in pet jersey sales, sold through Fanatics. He dominated the animal division, followed by Rob Gronkowski, Odell Beckham Jr., and Tom Brady.
Think about that: Wentz is already out-selling Tom Brady in pet jersey sales, as a ROOKIE. Are you kidding me? That’s elite pet jersey potential. That’s record-breaking, Pet Jersey Hall of Fame potential.
God the offseason is so slow.
Subject: At cornerback, Quincy Wilson is an NFL prototype
After producing two first round defensive backs last year, The University of Florida has an excellent chance of repeating that this draft. While I have been a long time fan of Teez Tabor, the cornerback playing opposite him is consistently getting rated higher by big draft analysts. When taking a closer look, it is not hard to see why he is so beloved.
At 6-1 and 215 pounds with long arms Quincy Wilson is the NFL's dream in terms of build at the cornerback position. More and more teams are looking for size and length to put on the outside of their defense and Wilson perfectly fits that mold. Florida used his size, asking him to play close to the line and often in man to man coverage. He consistently did a great job of using his length, and athletic ability, to give very good back end coverage.
Wilson does a great job using his long arms to beat the receiver to the highest spot at the catch point and rips his arm through to prevent any hope of a completion. Wilson does such an excellent job using his body in coverage and forcing the wide receiver to play at his speed.
An underrated aspect of Quincy Wilson is how athletic he is. People think of big corners and rarely is speed the first thing that comes to mind but Wilson has shown he can run with whomever.
Wilson is playing across a much quicker and faster receiver, Kermit Whitfield, but is able to stay on him through the play and closes to beautifully break up the pass. This play shows a combination of his athletic ability, but also his savvy to subtly use his body throughout the route to slow down the receiver.
Quincy WIlson spends a lot of time in man coverage, but also has the awareness and physical ability to make plays in zone.
Keeping his eyes to the quarterback, Wilson does a great job breaking on the ball out, coming off his initial assignment to make a play. This is a good feat of athletic ability, but also just veteran level awareness.
Once again, Wilson is playing off, reads the quarterbacks eyes and breaks on the ball for a turnover. He does not get a lot of opportunities to play eyes to the quarterback, but impresses given the opportunity.
This is another impressive athletic play because Wilson goes to the inside, but when he sees the receiver breaking out on the wheel, he flips his hips quickly and immediately closes on the player in the end zone. It once again shows very impressive athletic ability and recognition, even if he initially made a mistake.
Wilson's athletic ability and physicality in coverage are the name of the game with him and his ability, but his propensity to be physical throughout the route will need some polishing. While cornerbacks can get away with it if they are smart, it is worth noting that such a big part of Wilson's game can hurt him in the NFL.
This is a consistent part of his game and "getting there early" in coverage works a lot of the time at the college football level, but the NFL will clamp down on him using his hands so much in coverage. Once again, it is not about not doing it, rather getting better at hiding it.
By far the biggest concern with Wilson is how little he cares about run defense or tackling in general.
Run defense is obviously not the end-all, be-all of playing cornerback, but a well built player like Quincy Wilson should not be completely washed out of the run game. It just comes off as being passive.
When Wilson does a have a shot to make tackles, it often goes poorly.
Wilson is consistently a bad tackler who ducks his head and leaves his feet to make a play. The result is often missed tackles and giving up unnecessary yardage. This is not the biggest problem in the world, considering he is a cornerback and not a linebacker, but it is a frustratingly large hole in his game.
NFL Comparison: Wilson's size and ability in man coverage are similar to Byron Maxwell in Seattle. Both were heavily used as press man cornerbacks, but also have the ability to make plays in zone. I expect Wilson to test better and go higher than Maxwell did in the draft, but they are very similar players in terms of what they do well.
Wilson's athletic ability and use in college make him scheme versatile for the NFL. The Eagles, who like playing off coverage and use a lot of zone, would be a nice fit for him. While he may have a bit steeper of a learning curve coming away from playing primarily press man, he has shown versatility, so it is not a long term worry. Wilson can be coached up as a tackler and at the worst, he just ends up being a pure cover guy.
With a draft class so full of cornerback talent, it is easy to get nitpicky about how these players separate from the pack. While the big media guys seem to love Wilson, I think he is the second best cornerback on his own team and there are a few corners who should go before him in the draft. That is not a slight on him, really, rather a testament to how good this class is. In the end, he should make a team very happy as a mid to late first round pick.
Subject: Monday Morning Fly By: What if the Flyers were Super? That'd be fun.
Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...
*So the Flyers played another hockey game, and then lost another hockey game. You might normally ignore recaps if you've seen the games but read this one, Kurt asks some important questions this time. [BSH]
*For some reason everyone is pretend the last several Flyers games have featured some kind of defensive resurgence and lol what? [CSN Philly]
*On Brayden Schenn, power play superstar and 5-on-5 disappointment. [Sports Illustrated]
*Everyone is also pretending that Dave Hakstol's lineup choices make sense. [CSN Philly]
*The reports of Shayne Gostisbehere's demise have been greatly exaggerated. [CSN Philly]
*Thankfully we have Kate, who makes even bad games look good in her photos. [BSH]
*So Jordan Weal continues to crush in the AHL. Should he get a shot, ooorrrrr.... [Highland Park Hockey]
*Big Sammy thinks the NHL should say no to the Olympics. He always has good opinions eh? [Inquirer]
*The NHL is really going to have games in Sweden and China. Real games. For...reasons. [Sportsnet]
*And finally, the sounds of hockey. They're wonderful. [TSN]
Subject: Submit your ranking for our 25 Under 25 Midterm Update!
How have things changed for the young talent in the Flyers’ organization since the season began? You tell us!
It’s February and the Flyers are making everyone sad. So let’s talk about prospects! Twice a year, we do some inventory and take a stab at ranking every young player within the Flyers’ system, be they in Philadelphia, Lehigh Valley, juniors, Europe, or who-knows-where. We typically do a full, in-depth look at every player on the ranking during the offseason, and a brief catch-up mid-way through the season in which we look at five players per day. Here’s the final post from our ranking last offseason, with the full 25-to-1 list at the bottom of the article, and here’s the top-5 from our winter look last year.
We’re a bit more than mid-way through the season, but still, now is as good a time as any to see where everyone in the organization under the age of 25 still stands, and how their long-term fit with the Flyers has changed since hockey started back up in September.
Last time around, for the first time, we opened up the ballot to you, the readers, asking you to submit your list of the Flyers’ top 25 players under the age of 25. That was fun, so we’re going to open up the ballot to you all again.
So! Please use the form below, or at this link, to rank the 25 players in the organization under 25, based on their current value to the organization. How you choose to define that is up to you — NHL-readiness right now, long-term upside, trade value, etc. Some quick notes:
- Three players have been removed from the ballot since last summer. Mark Alt turned 25 back in October, as did Roman Lyubimov in January, while Petr Straka was traded to the Devils. Alt and Straka made the Top 25 in the last edition of the rankings, so we’ll have at least two new names in there this time around.
- Make sure to only pick any given player once; otherwise, we cannot guarantee that your ballot will be counted.
- We will be tallying all ballots on Friday, with the plan of running a post each day between Monday and Friday of next week. So if you wanted to participate, please submit your ranking by the end of the day on Thursday.
- Please do not submit any joke ballots, or else they will be thrown out and you’ll have wasted the time to have scrolled through an entire Google form and clicked through 25 dropdown boxes for nothing. (And yes, we reserve the right to decide what is and is not a joke ballot. We’ll grant a lot of leeway for reasonable difference of opinion, but, like, don’t go rank 2013 7th-round pick David Drake first overall, y’know?)
- Finally, please only submit one ballot.
When all is said and done, all of the community ballots will be combined and scored, and the end result will count as one ballot in the final vote next to each of our writers’ ballots. Let us know in the comments if you have any questions. Enjoy!
Subject: Travis Konecny back, but Shayne Gostisbehere still out as Flyers host Blues
What are you doing, Dave Hakstol?
One step forward, one step back. I guess.
The Flyers will make lineup changes ahead of tonight’s game against the St. Louis Blues. The good news is that after two games off, Travis Konecny will check back into the lineup as Dave Hakstol has come to his senses regarding his young rookie forward.
The bad news is that Matt Read will be the one coming out for Konecny. Despite the Flyers earning three of four points in their last two games, the team has not looked up to those results, but Read has been one of the more effective forwards on the team.
"Okay, we'll bring Konecny back in. Who comes out?"— Charlie O'Connor (@BSH_Charlie) February 6, 2017
(checks who scored PHI's only 5v5 goal over past 3 games)
"Yep, that guy! Benched!"
Feels like yet another case — we’ve lost count of the number at this point — of Dave Hakstol overthinking things.
Speaking of: meanwhile, on defense, Shayne Gostisbehere will remain a scratch. This is game number three in a row that Ghost will be a scratch, which is surely teaching him a great lesson or whatever the hell. We’ll remind you that the Flyers were outshot 28-17 in Saturday’s loss to Los Angeles.
Michal Neuvirth will get the start in goal again, because he was brilliant beyond a porous defense on Saturday. Good luck, bud.
Subject: Flyers alumni most likely to kick Vladimir Putin’s ass, ranked
If I get poisoned in the next six months, please use this blog post as evidence.
Over the weekend, news broke that the Flyers alumni will be taking part in a good will tour through Russia, in which they will play several games against Russian squads. The Inquirer reports that Philadelphia will play three games across Russia: in Kazan on February 16, in St. Petersburg on the 18th, and outside in Moscow’s Red Square on the 20th.
The irony of sending the Flyers through a good will tour of Russia should not be lost on any of us, of course. This is the team that kicked the ass of the Russians so badly in 1976 that they skated off the ice in the middle of the game, conceding defeat while a ruthless Spectrum crowd ridiculed them. The Red Army team only returned to the ice after Ed Snider threatened to withhold payment for the game. Flyers won, 4-1.
It’s even more interesting because of one player who might be suiting up on the Russian side: President Vladimir Putin. Putin is an avid hockey fan and has played in some high-end exhibition games, although there are some questions about whether or not he’s actually good or whether his opponents are going easy on him. (He once scored eight goals in a game against former pros, so ... we know the answer here.)
Part of Putin’s appeal in Russia is that he’s constantly portrayed in public as a macho, do-it-all type guy, which is why he suits up in hockey games and is constantly shirtless on horseback. But the Flyers alumni have no reason to go easy on him, as Joe Watson implied to the Courier-Post:
“He’ll have to earn it from us as far as we’re concerned. We may be stuck in Siberia, but what the hell? We’ll have a good time.
“They never release Putin’s schedule until 24 hours before because of security reasons, so Putin, if he’s around, he wants to play the game against us.”
So ... look. I know that this is an exhibition game, a friendly game. It seems doubtful that we’re gonna see any Bobby Clarke-on-Valeri Kharlamov action if Putin suits up. But as a red-blooded American and a life-long Philadelphia Flyers fan, I cannot help but fantasize about somebody in orange and black taking a hockey stick to Putin’s dictatin’ ankles. And therefore I am going to fantasize.
Below, in order of least-likely to beat up Vladimir Putin to most-likely, is the roster of Flyers heading to Russia together. (It’s expected that several former Flyers who live in Russia will also join the roster, and it’s safe to say none of them will be beating up Putin.) Please tell my family I love them.
10. Reporter Bill Meltzer. Bill’s one of the nicest people in the Philadelphia media. I think he’d be more of a kill-him-with-kindness type.
9. Team trainer Dave Culp. He’s been the trainer for the alumni team for years (decades?) at this point, and in a 2002 article he talked about how sometimes these exhibition games can get a little heated. Culp is more the guy with the towel in the corner of the boxing ring, though. He might give one of these other guys a pat on the back as he hops over the boards to wreck Putin’s face, but he’s not actually doing it.
8. Chase Watson. The son of Jimmy Watson — and like the kids of many Flyers alumni, a local kid — had a decent hockey career that gave him several years in the ECHL. But he played college hockey, and you can’t even fight in college hockey. Chase will play in this game and then return to Chester County to play coed, rec league softball (which is inexplicably detailed on his Wikipedia page???).
7. Shjon Podein. Podein is just too nice of a guy. He won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy in 2001, awarded to an NHLer who makes humanitarian contributions to his community. (Also, this story has nothing to do with anything, but I love how Podein showed up for the Flyers outdoor alumni game in 2012 without realizing it would be in front of 50,000 people. That’s so quaint. I want to hang out with Shjon Podein.)
6. Joe Watson. Everybody was a tough player in his era, but of all the heroes of the Broad Street Bullies days, Joe was certainly more of a skill-first player. Hell, he was a two-time NHL All-Star. He can stick to simply defending Putin on the rush or whatever. Should be easy. We’re talking about Joe Watson here.
5. Brad Marsh. Marshy is the only player in NHL history to play 1,000 games and score fewer than 25 goals. You don’t achieve that without being one of the toughest players to ever wear an NHL uniform, and he certainly was your prototypical beat-you-in-the-corners, block-shots-with-your face type of player. But toughness doesn’t necessarily equate to violence, and by all accounts, Marsh is one of the nicest dudes in the world. Read this about his post-hockey life. I think he enjoys spinning around this planet too much to attempt anything on Vladimir Putin.
4. Lindsey Carson. “Often he'd give a guy an extra little shot or piece of the stick knowing that one of his brash teammates would bail him out” is a sentence written about Carson here. Plenty of guys on this team to bail Carson out. Hmmm.
3. Freddy Cassivi. According to HockeyDB, Cassivi — a legendary Hershey Bears goalie who played just 13 NHL games and never played for the Flyers organization — had 38 penalty minutes in 0 games played during the 1994-95 QMJHL season. This is clearly an error, but I don’t care. I’m taking it as confirmation that Cassivi is down to fight a dictator.
2. Jeff Chychrun. See below.
1. Al Secord. He played just 20 regular season games for the Flyers, but in those games had 38 penalty minutes. Decent ratio. He had over 2,000 PIM in his 766 game NHL career, putting him in the top 50 in NHL history. I’d bet he’s willing to throw a cross-check or 12.
Secord is also a pilot for American Airlines these days in his post-hockey life. American Airlines. He’s a patriot, see. Go get ‘em, Al.
Subject: Flyers vs. Blues: TV/radio info, live streaming and discussion thread
The Flyers host the Blues tonight.
Tonight's game thread is a little bare bones because I locked myself out of the house while taking out the trash, and nobody else is home for a while, so I am writing this while walking to the bar to watch the game.
You can do the same from the comfort of your couch, assuming you are smarter than me and have your keys on you. The game is on CSN Philly locally, and on NBCSN everywhere else in the land. The radio feed can be found on 97.5 The Fanatic. NBC Live Extra and the NBC Sports app have the live stream.
Subject: Blues 2, Flyers 0: Shooting Blanks
Flyboys Can’t Score, Yo.
Hello, my name is Ben, and I will be your recapper this evening. Like in the old days! But in the old days the Flyers used to score goals, and when I agreed to write this recap for the hockey website BroadStreetHockey.com, I expected to get to write about goals scored by the Flyers. Unfortunately I have had no such luck tonight but we’re going to try to make the best of this stupid situation, because that’s what 2017 is all about, right?
- Hockey games requires scoring, and it’s not something the Flyers have been super-great at lately, if we’re being totally honest with each other. They didn’t score against the Kings (though Jeffie did! Hooray for Jeffie!) and then they didn’t score again tonight. A team that doesn’t score is like a bruise that doesn’t turn black and blue. It hurts you deep inside just the same, but does it even exist? These are the things I wonder.
- I’m watching this game at a bar in DC and there’s a Wizards-Cavs game on a couple TVs over and I’m embarrassed by how much more entertaining it is. I am not much for the NBA, ever, so this is much more about the guys in orange and the ennui they inspire.
- That’s enough despair, let’s talk some hockey specifics because that’s what you came here for: the Flyers lost 2-0 to the St. Louis Blues because they didn’t score for the second straight game. They outshot the Blues 11-1 in the first period and had nothing to show for it, and then the disappointment was too much to handle.
- Remarkably more resilient? This Kenny Agostino fellow, who got hit in some ouchie area by a puck and then came back and scored a goal past Michael Neuvirth’s billowing sleeve.
- Agostino then threw himself into the glass with complete unbridled glee, and Travis Hughes told me that it was the first goal Agostino had ever scored, and I thought that was kind of swell that he was willing to be so exuberant upon scoring, since so many dudes in the league try to act all cool and like they’ve been there before and it’s no big deal when they get their goal cherries popped. But it’s a huge deal! A very huge deal! And people should celebrate it! So when Agostino did, I was happy. BUT THEN Travis told me that it was actually his second goal, and it immediately went from charming and life-affirming to just terrible and obnoxious. We get it, dude. You scored. Woohoo.
- Venn diagrams of Flyers I like and Flyers who are underappreciated defensemen generally overlap like a large butt and a small barstool. But where does Andrew MacDonald fit into that equation? I’m perplexed. Because on the one hand, he’s wildly unpopular, seemingly, because he gets paid so much money. But on the other hand, he’s not as bad as everyone says (maybe), and I want to feel bad for him and elevate him to a place of respect and admiration. This might be horribly misguided, but I’ve gone soft in my old age.
- Is anyone else worried about where they’re hiding Shayne Gostisbehere? Shayne, if you can reach a phone, please call me or another adult and let us know you’re ok. You’re not playing and I don’t see you and I’m starting to check my watch more and more and look at the door in the hopes the knob will turn. But if you’re leaving, please don’t leave without saying goodbye, even if it is literally the most Ghosty thing you could ever do.
- Sports are rough, man. I spent last night watching a football game and getting all excited that a team I don’t care about could somehow restore my faith in this world by winning. And when they didn’t, shit got real dark. This Flyers game didn’t exactly help. Light up my life, Flyers. Or at least light up the lamp. Either or.
Flyers will probably be better than this at some point in the future, which is good. Go Flyers.
Subject: Tuesday Morning Fly By: #FreeGhost
Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...
*The Flyers played hockey again yeah yeah here's a recap.
*It was Ghost's third straight healthy scratch. [ProHockeyTalk]
*It was also the third consecutive start for Michal Neuvirth. Okay. Sure. [Sons of Penn]
*So uh....what the heck are you doing, Dave Hakstol? [Pattison Ave]
*It's almost comforting to check in on some of the more promising prospects when things are getting weird with the big club. [CSN Philly]
*Help us rank the mid-season 25 under 25!! [BSH]
*But if the Flyers DID want to play that game...here are the best choices for the team. [BSH]
*Anyhoo, it's probably going to be a wild ride all the way into the playoffs, especially in the East. [TSN]
*We always hear about the players so every now and then it's fun to hear about the game from the officials' perspective. [NHL.com]
*And finally, speaking of hockey officials, here are a few of them dancing to Sweet Caroline, because why not. Happy Tuesday. [Puck Daddy]
Subject: The best photos from the Flyers loss to the Blues
February 6, 2017: Philadelphia Flyers vs. St. Louis Blues featured photo gallery
Subject: Flyers see 23 percent gain in local TV ratings, but there’s a slight catch
It’s the result of people coming back to the Flyers, not the addition of a ton of new fans
Flyers local television ratings on CSN Philly have gained 23 percent in the last year, according to Sports Business Journal, one of the top-five gains in all the NHL. At face value, that sounds great — more people are watching the Flyers! Cool!
But that narrative is probably a little misleading. In reality, the numbers appear represent people coming back to the Flyers, not an indication of new interest in the team.
SBJ puts this list out every year around the NHL All-Star Game, and the timing is probably what’s led to the big increase in Flyers ratings. SBJ’s methodology compares ratings year-over-year at the midseason point. Here’s the list from 2016, which was released on February 15. For about a year prior to that, the team had been nearly unwatchable.
In the last three months of the 2014-15 season, the Flyers were the definition of mediocre, going 11-9-11. That led to a spring without playoff hockey, the firing of Craig Berube and the hiring of Dave Hakstol. But the 2015-16 season didn’t start much better. As of mid-February 2016, when SBJ’s ratings numbers were released a year ago, the Flyers were second-worst in the Metropolitan Division with a 24-21-10 record.
Ratings tanked, and you can’t blame anybody for not wanting to watch that product.
Consider the immediate rebound, however. After February 15, the Flyers went on a tear, going 17-6-4 to close the season. It was the most exciting thing in Philadelphia sports last spring, it led to a great playoff series with the Washington Capitals, and ... it’s probably the main reason SBJ reports a 23 percent gain in Flyers ratings over this time last year.
Couple that with a 10 game win streak in the latter half of the year, and it’s no wonder why people came back to watching the Flyers over the course of the last 12 months. Now, if only the team would give them a reason to stay ...
Subject: Blues 2, Flyers 0: 10 things we learned from offensive woes continued
The Flyers’ underwhelming homestand continued last night, with yet another scoreless performance.
Morning Observations is a feature where we break down the previous night's game with an analytical eye.
#1: Flyers wasted a strong first period
After a thoroughly underwhelming performance against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday, the hope was that the Flyers would come out strong against a struggling St. Louis Blues squad. And that’s exactly what happened — Philadelphia outshot the Blues 11-1 in the opening stanza and won the 5v5 attempts battle handily with a 68.57% score-adjusted Corsi percentage. In addition, they led in scoring chances 12-5, so it wasn’t like every single one of their shots was coming from the outside. The Flyers controlled the pace of the game, and actually found a way to combine their tight checking from last week with actual, tangible offense.
However, none of their 11 shots on goal or 28 overall attempts could find their way past St. Louis goaltender Carter Hutton, who entered the game with a putrid 0.896 save percentage on the season. He should have been an easy netminder to victimize, but instead, the Flyers found a way to make him look like Carey Price over the first twenty minutes of the game. Then, the Blues found their footing, more than doubling up Philadelphia in shot attempts during the middle stanza (15-7), and doing what the Flyers could not in the first period — earn an actual goal for their troubles.
There was a push by Philadelphia in the third, but following Kenny Agostino’s goal that came about due to a Jakub Voracek offensive zone turnover, the Flyers lost that jump in their step quickly. Despite 17 attempts at 5v5 in the period, the Flyers couldn’t manage even one high-danger chance. In the end, Philadelphia closed out the game with slight edges in the 5v5 statistics (55.85% SA-Corsi, 54.74% xG), but the bulk of those leads stemmed from their huge territorial edge in the first. Once they wasted that period, they blew their best chance at victory.
#2: Defense did activate more
Last week, the big story surrounding the Flyers was an absence of shot creation and offense. They averaged 19 shots on goal during the three contests, and managed just one even strength goal. Now, Philadelphia may not be stocked with high-end scoring talent, but we’re talking about a team that has averaged over 30 shots per 60 minutes (in all situations) this season, so on the whole, they certainly haven’t been hurting for offense generation. What seemed to change last week was the mentality of the defensemen, who appeared less willing to activate on the rush and in the cycle game while on the attack, in addition to being less aggressive in executing offensive and neutral zone pinches. An active defense had been a hallmark of the Hakstol style since he took over as Flyers head coach, making the tweak especially noticeable.
So in a game that saw Philadelphia be shut out for the second straight contest, that must mean that the defense was yet again passive in the play, right? I’d argue that wasn’t the case. From the start, defensemen were actively jumping into the play, starting rushes, pinching, and generating chances. Even Andrew MacDonald and Nick Schultz ended up with scoring chances from the slot credited to them by the end of the second period. At least stylistically, the Flyers looked like their normal selves. Of course, that didn’t result in any goals, but their 26 SOG total was decent, and they finished with a 2.05 xG total on the night. I’d be the first one to criticize the Flyers if I felt they were purposely sacrificing offense for defense (as I did last week), but I didn’t see that as the reason for the shutout last night. To me, it was more due to a combination of strong play from Carter Hutton, an inability to finish on scoring chances, and a lack of execution in the second half of the contest.
#3: Gostisbehere needs to come back
You could make a decent case that this was a game that the Flyers “deserved” to win. They led in all of the 5v5 play-driving metrics, and the two Blues goals came about as a result of a kind of lucky/kind of awesome redirection and a turnover-turned-breakaway due to the Flyers’ pressing to tie the game in the third. However, there remains a very loud and conspicuous elephant in the room when analyzing a game that saw Philadelphia fail to score even one goal. The fact that Shayne Gostisbehere sat for the third consecutive contest makes it difficult for the Flyers to argue that they are doing everything they can to solve the scoring issues, as Ghost is clearly the team’s most dynamic defenseman.
Yes, Gostisbehere hasn’t scored at nearly the rate that he did last season. And to be sure, his 5v5 on-ice goal based results (34%) have been awful, though that’s mostly due to an unsustainably-low 4.81% shooting percentage when Ghost has been on the ice. But you don’t need to look at stats to know that Gostisbehere is more useful in helping the Flyers to score goals than at least half the defensemen that Philadelphia dressed last night, and possibly all of them. And even if you believe that Ghost’s awful on-ice shooting percentage at 5v5 is reflective of general ineffectiveness and not just dumb bad luck, it’s obvious that the power play is suffering dramatically in his absence. The top unit is weaker because penalty kills can now more directly attack Giroux and Voracek rather than stay up high to defend against possible Gostisbehere one-timers. The second unit is weaker because Streit is now with PP1, forcing Hakstol to go with either Brandon Manning or Andrew MacDonald there. The result has been a sputtering PP, and with the even strength scoring still anemic, that means little in the way of offensive firepower.
There are other factors causing the offensive swoon aside from Ghost’s absence — quality of opponents, strong goaltending, a temporary change of mentality — but the scratching is surely playing a role. At this point, the Flyers have an obvious problem in that they can’t score goals right now, and a player sitting in the press box who directly aided in the creation of 46 of them in just 64 games last season. Defensive concerns aside, it’s long past time to put Gostisbehere back in the lineup.
#4: Konecny was flying, then injured
Unlike Gostisbehere, Travis Konecny did check back into the lineup last night and immediately provided a spark. Konecny brings a speed element to the forward corps that is severely lacking considering the existing talent, and he showcased that on multiple occasions in the first period. In just under seven minutes of 5v5 ice time, Konecny helped the Flyers rack up 10 shot attempts, good for a strong 88.24 Corsi For per 60 rate. For a team starved for offense, he was a godsend, and a big reason why the team had such a strong first period.
However, the 19-year old forward could not last the game. It wasn’t a surprise scratching or even a benching due to rookie mistakes that caught Hakstol’s eye, but an awkward collision with the boards in the first half of the second period. At first, it looked like he may have injured his shoulder (an injury he’s struggled with in the past) but upon further review, it looked like Konecny’s bigger issue was his lower body getting twisted as he hit the boards. Tim Panaccio confirmed it after the game, reporting that Konecny had suffered ankle and knee sprains on the play. The rookie did try to fight through the pain and skated a few more shifts, but eventually was sent to the locker room midway through the period and did not return. Obviously, an extended absence would be a big loss for a punchless Flyers squad, considering Konecny’s offensive skillset.
#5: New-look Couturier line was most effective
With Matt Read out of the lineup in favor of Konecny, Hakstol shuffled up the middle-six a bit, this time moving Wayne Simmonds into the RW spot with Sean Couturier and Nick Cousins. The goal was likely to use Simmonds as a way to get the line more involved offensively after a few down games, but it was actually Cousins who stood out the most in this one, leading the trio in both shot attempts (five) and individual Expected Goals (0.23). He also had Philadelphia’s best chance of the game, a crashing-the-net one-timer on the rush that Carter Hutton was able to stop. Cousins also led the team in score-adjusted Corsi For at 76.54 percent, with Couturier and Simmonds close behind. The unit didn’t score, but they were moving through the neutral zone with ease and created lots of chances despite being primary matched up with the Tarasenko line. The Flyers might have something here.
#6: Streit-Schultz pair, on the other hand, got wrecked
The same cannot be said for the pairing of Nick Schultz and Mark Streit, which managed an awful 27.53% score-adjusted Corsi in almost 11 minutes together. Dave Hakstol seemed to recognize their poor performance, using them at 5v5 like his third-pairing, but it’s impossible to truly shelter struggling defensemen in an NHL game. whenever they hit the ice, the Blues seemed to have the puck, with the Perron-Lehtera-Agostino trio especially enjoying their time spent against Schultz-Streit. There’s a reason why Schultz was buried at the very bottom of the Flyers’ depth chart for most of the season, and he reminded observers of that last night — he’s just not an especially effective NHL defenseman at this stage of his career. And when paired with a slowing Mark Streit, things can get ugly fast.
#7: MacDonald was having a strong game, then took bad penalty
Andrew MacDonald rightfully receives a large amount of criticism from both the blogosphere and the general fanbase, and it’s not just just due to his contract. it’s because, from a play-driving standpoint, no defenseman on the Flyers has been worse this season (-4.9% CF%RelTM) than MacDonald. However, that doesn’t mean that he isn’t fully capable of delivering strong games. Interestingly enough, this is the kind of game that a fan open to advanced metrics might view MacDonald positively while one trusting the box score could disagree. After all, MacDonald finished with a strong 61.825 score-adjusted Corsi, his passing was crisp, and he even disrupted an offensive zone entry or two. However, he happened to be on the ice for two goals against at 5v5 (even if none were his fault), which gave him an ugly -2 rating in terms of plus/minus.
What both sides can agree on, however, is that the foolish double-minor penalty that he took in the second period could have been disastrous. Luckily for MacDonald, the team stepped up and smothered the Blues’ power play, but that doesn’t make the reckless play any less disappointing. Truthfully, I was impressed with MacDonald overall in this game, and I suspect he’ll grade out well by the microstats once they are available. But it was the penalty and not the bad goal-based luck that put a damper on an otherwise-strong performance by MacDonald.
#8: Blues’ top line got shut down, still scored
You hate to see the Flyers waste a performance that saw them take play to a top line as dangerous as the Steen-Stastny-Tarasenko unit. And that’s exactly what happened last night — the trio could manage just four shot attempts in over 12 minutes of ice time, while allowing a whopping 18. Shift after shift, the Flyers pinned Tarasenko (in my opinion, one of the ten best players in hockey) in his own zone, far away from anywhere that could be considered a high-danger sniping area.
But not only could the Flyers not score a goal despite that massive territorial advantage, they couldn’t even keep the trio off the scoreboard. Stastny was actually able to score on one of those four shot attempts, redirecting a slap pass from Kevin Shattenkirk past Michal Neuvirth with his skate in a picture-perfect play. It’s the type of maneuver that has you marveling at just how skilled NHL forwards truly are, and it’s just the Flyers’ luck that it would come in a game where they did almost everything possible to shut down a dangerous line.
#9: Flyers do seem to be attacking the slot more
Just a few weeks ago, I expressed a concern that Philadelphia was settling for too many point shots and overusing a low-to-high offensive zone shot creation style. Over the past few games, however, it’s been tough to tell if the team is taking too many point shots, considering how few shots they had taken at 5v5 on the whole. Last night was a little different, as the Flyers did generate a decent number of total attempts (48 in about 44 minutes at 5v5). And as the great heat map from Natural Stat Trick shows, the Flyers did seemingly make a conscious effort to generate higher quality chances.
Clearly, it didn’t result in any goals scored, but the fact that a higher percentage of the team’s shot volume is centered in the slot and net front area does bode well for their process as a whole. In fact, since the start of 2017, there hasn’t been a major difference between Philadelphia’s raw shot volume differential at 5v5 and after that differential is adjusted for quality via the xG model (50.5% score-adjusted Corsi, 50.02% SA-xG). Maybe adjustments truly are being made, or maybe it’s just that a statistical anomaly is starting to even itself out.
#10: Where do the Flyers stand?
Three games into this key homestand, and the Flyers have delivered one strong win, one overtime loss that probably should have occurred in regulation, and one regulation loss that was probably a little unlucky. That’s not horrific, but a 1-1-1 record certainly isn’t how they wanted to kick off such a pivotal stretch of the season. Philadelphia still holds the final playoff spot in the East, but they’re ninth in terms of points percentage, ahead of the Islanders (who they face Thursday) primarily because they’ve played more games.
Since the turn of the calendar year, Philadelphia’s 5v5 play-driving metrics have been passable, but nothing special on the whole. Their shooting and save percentages, on the other hand, remain abysmal. From a statistical standpoint, the reasonable hope is that the Flyers will start getting some breaks in terms of shooting percentage while watching the goaltenders improve over their performance so far this season, but there are no guarantees (particularly regarding the latter). The recent lineup decisions also do not create confidence. However, considering the team’s current place in the standings and the simple fact that the Flyers almost certainly will not score on just 4.64% of their 5v5 shots (as they’ve done in 2017), I expect they’ll stay in this playoff race until the end.
Subject: Travis Konecny will miss 4-to-6 weeks with injury because life is a cruel joke
It’s a lower-body injury. Welp.
After half a game back in the lineup, Flyers rookie forward Travis Konecny is back on the shelf. It’s no longer due to a healthy scratch, however: he’s going to miss 4-to-6 weeks with a lower-body injury.
Konecny was seen leaving Wells Fargo Center in a walking boot after playing roughly half of last night’s game against the St. Louis Blues. It seems like it’s an ankle injury.
If Konecny comes back in exactly four weeks, he’ll be back for the March 7 game against the Buffalo Sabres. Six weeks would put him back for the March 21 game against the Winnipeg Jets. Either way, Konecny is going to miss a lot of games here down the stretch of the regular season when the Flyers could certainly use his abilities.
This is not an ideal way for the latter part of his rookie campaign to go.
We’ll see Matt Read check back into the lineup for Thursday’s game against the Islanders, and we could see a call-up from Lehigh Valley given that the Flyers are down to just 12 forwards with Konecny on the shelf.
Subject: Wednesday Morning Fly By: So let's hear about that town hall meeting...
Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...
*Any of you people go to the town hall? If you did, tell us all about it in the comments.
*Because everything in life is bad, Travis Konecny will miss 4 to 6 weeks. [BSH]
*With a hole in the offense it might be time to give Jordan Weal a try. [The Morning Call]
*And the way they did it was kind of....icky. [Stanley Cup of Chowder]
*Speaking of Ghost, even the beats have had enough of this benching nonsense. It is indefensible at this point. [Inquirer]
*Because he's a goddamned professional, Charlie has 10 things to learn from Monday's bad hockey game. [BSH]
*Even when the Flyers are bad, Kate Frese manages to make great pictures of them. So check them out. [BSH]
*The Flyers television ratings are up. Hooray. [BSH]
*The IIHF remains optimistic about the NHL allowing its players to participate in the Olympics, but are planning for the worst anyway. [Puck Daddy]
Subject: Dave Hakstol defends decision to scratch Shayne Gostisbehere, play Andrew MacDonald
It came during a town hall meeting with season-ticket holders on Tuesday evening.
On Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers invited season-ticket holders in for an annual “Town Hall Meeting,” in which they had the chance to ask questions of various folks in the organization.
Among them were head coach Dave Hakstol. As you might imagine given the current arguments we’re currently having as a fan base -- whether it be on Twitter, Facebook, in the comments on this website, at the bar, or at the Wawa — a lot of questions focused on the state of the team’s defense.
In particular, questions focused on Shayne Gostisbehere, the second-year star who has become a regular healthy scratch this month, and Andrew MacDonald, who many believe to be one of the worst regular defensemen in the NHL, but has not sat out regularly.
It’s safe to say that Hakstol has a different perspective than much of the fan base, saying that MacDonald has played a top-four role all season and that he’s earned it since training camp. He also says that Ghost has a lot to learn on the defensive side of the puck.
We’re not going to argue against Hakstol in this blog post. (We’ve been doing enough of that lately.) Instead, we’ll present his back-and-forth on the subject with a fan during one of several Q&A group sessions held during the evening.
We have a transcription, and you can also see video below. Notice the tension between the fan asking the question and Hakstol. It is not warm and fuzzy.
Dave Hakstol defends decision to scratch Ghost, play MacDonald
At last night's Flyers Town Hall, there was definitely some tension as Dave Hakstol answered a fan's question about Shayne Gostisbehere and Andrew MacDonald.Posted by Broad Street Hockey: For Philadelphia Flyers Fans on 8hb Februari 2017
It’s obvious on social media that overall people are not that happy with [Andrew] MacDonald’s play. And you have Shayne sitting out and a lot of us are having a hard time swallowing why [AMac] has never sit out and you have Shayne sitting out so many times. Can you answer some of that?
Short memory: Mac was in the American Hockey League last year. Is that — what’s tougher, sitting out a couple games? And I’m not comparing the two, but I don’t think there is a comparison to be made. Mac has played extremely well this year. He’s played like a legitimate top 3-4 role all year, he’s earned that from Day 1 of camp, he is an efficient player.
I don’t care what social media says. I watch it, I study it. I know exactly what he does. He’s done a good job. Him and Ghost are different players, no question. They have different roles, so I won’t even compare the two in that regard.
Ghost is out of the lineup for good reasons.
I’m not gonna get into individual things here. The young man has so much good ability, so much good ability. To become a well-rounded player is very difficult in this league. It’s easy to brush over some of the difficult areas of the game that sometimes are performed real efficiently — and Ghost is not. Ghost can be a very good two-way defenseman with some outstanding offensive ability. It’s a tough transition to this league, especially offensively. This year, things haven’t come quite as easily offensively. I think that’s apparent for everybody.
But also, for him to shore up some of the areas of the game that are going to make him an outstanding defenseman in this league for years to come — not just today, but for years to come — and to be what the Philadelphia Flyers need as we become a top contending team, these are very important growth steps that he’s taking right now.
Everybody just looks at just coming out of the lineup for a game or two. To be honest with you, he’s been out of the lineup now and has had an opportunity for four or five days to have some great work days. I don’t know if you’ve ever thought of it that way. For a young player to have practice time in this league, for which there is none -- it’s really tough for veteran players to hold their confidence, to keep their sharpness, to be where they need to be day-in and day-out without practice time.
It’s really difficult for a young player to be able to do that when you’re out of the lineup for maybe one game, you don’t make a ton of progress. That’s more of a wake-up call. But right now I can tell you this, Ghost has had three or four great work days. He’ll be back in our lineup soon.
Well, we don’t play tomorrow but —
He’ll be back in soon, I don’t know if it’ll be Thursday or not yet. We’ll decide that over the next day or two. But he’s been a huge part of what we’ve done. He’s going to be an even bigger part of what we do in the future. But there’s steps that he needs to take as a young player to grow.
Ghost was phenomenal last year. Now that the league has found out the way that he plays, how are we gonna change that?
You never get a shot at being unknown again and that’s part of being an efficient veteran player in this league. We’re not going to change who he is. Number one, we’re asking him to shore up some of the things — without getting specifically — in his play without the puck, which is most important for a defenseman. Number one, you have to defend, you have to move the puck out of your zone, and then everybody else brings something differently. Ghost brings the offensive side of the game.
First two things have to be there, solid and sound and be the foundation of any defenseman’s game. So on the offensive side he’s not gonna change who he is, he’s just gonna continue to learn, grow, develop and have the poise and confidence to read the play that’s in front of him and take what is there. And he does a good job of it. He’s been up and down a bit. He’s had some nights where he’s been excellent, other nights where it hasn’t come easily. That’s part of it. There’s no hidden secrets in this game. Everybody studies their opposition so closely that — you know, individual PKers on the other side, they know the tendencies of what the power play is gonna do and the individuals. So you’re never gonna get away from that. It’s part of maturity, it’s part of growing, it’s part of handling those challenges.
Your thoughts on Hakstol’s defense here?