Subject: Eagles News: Malcolm Jenkins shows support for Michael Bennett following alleged racial profiling
Philadelphia Eagles news and links for 9/7/17.
Let's get to the Philadelphia Eagles links ...
Eagles' Malcolm Jenkins glad Seahawks' Michael Bennett shared his police brutality experience - NJ.com
Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, a staunch advocate for equal rights and criminal justice reform, threw his support behind Michael Bennett Wednesday after the Seattle Seahawks defensive end shared his own allegations of police brutality. "It's unfortunate that that happened to him," Jenkins told NJ Advance Media of Bennett's allegations of police brutality following last month's Floyd Mayweather vs. Connor McGregor fight in Las Vegas. "I can feel and almost imagine the frustration that he had. Unfortunately, he's kind of telling the same story that many people of color tell and live every day."
Michael Bennett: Las Vegas police threatened to ‘blow my f*cking head off’ - SB Nation
Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett says police officers in Las Vegas pointed a gun at his head, jammed a knee into his back, and handcuffed him so tight around his wrists that his fingers went numb the night of the Mayweather-McGregor fight. Bennett and others around him heard what sounded like gun shots and ran for safety, when police singled him out. Bennett said that an officer placed a gun near his head, and warned him that if he moved he would “blow my f***ing head off.” “I felt helpless as I lay there on the ground handcuffed facing the real-life threat of being killed,” Bennett said.
Giants player admits he tried to hurt Carson Wentz, gives backhanded compliment to Zach Ertz - BGN
It’s Eagles-Redskins week, so excuse me for this brief detour while we turn our attention to a different NFC East rival: the New York Giants. New York safety Landon Collins, a self-admitted “Giant baby,” had some interesting things to say in a recent interview with ESPN that caught my attention. The highlights include Collins admitting he tried to injure Carson Wentz last season.
BGN Radio Daily #18: Next Level Pod w/Turron & Barrett - BGNRadio.com
Turron and Barrett are back as they go through the 53 man roster, make some Eagles schedule predictions and of course take you to the next level while breaking down this week's matchup.
Q&A with Joe Banner: On Pederson, Darby and cute baby animals - The Athletic
Yeah, I do. It’s silly to call Doug unqualified. We’ll see over time whether he ends up being a really good head coach or not. I think I’d call his first year solid. There were some pluses and minuses if we’re objective about it. But there was nothing there in which you felt like you were watching somebody who is unqualified — just by the virtue of the staff he put together. That’s the first and maybe the most important thing a head coach does. He has to evaluate those people, recruit those people and manage those people. The staff is excellent. So that by itself is a significant achievement.
'Go ahead and doubt me' – Eagles' Pumphrey out to prove critics wrong (again) - PhillyVoice
“The NFL is a matter of a change of game speed. When I’m on the field, I feel I’m the best player on the field, and that goes back to when I was a five-year-old, playing with my older cousins. They used to hit me hard and I would bounce back up. It’s why I’ll never shy away from lowering my shoulder and delivering the shot. I do run with anger and play with as much swag as possible. Go ahead and doubt me. I’ve been doubted before. I’ll keep getting back up.”
Packages - Iggles Blitz
Jim Schwartz made an interesting comment in his press conference on Tuesday. He said that the defense will have six packages they can use in the opener against the Skins. That’s hardly a huge deal, but it is interesting for a coach like Schwartz who has been so focused on keeping things simple for most of his career. I think there are a couple of reasons for the packages. First, the opponent. Washington runs a multiple offense. They have five WRs on the roster and four TEs. They have a pair of RBs that are more than 230 pounds. The primary backup is 191 pounds and lightning fast. They can go big. They can go little. They can spread you out. They can go base. You have to be prepared for a lot of looks.
Eagle Eye: Still Plenty Of Firepower In The Nation's Capital - PE.com
When preparing for a Week 1 regular-season game, there’s always a bit of guesswork that goes into formulating the game plan. In reality, all you really have to go off of is last season’s film, especially if the two teams played each other. Luckily, the Eagles faced the Washington Redskins twice in 2016, so there’s some familiarity there, even with the new faces on the other sideline. Head coach Jay Gruden runs the show on offense. Yes, he lost offensive coordinator Sean McVay to the Los Angeles Rams. Washington became the first team in NFL history to lose two 1,000-yard receivers in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. With that three-headed monster leaving the nation’s capital, everyone wants to know how different this offense will look in 2017? My guess is that it will look pretty similar schematically with Gruden’s fingerprints all over it.
Brandon Graham: The sci-fi making of the world's strongest Eagle - ESPN
Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson likens the experience of going up against defensive end Brandon Graham to "getting hit by a damn car." "Somebody that strong and that quick, you better get ready, you better get your hands on him or you're going to get embarrassed," Johnson said. "Little f---ing bowling ball rolling off that f---ing edge," added guard Brandon Brooks, who couldn't resist the urge to chime in from the next locker stall over.
Zach Ertz poised to have, yes, a 'breakout' season - Inquirer
Ertz’s YAC average dropped in each of his first four seasons from 4.39 yards to 3.88, 3.59 and 3.37. Last season, he averaged just a 2.3 YAC in his first 10 games. In the 10th game, Ertz ducked out of the way of the incoming Vontaze Burfict during a Wentz scramble. He was criticized, and said that in retrospect he should have probably blocked the Bengals linebacker. In his final four games, Ertz’s YAC jumped to 5.0 yards. He said his improved health had more to do with the disparity than anything.
7 Predictions For the '17 NFL Season - Sports on Earth
Carson Wentz will prove to be the real deal. Everybody in Philadelphia already believes this, as do some experts around the league, but there's still a group of doubters that aren't really buying what the Eagles are selling with last year's No. 2 overall pick. Considering the Eagles had the worst wide receiver corps in the NFL last year and major offensive line issues that led to protection woes and a nonexistent running game I would expect Wentz to look and be much more comfortable in Year Two than he was at the tail end of Year One.
Lane Johnson vs. Ryan Kerrigan a major key for Eagles in Week 1 - CSN Philly
Lane Johnson could only watch from home as Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan almost single-handedly beat the Eagles in 2016 — not once, but twice. “It still affects me today,” Johnson said Wednesday after practice. “It just motivates me to go out there and go play even harder this year.” Johnson missed both dates with Washington last season because of a 10-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. The result was nothing less than disastrous for the Eagles, who were suddenly rendered powerless to stop one of the NFC East’s most formidable pass rushers.
Preseason Review: Notable non-first round rookies - PFF
The most well-rounded rookie interior defender this preseason, Elijah Qualls finished the season-before-the-season with the third highest overall grade among all DIs and his 85.4 run defense grade ranked fourth while his 79.5 pass-rushing grade ranked eighth. Qualls ranked ninth among rookie DIs with a 13.3 run stop percentage – and when the sixth-round draft pick wasn’t getting stops he was forcing cuts and blowing up points of attack – and tenth with an 8.2 PRP.
2017 DVOA Projections - Football Outsiders
The Eagles rank ninth here with a win projection of 8.1 games and a 35.3% chance of making the playoffs.
The Unprecedented Expectations of the Defending Super Bowl Champion Patriots - The MMQB
Goodell has told fans that there’s been no effort to keep Kaepernick out, and his hope is that the focus can go from the protests to progress in addressing the issues the players are attacking. Certainly, there are players, and Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins is one, who’ve done work to make it happen while they continue with their quiet on-field statements.
Michael Bennett goes public on disturbing interaction with police, video showing incident released - Field Gulls
Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett has made it known that he’s very disturbed by some of the police brutality incidents that have been happening in America recently — and apparently he himself was the subject of alleged racial profiling less than two weeks ago. On Wednesday, Bennett released a statement on Twitter in which he described police holding a gun to his head, putting a knee in his back, securing handcuffs so tight that his fingers went numb, and that he was told by them that they’d “blow (his) f***ing head off.”
Social Media Information:
BGN Facebook Page: Click here to like our page
BGN Twitter: Follow @BleedingGreen
BGN Radio Twitter: Follow @BGN_Radio
BGN Radio Facebook: Click here to like our page
BGN Radio Patreon: Support the show!
BGN Manager: Brandon Lee Gowton: Follow @BrandonGowton
Subject: NFL Power Rankings Roundup: Eagles stuck in the middle to the start the season
A look at what the experts are saying about Philadelphia.
Today we begin our weekly roundup of how various media outlets have ranked the Philadelphia Eagles in their NFL power rankings. It’s always interesting to see how the Birds stack up from an outside perspective. But first, let's start by revisiting my rankings.
13) Philadelphia Eagles - Lucky No. 13 for your Philadelphia Eagles. I’m bullish on the Birds as an above average team despite the fact they went 7-9 last year. The Eagles had the ninth best point differential in 2016 and they’re likely to take a step forward this year. The Eagles actually surrounded Carson Wentz with some weapons. As a result, the second-year passer looked great during training camp and the preseason games. On defense, Philadelphia’s pass rush figures to cause trouble for the offenses that they’ll face. This Eagles roster isn’t without concerns (see: the running game), but it’s improved from last year. The Eagles will push for a playoff spot this season.
18) (No explanation)
15) Carson Wentz has a lot more to work with this season thanks to the additions of Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and LeGarrette Blount. Despite some positives in 2016, Wentz did finish with the 26th-best Total QBR, partially because of the Eagles' issues at wide receiver.
19) It's very possible that the Eagles can be one of the six new playoff teams the league averages every year. Last year, the Giants, Cowboys, Falcons, Lions, Raiders and Dolphins were newbies. Philadelphia should be able to hold its own against those squads. We saw it against Miami in the preseason. What we haven't seen enough of is a new-look first-string offense, which my colleague Brian Baldinger so aptly pointed out.
18) If Carson Wentz takes a big step forward, they will be much higher on this list at season's end. The division is a tough one, which hurts.
17) LeGarrette Blount this preseason: 13 carries for 36 yards and a 2.8-yard average. Maybe that’s just a veteran saving himself for when games count, but assume the Eagles are keeping a close eye on how he looks in September. A lot of players look worse when they leave the Patriots.
19) WRs Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith are shaping up to be transformative figures for the passing attack. CB Ronald Darby may prove to be one of the most important additions, however.
14) The Eagles have fortified the offense around their second-year QB, Carson Wentz, and they presumably will have tackle Lane Johnson available all season after he missed much of last season while on suspension. Assuming that Wentz is better, this offense will be better and the team should be better as a whole. But it still might be difficult to leapfrog the Giants and Cowboys in the division.
22) Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is a baller. He looked good as a rookie last season. He's looked even better through the preseason. Alshon Jeffery has been solid at wide receiver, but let's not get too hyped about the new-look Eagles receiving corps. When an aging Torrey Smith is your No. 2 wideout, there's room for improvement. At this stage in his career, he should be a No. 3 at best. Defensively, the Eagles have an impressive front seven. With guys like Fletcher Cox and Vinny Curry, there is a lot of talent on the defensive line. I absolutely love Mychal Kendricks playing linebacker behind it. I do have questions about the secondary. The Eagles have good safeties, but not a ton of cornerback talent. Ronald Darby is serviceable, but he's the only corner capable of playing man-to-man on a consistent basis. That's a problem against Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins, who have a ton of receiving threats.
17) The Eagles reloaded on offense during the offseason, bringing in Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and LeGarrette Blount to aid Carson Wentz during his sophomore campaign. Questions remain on defense and whether free agent talent will translate into in-game points, but should the wheels of the cogs line up correctly, the Eagles could be in a good position to make the playoffs.
14) (No explanation)
9) (No explanation)
The rankings range from as high as 9 to as low as 22. 16.3 is the average ranking.
The way power rankings work is that the very top and the very bottom are very defined. Things start to get blurred in the middle. You can place most of those teams just about anywhere. That’s where the Eagles are right now.
A Week 1 win over the Redskins, who mostly rank above the Eagles, could put Philly in the top 10 ... or just outside of it.
Subject: How does Radko Gudas fit on a changing Flyers blue line?
In two years with the Flyers, Radko Gudas has emerged as a key cog on defense. How will his responsibilities change now that he’s one of the team’s vets?
As the 2017-18 Flyers season draws near, we’ll be breaking down everyone we expect to make the roster, from the long-time vets to the new guys. For each player, we’ll ask three key questions about their season, and look at what their best- and worst-case scenarios are for the year.
When he was initially acquired in the early hours of March 2, 2015, the day of the 2014-15 NHL Trade Deadline, the guy who had just become the newest member of the Philadelphia Flyers was probably the least talked-about part of his own trade.
Radko Gudas, then a 24-year old Czech defenseman, had gone from being a top-4 defenseman with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2013-14 to a third-pair guy on the same team a year later to a player sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury to a player that, at the time, appeared a throw-in on a deadline deal that sent long-time Flyer Braydon Coburn to Tampa and a first- and third-round pick to the Flyers.
After missing the remainder of the season due to surgery on the aforementioned knee injury, Gudas was something of an afterthought on a Flyers defense that had several other established-if-unspectacular pieces in place. And after a rough first preseason with the Flyers — a preseason which, to be fair, was his first real hockey action in eight months — Gudas was a healthy scratch in his first game with the Flyers. At that point, it looked like the Flyers probably had just another third-pairing defenseman on their hands.
But that’s not how things ended up playing out.
In two seasons here, Gudas has emerged as a top-4 defenseman on the Flyers, both in role and in ability. Possession metrics, measures by which in Tampa Gudas was never more than “just fine” and was at times worse than that, had Gudas’ performance in 2015-16 as one of the best in the NHL among defensemen. The decision to protect him in this past June’s expansion draft was a no-brainer. And when Gudas was signed to a four-year deal worth $3.35 million per season against the cap last year, the general reaction from fans tended to be a positive one for a contract that could lock a top-4 defenseman in with the Flyers for the rest of his 20s at a very reasonable rate.
This coming season, Gudas will effectively become one of the elder statesmen of the Flyers’ blue line. Among all Flyers defensemen under contract, only 31-year-old Andrew MacDonald (whose birthday is today!) has played more NHL games than Gudas. And with a number of potential new faces on the unit, Gudas may have to wear a number of hats.
Gudas’ spot on this team, right now, seems like it should be as safe as ever. But what exactly the season has in store for him is anyone’s guess.
3 Big Questions: Radko Gudas
1. What will Gudas’ role be in a new, younger defense corps?
On defense this year, the Flyers figure to have two rookies (whichever ones end up getting chosen out of Samuel Morin, Robert Hagg, Travis Sanheim, and Phil Myers), two young defensemen with experience (Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov), and two legitimate NHL veterans (Gudas and MacDonald). Exactly how those players end up getting paired with one another is anyone’s guess, and there are a lot of ways that Gudas could end up being used in this lineup.
The team could opt to pair its two oldest NHL players with the two rookies, giving the young players a guy with experience to lean on a bit. This is essentially what they did with Andrew MacDonald over the past two seasons — he was largely stapled to Gostisbehere from the moment he returned to the NHL in February 2016, and he was almost exclusively partnered with Provorov from early December onwards this past season. That could be the plan for he and Gudas next year, as each could end up spending a lot of time with the team’s newest blueliners.
But is that the best plan given Gudas’ skillset? It may depend on exactly which defensemen get the nod to start the year with the team. If Morin and Hagg get the call, a pairing made up of one of them alongside Gudas may just not have enough puck-moving talent at the NHL level. If Sanheim or Myers makes the team, one of them could be a better fit with Gudas, who’s shown some ability to create offense on his own but still isn’t much of a passer.
If Gudas isn’t paired with a rookie, the most likely combinations remaining involve him spending a lot of time with either Gostisbehere or Provorov. That would be a new look for the Flyers — outside of a handful of games with Provorov just after Thanksgiving last year, Gudas hasn’t spent any real time with either of those two. But it would be fun to see two of the Flyers’ three top NHL-level defensive talents playing on the same pair, and if the Flyers want to have one “veteran” pair take on the tough assignments (this would be much more likely were Gudas to be paired with Provorov than with MacDonald) while they let the two pairs with rookies on them ease into the NHL, that may be the best way to do it.
Regardless of who he’s playing with, though, how the Flyers plan to balance the need to play one of their better defensemen with the need to develop young talent is something they’ll have to figure out. Outside of Ivan Provorov, the Flyers’ coaches seemed to see basically every defenseman on the team last year as worthy of receiving a similar amount of ice time, which happens when your defense consists by and large of a bunch of guys with limitations.
But now there’s no Michael Del Zotto or Mark Streit — no guys that you can give ~19 minutes a night to and expect solid-if-unspectacular results. Those guys are being replaced by rookies, and by nature there’s a lot of variability in trying to project what a rookie will do.
It’s possible that, while guys like Morin, Hagg, or Sanheim get their feet under them, Gudas is asked to do even more than he has been in recent years. On the other hand, if any of those guys really get out to a hot start to their NHL careers, it wouldn’t at all be surprising if any increase in responsibility given to them comes at the expense of Gudas’ ice time. Radko Gudas could realistically serve almost any role on the Flyers’ defense this season, from top-pair/top-PK guy to veteran mentor to third-pair support piece. The wide range of potential outcomes is what makes the task of guessing what to expect from him so difficult.
2. Will Gudas’ strong on-ice differentials from the past two seasons continue?
In Dave Hakstol’s two years in charge of the Flyers, a number of key Flyers players have seen drop-offs in certain statistical measures. Claude Giroux is the most notable example, but Jakub Voracek had a somewhat uninspiring season this past year by the statistics, while Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn had serious problems at 5-on-5 for prolonged stretches in those two years as well.
But with the arguable exception of Sean Couturier, no one on the Flyers has seen their play turn in a positive direction quite like Gudas has.
In his first full year with the Flyers, Gudas quickly ascended from the role of a fringe/third-pair guy to that of a de-facto top-pair defenseman at even strength, mostly alongside Hakstol favorite Michael Del Zotto. And his actual on-ice performance was worthy of that kind of role: by most standard on-ice possession/play-driving metrics, Gudas was spectacular in the 2015-16 season. Furthermore, when Del Zotto went down for the season with a wrist injury in February, Gudas’ strong performance kept up, even alongside the likes of Brandon Manning and Evgeny Medvedev.
(Numbers above and elsewhere in this article via Natural Stat Trick except where noted otherwise.)
Gudas’ eye-popping numbers from last year didn’t carry over to the 2016-17 season at quite the same level, but given the amount of responsibility he was asked to take on, one could reasonably argue that his second season in orange and black was an even more impressive all-around season than his first. Gudas still led the team’s defensemen in standard possession metrics, both overall (53.71% Corsi For) and relative to his team (2.88% Corsi Rel). And that’s all despite leading the team’s defensemen in 5-on-5 TOI per game (16:47) and starting shifts in the defensive zone more frequently than any other Flyers defenseman.
He may not be the most talented defenseman on the Flyers — really, he may not even be close — but it’s tough to argue with the fact that no defenseman on the Flyers has done a better job keeping play moving in the right direction than Gudas has since he arrived here. And as Charlie O’Connor wrote here back in March of Gudas’ first season with the Flyers, he’s done it largely through his work in the offensive zone, contrary to the widely-held idea that Gudas is mostly a big, hulking, stay-at-home defenseman:
The general perception surrounding Radko Gudas is that of a defensively-oriented, physical player. There is evidence to support this description -- his high hit totals, low scoring numbers, and the fact that Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol uses him on the penalty kill and in late-game situations.
But this is not the most complete way to understand what Gudas brings to the table. When it comes to even strength shot creation and shot prevention, Radko Gudas is markedly better at the former. Despite his mediocre puck skills and lack of high-end skating speed, Gudas actually is better at creating offense than preventing it.
At this point, we don’t have much of a reason to think that Gudas won’t continue to be a solid play-driver, which is why the aforementioned idea of pairing him with Provorov is one that could have so much upside on this team — if he’s doing what he’s done alongside Brandon Manning and Michael Del Zotto, what will he do with maybe the best defenseman on the team?
But at the same time, different pairings could certainly lead to different results. Gudas has mostly managed to avoid playing alongside Andrew MacDonald during his time here, and while the Flyers likely won’t pair their two veterans with one another, that would be an interesting test of just how good Gudas really is at pushing play forward. Similarly, a run with one of the rookies could provide a new challenge, albeit one with more long-term upside for the Flyers. In any case, Gudas’ 5-on-5 play has been a revelation, and they’re going to need it to continue again this year.
3. Can Gudas stay out of trouble again?
Ask a Flyers fan what they think of Radko Gudas, and they’ll probably tell you about the defenseman we’ve discussed so far in this piece: one that has reliably played a key role on an otherwise-suspect Flyers defense over the past two seasons and figures to be a key piece moving forward. Ask a fan of one of the other 30 fanbases in the NHL, though, and the first thing that probably comes to mind regarding Gudas is what he’s made news for outside of Philadelphia: a somewhat questionable disciplinary history.
In his two seasons with the Flyers, Gudas has been sat down by the Department of Player Safety twice — he received a three-game suspension in December 2015 for check to the head in Ottawa, and was nailed with a six-game timeout in October 2016 following an interference penalty in the Flyers’ final game of the preseason in Boston. Those are Gudas’ only two incidents that have led to suspension in his career, but some other hits that he’s thrown in games with the Flyers have led to majors, misconducts, and ejections. In fact, the hit that led to Gudas’ second suspension came just five days after a boarding major on New York’s Jimmy Vesey that garnered an ejection but no supplemental discipline.
But following that six-game extended vacation to start the season, Gudas — who by that point was surely being watched closely by the powers-that-be in the NHL — was about as well-behaved as could be expected. Gudas took three fighting majors and two misconducts (both of which were matched by an opponent on the ice), none of which actually put the Flyers at a disadvantage beyond the fact that they were without Gudas himself during those times. And plus, Gudas was able to do all of this without losing much of the physical intimidation that helps him succeed. Gudas threw a number of big hits this year, they just mostly weren’t ones that refs thought were illegal.
The hope here is that no longer will we have to worry about Gudas (who, remember, is a key contributor to this team and whose prolonged absence of any kind leaves the Flyers worse off) continuously being at risk of a lengthy supplemental discipline penalty.
If that does prove to be the case, the next challenge for Gudas is cutting down on minor penalties. Last season, he took minors at a more frequent rate than all but seven other NHL defensemen who played at least 600 total minutes (via Natural Stat Trick). But while there’s surely room for improvement from that level of misbehavior, significantly reducing Gudas’ penalty rate could be easier said than done.
By nature, sometimes a player who consistently plays as physical of a style as Gudas does is going to take penalties. And when you couple that with the track record Gudas has picked up, fair or not, some bad ones are going to be called on him. Such as this absurd “clipping” call on January 21, which gave the New Jersey Devils a man-advantage that changed that game:
Maybe, with the way he plays and with the reputation that he has, a high volume of penalty calls against is going to be a constant occupational hazard. Which only further stresses how crucial it is that Gudas continues to play on the right side of the line when it comes to his biggest hits, the way he did once the regular season got underway last year. Some penalties will always be a part of Gudas’ game, but overall improved discipline should hopefully, in time, lead to fewer reputation calls, which should mean more ice time for one of the Flyers’ better defensemen.
Paired alongside one of the two rookies that make the Flyers, Gudas has a tough time replicating his positive on-ice performances from his first two years with the Flyers. His limitations with the puck on his stick spring up more this year, plaguing his performance in all three zones. All the while, Gudas seems to have trouble keeping himself out of, well, trouble, as he sees an uptick in penalties taken and ends up getting ejected from multiple games during the season. In sum, Gudas ends up looking less like the guy that was a revelation for the Flyers and more like the guy who slowly fell out of favor in Tampa before getting dealt out of town as a trade throw-in. The result is a third-pair guy who regularly finds himself up in the press box as the team looks to give his ice time to younger players.
While the rookies work to get their feet under them, Gudas calmly steps into a top-pair role alongside Provorov, and the Flyers quickly find success in the combination of arguably their most talented overall defenseman and one of their best 5-on-5 play-drivers. Gudas continues to post very strong possession metrics overall and relative to the team, and even gets some decent luck on those point shots he keeps firing off with reckless abandon and scores a few goals. Better still, Gudas is able to cut down a bit on the minor penalties and continue to stay off the radar of the Department of Player Safety. Success from young guys elsewhere in the lineup may catch more attention and will likely matter more in the long-run, but it’s the continued strong performance of Gudas that really pushes the Flyers forward in the short-term — all while the 27-year old very quietly makes a case that he should be considered a key part of this team’s long-term future, no matter who else is popping up on the blue line.
Previously in Philadelphia Flyers 2017-18 Season Previews:
Subject: Eagles #FlyEaglesFly Videos, Ranked
It’s finally here
If you were feeling down about hockey season still being about a month away, this should cheer you up! Flyers training camp is finally upon us, starting just over a week from now on Friday, September 15.
The Flyers as always will lace up the skates at the Skate Zone in Voorhees for the essential start of the 2017-2018 season. 61 players are set to take the ice for camp including the number two overall pick in this summer’s draft, Nolan Patrick. This will be the first time Patrick hits the ice as a Flyer after recovering from surgery required before the draft.
If you were wondering because I’m sure you were, Patrick will be wearing number 64. Let the outrage ensue!
For the first two days of camp, Group 1 will be on the ice from 9:45-11:30, then Group 2 skates from 1:15-3:00.
In addition to training camp, rookie camp will be held from September 11-13 culminating in the rookie game vs. the Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center.
Subject: Did We Just See Our First Glimpse of a Red Sixers Jersey?
Subject: Brett Myers
Subject: Jeffrey Lurie Does Not Like Your Clickbait, and Other Bits From His Impromptu Press Conference
Subject: Friday Morning Fly By: Remember when we liked Jeremy Roenick?
Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...
*But whatever who cares TRAINING CAMP SCHEDULE IS OUT! [BSH]
*Hey you know who was really good last year and doesn't really get a lot of light shined on him? Radko Gudas. What should we expect next year? [BSH]
*You know who is definitely making the team though?? Nolan Patrick. Like it's hilarious that we keep posing it as a question. It's a certainty, folks. [CSN Philly]
*So the NHL may have finally done something productive and landed on a way to discourage the use of the offsides challenge. [SB Nation]
*And speaking of, how certain do you need to be about that play being offsides before you throw that flag? [Hockey Graphs]
Subject: Crossing Broadcast: Boston Beatdown and Lurie
Subject: Your Friday Morning Roundup
Subject: RADIO WARS: Bob Cooney Is The New 97.5 Morning Show Co-Host
Subject: What can the Flyers expect from Valtteri Filppula?
The Flyers had found their third-line center for this season ... and then they got Nolan Patrick. What’s it all mean for Valtteri Filppula?
Sometimes, sports teams make bad decisions that just so happen to work out. Other times, teams make bad decisions that don’t work out. But other times still, a team makes a decision for what appears to be the right reasons, only to have something unforeseen happen that ultimately makes said decision look much worse, opening themselves up to criticism despite a reasonably sound thought process.
It may be too early to tell, but the Flyers’ decision to trade for Valtteri Filppula could very well be filed under that last category before too long.
On the afternoon of the trade deadline back in March, Filppula was acquired by the Flyers in what was a pure salary dump from the Tampa Bay Lightning. Since the Lightning dealt Filppula, a 4th-round pick, and a 7th-round pick to the Flyers for Mark Streit, only to immediately turn around and deal Streit to the Penguins for another 4th-round pick, the net impact of those trades for the Lightning was essentially that they gave up Filppula and a 7th-round pick for nothing.
But that doesn’t mean that Filppula was a worthless player, or even necessarily a negative-value one. He (and his $5 million cap hit through 2017-18) just represented as much to a Tampa team that figured to be right up against the salary cap this summer with key contracts to sign. In Filppula, the Flyers saw an opportunity to pick up one more top-9 center through the end of the 2017-18 season — not to mention, one that brought the flexibility of what Hextall referred to as essentially a “one-year deal”, which was likely favorable to whatever kind of contract he’d have to give a comparable middle-6 center in free agency.
Plus, it’s clear the Flyers liked Filppula as a player — Hextall had no issue with the fact that he’d be forced to protect Filppula in June’s expansion draft due to his no-movement clause. The GM had a lot to say about Filppula’s abilities and his fit on this roster, and was happy with the team’s newfound depth up the middle that this trade had brought them.
The plan made a lot of sense, particularly in a world where the Flyers only had a 2.4 percent chance of moving up in the lottery to the second pick and drafting perhaps the top prospect in the 2017 NHL Draft, one who is probably ready for the NHL right now and who happens to play the same position as Filppula ...
Obviously, the Flyers getting Nolan Patrick is, in every sense of the word, an incredible thing for this franchise. You know that and don’t need me to tell you that, and we’ll hopefully have plenty of time during the preseason and this season and the next 15 or so years to talk more about it. His making the team this year is something we should all be hoping for, and the fact that his doing so may force the Flyers to alter a plan that relied on a 33-year-old center with one year left on his contract really does not matter at all.
Still, if Patrick does make the Flyers this coming season, he does represent one additional piece of a puzzle that only has room for 12 pieces at a time, and it seems like his piece is probably going to go right where the team was planning to put Filppula’s before April 29. And there may not be a ton more room for the Finnish veteran’s piece elsewhere in that frame.
So where can the Flyers put him?
As the 2017-18 Flyers season draws near, we’ll be breaking down everyone we expect to make the roster, from the long-time vets to the new guys. For each player, we’ll ask three key questions about their season, and look at what their best- and worst-case scenarios are for the year.
3 Big Questions: Valtteri Filppula
1. Just how good is Filppula, anyways?
A good sign of the Flyers’ struggles at 5-on-5 offensively last season came on the day that Filppula was traded to the Flyers, because at that moment he immediately became the leader among players on the roster in 5-on-5 scoring that season. Heck, Filppula was well ahead of most of his new teammates — the Flyer closest to Filppula and his 1.85 points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 was Travis Konecny, who at that point of the season had rung up 1.69 points per 60. It’s rare that a non-contending team picks up a new “scoring leader” in any capacity at the trade deadline, but last year’s acquisition of Filppula was essentially that. (All stats in this article courtesy of Natural Stat Trick unless noted otherwise.)
Unfortunately — and perhaps unsurprisingly — Filppula’s strong production from his time with the Lightning didn’t quite carry over during his month-plus with the Flyers. In their 20 games with him on the roster, Filppula registered just five points at 5-on-5, good for a points per 60 mark of 1.13. That mark was actually fourth-worst among the 12 Flyers forwards to play at least 150 5-on-5 minutes during that timeframe.
So what can the Flyers expect from Filppula? Is it the top-6 center that showed up for three-quarters of the year in Tampa, or the bottom-6 guy that arrived in Philadelphia in March?
The most likely answer is probably “somewhere in between”. But there are concerns, ones that shouldn’t be surprising for a 33-year old who’s been around a while.
Let’s take a quick look at how Filppula’s scoring numbers have trended since he began his current contract in Tampa, looking at his point totals as well as his shooting percentages — both individual and on-ice.
Filppula’s respectable scoring numbers this past season bucked a downward trend that had been established over the three previous seasons, during which he quickly descended from posting first-line numbers in 2013-14 to posting what were more like third-line numbers in 2015-16. In his time with Tampa this past season, Filppula looked more like a solid second-line center.
But his numbers following the trade to Philadelphia were meager, as only a fairly high individual shooting percentage (he scored 3 goals on 18 shots at 5-on-5 during his time with the Flyers) kept his numbers even in the range of a third-liner.
Where can we expect him to be this year? Fortunately, there’s reason to believe Filppula’s own poor on-ice shooting percentage will bounce back a bit from the low mark it was at with the Flyers, who as a team are due for a bit of a shooting bounce-back this season. And while yes, his individual shooting percentage should drop, that will only make so much of a difference with a guy who barely shoots the puck as it is. (More on that in a second.)
An expectation that Filppula will end up somewhere in third-liner territory in terms of scoring at 5-on-5 this year is probably fair. And that’s probably also a reasonable expectation for what his role will be with the team this season — Filppula, whose other play-driving metrics have taken a slight turn towards the negative in the past few years, is probably just a bottom-6 center at this point in his career. A solid one, one who would definitely have a place on most teams in this league, but one regardless.
2. Does Filppula’s style fit well with the Flyers’ forwards?
Even if Filppula is most likely a bottom-6 forward at this point in his career, there’s certainly still some value in that. Depth players with scoring upside are crucial parts of any winning team nowadays, and it’s at least plausible that he can fill that kind of a role even if he’s not the legitimate scoring threat he’s been in the past.
But one of the keys to making that work will be finding the right linemates to put around Filppula, ones that will unlock the skills that he has and vice-versa. On this Flyers roster, that could be harder than it sounds, for one key reason: Valtteri Filppula is going to need guys around him that can shoot the puck, and the Flyers just don’t have many guys like that sitting around in their forward corps that figure to play alongside Filppula.
One thing that’s glaringly obvious, both in watching Filppula and looking at his statistical profile, is that he’s certainly what you could call a pass-first player. Here are Filppula’s ranks relative to all NHL forwards to play at least 500 5-on-5 minutes since he signed with Tampa four years ago:
- 2016-17: 334th out of 352 forwards
- 2015-16: 325 out of 352
- 2014-15: 358 out of 362
- 2013-14: 290 out of 344
Now, in and of itself, that’s not necessarily a problem. With the right personnel around a pass-first player, chemistry and success can certainly be found. The issue here is that the Flyers may not have that personnel readily available in their forward ranks.
Below, you’ll see a table that shows each NHL team’s 5-on-5 shots on goal per 60 minutes from their forwards last season. You’ll notice that Flyers forwards don’t stack up very well in this shot-volume measure, ranking 24th among the league’s 30 teams — and of the six teams below them by this measure, four of them were the four worst teams in the NHL last season.
(It’s also worth noting that these numbers don’t take into account the fact that the Flyers recently acquired Jori Lehtera, whose career shot counts in the NHL are pretty similar to Filppula’s.)
Some of this may be a product of tactics. The Flyers rely on shots from their defensemen a lot (Radko Gudas and Shayne Gostisbehere say hello), and maybe this would change a bit if the coaches tried relying less on low-to-high tactics and more on other means of offense that generate shots for their forwards.
With that said, any number that suggests the Flyers don’t have many big-time shooters up front probably fits with the eye test. Who on this team really strikes you as much of a gunner? And as it pertains to Filppula, how many if any of those guys are likely to spend much time in a bottom-6 role?
Konecny, who was the team’s leader among season regulars in shots per 60, may get there, but he’s still a work in progress. Simmonds can be willing, but he’s more of a go-to-the-net-and-find-it guy than a pure shooter. And either way, it’d be surprising to see either of them spending much time in the bottom half of the lineup. If the team drops Jordan Weal onto Filppula’s line, he may have the willingness to shoot the puck enough for his linemate if his stint with the Flyers last season was any indication.
But the fact that that may be the team’s best bet at finding a “fit” alongside Filppula this year says a lot about how awkward this situation could become. Finding success for Filppula this year could hinge on the Flyers playing him alongside a player with a skill, but it’s a skill that the Flyers as a whole are already lacking in, and said player can’t have so much of it that he won’t be a lock to be in the top-6. It’s a challenge, and there may not be a good answer.
The biggest wild-card here, though, could be the guy pushing Filppula out of his “original” 3C spot in the lineup: Nolan Patrick. Among the No. 2 overall pick’s appealing skills is a strong shot and a willingness to use it, and that could work out alright with a pass-first forward like Filppula. The big problem there, of course, is that Filppula and Patrick play the same position.
Which brings us to our next question.
3. Is a shift to the wing for Filppula inevitable?
As of right now, the average Flyers fan could be forgiven for drawing up some projected opening-night lines without even considering the possibility that Valtteri Filppula is playing at center. That’s because the team already has players down the middle that figure to be natural fits at each center line.
Claude Giroux, for all the questions surrounding him, will be the Flyers’ top-line center this season. Sean Couturier will remain the second-line center by name. If Nolan Patrick does make the Flyers, the third-line center role seems like where he would probably start out. And Scott Laughton, who the Flyers protected in expansion this past June, figures to be the clubhouse leader for the fourth-line center position.
That leaves Filppula without a spot at his natural position, and it’s tough to know what he can really do to change it. Giroux isn’t going anywhere (and, even if he was, Filppula isn’t taking his place at this point in his career), nor is Couturier, and it’s hard to imagine that the Flyers wouldn’t immediately get Patrick started out at his natural position.
Which means that if the Flyers see Filppula as a player who will get regular minutes, his best chance at doing so (short of Patrick not making the team) will likely be on the wing. That’s not something Filppula did much of in Tampa, but here it may be his only choice.
There’s just one problem there: even a spot on the wing doesn’t come with any guarantees on this Flyers team. The ranks are looking pretty full there as well — Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Jordan Weal, Oskar Lindblom, Travis Konecny, and Michael Raffl are all guys that figure to be in top-9 winger roles, and Filppula being in one would mean one of them getting pushed down to the fourth line (or off the team).
All of which is to say what we already knew: there’s no obvious fit for Filppula on this roster right now. He probably has some skill left in him, but it’s tough to see the Flyers prioritizing him over young players that may have a spot in this team’s long-term future or vets that are simply better players than he is.
Ron Hextall has at multiple points mentioned how much he like the way the Flyers’ forward lines looked late in the season, after Filppula was acquired and after Jordan Weal was called up. He said as much about a week before the team won the lottery back in April. But right now, there’s enough forward talent on this team that some guys are going to have to be playing in some places where they don’t want to be, whether that’s a different spot on the ice or on a different team.
Filppula, the oldest player on the Flyers, is the easiest player to have a tough conversation with about that, no matter how much the team may like him. His having a no-movement clause means he’s not going anywhere unless a trade comes around that’s ideal for all parties involved, but unless he comes right in at training camp and wows everyone, he may be forced to play out of position this year if he’s looking for steady ice time with the Flyers.
After Nolan Patrick surprisingly doesn’t make the Flyers, Filppula ends up in the third-line center role we all expected him to be in. But his play doesn’t end up anywhere near where the Flyers were hoping it would be, as the third line struggles to generate offense with too few guys that are willing to shoot the puck. Filppula’s scoring rates and play-driving abilities crater to fourth-line levels, all while the team insists on keeping him in the lineup to provide a veteran presence. In the end, everyone ends up looking on his one full year with the Flyers as time that should have been given to a young player instead.
While it wasn’t quite in the way he and the Flyers had initially envisioned, Filppula ends up being a key part of the Flyers’ top-9 after all. Nolan Patrick makes the team out of camp, and Filppula complements him very well as a pass-first wing that allows the young center to fire away at will. Filppula’s scoring rates balloon up to second-line levels, and he ends up being a roughly-even relative possession player. His play gives the Flyers some flexibility when the trade deadline rolls around: they can keep him around and continue to play him with the rookie/rookies, or (if he agrees to it) they could look to send him to another potential playoff team, getting some value out of the 33-year-old’s expiring contract and giving him a chance to get back to the postseason all while opening up a spot for another forward to get some ice time.
Previously in Philadelphia Flyers 2017-18 Season Previews:
Subject: Jon Dorenbos Had An Aortic Aneurysm
Subject: Why Philly Would Be a Good Home For Amazon
Subject: RADIO WARS: Jason Myrtetus and Harry Mayes Will Be The New 97.5 Midday Show
Subject: Anthony Stolarz undergoes surgery to repair torn meniscus, will be out indefinitely
It’s a tough break for the Phantoms’ top goalie and the Flyers’ top call-up option, who underwent surgery on his other knee in the spring.
Some surprising and unfortunate news comes this Friday afternoon, a week before the Flyers are set to begin training camp:
G Anthony Stolarz underwent surgery on his left knee yesterday to repair a meniscus tear. He’ll be out indefinitely: https://t.co/lgbefT9SY4— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) September 8, 2017
Stolarz is already coming off of an MCL tear in his right knee, as was reported at the time by The Inquirer, that he suffered in April of last season. That injury kept him out of the Calder Cup Playoffs, but figured to have him back and ready for training camp.
This time around, he’ll be undergoing surgery on his left knee, so it would appear this isn’t a case of re-aggravating an old injury.
Still, it’s a tough break for Stolarz and one that couldn’t have come at a much worse time. This year figured to be a big season for Stolarz, who is on a one-year contract and is entering his fourth season with the Phantoms. He figured to have the upper hand on the goalie competition going on there with Alex Lyon. But with Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom both potentially looking to join the North American pro ranks next year, both Stolarz and Lyon will need to be on their games this season.
Obviously, it will be difficult for Stolarz to do that for the forseeable future, since he will not be on the ice for a while. Meniscus tears can vary widely in severity and recovery time, so it’s anyone’s guess how long of a time “indefinitely” will be, but the fact that the injury needed surgery is surely not a good sign.
And not only does this hurt Stolarz and the Phantoms, it’s also a tough break for the Flyers. Stolarz looked good in limited action last season, and he figured to be the team’s first call-up option — a crucial position for a player to hold given Michal Neuvirth’s propensity to get injured. That honor probably goes to Lyon for the time being, and while the team likes and seems to trust him, the stakes of a potential injury to one of the Flyers’ two NHL-level goalies just got a bit higher.
In the meantime, Lyon will likely take the reins in Allentown, while Leland Irving — who the team signed to an AHL deal last week — figures to back him up until Stolarz is healthy, whenever that may be.
The full text of the Flyers’ release on Stolarz can be seen below:
The Philadelphia Flyers announced today that goaltender Anthony Stolarz underwent surgery on his left knee to repair a meniscus tear on Thursday, Sept. 7, according to General Manager Ron Hextall. He will be out indefinitely.
Stolarz spent the summer rehabbing at the Flyers practice facility after he suffered an injury at the end of the club's American Hockey League affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, season on the night that they qualified for the Calder Cup playoffs.
Selected by the Flyers in the second round (45th overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Stolarz recently completed his third pro season with the organization.
He made his NHL debut with the Flyers last season, on Nov. 27, 2016, where he earned his first career win in a 5-3 victory over the Calgary Flames after he stopped 29 of 32 shots.
In his second career NHL start, on Dec. 11, 2016, he stopped all 28 shots he faced to give the Flyers a 1-0 overtime win at Detroit for his first NHL shutout. The game was also the Flyers final game at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena.
He appeared in seven total games for the Flyers in 2016-17 where he recorded a 2-1-1 mark to go along with a 2.07 GAA and .928 save percentage. Following the season, Stolarz was the goaltender they chose to protect in the 2017 Expansion Draft for the Vegas Golden Knights.
He also spent time with the Phantoms, where he recorded a 18-9-0 record with a 2.92 GAA and .911 save percentage in 2016-17.
In 2015-16, he was named to 2016 AHL All-Star Classic for the club's AHL affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
In major junior hockey, he was the starting goaltender for the London Knights of the OHL in back-to-back Memorial Cup appearances (2013 & 2014), which also included winning the OHL Championship in 2013.
Subject: Jeffrey Lurie Puts Out Statement About Jon Dorenbos
Subject: Eagles-Redskins Predictions
Subject: Wayne Simmonds, now in Pop! form
Pop! figures are everywhere — they’re practically unavoidable. And somehow the bubble hasn’t popped on them yet.
Today, Funko announced that the NHL Series 2 — its second set of Pop! figures for NHL players — is coming this fall, and it features none other than our favorite local train, Wayne Simmonds.
Wayne is the first Flyer to appear on the seemingly never ending line of Pop! figures. Somehow these things keep flying off the shelves, even though they do not share many characteristics with their real life counterparts. They have small bodies, big heads and no mouths. But that doesn't stop people from spending money on them.
As you can see, this figure ... kind of looks like Wayne? They both have eyes, and a nose. Ears too! His eyebrows are a bit goofy, but are the standard on most Pop figures. The detail on the jersey looks excellent, even with Wayne’s “A” being absent on his figure.
But for a price point around $10, this is a neat knickknack to put on the desk at the office, or perhaps in your room — anywhere you wish!