The Philadelphia sports scene is already overcrowded. But here's one more thing.
The Philadelphia sports scene is already overcrowded. But here's one more thing.
Published December 28, 2019
Last year, Philly Sports Complex singled out individual Philly sports personalities with a list of the 10 worst sports figures of 2018. We won’t be so harsh this year,with 2019 rapidly coming to a close. Instead, let’s take a brief look at the 10 worst events/themes/trends that Philadelphia sports had to offer this year.
10. Phillies hang Kapler out to dry
Look, nobody was a fan of Gabe Kapler. It was a painful two years. But we’re all human, and the way that the Phillies left Kapler’s fate basically hanging in the balance at the end of the season was pretty uncalled for. Frankly, I thought it would damage his chances of catching on somewhere else at the major league level, but old Gabe still managed to land the Giants’ managerial job.
If I’m being honest, I hope that Gabe actually finds some success in the Bay Area. I don’t think he’s a bad guy, or even a bad manager really. This town at this point in time just ended up being a bad fit for him. The organization could have been a little more classy in relieving him of his duties.
9. Embiid’s donut
On November 25, the Sixers went into Toronto to face the Raptors for the first time since the teams’ playoff meeting back in the spring. It was a chance to make a statement, which Joel Embiid did, albeit for all the wrong reasons.
The big man was held scoreless over 32 minutes of play, shooting 0 for 11 from the field and 0 for 3 from the line.
Amazingly, the 76ers still had a chance to win in the game’s final seconds, but they ultimately lost 101-96. It was an embarrassing performance that we’d all like to soon forget. So we’re bringing it up here of course.
8. Flyers’ goaltender carousel
During the 2018-19 season, the Flyers set an NHL record by using eight different goaltenders due to numerous injuries and some shaky play. If you want to be technical about it, only six of those netminders suited up for the Flyers during the calendar year of 2019, but it was still an awful experience.
Thankfully, the emergence of Carter Hart has softened the blow, and we hopefully won’t have to deal with any such tomfoolery for many years. But the crease carousel that last year’s Flyers went through was laughably bad. At least, it would have been laughable if we weren’t crying so much.
7. Eagles locker room discord
Some of the shine had worn off of Carson Wentz by the end of last year, but things really started to get ugly in 2019. Reports surfaced about some players (Alshon Jeffery) badmouthing Wentz, and a general feeling began to emerge that maybe Wentz didn’t have the full confidence of his teammates, as opposed to the departed Nick Foles.
Stories like this popped up throughout the year, thanks to the likes of Orlando Scandrick, only serving to distract from the team’s on-field efforts and results. And while I do understand the desire for juicy news in pro sports, most of this was garbage that we didn’t need in our lives.
6. Another second half swoon for Phillies
Item #10 on this list referenced the Phillies’ treatment of Gabe Kapler at the conclusion of the season. What necessitated his ouster, of course, was another collapse. It wasn’t as egregious as 2018 on its surface, but the expectations had been so much higher with the likes of Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto in the fold.
Instead, the Phillies got lapped by the likes of the Braves and the Nationals, even having to watch Harper’s former club win their first World Series. Let’s try not to think about anything that happened from about late June onward in baseball this year.
5. Sixers cough up Raptors series
Before Kawhi Leonard hit the cheapest shot in NBA history to deliver a heart-breaking Game 7 loss, the Sixers had this series. They really had it. Leading two games to one, Game 4 in Philadelphia was up for grabs in the fourth quarter. But Toronto would eventually win that one to even the series. The home team would win the final three games, which culminated of course in Leonard’s shot heard ‘round the world.
But miracles aside, it felt like the Sixers let the Raptors off the hook. Most notably, Joel Embiid battled an illness during the series that had people seriously questioning his conditioning. Ultimately, everyone in Philadelphia was left feeling sick by the result of the series. And you just knew the Raptors would end up winning it all, which they did. Ugh.
4. Personnel foul
Let’s just say that 2019 was not Eagles’ GM Howie Roseman’s finest year. From the draft to free agency, seemingly nothing worked. It does seem that Miles Sanders is heading toward stardom after a rocky start, but not much else of impact came out of this year’s draft class for the Eagles. Maybe JJ Arcega-Whiteside turns the corner at some point, but eventually it will all come down to how Andre Dillard develops.
The less said about the Eagles’ free agency moves, the better. Seemingly everything blew up in their face. Some guys got hurt and others were so ineffective they got cut. Howie needs to take a different approach in all facets of personnel management in 2020.
3. “If we don’t, we don’t”
The dumbest line of the year, uttered by Phillies President Andy MacPhail back in July about the team’s prospects for the playoffs. Nothing in his statements that day were necessarily incorrect; it was just pretty demoralizing to hear a higher-up in an organization be so dismissive about his club after ownership had shelled out hundreds of millions of dollars just a few months before.
Honestly, I don’t know what MacPhail does for the club, so someone please let me know if you have an idea. Because if the job just entails showing up once a year and saying inane things to enrage fans, I’ll do it.
2. Medical malpractice
Every sports team gets injuries. That’s just a fact. But an inordinate amount of said maladies have made their way to Philadelphia this year. From the Phillies’ bullpen to the Eagles’ secondary and then seemingly all of their skill players (except Carson Wentz, strangely enough), it has been a ridiculous year for the walking wounded in town.
Is it oversimplifying things to say that every team doctor, trainer and strength/conditioning coach in town had an awful year? Yes, it is. But it’s true. Every injury turned into a multi-week frustration, with a few ending up as season-ending catastrophes. Coincidence? Maybe. But I can’t remember a single year in Philly sports where so many major injuries occurred.
1. NFC East “race”
This gets the top spot, even though it may turn out just fine in the end. The Eagles and Cowboys have made a sham of the playoffs with their “I got it, you take it” act all year. In any other division in football, neither would have had a chance. But thanks to the Giants and Redskins’ ineptitude, we knew that one or the other had to make the playoffs.
Here’s hoping that the Birds pull it off and make this whole farce worthwhile. Because even in an embarrassing situation, I’ll take a playoff appearance over sitting at home. Plus, it’d feel so good to rub it in the Cowboys’ faces yet again.
So maybe this wasn’t really the “worst” thing this year in Philly sports, but I think it was just too memorable to not lock down the top spot.
Curb your enthusiasm. (David Swanson/Inquirer Staff)
Published December 4, 2019
Players across all of sports will usually take the diplomatic route and tell you how important the team’s fans are to them. But for this year’s Flyers, they appear to be getting the job done without much support.
After last night’s 6-1 win over Toronto moved them to a mighty impressive record of 9-1-4 at the Wells Fargo Center so far this season, I find myself in the group of people scratching their heads at another number in the box score: the attendance.
Last night, it was a paltry 15,811, which is a season low. And this was against a Maple Leafs team that is one of the more star-studded in the league.
Furthermore, look at the attendance for other recent Flyers home games…
Maybe Flyers fans just don’t like seeing foreign teams?
That aside, even the more “attractive” games on the schedule are still falling several hundred to one thousand fans short of a sellout. And while people’s lives are hectic and prices continue to go up and up, I think the overriding factor is that Flyers fans, even the most hardcore, have finally taken a “prove it” mentality when it comes to this franchise that they’ve blindly given their time, money and energy to for so long.
For each and every year of the Wells Fargo (or whatever bank) Center, the team has averaged over 19,000 fans. The Flyers’ relatively small but fiercely loyal fanbase has put the organization in a comfortable spot for over two decades.
But no more. This team is going to need to play good hockey and win games to keep butts in the seats and eyeballs on the team, lest they fade into a totally irrelevant place in this town.
Given that the team is 16-7-5 so far this season and looking like strong playoff contenders, they look like they’ve finally gotten the memo.
The Flyers look like they will still finish with their lowest average attendance since the days of the Spectrum, but if they continue this kind of play, they deserve for the building to be packed each night for the rest of the year.
And it very well may be. You get the fans to believe, and they will come. It’s not quite Field of Dreams, but it’s a similar concept.
The Flyers’ finished third in the league in average attendance last year, a number that was somewhat fudged by their home game at Lincoln Financial Field. But in the standings, where it mattered, they didn’t even register.
This year, we’ll all happily take the reversal. The people will come, and the attendance numbers will creep up.
For the first time in a long time, the Flyers are having to earn their fans.
So far, so good.
Very few people actually saw this on Tuesday night. (Tom Gralish/Inquirer Staff)
Published November 19, 2019
Ok, so that headline was just meant to grab attention. I’m going to walk it back some. But the point still remains...Kevin Hayes has been a disappointment so far in his first season with the Flyers.
With just 8 points through 21 games, he isn’t giving the Flyers nearly the kind of production that they need from a guy they’re paying $7,142,857 to this season and each of the next six years beyond this one.
Everyone knew it was an overpay when the Flyers gave Hayes the contract, but we all kind of grudgingly admitted that it was a necessary evil. The team’s own failures in the last few years had led to the kind of situation where they could only attract talent by overpaying, and third-year center Nolan Patrick hadn’t shown the necessary progress yet to inspire any confidence as the #2 center going forward.
And so, the thinking went, Hayes could effectively fill the #2 center slot for a time until Patrick fully found his game.
Well, this has certainly backfired so far.
Patrick hasn’t seen the ice yet this season as he continues to battle a migraine disorder, and Hayes is on pace for the lowest scoring output of his career with over a quarter of the season in the books.
Early on in the year, Kevin Hayes was very noticeable, using his considerable size and reach to create offense. All he was missing was the finish. But it seemed to be a matter of time before the goals and points started flowing.
Hayes would deliver, scoring in three straight games, the last of which was an excellent 3-point performance in a win over Columbus on October 26. It looked like he had found his groove for the Flyers. But after notching an assist the following night, Hayes then went on a 10-game scoreless streak, which he only was able to stop with a measly secondary assist on Travis Sanheim’s goal in their loss to Florida on Tuesday.
Hayes was later victimized at the end of the game when he was pickpocketed in the neutral zone, leading to an empty net goal for the Panthers. It was honestly the most I noticed him on the night. And while it didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, it was still emblematic of his inability to make an impact thus far.
Sorry, but even if the effort is there and it’s mostly a matter of bad luck to this point, Hayes’ results are unacceptable. I think it was reasonable to expect somewhere around 20 goals and 50 points from Hayes this year, but those totals seem more and more unattainable with each passing game where he fails to make any kind of positive contribution.
To be fair to the guy, the team has many more problems beyond his lack of production, and he’s not the only veteran player who deserves to be called out. But his contract and the expectation it carries created a target on his back. Throw in the fact that this is a critical year for his new franchise as they frantically try to get back in the good graces of an increasingly disenchanted fanbase, and this has all the earmarks of a disaster to this point.
Kevin Hayes isn’t going anywhere thanks to his contract. He’ll be a Flyer for a long time. There is still a lot of time for him to begin producing and turn things around. But at this moment, the team needs him to do his part so that their good start to the season doesn’t go down the drain like it’s seemingly in the process of doing.
Hayes has to be a lot better, and it needs to start soon.
Because right now he sucks.
Is it 2026 yet? (Photo by Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke)
Published November 16, 2019
The New York Islanders came into Philadelphia riding high, owners of a 13-game point streak. The Flyers had their shot to make a statement. They built a 3-0 lead after two periods. And then they threw it all away.
In what I hope and pray will be the worst period of hockey they play all season, the Flyers looked absolutely petrified in the third on Saturday night, allowing the Islanders to come all the way back to tie the game.
The Flyers were only outshot 12-10, but that doesn’t tell the tale of how tilted the ice was. And while I realize that the Flyers were trying to close out the game after having played the night before, a team simply has to be good enough to lock this kind of thing down, especially on home ice and against a division rival that you are supposedly jockeying with in the standings.
Instead, the Flyers forgot how to make a proper line change to gift the Islanders their first goal. Then they decided to play with six men on the ice, giving the Islanders a power play which they’d of course score on.
On the tying goal, it was vintage Dave Hakstol-era Flyers hockey, as they failed to get it out of their own zone (the supposedly steady Matt Niskanen doing the honors) and then saw their goaltender fall over himself in an attempt to make a save.
At this point, I was about 90% certain that the Flyers were going to lose. Even the overtime was terrible, as the Flyers were afraid to take any shots. Again, I get it, they were tired. It was still terrible to watch, especially when Travis Konecny decided to make a pass for no reason instead of shooting when there were two seconds on the clock.
The shootout was classic Flyers, as they lost in the most expeditious way possible. Two goals against on two shots. 0 for 2 on their own shots. Game over.
They don’t even deserve the “loser point” that they got for this one.
It was also another game of zero points for Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Kevin Hayes. Can someone locate the safe house where these guys are hiding? This might require further exploration in another article, but suffice it to say that the Flyers need a ton more from a trio of players making over $20 million.
For as good as last weekend was (road shootout wins in Toronto and Boston), the Flyers basically gave back all that progress this weekend with a pitiful 2-1 loss at Ottawa on Friday followed up by this steaming mess against the Islanders.
The only logical conclusion that anyone can make right now is that this team still has a long way to go before it should be considered any kind of threat to do anything.
Now will they rise to the occasion in coming games, or is this the beginning of the wheels coming off?
Proof that Giroux actually played. Could have fooled me. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Published November 12, 2019
Former Phillies’ manager Gabe Kapler is strongly being considered to become the next skipper of the San Francisco Giants. Believe it or not.
And while it’s not a foregone conclusion just yet that Kapler will be hired, let’s jump the gun for a moment and consider what would happen if he got the job.
For his former organization, this would represent a golden opportunity to honor the man when Kapler brings the Giants to town during the 2020 season. As it just so happens, San Fran will be in for a long weekend series that spans from Friday, August 7 through Monday, August 10, presenting the Phillies ample opportunity for creative ways to show their appreciation for his two years of service in town.
A member of Phillies management, who has asked to remain anonymous, recently leaked the team’s tentative plans to PhillySportsComplex, and we are happy to share them with you here.
Friday, August 7
Things kick off with an emotional pre-game ceremony when Phillies GM Matt Klentak takes the field to present Gabe Kapler with a bouquet of roses. Attached is a heartfelt note that reads “I wish I could quit you”. Team president Andy MacPhail sends his regards on PhanaVision via a pre-recorded video message that was shot at the undisclosed location where he is spending the entire season.
Kapler also grabs a microphone and announces that he will blame Maikel Franco after every loss for the rest of his managerial career in what will go down in history as his “Oilest Man on the Face of the Earth” speech.
Saturday, August 8
Before the game, Gabe Kapler ventures into the stands to select a pair of fans to throw out the ceremonial first pitches even though they haven’t been given a chance to properly warm up. Ultimately, he takes too long and incurs the wrath of home plate umpire “Cowboy” Joe West, now in his 84th MLB season. West ejects Kapler, effectively ruining all of the festivities that the Phillies had planned for the day.
But, team player that he is, Kapler decides to make the most of his time by taking food and drink orders in the Diamond Club during the game. It’s just par for the course for a guy who was known to call season ticket holders during his time with the Phillies. Kapler also rakes the infield after the game.
Sunday, August 9
Kapler is memorialized for all time in the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame. At least, that’s what the Phillies tell him as they present him with a plaque that they unveil before the game in the janitor’s closet, right next to a similar marker for Ryne Sandberg. Aaron Nola starts the game for the Phillies, mowing down the Giants and throwing just 47 pitches through the first five innings. Then, for old time’s sake, Kapler is allowed to remove him from the game and let a different position player pitch each of the last four frames.
Kapler’s best buddy Sean Rodriguez is also slated to make an appearance, as he will receive a one-game callup from whatever independent league, backwater town he has been toiling away in since April. And Gabe will find time postgame to share an embrace with Andrew Knapp, but only after Knapp’s 18-year old boss lets him clock out from his job at the Phanatic Phun Zone once he finishes mopping up all of the kid pee.
Monday, August 10
For the final contest in the four-game series, all balls will be rubbed down with Kap’s special coconut oil concoction. To clarify, I’m talking about the baseballs that are to be used in the game. What did you think?
Following the game, at Kapler’s request, all fans are invited to jog around the bases without suffering any consequences for their lack of hustle.
Finally, with the Phillies departing for a long road trip at the conclusion of the series, Kapler assists the grounds crew one last time in putting the tarp on the infield since he’s always enjoyed covering things up.
So make sure to grab your Phillies-Giants tickets soon. You won’t want to miss this spectacle. Unless Kapler doesn’t get hired. Then you can feel free to sit this out.
"I'm Gabe Kapler, and I approve whatever this is". (Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Published November 5, 2019
When it comes to the Flyers trying to sell us on the young talent within their organization, we should always have a healthy dose of skepticism even as we all do our best at Keeping the Faith.
But this time, with Joel Farabee, it just feels different.
The Flyers’ first round pick (14th overall) from 2018 has just 8 games of NHL action under his belt at this time, but he’s been making an impact on a nightly basis, an encouraging sign for player and team alike as the Flyers face the Pressure to get back to the playoffs this coming spring.
The stats don’t jump off the page at you, with Farabee managing just three points so far, but that doesn’t tell the whole tale. What I’m seeing right now is a hungry young player who is visible on every shift. He’s generating a lot of offense, even if the puck doesn’t always go into the net. Farabee was probably the Flyers’ best player throughout the preseason, but he seemed to be snakebitten and had nothing to show on the scoresheet for his efforts. It was reasonable to worry that he might dwell on it once the games started to count.
Ultimately, the Flyers decided to keep Farabee in Allentown with the Phantoms to start the season. But he quickly showed that he was too good for the AHL and This Is the Time for a callup.
Farabee seems right away like he belongs in the NHL, even at just 19 years old. Look no further than the third period of Tuesday night’s win over the Carolina Hurricanes. Farabee made a deft play in the defensive end to deflect the puck away from a Carolina player that looked like a sure goal otherwise. Later on in the same shift, he scored an important insurance goal after an outstanding individual effort. He really looked like a Big Shot.
Farabee seems to be making a difference in big moments like these already. Let’s not forget that his first NHL goal, scored last Friday against the Devils, tied the game in the third period. It wasn’t some last-minute tally in a blowout game. The coaching staff is bringing him along steadily in high-leverage situations, and he seems to be rewarding their faith. There are clear signs that they are telling Farabee “We like you Just the Way You Are”.
I do need to give credit to the Flyers’ “Sign Man” Dave Leonardi, who held up a “PHILLY JOEL” sign after Farabee’s goal on Tuesday night. Maybe we should take this for a test drive and see how it works out. Sign Man, You May Be Right. It just may be Farabee we’re looking for.
Point is, Farabee was a first round pick for a reason, and the early returns are looking good for the Flyers. He’s a welcome sight for a team that has seemingly been waiting for The Longest Time for good news. Who knows, maybe #49 Flyers jerseys will be hot-sellers at some point in the near future. God knows that the Flyers need something other than Gritty to fall back on.
It’s always been A Matter of Trust between the Flyers and their fans, and it’s hasn’t been pretty in recent years. But it looks like Farabee could be legitimate. Everybody Has a Dream of the Stanley Cup finally coming back to Philadelphia sometime, and maybe Philly Joel is just the ticket to help make that happen.
I wouldn’t bet My Life on it, but I’m really liking what I see so far.
He didn't start the Flyers. He's just on the team. (Matt Slocum/AP)
Published October 27, 2019
The Eagles entered Sunday in a tight spot, having been thoroughly outplayed in their last two games. Not only that, but they were finishing up their 3-game, Phillies playoff-induced road trip by taking on a 5-1 Bills team in adverse weather conditions and all of the generally terrible Buffalo-ness that comes along with such a visit.
But the Eagles delivered, and Carson Wentz was efficient in engineering what ended up being a comfortable victory on the scoresheet.
It wasn’t actually that easy, especially in a sloppy first half, but the Birds turned it on when they needed to. Doug Pederson came out with an especially good gameplan to pound the ball, similar to the Eagles’ win in Green Bay with their backs against the wall four weeks ago. Why is it that Doug only seems to bring his A-game in the most critical of spots? Still, we’ll take it.
The Eagles move to 4-4, half a game back of the idle Cowboys atop the NFC East. They have a few more tough contests coming up, but don’t forget that the Eagles have yet to face the awful Miami Dolphins this year. They also have both of their games against the Giants and another meeting with the Redskins on the schedule. I’m not saying they’re absolutely going to go 4-0 in those games, but things are definitely looking up a lot more than after they got pasted in Dallas last week.
In this game against Buffalo, the defense was swarming, the offense ate up the clock, and the Eagles showed that they weren’t scared against a Bills team that, despite an excellent record, really had faced mostly inferior competition so far this year.
Miles Sanders was looking especially good before leaving with a shoulder injury, so let’s hope that he’s not out for an extended period just as he was starting to show what he is capable of. And Jordan Howard continued to show his value, as he came up just short of becoming the first Eagles’ runner to crack the century mark on the ground in over two years.
This was the Eagles’ first win in Buffalo since September 28, 2003. That sounds crazy, but remember they only play there once every eight years, so that was just two meetings ago. I didn’t even see that game because it happened to be played on the day of the Phillies’ last home game at Veteran Stadium, which I was attending. I recall there being Eagles updates on the scoreboard that day, back in the pre-smartphone era. Seems like eons ago.
Anyway, a good “answer the critics” performance by the Eagles today as they rest up and get ready to finally come back home for a game against the Chicago Bears next Sunday. The sky isn’t falling, as many fans (and Orlando Scandrick) would tell you.
There are no guarantees going forward, but the Eagles have made sure that they’ll be playing meaningful football deep into the season.
Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images
Published October 23, 2019
Over the past week or so, it has become clear that the competition to become the next manager of the Philadelphia Phillies is now down to three men: Dusty Baker, Joe Girardi and Buck Showalter. All three are very experienced managers and, like Liam Neeson, bring their own particular set of skills to the table.
But which of these gentlemen jive the best with the current identity of the Phillies? Who is best suited to steer them to where they want to be after the failed Gabe Kapler experiment?
Lucky for you, I’ve taken it upon myself to break down each candidate, in an effort to determine what the Phillies’ final decision should be.
PRO: In an effort to appease Phillies owner/cigar magnate John Middleton, Dusty has agreed to retire his toothpick and go back to smoking if offered the job.
CON: Largely credited with being the co-creator of the high five, Dusty would definitely not be on board with what he calls “that stupid Fortnite thing” the Phillies keep doing.
PRO: Managed the Cubs from 2003-06, so you know he can rock those pinstripes at home.
CON: He’s 70, so you have to expect he’ll forget how to get to Citizens Bank Park multiple times this season.
PRO: As Bryce Harper knows firsthand from playing for Dusty in Washington in 2016 and 2017, if the Phillies want someone who can lead them to a 5-game series loss in the first round, Dusty is their guy.
CON: Again, at 70, he may not even want to leave Florida at the end of spring training.
PRO: Will do his best to make sure Phillies game are as short as possible so he can be in bed by 10:30.
CON: Is so “old school” and opposed to analytics that he’s been spending an inordinate amount of time looking over scouting reports of Three Finger Brown and Lefty Grove lately.
CON: Looks like he would probably strangle half the team by mid-May.
PRO: Girardi has twice as many World Series rings as the Phillies have championships in franchise history, so he simply knows how to win.
CON: Being that he’s so accustomed to winning…maybe this isn’t the place for him.
PRO: With over 1200 games of big league catching experience, he could play once a week to give J.T. Realmuto a break. Even at age 55, he’d be a far superior option to Andrew Knapp.
CON: Is being seriously considered for the Mets job also, so why would you want the same thing that they do?
PRO: Knows where to get the best slices in town.
CON: Has already stated that he is not on board with the Phillies’ “Let the Phanatic Co-Manage a Series” policy.
PRO: After managing the Orioles to a 47-115 record in 2018, this Phillies job is going to seem like a cakewalk.
CON: Will have real trouble moving all of the 200-pound weights that Gabe Kapler left lying around the manager’s office.
PRO: Has a previously existing relationship with Phillies president Andy MacPhail and GM Matt Klentak.
CON: Has a previously existing relationship with Phillies president Andy MacPhail and GM Matt Klentak, so…ew.
PRO: Teams always win after he leaves, so logic says that the Phillies need to hire him now if they want to compete for the 2024 World Series.
CON: Still gets mad royalties from that cameo he made one time on Seinfeld, so he really doesn’t even need this job.
PRO: Has been heavily criticized for bullpen mismanagement, but you actually need a bullpen for that to come into play, so it won’t be a major stumbling block if he gets hired.
CON: Has already gotten on Greg Luzinki’s bad side by stating that Bull’s BBQ is inferior to Boog’s BBQ.
It depends what the Phillies want. All of these managers would improve the club, no doubt. But can they get the team to the lofty heights to which they aspire? Based on what I’ve seen from this group of players, the answer is no.
So just stick Larry Bowa behind the bench and call it a day.
Published October 17, 2019
For the second straight season, the Flyers couldn’t manage a single victory during their annual 3-game tour of western Canada. And just about the only positive you could draw from this week was that it didn’t cost the coach his job like last season’s winless trip did.
The quick rundown…
So, where are we with the Flyers right now? If you told me a few weeks ago that they’d be 2-2-1 after their first five games, I’d have taken that on the spot. Going to Europe for one game, coming home for one game against a (supposedly) improved Devils team and then embarking on a three game western trip was not any kind of recipe for early success.
But the disheartening part of this is that the Flyers looked really good in their first two games. They played fast, and they looked cohesive. They deserved to win both games, and then carried that over into the Vancouver game. How did they become hot garbage once they entered Alberta in the middle of this week?
They aren’t back in action until Saturday night, as they’ll be back at home against the Dallas Stars, a team off to a legitimately horrible 1-6-1 start. They should be highly motivated, and the Flyers had better bring it.
The sky isn’t falling, but the Flyers must mitigate these losing streaks, lest they fall back of the competitive pack in the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference. This 0-2-1 road trip needs to prove to be more of an annoyance than the start of a disturbing trend.
Hart has to shake off his poor night in Edmonton. The team needs to get some scoring from the support staff like James van Riemsdyk. And maybe even Jakub Voracek has awoken from his slumber after a largely cosmetic 3-point effort against the Oilers.
The Flyers failed this latest test, but it’s time to just move on. The hope is that Alain Vigneault won’t allow them to continue to slide. This is where an experienced coach earns his money.
Let’s see how they respond.
Carter Hart and the Flyers got torched in Edmonton. (Jason Franson/AP)
Published October 12, 2019
First off, I realize the Flyers were already “on the road” for their “home” game in the Czech Republic last week. But this time it’s different as they’ll be in enemy territory for their annual swing through western Canada this week.
As a fan, I love watching these games, earning a badge of honor for staying up late to see them. It would be a dream to take the trip in person sometime. But this year I’ll be watching from the comfort of my own living room as the Flyers trek through Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.
Apparently, the Flyers preferred getting this trip out of the way early in the season, although it remains unclear if they were trying to do the Phillies a favor by vacating the sports complex during MLB playoff time.
What I do know, though, is that like said Phils, the Flyers have wilted several times recently during these trips out west, although not to the staggering degree that the baseball club does. Here’s a glimpse at their last five results on this trip...
Flyers took their western Canada trip unusually late in the season, as they attempted to hang in the playoff picture during a mid-March road swing. They actually started this particular trip with a shootout loss in Ottawa before heading to Vancouver. They’d drop that one 4-1, and then lost in Calgary two nights later by the same score.
A miserable road trip concluded with an overtime loss in Edmonton. As a reminder, this was the pre-Connor McDavid Oilers who finished with the third worst record in the league before winning the lottery so that they could draft the superstar.
The 0-2-2 Canada trip sealed the Flyers’ fate of missing the playoffs, and it largely contributed to Craig Berube’s firing after the season. Word is that Berube ending up doing ok a few years later, though.
The Flyers would be back out west just eight months later, very early on in Dave Hakstol’s first season behind the bench. Again, they’d lose 4-1 in Vancouver. Then 4-2 in Edmonton. Finally, they dropped an overtime game in Calgary to again go winless in western Canada, although they’d beat Winnipeg 3-0 two nights later. But it was another bad trip nonetheless.
It would be well over a year until the Orange and Black found themselves in the western outposts again, in February of 2017. They lost in Calgary and Edmonton on back-to-back nights but then finally regrouped to win in Vancouver. In that contest, the Flyers built a 3-0 lead before surrendering a pair of goals in the second period, hanging on for the last 27 minutes to escape with the 3-2 victory.
Success at last in western Canada. It had been a while.
The team would perform tremendously in its next trip, which came in December of 2017. The Flyers managed to sweep all three games. They won 5-2 in Calgary, 4-2 in Edmonton and 4-1 in Vancouver. Brian Elliott was sensational, stopping 103 of 108 shots en route to three victories.
Most amazingly, the Flyers had begun the trip in the midst of a 10-game losing streak (0-5-5). If they weren’t already dead and buried, the consensus was that this would be the tipping point for major changes as murmurs about firing Hakstol began to intensify.
But the 3-for-3 in Canada kickstarted a 6-game winning streak that was the clear turning point of a playoff season for the Flyers.
Last season, however, the Flyers were back to their losing ways in a trip that came in mid-December of 2018. After getting spanked 7-1 in Winnipeg, the team went to Calgary and held a 5-3 lead with under two minutes to play.
At that point, the roof caved in, with the Flames scoring with 1:08 left to cut the lead in half and then with 7 seconds on the clock to force overtime. It wasn’t surprising at all to see Calgary win the game 35 seconds into the extra session. It was the worst late-game collapse I can remember the Flyers having in a very long time.
You could feel all the air go out of the team. Two nights later, they barely showed up in a 4-1 loss at Edmonton. It got even worse the next night in Vancouver during a 5-1 loss.
And that was it for Dave Hakstol, who was canned two days later. The writing was already on the wall after Ron Hextall’s ouster a few weeks prior, but the horrendous road trip was the coup de grace on an underwhelming 3.5-year coaching experiment.
Luckily, the Flyers do not face such grave circumstances as they head out west for this upcoming trip. But, even early in the season, these forays into unfamiliar territory have shown the potential to have a lasting impact on the club.
Things get started on Saturday night in Vancouver before a back-to-back swing through Alberta on Tuesday and Wednesday. These games will help to begin shaping the narrative of what this Flyers club is made out of before they return home next Saturday.
Let’s hope they’re worth staying up for.
A scene from last season's horrible trip (Gavin Young/Postmedia)
Published October 6, 2019
Two disclaimers to begin with.
One, I didn’t watch the first half. As I explained in my book, it’s really the best way to watch NFL games. So I am merely relying on stats and highlights for that part of the game.
Second, the Jets are horrendous. The Eagles could have won this game by 70, and it really wouldn’t have been much cause for celebration. But a win is a win, and it was nice that the Eagles finally had an easy time. They needed it badly, as they now hit the road for three straight.
A great job by the Eagles’ defense, which positively feasted on the Jets. They held them to 128 total yards, forced three turnovers (two of which they returned for TDs) and, most impressively, recorded ten sacks against them.
Again, the Jets are awful. Most especially, their offensive line is a joke. I feel legitimately bad for their quarterback Luke Falk, who was on his back all day. He ended up leaving with an injury late in the fourth quarter, forcing the Jets to literally put in a guy named “Fails”.
Ok, his name is actually David Fales, but still. He sounds like the generic video game version of Nick Foles when they didn’t have a licensing agreement.
Aside from the win, which is the only thing that mattered here, maybe this can be a confidence-builder for a defense that had been picked clean through the air in the first four games of the season and created little to no pass rush during that time. The only thing missing was that Fletcher Cox somehow didn’t record one of the Birds’ ten sacks.
I would like to throw some shade, however, at the offense. Often, when teams register easy wins against bad teams, they don’t produce gaudy offensive numbers because they have built up an early lead and don’t need to do much later in the game. Bad teams also tend to give their opponents short fields to work with, and that happened a few times in this game.
But the Eagles’ offense really only had two sustained drives in this game en route to just 265 yards on the day. I know they won by 25 points, but they really should have broken out in this game.
Still, they’re 3-2 even though we haven’t seen the offense firing on all cylinders. So...I guess that’s good? I don’t know, I just expected more than two offensive touchdowns against a bad team today.
Also, thanks for nothing to Corey Clement, whose muffed punt ended up gifting the Jets their only points of the game, ruining a potential shutout. Darren Sproles had left with his weekly injury, so the return game may be really problematic going forward.
That’s it, a nice easy week. Could have been better, but I can’t complain too much. We’ll see what next week’s trip to Minnesota brings.
After this play, Mike Mamula came out of retirement and recorded 3 sacks against the Jets. (AP)