Time for a Change

I hate when people blame the refs.

Why?

Because even if they make bad calls, the team could have done one of 100 things to not be in that position.  Yet, sometimes, it really is justified.

I feel similar to coaches.

Players need to play.  Coaches can only do so much when it come to preparing and in-game management, but players need to perform.  Yet, sometimes, it starts behind the bench.

And with the Flyers right now, that’s where I think it starts.

When Dave Hakstol got hired, I loved that Ron Hextall went outside of the organization.  I was excited for something fresh and new and though I knew nothing about Hakstol, I was more than ready to give him the chance.

But now that we’re in his third season and the team continues to face the same problems without, seemingly, any hope of them getting better.

I said the Flyers would be a playoff bubble team before the season started.  They’re still in good position to finish the season that way, but the problems they face are the same as ever.

Despite a resurgence from Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek and a great start from Sean Couturier, the team has been shutout five times in 19 games.  In the month of November, the team has split a pair of games with the middling Blackhawks, shutout the Central-leading Blues, been shutout twice by a struggling Minnesota team and lost in two shootouts in winnable games.  They also gave the lowly Coyotes their first win of the season at the end of October.

I get that there’s a lot of rookies and young players on the team.  There’s inherent problems with that.  But good coaches don’t let that affect them.  Look at Toronto.  Mike Babcock got them into the playoffs last year when their team was basically all rookies.

Outside of the Flyers top line, secondary scoring hasn’t really been happening.  Hakstol has tried mixing the lines, but his decisions are baffling.  Dale Weise should never sniff the second line and, though he’s been much improved before his injury this year, Andrew MacDonald isn’t deserving of top line minutes.

It seems weird, in a way, to say a coach with an 88-68-27 record isn’t succeeding.  But watching this team play, they sometimes seem to win despite their flaws.

Hextall went out on a limb when he decided to bring Hakstol in from North Dakota.  It’s probably why he’s been patient.  But this team suffers from the same problems it did a year ago–playing down to lesser teams, inconsistent play, a lack of scoring depth and shaky team defense.

The players, of course, deserve some of the blame when it comes to certain problems.  And who knows–maybe today’s game against Calgary is the beginning of something beautiful

But if I’m being honest with myself, most of the problems start with Hakstol and the organization needs to move on from him if this team is going to take any major step forward.

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Flyers Preview 2017-18

The Flyers open up their season with a West Coast swing

It’s finally time.  Hockey is back.

Cue the angels singing.

Cue the celebrations.

Philly will be….well, honestly, the Eagles are in season, so most of Philly is preoccupied.  I, on the other hand, am chomping at the bit to see what the NHL season has in store.

Don’t read my excitement the wrong way.  I don’t have high hopes for this Flyers squad.  I think they’ll be a bubble playoff team again.  But their infusion of talented youth has them moving in the right direction and I wouldn’t be surprised if that youth movement turned a few heads.

Let’s take a look at the squad and where its strengths, and weaknesses, lie.

The biggest aspects of the Flyers offense are the top line and the addition of their first round pick from this year.  Claude Giroux has centered the top line for the last several years, but in the preseason, he played wing and will likely start out as a flank with Sean Couturier in the middle.  It may free up Giroux from his defensive responsibilities, which may in turn help him pick up his production.

The other big news is Nolan Patrick centering the second line.  The second-overall pick was expected to make the team, but it’s still good news that he did.  He didn’t have the best jump in preseason, but he’s still overcoming offseason surgery.  Hopefully the youngster will get some jump—if he does, he could have a heck of a year.

Defensively, the Flyers have gotten younger, fast.  Robert Hagg is definitely playing on the blue line and one of either Samuel Morin or Travis Sanheim will be up there too.  Both will be up for a time as Shayne Gostisbehere may have gotten hurt in the final preseason game.  It doesn’t seem to be serious, but the team has been pretty mum about it.  Sanheim will likely be the one heading to the AHL.  It’s not because he didn’t play well, but they’re chock full of blue liners and some time in the AHL will only help to continue his development.

The new guys will be joining Ivan Provorov and Ghost, giving them plenty of youth back there.  Andrew MacDonald is still (unfortunately) back there too, along with Radko Gudas and Brandon Manning.  Manning is likely the odd man out for much of the season, but don’t be surprised to see him still get some game action.

There’s lots of hope both offensively and defensively.  Then you get to the goalies and…well, why would the Flyers want to improve there?

Honestly, the Flyers are banking on some of their prospects panning out.  Carter Hart is a big hopeful and Felix Sandstrom has looked really good in Sweden.  They there’s the former Yale standout Alex Lyon.  Ron Hextall is bidding his time and using his acquisition Brian Elliot and Michal Neuvrith to span the gap unti they’re ready.

Elliot was BAD to start last season in Calgary but bounced back strong.  His numbers in the playoffs fell off again, so it’s hard to tell how he might play.

Meanwhile, Neuvirth is looking to get back into form from two years ago.  Last year he was unimpressive, though he shows moments of brilliance.

Overall, the team should be improved.  Without Matt Read in the lineup (in the AHL) and a new-look fourth line with lots of potential, they should improve on their point total from last year.  I can’t see them being any more than a bubble playoff team again.  Pittsburgh, Washington, Columbus and the New York Rangers are all better teams.

If I had to guess, they’ll finish in the 90-point range and again be on the outside looking in come mid-April.

Week 3 – Giants at Eagles

Giants (0-2) at Eagles (1-1) – PHI -6
We weren’t able to put up a post for Week 2, but trust that we all accurately predicted the exact score.

Dan

Even though the line’s been growing over the past few days, I’ll take the Eagles to cover regardless. Despite some miscues and mistakes, I think the Eagles showed some promise against a very talented Chiefs team.

OFF Standout – Zach Ertz. Through the first two games of the season, Ertz has emerged as Carson Wentz’s safety blanket and they seem to have a good rapport. I’d love to say that Torrey Smith is going to be the guy, but he still seems to have a disconnect when it comes to Wentz. Either Wentz is missing on the deep ball, or Smith is dropping a TD. So, until I see more from them, Ertz is the guy.

DEF Standout – Fletcher Cox. The addition of Jernigan seems to have made a huge impact on the ability of Fletcher Cox to get to the QB. This defensive front has been a terror through the first two weeks and I think a matchup against a Giants offensive line in disarray should bode well again for Cox.

Score: Eagles, 34-17. The Giants look like a dumpster fire right now and I don’t think the Eagles pass up a chance to hand them their second divisional loss before the end of September. Couple that with the fact the Birds are playing in their home opener and I think we’re looking at a perfect storm.

Matt

Eagles cover easily – on paper, this is a match-up you don’t have to overthink. Giants haven’t scored 20 points in a game since last November and can’t protect their QB. The Eagles can score and rush the passer. Easy money. (I hope I don’t regret this.)

OFF Standout – LeGarrette Blount. This isn’t a logical pick as both Blount and the Eagles haven’t shown anything in the run game all year. But in a game where I expect the Giants to be put away early, Blount may have the opportunity to pound the rock and establish something on the ground – which would be a welcome addition to the offense.

DEF Standout – Vinny Curry. Many would pick Brandon Graham here, but he will be up against the right tackle all game, and all I want is Ereck Flowers on the left side. Curry had a shot to alter the outcome in KC when he nearly brought down Alex Smith late in the 4th. He’ll redeem himself this weekend going up against the worst offensive lineman in the NFL.

Score: Eagles, 34-10. Giants need a W and you can usually throw out logic and recent trends in a divisional game, but I am just going to stick to the X’s and O’s here. The Giants will be outmatched by the Eagles and even if they can muster up a great defensive effort to slow us down, their offense simply cannot put points on the board.

Kirk

Eagles cover the spread. The Giants have looked like anything but a functional team in the first two weeks and though I once had a Giants fan tell me “you can’t spell elite without Eli” he can’t do much when he doesn’t have time.

OFF Standout – Carson Wentz. I’ll jump on the Wentz Wagon this week. If for no other reason than Doug Pederson wants to throw for 85 percent of his offensive plays.

DEF Standout – I’m taking liberties and just saying the defensive line. The Giants O-line is a dumpster fire so I expect the front four to get to Eli all day.

Score: Eagles, 27-6. OBJ is still banged up and the Giants running game is worse than the Eagles. This shouldn’t be close.

Holden

I think this has the potential to be a trap game for the Eagles, but it’s also an opportunity for the Eagles to make a statement in the division. I’m going with the latter. The Eagles will cover easily in this game. The ineptitude of the Giants offense will continue and Eli will be making Eli face after the first quarter.

OFF Standout – Nelson Agholor – That’s right, Agholor is primed to have a big game. The Giants will most likely be preoccupied with the other weapons on the Eagles roster, freeing up Agholor to have a big game.

DEF Standout – Vinny Curry – Curry should be matched up against Ereck Flowers, which would be a good matchup for a DE from St. Francis. I predict a multiple sack game from Curry this weekend.

Score: Eagles, 17-9. I still think the Giants defense is a tough matchup for the Eagles, especially with an underperforming O-line.

 

 

Week 1 – Eagles at Redskins

Eagles (0-0) at Redskins (0-0) – PHI -1.5

Dan

Game Ball – Offense: Torrey Smith. I expect Norman to shadow Alshon and that leaves Smith with an opportunity to shine (assuming the OLine gives Wentz enough time to throw it down field.) I expect 70+ and a TD for Smith.

Game Ball – Defense: Derek Barnett. I have flashbacks of Wentz getting shut down by Kerrigan last year and I think it’s time for payback. I think the rookie records his first sack in an impressive regular-season debut.

Prediction: 31-24. It stays close for the majority of the game but the Birds get some separation towards the end. I’ll take the Eagles to cover, easily. I’m bullish on them right now.

Kirk

Game Ball – Offense: Alshon Jeffery. Alshon is on a one year prove yourself deal making his debut in green. Carson Wentz struggled last year because he didn’t have anyone to throw to. That’ll be different with Jeffrey out there and Wentz is going to go to him often. He’ll break 100 yards receiving.

Game Ball – Defense: Ronald Darby. Another first-year Eagle, Darby will make the Matthews trade look good. He’s not going to be overly noticeable, but he’ll make a couple tackles and play some strong defense.

Prediction: 27-23. It’ll be close but the Eagles hold on. Washington will be trying to figure themselves out this early in the season

Holden

Game Ball – Offense: Wendell Smallwood. I know the Eagles did not run the ball that well during the preseason; however, I have a feeling Wendell is going to have a big day. During the third preseason game, he looked fast and elusive. If the Eagles are going to be successful they are going to need to run the ball well, and I believe Smallwood is their best chance. I think there is a legitimate chance Smallwood emerges as a solid NFL running back this season.

Game Ball – Defense: Fletcher Cox. Cox got embarrassed last year by Brandon Sherff and this is his opportunity to redeem himself. The additions of Jernigan and Barnett should alleviate some pressure from Cox and I believe he will have a big year generating pressure up the middle.

Prediction: 34-13 I really think the Eagles will come out and make a statement week 1. It appears that the division is wide open right now and a less talented Washington presents the opportunity for the Eagles to send a message to the rest of the division early on in the season.  I’m riding with the Eagles at -1.5.

Matt

Game Ball – Offense: Carson Wentz. He’s been super impressive throughout camp and despite an up and down preseason, I think we get #TrainingCampCarson. I’m banking on the fact that Doug showed absolutely nothing in preseason and is ready to let his prodigy loose against a suddenly weak Washington Football Team secondary.

Game Ball – Defense: Mychal Kendricks. Let’s see if he can keep the preseason momentum going. If the secondary holds up, Jim Schwartz will be able to get creative and that’s where Kendricks can shine – as an attacker.

Prediction: 31-17. As Lane said, they’re going to whoop that ass. -1.5 on the road is a stone lock for a W!

GO BIRDS!