Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Next Roman Cechmanek/John Vanbiesbrouck/Tommy Soderstrom

Who do I want to see between the pipes for the Flyers on October 7th in Pittsburgh? A very interesting question indeed. There have certainly been enough rumors flying around as to who the Flyers are going after, who is available and what they or their respective teams are asking. But if I'm going to give my opinion on who should be the starting goalie for the Flyers in 2010/11, I can first tell you that I think the Flyers need to bolster up their defense before the start of next season. The Orange & Black should devote the majority of their cap space to improving their blue line by resigning Braydon Coburn and possibly signing a free agent or two. Dan Hamhuis (if he decides to grow a pair and sign in the East), Anton Volchenkov, Henrik Tallinder or Toni Lydman are a few who I think fit the mold of a "Flyers defenseman" and, at the same time, would be moderately inexpensive.

After Evgeni Nabokov and his agent realize that a) he's not worth the 5-6 million per that they're asking and b) if he wants nothing less than that kind money, he's going to be playing in the KHL next season over in Mother Russia, he may be a good fit for the Flyers. I was adamantly against Philadelphia picking up Nabokov before the Flyers announced that they began to speak with his agent. I was telling people I knew how he folds in the playoffs and he can't be counted on when the team needs him. But when you've gotten 44, 41, and 46 wins in the last three regular seasons and have a career 2.29 GAA in the playoffs, I think it's okay to "take a chance" on him. I was also saying before how he'll cost too much and take up too much cap space. And that may very well be true; thus making the possibility of Nabokov becoming a Flyer nothing short of impossible. But if the Flyers can get him for the right price, I'm going to completely change my mind and say yes, I want Nabokov to be the next Flyers goaltender.

Then there's Michael Leighton. Remember? That guy who had three shutouts in the same series against the Canadiens and brought the Flyers back to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1997? Yea, I think we all remember what he did to get the Flyers to the Finals; he was nearly unbeatable up until the Cup Final. But do you remember what happened in the Finals? That same Michael Leighton who had three shutouts in the Eastern Conference Finals was the same Michael Leighton who was pulled twice against Chicago and let up countless weak goals including Patrick Kane's Cup-clincher. So if you're asking me if I want Mr. Leighton to be the Flyers goaltender next season, I'd tell you no. He did great while he was here, but he's simply not someone who can take Philly to the next level.

Well if we're going to talk FA goalies, we have to talk Turco and Mason right? Now just to be clear, Nabokov is my No. 1 choice as the Flyers next goalie, but if the Flyers can't afford him, there are other less expensive options available.
  1. Evgeni Nabokov - (for reasons stated above)
  2. Marty Turco - (solid veteran with postseason experience and should be cheaper than Nabby)
  3. Chris Mason - (another solid netminder but does have some effort issues and postseason jitters)
  4. Dan Ellis - (another Nashville product who had his job stolen, should be cheap. Kinda like this guy)
  5. Antero Niittymaki and Martin Biron - (No. Been there, done that. But it's becoming more and more possible)
Considering that the free agent signing period starts at noon tomorrow, we should find out very soon who the Flyers next goalie will be. There are a number of guys who I'd love to see Paul Holmgren get in Philadelphia. But there are also a number of guys who I would not like to see as the Flyers goalkeeper. I do know that this is Philadelphia, and the goaltending carousel here has been going round and round nonstop for over 30 years. There's no telling how good a goalie playing in Philly will be--no matter how good he was before he came or how good he'll be after he's gone. It's going to be interesting to see how this team looks in about 72 hours and I can't wait to start complaining about it once I see it.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Phillies (Near) Mid-season Report

I went to the Indians v. Phillies game Wednesday night and after all was said and done, I was quite pleased with the result. It ended with a walk-off two run homerun by the finally healthy (again) Jimmy Rollins. But the way the Phils got to that point showed some of the team's weaknesses.

Phillies Needs
 Bullpen - Following the Phillies 7-6 victory over the Indians Wednesday night, the team placed RHP Chad Durbin on the 15-day DL. Durbin has been solid for the Phils in the back end of the bullpen sporting a 3.31 ERA. With him going down, Danys Baez sucking big time, Ryan Madson still on the DL after getting pissed at a chair and unprovens such as Mike Zagurski and Nelson Figueroa in the pen, the Phillies need to add a pitcher to the back end of the bullpen at or before the trade deadline.

Starting Pitcher - Kyle Kendrick lasted only 4.0+ innings giving up five runs, four earned. He left balls over the middle of the plate and when you can't get Cleveland hitters out, that may be saying something.  The Phillies have been waiting for J.A. Happ to come back to the roataion for some time now and it looks as though he should be back within a couple weeks. But the thing is, you don't at all know how effective he's going to be after coming back from being on the DL for so long.

If Kyle Kendrick spots his pitches on the corners and stays away from deep counts, he can be a good pitcher. But when he doesn't, he becomes a batting practice pitcher. If the Phillies could get a starting pitcher at the deadline to help bolster their rotation, it would certainly make them a better team come playoff time. Usually in the postseason teams go with three starting pitchers. So the Phillies' would be Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and then...?

Bench - Greg Dobbs was a pinch hit machine back in the championship year of 2008. He broke the Phillies record for pinch hits in a season and every time he was called upon that year, you knew that you were going to get a quality at-bat. But pinch hitters are as unpredictable year-by-year as NBA draft picks. Dobbs was a whopping 1-for-25 this season as a pinch hitter and simply wasn't getting the job done.

So the Phillies find themselves one lefty bat short on the bench and are going to need to fill that hole by the end of the season if they have plans of going anywhere in October. Valdez, Castro and Fransisco are all right-handed and the only lefty bats are Schneider who, as the back-up catcher, won't be available to pinch hit on most nights and Ross Gload. The Phillies need a left-handed bat off the bench.

Before the Phillies begin thinking about who they're going to play in the NLCS or the World Series in 2010, they need to get into the playoffs. As of today, the Phils are 2.5 games back of the Atlanta Braves in the NL East. I have no doubt that by the end of the regular season the Phillies will be the ones atop the division, but in order for that to happen some changes need to be made.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Back to Earth

After Patrick Kane slid that final goal of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final through the Bermuda Triangle that was Michael Leighton's five hole, I received multiple text messages and personal greetings from friends offering me their heartfelt condolences. I got the usual "there's always next year" and "stay away from sharp knives, tall buildings, and thick rope." But the one that upset me the most and the one I had the most trouble responding civilly to was the "it was a good season" comment.

Sure it was a good season. I think we all can agree that with the way the regular season unfolded and how the Flyers had to get into the playoffs, for them to make it to game six of the Stanley Cup Final was a great achievement. But the fact that they came this far only to be in the same position as the other 28 teams in the NHL is nothing short of heartbreaking.

From April 14th to June 9th the Flyers took their fans on a roller coaster ride that had the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. They pulled off the upset over future Hall-of-Famer Martin Brodeur and the Devils in five easy games. They became only the fourth team in sports history to come back from a three games to none series deficit to win a series. And in the final game of that series, they became only the third team in NHL history to come back to win a game seven after being down by three goals. They beat the unbeatable Jaroslav Halak and the Montreal Canadiens in short series that saw Michael Leighton record three shutouts. All the while through their run to the Cup Final they saw key players such as Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne, and penalty killer extraordinaire Ian Laperriere go down and come back from injuries. They lost their goaltender Brian Boucher to knee injuries during the Boston series and many wondered if Michael Leighton would be able to resurrect himself to the player he was towards the end of the regular season. He did. They went down 2-0 in Chicago and most counted them out, then they won both in Philadelphia and they were right back in it.

I probably lost years of my life during this playoff run. I now know exactly what Roger Maris felt like in '61. It was one of the most exciting two month periods of my life...but it ended too soon and left the Flyers without a championship for a 35th straight season. It ended without a parade down Broad Street. It ended with Jonathan Toews hoisting Lord Stanley instead of Mike Richards. It ended with Michael Leighton in despair, not Antti Niemi.

It's going to be difficult to go back to the Finals for the second consecutive year. The Penguins and Red Wings did it last year but neither stood pat. They both made moves, signed players and improved their teams. If the Flyers are going to return to the NHL's final series they need to do the same thing. They made the first step in trading Ryan Parent for Dan Hamhuis, but that's only the beginning. They need to look to acquire a netminder during the offseason either through a draft day trade or a free agent signing.

This may be my final Flyers post for a while unless they make a trade that deserves to be talked about. For the time being I'll move on to the Phillies. A team that struggles to score when the pitchers are dealing and struggles to get outs when the hitters are raking. I'm going to the game Wednesday against Cleveland. So if I don't post beforehand, I'll have a Phillies mid-season report shortly following the game.

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