Monthly Archives: January 2010

Flyers sign D Lukas Krajicek

It wasn’t the most usual route to acquiring a player, but Paul Holmgren picked up a defenseman that he so desperately needed.  Tampa Bay re-signed Krajicek on July 1st, and then it all went south from there.  In December, he was placed on waivers, cleared, and was sent to the AHL Norfolk Admirals.  Last week, he left the minor league club without an explanation, allowing the Lightning to put him on unconditional waivers; once he cleared those, his contract was terminated with the club, making him an unrestricted free agent.

In comes Paul Holmgren.  Knowing his defensive woes due to injuries and performance, Holmgren has been trying to find a trade partner.  With no such luck thus far, the Flyers signed the 26 year old defenseman yesterday.  The 6’3, 205 pound Czech played in 23 games with the Lightning this year, only picking up one assist and being a -4.  He is in his 7th season, playing for the Panthers, Canucks and Lightning for a total of 301 games.

According to the Daily News’ Frank Seravalli, Krajicek was in Philadelphia yesterday, but did not play or dress.  He also accompanied the team on their charter flight to Calgary for tommorow night’s game.  He will wear #2, last worn by Derian Hatcher.

We learned yesterday that Flyers center Mika Pyorala was sent down to the AHL Adirondack Phantoms during yesterday’s game.  As we learned later with the Krajicek signing, it had to do with making a roster spot available for the new defenseman, but also giving Pyorala some playing time.

What does this mean for Ole-Kristian Tollefsen and Oskars Bartulis?  Well, at the moment, one of those two will be sitting out Monday’s game and for the forseeable future.  Bartulis may be sent down to the Phantoms to work on his game, as he has a 2-way contract.  As for when Ryan Parent and Danny Syvret come back, the Flyers will have a lot of choices for their third pairing.

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Emery vs Leighton… Let The Better Man Win

Ray Emery’s return to action has brought mixed emotions among the Flyers Nation. Emery’s supporters, like myself, are overjoyed that he has recovered from abdominal surgery and made his return to the team. While others are still riding high on the emergence of Michael Leighton from convenient, affordable third goalie to back-up who makes a case as a starter. It’s very easy to look at wins and losses and draw your own conclusion over who should be the number one goaltender in Philadelphia. However, it’s looking beyond the numbers that gives you a better outlook on where your loyalty should lie.

Ray Emery:
For the sake of my arguement, I am only using Ray’s played games up to November 16th as “Pre-Injury” because it was estimated that his injury took place around that time.

Ray started the season as a house of fire, rifling off 3 quick wins including a season opening shutout against the Carolina Hurricanes. When things slowed down, he was 0-2-1 over the next 3, but finished strong going 7-2 over the next 9 before tearing an abdominal muscle. Due to the lack of confidence in Brian Boucher, Ray would continue to play through obvious pain and lack of mobility before finally getting the attention of new Flyers coach, Peter Laviolette. During the time he played injured, the Flyers would drop from a playoff contender to second last in the Eastern Conference.

Ray would have his surgery and return to the line-up for a problem start against the Eastern Conference leading Washington Capitals. This was followed by a 3 game win streak with victories over the Blue Jackets, Rangers and Hurricanes. But, the streak was short lived when the Pittsburgh Penguins came to town. A heartbreaking loss coupled with tonight’s loss to the Thrashers have the Flyers on another 2 game skid.

So all that aside, here’s what we have…

When playing healthy this season, Ray is 13-7-1. Not bad in it’s own right. However, all 7 of his losses are against current playoff teams (5-7-0 in that category) and he’s 9-7-1 against teams with a winning record (not including OTLs). But then again, there are only 5 teams in the NHL who don’t have a winning record (Islanders, Maple Leafs, Hurricanes, Blue Jackets and the Oilers).

Michael Leighton:
The collective groans of the Flyers Nation could be heard when the announcement of Leighton’s signing hit the news wire. Whether it was, “Who’s Michael Leighton,” to, “Didn’t we light him up for 6 goals earlier this season?”

Yes, in fact we did.

But with Emery on the sidelines, Backlund’s lackluster performance at the NHL level and a hand injury to Brian Boucher, the game was handed over to Leighton. Expectations were high and surprisingly, so was the team morale and motivation. After a no decision in his first appearance as a Flyer (giving up 2 goals in a 4-1 loss to the Florida Panthers), Leighton would go 10 starts without losing a game in regulation (8-0-1, 1 no decision). His streak was ended in his last start against the Toronto Maple Leafs, a 4-0 shutout in Toronto. 12 games, 11 starts and an 8-1-1 record with 2 no decisions.

But, here’s the kicker. Michael only had 1 game against a current playoff team (a 7-4 win at Pittsburgh).

While their save percentage is close, .908 for Ray over that span and .910 for Michael, Ray has a much lower goals against average (2.51 vs 3.19) and while he has more losses against better teams, he also has more wins against better teams.

By now you may be asking yourself, “But Paul, what does this all mean?” It may mean something, it may mean nothing. This may change your mind, it may not. But it’s always better to know the horse you’re backing while asking for the other to be taken behind the barn.

Heating up the Rumor Mill

As the trade deadline gets closer, you’ll hear more rumors about players on the move.  Rumors will intensifty during the Olympic Break, when there will be less to talk about, NHL-wise.  As we get closer, we at Liberty Bell Sports will go through potential trade options for the Flyers. 

With the Atlanta Thrashers and Ilya Kovalchuk coming to town tonight, it is a good time to start talking about the NHL’s trading deadline.  Most likely the bigger deals will happen after the Olympic Break, as many teams are still in the race at this point, but don’t rule out the possibility of some deals happening before the Olympics.  Kovalchuk himself will probably not be dealt until March 3rd. 

Looking at the Flyers, it is obvious their biggest need is defense.  With Ryan Parent out until late February/early March and Danny Syvret having setbacks with his shoulder injury, the third pairing is rookie Oskars Bartulis, who has been unimpressive and oft-injured Ole-Kristian Tollefsen.  With Mika Pyorala practicing at defense, it shows the Flyers are desperate at the position.  The problem with acquiring someone (as was the case last year) is cap room.  Last season, the Flyers had to jettison Glen Metropolit and Ossi Vaananen on waivers and deal Scottie Upshall to Phoenix to make room for returning Danny Briere and to have some wiggle room for the rest of the season.

Marty Biron was a trade deadline acquistion in 2006.

This year, the Flyers seem to be in better shape capwise, but still don’t have much room to pick up a big name player, unless they move salary out.  However, the problem with that is most of their high priced talent have a “No Movement/Trade Clause” in their contracts.  Which means they cannot be moved by the Flyers unless they are asked to waive that clause.  This prevents a problem for a GM trying to add pieces for a Stanley Cup run. By the numbers and my unofficial math, we’ll have to clear up money just to continue with our current roster. 

Another problem is a lack of draft picks.  With their first two picks in 2010 gone, and their first two in 2011 (and a third in either 2010/2011), draft picks are something Paul Holmgren can’t deal away. If there is a deal made, you might see a prospect moved, because of the draft pick situation.  Could a current prospect entice a team to make a deal?  Depending on the player, but with the farm system the way it is, the Flyers would like to hang on to (at least) their top few.

Could one of the goalies fetch something?  With three goalies and very little cap room, it’s possible Holmgren is working the phones to see if one of his goalies can fetch either a depth player, or another draft pick.  However, teams know the situation the Flyers are in, and a backup goalie (heading into the stretch) is not a premium position.  Basically what we are looking at, unless some things change, is the team we are going to ride into May and hopefully June. 

We’ll be back as the deadline gets closer, with a deeper look at potential players available.  As for now, keep your eyes on the bottom of the standings, and come talk Flyers-Thrashers over on the forum for tonight’s game.

Improved Phillies Easy NL Favorites

With the bulk of the off season pretty much wrapped up, I think it’s safe to say this team took a huge step forward. Taking a leap forward is one thing but when you do it coming off of back-to-back NL pennants, winning a World Series one of those years, it says something. The Phillies had problems in two areas last year that were corrected: bull pen and bench. The garbage that was in those two spots last year was dumped and new and improved arsenal was added.

Let’s start with the bench. The bench batted .186 last season, the second lowest in the NL. That was pathetic. That was partly due to Matt Stairs’ lack of production after June and Eric Bruntlett’s .171 average. During the playoffs, the bench batted 1-31 (the lone hit coming from Stairs). Along with those two, they dumped Paul Bako and Miguel Cairo, two players who didn’t really conribute that much either.

But the Phillies improved that area tremendously. They signed veteran utility infielder Juan Castro who will fill Bruntlett’s spot and give the Phillies a player who can play both short and second well. They also added outfielder Ross Gload, who hit .261 with six home runs and 30 RBIs in 230 at-bats last season with the Marlins. He hit .318 as a pinch-hitter in 2009 and could be the power bat they once had in Stairs in 2008 and the early part of 2009. They also now have a solid back-up catcher in Brian Schneider, who killed the Phillies as a Mets, especially at Citizens Bank Park. He is a definite upgrade from Bako and Chris Coste. Returning from last year is Greg Dobbs and Ben Francisco.

The bull pen was also improved by the signings of Danys Baez, a very good veteran righty that can contribute in the back-end of the rotation. Filling in for the loss of Chan Ho Park will be Jose Contreras, who will be a great long arm for the Phils. Contreras’ numbers as a reliever were very good with Colorado last season, posting a 1.23 ERA in five appearences and 7.1 innings. They will also be returning J.C. Romero, Ryan Madson, Chad Durbin, and Brad Lidge and will see Antonio Bastardo and Moyer/Kendrick have shots at the pen.

Now the two biggest names brought to the Phillies in the offseason were Placido Polanco and a certain Roy Halladay. Polanco is an instant upgrade at third base over Pedro Feliz, who was expected to hit 25-30 homers for the Phillies a season in the hitter-friendly CBP but only combined to hit 26 in both seasons. Polanco has batted no lower than .285 in his last four seasons in Detroit. He doesn’t strike out often like Feliz (had a career high 46 last year) and his OBP is significantly higher than Feliz’s. He doesn’t need to hit for power on a team that has Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez, Jayson Werth, and Jimmy Rollins. He’ll be batting in the two-spot most likely, dropping Shane Victorino in the order, so he can just focus on getting on base for the power bats.

Halladay is the best pitcher in the game and the Phillies got the arm they originally wanted at the deadline. By trading Cliff Lee for high quality prospects, the Phillies didn’t wipe out their farm system completely. Doc is a machine. He has a 148-76 record in his 12 years with Toronto, eight of them as a full-time starter. He’s been to six ASG’s and won the Cy Young in 2003. He was a 20-game winner twice in 2003 and 2007 and is the best pitcher in the league to have never pitched in the post season, the only question mark on Halladay which the Phillies are not worried about.

Like Lee when he came to the NL, Halladay will make an immediate impact versus the “weaker” hitting in the NL. After posting a 58-28 record and 3.51 ERA in the AL East, Halladay should make the NL East his stomping grounds. We see Johan Santana doing the same thing in NY so why not Doc in Philly?

With Doc as the ace, Cole Hamels will be able to relax and just pitch, not bearing any burden of being the ace. Behind Hamels is Joe Blanton and J.A. Happ to round out the middle of the rotation. Contreras, Moyer, and Kendrick will all battle for the fifth spot.

Am I crazy for thinking the Phillies will win the NL East by at least 15 games and head back to the World Series? Hell no. The last time any team has done that was the St. Louis Cardinals from 1942-4. The only team really competing with the Phillies this year could be the Cardinals. The Dodgers are the same team they were last year, which couldn’t compete with the Phillies, and the division is weak.

It isn’t too long until we can watch out Phightin’s take the field. Pitchers and catchers report February 18 and Opening Days is April 5th in Washington. The home opener will be the following week, April 12th versus the Nationals. Here’s to your 2010 NL champion Philles.

Overhauling NFL Overtime

I know we’re a Philly sports blog, but we do care about the leagues that our teams play in.  Last Sunday, if you tuned into the NFC Championship, you saw that the Saints and Vikings went to overtime, for the chance to go to the Super Bowl.  The Saints won the overtime coin toss, and the Vikings never got the ball, as New Orleans kicked a game winning field goal.  The question remains: Is NFL overtime fair?

Detractors of changing the current setup could point to this recent game and say the Vikings should have not fumbled so much, or called the different side of a coin.  The fact is still there that 60% of coin flip winners win the game.  In a high magnitude game such as a Conference Championship, a coin flip shouldn’t decide the outcome of the game.  Sure, many times the first offensive team commits a turnover (thanks, Brett Favre) or has to punt, but it’s not always the case.

It is also said that the league doesn’t want longer games because it’s not good for the health of the players or good for TV.  I agree with the league on not being good for players, as these guys get beat up so much during regulation.  However, not being “good for TV”?  People love drama, and NFL overtime IS drama.  People would tune in, especially in the case of an epic struggle.  What’s not good for TV is a commercial break every five minutes.

Just look at the other three sports, all three sports give both teams a chance to score in their respective overtimes.  The NFL should, too.  My idea would be this: coin toss to decide who gets the ball, kickoff, let one team drive, if they score, then kickoff and see if the other team can drive down the field and tie it up.  Basically it would be a modified NCAA rule, but you’d have to earn field position (instead of starting at the opponents’ 20).  If the first team throws an interception that is run back for a touchdown, game over.  It does leave the possiblity of an endless game, but highly unlikely teams will either keep scoring, or keep shutting the other down.

Anyway, I doubt the NFL will consider changing their format regardless of reading this blog entry or not.  Either way, the NFL is the most popular league in the country, and not having both teams get the ball in overtime won’t change that.

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Both Donovan McNabb & Quintin Mikell are heading to Miami.  No, not to play in the Super Bowl, but the Pro Bowl on Sunday.  McNabb is replacing Saints QB Drew Brees and Mikell will be replacing Saints S Roman Harper.  Apparently, Sheldon Brown, a second alternate at cornerback, turned down the opportunity to play in the game, citing personal reasons. The game will be 8:00 Sunday night on ESPN, for those of you who are interested.

Evolution of Carcillo

March 4, 2009 was a controversial day for some.  The NHL’s trading deadline sent Flyers fan favorite Scottie Upshall to Phoenix in enchange for reigning penalty minute leader Dan Carcillo.  At first glance, the trade looks a little uneven; a third-line energy guy for a “goon”.  Carcillo was a bit of a loose cannon in Phoenix which prompted the Flyers faithful to wonder why GM Paul Holmgren dealt for him. 

His first (half) season with the Flyers was rough, only tallying 4 assists in 20 regular season games, and not scoring his first Flyer goal until Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.  Also in that series, Carcillo was a lightning rod of controversy, as he was suspended for Game 2 (for punching Maxime Talbot in the head), and started a fight with Talbot in Game 6, which may or may not have (depending on your view) lead to the Penguins comeback to win the game and wrap up the series.

However, over the summer the Flyers signed forward Ian Laperriere, and it seems that he has been a good influence on Carcillo.  Many times we’ve seen this year that Carcillo could, or might do something nuts, and he doesn’t.  He still picks up the fighting majors (twelve this year) but he picks his timing better, rather than just fighting when he feels like it.  Here’s not to say Carcillo is undebatable.  He has been suspended four games for punching Matt Bradley, and recently has come under fire (mainly by the Rangers and their fans) for fighting Marian Gaborik.

As we approach the one year anniversary of the trade, Carcillo has seen himself more popular in Philadelphia than on his first day.  Some still may not like him, for whatever reason, but his feistiness and showmanship have made him a favorite among most fans.  Whether or not the fans like him, opponents and their fans despise him.  He constantly yaps to opposition, and will back it up if needed.  He gets under their skin and tries to throw them off their game.  He leads the team in hits and embodies what it means to be a Flyer.  Don’t forget he grew up as a Flyer fan as a kid, so he knows a little about the Flyer history and culture.

There has been another aspect to Carcillo’s game that we have been seeing lately that is new to us: goal scoring.  For the season, Carcillo has 6 goals and 6 assists, which is about average for the NHL.  But in his last nine games, he has three goals.  Not just scoring goals, but dangling around defensemen, and deking out goaltenders.  While with Phoenix, then-coach Wayne Gretzky said he could be a 30 goal scorer at one point, and while 30 goals is probably a stretch, we’ve seen that he has the talent to chip in every few games and help the team.

A Familiar Road

Two weeks removed from another heart breaking loss in the playoffs have left Eagle fans searching for answers once again. Does Andy Reid need to go? Is the Donovan McNabb era done? Is Kevin Kolb ready to take the reins? Is the offensive line good enough as it is now? Who do we draft in April? I’ve certainly been asking myself these questions a lot and have found myself asking random Philly fans at Flyers games or those who walk into my liquor store who look like they know a thing or two about football.

Lets address Reid first. He is signed through 2012 meaning we have to endure three more years of watching a 60% pass-heavy offense. Yes the Eagles have the extraordinary talent and skill at the receiving position in DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Kevin Curtis, and Brent Celek but a lack of balance has killed this offense many times versus good defenses, especially Dallas three times this year. Reid is not a terrible coach, in fact he’s an excellent coach, but he is not getting the job holding the play card. Fortunately for him, there is not a better option out there to replace him (unless Tony Dungy or Bill Cowher decide to enter the coaching world again).

Now to our quarter backs. People started calling for Kevin Kolb again during Week 17 and the Wild Card after the offense couldn’t get anything going versus the Cowboys. McNabb’s completion percentage was around 60%, a terrible number when you’re in a West Coast-style offense that relies on the short passes and screens. There were a number of times where he would over throw the speedy Jackson and Maclin, throw behind the sure-handed Celek and Avant, or throw at the feet of LeSean McCoy and Leonard Weaver.

I am not turning on McNabb at all. I have supported him time and time again and will continue to as long as he is our #5. But we are in a similar position that Green Bay was in two years ago. I am not saying Kolb and McNabb are of the same caliber as Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers (though I hope Kolb. This is the same scenario. You have a proven franchise QB who has been in the system for over 10 years and is a fan favorite but you have a good young QB who was drafted to be the successor but has been holding a clip board for a couple years.

What does that mean? It means the Eagles need to trade McNabb to a team who is willing to cough up a top 15 pick for him. I do believe McNabb is worth that pick. I then see Kolb taking the starting spot for next year.

Now I want to cover the draft since we now have two first round picks in my dream world. They need help in two spots, maybe three: safety, strong-side linebacker, and maybe right guard. Texas’ Earl Thomas or USC’s Taylor Mays could be good choices for the safety spot and I’d like to see that addressed first.

Now the reason I think that only one offensive line spot needs improving is that I don’t see a whole lot wrong with our o-line. Jason Peters, the LT, will not have another bad year despite making the Pro Bowl. LG Todd Herrimans and C Jamaal Jackson had great years despite Jackson’s being cut short in Week 16 with a torn ACL. Winston Justin played some great ball at RT, making the signing of Stacy Andrews seem pointless. Now his brother Shawn needs to focus this off season, mature, lose weight, and get his back straight. I made a comment to him on Twitter and he said he wants to play again. Just incase he is still a question mark, I think Reid should use his knowledge and draft another good guard.

Now I didn’t make this one of my questions but it is a hot topic as well: Brian Westbrook. Our beloved B-West could potentially retire because of his knee injuries sustained the past couple of years. We’ve seen Barry Sanders retire because he didn’t want to have bad knees and we’ve also seen Terrell Davis retire because after his knee injury, he wasn’t the same explosive back he once was. I would love to see a healthy Westbrook/McCoy tandem next season but it is a big question mark on whether or not it will happen.

There is a lot to do this offseason. Outside of McNabb, the rest is minor tweaking. Though Reid said McNabb is the guy in 2010, a change is very likely and we will see in the next couple months if it will be McNabb taking the snaps or the start of the Kolb Era.

Introducing Paul

Ladies & Gentlemen, I would like to introduce our newest blogger, Paul Pickett.  Paul is a lifelong Flyers fan, who has written for the team on Broad Street Buzz, and hosts a Flyers podcast (with myself) called Philly Puck Nutz.  He has interviewed Ray Emery, Danny Briere & Arron Asham during his time as a blogger.

Paul will be writing about the Flyers, so I hope you all enjoy his work!

Welcome to the LBS blog

Hey guys, Dan and John here and we want to welcome you to the Liberty Bell Sports blog. We started a forum back on April 23, 2009 called Liberty Bell Sports. The site is run by admins Dan MacNeal and Mike Patota and mod John Russo of Team to Beat.  Once we get the site running, we will determine what kind of angle we will take.

We hope that the members of the forum and even new readers discover us and join in a growing community of Philly fans. Stay tuned folks!

Philly Sports Break

As the first official post of the LBS Blog, I feel it is a duty to do a quick recap of all the important topics of the week, and there have been many.

First, we start on the ice, where the Flyers have a nice little winning streak, beating Columbus and the Rangers.  However the big controversy (if you’d like to call it one) was Flyer tough guy Dan Carcillo taking on Ranger star Marian Gaborik in a war of fists.  Of course Ranger coach John Tortorella said there was “no honor” and called Carcillo a “brave guy”, sarcasm implied.  The Flyers have little time to worry about Ranger revenge, as they host the Hurricanes and Penguins this weekend.  Ray Emery has been named Saturday’s starter, fresh off his shutout of the Rangers.  It is rumored that Michael Leighton will start against the Penguins, his first action since a January 14th loss at the hands of Toronto.

Switching to the defending NL Champs, there has been much to talk about in Phillieland for the last couple days.  First reliable righthander Joe Blanton avoided arbitration with the team, agreeing to a 3 year, $24 million deal, which prompted some questions (mainly about not being able to afford Cliff Lee) by fans.  Later in the night, it was rumored that Shane Victorino would follow suit and agree to a deal, which was announced today.  Victorino earned himself a 3 year deal worth $21 million, much more per year than either side was asking for in arbitration.  Many fans around the area are now asking about Jayson Werth’s Phillies future, which could end at the end of this year.  But Phillies brass tried to squelch that, saying it’s not a forgone conclusion that Werth won’t be back after 2010, and that they would like to start preliminary negotiations.  The team probably wants to see how much Werth believes he is worth (no pun intended).  Lastly, out of the blue, the Phillies announced the signing of free agent pitcher Jose Contreras.  The 38 year old Contreras will likely take over Chan Ho Park’s bullpen spot from last year.

And finally switching to the hardwood, it was announced yesterday that Allen Iverson would start for the Eastern Conference All Star team.  Some people believe that the NBA All Star voting is a sham, stating the fact that AI has only played 19 games this season, and that injured guard Tracy McGrady was in the lead in the West, despite playing only six games this year.  Either way, the Sixers have an All-Star for the first time since 2006 when (you guessed it) Allen Iverson suited up for the squad.

Don’t forget to check out Libertybellsports.com’s “Most Memorable Moments of the 2000’s” tournament in the Game Room section.