Anyone? Anyone? Maybe that’s what I get for watching this week’s Mad Men (thank you new roommate’s DVR!) and the Phillies game in the same night. They might not be twins, but there’s no question that they’re both damn good at their jobs. One down. Go Phils!
Posted tagged ‘Philadelphia’
The Flyers started off their season with 2 big wins on the road. The Flyers shut-out Carolina on Friday night and clearly beat-up the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night. The team got great play from most players, including excellent goaltending from Ray Emery. The only disappointing part of both wins was the exorbitant amount of penalties the Flyers took. They had to kill 8 penalties on Friday, including a 2 minute 5 on 3 power-play for the Carolina Hurricanes.
Of course, one could question how good are the Hurricanes and Devils? Last season, the Devils finished the season with 107 points and the Hurricanes made it to the Eastern Conference finals. Both of these teams have their nucleus back, so there shouldn’t have been any drop off in play. For the Flyers to come out and win both of those games on the road should help the Flyers with their confidence and hockey instinct.
The Flyers open their home portion of the season, tomorrow night against the Washington Capitals and then follow-up with the Penguins on Thursday. These two games will be a real test to this surging Flyers team. However, if the Flyers continue to get passionate play from their fourth line, especially Blair Betts and Ian Lapierrerre and excellent goaltending from Ray Emery, these two games this week could catapult the Flyers season or send the Flyers back to the drawing board on how to beat the two top teams in the Eastern Conference.
There is nothing better than the start of hockey season. The Flyers face off tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes to start their season. As discussed many times, the Flyers made a flurry of trades and moves designed to bolster their team. In fact, some major hockey publications are selecting the Flyers as the eventual Stanley Cup champions. I wouldn’t go that far, yet. We haven’t seen them play, nor have we seen these Flyers develop an always win mentality. I hope it pans out, but I think there are many variables.
The goalie situation in Philadelphia has not been stable since Ron Hextall manned the pipes. This year, the Flyers start the year with Ray Emery and Brian Boucher as their primary goaltenders. Both of their contracts are salary cap friendly and they both have a lot to prove. Emery has had a tumultuous past with his former teammates and with the police. He needs to have a great and behaved year to get his career and life back on track. Flyers GM Paul Holmgren took a large chance handing the starting job over to Ray Emery. If it works out – Holmgren is a genius. If it doesn’t, we can all kiss this season goodbye. One thing Emery has going for him is the defense.
I don’t think that you can find very many teams in the NHL with a better top four defensemen than the Flyers have. With the addition of Chris Pronger to Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, Matt Carle and Ryan Parent, the Flyers defense should provide protection in front of the net, skills on the power play and provide some offensive puck movement. The offense is going to greatly benefit from this backline unit.
With the core of the Flyers, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Scott Hartnell coming off career seasons, the sky is the limit. A healthy Danny Briere added to youngsters James van Riemsdyk, Claude Giroux and Darrell Powe. Simon Gagne, should he remain healthy, will get his standard allotment of points. Interestingly, the Flyers added proven penalty killers and checkers, Blair Betts and Ian LaPierrere. These two guys should take a significant burden off of Mike Richards as the lead penalty killer. Richards then should be able focus on his excellent two way 5 on 5 play and leading the top power-play unit. Even better, the Flyers are only going to have to dress one of Riley Cote, Aaron Asham or Dan Carcillo. This will allow the Flyers to have more skilled players on the ice.
Finally, the Flyers learned their salary lessons from a year-ago. By putting Randy Jones on waivers and sending him to the Phantoms, they freed up his cap space allowing them to keep the young players on the roster and leave room for an emergency call-up or if they want to make a trade. Also, it would prevent them from having to pull the Scottie Upshall trade of 2009-2010.
PhilaTude’s take on the Flyers season – they will win games, but I am still concerned about the intensity around this team and their ability to stay out of the penalty box. If they can reduce the penalties and show a desire to play tough for wins, watch out, because this team has talent.
We all know Jeremiah Trotter went to work-out for the Eagles. Now he is signed and an official member of the Philadelphia Eagles. Jeff Garcia – not needed any longer – was released to make space.
Trotter brings a big body and strong linebacker against the run. He definitely provides more power and strength to Joe Mays and Omar Gaither. We also know that Trotter is quite capable of playing a downhill Philadelphia style defense. The big unknown is – can Jeremiah still play?
I think Trotter can still play. A few years back, the Eagles brought in an aging Levon Kirkland to play the middle. He was serviceable. Comparable to Trotter, Jeremiah has Kirkland beaten in everyway. Assuming that Trotter’s knees are healthy, which I think they are or the Eagles wouldn’t have signed him, Trotter will be a strong presence in the middle of the defense. Of course, Trotter will also be a force in the locker room.
I guess the only question remaining is – what number is he going to wear? Will he have to wash Tracy White’s car, similarly to washing Nate Wayne’s car when he came back to the Eagles nest? We’ll find out.
It should feel great that the Phillies clinched another playoff birth. Though, for some reason, I’m just a little anxious. I guess the only thing that would make me feel great is if I was confident in the Phillies winning a playoff series.
I have significant questions about the Phillies, specifically, their starting pitching and closer slot. The Phillies boast a solid roster of starting pitchers, especially on paper. However, the likes of Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Pedro Martinez aren’t really pumping out the dominating performances we need to get over the playoff hump. Lee has been mediocre at best since his strong start here in Philadelphia. Hamels is wildly inconsistent and hasn’t gotten any run support. Pedro has pitched ok, but he doesn’t have the ability anymore to crush opponents and win games on his own. Joe Blanton and J.A. Happ both have looked good, but aren’t top of the rotation guys right now. In fact, Happ is battling a little bit of the injury bug. Further complicating things is that the old stand-by, usually good for a solid start and long relief, Jamie Moyer is done for the season with some groin and hamstring issues. They key to this situation is that the starters need to pull it together. We need the dominating performances out Lee and Hamels. Pedro and Blanton need to step it up. There is nothing else that can be done. We have to rely on our starting pitching. If these guys want it bad enough and they should, I think that Lee, Hamels and the crew will prove they are capable of providing dominating playoff performances.
Even scarier is the closer situation. Brad Lidge, Tyler Walker, Ryan Madson and even Brett Myers will be on the post-season roster. Yet, we’re not sure who will show up as the closer. As discussed in previous posts, we think Ryan Madson should be handed the role and be able to prepare like the closer. Keep Lidge off the post-season roster and let Walker and Myers battle it out for the set-up role. Whatever happens, the Phillies post-season relies on the bullpen, specifically the closer role.
As I look forward to the playoffs and the determination of the match-ups, I sit and wonder – which Phillies pitching staff will show up for the defense of the World Series title?
I was shocked to see the late afternoon blog headlines on philly.com yesterday proclaiming that Jeremiah Trotter worked out for Coach Andy Reid. Really? Jeremiah Trotter was cut during training camp two seasons ago. He went on to play for Tampa Bay in a reserve roll and then was entirely out of football last season. I don’t get it.
However, we all know that Eagles are having problems at the middle linebacker spot since Stewart Bradley went down with an injury. Trotter manned the position successfully over two stints for the Eagles. With Trotter’s knee issues – the reason he has been out of football – I don’t think he could come back in and contribute at a top level. Trotter claims he had been working out with a trainer and with some of his former teammates, while continuing his current gig as a sports personality at 610 WIP. Also, he has been in contact with Coach Reid since Bradley went down with an injury, so from Trotter’s perspective, the workout wasn’t entirely out of the blue.
Here is the PhilaTude take:
Coach Reid brought Trotter in for a workout to almost “threaten” Joe Mays and Omar Gaither to get their acts together. I don’t think there is any intent to sign Trotter. Also, Coach Reid brought in Trotter for the workout to appease, what I think is repeated requests, Trotter’s insistence to Coach Reid that he can still play football. This workout turned out to be a motivator for the current linebackers and a wake-up call to Trotter that his on the field football career is probably over.
Brad Lidge, the perfect closer from last season, has 11 blown saves. Yet, Charlie Manuel keeps giving him opportunities to regain his form, because there isn’t anyone else to fulfill the role. Ryan Madson has thrived as a set-up man last season and currently. Brett Myers isn’t healthy enough to perform the closer role that he successfully manned a few years back. Tyler Walker, a former Giants closer, could hold down the fort, but I really haven’t seen him close a game or pitch a tight inning since he has been with the Phillies. None of the other relievers on the roster have the mentality or the power to close out games. In fact, there is a rumor flying around that J.A. Happ could be the closer. I’m sure Happ can close games, but a promising starting pitcher with some nagging injuries doesn’t the mental games that being a closer would bring. The hole at the closer position is going to be a huge problem come playoff time.
Quite frankly, the pressure is now heavily upon the starting pitching to provide at least 7 full innings of work. Also, the offense will feel the pressure to provide significant run support for the starting pitching knowing that their bullpen is faltering. Conversely, the opposing teams will do everything they can to get to the much maligned Phillies bullpen. Having this glaring weakness on this Phillies team could not only be an issue dealt with each game, but could be extremely detrimental to entire psyche and mental state of this Phillies baseball team.
A simple solution, that I am not sure is the right one, would be to install Madson as the closer. I think he could easily handle this duty if he is afforded the opportunity to prepare like a closer from the physical to mental aspects of the game. Each game the Phillies go out and play without a designated closer, it supports each member of the bullpen to NOT have the mentality to close a game. By designating Madson the closer, he’ll know and the rest of the team will know that Madson is their guy and each player can prepare for their roles appropriately. Will it happen? I doubt, I think we are stuck with some significant bullpen issues heading into a tough playoff field.