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Eating Crow: An Open Apology to Paul Holmgren

Dear Paul,

Congratulations on making it to the playoffs! For a building riddled with tankitis, I’m sure there’s no better cure than playoff fever and most Philadelphians will agree. But I’m not writing this letter to talk of Stanley Cup dreams, rather I’d like to offer you an apology.

At this beginning of this season I had my doubts. Actually, I wanted your head to be punched off of your body by Ron Hextall…and that was before you fired Peter Laviolette three games into the season.

How was I going to trust a rookie head coach and an inconsistent goaltender to propel a sagging sadsack into the playoffs? How was adding another center going to improve a center-heavy team? Like every actress’ attempt to start a singing career, it simply wasn’t going to work. I prepared for another year of playoff-less hockey.

Instead, the Flyers have truly impressed me. Despite being in the gutter at the beginning of the season the Flyers have evolved into a legitimate playoff threat and the major pieces have your fingerprints. For example, Wayne Simmonds.

Simmonds, who was a part of the Jeff Carter/Mike Richards reconstruction project, has evolved into the best power play threat of his kind in the league. His production has been so stellar that he led the team in goals for the season with 29 (15 PP).

Then there’s Steve Mason who had a career year in both record and save percentage. A qestionable commodity before the start of the season, Mason has proven to be a rock for your team while stealing a few games in the process. The sooner he gets back into net, the better this team’s championship odds are.

But again, this letter isn’t about the Cup. It’s about you and the credit you deserve for making this season what it is. You’re an unpopular man working under an unpopular owner. It’s not exactly ponies shitting rainbows, but you’ve made the bold moves to make it work and, for that, you have my respect.

For now.

Sincerely,

Vince

 

 

25 Years Later; The Hillsborough Tragedy

It’s not very often when we walk into a sports arena or stadium and think about the safety precautions that are taken into account before we enter to enjoy our favorite teams. It’s so rare to have the unfortunate headline of a death or injury of spectators. Recently coming to my mind is the death in texas, of the fan who fell over a railing going for a foul ball at a Rangers game.

Of all the tragedies to happen, one of the worst to occur happened today 25 years ago in England.

Liverpool and Nottingham soccer clubs were set for a match in the FA cup semi-finals in Hillsborough Stadium. What resulted in the small stadium in Sheffield, England, made the sport of soccer seem so small and unimportant.

It was a typical day in the England, Liverpool fans flocked in full force to the Hillsborough Stadium. The fans of Liverpool were, like most away supporters, segregated in the stadium from the Nottingham fans. The section that Liverpool’s fans were set to spectate from was accessible through a narrow concourse. An estimated 24,000 plus Liverpool fans were expected to go through just 23 set up turnstiles. With the addition of a construction delay in the area and Liverpool fans wanting to take in the area, Liverpool fan’s went to the stadium late.

The build up of fans and the small area of congestion, in addition to the set area that supporters for Liverpool were to enter, resulted in confusion. Fans of Nottingham attempted to enter through Liverpool’s entry, but were turned away. As they attempted to leave, the build up of fans in the area prevented them from moving.

As the teams came out for warm-ups, fans in the area became antsy and pushed one another to the gates. Forcing the fans in the front forward and pinning them into riot gates set up around the field (a common structure in European Stadiums.)

What resulted was a human’s worst nightmare. The fans up front were crushed to death due to compressive asphyxia. Fans went into a panic fans in the upper levels attempted to help fans below by pulling them up. But the amount of fans entering was just too much.

The result of this disaster was a total of 96 death and 700 plus injured. Still to this day police that worked the game are questioned for their lack of safety precautions.

Next time you are at a sporting event, remember the people around you are responsible for your safety as well. 96 people lost their lives 25 years ago for a lack of safety.   

Hold On, You’re Going Home: Part Two

Fat Orlando Bloom?

Fat Orlando Bloom?

This is the second installment in the “Hold on, You’re Going Home” series You can view the first installment here.

The case for keeping Matthews is simple when put in recent context. In a way Casey Matthew is the anti-DeSean. A player under Chip Kelly in college, Matthews has a long-established relationship with Kelly. Also, given that he’s still on the team it’s reasonable to believe that he buys into the “Chip Kelly way”.

Secondly, Chip famously said that there’s an obvious way for someone to make the team “special teams, special teams, special teams.” Matthews has certainly been a solid special teamer as well as he led the team with eight ST tackles last season.

However, the fact remains that he’s the anti-DeSean in talent as well.

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Hold On, You’re Going Home: Part One

via reclinergm.com (AP Photo/Mark Stehle)

via reclinergm.com (AP Photo/Mark Stehle)

The offseason is almost over for the Eagles as we near the start of (not so) voluntary workouts, which start April 21st. There’s also that little, totally under-hyped thing called the draft on the way. Instead of blathering about needs that we all know I’d rather discuss the players that should get the boot before the regular season starts. I’ll be doing this series in installments because I said so. Wanna fight about it?

The first player on this list actually really hurts. However, as much I don’t like it, it’s time for Brandon Graham to move on. Graham, who was the Eagles first pick in the 2010 draft, is no longer a fit with this team.

The initial intent was to land a pass rushing force on the opposite side of Trent Cole in the 4-3. It worked. Despite a slow start to his career and a torn ACL, Graham was one of very few bright spots for the 2012 Eagles. In fact, he was utterly dominant. Take a look at the numbers according to PFF:

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Flyers beat Panthers; Clinch Playoffs

Last night, the Philadelphia Flyers took on the Florida Panthers in game 79 of the regular season. After a shaky 1st period, the Flyers stormed out in the 2nd period and scored 4 unanswered goals, leading the way to a 5-2 victory and solidifying their spot in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

After the teams 0-3-0 start, firing of the their then head coach, Peter Laviolette, hiring Craig Berube, and even then going 1-7-0. That is when the captain, Claude Giroux, made a bold statement. A statement that most of us, myself admittedly included, thought was a silly promise and will end up a broken one.

 “We’re not far off at all. How many points are we out, six? To think of the start that we had and we’re that close. We never thought about not making the playoffs. We’ve got to go game by game and we will make the playoffs.” -Claude Giroux

Man,are most of us laughing at ourselves and really would apologize to Giroux for doubting his prediction.

The issue now for the Flyers becomes where will they land in the seeding. They still have a game in hand against the New York Rangers and are just 2 points behind them.

For the Flyers, a team that has struggled largely in Madison Square Garden, getting ahead of the Rangers in the Metro is their next step.

Comparing the remaining schedules for the Flyers and Rangers, it’s a difficult task for the Flyers. They will likely need to win out against Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, and Carolina.The Rangers have Buffalo and Montreal left on their docket. As of today, the Rangers own the tiebreaker over the Flyers with 40 ROW wins compared to the Flyers 38.

No matter how we break down the remaining schedule, the Rangers are the nearly guaranteed opponent for the Flyers. I don’t agree with a few fans I’ve overheard saying to lose out the rest of the season of snag a wild card and face the Penguins in the first round.

That is entirely too risky, you could easily end up playing the Boston Bruins instead of the Penguins, and that will end miserably for the Flyers.

The best case for the Flyers right now is to win out and take on the Rangers, preferably on home ice, but anything can happen in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Let the playoff beards flow my fellow hockey enthusiasts.

_____________

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A Peek Into the Sixers Youth Movement

The Sixers finally snapped their historic losing streak. (credit: ESPN.com)

(credit: ESPN.com)

Amidst what has been a truly historic season for the Sixers, the main focus has been directed towards youth. When Brett Brown and his staff were hired it was clear that the focus was player development.

Thanks to a piece from Dan Feldman at ProBasketballTalk, we get a glimpse into how the coaching staff has managed such a young squad. For example, check out this excerpt about Tony Wroten:

Of 76ers who’ve actually played this season, 20-year-old Tony Wroten is youngest.

“You would never realize that I’m the youngest guy playing right now,” Wroten said.

That’s because Wroten spent last season with the Memphis Grizzlies. The guard has played more NBA games than anyone in Philadelphia outside Young, Anderson and Byron Mullens.

That’s a fun fact for you! If you’d like to read the whole piece, which has plenty of interesting nuggets, you can view it here.

 

I personally find Feldman’s piece fascinating because the issue of locker room culture has come up quite a bit recently. Both the Eagles and Sixers are young teams with new leadership and I think any chance to get behind the scenes is beyond beneficial. It means one thing to talk about locker room culture, but to understand aspects of the day-to-day for a team provides a better picture of how the organization operates a whole.

With this information, it’s quite clear that the team is on the right track.

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Assessing the Departure of Jack McInerney

[Note from Vince: This is the first article from Joel Hoover who, if you're into soccer, is kind of a big deal. However, being a true Philly sports fan, he's very knowledgeable about all five of Philly's teams. He also took my lunch money once and I told my mom on him.]

WengerFriday morning in the Philadelphia sports landscape saw a surprise early-season development take place down in Chester.

The Philadelphia Union, fresh off a disappointing 1-1 draw with the Montreal Impact last weekend, traded young forward Jack McInerney to Montreal in exchange for 2012 MLS SuperDraft No. 1 pick Andrew Wenger.

McInerney was a Union original, picked seventh overall in the 2010 SuperDraft by the team prior to their inaugural season. Though he was kept in the depths of the team during Peter Nowak’s tenure as manager, it was under John Hackworth that he was finally given a chance to flourish as a regular in the starting XI. The 21-year-old made his breakthrough early in the 2013 season, scoring 10 goals in the opening 14 matches of the MLS season to earn a call-up to the United States Gold Cup team and an MLS All-Star selection. He would finish with 12 MLS goals in 2013, before tallying one in four matches this year to bring his total with the team to 25 goals in 95 matches.

Wenger comes to the Union after being the longtime attacking understudy of Montreal Impact Designated Player Marco Di Vaio. The 23-year-old scored six goals in 51 MLS appearances, but was mostly resigned to coming off the bench as a substitute. He is a native of Lancaster, PA, just an hour away from Chester, and also played for the Union’s PDL affiliate Reading United.

The departure of McInerney has been met with surprise, but as the day unfolded and details were discussed the reasoning is growing somewhat clearer.

With his Generation Adidas tag gone, McInerney was coming to the end of his contract at the end of this season. There was a team option that could have been exercised next offseason by the Union front office, but that would have been met with very high salary demands from McInerney. Given the salary cap MLS employs, and the presence of three newly-minted Designated Players on the Union’s squad, taking on a salary up around $400,000 would have been a very difficult task for the team. Plus, there has been talk for a while that McInerney and defender Amobi Okugo, the last Union original now, would not have both been able to take on a significant hike in their salaries.

With all of this in mind, Montreal may only be taking McInerney on for a one-year rental. The striker has spoken of his desire to move abroad to Europe in the past, and wouldn’t leave the possibility of it out in his initial press conference after the trade. If a move does not materialize after this season, Montreal may still be able to keep him, since DP Di Vaio is in the final year of his own contract and there is speculation that he may retire after this season. The Impact could then take on McInerney’s salary demands–which team sporting director Nick De Santis practically confirmed when he said that the team is planning to exercise the extra year on McInerney’s contract.

So what kind of player are the Union giving to Montreal? The question is actually a more difficult one to answer than a first glance would reveal, but it does play a factor into the reason they decided to do it.

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Around the Cooler 4/4/14: DeSean’s True Colors (Burgundy and Gold)

DeSean SkinsHere’s what we’re talking about:


Play on your Mobile Device or Right Click to Download: Around the Cooler 4-4-14

What are you talking about around the wooder cooler this week? Leave us a comment!

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Musical theme written by Matthew Schwalm.

A Deep Breath After DeSean Jackson

DeSean JacksonAfter weeks of back and forth, the Eagles released DeSean Jackson on Friday. Now, he’s a Washington Redskin.

The debate over Jackson’s departure has hinged on the simple and seemingly unanswerable question: Was this the right move?

In order to give a fair assessment of this decision you can’t look at the move as an isolated instance. Yes, the Eagles just released a 27-year-old Pro Bowl receiver coming off of a career season. Yes, they’ll need to add some depth. However, I don’t think the answer can be found by asking ‘how does this affect the team?’ It should be ‘what does this say about the organization?’

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DeSean Released

OK, holy shit. So they actually went and did it. Lots of things going on but since I’m at work I wont have time to get something up until later. For now, again, holy shit.

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