Thursday, September 29, 2016

Revisiting The Flyers Top 25 Under 25

Each summer, the wonderful folks at Broad Street Hockey dot com put together the Flyers Top 25 Under 25, a comprehensive look at the most talented youngsters in the organization. They have a whole panel of people who vote, and this year they also included a fan vote component.

I gave you my picks a little more than a month ago, and the announcement of Ivan Provorov as #3 today solidifies the entire BSH list (Couturier will be #1 and Gostisbehere will be #2). Let's take a look at where I disagree with the rest of the gang.

Ivan Provorov (#3 for BSH, #5 for me)

I will admit that I was probably wrong on this one, especially after seeing him live in training camp and watching him stay well above afloat in 51 minutes of ice time in two preseason games. He's number three. That's fine.

For the purposes of my exercise, though, I placed proven NHL readiness above potential. Potential is great, and you need your prospects to have potential, but Oliver Lauridsen had potential and now he plays for a team called Jokerit.

Provorov is not Lauridsen. He has the size (though not as much as Big Oliver), but he also has the skate and stick skills and the hockey sense to succeed in the NHL.

Travis Konecny (#4 for BSH, #9 for me)

If Provorov was a whiff for me, Konecny was me swinging so hard that I threw the bat into the stands and hit my own grandmother with it.

He was the most impressive player on the ice in the session of training camp I got to see, with the exception of maybe Wayne Simmonds.

He was also - unquestionably - the most impressive player on the ice last night against the Devils. The size and the durability (and the likely lack of a spot for him) will probably send him back to Sarnia, but his offensive ceiling is certainly higher than the two guys I had behind Coots and Ghost.

Scott Laughton (#6 for BSH, #3 for me)
Nick Cousins (#8 for BSH, #4 for me)

So let's talk about those two guys. I had them ranked this high, admittedly probably too high, because I know they can put on a Flyers jersey and have a moderate amount of success against NHL competition.

Names above and below this group in this post will likely outperform Laughton and Cousins over the next decade, but for now I value proven-ness more than potential.

Taylor Leier (#14 for BSH, #6 for me)

As far as forwards go, he's basically the next man up behind Laughton and Cousins in the system. Or, at least, he was when I ranked him sixth. Now he's probably facing competition from Jordan Weal and Roman Lyubimov, but his name is certainly in the conversation for "AHL call-up under the age of 25."

He's had a really quiet training camp, so quiet that I'm actually wondering if he might be injured. As usual, Charlie O'Connor to the rescue. Here's what he said about Leier's performance last night:
#7: Leier was feisty, quick, and active 
I'm not quite sure where Taylor Leier stands with the Flyers' organization right now. He took a step forward in terms of production last season in the AHL and even received a cup of coffee in Philadelphia, but there doesn't appear to be a clear path to NHL playing time right now considering the team's depth in the bottom-six.
Regardless of whether Leier has any chance at all of making the Flyers out of camp, he certainly played like a guy who wants a shot. Leier is more quick than fast, but he has good instincts for where the puck will end up and isn't afraid to arrive there in ill humor despite his small-ish size. He took three shots in the game, and was active all night long.
If something goes awry with any of the Laughton/Cousins/Read/Lyubimov/Bellemare guys and they need a quick fix, Leier seems to be the guy that would be best suited for plugging the hole.

Oskar Lindblom (#12 for BSH, #16 for me)

If the hole that needs to be plugged happens to be a more skilled position, then enter Lindblom. Honestly, I wouldn't mind having to throw him an Konecny in the top six and just letting them play with Giroux and Voracek. That'll never happen though, and it'll be up to Lindblom to succeed in the AHL to prove he's worthy of a look in the NHL.

Travis Sanheim (#5 for BSH, #7 for me)
Sam Morin (#7 for BSH, #8 for me)

As for the "other" defensive guys not named Ivan Provorov, it's been an interesting camp. They both figure to play the full year with the Phantoms, but they've shown flashes of NHL skills. Sanheim's ability with the puck on his stick is breathtaking, and Morin's physical tools have people hoping he's Oliver Lauridsen 2.0 (maybe that's a bad analogy).

There are a lot of call-up options on the defensive side if Ron Hextall needs to stop a leak for a short-term injury, but it'd be nice to see Sanheim (for Ghost/MDZ/Streit) or Morin (for Gudas/Manning) if something like that happens.

German Rubtsov (#10 for BSH, #20 for me)

I literally don't know anything about this year's first round pick. That's a simple answer. Sorry.

Robert Haag (#11 for BSH, #11 for me)
Philippe Myers (#15 for BSH, #15 for me)

The only two players that we had ranked in the same slot are the final two big-name blueline prospects. Although, I bet if you gave people the option to vote again there would be a really sizable group of people who took Myers over Haag.

It seems like the floor for both of these guys is the AHL. Their NHL ceilings are different because they play the game differently, but they both possess a balance skillset that would make it a surprise to see them truly "fail."

Jordan Weal (#16 for BSH, #26 for me)

Whoops, I went through and made my whole list and completely forgot to include Jordan Weal. He turns 25 in the Spring, though, so he will be out of this pool in seven months anyway.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Preseason Recap: 9/27 vs. Islanders

After a pair of bad losses on Monday night, it was nice to see the boys in orange and black combine into one team and actually score goals last night. Steve Mason looked superb (more on him later), Wayne Simmonds scored twice (more on him later too), and we got a chance to see some impressive young talent.

In my preview post, I asked three questions about the forwards and three questions about the defense. I did not list a question about goaltending because I wasn't aware of who would be playing. But let's start there.

(Note: I'm pulling most of this from, which is going to end up being my favorite website during this hockey season.)

Steve Mason

Though the score makes it seem like this game was a blowout, it was very back-and-forth between the two teams. It's not as if the Islanders couldn't get anything set up on offense, or they were at a disadvantage in time of possession.

The Flyers' defense just kept them to the outside, clogged up the passing and shooting lanes, and Steve Mason stopped everything that managed to squeak through. I don't know the final number of saves because there isn't a single media outlet on Google News that has a recap of the game up now, but Mason looked great.


The presumptive third line played together for the first time last night, and they actually led all Flyers forwards in ice time. Weise scored one of the greasier goals possible, Cousins nearly got in a fight with someone who is 7 inches taller and 60 pounds heavier than him, and Laughton got penalty kill time instead of power play time.

Sometimes I forget that Laughton is supposed to be a defensive center, and in my mind I want him to fill the top-six winger role. But this trio all looked solid, and they finished about even in shot attempts (but on the "dull" side instead of the "fun" side, which is okay for a line like this). I wouldn't be averse to seeing them in that third line in games that count.

Matt Read & Jordan Weal

Weal, of course, got the benefits of (1) playing with Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn and (2) starting just one of his 14 shifts in the neutral zone and the rest in the offensive zone. His line finished positive in shot attempts at even strength, and Weal/Schenn each assisted on one of Simmonds' powerplay goals. Weal played in the Giroux spot (Del Zotto and Sanheim played the Voracek/Gostisbehere spots), and he was impressive enough that he might get time on the second unit, if he can, you know, make the actual team.

Read did not get powerplay time, but he did get a few shifts on the penalty kill. He was buried in the defensive zone with Michael Raffl and Andy Miele, but that didn't stop them from scoring. It was good to see Read able to use his speed to create offense, and he had good chemistry with Boyd Gordon on the penalty kill. Reports of his death were greatly exaggerated.

The Fourth Line

Speaking of Gordon, he had kind of a quirky night. He started just two shifts on faceoffs, and the other eight were on-the-fly changes. He also played nearly as many minutes on the penalty kill as he did at even strength. That's exactly what he was signed to do. He kills penalties (and he did a good job tonight, as proven by the shutout) so that Claude Giroux doesn't have to.

Vandevelde is what he is. He's a body. He knows the system. I think he's an ideal 13th forward. You can plug him in if anything weird happens, but he's not going to drive play or create offense. He's just a solid end-of-the-roster guy.

Lyubimov is a total wild card for me. He finished with the worst shot attempt differential on the entire team, part of which comes from his poor showing against the NHL-caliber line of Bailey-Cizikas-Prince. He got some powerplay time and some penalty kill time, and I think he looked like he belongs in the NHL. I'll wait for Charlie O'Connor's morning recap before I officially pass my judgment, but I think I'm in on Roaming Lube Him Off.


Well, that's an egg on my face. I used the word "disaster" when I described them, but the 55-57 pairing was the Flyers' best in terms of shot attempts. They weren't particularly sheltered, and there was not a single Islanders player who beat them in head-to-head shot attempts.

Sanheim got time on the top powerplay unit, including this nifty exchange with Phil Myers:
As it turns out, that was not even one of Sanheim's powerplay shifts (the Islanders just kind of stopped trying so it looked like they were down a man). He clearly has the puck skills to play in the league, and that'll only get better this year in Lehigh Valley.

Schultz, except for his scary crash into the boards that forced him to the locker room, was his usual self. He didn't do too much that's worthy of a highlight reel, but he's a rock solid defensive defenseman. He needs a partner who is capable of moving the puck at a high level, and Sanheim clearly checks that box. We'll have to see what happens when the World Cup guys return, though, because I don't know if Mark Streit checks that box anymore.


The other two pairings had good nights, but this duo was by far the worst for the Flyers last night. Provorov, to his credit, always shows flashes of being the steady, balanced, all-around defenseman that he's supposed to be. He also sometimes looks like a 19 year old that knows his future is largely riding on the next week and a half.

Here's a silver lining in case you're getting sad: Provorov played 29 minutes and 22 minutes on back-to-back nights, with healthy doses of powerplay and penalty kill time in both games. Management is giving him the look that we all wanted them to. He just needs to be better so he can seize the opportunity.

Del Zotto-Myers

Do you want to talk about seizing an opportunity? Good Lord I love Philippe Myers. He's huge, and he hits, and he can play the puck. He's a perfect complement to Del Zotto. This is probably just my dumb hot take brain talking but I think he's been the best rookie (forward or defenseman) through camp and the preseason games. I don't think there's any chance that he stays up with the big club this year, but you know...... (trails off until someone else in the room says something)

Gudas is coming back from his hand injury. Gostisbehere and Streit are coming back from the World Cup. Brandon Manning is lurking somewhere. But the future is really goddamn bright, even if Ivan Provorov is maybe not living up to the impossible expectations we had for him. There is a lot of talent, a lot of variety, and it's all going to be ready in the next year or two.

The boys are on the ice again tonight, and I imagine the roster will look a bit different. We'll see you then.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Flyers Preview: Preseason 9/27 vs. Islanders

Now that I've bitched about the Flyers organization's inability to stream a preseason game even nearly as well as the NBA streams D-League games (and preseason games, and draft combines, and everything else), let's switch gears and look at tonight's game.

They're combining the squads from last night, and including a few big names that were inactive last night. Let's go live to Dave Isaac at morning skate:
Thanks, Dave.


Obviously, it'll be great to see Schenn and Simmonds in action. The same goes for Raffl and Read, though to a slightly lesser extend.

The elephant in the room with these lines is Jordan Weal is basically just a placeholder for Claude Giroux, and I would take that to mean Miele/Read are placeholders for Couturier/Voracek. Based on his play at the World Cup, I would imagine Pierre-Edourard Bellemare will also be taking the place of one of those two fourth line wingers.

Here's what we're watching for tonight up front:

  • Can Laughton-Cousins-Weise be an effective line? They're probably going to be the third line this year, and it'd be nice if they showed some promise tonight. 
  • Do Matt Read and Jordan Weal belong in the conversation for playing time this year? Weal, of course, is trying to avoid getting sent to the AHL. Read is a bubble guy who they'd love to keep in the organization because of his versatility, but I don't see where he's going to crack the lineup once everyone is back and healthy. 
  • Is this fourth line really going to be able to take some pressure off of Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier?  Some combination of these three and Bellemare are being touted as "able to play in their own zone" and "capable of taking tough minutes." If they come out tonight and kill it, that is a great sign for the talented guys we have in the top nine. 

First, let's list off who's missing. Shayne Gostisbehere just returned from the World Cup and is taking some time to recalibrate and play with his dogs. Radko Gudas is still working through a hand injury. Mark Streit is going to get KILLED by Canada tonight in the first game of the World Cup final. Brandon Manning and Sam Morin (plus the rest of the youngsters) appear to be healthy scratches. 

Now, to the guys we'll actually be able to watch:
  • Schultz-Sanheim is a disaster waiting to happen. Schultz needs a puck mover to cover his deficiencies, and I don't know if Sanheim is ready for that task. I don't even know if Mark Streit was ready for that task last season, but I trust the 20-year vet a hell of a lot more than the 20-year-old kid. You can see why they did it though, because the other two pairings are (peeks out from behind a wall) actually kind of strong. 
  • Provorov-MacDonald is going to surprise people. I know the knock on MacDonald is his passiveness in the neutral zone (and God, what horrible passiveness it is), but he looked like the best defenseman on the ice in training camp. He has the requisite stick skills to float in the NHL, and if he could figure out how to prevent a zone entry he'd be solid. He wouldn't be worth $5 million per year (puts gun in mouth), but he'd be decent. Provorov is coming off a game where he played 29 minutes. I wouldn't expect him to get that many tonight, but it's impressive that his coaches are testing him in that fashion. 
  • Del Zotto-Myers is probably considered the number one pair tonight, and I'm excited to see how Myers responds to the role he's going to have to play. He's big, he can handle the puck, and he can shoot. I imagine they'll try him in a whole host of different roles tonight. I'm really in on Phil Myers, and tonight he could solidify his place in the future of the Flyers blueline. 

Flyers Preseason Recap: 9/26

The team split up for the evening, with half going to New Jersey and half going to New York. With the majority of the top end of the Flyers roster not included in either lineup, it was a good chance for the coaching and management staff to see some of the young guys in action.

And it would have been cool for the fans to be able to see them, too. But that was too much for the NHL. The Devils game was only broadcast on the radio, and the Islanders game was streamed on the Flyers' website with no game sounds and an announcer who couldn't see what was happening on the ice.

So, that part was not great. But Sons of Penn did a solid job translating the highlights to GIF form, and Micah McCurdy somehow got advanced stats charts for both games. Let's dive in.

Flyers (0) vs. Islanders (3)

I tried to watch this stream, but the combination of poor video quality and terrible announcing made it tough. I don't blame it on the Flyers, or on the announcer, because this was his setup last night:
It was always going to be shitty. But my man Brian powered through, and here's what we were able to see (kind of):

  • With the exception of late in the second and third periods, Anthony Stolarz was shelled. He gave up two goals. But, in a game that allowed for very little team practice beforehand and featured just two NHL-veteran Flyers (Michael Del Zotto and Nick Cousins), there were flashes of brilliance from Stolarz. However, he was very much outshined by the goalie in the other game (more on him later). 
  • Nick Cousins got into two fights, and neither of them was as entertaining as Tyrell Goulbourne's fight last week. 
  • The big names on the Islanders roster last night were prospects Mathew Barzal, Michael Dal Colle, Ryan Strome, and Joshua Ho-Sang. All four of them had at least one point, and Barzal was the only one of the four to not score a goal. We've known the future is bright for the Islanders, but it's scary to see it happen. 
  • In this game, they split time between defensemen pretty evenly. The two guys to watch were Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim, obviously. They both played about 20 minutes total (Sanheim had some powerplay time and Morin killed at least one penalty). Morin, whether it's in training camp or in a game situation, clearly needs more time to stew. He's going to be an absolute animal, but his puck skills and decision making need to develop naturally. Sanheim is supposed to be the guy that already has those skills, but I was a little nervous about how he looked. Granted, it was tough to follow, but the few times I noticed #57 he was doing things that were bad. 
Flyers (0) vs. Devils (2)
  • We'll start with the easiest analysis of this game. Carter Hart, by all accounts, was absolutely fantastic. He gave up one goal (the second was an empty netter). Keep in mind that this Devils lineup was made up of more than half of their actual NHL roster (Bennett, Cammalleri, Gazdic, Josefson, Kalinin, Zacha, Zajac, Greene, Lovejoy, Severson). Hart outplayed Stolarz against superior competition, and even though it's just one game it's a great sign for the goalie battle in Lehigh Valley*. 
  • The Devils may have iced an NHL roster, but the Flyers certainly didn't. Scott Laughton and Brandon Manning were the only skaters with significant NHL experience, but the lineup also included NHL hopefuls Travis Konecny, Taylor Leier, Roman Lyubimov, Robert Haag, and Ivan Provorov. 
  • Obviously Provorov is getting his own bullet. He played 29 (!!) minutes total, which includes leading the team in ice time in even strength, powerplay, and penalty kill minutes. He was as far from sheltered as a rookie can be, starting half of his shifts in his defensive zone. In a game where the 5v5 shot attempts chart essentially has every Devil in the positive and every Flyer in the negative, Provorov just about broke even in possession numbers. That includes close individual shot attempt battles with NHLers Lovejoy, Greene, Cammalleri, Zajac, and Bennett. Provy held Pavel Zacha to zero shot attempts while they were on the ice together, which is notable because Zacha was taken one pick before him. Provorov belongs in the NHL, and he proved it to us last night by holding his own against half a dozen guys who are experienced NHL veterans. 
*Update: obviously Carter Hart is only 18, so he'll be going back to juniors for at least another year. The goalie battle in Lehigh Valley will be between Stolarz and Alex Lyon. I hope you guys can all give me the credit I deserve for striving to put the best, most accurate, tremendously great product on your screen at all times. Thank you.

Monday, September 26, 2016

College Football Season Prop Recap: Week Four

It's Monday morning. I'm working with a four day hangover. I almost just turned my alarm off and took the day off of work. Looking back on that decision from my desk, I very clearly made the wrong decision.

But I'm at work, so I might as well work, right? Instead of doing actual work, though, I'm going to recap the eventful weekend we had with our season-long bets on Washington, FSU, Tennessee, and Oklahoma.

Let's start off with the easy one.

Oklahoma Had A Bye Week

And man, they needed it. They played Houston and Ohio State in weeks one and three, and they come out of the bye against TCU and then Texas. Those two games are the season for the Sooners; they could end up 3-2 (2-0 in the conference) with a manageable schedule the rest of the way, or they could end up 1-4 (0-2 in the conference) and be completely dead before mid-October.

Confidence Level: Well, It's Either Us Or Baylor Or West Virginia

#9 Washington Beat Arizona, 35-28 (OT)

We knew this game was going to be a lot different from the cakewalk the Huskies had for the first three games of the season. Arizona was the first "real" team they had to play.

Quarterback Jake Browning came back down to earth from his usual 300+ yards and 4+ touchdowns, finishing with 160 yards, 2 touchdowns (including the overtime winner), and an interception. But the real story was the Washington running game combining for 352 yards, 3 touchdown, and 6.9 yards per carry. That, against an Arizona defense that allowed an average of about 150 yards per game and 4-ish yards per carry is a very good sign.

Part two of the trilogy of rough games is at Stanford next week.

Confidence Level: Somewhat Moderately High

#13 Florida State Beat South Florida, 55-35

At one point on Saturday afternoon, I checked my phone and this game was tied 14-14. I had bad thoughts, and I thought FSU might blow it.

From that point, the 'Noles scored three towndowns and kicked a field goal to go into halftime with a 38-14 lead. The two teams traded shots for the second half, and it turned out to be a relatively comfortable win.

Deondre Francois was his usual comfortable freshman self, totaling 169 passing yards, 75 rushing yards, and one of each kind of touchdown. Dalvin Cook, per usual, was the star. My man went for 267 yards on 9.5 yards per carry and two scores.

The 'Noles got bumped up from 13 to 12 with the win, but they no longer control their own fate in the division. Louisville is going to have to lose twice to some combination of Clemson, Duke, NC State, Virginia, and Wake Forest.

Confidence Level: Not Great, Bob

#14 Tennessee Beat Florida, 38-28

You should already be reading Clay Travis' four posts per week, but just in case you missed his college football recap yesterday, he summed up this game perfectly:

The Vols started the season in the national top ten, but this is their first appearance in the Outkick top ten. After muddling their way through the App State and Ohio games and playing one good half against Virginia Tech, at halftime of the Florida game, with the Vols trailing 21-3, I was ready to pronounce them dead.

But then something remarkable happened -- the Vols posted one of the best halves in the history of the program, thoroughly dominating Florida, turning a 21-0 deficit into a 38-21 advantage.

The result? The Vols roar into our top ten. (Clay has them ranked 9th in the nation, the polls have them 11th.)
Confidence Level: I Wish It Was Higher But Georgia, Texas A&M, And Alabama Over The Next Three Weeks Is Really Fucking Daunting

Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday Mount Rushmore: People Who Have Blocked Me On Twitter

It's time for a quick Friday morning history lesson. Today's topic is Mount Rushmore. Please open your textbooks to Wikipedia dot com slash Mount underscore Rushmore.

Image result for mount rushmore

Contrary to popular belief, Mount Rushmore was not actually a prophecy. Jesus did not carve those faces into the mountain as a prediction for the future of the United States. It was carved into a hill in South Dakota in the early 1900's. They picked the four best Presidents - the Mount Rushmore of Presidents - and named the structure after everyone's favorite way to list their four favorite things from a category.

And it's pretty much inarguable, at least in my opinion, that they got this Mount Rushmore right. Let's take a look:

  • George Washington (1789-1797) - He is the original The Troops. He killed some Queen Lovers on Christmas, he chopped down a cherry tree and then didn't lie about it. He teeth were made of wood (or wool, I can never remember). And, not to get too political, he was very much against partisanship. But mostly he was the father of this great country, and your Mount Rushmore is 100% wrong if you leave him off. 
  • Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) - After John Adams became the first President to only win for one term, Tommy $2 came in. He was a big States Rights guy, but the most important thing he ever did was buying the Louisiana Territory for like $18 per square mile. That territory included places that are now important, like Iowa and Kansas and The Mountain That They Carved Into Mount Rushmore. 
  • Abe Lincoln (1861-1865) - No big deal, he just kept the country together through the Civil War. He's also a member of the PR Hall of Fame because he freed his opponents' slaves to hurt them during the war, and somehow Spin Zone'd it into being the President That Freed The Slaves. As they say, history is written by the victors. 
  • Teddy Roosevelt (1901-1909) - Speak softly and carry a big stick. Bingo. 
So we have some nice balance there. Founding fathers, war generals, legal professionals, men who shaped the country into what it is today. 

And that's where we're changing gears and talking about a different Mount Rushmore. Because I'm one more founding father or war general away from having a Mount Rushmore of People Who Have Blocked Me On Twitter. 

Before I even realized this was ever going to be a Mount Rushmore, I god Mad On Line about Flyers defenseman Michael Del Zotto. 

And then he blocked me. 

Displaying FullSizeRender.jpg
Okay, that was fine. No big deal. He's a bit of a journeyman, he might not be around Philadelphia for a while. I'll survive. 

And then Train announced that they were going to release a cover album of one of the best albums of all time, Led Zeppelin II. I tried to do everyone on planet earth a favor. 

My request was not well received. 

Displaying IMG_0193_sRGB.JPG

Number three was an easy one. I grew up watching Jay Mariotti on Around The Horn until he started beating up women and stalking his exes. He started mouthing off about the internet and blogs and millennials and stuff, so I figured I'd throw some gasoline on the fire. 
And what did Jay Mariotti do about me pointing out how he has less followers than a part-time Barstool Sports hockey and porn comment section blogger?

Displaying FullSizeRender.jpg

Here's where we stand now. Mariotti obviously misheard Teddy Roosevelt's most famous saying, because he's Speaking Loudly and Carrying A Big Chin nowadays.

Who should be the Abe Lincoln? I think, on some level, it has to happen organically. But I really want this to be special. If anyone famous (or semi-famous? Bobby Flay would be ideal) is reading this, please tweet me something hostile and let's have a gosh darn Twitter beef. It's Friday and work is slow, I could go for some good old fashioned online hostility. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Flyers' Rookie Camp Lines Are Interesting (Hmmm Emoji)

In case you don't have a huge Flyers Twitter presence on your timeline, Flyers rookie camp is underway. The Youths have arrived in Voorhees, and they're all trying to carve out their roles on the Phantoms or try to avoid getting sent back to their junior team in southwestern Manitoba.

For all of you Canadian Geography novices, that southwestern Manitoba comment was an Ivan Provorov joke. He's the guy that everyone seems to think has the best chance of making the Flyers out of camp, and he's got about three weeks to prove that to Ron Hextall.

We'll see how that develops. But the lineups the team used for this camp today are (in my mind) indicative of how these young guys are viewed. Let's go live to Dave Isaac in Voorhees:
 Thanks, Dave.


The Goulbourne-Martel-Aubekubel line is going to KILL IT for the Phantoms this year.

The Bunnaman-Salinitri-Konecny trio is all going to be heading back to the OHL this season. Salinitri and Konecny play together in Sarnia.

I'm not sure what to make of that third line. Swaveley is a 24-year-old kid out of college who played 15 games for the Phantoms last year. The other three are 2nd, 3rd, and 4th round picks from the past two years who are all probably headed back to Canadian juniors to stew for another season or two.

The fourth line is where is gets really interesting. Taylor Leier is an AHL veteran (sort of, he's played two seasons with the Phantoms). Fazleev will be making his AHL debut this upcoming season, but people have high hopes for him. And, playing with those two guys who figure to be impact guys for Lehigh Valley, is 24-year-old rookie Roman Lyubimov.

Lyubimov (pronounced "lube-him-off") was signed this summer from the KHL. He's kind of a while card and his point totals indicate that he'll probably be more of a depth guy than anything. But he's with Leier and Fazleev, which is an excellent sign for him.


Morin and Sanheim are going to probably be two members of Lehigh Valley's top four defensemen this year. Robert Hagg (pronounced "hog) will also probably factor into that discussion, as will Mark Alt, TJ Brennan, and Andrew MacDonald (kidding but not really).

The McFadden/Wilcox pairing is one that might be able to stick at the bottom of the Phantoms lineup, but they might also get bumped to lower leagues like the CHL or ECHL for one more season.  Willcox, in case you haven't heard, was the Captain of the Cornell University Hockey Team. Cornell Is An Ivy League School. Ithaca Is Gorges.

Provorov, Menell, and Myers are all too young to play in the AHL this season. It's Flyers or Juniors for all three of them.

Initially, I was impressed that Menell scored 53 points as a defenseman last year in the WHL. Then I realized that Provorov scored 73 points in less games and was 84 points better in plus/minus. I hate plus/minus as a stat, but the difference between -20 and +64 is YUGE. Menell, see you in the WHL this year.

I like Myers but he's going to play another year in the QMJHL, probably serve as one of the captains of Rouyn-Noranda, and then he'll get to the AHL in 2017-18 and develop the traditional way.

Ivan Provorov

Now, let's talk about a defenseman developing in the non-traditional way. I saved the best for last. My thoughts, largely, can be summed up by Charlie O'Connor from Broad Street Hockey and Mike DiNicola from O&BP. Talent-wise, Provy is clearly NHL-caliber. Physically, he fills out his 6'1" frame well enough that he could withstand the nature of the NHL.

The question about Provorov's NHL readiness boils down to whether or not he's ready mentally. The NHL season is a long, grueling run to the playoffs (and then it gets even more grueling). The past two years with Brandon, he played 60 and 62 games (plus 19 and 21 more in the playoffs). Again, he should be there physically. But the mental adaptation can be a big one. I'll reference this quote from Sam Morin, who made the leap from juniors to the AHL at age 20:
"The AHL is so much different than junior. It's not even close. The guys are way stronger and little things, like in the corners, those guys aren't gliding to the net. They're sprinting. There's just so much intensity and that's the big difference. It was a big adjustment, but I learned from it."
And that's about a worse league with two extra years of development!

You're asking a kid who has been able to dip Skoal (mint, long cut) and read Playboy magazine (RIP) for less than two years to leave behind a world where he's ALWAYS been the best player on EVERY team he's ever played for. You want that kid to have to immediately play against guys like Evgeny Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, and Jason Gosh Darn Fucking Chimera? You're insane. He's going to have to ease into it.

But here's where I start to see both sides of the debate. Provorov is going to have to make that jump eventually. We can't stop Alex Ovechkin from cheap-shotting him and breaking his shoulder forever. At some point, there is going to have to be a leap. For Shayne Gostisbehere, at age 22, the "leap" was Mark Streit's broken vas deferens.

For Ivan Provorov, at age 19, is the "leap" just going to be "better now than later"?

Well actually, there are reasons to think it might not be better now than later. In Brandon, Provorov led the team on the ice - because he was the best defenseman in the whole CHL - but he wasn't tasked with leading the locker room as a captain. Captaincy is one major selling point of sliding Provorov back to the Wheat Kings.

The other benefit of pushing back Provy's three-year entry-level contract is money. If this thing goes according to plan, he's going to command the Dougie Hamilton contract ($5-6 million) after his entry-level deal expires. Would you rather:

  • $900k from age 19-22 (2016-19), then at least $5 million from age 22 (2019-20) until forever
  • $900k from age 20-23 (2017-20), then at least $5 million from age 23 (2020-21) until forever
Basically, do you want to let him captain Brandon for a year, and pay him at least $4 million less in 2019-20? Part of me says yes, that's a logical move for his development and for the team's salary cap situation. 


So I don't know, I'm really torn. Obviously, We'll see how he looks in camp. 

College Football Season Prop Recap: Week Three

Sorry for the delay. I usually try to post these on Monday morning, but I was busy providing great client service and I got sidetracked from what really matters.

Let's dive right in.

#2 Florida State lost to Louisville

We're going to breeze right through this Noles summary. They got killed, Louisville looked awesome, and they have no chance of winning their division.

Confidence Level: Bad

#8 Washington beat Portland State

They walloped Portland State (fucking bearded flannel hipsters) and moved to 3-0 against three fairly unimpressive opponents. That said, any time you can win three weeks in a row by a combined 148-30, things are good.

So now the Huskies move from a really easy trio to a REALLY hard trio. At Arizona, host Stanford, at Oregon. That's the whole season right there, boys.

Quarterback Jake Browning has been almost flawless. Backup quarterback KJ Carta-Samuels has thrown a mop-up touchdown in every game. The rushing and receiving attacks have been balanced, and there are about a dozen guys that can realistically contribute in those roles. This first month has gone as well as it could have for Washington.

Confidence Level: Higher Than Florida State

#14 Oklahoma lost to #3 Ohio State

After opening the season with a loss to Houston, Oklahoma really wasn't supposed to beat Ohio State. And they did not.

Here's the only comparison you need to sum up the game. Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield threw two touchdowns and two interceptions. Ohio State's JT Barrett threw four touchdowns and no interceptions.

The saving grace for Oklahoma is the rest of the Big 12 kind of stinks. TCU is technically winning the conference now (at 1-0) after they beat Iowa State in the only Big 12 game so far this season. Baylor and West Virginia are undefeated, but they've played NWST, SMU, RICE, MIZ, and YSU. That's a considerable step down from Houston and Ohio State.

And then Texas, who is the only other ranked Big 12 team (Oklahoma dropped to #25). The Longhorns are currently #21 basically exclusively because they outlasted Notre Dame in that season opener. But Notre Dame scored 47 points on them, and ND's probably going to end up being an unranked team when this season is all said and done.

Confidence Level: Higher Than Washington

#15 Tennessee beat Ohio

Tennessee is like the exact opposite of Washington, even though they have identical 3-0 records.

The Vols came into this year as the favorite in the SEC East. The Huskies were more of a dark horse in the Pac-12 North.

The Huskies have absolutely dominated the easy portion of their schedule, beating everyone by 30+ points. The Vols needed overtime to beat Appalachian State, had a good showing against lowly Virginia Tech, and just this past week they only beat Ohio by 9 points. Single digits!

Josh Dobbs was, once again, just okay. Jalen Hurd is now the second best player in the SEC whose name starts with "Jalen Hur". Kicker Aaron Medley is just 3/5 on field goals for the season.

Confidence Level: Florida Might Beat Them By 30 This Week

Monday, September 19, 2016

I Found A New Game Of Thrones Theory About Gendry

I'm not a huge Reddit guy in general. As far as internet content goes, I'm usually content just having the Barstool guys sift through everything and giving me what they think is worthwhile.

But when it comes to Game of Thrones, it doesn't get better than r/gameofthrones. I gobble that shit up, especially during the season. I'll read through pages and pages of theories and recaps and artwork.

(Ha ha just kidding, I always skip over the artwork because art is for nerds and Europeans.)

I happened to be browsing this morning, and I stumbled across a new Gendry theory that I hadn't heard before.

Gendry, of course, is Robert Baratheon's supposed bastard, which gives him as good a claim to the Iron Throne as anybody at this point in the show's timeline. He's been in a rowboat for like four and a half seasons now, and there is certainly no shortage of theories about where he is and where he's headed.

Maybe he's going to meet up with Dany and be her master blacksmith. Maybe he's going to run into Jon Snow at Winterfell. Maybe he and The Hound will get together to bash skulls. Maybe he's just fucking dead.

But this new theory is an interesting one. In case you didn't click the link above, here's the gist of it:

  • Gendry is the son of Robert Baratheon and Cersei Lannister.
  • He was taken away from the King and Queen immediately after he was born.
  • He is the only trueborn heir to the throne. 

    A few things here:

    His Parents and Lineage

    Cersei makes vague references to Catelyn Stark in season one about her firstborn son. She described him, and the only point that really matters for our purposes is his brown hair. 

    The rest of Cersei's (dead) kids all had blonde hair, but they were fathered by Jaime. 

    That first son having brown hair, according to Gregor Mendel, must mean that someone other than Jaime was the father. So either it was Robert, or Cersei had a baby before she got married. Given what we know about Cersei, I would think it's safe to assume that Robert and Jaime are the only two men she's been with. 

    That makes her firstborn brunette son a True Baratheon, and if that happens to be Gendry then a lot of people are going to be really pumped for the reveal. 

    He Was Taken Away At Birth

    One issue with Gendry being Robert and Cersei's heir is Why Would The Two Most Powerful People On The Continent Give Up Their Firstborn Son?

    You can answer this a few ways. I think the most logical answer is Jon Arryn. He, like Gendry, was a prominent character early on who tailed off as the show developed in other ways. Jon was Robert's right hand man, and he's described as a very intelligent and honest guy. 

    Perhaps Jon Arryn knew about Cersei and Jaime, and knew Cersei's ultimate goal would be to have her incest children as her heirs. Jon saved the baby, lied to Robert and Cersei about its death, and drove them both to drinking problems that killed Robert and will ultimately kill Cersei. 

    But maybe it wasn't Jon Arryn. Maybe Cersei asked Varys or Jaime or someone else (Littlefinger?) to kill the baby, and that person went behind her back to save an innocent life (or save a trueborn heir for a time when they really needed a trump card). That person eventually told their secret to Jon Arryn, and that's how he found Gendry at the armor shop just before the first season.

    There are a TON of ways this could shake out, if this is the direction the Gendry plotline goes. Hiding secrets from the King and Queen or conspiring to kill the heir to the Iron Throne, there are some major cliffhangers and surprises that could happen if Westeros learns that Gendry is a Baratheon-Lannister hybrid. 

    He's The Trueborn Heir

    But can the people of Westeros actually learn that? We went through something similar with Jon Snow's parents. If nobody knows about his bloodline, who the fuck cares if his claim is true or not?

    Jon lucked out because everyone gave him the benefit of the doubt and decided to overlook the whole "bastard" thing. But if his crown was dependent on proving who his actual parents were, he probably wouldn't be able to do that. I mean, at this point, Jon doesn't even know about his own secret. 

    The only living people who know about Jon Snow's parents are Bran (his crippled magician brother, so it's tough to say if people would believe it) and Howland Reed (who lives on a floating island in the swamp somewhere). That's something else to watch for in the next two seasons - how is everyone in the show going to learn about R+L=J? 

    We're getting sidetracked, I'm sorry. 

    Gendry is not going to get the same benefit of the doubt that Jon did. While his real identity might be King, everyone on the continent (except for maybe whoever saved him at birth) just thinks he's a poor orphan blacksmith. 

    Here are a few ways Gendry could come back into the fold with a crown on his head:
    • Varys/Littlefinger/Ilyrio - I'm combining these three conniving fucks into one because the storyline would be exactly the same. The whole world is a game to them, and saving a piece like a Trueborn Heir is exactly something they'd all do. They're also all powerful enough to announce Gendry's claim to the throne and have it actually supported by the general public. 
    • Jaime - If Cersei told Jaime to kill the boy and Jaime instead chose to send him to the armory, then all Uncle Jaime needs to do is announce his nephew to the world. Cersei would be pissed, but I think Jaime's a bit mad that she blew up half of King's Landing. 
    • Samwell Tarly - That library was really big. Maybe there's a book there that will lead him into learning about Gendry. Even as I type this I realize it's a ridiculous thought. 
    • Bran - It would be lame for both Jon and Gendry to have their parentage found out by Bran's Wizard Trees. I would like to see a little more creativity out of the GOT crew. 
    • Daenerys - I guess maybe he could row his boat out to her army of ships and they could bang, and she could make him her Dragon King. But I don't think that's going to happen. 
    I'm going to split the last possible way Gendry could be revealed off outside of the bullets. Who else could know Gendry's past and also have the ability to put the public spotlight on his claim to the throne? 

    Howland Reed. This is the one that I'm rooting for. I want Howland to call a meeting of the most powerful people in Westeros. Dany, Cersei, Jon, Littlefinger, Varys, and 6-8 other people that I can't think of off the top of my head right now. Get all of those people around a table for a rousing political discussion about what's going to happen with the (probably) impending war. 

    He starts up a "You're probably wondering why I've gathered you here today, other than for Derek's birthday" speech. 

    (Sick Step Brothers reference, right?)

    Howland chooses his words carefully - or, I guess, the writers of the show choose his words carefully - and the audience thinks he's going to announce R+L=J to the big swinging dicks of Westeros. 

    And then, when we're all expecting him to point a finger at Jon, he points to the door and Gendry walks in with Melisandre. The screen cuts to black and season six is over. 

    Bang! Hire me as a writer, or at least as an ideas guy. If that (or something similar) is how they end season six, I'm going to gouge out my own eyeballs. But in a good way. 

    So there you go, I just wrote 1,300 words about a probably-not-even-close-to-true fan theory from Reddit. I am so fucking ready for Game of Thrones that I might not physically be able to make it to mid-2017 when it's supposed to air. 

    And if Benioff and Weiss try to Frank Ocean us and make us wait for the new season, I say we riot outside of the HBO headquarters in New York. 

    Tuesday, September 13, 2016

    Barstool Did A Draft Of The Best Snacks

    First things first, I don't really understand how this was a "draft." There was no order or snake or anything, and there were multiple people who picked duplicate snacks. This seems more like it was the 18 people in the Barstool office listing their three favorite snacks.

    But because it's Tuesday morning and my contact is fucked up (so obviously I can't do any real work, that'd be in poor taste), let's see how they did.

    Pick #1: Pres - Low Fat Cheez-Its, Pirate Booty, Carrot Sticks

    I can't find a tweet with the video of Pres saying "what a fucking idiot, Weird Haircut Seth" but what a fucking idiot, Dave Portnoy. Cheez-Its are a perfectly respectable choice, as are White Cheddar Cheez-Its.

    But reduced fat? What the fuck kind of shit is that? And carrot sticks??? You fucking weird, healthy, second grade teacher.

    Pirate Booty is almost a good choice because it's almost Smartfood Popcorn. So Dave almost nailed two out of three but he fucked those two up so bad that I'm giving him a 0/5.

    Pick #2: KFC - Nacho Cheese Doritos, Double Stuf Oreos, White Powdered Donuts

    Kevin also did the live draft grades, I'm going to let him grade himself on this one.
    Pick #3: Clem - Gushers, Vanilla Dunkaroos, Cape Cod Chips

    Clem is The Snack Guy, and he showed why with these three. Gushers and Dunkaroos are a slam dunk throwback to middle school, and they're two of the tastier ways to rewind to the time before you had to pay money for things.

    Cape Cod chips are the best potato chips. Lays are too greasy, and if you eat just one single store brand potato chip you literally die of poverty instantly.

    Pick #4: Big Cat - Goldfish, Chips And Queso, Swedish Fish

    This might end up being the best draft of the whole exercise. I think I could legitimately exist on these three foods for a whole goddamn month. I could probably do that just on chips and queso alone.

    And ever since I got my braces taken off in like 9th grade I've been a huge Swedish Fish guy. You lose the ability to eat them for a year and a half, and then suddenly you cherish them that much more for the rest of you life.

    Also, RIP Larry The Goldfish. Sorry PFT murdered you with his Red Man grease.

    Image result for larry the goldfish

    Pick #5: Nate - Gushers, Zebra Cakes, Reese's Pieces

    Gushers again? That's fair game in this draft? Everyone can have Gronk as their tight end?

    Kevin gave him shit on Twitter for the Zebra Cakes and for choosing pieces over cups. I think it's hard to disagree with the second point. Reese's Cups are the classic.

    But, for once in his Barstool career, I agree with Nate about something. Zebra Cakes were a staple in my K-12 packed lunch years. I probably ate five of those bad boys every week.

    Pick #6: Sales Guy - Fruit Basket

    Far and away the most preposterous answer anyone has ever come up with for "What are your three favorite snacks?"

    A goddamn fruit basket.

    Pick #7: PFT Commenter - Gushers, Small Bag Of Cheez-Its, Fireball Nips

    So we have a repeat on Cheez-Its (but at least it's the right kind of Cheez-Its this time), a double repeat on Gushers (the Rob Gronkowski of snacks, it's official), and cinnamon whiskey.

    The Fireball is obviously a big PFT move, but the small bag of Cheez-Its is an interesting angle. Normally, my Cheez-It move is just get the family size box and eat the whole thing in two sittings. But the small bags, like Clem's Dunkaroos, is a big throwback to when you had to pack a lunch for school. You might need to eat three or four bags to really get your money's worth, but I'm on board.

    Pick #8: Feitelberg - Sour Patch Kids, Snickers (to freeze), Milk Duds

    How did it take eight picks for someone to take Sour Patch Kids? I mean not only are they the best non-chocolate candy, they're also one of the only snacks chosen so far that actually advertise. I'm going to end up with like 65 snacks on my Top Three list, but Sour Patch Kids absolutely have to be on there somewhere.

    Is this a hot take: Snickers candy bars frozen aren't great. Give me the Snickers ice cream bar instead.

    Pick #9: Milmore - Little Pretzel Sticks In The Yellow Box, Chocolate/Vanilla Ice Cream Cups, Sour Patch Kids

    Naturally Milmore went heavy (and descriptive) on the elementary school snacks, because I'm not totally convinced he's not just a technologically adept ten year old.

    Pick #10: Caleb - BBQ Beef Jerky, Salt & Vinegar Almonds, Gushers

    I don't know about beef jerky, man. I like the idea of it, because it's always good to ingest as much meat as you possibly can. But eating the actual beef jerky fucking SUCKS. And it costs like $8 for a tiny little bag of meat. Maybe if Jack Lynx spent less money on elaborate pranks on Bigfoot they could get their price point down below An Entire Meal At Taco Bell.

    I'm in on almonds as a snack but I am 10000000% out on salt and vinegar almonds. I don't even need to try them because I'm imagining them in my head and they are absolutely awful.

    Pick #11: Smitty - Hummus, Pita Chips

    This is basically just one snack. Maybe Pres will share his fucking carrot sticks so Smitty has some variety with his hummus.

    I like hummus as a snack but it all depends on what kind of hummus Smitty buys at his new NYC grocery store. There is one correct answer.

    Image result for hummus

    Anything else and you may as well just cancel your whole round of the snack draft. 

    Pick #12: Coley - "Dunkaroos. Thats it. Build my franchise on Dunkaroos. Its my Karl Anthony Towns."

    Well Actually, the Timberwolves are built on Ricky Rubio. Dunkaroos can definitely be your Ricky Rubio. They make everything around them better. Sandwich, chips, apple, Spanish national basketball team. Everything is better when you pair it with Dunkaroos or a point guard who literally shoots the worst jumpshot in NBA history.

    Pick #13: Riggs - Big Bucket Of Cheeseballs, Swiss Rolls, Cheddar & Sour Cream Ruffles

    How's this for a hot take on the politics guy: there is not a two-snack combination that is more Poor than cheese balls and cheddar/sour cream ruffles. I love fake cheese as much as anyone, but those are two of the worst ways to eat fake cheese.

    Swiss Rolls, though. Goddamn Swiss Rolls. They were like Zebra Cakes for me when I was a kid. Chocolate cake, chocolate shell, cream filling (but not too much cream). I would set the over/under for number of Swiss Rolls I ate as a kid somewhere in the thousands.

    Pick #14: Spags - Pop Chips, Gum

    Spags was definitely stoned when he did this, right? Pop Chips are fine for the hip/Brooklyn persona that is Chris Spags, but gum is a worse Snack choice than the goddamn fruit basket.

    Pick #15: Hank
    I don't know what that even means.

    Pick #16: Loud Sean - Kit Kat, Reese's Pieces, Beef Jerky

    Again with the Pieces instead of the Cups. Kids these days have no respect for history. And it might even be more disrecpectful that it took 16 picks for someone to take Kit Kats off the board. I mean we've had Gushers drafted four times already.

    Pick #17: Kmarko
    Editor-In-Chief has really gone to Keith's head. Now he's too good for snacks? He just eats full-blown meals?

    Pick #18: Ms. Nardini - "I want a log of dip, and some almonds."

    No joke if they put that phrase on a tank top and sold it I would buy it in every color. I don't know if a "log" of dip in this case means like something that you actually dip chips into, but a log of dip in real life is just a ton of Skoal. Half peach, half mint, please and thank you.

    And some almonds, because if I'm going to ruin my gums then at least I should keep my heart healthy.

    Pick #19: The Correct Answer, Courtesy Of Me: Cheez-Its, Smartfood, Hershey's Cookies & Cream Bar

    Bang, two classics and a wild card. That's always the move.

    Image result for hersheys cookies and cream

    Monday, September 12, 2016

    College Football Season Prop Recap: Week Two

    Coming into week two, we were riding high with Washington and Florida State and maybe a little bit concerned about Tennessee and Oklahoma. Given the level of competition our four teams were facing this weekend, it was really crucial that we ended the day with four big ("statement") wins. 

    And we did. 

    Oklahoma 59, Louisiana Monroe 17
    Florida State 52, Charleston Southern 8
    Washington 59, Idaho 14

    Three games against non-power-conference schools, one combined score of 170-39. Obviously these three games were always supposed to be lopsided, but it's reassuring that none of them had any semblance of a scare this weekend. 

    Let's take a look at some of the highlight performers, bullet-style:
    • Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield and Austin Kendall combined for 352 yards and 5 touchdowns (Mayfield sat out the second half because it was such a blowout)
    • Oklahoma's Joe Mixon and Abdul Adams ran for 117 and 91 yards respectively, and Samaje Perine had 58 yards and 2 touchdowns
    • Oklahoma completed passed to 12 different receivers
    • Florida State's Deondre Francois threw for 262 yards and 3 touchdown (with 1 interception)
    • FSU's Dalvin Cook (Future Heisman Trophy Finalist) ran for 83 yards and 2 touchdowns
    • Florida State's Travis Rudolph caught 7 passes for 105 yards and 2 touchdowns
    • FSU's Jesus Wilson ran a punt back 89 yards for a touchdown
    • Washington's Jake Browning threw for 295 yards and 5 touchdowns
    • Here are the Huskies who caught touchdown passes: John Ross (2), Dante Pettis (2), Chico McClatcher, Quinten Pounds
    • Chico McClatcher and Quinten Pounds. Just back in the glow of those names
    • The Oklahoma and Washington kickers both kicked 8 extra points, and the Florida State kicker kicked 7 extra points
    Confidence Level: Pretty Gosh Darn High for all three of these teams

    It's really easy to pick out guys who had good days from these three games, because they were competing against significantly inferior talent. But what about the last team on our list? Tennessee was the only team to play against a power-conference team:

    Tennessee 45, Virginia Tech 24

    No problem. Granted, Va Tech kind of stinks now, but Tennessee rebounded nicely from their Week One struggles against Appalachian State. 

    Josh Dobbs threw for just 91 yards, but he had 3 passing touchdowns, 105 rushing yards, and 2 rushing touchdowns. Jalen Hurd added 99 yards on 22 carries, and that was basically enough for the Vols to sink the Hokies. 

    The most important stat of this game was the turnover battle. Dobbs threw an interception, but Virginia Tech lost FIVE fumbles. That is absolutely not something that will happen when Tennessee starts facing SEC competition, and the scoreboard would look a whole hell of a lot different if the Hokies has turned even two of those five into points. 

    Confidence Level: Still Kind Of Low But Certainly Not As Low As Last Week

    Tuesday, September 6, 2016

    College Football Season Prop Recap: Week One

    This day in the office is an absolutely must for any "Worst Work Days Of The Year" list. I'm basically nursing a four day hangover where all I drank was Bud Light and all I ate was eggs and cheesesteaks. There's a ton of work leftover from when I left at 2:30 on Friday, and an extra day's worth of shit to deal with from the long weekend.

    But at least we had football this weekend, right?

    As a reminder, we went with four season props this year. We bet the following teams to win their divisions (not conferences, other than Oklahoma because the Big XII has no divisions):

    • Tennessee
    • Oklahoma
    • Washington
    • Florida State

    So we kicked off the weekend with Tennessee needing overtime to beat a Division 2 school, and then followed that up with Oklahoma losing to Houston. Then Washington blew out Rutgers and Florida State had their miracle second half and snuck a win away from Ole Miss. Let's do some deep dives:

    Tennessee 20, Appalachian State 13 (OT)

    Josh Dobbs was supposed to be the big swinging dick, best quarterback in the SEC, savior that steamrolled Tennessee to the SEC East championship. He kicked off his season with a 55% completion percentage, a single touchdown, an interception, and a QBR of 26.3. 

    And this was against a Sun Belt team! App State is no longer Division 1-FCS, but they're still a team that should not be capable of taking a potential SEC Division Champion to overtime. 

    Running back Jalen Hurd had a decent stat sheet - 28 carries, 110 yards, 1 touchdown. But he only averaged 3.9 yards per carry. What's going to happen when he's not playing against Future Enterprise Rent-A-Car Employees?

    Confidence Level: Kind Of Low 

    Oklahoma 23, Houston 33

    This game, in retrospect, was all about field position. Both quarterbacks threw for 300+ yards and two touchdowns, both teams had decent but not great rushing attacks, and both offenses avoided turnovers. 

    But Houston kicked four field goals and Oklahoma kicked one, and that's the whole game. 

    Here's how the rest of the Big XII did: 
    • Lost: Kansas State (Stanford), Iowa State (Northern Iowa)
    • Beat A Shitty Team: Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Texas Tech
    • Beat A Decent Team: West Virginia (Mizzou)
    • Beat A Ranked Team: Texas (Notre Dame)
    Confidence Level: Kind Of Low

    Washington 48, Rutgers 13

    Obviously, blowing out a power five team in the home opener is a great start. But Rutgers kind of stinks at football, so I'm going to try to temper my expectations here. 

    Statistically, just about every aspect of this Huskies game was solid. Here are the nitpicky things that I see that could have been better:
    • Jake Browning threw an interception. There, that one was easy. 
    • Darrell Daniels dropped a touchdown pass. That's not good. 
    • John Ross caught two touchdowns and ran a kick back for a third, but didn't score any touchdowns on punt returns. There's some room for improvement in his game. 
    • Rutgers' quarterback is from Long Island and the Huskies only picked him off one time. 
    This was a really tough exercise. Ross didn't score on a punt return because he doesn't return punts. Yeah, they only got one interception, but Brandon Beaver ran it back 46 yards and they scored on the next play. 

    Washington looks good, and they're going to have to crush Idaho and Portland State the next two weeks if we're going to keep that good feeling going into the Arizona-Stanford-Oregon portion of the schedule. 

    Confidence Level: Pretty Gosh Darn High

    Florida State 45, Ole Miss 34

    I wrote this game off just before halftime and went to bed. My alarm at 6:15 comes early, and I figured 28-6 was basically sheets for FSU last night and for the season.

    And then, magic happened. 

    Touchdown. Field goal. Touchdown, touchdown, touchdown. Three more field goals in the fourth quarter sealed the deal, and somehow Florida State is not dead today. 

    Freshman Deondre Francois threw for 400 yards and no interceptions, boom that's what we need from him. 

    Future Heisman Winner Dalvin Cook ran for just 91 yards and was help out of the end zone, but he chipped in with 100 receiving yards. With Dalvin, you know he's going to get featured somehow. Totaling almost 200 yards against the most stout defense he'll face all year is a great place to start his Heisman campaign. 

    The 'Nole defense picking off Chad Kelly three times was enormous, and really that defense in the third quarter allowed them to mount their comeback. 

    And, last but not least, Ricky "Sticky Icky" Aguayo was 3/3 on extra points and 6/6 on field goals. If you had the kid in Fanduel, you ended up with 16 points and that was probably enough for you to win. 

    Oh and Clemson only scored 19 points to sneak a win away from Auburn. 

    Confidence Level: Pretty Gosh Darn High

    Team North America Needs A Captain

    We're less than two weeks away from the start of the World Cup of Hockey. The players of various nationalities have taken the ice together for practice (finally), and the depth charts are starting to come together. 

    For the young guns team that some people are calling Team North America, that depth chart seems to be led by a top line of Connor McDavid, Mark Scheifele, and Jonathan Drouin.

    As formidable as that top trio may be, this is hockey. We don't care about the leader on the depth chart. We care about the leader in the room. We care about the captain.

    And Team North America has yet to name their captain. The reasoning behind it makes sense - these are young guys from two separate countries that have never played a tournament in any sort of competition. There was always going to be a feeling out process when the team finally got together.

    Team Canada always just gives their C to Sidney Crosby. He's been the head of his class for like a decade now. Everyone on and in and around Canada knows he's going to be the captain for as long as he can stand up on skates.

    There is no Crosby-like figure for North America because this team has only existed for like four days. So, let's look at the candidates to see who might fit the bill of captain for this young guns squad.

    Image result for mcdavid

    Connor McDavid

    Age: 19
    NHL seasons: 1
    NHL games played: 45
    Playoff games played: 0

    We'll start with the youngest of the young guns, and also the one with the most potential to become a superstar. He's eventually probably going to take the captaincy from Crosby for Team Canada, but for now he's just too damn young. He also spent his first year in the league with perhaps the worst locker room to be in.

    McDavid as a player? Hell yes. McDavid as the captain? There are some better options.

    Image result for saad

    Brandon Saad

    Age: 23
    NHL seasons: 5
    NHL games played: 286
    Playoff games played: 67

    I know I just said those mean things about the Oilers locker room, and the Blue Jackets are certainly not much better. But Saad's experience in Chicago those four years certainly means he's spent time in a winning room.

    Everyone knows that playoff hockey is really the only thing that matters, and Saad having 67 (!!) games worth of experience before his 24th birthday really is incredible. He's certainly a candidate, and I'm sure he leveraged that experience when he signed a contract that pays him $6 million per year.

    Image result for ekblad

    Aaron Ekblad

    Age: 20
    NHL seasons: 2
    NHL games played: 159
    Playoff games played: 6

    Whereas Saad is reaping the benefits of having played with the best core in recent memory, Ekblad has long been the cornerstone of the Panther's presumed eventual success. It would follow that he will eventually be named captain in Florida, and that's something for which few players on this team seem to be in line.

    He's already got the motivational quote thing on lockdown:
    "Every player is so good," he said. "It's actually crazy how good we are."
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    Mark Scheifele

    Age: 23
    NHL seasons: 5
    NHL games played: 227
    Playoff games played: 4

    Listen, I'll admit that I kind of hate Scheifele because he always gets compared to Sean Couturier. But, in following Ekblad, the Jets just named him an alternate captain. The Jets stink and it's the A instead of the C, but still. It counts for something.

    It just doesn't count for a lot, because Scheifele has scored one single playoff point in his whole career.

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    Sean Couturier

    Age: 23
    NHL seasons: 5
    NHL games played: 350
    Playoff games played: 19

    For what it's worth, Coots' five seasons mean more to me than Scheifele's or Saad's because Couturier played 77 games his rookie year (plus 11 more in the playoffs). Saad played two in the regular season and two in the playoffs. Scheifele played seven and then four, and the Jets missed the playoffs both of those years.

    That matters because Couturier was essentially an NHL veteran before he could drink a beer at PBR Bar. Wayne Simmonds and Mark Streit wear the A's in Philadelphia, but there is no doubt in anyone's mind that Couturier, Michael Raffl, and Jake Voracek are all leaders of the team too.

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    Johnny Gaudreau

    Age: 23
    NHL seasons: 3
    NHL games played: 160
    Playoff games played: 11

    Similar to Couturier, Gaudreau's lack of sweater letters isn't an indictment as him as a leader. As I was researching for this post, I learned that he's still actually unsigned for the upcoming season. I was going to say Gaudreau's a leader for the Flames and cite him being one of the team's highest-paid players as a reason.

    But how is this contract taking so long? Why has nobody hit the Flames with an offer sheet to force their hand? Do the Flames even want Johnny Gaudreau? This section is falling off a cliff rapidly, so I'll just say that one of my bold predictions is I expect Johnny Hockey to wear an A on his jersey for this tournament.

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    Nathan MacKinnon

    Age: 21
    NHL seasons: 3
    NHL games played: 218
    Playoff games played: 7

    Like Couturier, MacKinnon gets a bump because all of his NHL seasons were full 60+ game seasons. The knock on MacKinnon, though, is that he's coming from a mess of an organization that had a messy offseason even by their standards. (Mark Cuban voice) And for that reason, I'm out.

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    Seth Jones

    Age: 21
    NHL seasons: 3
    NHL games played: 240
    Playoff games played: 6

    Here's my wild card pick for the leadership role. Like the last few guys, each of the NHL seasons he has under his belt are full seasons (almost literally, in Jones' case, as he's played 240 out of a possible 246).

    Like Ekblad, he's been hand-picked by Columbus to be their rock on defense for the forseeable future. There are certainly a few older guys ahead of him now, but in a few short years it will be Jones and Saad at the head of the ship.

    And Jones gets an extra bump that, in PK Subban's absence, could only be had by him, Dustin Byfuglien, or Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. How great of a look would it be for hockey if the captain of a major tournament team like this was black?

    The NHL will probably screw this up because they always screw everything up, but Jones has the resume and the temperament to lead a team like this Team North America. He's a defensible choice, and it's almost indefensible to leave him off the leadership group entirely.

    My final prediction would be A's to Jones and Gaudreau and the C to Ekblad. Couturier, as usual, will be an afterthought. Flyers twitter will be quite mad about it, and then in a month nobody will care because this is a meaningless international hockey tournament.

    We'll see you guys for the preliminary games that start on Thursday.

    Thursday, September 1, 2016

    On The Potential For Injuries At The World Cup Of Hockey

    Just about every hockey fan seems excited for the upcoming World Cup. Preliminary games start next week, and the tournament will take up the second half of this month. (It's September, by the way, however the fuck that happened.)

    The best hockey players in the world are split into eight fairly-evenly-balanced teams and there is National Pride on the line, so they should all care more than they do in the All-Star Game.

    The big news this morning, though, is not the games that will be played in the upcoming tournament - it's one player who will not be playing in those games. Sweden's captain, Henrik Zetterberg, is going to miss the whole thing with an undisclosed injury.

    It's impossible to know, at least for me because I have no sources, how Zetterberg was injured. It could have been related to training for the tournament, or it could have been something completely unrelated. Perhaps he was out partying with Claude Giroux the night before the Flyers released their alternate jerseys for the upcoming season.
    Woof, Claude. Dead eyes like you read about.

    Regardless of how Zetterberg actually hurt himself, though, his injury has brought up a Topic That Must Not Be Named. What if someone gets injured in this largely meaningless tournament and misses games for their actual club?

    As we generally do in this space, I'm going to focus specifically on the Flyers. Let's start with the aforementioned hungover captain:

    Claude Giroux, Team Canada

    If G gets injured we are fucked. They brought this topic up on Sons Of Penn's SOP Radio podcast night, and the conclusion was that if Giroux misses a month we might as well just pack it up for the season and go home. It's tough to argue with that.
     (Editor's note: You should be following SOP and listening to their Flyers podcast every week. They're great.)

    Jake Voracek, Team Czech Republic

    He'll be the second most important player for the Flyers this season, but he's unquestionably the most important player for the Czechs. I think it'll be good for him to have to shoulder the load, and God knows he's going to have to if this team is going to make any noise.

    But if he gets injured and is forced to miss a significant amount of time, could that create a hole for a certain top-line-winger prospect that we aren't expecting to see this season? I mean, Shayne Gostisbehere was able to make the jump to the NHL because Mark Streit broke his penis.

    I'm not saying Jake should sacrifice his own penis for Travis Konecny, but hey, just saying.

    Shayne Gostisbehere

    Speaking of Ghost, the international format should suit his game well. Nobody in the tournament is really known as a bruiser (except Radko Gudas, who probably is not going to be targeting his own teammates). (Ghost emoji)(Bear emoji) might end up being the star of this whole goddamn tourney.

    But if he gets seriously injured I'll overdose on whatever drugs they let me buy at CVS right in the middle of PBR Bar. That's the potential injury that would hurt more than the rest. Even if G goes down and the team is no longer competitive, they'll still be fun to watch because that's who Ghost is as a player. If Ghost goes down then we have no chance but it'll also be a boring on-ice product.

    Sean Couturier

    The captain of Team North America is obviously going to be logging some very heavy minutes during this tournament. He's going to have to occupy the biggest names in hockey to create opportunities for Gaudreau and McDavid and Drouin. Essentially, it'll be just like always for Coots. He's going to get the tough minutes, he's going to succeed in those tough minutes, and his teammates will be able to thrive around him.

    The downside of playing tough minutes is the potential for injury. Couturier is a player than cannot be replaced by anyone in the Flyers organization except Giroux, and we'd obviously rather have Giroux playing with an offensive mindset than a defensive one. We saw it in the playoffs last Spring - if Coots goes down, we're toast. And then we're just trying to tread water until he returns.

    Radko Gudas

    Let's breeze right through this one. Gudey isn't getting hurt.

    Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

    This might end up being the pinnacle of PEB's hockey career. He's going to get ice time with players of a higher caliber than ever before (except that one time he was on a line with Voracek and Valdevelde, remember that?).

    It's sad to say, but he might end up being the engine on this European team because he's one of the few guys on the roster than can really lay it all on the line for this tournament. If he pushes himself too hard or plays too risky, it's really not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things. Maybe that'll clear a spot for Taylor Leier to finally stick on the Flyers.

    Michal Neuvirth

    This one would be bad. If someone runs Neuvy or he tweaks something, it puts a TON of pressure on Steve Mason early. I think I can safely speak for all Flyers fans when I say that, even though the goalie tandem is a strength of this team, one of those goalies on his own is decidedly less appetizing.

    The saving grace, in this situation, is Neuvirth should be splitting time pretty evenly with Petr Mrazek and Ondrej Pavelec.

    Mark Streit

    This is one that I don't want to write. I've always attempted to take up a pro-Streit attitude when I write because I think too many people just want to dump him for nothing. He has value, even though he's noticeably aging, because he's a talented veteran with more experience than anyone else on the Flyers.

    Yes, he's getting old and slowing down. But hockey, even moreso than other sports, requires leadership off the ice as much as talent on the ice. Look at the Edmonton Oilers. That's not what a franchise wants to look like.

    In looking at Team Europe's defense, Streit's probably going to have to log no less than half of the penalty minutes and about a third of the even-strength minutes. They'll probably turn Roman Josi and Luca Sbisa into their "horses", but it falls off from there. Maybe Streit ends up being a 20-minutes-per-night guy.

    I can feel myself delaying. The point of this post is to talk about what happens if they get injured.

    What happens if Streit gets injured?

    Then, our presumed defense corps of MDZ-Gudas-Ghost-Streit-Schultz-MacD-Manning either plays without any subs in Streit's absence or someone else replaces him.

    I mentioned above what happened the last time Streit got injured. The scenario this time could be replacing him with Ivan Provorov in the opening day roster. Could. Possibly. Maybe. Potentially.

    Hear me out.

    If Provy can't hang, we can send him back to Brandon in the WHL after half a dozen games and just tough it would with 6 defensemen until Streit returns.

    If Provy kills it and becomes a top-four-caliber blueliner, then he stays and we send MacDonald to the Phantoms when Streit returns. We won't worry about having to send A-Mac through waivers, because he's owed almost $22 million between now and 2020.

    There you go. I said it out loud, and now it's in the universe. Mark Streit breaking his other penis in the World Cup of Hockey wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.