Now that we've sufficiently pissed off just about everybody in the Philadelphia media for something that really has nothing to do with hockey, I guess we can try to fill the page with some actual hockey talk...
Including Saturday night's 5-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes, and excluding the insanity that was Thursday's 9-8 loss to the Winnipeg Jets, the last seven even strength goals scored by your Philadelphia Flyers have come from three men.
Seven goals! And yes, these three men are all on the same line. It's a unit that's completely pacing the Flyers offensively right now when at 5-on-5, and I can't decide whether or not that's a good thing. Giroux putting up four points in a night is a very, very good thing, especially when the Flyers win a game like they did against Carolina.
When that top line is on the ice, you just get that sense that something good could happen at any second. They're always exciting to watch. Maybe it's the fact that Jagr looks like he's 25 again or something, but that line is just absolutely deadly.
The others, meanwhile, are just dead.
There's nothing going on there in the offensive end. And this is not a good thing. Sure, maybe it's unfair to exclude that Winnipeg game from the total -- after all, James van Riemsdyk, Matt Read, Danny Briere and Max Talbot all got on the board at even strength in that one, and those are goals that count on the stat sheet. But I also get the feeling that I probably could've scored in that game.
If you've watched the games over the last week or so, you can't help but worry about this a bit -- especially considering the team has lost four of its last six. Maybe it's ridiculous to focus on a negative like this after the team is coming off of a win, but I can't help but consider it an issue. Maybe the biggest issue facing the team right now, outside of the absence of Chris Pronger.
It's beyond just line combos, and it's beyond just Danny Briere being out of the lineup. Yes, Briere has four goals on the season which is good for a tie for second on the team, but even with him in the lineup, the Flyers have looked less than sharp offensively when not graced by the on-ice presence of the top line. If you don't include the Winnipeg game, Briere has just two even strength points all year -- an assist vs. Vancouver and a goal vs. St. Louis.
Let's look at some other guys -- again, these observations all exclude the craziness of the Winnipeg game for what I think are pretty legit reasons.
- James van Riemsdyk has just two even-strength points on the season. One came against New Jersey in the second game of the season, and the other came against Vancouver in the third game of the season. Nothing since.
- Matt Read has been the best even strength player not named Jagr, Hartnell or Giroux, partially thanks to his four-point night, three at even strength, against Ottawa. Other than that though, he has just one point at even strength, and that came on his first NHL goal against New Jersey.
- Wayne Simmonds hasn't scored a point in four games, and that includes the Winnipeg game. He has four even strength points on the year but has seriously slowed lately.
- Jakub Voracek scored an even-strength point against the Jets. Before that? The Vancouver game.
These guys need to step up. I'm not sure how that happens. Maybe a shakeup of the lines, but that's already happened several times and it never does seem to help all that much. Maybe they just need to wait until Briere gets healthy again and then analyze things from there.
But something has to happen. It's nice watching Giroux, Jagr and Hartnell school the opposing defense night in and night out, but this team needs more than that to win games consistently. Lately, that's just not happening, but luckily there's a lot of season left to figure it out.
We learned today that the Flyers changed their media policy surrounding the most media-friendly player on the team, Mr. Ilya Bryzgalov. The goalie won't be speaking to the media on the day before games he starts or the day of games his starts, essentially meaning that the entertaining quotes will only be flying out of his mouth after games he starts.
As predictable as the sun coming up in the morning, the majority of the media had a cow over this, showing more outrage over the issue than they've shown over anything in a really, really long time. Probably since Mike Richards pissed them off last year.
(For the record, we understand and embrace the irony of the fact that we attend games with seats in the PRESS box and with MEDIA written on the badge around our necks, while also commenting on the media as them. But we also acknowledge the difference in our philosophy on covering this team, as well as the difference in our stance on this issue as opposed to the stance of the majority of the mainstream Flyers media.)
Some of the complaints, in chronological order. We'd list them all but that would take all day.
#flyers Bryzgalov only to talk to media after games he plays. Not good!
#Flyers Bryz just made nice save on JVR breakaway in practice. What's Brayz think about that or ANYTHING? We'll let you know AFTER next game
#Flyers apparently moved this year from Dry Island to Mute Island
#Flyers Bryz looking sharp at practice. Well DUH? He hasn't done an interview since Saturday night, so I would expect this.
So, on Halloween, Bryz put on a (Silent) Steve Carlton costume. #Flyers
Just call him Ilya Shh-zgalov. #Flyers #NHL.
Mute Island will work, because Bryz's stats almost HAVE TO improve. Yep, it'll be because he didn't talk to the media. #Flyers
Bryz will not talk to for 3 days between Sat. and Wed. Shhhh: I feel a shutout in Buffalo Wed. #Flyers
#Flyers just modified their Bryz policy. Now he just won't talk day before game and day of game (except after it).
Shhh-gate. #Flyers they don't want Bryz to talk today, however _ even tho it's 2 days before game.
So Bryz want talk to HBO for 24/7 the day before a game? Hmmm. #Flyers
Philly chapter of Hockey Writers Assoc. has filed a complaint on Bryz situation. #Flyers could be fined for not giving access.
So the $51-million-dollar franchise goaltender is only talking to media after games he plays. Well, that didn't take long.
The silence by Bryz isn't just after back-ups but after practices, citing media as a distraction.
days after goalie coach Jeff Reese says Bryz talking too much to the media, #flyers announce new media policy ...
Bryz will ONLY talk after games he plays in ... this is a guy who LOVES to chatter.
Bryz has SO much to say ... this guy will implode if he doesnt talk.
our point is this: what if the policy changes to "rookies will no longer talk except post games"? where do u draw line?
This means HBO will have NO access to Bryz, just like the Philly media for their 24/7, too on day before/day of game. HBO wont like that
This is just a glimpse at how the media feels about this issue, but it captures the sentiment quite well. A lot of jokes and poking fun at the Flyers for keeping Bryzgalov away from them. A lot of self-righteousness over the travesty of a goaltender not talking to them.
And that's all part of the proper reaction. It's important for Bryzgalov to speak with the media, not because he's an entertaining quote and makes the job of those in the media so much easier, but because he's one of the new faces of this franchise. Our Savior, as some would say. He's an integral part of this team for the next nine years and with the money he's getting paid, he needs to talk to the media. And not just after games, too.
But let's not pretend that's the most important part of this story. This is where the media is being self-centered about this issue. At the end of the day, yeah, Bryzgalov not talking to the media is a story, and it's well worth complaining about. It's well worth the Philadelphia chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association filing a grievance against the team, too, as they have this afternoon. CORRECTION: Carchidi's tweet was incorrect. The Philly chapter has not filed a grievance and the situation seems to be close to a resolution.
But it's absolutely not the most important part of the story. The main function of the media isn't just to relay quotes to fans. My video camera can do that for me. It's telling the story of the team to those fans, and that's something they aren't doing here.
The story here isn't "HEY! WE CAN'T SPEAK TO BRYZGALOV!"
The real story -- the one that hasn't been mentioned yet by a single member of the mainstream media -- is "Hey, uh... why can't we speak to Bryzgalov?"
Ask the damn question. Why can't we speak to him? And if we already know the answer -- the general consensus seems to be that goalie coach Jeff Reese thinks the media is a distraction for Bryzgalov -- let's question that answer.
Why is it that a man getting paid $51 million to stop pucks is distracted by talking to a few people with recorders and note pads? If the problem is that there's a lot more media in Philadelphia than there was in Phoenix, let's point out the absurdity in that. Talking to eight people or ten people or 15 people is no more difficult than talking to two. Not when you're a professional athlete, and especially not one who's clearly the opposite of shy with the media.
The Flyers instituted this policy with Bryzgalov today. Why did they do that? It's absolutely insane to believe that he just can't handle the distraction of talking with the media. That assertion does not pass the smell test. So instead of finding out exactly why this happened, the media is sitting there buying into that B.S. excuse. That's more of an outrage than Bryzgalov not talking to them every day.
The media has the right -- hell, even the responsibility -- to be angry that the Flyers are yanking almost all the access to the $51 million man. At the same time, why is there no outrage over exactly why they're yanking that access?
On Monday, Oswalt and Lidge were let out of their options. Decisions on Rollins and Madson will be coming in the next couple of months. A Cole Hamels contract extension (he’s in his final arbitration eligible year after finishing out a three-year deal) seems imminent.
So, let’s get down to business. Here is a look at the payroll obligations for the Phillies in 2012, and what other players will likely receive. We’ll try and fill out the roster to see what it looks like next year.
Blue: money that the Phillies owe in 2012
Red: educated guess as to how much player will earn in 2012 (arbitration or otherwise)
-Roy Oswalt: $2MM
-Brad Lidge: $1.5MM
Estimated Total: $147.25 million (19 players, two buyouts)
Luxury Tax: $178 million (in 2011)
Give or take a player, the Phillies will have 19 players under contract heading into 2012 with a payroll of roughly $147 million, including the two buyouts. They’ll need six (or so) more players to fill out the roster with about $30 million to spend. (I say $30 million because it would be silly for the Phils to smash right up against the MLB Luxury tax; Ruben Amaro will want some wiggle room).
According to USA Today’s salary database, the Phillies spent a shade under $173 million in 2011. By the way, if the Luxury Tax continues to climb at its normal rate, it would go to about $186 million.* If so, the Phils could spend around $180MM.
*It has risen $8 million in each of the last five seasons.
The infield will have five players under contract at just over $45.8 million. Rollins is obviously a free agent. Wilson Valdez is arbitration eligible, but likely would not see a raise past $1 million. For a parallel, Alexi Casilla of the Twins was arb-eligible heading into 2011 with three years of service and re-signed for 1 year/$865,000. For what it’s worth, I do not think the Phillies will bring back Valdez, but that’s just a hunch. If they can find a player at a similar price that gives them slightly more and is younger, they’ll go in that direction.
It’s unknown whether or not they keep Michael Martinez or stash him in Triple-A after keeping him an entire year as a Rule 5 pickup. If he stays he’ll make slightly more than the minimum (roughly $425K, the same number David Herndon made after a year in the big leagues).
The Phillies need a backup catcher and to fill out their bench. They’ll need a guy who can play multiple positions, plus a starting shortstop.
The pitching staff is pretty much set. Unless they can find a taker for Joe Blanton’s albatross of a contract, he’s going to be the fourth starter, with Vance Worley likely again staying as the fifth. Kyle Kendrick will be a more expensive long-man/spot-starter, but as he proved this year, he was quite valuable as a starter and a bullpen piece.
The ‘pen is very much up in the air. Madson is the biggest question mark and will likely cost the Phillies $10-13 million per season on a three-year deal. Beyond Madson, there are four almost-definites in Contreras, Bastardo, Stutes, and Herndon, with Herndon being a bit of a wild card – although the Phillies have kept him around this long, you assume he’ll continue on with the club.
That leaves: starting shortstop, backup catcher, bench, closer, reliever, reliever.
Let’s say you sign Rollins and not Madson. Rollins could command somewhere in the $12 million range (we’ll go high end). That would leave roughly $18 million for two bench bats and three relief pitchers. Or, if they sway the other direction and keep Madson over Rollins at $12 million per season, it would be the same, except the Phillies would be looking for a different SS.
Could it be that the Phillies retain both Madson and Rollins at $12 million per year? Under the luxury tax constraints, and depending on how high the team wants to go, it could be possible. But is it the correct move, to keep two guys on the other side of 30?
If they choose to keep Rollins, here is how it could all shake out:
SS: Rollins, $12 million
BENCH: Backup catcher
RP: Schwimer/Savery/De Fratus
RP: LH Free Agent
RP: RH Closer
I’d like to assume the Phillies keep at least one of Schwimer, Savery or De Fratus. That would set the bullpen up to be very young and relatively inexperienced. If they don’t like that look, maybe all three stay in Triple-A and the Phillies sign a few veterans in the Lidge/ LaTroy Hawkins/Todd Coffey mold.
They absolutely need a lefty. That could be Savery or a guy like Mike Gonzalez. The lefty market is dry and filled with old washed-up veterans. Savery might be the guy here.
Backup catcher is a big-time need. Brian Schneider was the ultimate pro, but gave nothing at the plate. If the Phillies want to spend a little more, maybe they try for Ryan Doumit. Dioner Navarro could be an option.
If they go with Madson over Rollins, who do the Phillies go with at shortstop? Rafael Furcal is a pesky slap-hitter who may fit in well here, but is aging and has seen better days. He’d surely be cheaper than Rollins. However, the Cardinals hold a $12 million option on him and with such a critical position being so empty, St. Louis could choose to overpay Furcal for a year. Marco Scutaro is a name being thrown around that could fit with the Phillies, but he’ll be 36 and the Red Sox hold a team option on him for $6 million.
Whichever direction they go, I see at least $8 million per season being used on any closer, with the high end of $12 million. That would leave between $18 and $22 million for upgrades at other positions or to the bench.
Things can certainly change with the remaining players. Placido Polanco’s job seems far from safe. The Phillies could also opt for a Michael Cuddyer-type to play first base if Ryan Howard misses time and then switch to third if the Phillies feel he’s an upgrade over Polanco. Cuddyer could also play left field if the brass is concerned about Mayberry as an everyday player. However, Cuddyer is 33 and would cost them $7 million or more per year.
Would soon-to-be 34 year old Aramis Ramirez be the better buy?
It won’t be an easy offseason for Ruben Amaro Jr. There is clearly a lot to do, more to do then in previous years.
How do you fill out the empty roster spots with the money available?
Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...
- Scott Hartnell is on fire. He makes lines tick. He's gritty. He's inconsistent. He's easily distracted. He's effective: [delcotimes.com]
- Jaromir Jagr owns a Czech team, which is going to be how he spends his retirement: [CSNPhilly]
- The Phantoms got pucks on net against Hershey as they won 2-1: [PostStar.com]
- Jakub Kovar stopped 37 of 40 shots in a 6-3 win on Friday: [euroflyers] He followed it up with a 20 save shutout in a 3-0 win on Sunday: [euroflyers]
- Niko Hovinen stopped 32 of 34 shots in a 2-0 loss on Friday: [euroflyers] He followed it up by stopping 34 of 36 in a 3-2 win on Saturday: [euroflyers]
- So far this year, both goalies are doing quite well, with save percentages of over 0.935: [euroflyers]
- And since I was curious, Joacim Eriksson has a 0.936 save percentage and 1.54 goals against average in 9 games so far this year: [Elite Prospects]
- Sean Avery will be placed on re-entry waivers today: [Puck Daddy]
TSNCBC says a four-division realignment is 50/50 right now, but the Penguins aren't happy about it: [Puck Daddy]
- Both Frank Seravalli and I wrote about why the plan is good for hockey, even if fans will miss the in-season rivalry with the Penguins: [Daily News] [SB Nation Philly]
- A good take on Gary Bettman's interview about fans booing him: [Puck Daddy]
- Another great illustration on Brendan Shanahan's suspensions so far: [Puck Daddy]
- When are statistics useful beyond small sample size problems? [Arctic Ice Hockey]
- Another reason why plus/minus is a terrible statistic, this time looking at the worst minus players and their year after: [Arctic Ice Hockey]
- For some players, Halloween costumes are just too easy to come up with: [Down Goes Spezza]