Protests Muted, but Emotions Still High for Vick

By Tim McManus

The day Michael Vick plays his first game as an Eagle.
Everyone wondered what The Day would be like. Just how big of a circus would come to town? How large of a demonstration would encompass the sports complex? And how much of the hostility would spill into the Linc?

In terms of grandeur, the scene fell short of a spectacle. Turns out, most of the battles were subtle if not internal.

The demonstrators were few. A small cluster of independent protestors gathered at the corner of 11th and Pattison, just across the street from Citizen’s Bank Park and in the direct path of Eagles faithful making the trek into the stadium.

A light rain set the mood for what was a dampened protest.

“I wish there was more of us. Maybe the weather has something to do with it,” said Denise Dinacola, holding one edge of a large sign that read, ‘NFL, Eagles Tolerate This’ above a picture of a mauled and bloodied dog, in full color.

Ron Lonero was holding the other edge.

“I just came down trying to find somebody holding a sign,” Lonero said. “You have to wonder why bigger organizations aren’t here.”

There were about 20 protestors in all. The signs included:

‘Ethics Over Athletics’;

‘National Felon League’;

‘Stop. Think. Boycott. Your wallet bleeds green while the tortured bleed red.’;

‘Buying a ticket = supporting murder’.

Overwhelmingly, the pedestrians who chose to react vocally to the demonstrators had a dissenting opinion.

Scathing remarks ranged from “Get a job, hippy!” to “You are the ones that are sick!” as fans worked there way through the gathering. Arguments were heated at times, but never escalated – plain-clothed Philadelphia Police Officers were there to ensure that.

“Stupid. Seems to be a waste of time,” said Jon Schauer, watching from the edge of the sidewalk with two of his friends. “There are more people here that want Vick than there are protestors.”

And some who wore their support of the Vick signing on their back.

Donald Folks was one of dozens who sported a Vick Eagles jersey, contrasting sharply with the posters he had to walk by.

“They can do what they want,” Folks said of the demonstrators. “The guy paid his dues. They should be holding up signs for health care, or helping the homeless guy walking down the street.”

Is the jersey to support Vick?

“Nah, man. I bleed green,” said Folks.

“We support forgiveness,” added his wife, Queen.

Moments later a father and his young daughter passed through the demonstration; the little girl clearly distressed, the father already in the midst of explanation.

“That’s because of Michael Vick. He used to fight dogs and…”

Jeff Cox and his two sons walked through soon after. They were silent, but clearly moved, as they took in the scene.

“I hate him,” Cox finally said. “I am a lifelong Eagles fan and I can’t believe they made me choose between my team and ethics. It’s my son’s birthday, that’s the only reason I’m here.”

More protestors arrived sporadically as kickoff approached, greeted warmly by their kin and then mocked in the next blink by a disapproving Eagles fan.

The exception to the trend was Fred Shaffer, a man appearing in his 70’s who donned a military-style crew cut and a white Eagles poncho as he marched toward the stadium.

“I agree with you,” he shouted to the outnumbered protestors. “Keep up the good work!”

When tracked down, he provided the following explanation:

“I have been an Eagles fan since 1957. I have been to, watched on television or listened to every Eagles game since then. I think it’s disgusting he’s on the football team. Does he deserve a second chance at life? Absolutely. But not in the NFL.

“I will always be an Eagles fan, but it’s a disgrace he is on this team.”

With that, the rest of the fans scurried into the stadium to see the opening kickoff. And when Vick took the field on just the second play of the game, most of the crowd rose in unison and greeted their new weapon warmly.

Left unspoken in that gesture of team support is a division that is unlikely to be sealed, and internal strife for many that is unlikely to be soothed by quality play.


Flyers Prospect Camp

I was able to squeeze out two days this week at the Flyers 2009 Rookie Camp at the SkateZone in Voorhees, NJ. Watching these players for just two mornings really does not allow for a complete review but I figured I would talk about some of the more important names in the Flyers system that we may very well see suiting up for the Orange and Black in the next few seasons.

James vanRiemsdyk - 2007 Round 1 (2nd Overall)
-In the two mornings, certain players would catch my eye, and others would just kind of blend in. JVR just seemed to blend in. That is not good considering he is thought of as the top prospect in the Flyers system. On Friday, he was barely noticable on the ice. I had to look to find him. During the scrimmage portion of the day, a penalty would result in a penalty shot. On Sunday, JVR took one penalty shot and also participated in the shootout at the end. For a kid with the abundance of skills he has, he did not show them in either attempt. He looked real bad taking both shots (missed the net on the first and mishandled the second). He did show flashes of speed Sunday once he got his legs moving, but his lack of explosiveness is cause for concern. He does look to have gained some muscle weight since the end of the Phantoms season, but he would have to really turn it up at training camp in September to make the Flyers roster.

Kevin Marshall - 2007 Round 2
-The Flyers traded up two years ago to take Marshall, a defenseman, in the second round. When I saw him at Rookie Camp 2 years ago he was small and thin and I really did not see what all the hype was about. Within the last year, he has grown a couple inches and put on some serious muscle. He looks like he could be a force this year in the organization. He will most likely play for the Phantoms this season. It was tough to watch him really play because I was on the opposite side he was playing defense on. He has all the makings of being a punishing physical force on the blueline for the Flyers one day. As for the upcoming season, he will have to take the next step in the AHL with his first season as a Phantom.

Marc-Andre Bourdon - 2008 Round 3
-Bourdon is a highly touted defenseman in the Flyers system. He can provide offense, be physical, and even drop the gloves. He really impressed the organization in the QMJHL (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League). This was my first opportunity to watch him play, and in the little bit of time, I liked what I saw. He has descent size but plays big with his body. He threw a couple big hits in the scrimmage and moved the puck well. He made some mistakes but that is to be expected. I wish I had more of an opportunity to watch him.

Oliver Lauridsen - 2009 Round 7
-It's not too often a 7th rounder in his draft year catches your eye. This kid sure did. He is 6'6 and was easily the tallest and most physically dominating player in the two days I saw. I would consider him more of a "project" but he moved surprisingly well for a big kid. I was really impressed and if he continues to develop in the next few seasons at St. Cloud St., I believe he will be a solid defenseman in the AHL and, he will have to work hard, but with his size could crack an NHL lineup. In Sunday's scrimmage he drew some attention with a couple big body checks, one on Phantoms enforcer Matt Clackson. Clackson took offense to it and challenged him. Lauridsen did not seem willing. Clackson spent the rest of the scrimmage chasing him around challenging him to fight. There is one more day of camp for them to go. Unfortunately I will not be able to see it.

Rocco Carzo - Undrafted
-I mentioned Rocco in my last blog. Carzo practiced with my varsity hockey team at Cardinal O'Hara when I was a senior and he was in eighth grade. He played only his freshman year at O'Hara contributing in their only Flyers Cup Championship in 2006. He graduated O'Hara this past spring, while also playing in the USHL (United States Hockey League) for Des Moines. He did not play hockey for O'Hara sophomore through senior year. He really impressed me this week. He got much taller and gained some muscle since the last time I saw him. He was one of the youngest players at camp this week and did not look out of place at all. He was invited to camp this season even though he is undrafted and unsigned. I believe he is going to play in college this upcoming season. I did get to watch him work with the Flyers skating coach, and he was showing Carzo different ways to use his legs to be a more explosive skater. The best thing Rocco can do this week is learn as much as he can and apply is next season in college. He can only improve if he continues to work hard.

There were a couple things I noticed that could reflect what the organization is thinking for the upcoming AHL season. There were two line combinations that played together throughout the week that could very well be the top two lines for the Phantoms this upcoming season:

Andreas Nodl - Jonathon Matsumoto - James vanRiemsdyk
Patrick Maroon - Jon Kalinski - David Laliberte

All six played for the Phantoms last season, even though JVR did not join the team until late March. These are the next six prospects we will see this season at some point with the Flyers. Last season it was guys like Darrell Powe, Jared Ross, Nodl and Kalinski. Kalinski had the serious blood clot in his leg last season and from the looks of it at camp, he is ready to take the next step. Maroon, Laliberte and Matsumoto had break-out seasons for the Phantoms last year and will be expected to match the contributions. If they do, we could see them called up if injuries occur to any Flyers on the roster.

With rookie camp about over, we are about two months away from training camp. It cannot come fast enough. I really do not see the Flyers doing anything serious in terms of roster moves before camp. There will be rumors but aside from little tweaks, I do not foresee anyone like Briere or Gagne being moved. The new season is right around the corner. I really cannot wait for it.


Free Agent Frenzy

Going into the NHL draft at the end of June, the Flyers had already come to terms with new starting goalie Ray Emery on a one-year deal. The team was still looking for a top-tier defenseman, a back-up goalie, and other role players at the forward position.

Just prior to draft Friday I wrote my last blog talking about Jay Bouwmeester and how I thought he would be the best option for the Flyers to attempt to acquire as the top-tier d-man. I figured forward Joffrey Lupul would be the cap casuality as would d-man Randy Jones or Matt Carle. Well, we found out as the draft began that I was correct on only two of the pre-draft predictions. Those two were Joffrey Lupul and the fact that the Flyers would trade out of the first round. Paul Holmgren shocked almost everyone in Flyerdom with a blockbuster trade that sent Joffrey Lupul, top prospect Luca Sbisa, 2009 1st round pick, 2010 first round pick, and a conditional 3rd round pick to the Anaheim Ducks for superstar defenseman Chris Pronger and minor league Ryan Dingle.

Many fans of the Orange and Black feel the Flyers gave up too much for the 34-year-old Pronger. I tend to agree with Paul Holmgren in that you have to give up something to get something. Chris Pronger is the ultimate warrior. Almost everyone that disliked this trade will change their minds the first time Malkin, Crosby or Ovechkin cut through the crease and meet Mr. Pronger. Pronger also steps up his game in the playoffs. In 2005-06 with the Oilers, Pronger led an underdog Edmonton team to the Cup Finals only to lose to the Canes in seven games. The following year he went to Anaheim where he helped lead the Ducks to a Stanley Cup championship. Even this past season in Anaheim, the Ducks barely squeaked into the playoffs as the 8th seed, but upset the President's Trophy winner San Jose Sharks in the first round. Then they took the defending champion Red Wings to the seventh game. Through all of that Pronger was one of the major players for the Ducks. He will be loved in Philadelphia, even if it is only for one season.

With Pronger now a Flyer, the defense is now set, unless Homer decides to dump salary by getting rid of Matt Carle or Randy Jones. I do not really think that is necessary right now, but if something comes along, who knows what could happen. As it stands now, the defense looks like this: Timmonen, Pronger, Coburn, Parent, Carle and Jones. If those six players are used correctly, I do not see many weaknesses.

When July 1 rolled around last week, it started the free agent period in the NHL. The Flyers wasted little time setting up the goaltending tandem for next season with the signing of former Flyer Brian Boucher. Boucher is a different goalie than Flyers fans remember. He's older, wiser, and was the backup for the best team in the NHL, the Sharks, last season. He played a significant role in that as well putting up solid numbers in San Jose. I am very confident with Boosh backing up Ray Emery.

Many fans wanted Mike Knuble to be resigned. Unfortunatley because of the salary cap, the Flyers were not able to do it. Knuble will take his 30 goals down south to Washington and play on the powerplay for the next two seasons with Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green and Nick Backstrom. He should continue to score for the Caps. The Flyers responded by bringing in another locker room leader by the name of Ian Laperriere. When I first heard the signing I was a bit annoyed with bringing in another fighter. Then doing some reading, I learned just how valuable of a player Laperriere is. He does not just fight. He is a leader, and like Pronger, a warrior on the ice for your team. I remember being at the game last season when he chased Scott Hartnell of the Flyers around the ice until he fought him. It was because Hartnell was running a couple Avalanche players. Laperriere came to their defense. Flyer fans will love him as well.

So within the last month, the Flyers got two new goaltenders, a top-tier defenseman, and one role player. They did lose about 50 goals of production from Lupul and Knuble, but that is ok because of two reasons. Adding Pronger's offensive upside, a healthy Danny Briere, and an emerging star in Giroux, that should make up most of the lost goals. The other reason is the amount of goals the Flyers should give up this season. A revamped defensive group and new goalies will, in my opinion, lower the goals against of this team by a large amount. The numbers will end up evening out. This Flyers club, on paper and healthy, is better than last season's team.

The upcoming week will be a big one for Flyers top prospect James VanReimsdyk. The Flyers begin rookie camp this week. In my opinion, this is the first step JVR has to take to show the Flyers brass he is ready to make the jump to the NHL. If he shows he can step in, it would save the Flyers more cap room since they will not have to go out and sign another winger. He will not make the roster this week, but with a poor showing, he can certainly kill his chances.

Rookie camp runs this Monday through next Monday at the SkateZone in South Jersey. Thursday the group will head to Stone Harbor for the annual Trial on the Isle where the players will participate in a mini triatholon and charity softball game.

I will be heading over to the SkateZone Friday morning to watch some of the on-ice practice. I will be sure to write up another blog shortly after talking about some of the Flyers top prospects. I will be sure to look out for JVR, top defensmen Marc-Andre Bourdon and Kevin Marshall, and also local kid Rocco Carzo. Carzo was an eighth grader practicing with my varsity hockey team at Cardinal O'Hara during my senior year. He starred for O'Hara in high school before going out and playing in the USHL.


NHL Draft Week

There is a lot going on right now in the Philadelphia sports world. The Phillies are attracting a lot of attention, and rightfully so, after finishing up one of their worst homestands in team history. The Eagles recently finished up OTAs and the local media is still finding more ways to dissect McNabb's new contract. And the Sixers are preparing for the NBA draft this week and trying to launch a new slogan for the coming season.

Even though most media outlets in the city will not cover it, the NHL draft also takes place this week, Friday night in Montreal. The Flyers currently own the 21st pick in the first round, but in hockey circles right now, the Flyers are being mentioned more for trade rumors than who they will select with the pick. Scouts are saying that the current draft class is top heavy, meaning that past the 10th to 15th pick, it could potentially be hit or miss with a future impact player. The Flyers currently have no picks in rounds 2 or 4 and GM Paul Holmgren has indicated he may try to acquire a second round pick. I would not be surprised if the Flyers traded out of the first round in order to secure more picks. We will have to see what they decide come Friday.

Now onto the exciting trade rumors swirling about. The Flyers are one of a handful of teams believed to be trying to acquire the negotiating rights to Florida Panthers defenseman Jay Bouwmeester. He is set to become an unrestricted free agent July 1 and trading for his right would give that team exclusive negotiating until July 1. It is no secret the Flyers want a top tier d-man to complement current defensemen Kimmo Timmonen and Braydon Coburn. Bouwmeester, or J-Bo as he is referred, would be the perfect fit. He is 6'4 and only 26 years old. He has scored 15 goals the past two seasons for the Panthers and has potential to put up even more when surrounded by a more talented group of teammates.

I have heard differing numbers on what J-Bo's asking price may be. Personally I think he will command anywhere from 6.5-7.5 million dollars per season. Right now the Flyers have 6 million under the current cap, and they still have other needs to fill. The Flyers are able to trade for his rights and sign him now, even though it could put them over the salary cap. The Flyers can be a certain number over the cap in the offseason, but must be back under by October.

For all this to work, the Flyers would have to clear significant cap space. Three names being tossed about that the Flyers could move are Danny Briere, Simon Gagne or Joffrey Lupul. I would be shocked if Briere went anywhere. Not only is he making significant money, he has a very restrictive no movement clause. I just do not see him waiving that. Gagne is an interesting case. Gagne is set to make 5.25 million through the 2010-11 season. He also has a no trade clause but his is less restrictive than Briere's leading to some speculation that he could be dealt to clear salary. Personally I believe Joffrey Lupul will be the one moved if cap space needs to be cleared. A new contract for Lupul kicks in this season paying him 4.25 million and he has no restrictions on trades like Briere and Gagne.

Trading Lupul would clear space but not enough to get where the Flyers want to be for the upcoming season. I would suspect either Matt Carle or Randy Jones would also have to be dealt in order to make room for J-Bo. Jones is making 2.75 million and Carle is making slightly more than 3.4 million. I would like to see Jones dealt, but the way Holmgren talks about him, and head coach John Stevens coaching him in the minors and now with the Flyers, I do not see the Flyers dealing him. I do not think Jones is a bad d-man, but making 2.75 million to be a number 5 or 6 d-man is just too much. Carle does make more, but also is a better d-man and can be a solid 3 or 4. I think Carle is more likely to go along with Lupul. That would leave the Flyers with, in my opinion, one of the best defensive corps as a whole in the NHL: Bouwmeester, Timmonen, Coburn, Ryan Parent, Jones, and most like young Luca Sbisa. These six d-men would be very solid in front of newly acquired goalie Ray Emery.

Speaking of goaltending, and Emery (I like the signing a lot), the Flyers still need to sign a backup. Antero Niittymaki is a UFA and there has not been much talk as to if the Flyers will re-sign him to back up Emery. There has been more talk about the possibility of bringing back former Flyer Robert Esche from Russia where he spent the past year playing really well in the Continetal Hockey League. Esche still has a year left on his KHL contract and their GM was quoted saying he would let Esche out of his contract if he can find a suitable replacement. So Esche is still up in the air, but a duo of "Sugar Ray" Emery and "Silent Bob" Esche would create many stories the media will feast on all season.

We are less than 4 days away from this year's draft. Wherever J-Bo is dealt, it appears that it will happen some time before the draft ends. Only time will tell if he will be a Flyer. I for one am hoping he is.


Your Philadelphia Seventy-Tricksters

By T. Williams

Horrendous, appalling, awful, dreadful, abominable, frightful, ghastly, horrible, and shocking. These are the adjectives that I use to describe the shameful way that the Philadelphia 76ers underwhelming season concluded in Game 6 of the 1st round of the NBA Playoffs against the Orlando Magic. Listen, despite the fact that at the start of the season I had Philly winning 50-55 games, it’s not like I am upset with the Sixers because they didn’t advance to the second round. As a matter of a fact, quite the contrary, I was actually proud of the fact that they were taking it to the higher seeded Orlando Magic and were actually in a good position to advance to the second round or at the very least, push things to a game 7.

Then Orlando’s superstar and quite possibly the best big man playing in the NBA today, Dwight Howard, gets suspended for game 6 because of a blatant elbow to the head of Philadelphia straw man Sam Dalembert. Add to that, Howard and his wild style of play also knocks out his own starting SG Courtney Lee for the playoffs! At this point, the stage seems to be set for the Philadelphia 76ers to take game 6 and some momentum into Orlando for game 7, to decide who would make it out of the first round. Unfortunately for us, game 7 never happened, and judging by the effort shown by the Sixers neither did game 6.

It’s amazing to see how much people’s perceptions can change within a 48 hour period. Before game 6, the 76ers were a young team with upset potential written all over them in the first round of the 2009 playoffs. Sure they got off to a slow start at the beginning of the season, but that was all Mo Cheeks fault right? I’ve said it once and I will say it again. I believe that Mo Cheeks got absolutely hosed when he was fired as the Sixers head coach at the start of the season, and here is where I believe the problem begins.

At the time Mo Cheeks was fired, the Philadelphia 76ers were 5 games below .500 at 9-14. The Sixers were also struggling with several issues such as finding a way to force Andre Iguodala to become a shooting guard, when he is a natural small forward who has ZERO consistency in his mid range game; trying to find a proper place and time to fit emerging star Thaddeus Young into the lineup; a center who’s more concerned with playing soccer in some field off in Haiti or Canada than he is with playing professional basketball in the NBA, and most importantly how to mesh Elton Brand’s half court game into the fast break young, run and gun Sixers style of play.

Listen, I can understand the frustration by Ed Stefanski and the Sixers front office. Like I said, at the start of the season the Sixers were a team with extremely high hopes of making it deep into the playoffs, since acquiring the low post presence that was desperately lacking the previous year in Elton Brand. But, to fire your coach 23 games into the season, when he was only 5 games below .500, then to replace him with your Senior Vice President and Asst. GM Tony Dileo, whom by the way has zero NBA coaching experience, after you just gave Cheeks a contract extension the previous summer, absolutely reeks of a lack of vision, direction and management skills on the part of Ed Stefanksi.

Let's face it guys, Tony Dileo is NOT an NBA head coach. Hell, until Ed Stefanski decided to hand over the head position in Philadelphia to him, Dileo wasn’t even an assistant coach on the NBA level! So, should it have even been a surprise to any of us, when the favored 76ers at home in the Wachovia Center, in game 6 of the NBA Playoffs, lose to the Magic who are minus the most dominating inside force playing in the league today? Of course he couldn’t hold the team together and stop them from underestimating the wounded Magic. Tony Dileo is a personnel guy, not a coach, and it couldn’t have been anymore evident than it was in game 6. Add to that, it’s obvious that this team wasn’t on the same page before game 6, because the second the buzzer sounded in the fourth quarter, effectively bringing the Sixers season to a close, this is when you begin to hear all of the clubhouse dissension that had previously gone unnoticed.

Please, save me the time of hearing the argument that Dileo started off 18-10 after Cheeks was fired, ok? First of all, two of his first three wins came against the Washington Wizards, one of the worst teams in all of the NBA and the third was against the Milwaukee Bucks, another team that also didn’t make it to the post season. And if you take a look at the time that he actually had Brand on the roster and not on injured reserved, the Sixers went 4-6, suggesting that maybe it wasn’t Mo Cheeks fault for being 5 games under .500. Fortunately for Dileo, Elton Brand hangs it up for the remainder of the season, leaving the Sixers with the same team that made it to the playoffs last season, and now suddenly without the burden of attempting to work Brand into the offense, meanwhile allowing Iggy to go back to his natural position at small forward and giving Thaddeus Young the playing time he deserves.

If Tony Dileo was such a good coach, what exactly is it that he did different than Cheeks? Is anyone actually trying to suggest to me that the Sixers couldn’t have the same EXACT outcome at the end of their season if they kept Mo Cheeks, minus the game 6 implosion? When Theo Ratliff, a 13 year pro who by all accounts is a true professional and rarely rocks the boat, criticizes your lack of ability to manage substitutions and control the game in pressure situations, that should be the ultimate of red flags to the Sixers management.

In my opinion, Ed Stefanski is already skating on thin ice with 3 major strikes against him, one of which being the mismanagement of the coaching situation. The next couple of problems were the wasteful signings this past offseason of Andre Iguadala and Elton Brand which have now totally handcuffed the Sixers cap space for the foreseeable future. I’m sorry, but I like Iggy and Brand but not for the price tags that they were both signed for. Was there any reason that we had to resign Iggy to the largest restricted free agent contract of the year? And as far as Elton Brand is concerned, I like the guy just fine. I believe he was a superb player in his prime three years ago. But personally I believed the Sixers should have gone after the Atlanta Hawks restricted free agent Josh Smith. Yes, I understand that the Hawks had threatened to match any deal that any team threw out there but seriously, when was the last time you remember the Atlanta Hawks breaking the bank on any player, EVER? And I always hear the argument “well if we went after Josh Smith, we might have missed out on Elton Brand!” and to that I say, SO WHAT?!?!? Better off to miss out on a player that fits your offense and style of play, than to go “All In” on a player who isn’t nearly as athletic and apparently healthy enough to be able to help the Sixers win any games.

So we are now left with one fundamental question. Who are the Philadelphia 76ers? What direction is this team headed? Is this a young, up and coming team flooded with raw talent, that’s just waiting for the right time to peak? Or is this a mismatch team of athletes, and not basketball players, who at best will remain a .500 ball club? Well let me help you out a bit Mr. Stefanski since you seem to be having a little trouble with this. The first thing you need to do is to find a direction for the Sixers, any direction. Find a coach and commit to him. Make up your mind as to what kind of team you want to have and then hire a new coach accordingly. Do you want to have a half court offense or do you want to remain a run and gun style team? Do you want a coach who is a teacher and a nurturer or do you want a hard nose, take no excuses disciplinary type of a coach? Will your emphasis be on offense or defense? These are the questions you need to be asking yourself before you can begin to make any player personnel moves this off season.

Next thing you need to do is to get all of the garbage and dead weight, or soon to be dead weight off of the team. First person in my cross hairs is Samuel Dalembert. Let me just say this, the reason Sammy D has not improved at all is because he doesn’t care! Newsflash, he will never care because he doesn’t care about basketball. He is a soccer player!!!! And I’m not talking about someone like Steve Nash, who has a competitive edge regardless as to what sport he’s playing, Dalembert a soccer player that was told one day “You’re playing the wrong sport. If you want to make money, you should play basketball.” He is a joke and needs to be off this team one way or another. I don’t care if you trade him, cut him, or just pay him to stay away from the team like Stephon Marbury and the Knicks. His lackadaisical attitude is infectious and needs to be weeded out before the younger players are affected. Willie Green is not a starting shooting guard and Lou Williams is not a point guard. Andre Miller is a nice player but is getting old, do not resign him! And most of all, you absolutely must figure out what to do with Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand and Thaddeus Young. You have 3 forwards on your team that all deserve starter minutes, therefore you cannot keep all three on the same team and expect it to work.

There is a lot of potential here, and I don’t believe that all hope is lost for this team, but at the end of the day, some crucial moves need to be made if this franchise wants to take another step forward instead of being a stagnant .500 club or worse. Find a way to get rid of both Dileo and Dalembert and either trade Thadd Young, Iggy or Brand for some other pieces that fit whatever direction you choose to take the franchise in. Good luck Ed, because you already know, Philly will be watching…


Crosby vs Ovechkin

When something in sports is hyped as much as this series, it usually does not live up to it. Through the first two games, Crosby and Ovechkin have stepped up to the plate and delivered for their respective teams. This may in fact go down as the best playoff series of all-time.

Game 1 was played last Saturday on NBC in front of a sold out Verizon Center in Washington with Caps fans "rocking the red" wearing red shirts. It did not take long as Crosby struck first scoring just 4 minutes into the game. The Caps would respond with a goal of their own by David Steckel and then followed it up with a tallie by Ovechkin. The Caps ended up winning the game 3-2, but the individual score was Crosby-1 Ovechkin-1.

Game 2 tonight was a game that will go down in Stanley Cup Playoff history. It will be called the "Crosby/Ovechkin Show." The Caps won the game 4-3, but the remarkable thing was that Crosby and Ovechkin combined to score 6 of the 7 goals. Each tallied a hat trick, with the Caps getting one other by David Steckel. Ovechkin had a highlight reel goal for his third, just to have Crosby follow it up with a highlight reel goal of his own with under a minute to play in the third period.

Being overlooked in this series is the goaltending. The average age of the goalies starting for their respective teams is 23. Simeon Varlamov recently turned 21 years old and only started six NHL games in his career before the playoffs. He came in relief in Washington's first round series and led them over the Rangers in 7 games. Since, he leads all playoff goalies with a 1.51 GAA and is second with a .945 save percentage while picking up 2 shutouts along the way. In Game 1, he robbed Sidney Crosby on what might go down as the "save of the playoffs" by stopping the shot with just his stick as Crosby had a wide open net to shoot at. In the other net is Marc-Andre Fleury, the 24-year-old Penguins netminder. Fleury has been unbeatable at points in the playoffs, but has also been exposed at times. The key here is that even though all the hype is around Crosby and Ovechkin, the series can be won by spectacular goaltending by Varlamov and Fleury.

Even though the Caps are up 2-0 in the series, it now shifts back to Pittsburgh where the Penguins are not just going to roll over. Games 3 and 4 will be played Wednesday and Friday nights at the Igloo in Pittsburgh. Game 5, if necessary, is back in Washington Saturday night. Game 6 and 7, if necessary, will be played in Pittsburgh and Washington respectively on Monday 5/11 and Wednesday 5/13. Unfortunately all remaining games in the series will be shown on Versus Network. Only Game 1 was shown on NBC. It is just typical of the NHL that they would have the ideal series of Crosby/Ovechkin and only have one game on NBC. For those of us with Versus, we are being treated to something special, and hopefully it will continue throughout the rest of the series.

Many hockey fans in Philadelphia may not like Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. Say what you want about both of them, they are the best two players in the NHL today. Both players are carrying their teams right now. There is no denying it. Flyers' fans do not have to cheer for either player, but after watching what these two superstars are doing in this series, fans of the orange and black should at least have respect for them. They are the current faces of the NHL.


TV appearance

950 ESPN's Tim McManus on ESPN News