A Pulse, A Hart-Beat and a Couple of Brain Cramps – Thoughts after Flyers 2, Stars 1

Anthony SanFilippo - January 11, 2019

It finally happened. After such a long drought, it finally came to pass.

No, I’m not talking about the end of the Flyers eight-game losing streak – although that too did come to an end Thursday.

Instead, I’m talking about a glimpse of what the Flyers thought they were getting when they signed James van Riemsdyk to a five-year, $35 million contract.

JVR had a hand in both Flyers goals in the team’s first win of 2019. His goal, the game-winner, was a bit fortuitous. His assist on the first goal of the game was nifty.

It was his sixth multiple-point game in 28 games since returning to the Flyers. That’s not a terrible percentage in this day and age.

That said, there have been far too many goose eggs. There were far too many games where JVR has been just a body skating around on the ice. He’s hardly lived up to his reputation as a potential 30-plus goal scorer who sets up shop in the greasy areas in front of the net and goes to work.

Maybe it was returning somewhere he had played before and expecting things to be similar, but they’re not. Maybe it was an expectation that he could play the same way he did in Toronto, where he was pretty successful for six seasons, and found out that won’t fit in the Flyers system.

Heck, the critics will say he’s playing like a guy who is comfortably sitting on his wallet after his big pay day, but knowing JVR, I doubt that’s the case.

A lot of the same weaknesses that have always been in JVR’s game are still there today. They’ve never gone away. But they are the kinds of things you can live with when the guy is potting 30-plus goals in a season.

Except, that wasn’t happening for him with the Flyers.

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It’s Time to Move on… Again – Thoughts After Flames 3, Flyers 2

Anthony SanFilippo - January 6, 2019

The Flyers reached the halfway point in their season yesterday…

(Wait… you mean we have to endure 41 more games of this?)

And they did so in classic Flyers fashion. They played a very good game for roughly 50 minutes. Then they went into a shell, made some mistakes, and lost in overtime 3-2 to a very good Calgary Flames team.

It’s either that or the Flyers fall way behind early and then try to stage a huge comeback only to have it fall short in the end.

Sure, there are the clunkers in there, too. All teams have those. And there are some wins that have been sprinkled in, but the first two scenarios have been the most common theme on this season.

It’s a season that’s brought a lot of change – and more is coming – and adversity, and an unexpected spot in the basement of the division and very nearly the basement of the league.

With the loss to the Flames the Flyers are 15-20-6 at the halfway point. Their 36 points is only one point ahead of Ottawa, who have the fewest points in the NHL (35).

Leave it to veteran Dale Weise – who seems to be one of the only guys in the locker room willing to give good, honest answers to the maladies of this team, to sum it up best when asked to describe the first half of the Flyers season:

“By far, with coaches, GM’s, goaltenders, lines changing, it’s been really wild and the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.”

It’s hard to argue with him there. This is certainly not how anyone expected the Flyers season to go. There was an internal expectation that it was time to take the next step after a 98-point playoff season in 2017-18 – which is why they threw $35 million at James van Riemsdyk over the summer.

(That’s looking like a terrible decision.)

Hold your tongue peanut gallery, we’ll get to that shortly.

Point is, the team felt like it was ready to be a perennial playoff squad again and invested in a player that was supposed to add scoring beyond the top line.

It hasn’t happened.

Instead, they find themselves 14 points out of a wild card spot with 41 games to go and 15 points out of the last guaranteed playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division.

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Sports Betting Updates

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FanDuel Sportsbook Review

Things have picked up for NJ online sports betting. FanDuel Sportsbook launched their sports betting app in September and they, along with DraftKings, have quickly become the leaders in the space. If you want to know how the sites compare to each other, read our DraftKings Sportsbook vs. FanDuel Sportsbook post. Otherwise, keep reading to get our review of FanDuel and their current bonus offers. Bonus: First deposit matched up to $100 Minimum Deposit: $10 FanDuel

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Here’s How Much Each New Jersey Sports Betting App Made in December

Big milestone for New Jersey sports betting. The state collected more than $1.2 billion in sports wagers dating back to June, when sports betting first became legal in the Garden State. That’s according to data provided by the Division of Gaming Enforcement, which today released a seven-page report with their findings. Year to date, the total handle for both on-site and internet sports betting was $1,247,290,341. That’s billion, with a B.   Handle is the total amount

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Your Complete NFL Divisional Round Weekend Betting Guide

The Eagles-Saints showdown on Sunday afternoon is the weekend headliner, but there’s three other excellent matchups in the NFL playoffs, along with a full slate of NBA, NHL, and college basketball games. It should be a hell of a sports weekend, so now seems like a good time to get in on New Jersey’s legal sports betting action. Enjoy all of the different great games on tap across multiple sports this weekend and take advantage

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This Break Up Shouldn’t Be Hard to Do – Thoughts After Another Bad Flyers Road Trip

Anthony SanFilippo - January 2, 2019

This quote hasn’t aged well:

“The bottom line is we thought we needed to make more progress. For me, it boiled down to one question: did I think we could do better as a team now, not two years form now, but now, and the answer to that question was yes.”

That was Comcast-Spectacor Chairman Dave Scott at the November 27th press conference when the Flyers fired General Manager Ron Hextall. The team was 10-11-2 at the time of Hextall’s firing.

Here we are, 36 days later. The team replaced Hextall with Chuck Fletcher, also fired head coach Dave Hakstol and replaced him on an interim basis with Lehigh Valley Phantoms coach Scott Gordon, and has made one roster move of note – calling up 20-year-old wunderkind goalie Carter Hart to jump start his NHL career.

In those 36 days, the Flyers have gone 5-8-3, including a 4-0 loss on New Year’s Day in Nashville, the fourth straight loss (0-3-1) for the Flyers on a mostly disappointing road trip.

They now sit in last place in the Metropolitan Division, 13 points behind the third place Pittsburgh Penguins and 12 points behind Montreal for a final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

They are only one point ahead of Ottawa and St. Louis for the worst record in hockey. Their minus-29 goal differential is tied with Los Angeles for the third-worst in hockey behind only Ottawa and Chicago.

Special teams is minus 20 in goals for the season. That’s dreadful. The penalty kill, although it has been solid since Black Friday, killing at an 85.6% clip in the last 18 games, still ranks 28th in the league at 75.2% for the season. The power play is embarrassingly bad, ranking dead last in the league at 12.4%.

I gave you all that data to say this:

This team is nowhere close to being a better team now than two years from now. None.

A change in management didn’t help. A change in coaches didn’t help. What is painfully obvious, and has been for months with this team, is this group, as currently constructed, is not a good fit and is a bad hockey team.

That’s not to say there isn’t talent here, because there is, but they really don’t supplement each other well. There are pieces that don’t fit. There are players not living up to expectations, and the realization has finally set in that this team is still further away from being a contender than it thought.

The process of being the new Flyers GM has been eye-opening for Fletcher in his five weeks on the job. He has had an opportunity to evaluate what he has, what he needs, and has begun formulating a plan on how to get there.

That said, it isn’t going to be easy. It’s going to be painful. And the Flyers locker room, which despite all this team’s flaws and foibles is a remarkably tight-knight group, will finally have some much-needed upheaval.

Players are about to be traded. In two months, when looking back to today, there is going to be a whole new look for this roster.

No longer can the players hide behind the excuses of an oppressive GM or a voiceless coach. They are finally going to be held accountable for who they are and the fact that they can’t win together. Fletcher sees this. He knows this isn’t a “win now” team. He has to know he’s got to go into sell mode, and do so quickly.

But how should he begin his roster deconstruction?

After the jump is one suggestion:

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The Kill is Alive: Thoughts after Flyers 2, Predators 1

Anthony SanFilippo - December 21, 2018

The phrase being tossed around this week is that the Flyers “are fun again.”

Two home wins following the firing of a coach who was publicly maligned for more than two years by the fans and starting the heir apparent, a 20-year-old rookie goalie, who the same fans have been screaming for will bring about that feeling.

And to be fair to the Flyers, they have played two solid games, most notably on the defensive side. Yes, Carter Hart has done a fine job in goal, but more so because he’s been able to make more routine saves that many other goalies the Flyers have trotted out this season.

No, instead of focusing on Hart, the real change has been the Flyers playing more soundly in their own end. They’ve improved their breakout. They haven’t alarmingly turned the puck over in the past two games like they did so often in the previous 30 games.

Winning both games helps, too, because it also energizes the fan base into thinking they were right all along and that the problem was the coach and the fact that Hart wasn’t on the team.

If you want to believe that, fine. Go nuts. It’s not accurate, even if it has played out that way for two games.

There are other factors, like Detroit, the team they beat Tuesday, being pretty terrible. And Nashville, the team the Flyers upset Thursday, playing without a couple key players.

But that’s the nature of the sport. Good teams take advantage of those breaks in their schedule and while it’s likely too soon to call the Flyers a good team, they certainly did take advantage of those breaks.

But there’s something else that is vastly improved about this hockey team, and it’s something that began well before Hart’s arrival and well before Dave Hakstol was fired, and it’s the No. 1 reason they were able to stave off the Predators on Thursday.

Find out what it is after the jump:

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Winds of Change: Thoughts on What Looks to be a Busy Week for the Flyers

Anthony SanFilippo - December 17, 2018

Kinkead: this story was originally published on Sunday and has since been updated.

Via Anthony:

“While Joel Quenneville was the apple of Comcast Spectacor Chairman Dave Scott’s eye from the minute he was fired by the Chicago Blackhawks, Quenneville has the luxury of being patient and not accepting another gig right away if he feels a better situation might present itself in the near future (read: offseason). Quenneville is still being paid his $6 million salary to not coach Chicago and to do shots in the parking lot of Soldier Field at Bears games, or skiing in Colorado, where he is now, so there is no rush for him. Quenneville’s patience could likely lead Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher in another direction rather than waiting for Quenneville to get on board. That said, Comcast could throw a ridiculous sum of money his way and make the decision a quick one. Quenneville is not out of the conversation, but he’s certainly not a lock at this point. Quenneville was never Fletcher’s preferred hire, though he might be willing to accept him at the behest of his bosses – not because Quenneville isn’t a good coach, but he may not be the right fit right now. I had originally heard Mike Yeo was high on Fletcher’s list, and while that may still be the case I’m told by a team source he’s not the top target at the moment. Efforts to reach Scott this morning for comment about the entire situation went unanswered.”


Dave Hakstol coached his last game with the Flyers. Scott Gordon of the Phantoms will coach the squad on an interim basis.

There’ll be a press conference and General Manager Chuck Fletcher, flanked on one side by Flyers President Paul Holmgren and on the other by Comcast Spectacor Chairman and CEO Dave Scott, will feed the world one cliche after another about why a new voice was needed.

But what if Fletcher doesn’t necessarily believe what he’s about to tell you? What if internally, inside the hockey operations side of this organization, people truly believe that Dave Hakstol is a good coach?

What if this coaching change is really more about optics and pressure from above to hit a home run?

What if?

“That’s a great question,” one Flyers source said to me last night. “And I can’t tell you you’re barking up the wrong tree.”

That’s because Scott has been interested in pursuing Joel Quenneville almost since the minute he was fired by the Chicago Blackhawks last month.

And why not? Quenneville won three Stanley Cups in six seasons with the Blackhawks. The guy has a great track record and one that would certainly bring an instant infusion of interest and excitement to an apathetic fan base.

It was one of those conversations, though, that didn’t go well with former GM Ron Hextall.

So, Hextall was fired. For far many more reasons than this, but this was certainly on the list.

With the addition of Fletcher, Scott agreed to give him time to evaluate what he has on the roster and the coaching staff. But that willingness to be patient has dried up rapidly.

When the team looks as bad as it has in the past four games – all losses – and has fallen into last place by themselves in the Eastern Conference, and is tied for the third-worst record in the league, it can lead to a lot of public angst and make a bigwig like Scott concerned about the perception of his team.

But the Flyers are 2-4-2 since firing Hextall. It’s not good, but it’s not pathetic. There have been many worse eight game stretches than those in which you register six points.

And is six games enough time to give Fletcher to make all the evaluations he needs? Maybe, maybe not.

But the reality is, keeping the fanbase happy is also part of the business, and even if internally among hockey people there is a belief that Hakstol is still the right coach for this team despite all the outside noise, the people who sign the checks sometimes feel they have to consider more than just what the hockey people advise.

Personally, I have never been a huge fan of Hakstol as a coach. If you go back and read many of my posts from last season, you will see that I would have made a change at coach last season.

However, once I was given real insight into what was going on behind the scenes during Hextall’s tenure, even I felt like Hakstol probably deserved a chance to redeem this team post-Hextall.

Frankly, I would have been, and still would be O.K. with letting him coach the rest of the season.

But that’s likely because I don’t see this team as one that’s good enough to make the playoffs this season. After all, they’re eight points out of third place in the Metropolitan Division and 10 points out of a wild card spot. They would need to go on an extended hot run to make up those differences AND hold on to a playoff spot.

That’s very unlikely to happen folks.

But the problem is Scott and to an extent Holmgren already told us at Hextall’s firing that the impetus for the organization is to “win now.”

That might have been delusional on the part of Scott, because I never really felt Holmgren believed it was possible as the team was currently constructed – which is why he was chaffed with Hextall.

But Scott’s influences are not all rooted in actual hockey. Sure, he leans on Holmgren and now Fletcher to give him an update on the team’s progress, but really, his decisions are driven by the business side of things. When 12-15% of tickets out are not coming back through the door with regularity, that bothers him. When television ratings are down, even slightly, that bothers him.

And to be fair to Scott, that should bother him. The business side is what matters most, ultimately, to a corporate owner.

But sometimes corporate decisions are being made for wrong-headed reasons.

It’s like when an immensely popular television show is cancelled on one network and picked up by another. Why was it cancelled? Business decisions. Money talks baby, even if it wasn’t the smartest call.

So, Hakstol really doesn’t have a chance here.

And Scott REALLY wants to pursue Quenneville. Not because he’s necessarily the right coach for this group, but rather because that hiring would be viewed as hitting it out of the park by the public and might put some more butts in seats.

But how different from Hakstol really is Quenneville? At least from how he handles his personnel?

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This Roster is Broken: Thoughts after Flames 6, Flyers 5

Anthony SanFilippo - December 13, 2018

Flyers General Manager Chuck Fletcher is only in his second week on the job and one thing has likely become abundantly clear to him – he needs to break up the way his team is constructed.

Quite simply, the Flyers are broken.

Repeated and excessive inconsistency is a fundamental flaw that likely has more to do with the makeup of the roster and how those pieces fit together than the systems they are playing.

That’s not to absolve the coaching staff for the sins of their players, or their former general manager. No, they need to own the fact that they can’t find a way to maximize what potential there is on the roster.

But these players need to take ownership for themselves. They can’t be fragile. They can’t “play scared” as Jake Voracek said after a recent game. They can’t crack under pressure. They can’t lose track of their fundamentals and have it blow up on them game after game after game.

There was no reason the Flyers should have lost to Calgary Wednesday, and yet they did, 6-5 in overtime, allowing two goals in the final 1:08 of regulation and the game-winner in the first minute of the extra session.

The frustration for fans is understandable. The Flyers are a team who is equally adept at overcoming a two-goal deficit as it is blowing a two-goal lead.

There is skill and talent on this team; it just doesn’t mesh. Maybe it’s because despite that skill, this team is not collectively smart.

How so?

I’ll explain after the jump:

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Flyers Attendance: Is it as Bad as it Seems, or are we Missing Something?

Anthony SanFilippo - December 10, 2018

If you’ve been down to the Wells Fargo Center for a Flyers game this season, or if you have a discerning eye when watching or streaming the game, you may have noticed more empty seats than usual for Flyers hockey.

Of course, it depends these days on game time, which troubles me personally, because I don’t know when Philadelphia crowds became the late-arriving, early-leaving type, but the fact still remains that hundred of seats go unused every game.

There have been a lot of people putting photos out of Flyers games where attendance has looked bad. I’ve been guilty of this myself once:

And to be fair. this was taken early in the game. The place did fill up some after I took this photo, but it was a Tuesday night, and it was against Ottawa, so it didn’t get that much more full.

Still, there are more empty seats at games now than ever before. Even during 2006-07, which many agree was the worst season in Flyers franchise history, the attendance was, on average, about 100 people more than it has been so far this season.

And there is no doubt, that if this trend continues through the second half of the season, that that Flyers will experience the smallest average attendance in the history of the Wells Fargo Center.

That’s not good. But it also needs to be examined relatively.

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Exclusive: Valerie Camillo Hired as New President of Business Operations for the Flyers and Wells Fargo Center

Anthony SanFilippo - December 10, 2018

Editor: this story headline was updated to reflect Camillo’s specific title

For the first 49 years of their existence, the Philadelphia Flyers had an owner and chairman who was incredibly active, involved in their day-to-day operations, and who made winning and the fan experience top priorities.

Since Ed Snider’s death in April of 2016, there has been a real void in that role. Comcast Spectacor still owns the team, but there has been a real lack of public passion for the Flyers, and for very large chunks of time, even though Dave Scott was listed as the CEO of Comcast Spectacor, it seemed like nobody cared about what was going on with the organization – at least compared to what fans were used to seeing from Snider.

The Flyers were mired in mediocrity and the autonomous rule of former general manager Ron Hextall was so oppressive that it had a negative impact on the fan experience as well. The fan base started to show unprecedented apathy. There was no marketability. No pizazz. And the number-crunchers who were so used to seeing things monochromatically, were suddenly scared by this oncoming second red hue that was getting closer to their perennial black bottom line.

Something needed to change. It did. And it continues to do so.
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