Monday, August 17, 2015

Briere retires from NHL

PHILADELPHIA - Former Flyers star Danny Briere, known for his standout playoff performances, announced his retirement as an NHL player on Monday after a 17-year professional career that included 973 games.

“After taking a few weeks to think about it, it’s time to hang them up and spend a little more time at home with the family,” Briere said.  “I’ve been very, very fortunate to have a chance to play with some great organizations, but at this point the family becomes a priority. 

"The Flyers are where I played the bulk of my career. I’ve had a great time in Philadelphia and have been very, very fortunate to have the chance to play here. I would like to thank Mr. Snider, Paul Holmgren and Peter Luukko along with the coaches, staff, the fans and all my teammates. It’s been a great ride in an area that I still call home.”

Briere, 37, recorded 307 goals and 389 assists for 696 points with the Phoenix Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres, Flyers, Montreal Canadiens and Colorado Avalanche. 

The native of Gatineau, Quebec was originally a first-round selection (24th overall) of the Phoenix Coyotes in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft, which came following an exceptional 1995-96 junior season for Drummondville of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

On July 1, 2007, upon the opening of free agency, the Flyers signed Briere to an eight-year contract.  He finished second on the team in scoring in 2007-08, recording 72 points (31G, 41A) to help a revitalized Flyers squad rebound from its worst season ever to a trip to the 2008 Eastern Conference Finals.

Briere led the Flyers in scoring that playoff season with 16 points (9G, 7A) as they took out the third-seeded Washington Capitals in seven games and the first-seeded Montreal Canadiens in five games.

Briere lost all but 29 games of the 2008-09 season to a nagging abdominal injury, but still recorded 25 points (11G, 14A) in those 29 games.  In 2009-10, Briere put up 53 points (26G, 27A) in 75 games, but his greatest contribution that season came in the team’s run to the Stanley Cup Final.  Briere led the NHL and set a new franchise record with 30 points (12G, 18A) in 23 games, eclipsing the record of 28 set by Brian Propp in 1987.  Four of the 12 goals were game-winners.

The 2010-11 season was Briere’s best regular-season performance as a Flyer.  He recorded his fourth and final career 30-goal season, putting up 34 goals and 34 assists for 68 points in 77 games while representing the team at the 2011 NHL All-Star Game.  He put up another seven goals in 11 playoff games before the Flyers fell to Boston in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.  After a 49-point season in 2011-12, Briere put up another stellar playoff performance with 13 points (8G, 5A), including an overtime game-winner in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals vs. New Jersey.

Following the shortened 2012-13 season, the Flyers exercised a salary cap compliance buyout of Briere’s contract.  He then signed with Montreal, where he posted 25 points (13G, 12A) in 2013-14 and had one final impressive playoff run, posting seven points (3G, 4A) in 16 postseason games. 

Briere recorded 68 points (36G, 32A) in 62 career playoff games with the Flyers, giving him an average of 1.10  points per playoff game.  He is one of just five Flyers to average more than one point per playoff game (minimum five games), joining Peter Forsberg (1.33, 6 GP), Ken Linseman (1.29, 41 GP), Eric Lindros (1.14, 50 GP), and Claude Giroux (1.07, 57 GP).  The 68 points rank him eighth in playoff scoring on the Flyers All-Time List, and the 36 goals rank him seventh in franchise history.  His nine career playoff game-winning goals rank him second in franchise history behind only Rick MacLeish (10).

Over the course of his entire NHL career, Briere recorded 116 points (53G, 63A) in 124 career playoff games.  The 53 goals tie him with Jeremy Roenick and Bill Barber for 45th on the NHL’s All-Time List. 

Union play to 3-3 tie with Chicago

Chester, Pa. – After Wednesday night´s big win in the U.S. Open Cup, the Philadelphia Union faced Chicago Fire again in PPL Park Sunday night and played to a 3-3 deadlock.

After a sloppy first 20 minutes for the Union, in which Kennedy Igboananike scored for Chicago in the 10th minute, Philadelphia found an equalizer in the 21st minute with Fernando Aristeguieta´s header from Cristián Madiana´s corner kick.

Fabinho made the score 2-1 in the 31st minute scoring a stunning goal from Maidana’s second assist of the evening.

The Fire tied the game in the 54th minute, and both teams battled to take the lead. Sebastien Le Toux scored his 51st goal in MLS play in the 90th minute giving the Union the 3-2 lead. Maidana´s third assist set Le Toux up on the left side of the area and the Frenchman drove a hard shot into the bottom right hand corner of the goal.

The Fire equalized in the second minute of added time with Igboananike´s second goal of the night.

With the three assists, Maidana broke the club record for most assists in a single season with 14. Le Toux previously held the record with 12 assists in the 2013 season.  Maidana is now the first in the league for assists in the 2015 season.

The Union will play again this Saturday, Aug. 22, to face the Montreal Impact at 8:00 p.m. in Saputo stadium.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Quick Hits: Eagles-Colts edition

PHILADELPHIA – The first preseason game of any NFL season can be a tedious exercise, a necessary eight-to-10 play evil for the veterans — at least the ones not named Sam Bradford — and an opportunity for young unknowns to catch the eye of a coaching staff that regards them only as a useful body to abuse in the 90-degree heat of an August practice.

With Tim Tebow and his national fan club overblowing every single thing the former Heisman Trophy winner does, the third-team quarterback competition was the obvious storyline during Sunday’s 36-10 Eagles rout of the Indianapolis Colts. But, here’s the other areas you should have been paying attention to:

HOLDING DOWN THE FORT: With Zach Ertz gone until at least Week 1 of the regular season, an optimistic timetable if his core-muscle injury was indeed sports-hernia surgery as most surmise because Dr. William Myers was involved, the young tight ends behind Brent Celek become far more important.

Second-year man Trey Burton steps into the backup role for now and serves as more of a versatile h-back because he can line up in the backfield or in the slot. At just 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, however, Burton isn’t moving many off the ball as an in-line blocker. He can play a gloried fullback role, however, and had a few nice lead blocks against the Colts, while he also got behind the Indy defense on Philadelphia’s first offensive play but Mark Sanchez badly hung the football, resulting in an incompletion.

The Birds, meanwhile, brought in three rookie free agents at the position to ostensibly fight for a practice squad spot, a reality that could turn into a regular roster spot for at least  a few weeks as Ertz convalesces. Michigan State product Andrew Gleichert, Central Florida alum Justin Tukes and ex-UTEP starter Eric Tomlinson are all two-way tight ends in the Celek-mode rather than difference makers in the passing game. Tomlinson was the clear winner on Sunday, hauling in 5 catches for 61 yards.

THE YOUNG RECEIVERS: For all the talk about the ceiling of players like Nelson Agholor and Josh Huff, the only proven commodity among the Eagles’ young receiving corps is Jordan Matthews and the second-year wideout needs to step up as the true No. 1 on this team, a notion that is undermined by the coaching staff which has pigeonholed the ex-Vanderbilt star as a slot option.

Matthews caught two passes for 44 yards on five targets in limited action against the Colts and was lost in the shuffle due to the highlight-reel athleticism of Agholor, the team’s 2015 first-round pick. The former Southern California standout basically lived up to his scouting report. Like advertised, he’s a sudden athlete who can really stick his foot in the ground and go as evidenced by his brilliant 34-yard catch-and-run TD reception on a shaky Sanchez throw.

"It felt like a pass that I was targeted on in practice," the rookie said. "Good habits on the practice field carried over to the game. Sanchez and I connected on multiple hitches in practice and it wasn't any different today."

Agholor's also inconsistent, though, and needs to eliminate the drops (he had two Sunday) and mental mistakes.

"I need to just work on just finding the ball and not looking who is throwing the ball," he admitted. "I think my eyes just went to the quarterback. At the end of the day , I like the fact that (the drops) happened today. It's a good thing to learn from."

YOU’RE UP: Chip Kelly said all four entrants in the ongoing right-guard competition still have a chance but as expected Andrew Gardner got the nod in Game 1 and it’s his job to lose now if he can hold off the comeback attempt of John Moffitt.

Matt Tobin and Julian Vandervelde have taken a step back in the four-way competition and have an uphill battle to get back in the mix. Gardner was solid if unspectacular against the Colts and if the leader in the clubhouse continues that narrative, it’s his gig.

MARCUS MATTERS: Travis Long’s ACL injury created a vacuum behind starters Brandon Graham and Connor Barwin at outside linebacker. The Birds believed Long was ready to take the next step and step into Graham’s former role as the third edge player from last season when Trent Cole was still around.

The Long injury seemed like good news for former 2014 first-round bust Marcus Smith but Bill Davis and Co. are still wary of counting on the former Louisville pass rusher and are moving Vinny Curry outside in order to get his pass-rushing skills on the field more. As a 280-pound defensive end, though, it’s hard to imagine Curry being able to play in space consistently.Conversely, Smith may have changed the thought process on him at least a little bit against Indianapolis with his best effort as a professional, including one series where he assisted on a run stop, was solid in coverage and got after Matt Hasselbeck with a solid pass rush. If you didn’t know the back story of No. 90, you might have thought he was a true, three-down linebacker.

SAFETY HELP?: To the surprise of no one Earl Wolff wasn’t dressed Sunday, meaning special teams stalwarts Chris Maragos and Chris Prosinski were the top two options behind starters Malcolm Jenkins and Walter Thurmond at safety. That’s a level of depth that’s just not acceptable in this league, making the position the one spot to focus on at the final cutdown for a potential waiver wire pickup …. unless Ed Reynolds continues to show up.

The former fifth-round pick out of Stanford hasn’t exactly been Philadelphia’s best practice player but he showed up big on Gameday with a pair of interceptions and three PBUs.

"It felt amazing," Reynolds said. "It made me feel like I was back in college again. That was my thing in college -- to go out there and be a ball-hawk and give our offense more opportunities. It felt good."

Granted, Reynolds' heroics weren't against ex-Cardinal teammate Andrew Luck, TY Hilton and Frank Gore but his nose for the football shouldn't be dismissed because the Eagles are desperate for any help at the position.

"I just need to be conistent," Reynolds surmised. "It can't just be his one week. I need to show up this week, then show up the week after that, and hopefully carry it over into the regulaqr season and then into the playoffs."

PARKEY PANIC:Under any circumstances, it was going to be hard for Cody Parkey to live up to his impressive rookie season.

There was plenty of good against the team that originally signed him as a rookie free agent out of Auburn last season, including a 48-yard field goal in the third quarter but there was also plenty of bad, as he misfired on one of the now extended PAT tries as well as a 34-yard FG attempt.

Philadelphia fans were a little spoiled with Parkey’s performance last season and you can expect a bit of  market correction this time around.

TEBOW TIME: Kelly’s assertion that Tim Tebow is not a gimmick and rather a true signal caller in this league foreshadows his ultimate intent when it comes to the third spot. The Eagles would love to trade Matt Barkley in order to hand the job to Tebow and as injuries continue to pile up around the league that remains the most likely scenario.

If nothing materializes, however, Kelly would be forced to cut Barkley in order to move toward Tebow, a reality that would be much easier if the popular former Hesiman Trophy winner is at least competent in the preseason.

If the battle were a true competition, Barkley wins going away in Week 1 and was by far the Eagles’ most impressive signal caller against Indianapolis, finishing 12-of-20 for 192 yards with an interception. He’s gotten some of the arm strength back that has been missing since his shoulder injury at Southern California and while he’ll never be Brett Favre, Barkley belongs in this league.

You probably can’t say the same for Tebow, who still has the terribly elongated throwing motion and mechanics that remain subpar. Meanwhile, despite the talk of Tebow being a great runner he’s not exactly Michael Vick when tucking the football, although he set off his acolytes with a 7-yard TD run late. Overall Tebow finished 6-of-12 for 69 yards and added another 15 on the ground with the TD.

-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for You can reach him at or on Twitter @jfmcmullen