Thursday, July 02, 2015

John McMullen talks Eagles and NFL off season

Hinkie crowns Kings, gets shooter in Stauskas

PHILADELPHIA - Is Sam Hinkie actually moving forward?

The love-him-or-loathe-him Sixers general manager delighted his followers on Wednesday night by taking advantage of the Sacramento Kings in a Vlade Divac salary sump.

The Sixers acquired shooting guard Nik Stauskas, power forwards Carl Landry and Jason Thompson, a 2018 protected top-10 pick and the right to swap first-round picks in 2016 and 2017 in a late-night deal with Sacramento.  The Kings in turn will receive the rights to two of  last week’s second-round draft picks who were set to remain stashed overseas for the time being in Arturas Gudaitis (47th) and Luka Mitrovic (60th).

“I’m excited to start a new chapter in Philly! #The MarathonContinues,” Stauskas tweeted out after YAHOO! Sports reported the deal.

"Thank you to the whole Kings organization for drafting me and helping me start my NBA career. The city and fans were awesome," the University of Michigan product also tweeted.

The move clears significant salary-cap space for Sacramento, which is believed to be targeting players like Portland swingman Wesley Matthews, and Dallas guards Rajon Rondo and Monta Ellis.

The Sixers reportedly wanted Stauskas in the 2014 draft and were set to take the 6-foot-6 marksman with the second of two first-round picks at No. 10 overall but when the Kings selected him two spots earlier Hinkie grabbed guard Elfrid Payton and traded him to the Orlando Magic for Dario Saric’s draft rights.

Stauskas wasn't all that impressive during his rookie season, averaging 4.4 points and shooting 36.5 percent from the field.  He did, however, get better as the season progressed, connecting on 48 of his final 149 three-pointers.

In Philadelphia he will be given every opportunity to create space for post players like the incoming Jahlil Okafor as well as Nerlens Noel and possibly Joel Embiid, depending on the big man's health situation.

The other two players are more typical Hinkie pickups, the next round of so-called gypsies that Brett Brown is asked to incorporate for short periods or not at all.

The 6-foot-11 Thompson is a local product out of Lenape High School in South Jersey as well as Rider before being taken by the Kings as the 12th overall pick in '08. The big man averaged a career-low 6.1 points and 6.5 rebounds last season and was deemed expendable after Sacramento drafted Willie Cauley-Stein last week.

The 6-foot-9 Landry scored 7.2 points and snared 3.8 rebounds per game and is currently recovering from wrist surgery.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Neuvirth in the fold to back up Mason

In the first hour of the free-agent period, the Flyers shored up their crease, signing journeyman netminder Michal Neuvirth to a multi-year deal.

According to multiple reports, Neuvirth's deal is worth $3.25 million over two years, which represents a slight pay cut.

The 27-year-old Czech Republic native will serve as  the backup to  Flyers starter Steve Mason. It's a chance to regain form from earlier in his career as a touted prospect in the Washington system. He finished just 7-20-4 with a .914 save percentage and a 2.98 goals-against average over 32 games split between the Sabres and Islanders last season.

Over  seven North American campaigns with the  Capitals,  Sabres and  Islanders, Neuvirth  has posted a 66-63-17 record with a .912 save percentage and 2.73 GAA. He went 6-17-3 with the NHL-worst club in Buffalo, but three of his six wins were shutouts. There's a strange parallel here, as Tommy Soderstrom, in his final season as a Flyers goalie in 1993-94, won six games all year but two by shutout.

Neuvirth once held the starting job with the Caps, and appeared in as many as 48 games in one season back in 2010-11 where he won a career-high 27 games. That could bode well for Mason, whose nagging injuries and heavy workload the last few seasons required a backup with greater health, youth and experience.

Hextall alluded to just that in saying: “He’s a proven goalie. One of the attractive things for us with a backup goalie is, God forbid, if something happens to Mase [Steve Mason], he can carry the load and he’s done that in the past. We think we brought in a real good goalie who is going to give us a solid backup and probably play more than the typical backup."

That should put to rest any questions whether Rob Zepp could -- or should -- be elevated to an NHL backup position. As of this moment, he's still the nominal starter for the Phantoms. Zepp made a memorable debut before Christmas, eventually finishing two stints in the NHL with a 5-2-0 record, but his goals-against was .288 and his save percentage worked out to 88.8 percent -- indicators that success at the next level may be elusive.

Ray Emery, who was brought back to sub for Mason on two straight one-year deals, departs the franchise for a second time after going 19-23-9 with two shutouts and a GAA approaching three-per-game over 59 appearances.

According to Dave Isaac of the Courier Post, the Flyers are now roughly $4.11 million under the salary cap. They can spend $11.255 the rest of the summer, thanks to the 10 percent overage that's allowed before opening night.

That number does not include the $1.3 million qualifying offer Ron Hextall gave to restricted free agent Michael Del Zotto earlier this week.

Later in the evening, per multiple beats, Hextall indicated he's done moving pieces but will be amenable to taking more money off the salary cap -- something which becomes more important the closer it gets to the end of summer. 

Union advance in U.S. Open Cup

Chester, Pa. – Despite playing a man down, the Philadelphia Union recovered from a one-goal deficit to top their Eastern Conference rivals D.C. United 2-1 in the Round of 16 in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Tuesday night.

The Union went down a man early in the first half as forward C.J. Sapong was shown a straight red card in the 24th minute.

D.C. United capitalized shortly afterwards with a strike from Jairo Arrieta in the 27th minute.

Eric Ayuk equalized in the 56th minute, scoring from Sheanon Williams´ cross. The winning goal came in the 79th minute, with Fabinho scoring a spectacular goal from Cristián Maidana´s assist.

With the win, the Union move to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup with the next game set for July 21 or 22.

USWNT top Germany, heads to World Cup Final

MONTREAL, Canada - Delran's Carli Lloyd scored on a penalty pick and assisted on another goal as the U.S. Women's National Team topped FIFA No.1-ranked Germany 2-0 at Olympic Stadium to advance to the Final of the 2015 Women's World Cup.

It will be the fourth World Cup final appearance for the USA.

The first half was a balanced affair with both teams pressing and having opportunities to get on the board yet neither was able to capitalize. In the second half, things got going when U.S. defender Julie Johnston was called for a foul inside the penalty box in the 59th minute for pulling down Alexandra Popp. Celia Sasic stepped up to take the penalty kick but missed wide left to keep the game scoreless.

Almost ten minutes later, Alex Morgan got fouled in the box and it was the USA's turn to attempt a PK. Lloyd confidently netted the shot to give the USA the lead before assisting on Kelley O'Hara's 84th-minute strike - the first of her international career - to secure the U.S. win. 

Hope Solo and the USA back line continued to shut down opponents and has now kept a scoreless streak for 513 straight minutes (a span of more than five-and-a-half matches)  in this year's World Cup, the longest clean sheet streak in U.S. World Cup history.

It was Solo's 10th clean sheet in World Cup play, tying Brianna Scurry's record for shutouts in World Cup competition. The 10 clean sheets in a World Cup are not only a U.S. record, but also a FIFA Women's World Cup record.

The WNT will vie for its third Women's World Cup title on Sunday, July 5 at 4 p.m. PT, when it takes on the winner of the other Semifinal between England and Japan, which will be determined Wednesday, at BC Place in Vancouver, Canada.

The tournament Final will be broadcast live on FOX and Telemundo.

Goal Scoring Rundown:

USA - Carli Lloyd (penalty kick), 69th minute: Germany's Annike Khran was called for a foul against Alex Morgan in the box, prompting the referee to point to the penalty circle. Carli Lloyd stepped forward and sent former FIFA Women's World Player of the Year Nadine Angerer the wrong way as she blasted her shot into the left side of the goal. USA 1, GER 0

USA - Kelley O'Hara (Carli Lloyd), 84th minute: Meghan Klingenberg played a great ball from th outside of the area to Carli Lloyd inside the right side of the Germany box. Lloyd made a strong move to the endline and played the ball across the face of goal where Kelley O'Hara tapped it in with her right foot to finish the opportunity cap a sterling team move by the USA with her first career WNT goal. USA 2, GER 0 (FINAL)

Key Saves and Defensive Stops:

GER- Nadine Angerer, 7th minute: A corner kick from Megan Rapinoe went to the middle of the six-yard box by the near post where Julie Johnston was in great position to head it home. Germany's goalkeeper Nadine Angerer was well placed to come up with a huge save and get the ball out of danger.

USA - Hope Solo, 8th minute: Alexandra Popp had a clear shot at goal from the left side of the USA box, sending a ball to the near post. However, Hope Solo was prepared and jumped high to deflect the ball over the crossbar for a Germany corner.

GER - Nadine Angerer, 15th minute: Alex Morgan split two defendersas she broke into the Germany box from midfield. Morgan sent a shot straight towards Angerer, who made a solid stop with her foot to deflect the shot away.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Brind'Amour, Watson to make Flyers HOF; Timonen also on deck

The 24th and 25th members of the Philadelphia Flyers Hall of Fame will be enshrined next season, with one obvious name yet to be recognized and a dark-horse candidate from the club's initial glory years set to take his place with the greats.

Rod Brind'Amour and Jimmy Watson will be feted in separate ceremonies, with the former's night on Nov. 23 against Carolina and the latter on Feb. 29 when Calgary comes to town.

“Jimmy Watson and Rod Brind’Amour are two players who played the game in a way that truly epitomized Philadelphia Flyers hockey," said Flyers Chairman Ed Snider. "They were hard-working team leaders both on and off the ice who played with a lot of intelligence, grit, and determination. This is a very deserving honor for both of them, and I couldn’t be happier to welcome these outstanding men into the Flyers Hall of Fame."

Brind’Amour was acquired from the St. Louis Blues with Dan Quinn in exchange for Ron Sutter and Murray Baron on September 22, 1991 -- an absolute steal and perhaps then-GM Russ Farwell's best deal during his four seasons as Flyers GM couched between two Bob Clarke eras. He spent parts of nine seasons with the Orange and Black from 1991-2000, which included a career-high 97-point season in 1993-94 and seasons of 87 points in 1995-96 and 86 points in 1992-93.

The burly and fitness-dedicated Canadian also served as temporary captain when Eric Lindros was sidelined due to a Grade III concussion late in the 1997-98 season and was more often than not wearing the "A" for alternate captaincy throughout his tenure here. Unfortunately, the end of his time in Philadelphia was shrouded in vicious rumors regarding his wife and Lindros, and the man for whom he was dealt in January of 2000 -- Keith Primeau -- saw his career end much earlier than anticipated.

“It was a tremendous honor and privilege to play as long as I did for one of the best franchises in all of sports,” said Brind’Amour. “To be recognized in this way is hard to put into words but something I will cherish for the rest of my life. I thank the Flyers organization for this tremendous honor.”

In 633 career games with the Flyers, Brind’Amour recorded 235 goals and 366 assists for 601 points. He currently places ninth overall and fourth among centers in points; 10th overall and fourth among centers in goals; seventh overall and fourth among centers in assists; 12th overall and third among centers in games played; eighth overall in shorthanded goals (18); and ninth overall in power play goals (75).

Watson played his entire NHL career here, 613 games over parts of 10 seasons from 1973 until 1982.
Drafted 39th overall in 1972, he joined his brother Joe, an original Flyer.

“I am absolutely thrilled and humbled by the whole thing,” said Watson. “This is a tremendous honor and I am very excited to be a part of the Flyers Hall of Fame. Gosh, it is amazing how it all evolved but here we are and I am extremely proud to be getting inducted. What a wonderful honor.”

Watson went on to play on both Flyers championship teams and most importantly became a five-time NHL All-Star with quiet, dedicated play.

He finished his injury-shortened career with 38 goals and 148 assists for 186 points and a plus-295 rating, including a plus-65 season in 1975-76 and a plus-53 season in 1979-80. The career plus-minus total is the fifth-best in Flyers history. 186 points currently rank 10th among defensemen in the club record books, while the Delaware County resident sits 15th overall in team history in games played and fifth among blueliners.

From the inception of the hall in the Spring of 1988 through April of 1993, multiple honorees were celebrated within a season and on one night only.

Beginning in 1994 and lasting through a lag in the early part of the last decade, only one person was selected for induction at a time. Last season, with the dual enshrinements of Eric Lindros and John LeClair along with a separate night for Eric Desjardins, the franchise is moving towards bulk celebrations.

Despite his exclusion from the 2015 Hockey Hall of Fame class announced on Monday, it shouldn't be a stretch to think Mark Recchi will be next up for consideration.

And if one of the Watson brothers has made it, there should be room for a pair of key cogs in the wheels of two Stanley Cup victories: the late Ross Lonsberry -- an expert checker, short-handed threat who provided scoring punch -- and Bob "Hound" Kelly -- who was the heart and soul if not the motor which kept the club's work ethic in action.

Not to be outdone, the Flyers will also have Kimmo Timonen return when the defending-champion Chicago Blackhawks come to Philly on Oct. 14. The 40-year-old Finn retired mid-month having won his elusive Stanley Cup, and departed the city in late February after eight years ranking third in points (270) and 10th in games (519).

Sixers' Okafor set to play in Summer Leagues

PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia 76ers announced their invitees for the team’s mini-camps in preparation for both the Utah Jazz Summer League and the Samsung NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.

Jahlil Okafor, who was the third overall pick by Philadelphia in the 2015 NBA Draft, is expected to see action in both leagues.  Fellow draft additions Richaun Holmes, the 37th overall pick, and J.P. Tokoto, the 58th overall pick, are scheduled to compete in the Utah league only.

Returning Sixers Jerami Grant and Furkan Aldemir are anticipated to participate in the Utah league while JaKarr Sampson is slated for the Vegas league.  Jordan McRae, whose rights the Sixers acquired in the 2014 NBA Draft, and Arsalan Kazemi, whose rights Philly acquired in the 2013 NBA Draft, are both scheduled to play in the Vegas league.


A civics lesson courtesy of the Vikings' Josh Robinson

By John McMullen

Time for a civics lesson courtesy of the NFL and embattled Minnesota Vikings cornerback Josh Robinson.

Robinson has been excoriated in the court of public opinion in recent days for his perceived anti-gay tweets in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex couples having the right to marry.

To many, the most objectionable of the 24-year-old’s thoughts was when he compared allowing two gay men to marry to allowing a man to wed his own 6-year-old child. The rebukes were swift and harsh forcing Robinson to delete the tweet and issue an apology.

Read the rest at FanRagSports.com

Pronger headed to hockey Hall of Fame

PHILADELPHIA - The Hockey Hall of Fame announced that former Flyers captain Chris Pronger will be a member of the 2015 induction class. 

Pronger is one of seven individuals who will be officially enshrined at the Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Toronto on Monday, November 9. 

“We would like to congratulate Chris on his very deserving election into the Hockey Hall of Fame,” said Flyers president Paul Holmgren. “Prior to his career being cut short by injury, he was one of the greatest defensemen of all time. Chris played the game with a skill and tenacity that was second to none.  We are extremely proud of Chris and his accomplishments and wish him and his wife Lauren, along with their wonderful children, Jack, George and Lila, all the best.  Well done!”

Pronger was the 18th captain in Flyers history, serving in the role from September 16, 2011 to January 15, 2013.  He joined the Flyers on June 27, 2009 in a trade from Anaheim at the opening night of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft and went on to help the club reach the Stanley Cup Final in the 2009-10 season.  Pronger appeared in 145 games for the Flyers over three seasons, during which time he posted 15 goals and 77 assists for 92 points and a plus-30 rating, along with 133 PIM.

In addition to his time with the Flyers, Pronger also played for Hartford, St. Louis, Edmonton and Anaheim, the latter of which he helped win the Stanley Cup in 2007.  Pronger also won two Olympic gold medals with Team Canada, in 2002 and 2010, won both the Hart Trophy and Norris Trophy in 2000 while with St. Louis, and was a five-time NHL All-Star.  Over 18 seasons, Pronger collected 157 goals and 541 assists for 698 points in 1,167 games, along with a career plus-183 rating and 1,590 PIM.  He also scored 26 goals and added 95 assists for 121 points in 173 career playoff games.

Pronger becomes the 11th person to be inducted into the player category after spending a portion of his career playing for the Flyers.  He also becomes the fourth former Flyers captain to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, joining Peter Forsberg, Bob Clarke and Bill Barber. 

Flyers trade Rinaldo to Bruins; re-sign VandeVelde

PHILADELPHIA - The Flyers traded veteran center Zac Rinaldo to the Boston Bruins for a third-round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

Rinaldo, 25, recently completed his fifth season in the Flyers organization.  In 2014-15, he recorded a goal and five assists for six points in 58 games, along with 102 PIM.

Rinaldo was selected by the Flyers in the sixth round (178th overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft and started his professional career in 2010 with the team’s American Hockey League affiliate, then the Adirondack Phantoms.  He made his NHL debut with the Flyers during the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

In 223 career regular season games for the Flyers over four seasons (2011-2015), Rinaldo recorded eight goals and 16 assists for 24 points, along with 572 PIM.

Philadelphia Flyers also signed center Chris VandeVelde to a multi-year contract extensionl.

The 28-year-old is coming off a breakout season in which he recorded nine goals and six assists for 15 points in 79 games.  Prior to 2014-15, he had never appeared in more than 18 games in any of his previous four NHL seasons, and had posted a goal and three assists over 46 NHL games.

VandeVelde recorded six goals and an assist over a 10-game stretch from January 12 to February 5, including a three-game goal-scoring streak.  He also tied a career high with five shots on goal Feb. 15 in Buffalo. He was honored by his teammates at the end of the season with the Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the Flyers’ most improved player from the previous season.

VandeVelde originally signed a minor-league contract with the Flyers in the summer of 2013 and was signed to an NHL deal that December.  He signed another one-year contract with the Flyers last July.

A native of Moorhead, Minnesota, VandeVelde played four seasons at the University of North Dakota for current Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol before beginning his professional career with the Edmonton organization in 2010.  He was originally drafted by the Oilers in the fourth round (97th overall) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.