Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sides far apart as lockout looms in NBA

By John McMullen

Philadelphia,  PA  -  Here's  hoping  "Millionaires  versus Billionaires:  Part  Deux" doesn't  have the  shelf life  expected and the NBA learns a thing or two from its bigger cousin, the NFL.

With  the current  collective bargaining  agreement  between the  NBA and  its players  scheduled to end at midnight on Thursday, the league and its players, despite  meeting twice a  week for most of the past month, remain far apart on almost  every major  issue, including  salaries,  the salary  cap and  revenue sharing.

A last ditch effort scheduled for Thursday is set to include small groups from each  side but  a deal  seems  more than  unlikely, meaning  free agency  will not  start  on Friday. The  league, which has  already shuddered the Las Vegas Summer  League,  may try to avoid  locking out its players, however, since the
NFL  work stoppage this summer has turned that terminology into a toxic phrase that turns off fans in droves.

Commissioner  David Stern  has refused to speculate on what will happen if the clock strikes 12 with no deal done.

"We're  not going  to negotiate in the  media," he said earlier this week. "We haven't  before, we're not going to do it now. We're looking forward to having our discussion with the players."

The NBA has been steadfast through a process that has crept along for over a year, crying poverty at every turn despite certain economic indicators that point in the   other  direction.   Stern  claims  The  Association  is  losing in  the neighborhood  of $300  million dollars a year  and that 22 of his 30 teams are operating  in the  red despite  a  massive national  television contract,  and impressive  worldwide  growth that  has turned  the NBA  into an industry that grosses $4 billion dollars a year.

NBA  players have  likely never been described as middle class before but they certainly  have a  lot in  common  with Joe  the  Plumber these  days, a  deep distrust  of  management. NBPA chief Billy  Hunter thinks Stern is using fuzzy math in an attempt to rein in salaries and make other radical changes to a CBA
that has made his constituents rich.

Stern  often  cites slowing  ticket sales  in some  markets and  a hit in both television  ad sales and merchandising revenue during what has become a rather stubborn recession to back his claim. Hunter, on the other hand, points to the league's  overall increase  in ticket  sales and  a much  increased television audience for the NBA Playoffs to bolster his case.

Recent empirical evidence supports both.

The  leagues does  take in an obscene  amount of gross revenue but the players currently  get 57 percent of the bottom line, a number that dwarfs most normal businesses.

The  Golden State Warriors and Detroit Pistons, not exactly marquee franchises in  the  league over  recent years,  both sold for  record prices. The league, however, has to take over the financially troubled New Orleans Hornets.

As  both sides  prepare for the first work stoppage since the 1998-99 lockout, the rest of us are left digging for the truth.

Not the owners' truth that has a bunch of billionaires intent on carving out a new  system that guarantees profitability for each and every franchise. Or the players' truth that says that the owners should resolve any problems they have through  enhanced revenue-sharing  that  will enable  "small-market" teams  to
succeed.  That's funhouse  mirror type  stuff clouded  by the  perceptions and interpretations of biased individuals with a horse in the race.

We   are  digging   for  the   truth  that   Winston  Churchill   once  called "incontrovertible."

"Malice  may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is," Churchill,  the  British politician and  statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War, once said.

The  real truth  here understands  people who  spend hundreds  of millions  of dollars  to  purchase and run  an organization  probably shouldn't be asked to lose more money on an annual basis. It also understands that the talent is the engine that fuels the NBA's $4 billion dollar empire.

The real truth is draped in compromise, something very foreign in the world of millionaires versus billionaires.

Villanova Big East opponents revealed

VILLANOVA, Pa. - The BIG EAST Conference today revealed the 2011-12 men's basketball opponents for each of the league's 16 current members. Villanova will face each conference opponent at least once and will see Cincinnati, Marquette and USF at home and on the road as part of the slate announced today.

Villanova's 2011-12 BIG EAST games are:

HOME: Cincinnati; Connecticut; DePaul; Marquette; Notre Dame; Providence; Seton Hall; USF; Syracuse.

AWAY: Cincinnati; Georgetown; Louisville; Marquette; Pittsburgh; Rutgers; St. John's; USF; West Virginia.
Dates, times and locations of the 18 conference contests will be announced in September as part of the complete Villanova 2011-12 men's basketball schedule.

Eleven BIG EAST squads received invitations to the 2011 NCAA Tournament, including Villanova. The Wildcats and Pittsburgh are the only two conference teams to have represented the BIG EAST in NCAA Tournament play for each of the past seven seasons.

VU will play 12 of its 18 BIG EAST games against squads that were a part of the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Rewards for Blind Loyalty

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

"If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn't be more surprised than I am right now."

These immortal words were spoken by Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold to his Cousin Eddie midway through the holiday classic "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation." It effectively sums up how I feel about the sudden gutting of the Flyers' core within the space of a few hours last Thursday.

I owe it to anyone who reads this blog, or has any inclination to read what I write here, not to give in an inch to fear or simply commit typing strokes from pure visceral reactions.

Nonetheless, five days later and I still can't fathom it. It's like the Grim Reaper suddenly swept through the bowels of the Wells Fargo Center and exacted his revenge for an ancient unpaid debt.

More than being disturbed at the swift excision of Jeff Carter to Columbus and Mike Richards to Los Angeles in order to sign Ilya Bryzgalov, I feel an unshakeable psychic unease when I observed the near-universal praise the moves received from Philly media members and scores of fans alike.

610 WIP color man Chris Therien took to the internet shortly after the blitz was complete and said something to the effect that the strange feeling you all have is the knowledge that the Flyers just got better for years to come.

Seconds later, came all of the buried and not-so-buried Carter haterade surrounding his attitude and health issues and inability to come through in the clutch, and the rancor towards Richards, a captain who should have never been a leader and will never measure up to some absurd standard propagated by fuzzy video clips and written about by certain media types.

Later still, the long-term deal signed by Bryzgalov, breathlessly waited on by the huddled masses, and the release of emotion that followed in the certainty that the goalie carousel has stopped and we finally got our man.

My question to these people are: do you believe all that because it's true, or are you so desperate to support a winner at all costs that you'll believe anything the Flyers and the team-friendly media says and does?

Random poster on the Flyers' Facebook page: "Future's so bright, I gotta wear shades!"

It reminded me of the situation nearly 20 years ago, when arbitrator Larry Bertuzzi unknowingly set the Flyers on a twisting path of thorns when he ruled in our favor regarding the Eric Lindros trade.

Three years away from the postseason in the Summer of 1992, and everybody was willing to gamble that the hulking kid from the Oshawa Generals was worth the following: Ron Hextall, Mike Ricci, Steve Duchesne, Kerry Huffman, Peter Forsberg, Chris Simon.

A certain segment of the populace remained convinced of that until Big E dared question the organ-eye-zation over the handling of his final concussion late in the 1999-2000 season. These people no doubt stood up and cheered the day that ESPN showed the "C" being sewn on Eric Desjardins' uniform.

Nobody then seriously questioned the breach of trust of an eight-year failure from the front office to the fan base, that a future which belonged to the Colorado Avalanche should have been Philadelphia's all along. Instead, Bob Clarke was a hero for ridding the team of Lindros and the influence his meddling parents.

And here we are over a decade later, with an overhaul touted as altering failed team chemistry, with the promise of restacking the deck for a cushion of several more seasons. Whether it works or not shouldn't be the issue...why it happens so abruptly, and without any explanation to the public after years spent talking about a certain course that fans follow without question, should be.

"Winning now" is over...winning in a couple years while the new roster takes time to gel is the new Orange and Black. Nobody is seriously questioning the breach of not one, but two, covenants in the form of contracts lasting 10-plus years. Nobody is seriously questioning the underlying causes behind Paul Holmgren "lying" to Carter about his being a long-term cornerstone.

Anyway, here's a thought of one such man of our times, Gregory Dodd of Atlanta, Georgia, commenting on Flyers Faithful: "It is up to players to fulfill their end of the bargain after getting a contract. It is clear that those two players didn't in the orgs eyes. This is not going to hamper them from signing UFA's, because they will know the true behind the scenes stories that caused these moves to be made. Carter is already showing what a little bitch most of us suspected he was."

And if Ed Snider or Peter Luukko or Shawn Tilger are listening/reading, they know they have you right where they want you.

It's a sure bet that one of the three are tenting their fingers and muttering a Mr. Burns-like"eeeexcellent" while sitting in a high-backed leather chair. So do those Philly scribes who did so much to build and then stir up the hornets nest in the locker room the last two years. They want this, too -- for readership and access.
A hero is never a hero until a villain acts as counterpoint. Never mind if one (or two) has to be created.

This is your reward for blind loyalty. For taking it up the wallet when the season-ticket invoices come, when you dole out cash in the triple digits for parking, food and merchandise. For wearing that Rod Brind'Amour jersey long after its usefulness. And doing it with a smile, because the Flyers get a pass for never ever giving in to the devil word "rebuilding."

It's a constant series of tweaks, both minor and major, always intent on providing the appearance of success. The script, like a bad soap opera, is constantly re-written to paint the club as a whole committed to doing whatever is necessary -- by any means necessary -- to maintain the image of improvement.

Go ahead. Ignore the fine print. That's what they want. That keeps you hooked on faint hopes. That keeps you defending the indefensible.

Disregard the stunning visuals of Holmgren, and the cracks in his ever-stoic Nordic visage when he tried to explain why he pulled the trigger on both deals and how he felt about both men.

Discount that his getting choked up and holding back tears might signify that he wasn't the one in control of the situation and had to do his job under orders.

Instead, remember Snider's stern warnings about the goaltending situation and keep on believing that he's really trying each year to win a Cup. Insist that Richards was a bad captain, a cancer, a quiet storm intent on tearing up team chemistry and disrupting what the veterans tried to implement. Know that Carter was a flake and a party boy.

And head right out to get your brand-new Bryzgalov, Tom Sestito, Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn jerseys. You know you don't have a choice if you support your team all the way. Or do you?

Romero signs with Nats

The Washington Nationals have signed former Phillies reliever J.C. Romero to a minor league deal, according to Mark Zuckerman of Nats Insider.

The 35-year-old lefty had been released by the Phils last Friday. Romero posted a 3.86 ERA and didn't allow a home run in 16 1/3 innings for the Phillies this year, but struggled mightily with his command and missed some time with a calf injury.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Howe heads to Hall of Fame

By Eric Redner
Special to the Phanatic

Former Dallas Stars teammates Joe Nieuwendyk and Ed Belfour highlight the 2011 Hockey Hall of Fame class, which also included former Flyers defenseman Mark Howe.

Son of the famous Gordie Howe, Mark lived up to his fathers name in a professional career that spanned two leagues and 22 seasons.

"I was elated to have this dream come true given that it is a tremendous honor just to have my name mentioned with the upper echelon of hockey," said Howe. "To actually have my name in the Hall of Fame with my Dad will mean so much to my family."

He began play with the Houston Aeros of the World Hockey Association alongside his father and brother Marty. Playing left wing on the team, he was honored as the league's top rookie in 1974 and helped the nascent club win two Avco Cups.

By the start of the 1976-77 season he moved to defense and, along with his father and brother, went to the New England Whalers of the WHA before the 1977-78 season.

When the WHA and NHL merged in 1979, the Whalers were welcomed into the league as the Hartford Whalers and Howe continued to play there.

Howe recovered from a serious internal injury at the end of the 1980-81 season, which prompted the league to redesign its nets after he suffered a serious leg gash from crashing through the center portion. After one more year with the Whalers, he was shipped to Philadelphia in a three-team trade prior to the 1982-83 campaign that included sending Ken Linseman to Edmonton.

Immediately inserted as a top-line defender, he was the anchor of a defensive squad that saw the team go to the Stanley Cup Finals twice while he was there (1985, 1987), losing both times to the Gretzky-led Edmonton Oilers.

The three-time Norris Trophy finalist spent 10 seasons in Philadelphia and had several productive seasons, including the 1985-86 campaign that saw him score 24 goals, notch 58 assists and finish with a league-best plus-85. He lost out the Norris Trophy that year to Paul Coffey, who totaled 138 points that season.
Signed by the Red Wings as a free agent in 1992 after three years battling debilitating back issues, he spent the next three seasons there and retired following the shortened 1995 campaign after the Red Wings were swept by the New Jersey Devils.

Currently the Red Wings' director of pro scouting, he was elected to the United State Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003.

Howe, who still maintains a residence in Ocean City, New Jersey, finished his NHL career playing 929 games, totaling 197 goals and 545 assists along with 10 goals and 51 assists in 101 playoff games. Over six WHA seasons, he racked up an impressive 208 goals and 504 points in 426 contests.

To get the phone call today took my breath away," Howe said. "I never expected that call. I don't consider myself in the class of the Gordie Howes, Wayne Gretzkys and Bobby Orrs. It means the world to me. When I was trying to call dad and I called my children, I began to tear up. It is just a tremendous honor."

Along with the Nieuwendyk and Belfour, who won a Stanley Cup together in 1999 with Dallas, Doug Gilmour will also be inducted into the Hall of Fame on November 14.

The current general manager of the Stars, Nieuwendyk began his career in Calgary where he won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie in 1988. He notched 51 goals that season and is one of just five players (Mike Bossy, Wayne Gretzky, Teemu Selanne and Alex Ovechkin) to record at least 50 goals in their rookie season.

The next season saw him record 51 goals again and he hoisted his first Stanley Cup when the Flames defeated the Montreal Canadiens in six games.

He was traded to Dallas in December of 1995 after a contract holdout in exchange for the rights to current Flame Jarome Iginla. The 1998-99 season saw the Stars win the Stanley Cup in six games over Buffalo and Nieuwendyk win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs.

Near the end of the 2001-02 campaign he was traded to New Jersey and won a gold medal with Team Canada in the 2002 Olympics. The following season saw him win his third Stanley Cup with a third different team when the Devils defeated the Ducks in seven games.

Nieuwendyk then went on to spend time with Toronto and Florida and decided to retire from the game on December 6, 2006. He totaled 564 goals and 562 assists over 1,257 games and 66 goals and 50 assists in 158 playoff games.

"Every player does their best year after year and strives to play at a very high level," said Nieuwendyk. "I truly love the game and love to compete, and I'm pleased to be honored by the Hockey Hall of Fame."

Known as "The Eagle", Belfour had a career that spanned 17 seasons and began with a Calder and Vezina Trophy winning season in Chicago.

"It is hard to put into words what this means to me," said Belfour. "I would like to thank all of my teammates and people along the way who helped me achieve my hockey dreams."

Recalled by the Blackhawks late in the 1989-90 season, he became the full-time goalie the next season and went 43-19-7 with four shutouts and a 2.47 goals- against average in 74 games.

That dominating performance won him the best rookie trophy, best goaltender trophy and the William M. Jennings Trophy for the fewest team goals-against average. Also, he was nominated for the Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player, but lost to Brett Hull of the St. Louis Blues.

Next season he guided the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup Finals, but the team was swept by Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

He spent the next four-plus seasons with Chicago, winning another Vezina Trophy in 1993, but was traded to San Jose halfway through the 1996-97 season.

Signed by the Stars as a free agent on July 2, 1997, he backstopped the team to his first and only Stanley Cup championship in 1999. He outdueled former teammate and six-time Vezina winner Dominik Hasek as he went 16-7 with a 1.67 GAA and three shutouts.

Belfour won a Gold Medal with Team Canada in 2002 and, following the 2001-02 season, signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs where he spent the next three seasons, setting a franchise-record with 37 wins in the 2002-03 season.

He played for a season with Florida after signing with the team on July 25, 2006 and that was his final campaign in the NHL as he went to play in Sweden after signing with a club there on August 27, 2007.

Over his career in the NHL he appeared in 963 games and went 484-320-111-14 with 76 shutouts, a 2.50 GAA and .906 save percentage.

Known as a small, scrappy player throughout his career, Gilmour won a Stanley Cup with the Flames in 1989 along with Nieuwendyk.

"This is an overwhelming honor and one that makes me reflect back on the teammates and coaches I have had over the years," said Gilmour. "Larry Mavety, who gave me a chance in Tier II hockey and Gord Wood who drafted me into Junior at Cornwall, are two people who were instrumental in helping me establish myself as a player."

He began his career in St. Louis during the 1983-84 season and stayed there until being traded to Calgary prior to the 1988-89 campaign, finishing that season with 85 points in 72 games and scored the game-winning goal against Patrick Roy in the deciding Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals against Montreal.

On January 2, 1992, Toronto acquired Gilmour from Calgary in a 10-player deal that is seen as one of the most lopsided in the history of the NHL.

The next season, he set a franchise record with a 127-point season and thanks to his efforts he won the Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward and was a runner-up for the Hart Trophy.

Gilmour led the team to the Campbell Conference Finals, but was unable to lift them into the Stanley Cup Finals as the Wayne Gretzky-led Los Angeles Kings eliminated the Maple Leafs in front of the Toronto crowd in Game 7. Gilmour finished the playoffs that year with 35 points in 21 games.

He eclipsed the 100-point mark the next season with 111 and again led the Maple Leafs to the conference finals, but again was unable to push them over the top in a series loss to Vancouver.

Traded to New Jersey during the 1996-97 campaign, he spent time with Chicago, Buffalo and Montreal.

He was sent to Toronto from Montreal at the trade deadline in 2003, but his first game saw him collide with Calgary's Dave Lowry, tearing his ACL and ending his career.

Over 1,474 games in the NHL, Gilmour totaled 450 goals and 964 assists and added 60 goals and 128 assists in 182 playoff games.

Toronto retired his No. 93 on January 31, 2009, the 17th Leaf honored that way.

Carter's actions better speak louder than his words

By Michael Rushton

Philadelphia, PA  - It wasn't exactly King George VI addressing Britain at the start of World War II, but new Columbus Blue Jackets forward Jeff Carter finally broke his silence since his shocking trade out of Philadelphia.

It was nice of Carter not to wait until the start of the season to finally introduce himself to Columbus.

Not a word had been heard from the former Flyer publicly since last Thursday's trade. Was he upset that he was dealt from a playoff-contending club to a franchise that has yet to win a playoff game? Would he refuse to even play for the Blue Jackets?

Carter finally attempted some damage control in a conference call with Ohio media members on Monday, saying that who he was dealt to had no impact on his decision to stay silent. Like a professional wrestler looking for a cheap pop by catering to the home crowd, he also threw out a compliment to franchise face Rick Nash in his response.

"I know they're a team that has struggled in the past, but they have a bright future with a lot of young guys coming up and with Rick Nash, it can't be that bad, right? So, it obviously has nothing to do with Columbus," said Carter. "It was all about the way things were handled and whatnot in Philadelphia. (That) is what I was upset about."

While the 26-year-old Carter looks to get into the good graces of Buckeye nation, his silence puts him in an early hole. Instead of embracing a trade that makes him an instant cornerstone of the franchise, he gave off the image of a pouting child unhappy things didn't go the way he wanted.

Columbus needing to send general manager Scott Howson, head coach Scott Arniel and captain Rick Nash to New Jersey to finally get Carter to talk didn't exactly make him look like a Van Gogh piece either.

Carter, who had signed an 11-year deal worth $58 million with Philadelphia last November, went on to further explain his silence when asked if, given another chance, he would have reached out earlier, saying he wanted to gather his thoughts and avoid saying something he would later regret.

Maybe something like he didn't want to play with the Blue Jackets?

"No, I traded text messages with Scott (Howson) and my agent spoke with Scott and we told them that I was going to take the weekend to think things over," said Carter. "I think sometimes when you are caught off guard, you feel a little bit of anger and betrayal, and all the emotions that go with being traded. Sometimes it's a little better to sit back and kind of think about what you are going to say rather than get out there and say something you are going to regret down the road."

Perhaps Carter was just trying to avoid bashing a Flyers franchise that he said on Monday he still thinks very highly of. He did, though, show a slight sign of bitterness when asked about the possibility that the Flyers dealt him, along with best friend Mike Richards (who was traded to the Los Angeles Kings on the same day) to change the culture of the locker room.

"I haven't read or listened to any of that from Philly," said Carter. "I've moved on to Columbus here and I'm not worried about what is going on there."

What Carter does need to worry about is producing in Columbus. Blue Jackets fans are likely to be more forgiving than the demanding patrons of Philadelphia, but a failure to light the lamp early could turn the tide quickly on the former 40-goal scorer.

Now teamed with Nash, the Ontario-born former first-round pick also has his own version of the NBA's tandem of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to worry about: two guys who like to shoot that must now find a way to share their flatter version of the ball.

"I think it's something we're going to have to work at," Carter said. "I think that the both of us, all that we want is to win hockey games. I want to come there and I don't want to be done in April. We're both unselfish hockey players. We're both going to have to make a couple of sacrifices, but I think it will work out well.

"Obviously with what you said with us both being shooters, more scorers than playmakers, we'll see if we can find someone that's more of a disher and can find the holes and I think it will work out really well."

Perhaps Carter can offer his opinion of who he would like setting up his goals. According to, the Blue Jackets have over $21 million of cap space and only three restricted free agents -- all defensemen -- to worry about. Carter did at times play the wing in Philadelphia, but will likely stay at the pivot in Columbus.

The Blue Jackets lost one option in winger Jakub Voracek, who was dealt to the Flyers as part of the Carter trade after finishing tied for second on the club with 32 assists. R.J. Umberger also had 32 helpers, so perhaps he would move over to the wing. However, Umberger also finished second last year on Columbus with 25 goals and the club will need to spread out some of its scoring.

With Columbus unlikely to land free agent prize Brad Richards, other options on the market could include Michael Ryder, Antti Miettinen or Radim Vrbata.

No matter who the Blue Jackets decide to pair with Carter and Nash, Columbus' newest addition better find a way to create offense early or he may find himself stuttering to defend his game.

Timberwolves interview Sixers' assistant Quin Snyder

The Minnesota Timberwolves have interviewed Sixers assistant Quin Snyder for their head coaching position.

Snyder, a former point guard and assistant coach under Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, spent the past season under Doug Collins in Philadelphia and has also interviewed for a position on Mike Brown's Lakers coaching staff.

Snyder, 44, is best known for a turbulent stint at the University of Missouri, where he took the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament in his first four seasons (1999-2000 to 2002-03) but ended up resigning under pressure after a 10-11 in 2005-06.

Snyder then spent three seasons as head coach of the NBA Development League's Austin Toros before joining the Sixers.

Kurt Rambis is stil the head coach in Minnesota but is expected to be fired in the coming days.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Carter talks to Blue Jackets media

Three days after his acquisition in a blockbuster deal from Philadelphia to Columbus, forward Jeff Carter was finally able to sit down on a conference call and explain a little bit of how he felt and what went down over the past 72 hours.

From the Blue Jackets website:

QUESTION: Can you just talk about the excitement about the opportunity about coming to play for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

JEFF CARTER: I'm definitely excited. You know I've spent the past six years playing in Philadelphia and I had a great six years. Sometimes a new fresh start is always good. I just had the pleasure of meeting with Scott Howson, Scott Arniel and Rick Nash down at my place here. After talking with them it made me real excited. I think they have a good group of young players that are up and coming in the league, and the chance to get to play with a guy like Rick Nash is obviously exciting. (I’m) definitely looking forward to it and I can't wait to get things going.

Q: Thanks for doing this today. Can you describe what the last couple of days have been like for you and why it took you so long to say the words that you just said?

JC: It's been a tough couple of days. You know, like I said, I spent six years playing in Philly, but I have been with organization for awhile now. I think so highly of the organization that it was a real a shock to me. I know there were a lot of rumors going around, but I never really expected it to happen. Like I said, sometimes a fresh start and new faces are good for everybody. I can’t wait to get there and get things going and I’m super excited.

Q: Your agent said, and could you reiterate, that your disappointment and your silence the last four days was about you’re being upset that you were being moved from Philadelphia or did it not have anything to do with your destination, not wanting to come to a different conference, a different city or a team that hasn’t won practically…

JC: My decision not to talk the last couple of days had absolutely nothing to do with being traded to Columbus. I know they're a team that has struggled in the past, but they have a bright future with a lot of young guys coming up and with Rick Nash, it can't be that bad, right? So, it obviously has nothing to do with Columbus. It was all about the way things were handled and whatnot in Philadelphia. (That) is what I was upset about.

Q: Do you think that this is helpful that this is happening in the offseason? Obviously you are going through a tough period right now having to adjust, would it have been much tougher had this deal gone down at the trade deadline and you would have come and start at it blind?

JC: I definitely think it would have. I've had a couple of days here to get things settled and figure out what I am going to do in Columbus. I think it gives the coaches some time to figure out what they are going to do. I can sit down with them and see what my role is going to be and what they expect of me and all of that kind of stuff team-wise. Personally, it gives me some time to digest everything and move on and get settled in Columbus and get ready for the year.

Q: How helpful was today's visit in helping you maybe shift gears and look ahead?

JC: It was great. I was really appreciative of them making the trip to come down here to see me. That shows a lot on their part. Obviously they are real excited to have me. We just talked for awhile about the team and their direction, what their sights are on for the future, my role on the team and all that kind of stuff. We talked about the city for awhile. After talking with them it definitely got me real excited and I wish the season was starting a little earlier.

Q: And you've gotten good feedback from Nash in that visit?

JC: Yeah, definitely. I've known Nasher a little bit for a while here through All-Star Games and Olympic camps and he actually played in my hometown in juniors, so I know him a little bit and he's obviously a great guy, a world-class player. So, I'm definitely looking forward to being with him.

Q: We know you reached out and spoke a little bit with Rick, were you able to talk with (former Flyers teammate) R.J. (Umberger) or anyone else? Was it just a matter of taking a couple of days to compose yourself?

JC: On the day that I got traded, Thursday, I got a few calls from, well obviously Rick called me, R.J. called me and Antoine Vermette gave me a shout. I’ve actually been playing phone tag with R.J. the last day or so. I haven’t gotten a hold of him yet, but I’ll definitely be talking to him in the near future.

Q: Your emotions have had to have run the gamut just all over the place. Can you pinpoint one? Anger? Betrayal? Excitement? Can you talk about that?

JC: It's been a tough couple of days. I think I've had a little bit of everything going through my mind right now. But, like I said, after I sat down with Scott, Scott and Rick it's been a lot of excitement and I look forward to coming in there and being a piece of the puzzle there and building something pretty good in Columbus.

Q: Can you tell everybody in Columbus what you love about playing the sport of hockey?

JC: I mean, it's the best sport there is. For us, we're going out there and doing something that we love to do. You know, they've told me that Columbus is a big college town and they're really behind their Buckeyes, but they've seen in the past that when the Blue Jackets start winning and putting a good team on the ice the fans are really into it and it turns into a real big hockey town. I'm real excited to help them build a winning team and get everybody excited again.

Q: Playing on the ice with Rick (Nash), how excited are you to play on that line with him? This is something that this organization has never had, a player of your caliber. How do you see you guys fitting together?

JC: I'm real excited. Anytime you get a chance to play with a guy like Rick, it definitely puts a smile on your face. I'm excited to get out there and see what we can do together. I think we're two big guys. Rick's had a lot of people keying on him the last eight years that he's been there, so it's not easy doing a lot by yourself. Hopefully I can take some of the weight off his shoulders and try to help him out and help this team out.

Q: If you this to do over again, would you reach out to Scott Howson earlier, reach out to the fans? Any regrets with how this went down and the anxiety that was created with the fan base here?

JC: No, I traded text messages with Scott (Howson) and my agent spoke with Scott and we told them that I was going to take weekend to think things over. I think sometimes when you are caught off guard, you feel a little bit of anger and betrayal, and all the emotions that go with being traded. Sometimes it’s a little better to sit back and kind of think about what you are going to say rather than get out there and say something you are going to regret down the road. Scott and the organization have been real welcoming. They understand the situation and they were fine with me waiting a few days to come out and talk and I really appreciate that from them.

Q: When do you think you are going to come to Columbus for the first time to sort of figure out where you are going to live, to get the lay of the land, that sort of thing?

JC: You know, I am not sure. We talked briefly about that. I’d like to do it sooner rather than later. I want to get settled in, so I don't have to worry about that when I get to town full time. I have a few things going on here, but I would assume sometime within the next month here.

Q: What is it that Howson shared with you about his vision of the Columbus Blue Jackets that excited you so much?

JC: We talked a little bit about what he's looking to do here in the next couple weeks and adding players and whatnot. There really isn’t that much that they need to add. There's a few holes they need to work on, but you look at the lineup and they got a lot of young players that are going to be real good players in this league; guys coming out of junior now and guys on the roster right now. It's a work in progress, but hopefully I can be a big part of that.

Q: Obviously the Columbus fan base wants to see this organization turn around and be more successful and they are putting a lot of hope in you coming in and bringing your caliber and working with Nash to get that to happen. How are you handling dealing with the high expectations from this fan base at this point?

JC: It's exciting. I think that playing in Philly the last few years, you know, every time you step on the ice there are high expectations, so I am pretty much used to that. It’s real exciting. It's a little bit nerve wracking, but I can’t wait to get things going.

Q: You're the guy who shoots the puck a lot. Rick Nash is a guy that shoots the puck a lot. Can you just discuss how that line might work, what the two of you need to work together on that would allow you to click? Also, what sort of winger would be best on your right side?

JC: I think it's something we're going to have to work at. I think that the both of us, all that we want is to win hockey games. I want to come there and I don't want to be done in April. We're both unselfish hockey players. We're both going to have to make a couple of sacrifices, but I think it will work out well. Obviously with what you said with us both being shooters, more scorers than playmakers, we’ll see if we can find someone that's more of a disher and can find the holes and I think it will work out really well.

Q: Do you get the sense that perhaps Rick Nash’s game can be elevated to a whole other level now with a capable No. 1 center next to him who is going to give him the space on the ice that he has not had before?

JC: I definitely think it will. Like I said for the last eight or nine years, he's been really the focal point of that team and other teams, all they’ve been doing is keying on him. Hopefully I can take some of the pressure off of him and really let him evolve into an even better player than he is now and help him out anyway that I can.

Q: Something that has come out the last couple of days, especially in the press conferences in Philadelphia was that one of the reasons they made the moves that they did was to maybe change the culture a little bit in that locker room. What is your response when you hear something like that given as much as you have invested into the team?

JC: I haven't read or listened to any of that from Philly. I've moved on to Columbus here and I'm not worried about what is going on there.

Q: What is the perspective of the Columbus Blue Jackets from outside of the state of Ohio?

JC: I think it's a Columbus team that a lot of people don't know too much about. I know they've had some up and down years and I think they've made the playoffs in their stay in Columbus. It's definitely a work in progress there. Like I said they've got a lot of young guys coming up and I think if we can add a few more pieces to the puzzle here, I don't see why we won’t be in the playoffs next year.

Q: Scott Arniel is one of the bright young coaches in the National Hockey League. I am sure you are familiar with Scott. You met with him this morning. (What are) your impressions of Scott and what do you expect from him?

JC: Scott was great. It was the first time I met him. He was real professional coming in here. We didn't get too much into the hockey specific stuff, but just talking to a few other guys he seems like a real players coach. He's played the game, so he knows what it takes travel-wise and how much you put into this, so you know, I am real excited to work with him.

Q: Can you just give us some specifics as to where you met, what time you met. I assume it was this morning. Where you met, how the conversation started… that sort of thing.

JC: They actually came down to my place in (Sea Isle City, New Jersey) here and met with myself and my agent. I think they flew in from Columbus this morning and got here around noon. We had a good hour, hour and a half talk about pretty much everything. Scott started off kind of filling me in on the organization and how it began. It was real good for me to hear all that stuff.

Roster shaping continues for Flyers

On Monday morning, the Philadelphia Flyers signed restricted free agent forwards Andreas Nodl and Tom Sestito to contracts.

While terms of both were not disclosed by the club, multiple sources quote Nodl's deal as being two years and worth $845,000 per year.

Nodl, the 24-year-old Austrian, notched 11 goals and 22 points over 67 games last season, his first true full NHL campaign. A hand injury sustained early in the first round prevented him from playing in all but two playoff contests.

He made $850,000 in the final season of his first professional contract in 2010-11.

Since breaking in with Philly back in 2008, the former second-round pick in the 2006 draft has posted 12 goals and 27 points in 115 NHL games.

Sestito, a 23-year-old native of upstate New York, has only logged 13 games of NHL experience, all with Columbus, before his acquisition on February 28 from the Blue Jackets. He played in 11 games with the AHL's Adirondack Phantoms before the end of the regular season.

On a two-way contract, he was making $585,000 at the NHL level and $62,500 in the minors.

Then, on Monday afternoon, the club dealt fourth-line forward and Princeton product Darroll Powe to the Minnesota Wild for Minny's third-round choice in the 2013 draft. The 26-year-old Saskatchewan native played here for three years, contributing 22 goals and 43 points over 204 games.

Flyers draft recap

The Philadelphia Flyers held the eighth overall pick and selected six prospects at the 2011 National Hockey League Entry Draft on Friday, June 24 and Saturday, June 25 at the Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota.

“I’m happy about our draft,” said Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren. “Obviously we have a big center in the first round that we all really like and with the guys we drafted from the third round to the seventh round we got bigger. We’ve added skill and competitiveness as well.”

In the first round on Friday, June 24, the Flyers selected highly-touted forward Sean Couturier with the eighth overall selection.

The Flyers had a total of five selections on Saturday, June 25 in rounds two through seven. All prospect information is listed below:

Round 1 (EIGHTH overall)
Sean Couturier, C, Drummondville - QMJHL

Round 3 (68th overall)
Nick Cousins, C, Sault Ste. Marie - OHL

Round 4 (116th overall)
Colin Suellentrop, D, Oshawa - OHL

Round 4 (118th overall)
Marcel Noebels, LW, Seattle - WHL

Round 6 (176th overall)
Petr Placek, RW, Hotchkiss HS - Connecticut

Round 7 (206th overall)
Derek Mathers, RW, Peterborough - OHL

FIRST Round – EIGHTH overall

Sean Couturier: Center (Drummondville – Quebec Major Junior Hockey League)

Born on December 7, 1992 in Phoenix, Arizona … 6’4’’, 197-pounds … Shoots left.

Couturier recorded 36 goals and 60 assists for 96 points in 58 regular season games with the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this past season. He led the team in assists (60), tied for the team lead in points (96 – 4th in QMJHL) and finished second on the team in goals (36). He also led the club in plus/minus rating (+55 – 2nd in QMJHL), points-per-game (1.66), and tied for the team lead in short-handed goals (4).

Couturier led his team in the QMJHL playoffs with 11 points (6G-5A) in 10 games and was later named the QMJHL’s Most Valuable Player, the Top 2011 Draft Prospect and selected a First-Team All-Star.

In 2009-10, Couturier led the QMJHL in scoring with 96 points (41G-55A), becoming the first 17 year-old to lead the league in scoring since Sidney Crosby (Rimouski) in 2004-05. He also led the team with a plus/minus rating of +62.

Over the course of three seasons, all with Drummondville, Couturier has recorded 86 goals and 137 assists for 223 points in 184 regular season games, finishing with a career plus/minus mark of +141. He also recorded 37 points (17G-20A) in 43 career QMJHL playoff games.

THIRD Round – 68th overall

Nick Cousins: Center (Sault Ste. Marie – Ontario Hockey League)

Born on July 20, 1993 in Belleville, Ontario … 5’10’’, 166-pounds … Shoots left.

Cousins recently completed his second season of junior hockey. He recorded 29 goals and 39 assists for 68 points in 68 regular season games, more than doubling his totals from his rookie season. Cousins led his team in goals (29) and power-play goals (12), and ranked second in both assists (39) and overall points (68).

“He’s an energy player. Good skills, speed and just a highly competitive kid,” said Holmgren. “He’s one of those guys that gets underneath the other team’s skin a little bit too.”

In two full seasons with the Greyhounds, Cousins has recorded 100 points (40G-60A) in 135 games.

FOURTH Round – 116th overall

Colin Suellentrop: Defenseman (Oshawa – Ontario Hockey League)

Born on June 10, 1993 in Plantation, Florida … 6’1’’, 193-pounds … Shoots right.

Suellentrop completed his second season in the OHL with the Generals where he recorded 14 points, all assists, 70 penalty minutes and a plus/minus rating of +21 in 59 regular season games. In his two seasons of play, he has compiled 20 points (1G-19A) and 144 penalty minutes in 113 regular season games.

FOURTH Round – 118th overall

Marcel Noebels: Left Wing (Seattle – Western Hockey League)

Born on March 14, 1994 in Toenisvorst, Germany … 6’2’’, 195-pounds … Shoots left.

In his first season of play in North America, Noebels recorded 28 goals and 26 assists for 54 points in 66 games for the Thunderbirds. He finished second on the team in goals (28) and third in points (54).

“Marcel is obviously a great, big kid with good hands,” said Holmgren. “He’s a hard-working kid who wants to play in the NHL. I know he’s been telling a lot of people he wants to be a Flyer.”

Noebels also represented Germany at the 2011 World Junior Championships, recording three points (1G-2A) in seven games, and at the 2009 World Under-18 Championships.

SIXTH Round – 176th overall

Petr Placek: Right Wing (Hotchkiss High School – Connecticut)

Born on December 28, 1992 in Slany, Czech Republic … 6’4’’, 210-pounds … Shoots right.

Placek played just seven games for Hotchkiss High School in Connecticut, recording seven goals and six assists for 13 points in that span. He is also committed to play for Harvard University in the Fall of 2011.

“He’s a projection right now,” said Holmgren. “Another big kid with good skill and is a decent skater right now. When you draft a guy and you know he’s going to college, you get all of those years to watch him.”

SEVENTH Round – 206th overall

Derek Mathers: Right Wing (Peterborough – Ontario Hockey League)

Born on August 4, 1993 in Strathroy, Ontario … 6’3’’, 226-pounds … Shoots right.

In his first season of play in the OHL, Mathers recorded five points (1G-4A) and 171 penalty minutes in 55 games for the Peterborough Petes.

Mwanga lifts Union over Chivas USA

Chester, Pa. (June 25, 2011) -- Trailing 1-0 and sitting on a 294-minute goal drought, the first place Philadelphia Union (7-4-5) fought back and netted three second-half goals, overcoming a late equalizer to defeat Chivas USA (4-7-5) by a score of 3-2 at PPL Park on Saturday.

Veljko Paunovic scored his first MLS goal to equalize in the 48th minute, erasing Michael Umana's first half goal for the visitors. After Carlos Ruiz gave the Union the lead in the 69th minute, Justin Braun struck back for Chivas in the 77th minute.

But Danny Mwanga had the final word. The second-year striker tallied his club-leading fifth goal of the season, assisted by Sébastien Le Toux, a dagger from distance that stood up as the game-winner.

Chivas struck first in the 28th minute. After Union goalkeeper Fayrd Mondragón punched away a corner kick, Ben Zemanski found Umana, who headed home the opening goal to give Chivas a 1-0 lead.

The Union came close to equalizing when Ruiz sprung Le Toux free in the area, but Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy was there to break up the goal scoring opportunity.

Paunovic first career MLS goal - coming in his third start for the Union - came off a cross from Justin Mapp. Paunovic also added an assist on Ruiz's goal.

Ruiz broke the 1-1 deadlock in the 69th minute, four minutes after Chivas striker Marcos Mondaini hit the crossbar off a free kick. After being sent into space by Paunovic, the Guatemalan held off his defender before firing it through Kennedy’s legs for his fourth goal of the season and a 2-1 lead for Philadelphia.

Braun's equalizer only momentarily silenced the home crowd, before Mwanga sent 18,139 fans into a wild celebration at PPL Park.

The victory extends Philadelphia's home unbeaten steak to 10 matches and vaults the club into sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference. The Union now face a three-match road trip, beginning next Saturday with a match at RFK Stadium against D.C. United. The 7:00 p.m. match will air nationally on FOX Soccer.

Scoring Summary:

CHV -- Michael Umana 1 (Ben Zemanski 3) 28?

PHI -- Veljko Paunovic 1 (Justin Mapp 1) 48

PHI -- Carlos Ruiz 4 (unassisted) 69

CHV -- Justin Braun 4 (unassisted) 77

PHI -- Danny Mwanga 5 (Sebastien Le Toux 5) 82

Chivas USA -- Dan Kennedy, Zarek Valentin, Michael Umana (Andrew Boyens 46), Heath Pearce, Ante Jazic, Paulo Nagamura, Ben Zemanski (Blair Gavin 76), Nick LaBrocca, Jorge Flores, Justin Braun, Marcos Mondaini (Chris Cortez 71).

Substitutes Not Used: Victor Estupinan, Michael Lahoud, Mariano Trujillo, Zach Thornton.

Philadelphia Union -- Faryd Mondragon, Sheanon Williams, Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes, Jordan Harvey (Danny Mwanga 46), Justin Mapp, Veljko Paunovic (Kyle Nakazawa 72), Brian Carroll, Sebastien Le Toux, Carlos Ruiz, Jack McInerney (Keon Daniel 46).

Substitutes Not Used: Michael Farfan, Amobi Okugo, Roger Torres, Zac MacMath.

Misconduct Summary:

PHI -- Carlos Valdes (caution; Reckless Tackle) 64

Referee: Jair Marrufo

Referee's Assistants: C.J. Morgante; Corey Rockwell

4th Official: Jose Carlos Rivero

Time of Game: 1:50

Weather: Cloudy-and-80-degrees

Attendance: 18,139

Soul lose another heartbreaker

PHILADELPHIA (June 25, 2011)  – Despite the Philadelphia Soul (5-10) leading the Arizona Rattlers (13-2) for the majority of the contest, the National Conference-leading Rattlers were able to prove their dominance by outscoring the Soul 21-7 in the final quarter and come away with a 55-54 victory in front of 9,710 fans at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night.

The Soul were left with 0:06 in the fourth quarter to respond to a late Arizona score, and decided to send out kicker Jon Striefsky to attempt a 44-yard field goal attempt.  With 0:03 remaining, the kick went wide-left as the Rattlers landed on the ball to escape Philadelphia with their sixth straight victory.

“It should be a lot easier to make that field goal than throw a ‘Hail Mary’,” said Soul head coach Mike Hohensee.  “We practice field goals a lot, and we don’t get to practice it in a regular area. We had to take our shot and try and make one.”

Soul quarterback Ryan Vena completed 18-of-32 (56.3%) for 226 yards and two touchdowns.  Vena also added three rushing touchdowns, his most in a game since May 8, 2010, where he scored four against the Cleveland Gladiators.  The receiving corps split receptions evenly, with Donovan Morgan catching five passes for 98 yards and one touchdown, Keith Stokes catching six passes for 64 yards, and Syvelle Newton with five catches for 47 yards.  Fullback Darnell Whitley also contributed, adding 16 yards and two touchdowns on four carries.

Rattlers receiver, and National Guard MVP of the Game, Rod Windsor struck first on a seven-yard over-the-wall touchdown catch from quarterback Nick Davila to give the Rattlers the lead at 12:04.  Morgan answered three minutes later with a 33-yard catch-and-run down the sideline to tie the game at 7-7.  After a late offensive holding penalty erased Morgan’s second touchdown of the quarter, the Soul continued pushing toward the end zone and finished with a three-yard touchdown run by Vena.

The second quarter had both teams add 20 points to the scoreboard.  Rattlers wide receiver Jason Geathers caught a 14-yard touchdown pass at 13:10, followed four minutes later by Soul receiver Larry Brackins out-battling a defender to haul in an 11-yard touchdown.  Arizona’s following drive was halted by a Mike Brown interception, his second of the game, allowing the Soul to extend their lead to 27-13 with a one-yard touchdown run by Vena.  In the final minute, Windsor and Geathers each added a touchdown reception, while fullback Darnell Whitley reached the end zone on a five-yard run to end the half with the Soul leading 34-27.

The Soul’s first possession of the third quarter, which took 7:31 off the clock and included five total penalties, ended with Whitley running in for a score from four yards out.  Both teams then traded one-yard touchdown runs, with the first by Geathers and second by Vena, to maintain the 47-34 Soul lead.

In the final frame, Windsor and Geathers again each added touchdown receptions, while Vena added his third rushing touchdown of the game.  After the Soul turned the ball over on downs, the Rattlers capped their final drive with a one-yard touchdown reception by receiver John Booker, giving Arizona a 55-54 lead with just 0:06 on the clock.  Striefsky was unable to make the 44-yard field goal attempt as time expired.

Davila completed 28-of-42 (66.7%) passes for 320 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions.  Windsor finished the game with 11 receptions for 131 yards and 3 touchdowns, while receiver Kerry Reed caught eight passes for 92 yards and Geathers caught six passes for 55 yards and three touchdowns, adding another touchdown on the ground.

Next week, the Soul play their final road game of the season when they take on the Dallas Vigilantes (9-5) at the American Airlines Center on Friday, July 2.  Coverage of the game begins at 8:30 p.m. (ET) on WMCN-TV.

Media talks with Flyers first round pick Sean Couturier

Q: On the chances of playing in the NHL next year

For sure this summer I’ve got to work hard.  My main goal is to make the NHL next year.  Once I get to camp I’ll be prepared.  It’s up to the GM and staff to decide.  I can’t really control that.

Q: Had the Flyers been in touch with you?

“Yeah, actually I met them for the first time last night.  It was a pretty good meeting.  They seemed to have a lot of interest, but anything can happen in the draft.  But now that the draft is over, I’m  really glad to be a part of the Philadelphia Flyers.

 Q: Who did you meet with?

“Pretty much the whole staff was there.”

Q: Did you have a team in mind?

“No, not really.  I didn’t really have any favorite team or anything. I didn’t really know what to expect.  So just going to Philadelphia, I’m really happy.”

Q: Who did you root for growing up?

“I grew up following the Montreal Canadiens, but I wasn’t really a die-hard fan or anything.”

Q: I understand your father played hockey?

“Yeah.  He played about 15 years of pro hockey, but mostly in the minors.  Being around him was good for me.”

Q: What position did your dad play?

He was a left wing and centerman.

Q: So you got all the talent in the family?

“I don’t know… I was drafted before him so I was just bugging him about that.”

Q: I heard that you might have been a number one pick overall but you had some issue with fitness.  Is that true, you had some mono?

“Yeah.  I had mono at the end of last summer.  It maybe slowed me down a bit through the season.  But now, wherever I was drafted, I was going to be happy, and Philadelphia is a great place.”

Q: They couldn’t stop comparing you on TSN to Jordan Staal.  Do you think that’s a fair comparison?

"Yeah.  It’s a pretty good honor to be compared to him, but for sure, we’re similar in some ways.”

 Q: Is there an area of your game you feel you need to improve?

 "Well, especially making the most of my skating, my first two steps.  I’ve been working on it since I was young, and there’s still a lot of improvement left to do.  But I’m working on it, and overall, that’s about it.

Q: The Flyers recently traded for Brayden Schenn.  Is there a relationship between the two of you?

“We played together at World Juniors.  It was a good experience just being around him and everything.  But outside of that, we’d never met before.”

Q: What is your height and weight?

“About 6-3½, about 200 pounds.”

Q: What is it about the NHL game you think you would be best at?

“Probably my hockey sense, my two-way game is pretty solid.  I’m pretty reliable defensively, and offensively I’m pretty good at protecting and controlling the puck.”

Q: What was your opinion of what happened with the Flyers yesterday?

“I was actually pretty surprised, didn’t really expect it.  After thinking about it, I knew I could be drafted there, and now that I’m drafted that’s pretty special.”

Q:  Do you think there is more room for you now than there was yesterday?

“Yeah, maybe.  I haven’t really thought about it.  It’s going to be up to me with my work ethic, keep working hard through the summer, and once I get to camp it’s going to be up to me to prove myself.”

Friday, June 24, 2011

Flyers take center Couturier with first-round pick

The Philadelphia Flyers selected Drummondville Voltigeur centerman Sean Couturier with the eighth-overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft on Friday night.

An 18-year-old French-Canadian who was born in Phoenix, Couturier registered 36 goals and 96 points in 58 games, his third season in Canadian juniors -- a season which was abbreviated due to a bout of mononucleosis.

Over 184 games in the "Q" since 2008, the son of former NHLer Sylvain Couturier has posted 86 goals and 223 points.

Phils place Oswalt on DL

The Philadelphia Phillies on Friday placed pitcher Roy Oswalt on the 15-day disabled list with lower back inflammation. It's the second time in almost two months that the 33-year-old has landed on the DL with the same ailment.

The veteran right-hander, who has gone 4-6 with a 3.79 earned run average this season, lasted just two innings during his Thursday start in St. Louis. He allowed five hits and four runs in a 12-2 Cardinals victory.

To fill the roster spot, the Phils recalled pitcher Scott Mathieson from Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Mathieson has yet to record a decision but posted five saves and a 2.59 ERA in 19 appearances for the Iron Pigs this season. Over 13 career games with Philadelphia, he is 1-4 with a 7.07 ERA in 42 innings.

In other moves, the club activated catcher Brian Schneider from the 15-day disabled list and optioned catcher Dane Sardinha outright to Lehigh Valley.

Schneider hasn't played since May 12, sidelined with a left hamstring strain. He hit a paltry .173 with two homers and four RBI in 16 contests before the injury.

Sardinha batted .219 with one RBI in 15 games for Philly this season.

Sixers introduce draft picks

The Sixers introduce their draft picks

Real Madrid unveils travels roster for upcoming trip to Philly

Real Madrid unveiled today their 25-man travel roster for the upcoming 2011 Herbalife World Football Challenge. The list of international superstars includes attacker Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Midfielders Xabi Alonso (Spain) and Kaká (Brazil), defender Sergio Ramos (Spain), goalkeeper Iker Casillas (Spain), as well as many other stars from FIFA’s top European club of the 20th century.

“We are extremely pleased to have some of the world’s premier soccer players at Lincoln Financial Field,” said Eagles Chief Operating Officer Don Smolenski. “The star power of Real Madrid’s roster should bring a great deal of excitement to this match. When you look at some of these names like Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaká, they are some of the most popular athletes in the world. We are proud to have them in Philadelphia and think this will be a great event for all fans of soccer.”

"We are very excited Real Madrid is bringing their first team and will put their best foot forward against the Union,” added Philadelphia Union CEO & Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz.  “It will be a great opportunity for us to show the world that our football is high quality and it will be a great spectacle for our fans."

Real Madrid 2011 Herbalife World Football Challenge Roster

Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Spain), Antonio Adán (Spain)

Casillas serves as a captain on both the Spanish National Team and Real Madrid. He was named the World’s Best Goalkeeper in 2008, 2009 and 2010, and earned the Golden Glove Award at the 2010 World Cup, which goes to the tournament’s best goalkeeper.

Defenders: Ricardo Carvalho (Portugal), Pepe (Portugal), Sergio Ramos (Spain), Marcelo Viera (Brazil), Alvaro Arbeloa (Spain), Raul Albiol (Spain), Ezequiel Garay (Argentina), David Mateos (Spain)

Carvalho is a veteran defender who also plays for the Portuguese National Team. He was named to the FIFA World Cup All-Star Team for his performance in the 2006 World Cup. Ramos, who won the 2010 World Cup as a member of Spain’s National Team was named to the FIFA World Cup All-Star Team for his performance in that tournament.

Midfielders: Fernando Gago (Argentina), Kaká (Brazil), Lassana Diarra (France), Xabi Alonso (Spain), Sergio Canales (Spain), Pedro León (Spain), Mesut Özil (Germany), Sami Khedira (Germany), Hamit Altintop (Turkey), Nuri Sahin (Turkey), José Callejón (Spain), Roysten Drenthe (Netherlands)

Kaká is a Brazilian attacking midfielder who has scored 15 goals in 39 appearances with Real Madrid after spending years with AC Milan, where he was named World’s Best Soccer Player and FIFA World Player of the Year in 2007. Xabi Alonso is another 2010 World Cup champion who plays for the Spanish National Team, and Özil is a German attacking midfielder, had a breakout performance in the 2010 World Cup, which secured him a nomination for the prestigious Golden Ball award.

Attackers: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Karim Benzema (France), Esteban Granero (Spain)

Ronaldo claimed 2008 World Soccer Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or honors. He is also a three-time Premier League Champion with Manchester United. Following his second campaign with Real Madrid, Ronaldo finished the 2010-11 La Liga season as the league’s top scorer. Benzema is a French international striker who has scored 23 goals in only 60 appearances with Real Madrid.

Manager: Jose Mourinho (Portugal)

Altogether, Real Madrid will participate in three games in the United States, including a trip to Lincoln Financial Field on July 23 to take on the Philadelphia Union. Prior to their visit to Philadelphia, Madrid will make two additional stops on the West Coast—one to face LA Galaxy at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on July 16 and another to square off against Chivas de Guadalajara at San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium on July 20.

Founded in 1902, Real Madrid C.F. have won a record nine UEFA Champions Leagues and 31 La Liga titles, 18 Spanish Copa del Rey Cups, eight Spanish Super Cups, two UEFA Cups, one UEFA Supercup and three Intercontinental Cups. Real Madrid defeated their archrival F.C. Barcelona 1-0 in overtime to win their 18th Copa del Rey on April 20.

Sixers snare Vucevic, Allen

By John McMullen

NEWARK, NJ (The Phanatic Magazine) - Trade rumors swirling around swingman ANdre Iguodala proved to be just that as the Sixers stayed put and selected center Nikola Vucevic with the 16th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Philadelphia also secured former Temple forward Lavoy Allen with the 50th overall selection.

The 7-foot Vucevic, an early entry candidate following his junior season at USC,  veraged 17.1 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.4 blocks for the Trojans last season while shooting 50.5 percent from the floor, 75.5 percent from the line and 34.9 percent from 3-point range.  He was named All-Pac-10 First Team and All-America Fourth Team and was the Pac-10’s Most Improved Player in 2009-10.

"I'm just looking forward to get in the process and start practicing with the team and working out and get to know my teammates, and then whatever happens, happens," Vucevic said.  "I'm not thinking about starting or anything.  I just want to get my team and work as hard as I can and get some playing time. "

This past season, Vucevic ranked first in the Pac-10 in rebounding, third in points and fourth in blocks.  He posted 22 double-doubles in 34 games played, which was the fifth-most in the country.  Vucevic was the first Trojan to average a double-double since 1994-95 and was the first player in school history to capture the Pac-10 rebounding title in consecutive seasons (2009-10 and 2010-11).

"[The Sixers are] one of my favorite teams I wanted to get picked by." the big man added.  "I played against Jrue Holiday when he was at UCLA, so I know him a little bit and I got to meet a couple of players when I went there to work out.  I think they are a great fit for me and I think I will be able to fit in there really well and I'm really looking forward to it. "

The 20-year-old was born in Switzerland and raised in Belgium where his father, Borislav, was playing professional basketball.  His father played professionally for 24 years and was a member of the Yugoslavian national team.  Nikola’s mother was also a professional basketball player in Bosnia.  Vucevic’s family moved to Montenegro when Nikola was a teenager and he represented Montenegro at the 2009 U-20 European Championship.  Prior to enrolling at USC, Nikola attended a year of prep school in California.

Vucevic has a massive 7-foot-5 wingspan but isn't very athletic and his game is very similar to Spencer Hawes with a more impressive body.

Allen (6-foot-9, 225) averaged 11.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.8 blocks during his senior season for the Owls last year while shooting 48.0 percent from the floor and 69.7 percent from the line.  He was named first team All-Atlantic 10 for the second straight season and to the conference’s all-defensive team for the third time.

 “I am excited to be selected and it is even more special that it is by the 76ers, where my family and friends are able to support me,” said Allen. “I can't wait to get started with my professional career.”

The 22-year-old leaves Temple as the school’s all-time leading rebounder (1,147) and ranks third in blocks (213).  As a junior, Allen became the first Temple player to average a double-double since Ollie Johnson in 1970-71.  Allen was born in Morrisville, Pa. and attended Pennsbury High School.

 “I am very happy for him,” said Temple head coach Fran Dunphy.  “He accomplished so much as a college basketball player. It is a great reward to be drafted and to go to the Sixers is icing on the cake.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Holmgren conference call transcript 6/23/11

Q: How did this progress so quickly?

“Well, I think probably what got the ball rolling for a lot of talk over the last 10 or 12 days was the acquisition of the negotiating rights for Ilya Bryzgalov.  That set the wheels in motion.  Most teams probably viewed us as trying to sign Ilya – we did come to an agreement today – and I think that got the ball rolling.  I know over the last few days, I spent a lot of time talking particularly with both Los Angeles and Columbus, and that culminated in what happened today.”

Q: How much confidence do you have in the leadership of guys like Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk in passing the torch to those guys?

“This is obviously a huge couple of moves today by our organization.  Certainly the emergence of Claude over the last few years has been a factor.  I think the ascension of James over the last part of the season and particularly the playoffs – I think we have two good young players there that are on the verge of doing even better things for our team.  So that certainly was a factor, particularly Claude.  I view Claude as sort of Mike Richards-like in his competitiveness and his ability to do a lot of things for us offensively and defensively.  That really helped in that regard.”

Q: Why both [Richards and Carter]?  Could you have done one or was there a conscious effort to do both?

“Well this had nothing to do with the financial at all.  What we did today was make two good hockey trades, in our opinion, and I think Columbus and Los Angeles would say the same thing.  

Both Mike and Jeff were good players for our organization and did a lot of great things, and we wish them both well.  The players we acquired for those players are good players in their own right.  We looked at our team at the end of the year and felt we needed to get bigger on the wing.  I think with the acquisition of Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds, both those guys are bigger wingers that can play in your top-nine mix of forwards.  And perhaps the hidden gem in this whole thing is Brayden Schenn.  

In our opinion, he’s one of the top, if not the top young player outside the NHL.  So it kind of led to that.  We had said for a number of years to our local guys that I really liked our team, and I still did, even a few days ago.  Today we’re a different team, and I really like this team, the way it’s structured right now.  Obviously, the ability to agree to terms today with Ilya was a big factor moving forward.  We’ve solidified that position.  Our defense remains intact, and we’ve made some changes up front where we have bigger wingers.  We’re ready to move forward.  We have a little bit of freedom left in terms of the salary cap, which is nice.  Right now we’re in a position where we have acquired a high draft pick in this year’s draft, so we’re busy preparing for tomorrow and the first round of the draft.”

Q: Do you see Schenn being able to step into your lineup next year?

“The guy that’s really going to answer that is Brayden Schenn.  We view him as one of the top young players not playing in the leauge.  He’s had a little bit of a taste with Los Angeles over the last two years, and he went to the American league last year and played some games at the end of the season.  We’ll see how it goes.  He’s going to come to our development camp in early July and obviously will be at training camp.  I can easily say we think he’s capable of doing it, but as with any young player, you never know until you get to that point.  So he’s going to be given every opportunity to make our team, for sure.”

Q: Was there any discussion about moving Jeff or Mike before you acquired the rights to Bryzgalov?

“Well, again, I can remember having a couple conversations from other teams just looking around between the end of when we finished playing to the end of the Stanley Cup Final.  The emergence of Claude may have put us in the position, but no real talks with any team until we acquired Ilya, and it just proceeded from there.”

Q: At what point was that decision made that a once untouchable guy like Richards could be traded?

“We spent a lot of time talking internally since the end of the season.  When you make a commitment to go out and acquire a goalie that you view as an upper-echelon goalie, you know you’re going to have to pay him.  So I think things at least internally here, what can we do to make this work financially, cap-wise… we started talking about some things, and some of the phone calls we received inquiring about what are you going to do if you do reach an agreement with Ilya, and things went on from that.  I can reflect back on a lot of things.  I do view Claude a lot like Mike.  Did that make it easier to trade Mike?  I guess, a little bit.  Both these trades were very difficult for us to make, but at the end of the day, we do think we made good hockey deals and I’m sure LA and Columbus would say the same thing.

Q: This leaves you pretty young up front.  Is this it for right now or do you still need to add some experience?

“Today was obviously a very busy day and a huge day for our franchise.  We’re busy preparing for the draft tomorrow. We have a high first round pick along with some other picks we didn’t have 24 hours ago, so we’ve got our work to do over the next two days here in St. Paul, and we’ll get together on our roster after that.  But you’re right in saying that we are younger up front.  Any time you take out two 26-year-olds and you sprinkle in a 22, 23 and 20 year old, you’re younger for sure.  That’ll be something we talk about once we get past the draft leading up to the July 1 free agency period.”

Q: On the next captain – is it a wide open field?

“That’s a good question.  I can honestly say we have not once talked about that.  There’s some guys on our team that have been captain on previous teams they’ve been on.  So we have some guys that certainly we could talk about.  I haven’t even broached the subject with Peter Laviolette and we haven’t talked about any of that internally.  It was a very busy few days here since I arrived in Minnesota, and as I said, we’re shifting gears here.  We’re now focused on the first round and the following rounds for Saturday.  We have lots of things to talk about once we get back to the office.  So we’ll see.?

Q: Any discussions on who you might look at with that 8th spot?

“Our scouts have been meeting since they got here and I’ll be honest, I haven’t sat in on a whole lot of their meetings.  I was at the combine earlier and we did interview a lot of players, including guys that we viewed as potential first round picks   This is part of the process of preparing for the draft, and our scouts have been doing their due diligence.  I think we’re very well prepared.  We’ll spend some time tonight going over things and make sure our list is in order.  We may even interview a few guys that perhaps we didn’t get at the combine in Toronto a few weeks back, or maybe reinterveiew a few guys.  We do have some work we’re going to do before the first round tomorrow.” 

Q: Do you feel that all things being equal that there is a organizational need for depth?

“I know our lack of draft picks over the last few years would probably [inaudible], but I think we’ve done a good job acquiring a lot of free agents afterward who were undrafted.  Eric Gustafsson, Mike Testwuide… we signed a couple guys this year, Tyler Brown, a big left winger that we really like.  So we have added to our cupboard in terms of prospects.  But again, the lack of draft picks has probably, I don’t’ want to say set us back, but would make the outsider looking at us think that way.  But I think we’ve done a good job with these free agents in getting some of that back.”

Villanova-Delaware to be played at PPL Park

Courtesy of Villanova University

VILLANOVA, Pa. - The annual Battle of the Blue between rivals Villanova and Delaware will be played this year at PPL Park on November 19, as announced today by Villanova Director of Athletics Vince Nicastro.

The Wildcats will host their first-ever game at the home of the Philadelphia Union as they seek to win the Battle of the Blue Trophy for a sixth consecutive year.

PPL EnergyPlus will be the presenting sponsor of the game. Tickets can be purchased beginning on August 1 through or by phone at 1-800-298-4200.

"This gives us the opportunity to move this great rivalry game to a larger stage," said Nicastro. "PPL Park is an incredible venue and it will provide a truly memorable experience for both the teams and the fans. We are honored to be a part of the first-ever American football game at PPL Park."

The all-time series between Villanova and Delaware dates back over 100 years to the first meeting between the teams in 1895. The Wildcats lead the series by a margin of 23-20-1 and have won five straight against the Blue Hens since the inception of the Battle of the Blue Trophy in 2006. As conference rivals, the teams have met each season since 1988 and Villanova head coach Andy Talley is 12-11 in his career versus Delaware.

Flyers agree to terms with Bryzgalov

Special to the Phanatic Magazine

The Philadelphia  Flyers  continued to  make headlines on Thursday.

Not  long after  trading captain Mike Richards  and leading  goal-scorer Jeff Carter in two separate deals, the Flyers signed recently-acquired goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.

Philadelphia obtained the rights to the 31-year-old from Phoenix two weeks ago and,  by  dealing both former 2003  first-round picks, the club created enough cap  space to  ink the pending unrestricted free agent to a reported nine-year contract worth $51 million.

Bryzgalov  made  $4.5 million in  2010-11 for the  Coyotes. He finished with a 36-20-10  mark, 2.48  goals-against average and seven shutouts in 68 games (67 starts).

Acquired off waivers from Anaheim in November 2007, just months after he was a part of the Ducks' Stanley Cup win, Bryzgalov was the runner-up for the Vezina Trophy in 2010 after going 42-20-6 with eight shutouts and a 2.29 GAA.

Since  breaking  in with  Anaheim during  the 2001-02  season, the Russian has racked  up a 156-116-35  record, 2.53 GAA and 23 whitewashes in 326 games (312 starts) with Anaheim and Phoenix.

In  27 playoff  tilts,  he  has gone  12-13  with a  2.55  GAA  and .917  save percentage.

Bryzgalov  also  represented Russia  in  three  Olympics (2002,  2006,  2010), winning  a  bronze medal in  '02. He also  took home a  gold medal at the 2009 World Championships and a silver in 2000.

Richards shipped to Kings for two players, draft pick.

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

The Philadelphia Flyers continued to deal on Thursday, trading captain Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for forwards Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds, as well as a second-round draft pick in 2012.

The 26-year-old struck for 23 goals and 66 points in 81 regular-season games in 2010-11, adding one goal and seven points in 11 playoff tilts. He was in the early stages of a 12-year contract worth more than $68 million to which the club signed him back in December of 2007.

Richards spent his entire six-year career with the organization, and was named captain prior to the 2008-09 season. He departs Philadelphia with 133 goals, 349 points and 397 penalty minutes in 453 contests.

His best performance came in the 2010 playoffs, when he tallied seven goals and 23 points in 23 contests as the Flyers made a surprise run to the Stanley Cup Finals before losing to Chicago.

Simmonds recorded 14 goals and 30 points in 80 games with LA last season. Over his three-year career, all with the Kings, the 22-year-old racked up 39 goals and 93 points in 240 appearances.

Schenn, a 19-year-old native of Saskatoon, spent nine games with the Kings over the last two seasons, but spent the majority of time in the Canadian juniors' Western Hockey League.

Carter given the heave, shipped to Columbus

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

The  Philadelphia  Flyers  have  dealt high-scoring forward Jeff Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The  deal, announced  Thursday afternoon,  will see  forward Jakub  Voracek as well  as Columbus'  first-round (eighth  overall) and  third-round pick  (68th overall) in Friday's entry draft head to Philly.

Carter,  26, completed his  sixth NHL season with 36 goals and 66 points in 80 regular-season games. For a second consecutive season, he was slowed by injury in the playoffs, collecting just one goal and one assist in six appearances.

He  was in the early stages of an 11-year deal worth $58 million, to which the club signed him last November.

The  former first-round  choice of Philadelphia in 2003 leaves the Quaker City with  181 goals  and 343 points over  461 NHL games, all with the Flyers. He's added 13 goals and 21 points over 47 postseason tilts.

Voracek posted 14 goals and 46 points in 80 games last season for the Jackets, his third NHL campaign.

A  native  of the Czech Republic,  the 21-year-old winger has notched 39 goals and 134 points in 241 contests since breaking in with Columbus in 2008.

Flyers 2011-12 schedule is released

As suspected from last night's report, the Flyers will begin their 2011-12 regular season in Boston, on Thursday, October 6.

That, and other treasures to be found along an 82-game circuit were revealed as the NHL unveiled its master schedule along with the individual skeds for all 30 teams.

From the club's web site:

The defending Atlantic Division champion Philadelphia Flyers will open their 45th season in the National Hockey League on Thursday, October 6 at Boston.  The home opener will take place on Wednesday, October 12 when the Flyers host the Vancouver Canucks at the Wells Fargo Center, and the 82-game season concludes on Saturday, April 7, 2012 at Pittsburgh. 

"We're looking forward to getting the 2011-12 season started," said Comcast-Spectacor President Peter Luukko. "We know our fans are just as excited as our players are to get back onto the ice."

The NHL regular season schedule format still sees each Club play the teams in its own division a total of six times (three times at home; three times on the road) and a total of 24 division matchups. The Flyers compete in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference along with the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins. The Flyers posted a 17-4-3 record against teams in the Atlantic Division in 2010-11, which was the second-best record in the NHL for a team against the other teams in its own division.  The Flyers were also 38-18-8 against the Eastern Conference last year, which tied for the fourth-best record in the NHL for a  team against the other teams in its own conference.

The Flyers will also face off in four games (twice at home; twice on the road) against the remaining 10 non-division teams in the Eastern Conference, which consist of the five teams in the Northeast Division (Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs) and five teams in the Southeast Division (Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and the recently relocated Winnipeg franchise).

The remaining 18 games make up the team’s slate against the Western Conference.  The Flyers will play a home-and-home series with three Western Conference foes this year – Nashville, Phoenix and Detroit – and will play a single game against 12 other Western Conference opponents. 

Find the whole megillah over here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Report: Flyers to open next season in Boston

Comcast SportsNet reported late Wednesday that the Flyers will open up the 2011-12 regular season on October 6 at Boston.

The National Hockey League is set to release its full schedule at 2 p.m (et) on Thursday.

Union and Sporting K.C. play to scoreless draw

CHESTER, PA (The Phanatic Magazine) - Philadelphia's offensive woes continued Wednesday night as the Union settled for a scoreless draw with last place Sporting Kansas City.

The Union (6-4-5, 23 points) did record a point for the eighth straight time at PPL Park this season and drew even with Red Bull New York atop the Eastern Conference table. That's where the good news ended, however.

Philadelphia outplayed Sporting K.C. (3-6-5, 14 points) badly but could never solve goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen, who stopped seven shots on the night.

The Union have now scored one or fewer goals in 13 of 15 matches this season, and six of their 16 total goals came in one match at Toronto back in late May. Despite those offensive struggles, team manger Peter Nowak sat his most gifted finisher, Danny Mwanga.

The Union had more than a few chances early. After two consecutive corner kicks from Sebastien Le Toux, Carlos Ruiz, who finished play in the CONCACAF Gold Cup over the weekend when Guatemala was eliminated, unleashed a shot in the 5th minute from beyond the area, but Nielsen was able to gather it.

Justin Mapp, Philadelphia's best dribbler in the midfield, worked his magic in the 24th minute, setting up a blast from Sheanon Williams that Nielsen was able to corral.

Less than three minutes after that Jack McInerney ran right into a loose ball, worked his way into the area and fired from close-range but Nielsen was up to the task again.

In the 29th minute Julio Cesar was handled a yellow card for tripping up Le Toux 30 yards out and Ruiz rocketed a brilliant free kick from 30 yards out that Nielsen made a diving stop on.

The Union's best chance, however, came in the 72nd minute when Le Toux lofted a brilliant cross for Ruiz in the area and his header went off the crossbar.

Overall Philadelphia had a season-high 19 shots on the night, seven on net, to just seven overall for Kansas City and one on target.

The Union are back in action for a third time in a week when they host Chivas USA on Saturday.


*MF Amobi Okugo was available after missing the least four league matches with a left ankle sprain and entered as a substitute for Veljiko Paunovic in the 66th minute.

*The Union's other subs were Keon Daniel for McInerney in the 60th minute and Roger Torres for Mapp in the 79th.

*Attendance was announced as 18,127, one of the smaller crowds of the year for Philadelphia but among them was movie star Hugh Jackman, who was spotted at The River End wearing a Union jersey and scarf.