Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Giroux returns as Flyers beat Rangers

Philadelphia, PA --  Matt  Read added a marker  and two helpers as  the Philadelphia Flyers welcomed back their captain by doubling up the Rangers,  4-2, in preseason action on Tuesday night.

Nicklas  Grossmann and Sean Couturier also tallied for the Flyers, who dropped a  6-3 decision in Manhattan on Monday in the opener of the home-and-home set.  Mark Streit added a pair of helpers for the victorious hosts.

Wayne Simmonds posted a goal and assist,  while Ray Emery stopped 24-of-26 shots for the win, the Flyers' third in three tries on home ice.

Giroux  participated  in  his  first  preseason  game following  a lower-body injury, posting two shots on goal in almost 17 minutes of ice time.

He didn't get to see much of the third period due to the Orange and Black taking four penalties in a span of just over four minutes in the middle part of the stanza, but appeared not to be laboring except for one camera shot in the second period where he hunched over at center ice.

Carl  Hagelin scored  shorthanded and Anthony Duclair at even strength for the Blueshirts.  Cam  Talbot allowed three goals  on 22 shots through two periods. Jason Missaien worked the third and halted all seven shots he faced.

After looking suspect 24 hours earlier at Madison Square Garden, Braydon Coburn led all Flyers skaters with 22:09 TOI but managed to break even. Luke Schenn logged the most time of any forward at 20:43.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare seemed to have the most jump outside of Vinny Lecavalier, and tied for the team lead with four shots on goal in 13:39 of action.

Five New York skaters finished with a game-worst minus-2, including defenseman Kevin Kline and Boston College forward product Kevin Hayes. Duclair, 19, has recorded a goal in each of the three preseason games he has played this year.

Craig Berube's club has one more exhibition tune-up, on Thursday in Washington against the Capitals. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Sixers announce camp roster

PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia 76ers today announced their training camp roster Monday in advance of  the 2014-15 NBA season.

Training camp will take place at Stockton College in Galloway, N.J. from Tuesday, Sept. 30 through Saturday, Oct. 4.

In conjunction with the start of training camp, the Sixers have announced the signing of three players:

Chris Johnson (6-6, 201) was eligible for the 2012 NBA Draft following a four-year career at Dayton.  He earned Honorable Mention All-Atlantic 10 honors as both a junior and a senior.  Johnson appeared in 40 games for the Celtics last season.

Ronald Roberts (6-8, 225) was a four-year player at St. Joseph’s.  He was named Atlantic 10 All-Conference Third Team as both a junior and a senior.  Roberts shot 60% from the floor as a senior and 57% for his career.

Jakarr Sampson (6-9, 214) was an early entry candidate for the 2014 NBA Draft following his sophomore season at St. John’s.  The 21-year-old was named BIG EAST Rookie of the Year as a freshman and averaged 14 points and six rebounds for his career.

Here is the entire Sixers 2014 Training Camp roster:

Prior to NBA/Home Country
Brandon Davies
Brigham Young/USA
Michael Carter-Williams
Nerlens Noel
Arnett Moultrie
Mississippi State/USA
Ronald Roberts
St. Joseph's/USA
Tony Wroten
Jakarr Sampson
St. John's/USA
Luc Mbah a Moute
K.J. McDaniels
Chris Johnson
Casper Ware
Long Beach State/USA
Joel Embiid
Jason Richardson
Michigan State/USA
Elliot Williams
Hollis Thompson
Henry Sims
Jerami Grant
Jarvis Varnado
Mississippi State/USA
Alexey Shved
CSKA Moscow/Russia
Keith Bogans

Lane Johnson officially returns from suspension

Not a moment too soon, apparently.

The Philadelphia Eagles activated right tackle Lane Johnson from the reserve/suspended list on Monday, in anticipation of his return to action from an offseason suspension.

Johnson  was  sidelined four  games without  pay by  the NFL  in late July for violating  the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances by taking a medication he says he failed to check out properly.

Johnson started all 16 games as a rookie last season after being drafted No. 4 overall by the Eagles out of Oklahoma.

To make room on the roster, the Birds released offensive lineman Kevin Graf.

Johnson's return comes on the heels of Nick Foles and the offense struggling for the first time all season in Sunday's 26-21 defeat in San Francisco. Despite 21 points officially on the ledger, the offense contributed to none of that total and only posted 213 yards.  

Philadelphia Flyers 2014-15 Season Preview: Goaltending

The Phanatic continues its look at the 2014-15 Philadelphia Flyers for Part 3 of four weekly installments.

Once again, Rob Riches takes up the quill and dissects the issues of the Orange and Black crease featuring a pair of familiar faces. 

The Flyers entered the 2013-14 campaign with a fresh start between the pipes, after inking Steve Mason and Ray Emery to a pair of one-year contracts. 

Mason played seven games in the Orange and Black in the previous season after being acquired from Columbus in a trade-deadline deal, while Emery returned to the team as a free agent after backing up Corey Crawford on the Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks.

Naturally, the two netminders entered training camp with some friendly competition for the starting job. The team committed just $3.15 million between both goaltenders ($1.65M to Emery, $1.5 to Mason). It wasn't a bad turn of events for a team that had just bought out Ilya Bryzgalov and the $34.5 million owed on his massive deal just several weeks beforehand.

Mason assumed the starting role in the second week of the season, and went on to play 61 games. Courtesy of a lackluster offense, he earned losses in seven of his first 10 appearances, despite allowing three-or-fewer goals each time out. However, he finished the season with a 33-18-7 record, 2.50 goals-against average, .917 save percentage and four shutouts. Those numbers were the best he's produced since his Calder Memorial Trophy-winning season in 2008-09, and at season's end, he placed seventh in Vezina Trophy voting.

The Ontario native's steady presence between the pipes bailed the Flyers’ shaky defense out in numerous games as they rose from the pits of despair into a playoff berth, and helped steal some wins for the team in a battle with the Blue Jackets for positioning. In January, he was rewarded with a three-year, $12.3 million contract extension -- indicative of the organization's confidence in him for the foreseeable future.

Here's an inside look at how the Flyers' starter prepares for a night in goal:

Of course, Mason’s 2014-15 campaign will come with some skepticism. A glance at his following seasons in Columbus after his rookie campaign, when he established himself as a below-average goalie throughout the league, displays the following: save percentages .901 or below, and his lowest GAA was 3.03. In addition, his Goals Saved Above Average ratings -- goals prevented given his save percentage and amount of shots faced, compared to the league’s average save percentage at the same number of shots allowed -- fluctuated between negative-16.33 and negative-25.84.

It’s likely Mason won't repeat his brilliant overall performance from last season, but with full confidence from the organization and its fans, there’s plenty of room for optimism. At 26 years old, there’s still room to improve and establish himself, and if he can win 29 games this season, he would usurp Martin Biron as the franchise's 10th-winningest goaltender.

Emery, on the other hand, started the season slow and allowed four goals in each of his first three appearances. His biggest highlight early in the season was going after counterpart Braden Holtby during a 7-0 whitewashing at the hands of the Washington Capitals on Nov. 1, which prompted league-wide speculation and discussion about a possible 10-game suspension for leaving the crease to fight and new hand-wringing about the nature of fighting within the game.

The very next night, Emery blanked New Jersey, making 14 saves in the process. A 30-save effort (on 31 shots) against Pittsburgh on Nov. 13, followed by a 29-save game against Buffalo eight days later appeared as though his season was getting back on track, but he then proceeded to lose four of his next five appearances between Nov. 27 and Dec. 21.

Emery finished his second stint in Philadelphia with a 9-12-2 record in 28 appearances, a 2.96 GAA and a .903 save pct. Because of a Mason concussion, Emery was pressed into duty for the first three games of the club's first-round playoff series against the New York Rangers, going 1-2 with a 3.49 GAA and .888 save percentage. It's debatable that the outcome of the Flyers/Rangers series may have been different if Mason was healthy for the first three games, but as fans have learned countless times through the years, hockey is not a game of  "ifs" and "buts."

When free agency began in July, Emery, who turned 28 on Sunday, was brought back on a one-year, $1 million contract -- a $650,000 pay cut for veteran assurance once it was clear no one else was a bargain for either performance or money. As it was last season, the once-undisciplined Emery will provide a wealth of veteran assistance to his younger partner in the crease as he matures.

Both men are led by goaltending coach Jeff Reese, who enters his sixth season with the organization. Emery worked with Reese in his first tenure in the Orange and Black, before avascular necrosis in his hip put his career on hold just before the Vancouver Games. In Reese and Mason’s time together, Reese made some technical adjustments to Mason’s game, and helped give him confidence that he was sorely lacking with the Blue Jackets.

The Flyers' struggles at the goalie position since the days of Ron Hextall's second tenure in the crease are well-documented. After the Bryzgalov experiment backfired spectacularly, it seemed as if the Flyers would have to keep searching in vain for that one guy who could put it all together. 

There's a lot of well-deserved optimism surrounding Mason after his career re-defining 2013-14 campaign, and there's also faith Emery could still thrive in a backup role if he remains healthy. Let's hope their performances can enhance the moves made up front and that their brilliance won't be necessary on a nightly basis for the club to remain competitive. 

Be sure to take a look at Riches' analysis over the past two weeks of the Flyers offense and defense

Eagles sputter in loss to 49ers

Santa Clara, CA -- The San Francisco 49ers got back to their hard-nosed ways and figured out their second-half woes.

The team which is seeking a fourth straight trip to the NFC Championship game stymied Philadelphia's potent offensive attack and had a late goal- line stand, holding off the Eagles 26-21 to hand them their first loss of the season on Sunday.

The Eagles (3-1), who had picked up just five first downs prior to their second-to-last offensive drive, moved the chains six times on that march and crossed midfield for the first time at the 4:57 mark of the fourth.

Jeremy Maclin made a one-handed 22-yard catch on 3rd-and-14 to put the ball at the 17-yard line. Foles then rolled right and hit Jordan Matthews, who came back to the ball for a gain of 11 yards.
LeSean McCoy dashed for five yards off left tackle on 2nd-and-goal to set the ball up at the 1-yard line, but Nick Foles tossed consecutive incompletions and Philadelphia turned the ball over on downs.

The Eagles tallied 90 of their 213 total yards on the drive.

Philadelphia forced a three-and-out to get the ball back, but Perrish Cox intercepted Foles on 4th-and-24 to seal the outcome for the 49ers (2-2) and give head coach Jim Harbaugh a victory over former Pac-10 foe Chip Kelly.

The Eagles had outscored their first three opponents 74-24 in the second half, while San Francisco had been trounced 52-3 after intermission, but the 49ers outscored Philly 13-0 over the final 30 minutes in this one.

San Francisco had the ball for 42:17 of the 60 minutes.

Frank Gore carried the ball 24 times for 119 yards and had a career-long 55- yard touchdown catch for the 49ers, who avoided a three-game losing streak.

Colin Kaepernick was 17-of-30 for 218 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in the triumph.

Foles completed just 21-of-43 passes for 195 yards with two interceptions and McCoy struggled to find holes behind Philadelphia's makeshift offensive line, running for just 17 yards on 10 carries.

The Eagles posted three non-offensive scores in the first half. Darren Sproles returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown, Malcom Jenkins ran back an interception 53 yards for a score and Brad Smith recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown.

Philadelphia led 21-13 at the break, but Antoine Bethea forced a Zach Ertz fumble along the sideline on the Eagles' opening second-half series and Cox was able to establish possession prior to going out of bounds.

The 49ers capitalized on the miscue, with Stevie Johnson tip-toeing and keeping both feet inbounds inside the left pylon for a 12-yard score and get San Francisco within 21-20.

Kelly's team went three-and-out on its next touch and Phil Dawson nailed a 46- yard field goal to put the 49ers in front, 23-21, with 3:33 left in the third.

Dawson added a 31-yard field goal to extend the San Francisco margin to 26-21 with 6:35 remaining.
Earlier, the 49ers, who were the only team coming in with a touchdown on each of their first three opening drives, went three-and-out on their initial touch.

Connor Barwin shot right past left guard Alex Boone and Trent Cole came around the edge to sack Kaepernick on a 3rd-and-12 for a 13-yard loss to put the ball at the 2-yard line. Trey Burton then blocked the ensuing punt and Smith made the recovery in the end zone for a touchdown.

The 49ers answered with a 29-yard Dawson field goal to conclude a 14-play, 69- yard sequence.
Gore's touchdown reception came on a 2nd-and-17 on the first play of the second. Kaepernick scrambled to his left to avoid pressure and flicked a pass back across his body to a wide-open Gore, who stiff-armed Eagles safety Earl Wolff prior to crossing the goal line.

Philly was unable to get a first down, but Jenkins picked off Kaepernick and ran it back the other way three plays into San Francisco's next touch after Kaepernick tried to fit a pass to Brandon Lloyd running a slant.

Sproles scampered down the right sideline for his career-best 82-yard punt return for a score to stake the Eagles to a 21-10 cushion at the 8:49 mark of the second.

Dawson split the uprights from 51 yards out with 59 seconds left in the half.

Notes:  The last time the Birds had a punt block, punt return and interception return for touchdowns in the same game, occurred on Nov. 22, 1992 at the Meadowlands, a 47-34 win over the Giants made famous for Vai Sikahema shadowboxing the goalpost cover following his return TD in the second half ... The 49ers were 8-of-19 on third down, while the Eagles finished 5-of-13 ... San Francisco outgained Philadelphia 232-73 in the first half ... Maclin caught five passes for 68 yards ... 49ers right tackle Anthony Davis made his season debut, but left late in the first quarter with a left knee injury ... San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis departed with a back injury early in the third frame.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

PPL Center christened with intra-squad Flyers/Phantoms game

Thanks to the LV Phantoms
That selected members of the Flyers and Phantoms played an intra-squad exhibition game wasn't important.

What makes Saturday evening's contest a milestone, is that it was the first-ever hockey event inside the new PPL Center in downtown Allentown.

For the first time, minor-league hockey was on display to the Lehigh Valley and a sellout crowd of more than 8,000 fans saw Team Orange best Team White by a 5-3 count.

"I think this is a hockey place. It's a hockey city. I'm not surprised at all that the crowd was as energetic and full as it was today," noted Phantoms head coach Terry Murray. "They're telling us they want more of it and we're ready to get going."

It was a strange contest played under unique circumstances. Unlike previous Flyers-Phantoms preseason games, both sides were a mixture of players from either team. In addition, in the third period, new rules set to debut in the American Hockey League were followed -- such as the odd 4-on-4 reduced to a 3-on-3 which will be part of the overtime process.

Nonetheless, the assembled gathering, which included Flyers team President Paul Holmgren, GM Ron Hextall, Chris Pryor and Kjell Samuelsson, got their money and time's worth.

Michael Raffl and Jason Akeson posted back-to-back goals in the second period to stake Orange to the lead and Taylor Leier added another marker to provide a 3-1 edge by the end of the second period, with Brandon Alderson picking up another tally.

Chris VandeVelde added an empty-net tally for the winning side late in regulation.

Brett Flemming, a defenseman who was a key piece of the Reading Royals' 2013 Kelly Cup winners while an affiliate of the Capitals, lit the lamp for the White. Petr Straka also hit the net and former Union College forward Matt Hatch provided the other score for the losing side, coming with two minutes to play in the third.

"The lineups were forwarded to us. They balanced it to be exciting and it was," Murray offered.

Both sides had to hold their breath as Leier and goaltender Anthony Stolarz collided with 11:50 to play, and the sizeable Stolarz was slow to arise from the ice. The former Nebraska-Omaha and London Knights goaltender surrendered three goals on 12 shots in the second period. 

For the Flyers, this proved to be a nice little diversion in their legitimate exhibition slate, which continues at Prudential Center tomorrow night against the Devils.

The Phantoms' first-ever official preseason home game is slate for this coming Wednesday against new division foe and old rivals, the Hershey Bears. The puck drops on the Phantoms' 2014-15 home schedule on October 17 against the Adirondack Flames. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Phillies announce Wolever firing

The Phillies themselves issued a brief statement: “The Phillies announced today that the contract of Marti Wolever, Assistant General Manager, Amateur Scouting, will not be renewed for 2015. The Phillies express appreciation for Marti’s many years of service to the organization.”

It's a perfect example of a GM facing criticism with a long-term contract in tow: get rid of the underlings to protect a position of power. 

White won't return until 2015 while recovering from pectoral injury

Call it unfortunate, call it karma.

Ryan White won't be available to the Flyers organization until calendar year 2015.

White, signed in a depth move by Ron Hextall this Summer, and who was expected to be part of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms this year, suffered a torn pectoral muscle while training in August. Following subsequent surgery, the club was noticeably mum on a timetable until Friday afternoon.

Although nothing official came down from the team, several outlets are reporting that White will be out five months while rehabbing. Why the Flyers waited until now to release that info is anyone's guess, given that NFL players who suffer similar injuries in camp or early in a season are always lost for the year in recovery.

White, a journeyman who mostly stayed below the radar while shuttling between the AHL and NHL, gained most notoriety for elbowing then-Philly defenseman Kent Huskins in the head in an April, 2013 game between the Habs and Flyers in Montreal.

As White is out of the picture for quite a while, and since the big club has had its share of injury issues so early in the exhibition season, it may become easier for Darroll Powe -- the closest facsimile to White -- to gain promotion through bumping up his contract from AHL to NHL status.

Though Andrew Gordon, Blair Jones, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and others might get a closer look, those players of a higher skill set are likely to be elevated when a top-six skater is on the shelf.

Gordon, Oliver Lauridsen and Brandon Manning were placed on waivers with intent to keep them with the Phantoms, while Powe and Taylor Leier were demoted to Allentown.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Flyers sign Sanheim to entry-level deal

Despite returning to his junior club, the Calgary Hitmen, as part of the club's first wave of roster cuts on Wednesday, Travis Sanheim will continue his junior career knowing that he's a member of the Flyers organization.

On Thursday, Philly announced that Sanheim, a first-round pick in June's draft, was inked to an entry-level contract.

Sanheim appeared in one preseason game, skating in 18:08 of action while collecting one shot on goal in 23 shifts, in Monday's 5-4 win over the Washington Capitals in Philadelphia.

The 18-year-old Manitoba native totaled five goals and 24 assists in 67 games for the Hitmen last season.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Flyers make initial roster moves; Gostisbehere, Morin spared

The first wave of roster transactions have been made by the Philadelphia Flyers, in the wake of the club's 1-1-1 shotgun start to the preseason which culminated in a 4-0 loss to the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Tuesday night.

Returned to their respective junior clubs are:  forward Nicholas Aube-Kubel to Val D'Or
(QMJHL), center Radel Fazleev to Calgary (WHL) and forward Travis Sanheim to
Calgary (WHL).

Assigned to Lehigh Valley of the AHL are: forwards Brandon Alderson, Nick Cousins, Austin Fyten, Kevin Goumas, Matt Hatch, Brett Hextall, Andrew Johnston, Derek Mathers,
Marcel Noebels, Petr Straka, defensemen Mark Alt, Steven Delisle, Brett
Flemming, Robert Hagg, Maxim Lamarche, Jesper Pettersson, goaltenders Connor
Knapp, Martin Ouellette and Anthony Stolarz.

Former Union College defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere is getting an extended look, as is Samuel Morin -- who apparently has gained enough positive notice in a short time frame when measured against Michael Del Zotto's struggles.

Philadelphia's next exhibition contest will be tomorrow night against the New Jersey Devils on South Broad Street.

Maple Leaf regulars take down Flyers

Toronto, ON -- Jonathan Bernier and Antoine Bibeau combined for a 25-save shutout, while four different players lit the lamp as Toronto took down Philadelphia, 4-0, in exhibition action from Air Canada Centre.

James van Riemsdyk, Brandon Kozun, Cody Franson and William Nylander tallied for the Leafs, who beat their Tuesday foes by a 3-2 count in a shootout on Monday in London, Ontario.

Steve Mason went the distance and stopped 28 shots in the loss for the Flyers, who fell to 1-1-1 in the preseason. 

Playing against a stacked foe on their home turf, the Orange and Black managed to hold Toronto without a shot through the game's first 6 1/2 minutes, but the tide quickly turned.

Van Riemsdyk put the Leafs on the board with 6:27 left in the opening period, taking a shot that only the most confident players think about, lifting the puck under the crossbar from along the goal line while Mason wedged himself against the left post. 

Mason was good on all 11 Leaf chances in the middle period, but things unraveled in the third.

Kozun scored off a lead pass from Trevor Smith while Roman Polak served his second of three penalties six seconds shy of the five-minute mark to make it 2-0. Franson's prayer from astride the blue line deflected off Luke Schenn and careened through Mason's legs near the midway point, then Nylander's tally off a nifty feed from Phil Kessel closed out the scoring with 57 seconds left.

Zack Stortini once again made a stronger case for his permanent inclusion on the Phantoms' roster. After engaging in two fights during Monday's loss, he struck for 29 penalty minutes in just 7 1/2 minutes of ice time. 

Schenn, paired with newcomer Michael Del Zotto looked halting at best, while Sean Couturier's stint up front with the first power play unit failed to yield desired results. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Former Sixer Caldwell Jones passes away

PHILADELPHIA - The Sixers confirmed that Caldwell Jones has passed away at age 64.

A defensive stalwart on the great Sixers teams of the late 1970s and early 80s, Jones also played with Houston, Chicago, Portland and San Antonio in an NBA career that spanned from 1976 through 1990. He started his pro basketball career in the old ABA with the San Diego Conquistadors in 1973.

Jones made the NBA's All-Defensive team with the Sixers in back-to-back seasons (1980-81, 1981-82).

“We are truly saddened to learn of the passing of a special member of the Sixers family, Caldwell Jones," Sixers CEO Scott O'Neil said ." He was a consummate teammate, a friend to many and a player who was beloved and respected throughout the league. Our franchise and fans will always remember the impact and contributions Caldwell made to the city of Philadelphia.

“On behalf of our entire organization, we extend our deepest condolences to the entire Jones family during this difficult time.”

Extra Points: Not everyone is all in on Chip Kelly | NFL (AP) | Latest news and video on the ...

Extra Points: Not everyone is all in on Chip Kelly | NFL (AP) | Latest news and video on the ...

Philadelphia Flyers 2014-15 Season Preview: Defense

Thanks to Philly.com
Welcome to Part 2 of The Phanatic's 2014-15 hockey season kickoff.

Once again, Rob Riches breaks down an aspect of the Philadelphia Flyers on-ice product. In the second of four weekly editions, he reviews the defense. 

Be sure to take a look back at last week's review of the front lines

It's been the case ever since the 2008 playoff run, and this year is no different.

All eyes will be on the Flyers' defensive corps this season -- a unit that was much-maligned in the 2013-14 campaign, and hasn’t been the same since losing Chris Pronger to that freak set of occurrences which permanently removed him from the ice in November of 2011.

The guys who will protect Steve Mason and Ray Emery look roughly similar this year, as Mark Streit, the ever-maligned Nicklas Grossmann, Braydon Coburn, Luke Schenn and pre-deadline acquisition Andrew MacDonald will return.

Ron Hextall also pulled off a minor coup in signing Michael Del Zotto, a former Rangers first-rounder, who didn't find his place in either Manhattan or Nashville and wasn't re-signed by the Predators.

The biggest concern, however, will be the indefinite absence of Kimmo Timonen -- the reason for Del Zotto's presence here. It came as a shock when the club revealed in early August that the 39-year-old Timonen would be sidelined with blood clots in both of his lungs, as well as his right leg. In an impromptu press conference late last week, Timonen described his chances of a return as "really slim," and established that he'd continue to be on blood thinners through the end of 2014.

Hextall made it clear that Timonen's progress will be checked early next calendar year, but if he has to stay on blood thinners, he won’t be able to play. That seems like a virtual certainty, given that Timonen himself, in a bit of news that flew over many heads, said his family has a history of clotting disorders.

"Whether Kimmo will play or not, we don't know at this point," Hextall said to the gathered throng in Voorhees. "First and foremost, as an organization, we're concerned about Kimmo, his health, his family, and secondly comes the hockey part."

As a result, Timonen will begin the season on long-term injured reserve, meaning the $2 million extension he signed in June won’t count against the salary cap. Without Timonen, here's how the 
Flyers' defensive pairings may project:

MacDonald – Coburn
Grossmann – Streit
Del Zotto – Schenn

Last season, the Flyers allowed 2.77 goals per game, ranking 20th in the league. They also registered 445 takeaways, ranking 28th in the league, yet still out-ranked Pittsburgh and Stanley Cup-champion Los Angeles (with 386 and 344, respectively). All told, the club's rearguards gave the puck away 587 times (ranking 21st), blocked 1,200 shots (15th) and threw 2,174 hits (6th). In addition, they ranked 17th in Corsi Against and Fenwick Against.

Individually, Schenn ranked 6th in the league in hits, with 260. MacDonald and Grossmann ranked in the top-10 in blocked shots with 242 and 174, respectively – though it’s still worth noting that MacDonald carried that advantage in blocked shots at the time of his acquisition.

Despite top-10 numbers, these Flyers posted poor advanced stats. Schenn and MacDonald recorded relative Corsi ratings of minus-8.2 and minus-8.1 respectively, while Grossmann finished with a minus-10.6. MacDonald's 19 games in the Orange and Black still represent a small sample size, and he can still prove a lot in his first full season with the team. Nonetheless, the six-year, $30 million contract he signed on April 15 virtually assures Craig Berube and Gord Murphy will have to dig in and use him for good and ill, for seasons to come.

Five Flyers played in excess of 20 minutes a game last season. Coburn -- now the longest-tenured player who will see the ice from Game 1 -- led the way with 22:26 of ice time, while MacDonald and Streit followed with 21:59 and 20:38. Timonen’s 20-plus minutes will be yet another hard-to-replace factor of his absence, but Del Zotto was added to try and replace Timonen as a puck mover. Though just 24, he has played five years with the Rangers, where he put up 121 points with a minus-4 rating. 

After diminished ice time under John Tortorella and never gaining confidence of Alain Vigneault, the Toront-area native was traded last year to Nashville, where he played 25 games and wasn’t tendered a qualifying offer in the offseason. He was overshadowed by Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh in New York as well as Shea Weber and Seth Jones in Music City and with a shortage of big names on the Flyers' blueline, Del Zotto has a chance to grow and rehabilitate some lost confidence.

The Flyers also feature a gaggle of young defensive prospects, including 2013 first- and second-round draft selections Samuel Morin and Robert Hagg, as well as Shayne Gostisbehere and 2014 first-rounder Travis Sanheim. Depending on how the rest of training camp goes, one of those prospects could earn a spot with the Flyers when the season starts.

Of those four, Hagg’s spent the most time in a professional league, logging 77 games over two seasons with the Swedish League’s Modo. Gostisbehere, of NCAA champion Union College, endeared himself to Flyers fans this past spring after earning Most Valuable Player honors at the Frozen Four, played at the Wells Fargo Center. In the title game against Minnesota, he registered two assists and earned an astounding plus-7 rating in a 7-4 triumph.

Other young defensemen in the system include Mark Alt, Brandon Manning, Jesper Pettersson, Matt Konan and Oliver Lauridsen. Manning, Konan and Lauridsen have spent cups of coffee with the Flyers, mainly as injury call-ups and Black Aces. They'll begin the season with Lehigh Valley, and can serve as capable call-ups in the event of injuries.

The Flyers' defense has been a weak spot over the past two seasons, and without Timonen, appears to be on track to suffer from more tearing and breaking. The rest of the defensive corps, particularly MacDonald and Del Zotto, will be counted on to step up and increase production in his absence.

The Orange and Black were still a playoff team last year despite shaky defense, but another trip is incredibly tough to forecast with the corps they have now. Although their third-zone play will continue to be shaky, the Flyers have established themselves as a club that simply cannot be written off.

Fans may not see any Norris Trophy candidates on the blueline starting in two weeks, but they are bound to see a tough and physical (yet shaky) presence on a nightly basis.