Blogs > In The Room with Anthony SanFilippo

Daily Times beat writer Anthony J. SanFilippo takes you inside the locker rooms of the Philadelphia Flyers and the rest of the NHL.

Monday, September 29, 2008


Why didn't I think of this:

Mourning the passing of Reggie Dunlap


After a weekend to think about it, it has become crystal clear that Eric Lindros not showing up for the Flyers Captain ceremony as part of the final game at the Spectrum was a good thing for everyone - including Lindros.

I wrote about this today on I will be writing a weekly column for them and in turn, they will link up my blog on their Web site. Be sure to check out both.

Here is the link to my column:

I'll check in with you tomorrow from training camp, and then Wednesday I'll be back at the soon-to-be-renamed Wachovia Center (Wachovia was bought out today by Citibank) Wednesday for a game against the Caps.

Friday, September 26, 2008


This just in from the Flyers:

The Philadelphia Flyers announced today that they have returned defenseman Kevin Marshall to the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, according to club General Manager Paul Holmgren.

Marshall, 19, did not appear in any of the Flyers’ first three preseason games this season. He was drafted by the Flyers in the second round (41st overall) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


The NHL just can't help itself....

In it's infinite wisdom, rule changes were needed this offseason - just for kicks - or kick saves as it were.

Always needing to tinker with its sport in an effort to create more offense, the NHL has decided to again shrink goalie equipment.

Now, there are rule changes in every sport every year, some more subtle than others, but nothing drastic - usually. However the NHL just can't help itself in it's effort to increase scoring.

Well, unless it bans coaches from teaching defense-first systems, it's not going to happen.

Still, the NHL's competition committee, which features representatives from both the league and the players' union, approved a modification of goalie equipment this summer.

But, if you listen to Flyers goalie Marty Biron, they rushed their new hockey gear legislation through to give the equipment manufacturers time to make the adjustments before the season started.

In other words, the changes were minor, won't affect scoring at all, and wil lead to more discussions on how to increase scoring next summer.


"There wasn't much change at all," said Biron. "They were talking about drastic changes but it got to be too late in the summer and they could only make little minor changes here and there."

Those minor changes are to the pad that protects a goalies calf, which is now more contoured to the leg and doesn't stick out to possibly close up a five-hole quicker; the curvature of the bottom of the pad where it rests on the skate boot has been arced in order to let the pads sit a little lower on the foot, an not higher on the thigh, and the knee stacks were reduced by about an inch.

Oh, boy.

"We made the biggest changes coming out of the lockout, trimming down the sizes of the pads, the pants, the waffle, the chest and arm gear..." said Biron. "There's always ways goalies find to adjust, so the league wants to take that away. They use (New Jersey goalie) Marty Brodeur as an example, but Marty is the only goalie in the league who plays that way."

Coming out of the lockout, goals per game increase by nine-tenths of a goal per game, but in each of the two seasons since that high water mark o 5.94 goals per game, scoring has gone back down, much to the chagrin of the NHL bosses who want to market their game as more offensive.

Some goalies might feel the affects of these changes, but Biron said it won't affect him at all.

"I don't wear big pads," he said. My chest and arms are only a large while a lot of guys wear a XXL. My pants are eight years old and they're all beaten up. Nobody would even want to put them on they're so... gross. It's what I'm used to, so when they make changes, I'm not usually invovled."

In other news, the Flyers returned three players to their junior teams Wednesday.

They returned forward Zac Rinaldo, defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon and goaltender Jacob DeSerres to their respective Canadian Hockey League teams, according to club General Manager Paul Holmgren.

Rinaldo, the Flyers’ sixth round pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, was returned to the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors of the Ontario Hockey League. Bourdon, a Flyers’ third round pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, was returned to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. DeSerres, a Flyers’ third round pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, was returned to the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League.

Monday, September 22, 2008


There are few things that are more mind-numbing in this world than preseason sports.

On the painful scale, exhibition hockey is akin to plucking your eyebrows out of your head with a pair of pliers.

Of course, preseason basketball is like yanking teeth with a piece of yarn tied around a doorknob and preseason football is like amputating an appendage with a rusty hacksaw, but that's another discussion for another day.

Back to the hockey....

As boring as these games tend to be, the coaches and general managers of the participating clubs are looking for positives and negatives as they prepare to make the final adjustments on their roster before the season begins.

With a lineup of mostly young players looking to make impressions, there were some that left an indelible mark and others who were barely noticed.

1. Luca Sbisa - The 2008 first round pick was solid in his pro debut. Paired mostly with Ossi Vaananen, Sbisa took 22 shifts, playing 16:21. He was a plus-1 and looked very composed.
"I was more nervous in the afternoon and in the morning than I was in the dressing room," said Sbisa. "As soon as I stepped out on the ice I lost the nerves. It's a little bit different than juniors, but it was just a great experience."
Stevens had nice things to say about Sbisa as well:
"He's been impressive through training camp," said Stevens. "The thing that's impresed me most is where he's at physically at this stage of his life. His MVO2 numbers (maximum oxygen intake) are excellent, his strength numbers are excellent and he has composure and a casualness to his game in a good way. He doesn't panic with the puck and he's willing to make plays. It's incredible we have this many young players with such a defensive awareness this early in their careers."

2. Andreas Nodl - The 2006 second round forward played mostly with the top line and finished as a plus-2 with an assist in 16:18 of playing time. Nodl took three shots on goal and set up Mike Richards for the first goal of the game.

3. Jon Kalinski - The 2007 sixth round pick was buzzing on the ice all night. He was also a plus-2 and picked up an assist on the first Steve Downie goal.

"They are two guys I didn't know a whole lot about and I got an opportunity to see them in rookie camp and a couple of days in our camp and that is the best I've seen them play," said Stevens. "It is impressive to see young guys come in that situation and play with composure and confidence and have such defensive awareness. I am really impressed with both of them and I felt very comfortable putting them out there in all situations.

4. Claude Giroux - The much ballyhooed rookie was nearly invisible on the ice, and Stevens noticed him being frequently out of position and behind the play.

"He never seemed to get going. We moved him around a little bit, but I've seen him play better than he did tonight. When you are a young player you can't try and hit the home run too much. He has to just play the game and do the little things well and it will come. He can play better and he'll have plenty of opportunities to do that."

Lineup for Preseason opener

Here are the lines and Defensive pairings for the first preseason game....

Nodl Richards Hartnell
Upshall Carter Giroux
Kalinski Downie Asham
Cote Powe Clackson

Coburn Sbisa
Eminger Parent
Curry Vaananen

Biron starts in net and will play first two periods....


The Flyers proved a season ago that they were a deep team, especially at forward, and that when you have players who can contribute from several areas and not just the top unit, you can be successful.

This season, the Flyers appear to be even deeper, and the fight for jobs appears to be on.

Up front, the Top 9 forwards, in no particular order are:

Simon Gagne
Mike Richards
Danny Briere
Scottie Upshall
Jeff Carter
Mike Knuble
Joffrel Lupul
Glen Metropolit
Scott Hartnell

This leaves three forward spots left and at least five players battling for those spots.

Jim Dowd made the team on a tryout contract last Fall, and is trying to do it again this season, but it might be a bit harder this time around for the 39-year-old center.

That's because the Flyers would love for the slimmed-down 21-year-old Steve Downie and 20-year-old rookie Claude Giroux to not only make the big squad but be contributors.

Then there are the grinders - Riley Cote and Aaron Asham. They both add grit and toughness to the Flyers lineup, which is always a key ingredient to the orange and black.

The Flyers will most likely carry one extra forward, but that would mean someone is going to be the odd man out. And as good a penalty killer, faceoff specialist and locker room influence as Dowd is, he unfortunately might be that guy.

Of course, it is early in training camp, and an injury or two could always swing things in another direction, but if the team is healthy, Dowd could be the odd guy out.

However, if Dowd is willing to take on the role as the extra forward, whose playing time is based primarily on an as-needed basis, he could stick as a 14th forward, if in fact the Flyers plan on carrying 23 roster players - something that will be tough to do with the team so close to the salary cap.

On defense, the top five are easy:

Kimmo Timonen
Braydon Coburn
Randy Jones
Ossi Vaananen
Steve Eminger

After that, it's anybody's guess.

Does Ryan Parent take that next step to becoming a solid NHL defenseman? Can Bryan Berard win yet another NHL job on a tryout contract? Can Lasse Kukkonen hang on to his job as a depth defenseman, as he did last season?

This is a battle that will certainly be determined by how well the trio play in the preseason (and injures of course).

However, if I were a betting man, I'd say Parent and Berard both make the team and Kukkonen is the odd guy out.

The Flyers still have 19 days to figure it all out.

Friday, September 19, 2008


The Flyers sent out a press release to the local media announcing the schedule for training camp.

It was a relatively innocuous e-mail, mostly filled with dates, times and locations.

But, there may have been one really juicy tidbit of information in there.

It seems this training camp the Flyers are starting something new. They are breaking their training camp roster into four teams, and they will scrimmage each other during camp, play a mini tournament and the winner will be awarded the Bob Clarke Cup.

Hokey, I know. But, not a bad way of running camp so the coaches and staff can see how the players play with one another against competition, not just in practice.

So, where's the gem of information?

How about if I told you that the teams were broken up in such a way, that it becomes apparent what combinations the coaches are considering for lines come the start of the season?

On one team are Mike Richards, Simon Gagne and Danny Briere. We already know the Flyers are going to experiment with Briere on the wing, trying to free hm up a little more.

A second team has Jeff Carter, Mike Knuble and Scottie Upshall. Sound familiar?

A third team has Glen Metropolit, Joffrey Lupul and Scott Hartnell. Hmmmm.

The fourth team has Jim Dowd, Riley Cote and Aaron Asham. THis is the only one that doesn't make complete sense, because one would think Claude Giroux and Steve Downie have a good shot at making the team. However, when you look at the defense, it might make more sense.

(By the way, Giroux and Downie are on the Richards squad).

Braydon Coburn and Kimmo Timonen are together on one team, Steve Eminger and Randy Jones on a second, Ryan Parent and Ossi Vaananen on a third and Bryan Berard and Lasse Kukkonen on a fourth.

In a sense, Berard and Kukkonen seem to be auditioning for the seventh defenseman spot. THey happen to be playing with the Richards team also. Which would suggest, there is a competition between Giroux and Downie for the last forward spot, and most likely, whoever wins that job will get a regular spot in the lineup with Asham and Cote on the enforcer rotation.

John Stevens would tell me I'm reading too much into this. But, tea leave interpretation is a forte of mine.

Take it for what you will, but I think this is what Stevens envisions for the start of the season, barring injury.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


As expected, Mike Richards was named captain of the Flyers Wednesday.

There was a time, not too long ago, that I didn't think he was ready. Nor did he. But, I am now a believer.

I talked to Mike for a bit last week, and there was something different about him - in a good way.

There was a subtle maturity that had sprung forth. A more introspective and intellectual conversation was had than ever before.

Sure he's still young, sure he still has a way to go to grow into the new responsibility, but he is in fact ready.

And he is the epitome of what this new version of the Flyers is all about - young, brash, talented and gutsy. Of course, it helps that those characteristics are what FLyers fans fall in love with and that Richards is signed here for another 11 seasons.

Good move by the Flyers. It didn't seem that way in May, but it sure does in September.

His alternate captains will be Kimmo Timonen and Simon Gagne, also a deserving pair.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


At least the personalities and camraderies are there.

I stopped by an unofficial Flyers practice yesterday and got to talk to a lot of the guys. One thing I can say is, a lot of the players seemed to have bulked up over the summer.

Especially Simon Gagne and Danny Briere. They both look to be a lot bigger and stronger in their shoulders and arms.

New addition Ossi Vaananen is a big boy, and he's got a mean streak on the ice, but off the ice, he's going to be the locker room comedian. He's hysterical. If he plays well, he'll be a favorite of the media because of his interview skills.

Met Glen Metropolit for the first time - seems like a genuinely good person, no wonder he was a Masterton nominee. He's not skating yet, still recovering from a foot injury, but he's close.

Derian Hatcher was doing some rehab and limping around Skate Zone. Mike Richards seems to understand what's going to be expected of him in this town, and has a much more mature approach to the season than last. Combine the breakout season skills he displayed last season witht the growth as a leader over the summer, and there are the makings of a fine, fine team captain.

Also chatted with Riley Cote about his continued training in mixed martial arts, John Stevens about his expectations for the team this coming season, and Kimmo Timonen about his new defensive mates (look for a lot more mobility).

If the Flyers can be smart defensively, they could have a lightning fast transition game this year that could be pretty exciting to watch.

Finally, Marty Biron was his usual joking self. It's definitely apparent that he's relishing his role here with this team and is going to be a team leader this season.

Check back later in the week for more on Cote and Briere as I will unfurl tidbits of an interview that I conducted with them.

Oh, and befor I forget, your friendly neighborhood beat writer is going to be a contributor for Sports Illustrated this season, so look for my stuff there from time-to-time writing about the Flyers (check their web site too.)

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Hello all....

Hope you enjoyed your summer.

I walked out of the Daily Times building last night and felt a chill in the air for the first time since April.

And while most people in this town would remind me that it's a sign that football season is here - and after the Eagles dismantling of the Rams, who can blame them for that excitement - I need to remind them that it also the dawn of another hockey season.

And the Flyers should be an interesting team.

I'm not going to jump on board the bandwagon that was a dramatic run to the Eastern Conference Finals last season. It was a pleasant surprise for Flyers fans, but I'm not certain that it will be repeated.

That doesn't mean the Flyers aren't a talented team. It just means, that I'm uncertain they filled the holes they needed to fill in the offseason to take that next step.

Losing R.J. Umberger was pretty big, especially because neither Glen Metropolit nor Aaron Asham will fill his often overlooked void. But, getting Simon Gagne back healthy - and the Flyers hope he stays that way - will be huge.

However, I'm still not sold on the defense beyond Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn.

Ryan Parent looks like he'll be a quality blue liner, and Randy Jones is better than I ever thought he'd be, but the new guys don't excite.

Ossi Vaananen was playing in Europe last season. Steve Eminger was a healthy scratch for 60 games and Bryan Berard is not the same player he once was.

They'll be replacing Jason Smith, Derian Hatcher and whoever filled in as the sixth defenseman last season.

While there is more skating ability there, it's missing a lot of the grit and veteran presence that made Hatcher and Smith so valuable down the stretch and in the playoffs. It will be interesting to see how they gel.

Training camp begins next Saturday - the last day of my vacation, so Rob Parent will update you on Day 1, but I'll be back with the boys on Sunday and the rest of the year as well.

We have some new ideas and new features that we are going to offer you here on as far hockey coverage is concerned, so stay with us all season, because no one will cover the Flyers the way we will in 2008-09.

And just as a tease ... I'm going to catch up with the boys tomorrow (Friday) over at Skate Zone and will give you a feel for their expectations in blog form tomorrow night. So check back.

I'm looking forward to a fun year with you all. Hopefully you will be too.