LOOKING AHEAD PART II AND FLYERS FANTASY FOOTBALL
NASHVILLE – It’s not very often that I like to toot my own horn, but I did write this blog one month ago, when the Flyers were 3-7-0, suggesting fans not panic and give up on the team just yet, and that by the time we made it to Nashville they would be 12-11-2 and in the playoff conversation.
Well, they are 11-12-2 and in the playoff conversation (they owe me one, because I definitely didn’t see that loss in Florida coming).
So, with my new found success in long-range prognostication, I figured, let’s give it another roll here and see if the Flyers can’t better their position by the end of the 2013 calendar year.
And I got to be honest, I don’t like what I see.
That’s not saying I don’t think the Flyers can be successful over the course of the next month, because I actually think they are playing well enough systematically to have a chance to win each game they play, but rather I don’t see things breaking as well for them this month as far as what happens with the Metropolitan Division competition to make up any headway.
As a matter of fact, if the Flyers reach New Year’s Day with the same record in the next 15 games as they’ve had the past 15 games (8-5-2), then odds are they will actually drop a point or so off their current pace.
And when you break it down – playing better teams, a lot of travel, crazy back-to-backs, not a lot of games in Division – 8-5-2 is about where it should be for the Flyers who are, right now, probably a better than .500 team, but not a significantly better than .500 team.
Going 8-5-2 will have them enter the New Year at 19-17-4 with 42 points. Definitely respectable after a 1-7-0 start.
But it goes to show in this league, just how hard it is to make up ground, no matter how well you play, because if they are 19-17-4, that would mean they are on a run of points in 22-of-32 games (18-10-4) and still might not be in a playoff position.
While getting back into contention was pretty rapid in November, they were fortunate to have the teams they were chasing face difficult schedules and playing mediocre hockey.
December though, will be vastly different.
Breaking down the Metro, Pittsburgh has a friendly schedule, as does Washington. The Rangers, who played practically the whole first month of the season on the road while the finishing touches were being placed on the renovation project at Madison Square Garden, basically are home for the Holidays.
Eleven of their next 15 games are at home, including a crazy nine-game home stand from Dec. 7 through Christmas.
Those are the three primary teams the Flyers are chasing, but New Jersey and Carolina can’t be forgotten either, but their schedules are more difficult in the coming month, as are Columbus and the New York Islanders.
Still, if the Flyers play December as well as the played November, they’re likely not going to see the kind of movement that they saw forging their way out of the basement and back into the mix.
“We’re on the road for the better part of the month and every one of them is going to be crucial games,” said Wayne Simmonds. “If we want to get back into the playoff picture we’re going to have to make a big push here. It’s going to be crucial for our season.”
I took the time to play out the next month of the season, trying to assess each game as fairly as possible taking travel and the ability to piece a streak together under consideration and came away with the following standings when the Ball drops in Times Square:
1. Pittsburgh 24-13-5 53 points
2. Washington 21-14-5 47 points
3. N.Y. Rangers 22-17-2 46 points
4. FLYERS 19-17-4 42 points
5. New Jersey 16-16-9 41 points
6. Carolina 17-17-6 40 points
7. Columbus 15-20-6 36 points
8. N.Y. Islanders 14-22-5 33 points
As you can see, the Flyers would actually be two points further behind the Rangers than currently (still with a game in hand) and would be a point further behind Washington than currently (without the game in hand).
It wouldn’t be the end of the world of course, as they would still be in the playoff hunt, but actually overcoming that last hurdle and actually occupying a playoff spot is much harder than it might seem, meaning the Flyers likely will have to be even better in December than they were in November if they want to be in that spot by 2014.
The Flyers will have a complete off day in Minnesota tomorrow after playing back-to-back days which will give them a chance to have some down time together, which helps build camaraderie.
The fact that it’s a Sunday though, means a good amount of time watching NFL football, and for a good portion of the team, it means chirping one another about their in-house fantasy football league.
Yes, like you and me, these pro athletes also play fantasy football, and heading into the final week of the season, Adam Hall is in first place.
That doesn’t seem outrageous, considering Hall is one of only two Americans on the team (Hal Gill is the other) and you would think he’d have a leg up on his teammates in that regard, except… this is the first time Hall’s ever played fantasy football.
“I have to admit, it’s a lot of fun,” Hall said. “It really adds to the camaraderie in the room and gives us something else to give each other a hard time about – like we needed something else to chirp about with this group, right?”
And he thinks his first place standing is a result of smoke and mirrors.
“I’ve been really lucky,” he said. “I’m squeaking out wins all season by one or two points and I don’t even have the best team. Mase [Steve Mason] has the best team by far.”
But Mason, who sits in second place, said Hall is the fantasy guru and that all roads to a championship lead through him.
Hall was unimpressed by Mason’s comments.
“You know, Mase is a diabolical mastermind when it comes to fantasy football,” Hall said. “He wants everyone else to believe he’s not that good and that he’s an underdog because he’s not in first. But he knows exactly what he’s doing. Everything he does or says in fantasy football is calculated.
“I said it once, I’ll say it again, Mase is a diabolical mastermind.”
To Hall’s point, I personally have seen Mason on his phone checking football stats on more than one occasion now, so maybe he’s right.
Nevertheless, there’s another player who is trying to sneak up on the pack and surprise everyone with his fantasy prowess – and that’s Jake Voracek.
Voracek upset Mason last week and has his 7-5 team in position to make a big push in the playoffs if he can defeat Braydon Coburn’s squad this week.
Voracek chalks up his team’s getting hot at the right time to a savvy trade he made with Bruno Gervais, who is playing for the Adirondack Phantoms.
“Everybody was killing me for making a bad trade, but it’s really helped me the last couple weeks,” Voracek said. “I traded Marshawn Lynch to Bruno for Jimmy Graham and Pierre Thomas and they’ve been huge for me.”
Voracek went on to explain his logic that taking a small downgrade at the running back position and picking up the best scoring tight end in the game – who is outscoring most wide receivers too, was a sound strategy that could pose problems in the playoffs for the likes of Hall and Mason.
But, he’s got to beat Coburn first.
“Oh it’s a big game for him, but he should win,” Coburn said of Voracek. “My team was killed by injuries. I don’t even have Aaron Rodgers but his injury hurt because I have his receivers and running back. I’ve also had injuries at quarterback and receiver. It’s been a tough year.”
Not as tough as it’s been for Simmonds though.
“I play in two leagues, and in my other one I’m in first place,” he said. “But I’m done in this league. I’m 2-10. I don’t even look at it anymore.”
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers