Philly Update: Q & A with Geoff Detweiler of Broad Street Hockey

Alright, let’s start with the Flyers, since in your bio, you say you’re going to Drexel Law School to sue Rangers Fans. The Flyers made it to the Stanley Cup finals last year, and this year, they rank first in the Eastern Conference. How has this improved from last year to today?

“This year, the biggest difference is depth. Specifically, the team going from a third line of Arron Asham, second-year Claude Giroux, and rookie James van Riemsdyk to Kris Versteeg/Andreas Nodl, Mike Richards, and second-year James van Riemsdyk. People don’t realize it, but the offense is going because they went from a third line who had to be sheltered in the offensive zone to a third line that shuts down the opposition and let’s the Briere line face third-line competition in the offensive zone. The fact that Giroux and Carter were able to step into the roles filled by Richards and Gagne last year goes a long way as well, though one has to imagine a Versteeg/Nodl-Richards-Giroux line accomplishes the same thing, letting JvR-Carter-Zherdev run wild as well.
Outside the third line, the other big difference is the team’s ability to avoid losing streaks. Last year, they couldn’t break out of those streaks. This year, they have been able to break out of those slumps and avoid long losing streaks.”

Claude Giroux is leading the team in points with 68 going into play on Wednesday. He’s only 23 years old and he continues to add to his dynamic game. Where do you feel is Giroux’s ceiling? How good can he become?

“Giroux’s ceiling depends entirely on how he’s used. Right now, he’s being used on a two-way line which limits his offensive potential. But since he plays in all situations and can play center or wing, his ceiling is probably a more flashy Mike Richards.”

The Flyers goalie situation is in flux once again, with the team operating between Sergei Bobrovsky and Brian Boucher. The team hasn’t announced which will be their full-time starter come playoff time. Putting your Boucher man-crush aside, which one provides the best option for the Flyers?

“Haha, I have no problem admitting that Bobrovvsky should be the playoff starter. That doesn’t mean he’s the one inspiring the most confidence though. He’s not as positionally sound as Boucher nor is he as good with the puck, but he is a better goalie.

Since both guys have a tendency to give up soft goals, I’ll go with the better goalie every time. Oh, and he can gain that all important ‘experience’. Since it really mattered for Leighton, Niemi, and Halak last year.”

Is there a team in the Eastern Conference that makes you nervous if the Flyers had to face them in the playoffs?

“Absolutely. Half of the Conference makes me nervous. Tampa Bay can seemingly score at will, Pittsburgh is hanging around despite missing their two best players and having their third best (Letang) slumping, Washington is always scary because of their offense and previous bad luck, and Boston is one of the most well-rounded teams in the Conference.

Who scares me the most? Boston. Tim Thomas should not be that good, and that defense isn’t that good, but they don’t give up goals. And their offense is full of guys who can score when given space.”

In my State of the Franchise post about the Flyers, I went as far to say that if the Flyers don’t make the Eastern Conference Finals, that would be the biggest surprise of the NHL Playoffs. What are the expectations from your perspective?

“I’m not sure that would be the biggest surprise of the playoffs (maybe Vancouver loses to Anaheim?), but anything less than a Conference Finals appearance is a failure. Failing to get to the Finals will be a huge disappointment, but back-to-back Eastern Conference Champions is nothing the scoff at. So my expectations are a Conference Finals appearance. Anything more than that is gravy.”

Eagles:
A lot of this season, national media outlets focused on how the fans across America viewed Michael Vick now that he has done his time for the dog-fighting operation. How do Eagles fans view their relationship with Vick? Is that a concern for them anymore?

“I’m surprised how many people still talk about Vick’s past. Well, maybe not, but I’m surprised at the level of hate spewed towards him by non-football fans in general. Then again the opinions we hear are mostly the most vocal, not the most common. And the Eagles didn’t see any drop in popularity, so I don’t see the concern.”

Andy Reid made headlines this off-season by naming his former Offensive Line coach to the position of…Defensive Coordinator. Is this move going to work?

“No one can know for sure, but it definitely is a confusing move. McDermott may not have been the best, but he dealt with a lot of injuries and had a mediocre defense. Were there faults of his? Certainly. But saying an offensive line coach is a better option than McDermott seems a bit of a stretch. We’ll see though.”

Where are the Eagles biggest holes this off-season, CBA aside?

“Offensive line and secondary.”

Can the Eagles repeat as NFC East champions?

“They can, but they will need things to go right again. Dallas needs to stay a cluster and the Eagles need to beat the Giants, but the Eagles can definitely repeat.”

76ers:
With Doug Collins in his first season on the bench for the 76ers, expectations were pretty low. Now, the team sits at 37-34, sixth place in the conference and only 2.5 games behind the Atlanta Hawks for fifth. Did you think they could be this good this early?

“Not at all. And I’m not talking about a 37-34 record. After the start to the season they had, expectations were even lower. The run since then is what surprises me. Holiday has really come into his own, but I think Collins needs to get more respect for the job he’s done.”

A lot has been said about the players that went to play for Team USA during the World Championships and how they’ve come back with different mindsets. Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook are two players that get the most attention, but Andre Igoudala has reworked his game this year after his experience. How has that changed the team dynamic?

“Igoudala will never get the respect he deserves because he has been asked to be something he’s not. Coming back from the World Championships, he had a confidence in his game that shone through. But since he’s still being asked to be ‘the guy’ on this team, rather than simply a veteran leader, he isn’t being properly used.
However, the simple fact that he has that experience serves this young team well.”

Can this team surprise people in the Eastern Conference playoffs and upset one of the big three (Boston, Miami, Chicago)?

“Sure. But it likely won’t happen. They’ve played Boston close all year and just beat Chicago, while even the Cavs beat the Heat. But those teams are too good to fall early. It could happen, but the Sixers losing in 6 seems more likely.”

Phillies:
Everybody has been talking about what Cliff Lee brings to this loaded rotation. In your honest opinion, how good can this starting five be?

“The starting 5 can be very, very good. But with the recent run of injuries scares the crap out of me. If they can stay healthy, these 5 could win 75 games and pitch 1000 innings.”

In my post about the Phillies, I presented what I thought are the two biggest problems for the Phillies this year. The first: this team is getting old. With the exception of Cole Hamels, every starter is over 30 years of age. Is the window closing on this team’s championship plan?

“I think it is. The team has a ton of talent in the low Minor Leagues, but not much above that. Werth left, Ibanez is on the last year of his deal, Rollins is aging, both Polanco and Utley and aging, and – as you said – the rotation is old. The Phillies will still be competitive, but their Championship window is definitely closing.”

The other issue for the Phillies: injuries. Chase Utley is likely to start the year on the DL. Placido Polanco will likely have to play the season sans a left elbow once again. Jimmy Rollins was battling leg issues all last year. Even Ryan Howard missed chunks of time. How concerning is that to you?

“Well, this issue is related to the last one. With age comes injuries. Utley’s injury is most concerning for obvious reasons. Rollins’ and Polanco’s injuries are quite concerning if for no other reason then they are one-half of the infield. With Polly’s elbow, it effected his swing last year and cut down on his gap power.

Also, Brown’s injury concerns me more than most rational fans. I’m not saying he’s less likely to succeed, but it’s tough to come back from a hand injury. Then, when he does, how much playing time will he get? Sure, Francisco isn’t Werth, but Charlie doesn’t switch lineups often. And if Brown doesn’t get regular at bats, it’s tough for him to get better. Basically, it’s a roadblock that may take longer to get around then simply having his wrist heal.”

Can this offense rebound from their down year last year?

“Haha, all these questions are related! The answer is: if they stay healthy. I thought Rollins was going to be the guy to make up for Werth’s production, but now he has to bat third and make up for Utley’s. The team’s age also makes it difficuult to expect a rebound, but maybe they had unsustainably low BABIP last year? Wish I knew.”

Realistic expectations for the Phillies should be what for the casual baseball fan?

“The casual baseball fan? A playoff birth. Whether that be another Division title or a Wild Card berth, I think the expectation – regardless of injury – should be the postseason.

For the rest, I think another NLCS berth should be the expectation. In a five game series, the team’s pitching should be enough to carry them through. But like we saw last year, the playoffs are about getting hot and getting lucky.”

Make sure you jump over to SBNation.com Philadelphia to read more about Geoff’s work. Would like to extend a thank you to Geoff again for taking time out of his busy schedule to throw us some answers to our questions!

About Home Field Advantage
We are two senior Sports Communication majors at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. We have launched this blog as part of our senior year capping project, with the goal of creating a comparative analysis and multimedia approach to the differing sports cultures in America.

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