Monday, November 25, 2013

Ray Emery and the fight that ignited the Flyers

Over the course of an 82-game NHL season there are going to be ups and downs.  So often we hear from players in all sports how it’s important not to get too excited about the highs and not get too down about the lows and keep that even keel.  In the first month of the season for the Flyers, there were lots of lows, and almost nothing to be happy about.

Three games into the season, Peter Laviolette was fired after a 0-3 start in which the Flyers were outplayed and showing no life whatsoever.  Ed Snider then sounded off at a press conference saying that the organization did not need a culture change when asked why they choose to promote Craig Berube from assistant coach to interim head coach as opposed to bringing in a new voice from outside of the organization.

In the beginning of the Berube era, it certainly looked like Snider was wrong and that an outside voice would have been better as the coaching change didn’t seem to spark the orange and black as they got off to their worst start in franchise history at 1-7.

It looked as if a 7-0 loss to Washington on November 1 was rock bottom as fans began to call for general manager Paul Holmgren's head and chants of “Fire Holmgren” serenaded throughout the Wells Fargo Center.  However, late in that game a scrum broke out and multiple players on each team dropped the gloves and received fighting majors. 

                                                                              Tim Mihalek
Emery puts his finishing touches on Holtby.
What seemed to stand out in all of this was goaltender Ray Emery skating to the other end of the ice to go get Washington net minder Braden Holtby.  While Holtby did not seem to comply, Emery proceeded to bludgeon his counterpart time and time again in what appeared to be an effort to light a fire under the rest of the Flyers.

Fast forward just over three weeks and here we are on November 25, 2013 with the Flyers at .500 for the first time all season and only two points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern conference heading into tonight’s game in Sunrise against the Florida Panthers.  Since that 7-0 beat down they took on November 1, the Flyers are 7-1-2.   Emery himself has played a big role in the hot streak shutting out the Devils one night after his fight with Holtby, and played his best game of the season against the Penguins in a 2-1 win in Pittsburgh. 

                                                                                          CBS Sports
Giroux smiles after his first goal of the season
in a 5-2 win against Edmonton.
Emery’s spirited play seemed to be contagious as offensively the Flyers are starting to score more as a team having scored at least four goals in five of the last ten games.  Individually, captain Claude Giroux has tallied his first two goals of the season in this ten-game stretch in which the Flyers have recorded at least a point in nine of the ten games and left winger Brayden Schenn has registered eight of his 14 points for the season in the last ten.

The other goalie, Steve Mason, who had been playing well earlier in the season when the Flyers couldn’t help him out and score goals, has continued his strong play between the pipes.  Mason has won four of his last five decisions and has allowed two goals or fewer in every one of his starts since the November 1 game against Washington. 

While it’s clear the Flyers have raised their level, there are still 60 games left in the season.  There’s a lot of hockey yet to be played.  But if it weren’t for this recent stretch of victories, who knows what would be happening right now.  The coaching change did not seem to turn things around right away as I’m sure Holmgren and Snider thought it would.  Maybe Emery’s self-provided spark was just what the doctor order.  All things so far seem to indicate as such.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Evolution of the Fantasy Sports Industry

As we are inside an hour away from another action-packed Sunday of NFL Football, we also near another Sunday of fantasy football.  While fantasy sports have been around for quite some time now, they have really taken off in the last five to ten years with lots of fantasy publications, websites, a TV show on ESPN2 on Sunday mornings before kickoff, NFL Redzone, and even satellite radio programs have came along.  I caught up with Adam Ronis who writes for and also hosts one of those satellite radio programs on Sirus XM weekdays from 7-10 to discuss how and why fantasy sports have became so popular.
Much like anyone else, Ronis was surprised at how much the industry has grown.  “It’s definitely surprising how much the industry has grown.  I’ve always wanted to do radio but I never thought I would have been for fantasy,” Ronis said.

Ronis believes the growing popularity can be attributed to lots of diehard fans whose appetite for more fantasy coverage always seems to increase.  Fantasy sports have taken off to the point where it’s a whole new world.  There’s the real world where winning and losing is predicated upon the success or lack thereof of teams and then there’s the fantasy world where winning and losing is dependent totally on the individual’s performance.

With so many fans engrossed in the fantasy world as they are the real sports world nowadays, it begs the question…Would a channel like NFL RedZone, where all they do is show scoring plays and teams getting close to crossing the goal line, even exist without fantasy football?

“Probably not,” Ronis said.  “I think it’s a great tool for fantasy players because they want to see who’s about to score.  I think that’s huge in the fantasy community,” he added.  But for fantasy enthusiasts there’s a lot more to it than the weekly indulgence of football on Sundays.

Ronis said that Rotoexperts does a great job with fantasy baseball and baseball is one of their most popular services aside from football.  Football and baseball seem to be the more popular fantasy sports but basketball has been growing a lot in the fantasy community.  In addition to basketball, Ronis said there are a lot of daily games offered on Rotoexperts which offer fantasy aficionados yet another way of diving deeper into the world of fantasy sports.

Moving forward, believe it or not, Ronis believes there’s room for even more growth.   He noted that Rotoexperts is working on a TV station and with lots of media outlets on the internet now he believes that the industry can continue to thrive.  But he did say that he feels that some of these outlets aren’t having the success they expected.
“Unless you’re a big site you’re not making money,” said Ronis.  While this is true, as most people look to ESPN, Yahoo, and other big name sites for their fantasy services, it could drive these other smaller sites to think outside the box.  There seems to be a lot of new stuff in the fantasy world and in an industry that’s always evolving, it might help to try and be one step ahead of the game.