another day at the office

For all the great things which have been happening for the Philadelphia Flyers in this New NHL, there are some things which will never change. Like the goaltender-shaped question mark (who’s it going to be: Esche or the Phantom of the Spectrum?) Or Peter Forsberg, who annually is assumed if not expected to lose a kidney, miss months at time, and still manage to recover and compete for the scoring title. Now, he hasn’t lost a vital organ yet, but the season is young. And then there’s the oldest constant on South Broad.

Bobby Clarke being Bobby Clarke.

On Friday, January 20th, Flyers GM Bobby Clarke traded the touted, young defenseman Dennis Seidenberg to the Phoenix Coyotes for aging, enigmatic center Petr Nedved.

Looks like the Clarke of old has survived the lockout.

Let’s go back a few steps. On December 5th, he traded young and skilled center Patrick Sharp to the lowly Chicago Blackhawks for winger Matt Ellison. That one we can let slide; what was apparent from the outset of the season was that an overload at the center position was imminent. Forsberg, Keith Primeau, Patrick Sharp, Michael Handzus, Mike Richards, and possibly R.J. Umberger were going to crowd middle, so someone had to go. Although the timing was suspect, after Primeau suffered his yearly-scheduled concussion and Forsberg went down for a stint, you could see the need for depth at center. Instead, that was Clarke’s timing to trade Sharp.

Fast forward to January 20th. Mired in the mini-slump which every team experiences, Petr Nedved, who has totaled (as of date of trade) two goals, nine assists, and a cheery -6 +/- rating, is now brought in to do what, Mr. Clarke?

Nedved has always been a good scorer and a real good player and we think he’ll solve some of our problems up front, said Flyers general manager Bob Clarke in an AP/ESPN article.

Um, what?

The last time I checked, you need a guy who is going to score more than a projected SIX goals for the entire season to help you with problems up front. So now, with an aging defense in Mike Rathje, Eric Desjardins, Derian Hatcher, and Chris Therien, he trades away young blue-line depth in Seidenberg for Old Man Nedved? Of course, Nedved will probably go on a two-week scoring streak where he’ll net four in six games, in turn making me look stupid while making fans forget about Seidenberg until two years from now. But I promise you, this trade smells like one made out of haste. It won’t pan out and he’ll be a non-factor in the playoffs. This is going to be exactly like the trade for Adam Oates in 2001, where he proceeded to score zero goals and have two assists in five playoff games. In fact, I’m willing to bet on this.

The bottom line is that Bobby Clarke is being Bobby Clarke. We were all fooled when he signed Forsberg, Rathje, and Mike Knuble. He looked like a man who’s had his gingko to me, and I even began to think that he finally played his cards right.

But here come the classic Clarke moves. It is apparent that he just threw away the best hand he’s been given in a long time, and at this rate, you can Simon Gagne to be sent to Anaheim for a 36-year-old right wing and a pair of tickets to Disney Land. Think that’s absurd? The GM traded a necessary young defenseman who has scored as many goals as the aging center he’s been swapped for. Ah yes, quite reminiscent of the Old NHL. Rule changes and a lockout may affect most of the league, but when it comes to Bobby Clarke running the show, some things will never change.

*Since this article has been written, Clarke sent former Phantom and bench depth Jon Sim to Florida for a 2007 sixth round draft pick. Clarke’s speculated logic: Matt Hasselback has a hockey-playing younger brother.

shooting for respect

Last week I was reading through an article on the most shocking stories of 2005. Somewhere on the third page was a blurb about the WNBA. Three-time MVP Sheryl Swoopes came out of the closet last fall, stunning the WNBA’s 11 fans by announcing that she, arguably the league’s biggest star, is a lesbian. Want to read the full story? Well, you just did, as the article quickly moved on to Major League Baseball and Mike Piazza’s hair.

But back to the WNBA. After reading up on Swoopes, my conscience drifted towards the fact that, even though the sport ranks somewhere in popularity between cow pie tossing and the extinct XFL, Philadelphia is short one women’s pro basketball team. And a shortage of sport—no matter what the variety—is not a good thing, as I boldly proclaim that Philadelphia needs a WNBA franchise.

Philadelphia is a big city with a legendary history of fandom. Who can argue that we Philly fans couldn’t use another team to cheer (or more likely, boo)? This is also a basketball-rich environment and a hotspot for women’s collegiate hoops. Olympian and Charlotte Sting All-Star Dawn Staley coaches here and there are dozens of college teams in the region. Top 25 teams Rutgers, Temple, Villanova, and Penn State, as well as La Salle, Maryland, Messiah, and Delaware all produce female stars looking for some post-graduation hardwood time. Why not provide them the opportunity to stay local?

Add the fans and talent pool to the fact that there’s plenty of room along South Broad to house them, and we have a legitimate opportunity for success. We’ve got the 76ers for groundwork, basketball fans to spare, and if medium-sized markets such as Sacramento, Indiana, and Connecticut can support a WNBA franchise, so can the nation’s 5th largest city. It would give Philly more sports pride, the business world some green, and a chance for local female ballers to represent on a larger scale.

This isn’t a greed-based, childish, “Chicago’s getting a team Philly wants one too” argument. Nor is it that the Philly crowd is bored with the collegiate hoops scene—which we’re not. It’s the opposite really: we don’t want our exciting stars going anywhere after graduation. This is about basketball, opportunity, and respect.

And dare I say, if we do this thing right, we might finally see that parade down Broad St. Hey, a championship is a championship, as we all know after seeing the commotion we made over Smarty Jones.

So, who wants to sit in the Spectrum watching former Scarlet Knights and Lady Wildcats run the Triangle? Hopefully, I am not the only one, and there can be some inspired action about all this lack-of-franchise-in-Philly nonsense. Here’s a phone number for those that care to call, 212-688-WNBA; if you’re feeling gutsy, ask for WNBA president Donna Orender. Oh, yes, I think it’s about time to cause a ruckus. With that said, to all you 11 WNBA fans, let’s get to it: it’s time to stop the emigration of our young talent and stop the disrespect.