Michael Barkann

Former Flyers coach Mike Keenan skeptical on holding games in empty arenas

Former Flyers coach Mike Keenan skeptical on holding games in empty arenas

The NHL is no stranger to work stoppages, but the current state of the sports landscape — and the world in general — is unprecedented. The nature of this stoppage has caused leagues to take drastic measures and explore the possibility of playing in bubble cities, with players sequestered in hotels and no fans permitted to attend games.

Former Flyers coach Mike Keenan expressed concern about that possibility.

“I don’t know what that means, without any fans, I don’t know what it means in terms of driving the sport forward," Keenan said to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Michael Barkann in a recent interview. "Maybe there’s an economic impact and the fact that they can draw sponsors into an arena like that.

“I really search for the reason or answer why they would want to participate that way, and what is the need — is it an economic need for the ownership, is it a need for the players who are so passionate for what they do?” 

Either way, a decision of that magnitude will have many layers and details to work out, and not everyone will be pleased, regardless of the decision that is made. 

“Whether those men would want to be away from their families in isolation for such an extended period of time I think will be debated amongst the players,” Keenan said. 

The NHL and its teams, like any business, are losing revenue during the hiatus, and whichever way the league decides to resume its operations, finances are sure to be one of the deciding factors.  

“The owners have to make a decision: Can they drive this concept hard enough economically to make it worth their while to pay the players?" Keenan said. "At the same time, they have ownership. They don’t do it for nonprofit.

"Can the owners generate in that environment with so many teams in one place, the economic results to have them be able to have them all pay the players? I don't know if that would work or not."

The NHL will surely be monitoring what their counterparts in other pro sports leagues do moving forward, as well.  

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Pushing Olympics to 2021 makes Brian Boucher optimistic for NHL to finish season

Pushing Olympics to 2021 makes Brian Boucher optimistic for NHL to finish season

Brian Boucher, best known in Philadelphia for helping the Flyers push to the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs and now a well-respected analyst for NBC Sports, caught up with our own Michael Barkann during the current stoppage of play.

There, Barkann and Boucher discussed a wide variety of topics, the biggest being the future of the current NHL season. 

“My hopeful side, my optimistic side says that we’ll have a playoffs,” Boucher said last Friday. “Why I say that is because the Olympics getting pushed to next year, 2021, opens up a window in July and August for the NHL to jump in there.

"That to me is a positive, so something tells me the NHL is going to do all they can to see this season through. Whether or not that means having a conclusion to the regular season remains to be seen.”

It’s a valid argument — and knowing that the league is going to do all it can to award the Stanley Cup, this could very well be one of the more viable and logical options. 

Of course, this all depends on how the next few weeks play out. When will games even be able to start back up? If they do, can fans attend or will it be done in a smaller arena? There are still many unanswered questions during this time, but planning for just about every possibility is the right move. 

Now if things were to eventually start again, how would the Flyers be affected? After going from one of the top teams in the league for months to going cold turkey for a significant amount of time certainly raises some concern.

“They were the hottest team in the National Hockey League,” Boucher said. “A stop like this certainly stops that whole momentum in its tracks, and whatever they were doing in early March and late February, it’s going to be next to impossible to replicate if they start up again in July.

“You cannot expect them to pick up where they left off. They’re going to be starting at square one, but I’ve been impressed with this club all year long — impressed with the direction that Alain Vigneault has brought to this club. They are much more organized, they defend better, I like the veteran leadership that they brought into this locker room and that’s a credit to Chuck Fletcher.”

To hear more about Boucher’s time during the NHL hiatus, his thoughts on the league moving forward and his former team the Flyers, you can watch the rest of the interview above.

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How Phillies would have matched up this week against the young Blue Jays

How Phillies would have matched up this week against the young Blue Jays

A beautiful day to begin the week as the Phillies should have been greeting the Toronto Blue Jays at CBP.

I don’t know about you, but Toronto will always have a special place in my Philadelphia sports heart because we share the memory of Hall of Fame pitcher, the late Roy Halladay. Halladay played most of his stellar 16-year career in Toronto, but he played the last quarter of it in Philadelphia.

What he gave us ... was perfect. Literally.

In 2010 alone — Halladay's first season in Philadelphia — he authored a perfect game, a playoff no-hitter and won his second Cy Young Award (he gave Carlos Ruiz a replica trophy for putting down the right signals that season, remember?)

The Phillies would've been playing their second home series. The teams have played six times during the past two seasons with one run separating the total score (27-26). Toronto won four of the six, however.

The teams were scheduled for two more in Toronto in mid-September.

Despite missing the playoffs last season, the Jays have some talent, starting at shortstop with 22-year-old leadoff man Bo Bichette. Bichette played in 46 games last season and hit .311 with a .930 OPS, projecting nearly 40 home runs over a full season. Good glove, good speed too.

Toronto's first four spots in the roster are homegrown talent ending with cleanup up hitter, the young stud, Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. Guerrero made his major league debut last season at age 20 and hit .272 with 15 home runs and 69 RBIs in 123 games.

His father was a former MVP primarily for the Expos and Angels and young Vlad could be headed for a similar career. The elder Guerrero was a major Phillie-killer — his .371 batting average and 31 home runs (91 games) against the Phillies were his most vs. any team.

The first three starters are new faces in the Blue Jays rotation. The club solid lefty signed Hyun-Jin Ryu from the Dodgers, traded for Chase Anderson from the Brewers and signed Tanner Roark from the A’s.

Toronto's closer? Former Phillie Ken “100 Miles” Giles. After a shaky end to his run in Houston, Giles bounced back last season with a 1.87 ERA in 53 innings with 83 strikeouts.

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