What We’re Thankful For in Philly Sports in 2019

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Thanksgiving is often a time of reflection. A time when people who care about each other come together and discuss the things that they are thankful for.

In the Philadelphia area and even for those fans that don’t live in the area, Philadelphia sports teams play a major part in many of our lives.

With that in mind, we polled our Sports Talk Philly experts to see what they are most thankful about in regards to the teams they cover.

Sixers – Matt Gregan: @MattGreganNBA

What I am most thankful for is a 76ers team that has the ability to compete for a championship for years to come. The tanking years were long and painful, but all that time spent losing has allowed the team to get to where they are at today. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are two franchise cornerstones, and general manager Elton Brand has done a good job of surrounding them with good talent (Josh Richardson, Al Horford, etc). 

Even though the team has gotten off to not as fast of a start as some would have expected, they still are in good shape at 11-6. The starting lineup will continue to gel, resulting in improved play. I always expected the team would get off to a somewhat rocky start before picking up their play as they spent more time together on the floor. With a new load management plan for Embiid, the 76ers are gearing up for the long haul in an effort to be fully healthy come playoff time. 

Flyers – Kevin Durso: @Kevin_Durso

At Thanksgiving last season, the Flyers had just suffered a 5-2 loss to Buffalo. After a 4-0 Black Friday win, they suffered a 6-0 loss to Toronto. On Nov. 26, just four days after Thanksgiving 2018, GM Ron Hextall was fired. Three weeks later, head coach Dave Hakstol was fired. The first thing Flyers fans should be thankful for was a recognition that change was needed and the complete overhaul that took place there.

The rest of the 2018-19 season was a disappointment. The Flyers did put together an eight-game winning streak, made a playoff push, got a dramatic comeback win in the 2019 Stadium Series, but it still fell short and the Flyers finished the season with a five-game losing streak.

So far this season, there are several things to be thankful about with the Flyers. The first is GM Chuck Fletcher, who recognized a need to make some roster changes. He shed a lot of dead weight, and brought in veterans Kevin Hayes, Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun with an emphasis on cutting down on goals against.

For sure, Flyers fans can be thankful for Alain Vigneault, the new head coach. Vigneault has brought a veteran presence behind the bench and his views on accountability and willingness to move a veteran down in the lineup or put him on the bench for a few shifts does not go unnoticed. More importantly, Vigneault has the Flyers playing with a style that has kept them competitive in a majority of the games played. Sure, the 13-7-5 record isn’t the most ideal, but it does have them in a playoff position.

Finally, there is the youth movement and willingness to play the kids. Carter Hart wasn’t much of a thought at this time a year ago. Now he’s the starting goalie. Morgan Frost and Joel Farabee weren’t even professional players yet. Now they are regular NHLers. Additionally, you are seeing other young players emerge as top players. Sean Couturier remains a steady presence in the middle. Don’t let the 600 career NHL games fool you, he’s still just 26 and very much barely entering his prime. Travis Konecny and Oskar Lindblom have taken noticeable strides. On the back end, Ivan Provorov is a minutes machine and has been continually solid, Travis Sanheim continues to come into his own, Phil Myers made his debut last season and has appeared to solidify his spot in the lineup too. 

So if there’s anything to be thankful for, it’s that the Flyers were an absolute mess a year ago at this time, barely hanging on by a thread as major changes loomed and ultimately were made. Now, the Flyers have their GM, they have their coach and they have a lot of young players starting to make their mark at the NHL level.

Phillies – Kevin McCormick: @KevinMcCSports

What I am thankful for with the Phillies is the bright days ahead. This team is close to putting together a roster that can bring back a World Series to the city of Philadelphia.

I am thankful that the best catcher in baseball wears Phillies’ pinstripes. J.T. Realmuto was one of the key additions to this team last offseason, and he was worth everything that the team gave up for him. He had an incredible season last year and I am excited to see what he will do for the team in the future.

Another thing that I am thankful for is some of the amazing moments this team gave us last year. Whether it was moments like Rhys Hoskins sending Citizens Bank Park into a frenzy on opening day hitting a grand slam to bust the game wide open, or Bryce Harper having his biggest moment as a Phillie so far hitting a walk off grand slam against the Cubs. 

The last thing I am thankful for is new manager Joe Girardi. Although it was sad to see Gabe Kapler get fired, the team went out and got a great replacement. Girardi is a big name manager who has seen success in the past, and hopefully he continues his success here with the Phillies. 

Eagles – Paul Bowman: @PhillyBallPaul

What I am most thankful for with the Eagles is a chance at glory without a compromised future.

The Eagles are in rough shape at 5-6 this season, but have done so through injuries that have sidelined all of their starting receivers, all of their starting (and backup) corners, their starting running back, half of their offensive line, their top linebacker and three of their top four defensive tackles for chunks of the season. They did this through their most challenging stretches of their schedule and the healthy defense we see now is championship caliber. With a game against Dallas and four games against opponents that have just two wins on the season, there is reason for optimism that the Eagles could crack the playoffs and get DeSean Jackson back for that push.

While the Eagles are able to compete again this season, they did so without compromising the future. Imagine if the Eagles had traded their next two first-round picks and their next fourth-round pick for Jalen Ramsey, then, just the next week, got back Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby. Do we think that Ramsey being here would have improved the Eagles ability to win either of their last two games? Combine that with the fact that Ramsey has not been great since the trade and the fact he is going to take up a lot of cap space (enough that the Rams traded away Marcus Peters, who has produced three more interceptions, three more defensed passes, two more tackles and two more touchdowns than Ramsey since his trade) and the Eagles decision to stand pat and roll with their current group at defense seems to be paying off.

Avoiding that move has the Eagles in a position where they figure to have 10 picks in the 2020 draft. Whether they select with all those pick, trade up, trade back or trade into the 2021 draft, the Eagles will be able to get more impact players than anytime recently. With just five picks in 2019, they landed at least two starting-caliber players who have the chance to be more. With four picks in the first two days of the draft and another five in the first half of day three, the Eagles will have plenty of opportunity to grab impact players at positions like reciever, corner and linebacker.

All that in addition to having the ability to re-sign young leaders like Jalen Mills, Kamu Grugier-Hill and Jordan Howard, seeing the development of players like Mile Sanders, JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Shareef Miller, having the right of first refusal in the contract of Jay Ajayi and still having enough cap space that they can be players in free agency.

The Eagles have a chance to win now and their draft ammo is greater than it’s been in half a decade. The future is bright.