All posts by Docholiday

1st Quarter of Everton Season Complete in FM16

I figured the quarter-point of the Premiere League season was as good a point as any to put up an update post on my latest Everton season in FM16.

My season overall has gone reasonably well as the below shot of the table would indicate: (notice where current league leader Leicester sits)

BPL Standings
Standings through 10 games of the BPL 2015/2016 Season

I have been going through a ton of injuries so far, and will most likely need to drop training intensity as I’m consistently having to cycle through players, so I haven’t really settled on my top 11 yet.  I’m got a couple key positions to decide on as I know both Coleman and Mirallas would bring in some nice fees, but without the right people to back fill I can’t really cash in on them.

I did end up making a couple more moves that while not making a huge windfall of profits, the reduction of salary and transfer fees made sense for these moves since the players were never going to find the pitch.  Now that my wingers are getting back to reasonable health and was able to bring some young players, both Kone and McGeady became expendable.  Both of these were high wage players that were just not going to see the pitch, so I figured to get stronger I needed to reduce the team.  The addition of Hjulsager was one of those scouting whims that I took a flyer on since he was cheap and incredibly versatile.  You’ll see that I did loan him out, but included the recall option such that if I get into trouble I can bring him back into the squad.

Final Transfers
Final Transfers for 2015/2016 season

As for the results themselves, I feel like we’re finally starting to get on a bit of a roll.  I lost 3 out of the first 5 matches to start the season, but now have a 5 game un-beaten streak going which includes wins at both Arsenal and Southhampton.  Following the Manchester City game, that West Brom result was very painful but I think I was pushing too hard to get a big away win to right the ship as opposed to playing a more controlled effort.  The Capitol One Cup game was a nice way to shake things up a bit and get some other players a run.  It also was a chance to play some decent football as the scoreline really doesn’t tell the whole story of that game in which I dominated.

But from the onset of the season, I looked at the back to back away games at Chelsea followed by a trip to Arsenal as a good test for the team.  Chelsea proceeded to blow my doors off to start the game, and I feared we’d be blown out.  However, the boys rallied and came back to within 1 goal with loads of pressure to finish the game.  A draw really wouldn’t have been out of the question and probably the fairer result.  But that trip to the Emirates might have been the turning point as my defense held solid and I was able to get that winning goal on a counter.  It also wasn’t a totally lopsided effort, while I was out shot and out possessed, I still put 4 shots on target to Arsenal’s 6.

1st Quarter Results
Results through the first quarter of the 2015/2016 season.

Hopefully by the start of the next window, I’ll have a better feel for where my top 11 is and what players can be let go.  I have roughly 23 million in loan buyout clauses that I’d really like to make happen but will have to move players out most likely to do it.  I’ve been lucky so far in that at this point in the Everton season, I don’t have anyone standing out as performing horribly as well as a decent goal distribution as you’ll see from the stats below:

1st Quarter Stats, top half of team
1st Quarter Stats, bottom half of team

For the most part, I feel good about how the team is playing but my starting trio on defense of Jagielka, Stones, and Galloway are clearly under-performing and I’ll be curious how it changes when Baines gets back healthy.  My midfield and attackers are providing pretty decent play and I’m finding quite a few options.  Come January I will have a good problem to solve as I’ll have some nice selling options as opposed to needing to bring someone in.

As for the next quarter of my Everton season, which will conveniently take me to the start of the winter transfer period, there’s a pretty decent mix of challenging games and what should be easier games for me to rotate some players in.  Away fixtures with Man. United and Tottenham along with the Merseyside Darby against Liverpool will all be challenging but I also have both tilts against Leicester which could also prove very dangerous.  The other thing that should be in my favor is a lack of match congestion, so I should be able to get a better feel for my top 11.

Upcoming 2nd Quarter
Upcoming 2nd Quarter of the 2015 /2016 Season

One aspect I’m starting to dive a bit deeper into this season are the analysis tools FM16 provides and I’m going to talk about those in my next post as I try to implement some of the things I’ve learned in this next set of fixtures.

Flyers Up and Down Approaching the Trade Deadline

No more than a week ago, I thought the Flyers might be able to actually make a push and make the playoffs.  However, with the key injuries starting to pile up, that’s becoming a distant possibility.  The loss of Couturier was bad enough but now it looks like del Zotto is also out for a good chunk of time.  If last night’s game is any indication, I just don’t see how this roster can put together enough wins to not only keep pace but jump over the other teams ahead of them to make it into the playoffs.  And then if they get there, outside of the Penguins, I don’t see them advancing.  As the end of the month trade deadline approaches in the NHL, it is a very interesting time for the Flyers and one that will be critical to them maintaining this progression on the rebuild.

As a fan of the team, I don’t support the whole “tanking” concept trying to get a better draft pick, and I believe the Flyers are too proud of an organization to actually do it.  So I don’t think that’s even a viable option for the rest of the season.  I fully expect the team to continue to compete as they’re also working to learn coach Hakstol’s system and get stronger in what he’s trying to do.  Here’s what I’d like to see them do during the next couple of weeks.

With regards to the actual trade deadline, I would be fine with them not making another move.  They’ve already shed 2 painful contracts with the trade Lecavalier/Schenn trade.  Of the players remaining on the team, I only see 2 that are relatively high paid players that consistently spend time in the press box as healthy scratches – R.J. Umberger and Sam Gagner.  Gagner’s contract actually expires at the end of this year, so I don’t see him going anywhere and it really doesn’t hurt the Flyers all that much.  But perhaps someone would take a shot on a rental for a draft pick.  As for Umberger, he still has one more year left on his deal (cap hit of $4.6 million) and would be very nice to get off the books.  This would be another cap shedding move that I would be happy to just see a “bag of pucks” in return.  I would be perfectly fine seeing both these players move on before the trade deadline, but don’t expect to see much in return.  Anything Hextall can get for them should be seen as a win, which was exactly what he was able to do in that deal with the Kings.

The other interesting player on the roster is Mark Streit, who carries a $5.25 million dollar cap hit through next season and isn’t getting any younger at the age of 38.  However, he’s still a very solid defender and one of, if not the best defender on the roster.  IF del Zotto was healthy, I would think the probability of Streit moving would be higher, but the prospects of replacing the top 2 defenders from a minutes played perspective could prove very daunting.  In the first game since del Zotto’s injury MacDonald was recalled from the Phantom’s and reminded everyone why he’s down in the AHL as he was just horrid.  I guess there could be some unfamiliarity and nerves involved, but he was playing with Gostisbehere (Ghost) who he spent lots of time playing with prior to Ghost’s call-up to the Flyers.  I would expect Streit to remain on the team through this season and perhaps move next year at this time as a sort of Timonen move to give him a last shot at a cup if the Flyers aren’t in contention.  Unless of course, someone comes forward with a deal too sweet to pass up, but that would need to be very cap friendly and with either prospects or draft picks.

As for the rest of the roster, the biggest thing I’d like to see is an extended “try-out” for some of the younger players in the Flyers system.  I will fully admit I don’t know all the complicated rules for calling up and sending down players and how that relates to waivers, so what I’d like to see happen may not be possible.  But a player like Jordan Weal is already on the roster and I’d like to see him get a shot just to determine if he’s an asset for next year or someone who is a Phantoms player in all reality.  Aside from him, there’s a handful of young defensmen in the ranks with varying degrees of actual NHL experience.  Maybe rotate some of those guys in for a few games or something as they couldn’t possibly be any worse than MacDonald.  Although I guess perhaps giving MacDonald some time before the trade deadline might get him some visibility for another sucker, i mean team, to offer the Flyers a puck in return for his play.

Overall this is a rough spot for fans, and I’m sure frustrating for the franchise, but it is one where patience will payoff as there’s finally a ton of talent in this organization.  Hopefully they can make the most of this year and make a good solid push for next season.

Houston Texans Off-Season

We’re in that time of year when football fans start dreaming of how to make their teams better and how they’ll be in the Super Bowl next year.  That of course would be doubly sweet for the Texans since it would be a home game for them.  I actually think the Texans are pretty close to being a decent team and am surprised more people haven’t mentioned them as possible teams to follow what the Bronco’s did.  Let’s dive into that a bit more before talking about player moves.  The Texans actually have more cap room this offseason than I can remember them having, and that’s without making any cuts like many expect them to, which could push their remaining space up to around $50 million.  However, outside of Joseph and McPhee (Bears signing this year), those big acquisitions rarely pay off so that space is a bit of a double edged sword.

If you look at the Bronco’s run to the Super Bowl, they did it with a great defense and adequate play from Manning.  And if you look at the entire year from either QB the Broncos had, did they really play THAT much better than Hoyer (at least until that awful playoff game)?  Don’t get me wrong, I do believe the Texans will do something at the QB position, but aside from that one game, some early in the season, and injuries, the Texans QB play wasn’t all that far removed from what the Bronco’s had.  The biggest thing that jumped out to me about both the Patriots and the Panthers games were how often the QBs dropped back with only 5 blockers daring Von Miller to beat them.  I can only imagine the numbers Watt would put up with that kind of treatment.  But, if you look at the two defenses there are similarities and I do believe the Texans are probably a couple players away from fielding a team with the potential to be as deadly.  If they could add a starter at each level of the defense, either through Free Agency (some real good options possible at both the line and linebacker levels) or the draft as well as re-signing some of their depth, this defense should pick up and move forward from where they ended the season.  If (and I agree this is a big if) Clowney can stay healthy in 2016 this could be one incredibly scary defense.

As for the Offense, that’s a bit trickier to deal with.  There are quite a few problems outside of the elephant.  Their line could use some help as even with Brown coming back from injury they still don’t have 5 solid starters there, let alone much depth.  An addition via Free Agency there would probably be helpful as I don’t see them going for a lineman early enough to make a difference next year, but would be a potential for the next.  As for the rest of the offensive weapons, another year of progress from Jalen Strong could jump him up to a #2 but getting another weapon in would be nice too.  I know lots of writers and fans are clamoring for Alshon Jeffrey, which would be a nice land for sure, but I just don’t think he’s going to hit the open market.   The other big decision is at the Running Back position and I’m torn with what to do with Foster.  Clearly the offense was dramatically different when he was injured, but how would the defense have looked if they always knew he wouldn’t be there?  I’m not sure Free Agency is the place to find a back as I’m sure Doug Martin would actually be more expensive than Foster and how much better would he be?  I’d probably be inclined to move on from Foster as that money could go to other areas, but I wouldn’t be completely upset if Foster returns.  Finally, I’m not sure what to do about Tight End as it just doesn’t seem like they utilize them at all.  Maybe that’s because they aren’t any good, but I’m just not sure they’re a huge part of the offense.  I’d rather see perhaps more WR sets and focus on the TEs blocking.

As for the elephant, clearly the Texans need a QB but how does this team actually get one?  Unless something bad happens, most likely the team will be middle of the pack for the foreseeable future and not able to get a top 5 pick, and I’m not sure it would be feasible to trade up that high.  Franchise QBs don’t hit the open market, so I don’t expect they’ll find what they need in that way, nor do blockbuster trades happen all that often.  I think the most viable solution would be to draft someone in the first 2 rounds (best available), bring back Hoyer, and have that drafted QB and Savage fight it out for the future role with Hoyer as the mentor and backup.

While this year was a bit of a disappointment, I have to think at some point they have to use less than 5 QBs in a season, and when that happens it could be a special year.  I’ll be paying very close attention to who the Texans cut and also what other big names might hit the market in March.  And then its time to focus on the draft!

Progress and New Toys in TSW

I will admit, I didn’t pay too much attention to the changes coming for subscribers as I was a lifer (purchased the GM pack prior to launch) but I’m pretty pleased with what Funcom has done for TSW with regards to their subscriptions.  I LOVE that xp is now just a flat bonus to everything, and not a clicky for mob kills.  I’m still working on finishing up my ability wheel so that bonus on top of Quest xp is really nice.  There are also some fun cosmetics (along with the continued promise of more) and the same (I think) stipend of points, so no real change there.  The free anima well leaps are a nice bonus but nothing game breaking.  The Hoverboard is just flat out fun as there’s some added animations added when jumping, etc. that are a nice added touch.  Here are a couple shots of the new stuff:

Playing with the new hoverboard
Easy jump and twirl
Posing in front of the Dream Palace

The travelling bank is actually pretty darn handy, or perhaps I’m just lazy, but the ability to plop one down whenever I want (on a 1-hour timer) is nice to dump out or swap out items.  I haven’t checked to see if others can use it as that would just be doubly useful.  Other than that, the extra Agartha port could be handy but I’m not sure how useful it will really be.  The weapon mould’s aren’t all that exciting to me, but I like the idea and concept they’re bringing as I love cosmetic weapons!

After all the playing around with my new toys, I ended up running a couple of quests just to try and get my Cyber Aegis up to 1.4, which didn’t take all that long despite getting more cargo keys and not Aegis xp.  I just did some repeats as their cooldowns had expired (much shorter now) and there are a couple I can do pretty darn quickly.  Once I did that, I went in and finished off the Dream Palace story quest.  I had done much of it previously but just wasn’t able to handle any of the boss fights since I just couldn’t rip down the shields quick enough.  Freddy Beaumont was probably the easiest of the boss fights, but they were all challenging (perhaps I just forgot them or was rusty) and yet still quite fun.  I ended up dying a couple times to each of them, until I figured out what stupid mistake I was making and then was able to proceed.  It was a fun quest and certainly one that kept me on my toes as I kept waiting for something else to happen.  I’m pretty excited to get into the Orachi Tower and see where this twisted story leads.

I’m enjoying TSW so far and having a blast in Tokyo but also realize I will probably run out of stuff to do (other than grind) before new content comes out.  And that’s fine with me as it does allow me to play at a reasonable pace.  And who knows, maybe I’ll get some chances to do group content at some point.

New FM16 Season With Everton

After a couple of games since the launch of Football Manager 16 (FM16), although not quite as much as I’ve played in previous versions of Football Manager, I’m started up a new save with my favorite team Everton.  Sadly some of my tactics that worked well in FM15 are not working so well this year, so I’m going back to some trusted oldies but goodies.  So far I’m only 2 games into the actual season, but for anyone who’s played this game before can attest to, the hard work starts well before that opening kickoff.

That first “day” I take over the reigns of a new club takes forever as there’s just so much to do.  Luckily you do have a couple of days before the players arrive to prioritize things a bit but it all happens pretty quick.  I usually want to get my staff figured out that first day, or at least my initial coaching targets and people let go.  Trimming the staff is usually pretty easy, and since it counts against your transfer budget can be quite handy.  I usually try to stick to less than what the board recommends such that I can bring in someone else if something changes.  Here’s a couple of shots of not only my staff movements but how I have things broken up for training:

Transfers Coaches
Coaches I’ve removed and who I’ve brought in.
coaches training
Coaches Scheduling

I’ll probably do some more work on my scouting staff to try and widen my scouting net, but for now I’m ok.

As for tactics and transfers, I usually lump these together as without the right players, it doesn’t matter what tactic you run.  This initial season I’m basically running with 2 flavors of a 4-5-1, one with the Defensive Midfielder, and the other with an Attacking Midfielder.  Hopefully its pretty obvious how I’ll split those :)  So with that in mind, I knew I needed to make some changes as well as the changes I like to make.  I’m a big fan of bringing in youth so I usually figure out what older players are ready to make their way out.  There still is time left in the opening window, but I only have 2 bites on people to move out with Naismith and Barry finding the exits, and both fit the mold of moving out the older to bring in some better youth.  Oviedo was a random incoming request that while not as high as I’d like, he’s never been a player I’ve featured or worked with so I figured I might as well get rid of him now.  I do have a few others transfer listed so hopefully towards the end of the window I’ll get some bites.  Here’s who else I’d love to move on from:

  • Aaron Lennon
  • Arouna Kone
  • Steven Pienarr (starts season hurt)
  • Derron Gibson  (starts season hurt)
  • Aiden McGeady  (starts season hurt)

It will probably be toughest to move Gibson this window but all three who start hurt will be hard to get healthy in time to ship out as most teams don’t want damaged goods.

In looking over the team, I found 3 areas I wanted to build:

  • Defensive depth
  • more midfield options
  • Finding someone else (preferably 2) to fill in if Lukaku gets hurt, which he already has been.

Here’s who all I brought in this season with some on loan which I’ll come back to that: (some I did find through the folks over at FM Stories Site, so their profiles will be linked)


Player Transfers

Defensive Tactic
Defensive 4-3-3 with a Defensive Midfielder
Offensive Tactic
More offensive tactic – 4-5-1.


  • Defense
    • Balanta – Central/Left Defender – FM legend for how strong and cheap he is
    • Alex Meret –  Goalie – long term replacement for Howard
    • Borja San Emeterio – DL/DR – flexible outside back mainly for backup since I start the season with Baines not only hurt but not getting any younger
    • Rick Karsdorp – ridiculously flexible, can play almost anywhere on the pitch.  I picked him up when Coleman went down for an extended period.
  • Midfield – these are all central middies, and most can play at least 2 if not all 3 of the central positions
    • John Hou Saeter – cheap option with good upside.  I’ve had him in numerous games.
    • Andre Dozzell – An unknown to me that one of my scouts dug up, seemed cheap enough and worth a shot.
    • Lucas Romero – Another famous name for FM’ers out there, and I was shocked that not only was he cheap but he’s actually sign with me.
    • Andres Cubas – loads of upside, and reasonable loan.
  • Wingers/Strikers
    • Carlos – He’ll primarily be used as a Left winger, but probably as a backup striker too.
    • Jonathan Calleri – he’s going to fill in as a backup Striker but also chip in on the right wing as needed, especially while I’m dealing with early injuries.

So this was the first year I’ve tried loans, so we’ll see how it works out.  But for each of the loans, I was able to work out a more reasonable buy-back fee and one that should be attainable next season, or at least that’s the hope.  But the 3 on loan are only a total of 23 million in next years budget, so I should be able to do that even without selling anyone.  And depending on how this window closes and certainly January, I might have enough to pull the trigger sooner.

As for my results so far, I’m pretty pleased.  I always try to get in a lot of pre-season games and usually play then away as that seems to generate not only more money but better merchandise sales.  Both of my actual games were very close, and while I was able to pull out the victory at Swansea, a late Aguero goal sealed that game up for Cityy.  But they were both fair results, although I was hoping I could hold off City for at least a draw.

Results so far
Results so far

My goals for this season are ambitious in that I want to finish in the Top 4 to get that Champions League spot, although I only told the Board top half.  I’m just not sure that with this team and having to bring in a lot of your, I’ll be able to handle any big injuries that will happen.

It should be a fun year and I’ll have some updates sprinkled in before another big post in between the 2016 and 2017 season.

Slowly Working Through Tokyo in TSW

My last adventures through Tokyo in TSW highlighted the fact that I needed some work on my Aegis items in order to progress.  I was originally thinking I might be able to focus on the story missions and not have to do too much outside of that if I didn’t want to – but that is just not possible.  What was also very evident was that I needed to do some tweaking on my build in order to not only kill stuff but survive.

For my build, I had been spec’d Blade and Assault Rifle focusing mainly  on afflictions and penetration to generate self heals and leaches.  While that worked well in many places, leaches just don’t work well at all when ripping down Aegis shields and recovering from that initial beating with little heals becomes a rough mountain to climb.  I also didn’t feel like I had enough interrupts to counter not only all nasty special attacks out there but the shield regeneration abilities certain mobs have.   I toyed with making a switch back to Blades and Blood for a bit more healing and shields but chose to try just tweaking my abilities with my current weapons.  Here’s a snapshot of my current deck:

TSW slotted Skills
My slotted Skills

I’m basically set up such that every time I hit I not only afflict mobs, but set of a 3 second explosive timer and a Heal over time (HoT).  Then each time I hit an afflicted mob with my Blade Consumer I have a 40% chance to penetrate which then kick off another HoT and a barrier.  I also then have 2 interrupts with one of them being an AoE which can be quite handy when multiple mobs want to do special attacks.  Finally I have 3 active Rifle skills that will trigger heals if I find myself getting low on health.  I would like to find another Rifle consumer to do a little more damage, but so far the damage and heal has been handy.

As for the quests, I am enjoying them even though they certainly are a step up in difficulty and I find myself dead quite often.  For the most part, I do at least make an attempt at figuring out the quest but I will admit that for some of them (Love and Oragami for example) I am not shy about blatantly cheating.  It also does depend on my mood, although I do try to vary the quests if I’m not in the mood to think, as opposed to just walking through someone elses footsteps.  I’ve made it through probably half of the quests so far and haven’t done too much repeating (probably a quest or 2) and have my Cyber Aegis (the ones that are blocking progress in the Story quest) up to level 1.3, so I am l mildly pleased with my progress.  I’m using the Sidequests from the Bathhouse (kill various named dudes) as a measuring stick to see how I’m progressing. They’re still really tough and in some cases I end up retreating as they become a stalemate.  Once I get to a point where I can finish those more easily, I’ll make another run at the Story quest.  On other system built into TSW that I’m finally making use of is the customizable map as I’m making notes of quest locations such that on replays I’m able to move through quicker.

Getting back to the Aegis system itself, I do like the concept and the idea of it.  Especially when you get into fights against multiple shields and regeneration plus restoration tossed in there.  The grind while probably frustrating for many, has been reduced as I understand it, and probably isn’t as bad as it could be. The only thing I could see that would make it “better” would be if all kills rewarded Aegis experience such that other content would be rewarding and not just Tokyo.  There’s still a whole other system (Augments) that I really haven’t even gotten into yet because of the high Ability Point grind as I’m still working on completing the rest of my skill wheel and Auxiliary weapons.  I’m not sure how much of a benefit that system would have for me in Tokyo, but right now that’s 3rd on my list of things to do behind the Aegis items and my ability wheel.

Like I mentioned before, I’m still playing TSW as a single player game with periodic times as a duo co-op but it does seem like there are some new things being added to make grouping a bit easier and more enjoyable.  At some point, I would like to at least see some of the dungeons and such but I’m in no rush to get there.

Review of the 2015 Football Season


My last wide ranging review post will be concerning my two favorite American Football teams, those being the Chicago Bears and Houston Texans.  I’ve grown up a Bears fan and have maintained that all along, but since moving to Houston I’ve adopted them as my other team.  And since they’re in opposite conferences, the chances they’d meet in a meaningful game is pretty slim.  I’m going to keep this post to a review, and focus on individual posts for Free Agency and the Draft.

Overall, my expectations for this year were pretty low and both teams tried very hard to not live up to those expectations.  I expected the Bears to lose lots of 35-32 games and the Texans to lose a lot of 7-3 games, but both units showed some signs of life that were encouraging and yet painful reminders of what is missing.

This season for the Bears was the definition of a bumpy ride but for me enough progress was made for optimism in the near term.  I still see this team as at best the 3rd team in the division next year, but the gap is closing.  This team seemed like it was really knocked off the rails by a couple key injuries that they just didn’t have the depth to overcome.  Losing 1st round pick Kevin White so early was massive as there just wasn’t anyone to take pressure off of Jeffrey, and then he too goes down for much of the year and its just wheels off at that point.  Almost as damaging was the complete disappearance of Bennett, which took away another key weapon for Cutler.  Forte also seemed to be always dealing with something (not unusual with a back seeing his workload) so Cutler really didn’t have enough options to be effective.  However, he also wasn’t “Bad Jay” turning the ball over every chance he got, so there’s hope there.  It will be interesting to see how the offense does this coming year now that “miracle worker” Adam Gase is gone, but at least there’s some continuity as the QB coach is taking over the Offensive Coordinator role.

As for positives for the Bears, the offensive line is starting to shape up and look respectable.  There are a couple pieces on defense that look like good building blocks.  And if healthy, there’s some serious talent on the offensive side of the ball with Zach Miller and Lankford turning into real weapons.  Couple that with a good defensive draft (or free agency) while adding another lineman or so and I could totally see this as an 8-8 team next year.

The Texans on the other hand, were almost two separate teams – the one prior to the second half of the Dolphins game, and the one after that.  The Texans are almost the mirror image of the Bears – man, combine the Bears offense with the Texans defense and that’s one scary team!  If that defense can play an entire year like it did the last 8 games, they will get recognition for being one of the best in the league.  The thought of Watt, Mercilus, and a healthy Clowney all rushing the passer should give Andrew Luck nightmares all off-season.  Toss in a secondary that’s only going to get better and this could very well be the #1 defense next season.

The offense on the other hand is in a whole world of hurt.  The don’t just need a Quarterback, they need another receiver to help out Hopkins, the line is a player or two short, most likely a new feature running back as they move on from Foster, and a Tight End who can catch the ball are just a few of the pieces they need to figure out.  Because of the division they play in, the Texans will always have a shot but the Titans and Jaguars are catching up quick and without a strong offseason for the Texans they could fall behind.  While a 10-11 win season wouldn’t be out of the question, I think 8-9 is a more realistic number given the uncertainty at the QB position.

Certainly things will start to fall into place for both of these teams as we get closer to the start of Free Agency (early March) and then with the Draft later in April to fill out the roster.  There are lots of reasons to be excited and then just as many things to be scared of.  But that’s probably the same thing you could say for just about every team outside of Cleveland.

Flyers Mid-Season Review

Even though I spent many years living in Philly, the only team I’ve really gotten behind is the Flyers.  I’ve been to quite a few of their games, and was even there for the infamous Scott Stevens hit on Eric Lindros, but have not been to a game for a number of years.  Luckily they seem to be on TV quite a bit so I do get to catch my fair share of their games.  But before I started looking at things on a more current timeframe, I at least wanted to take a look back at the season so far as it has been a rocky road.

Starting off this season, I really didn’t expect much from the Flyers, maybe squeek into the playoffs, but that would have been a stretch.  The team has just been straddled with too many bad contracts and not enough depth to survive deep into the season.  My main hope for this year was to maintain respectability (not pull a 76ers and tank) and try to figure out the log-jam of young prospects to see who’s an option for next year(s).  But so far, this team and leadership has far exceeded expectations and looks like they could possibly do some damage in the playoffs.

Let’s first look at some of the moves they’ve made so far.  It was a pretty quiet off-season as there just wasn’t too much they could do with bad players signed to horrible contracts.  Early on this year MacDonald was sent down to the Phantoms to bury his salary, but I have to think Hextall would love to move him if he could but also is a bit of an insurance policy in case someone gets hurt.  The Grossman for Gagner trade really seemed like one of those “helps each team” kinds of deals, although I really haven’t been too impressed with Gagner this year.  However, his contract is up after this year so there really isn’t too much to worry about and Grossman just wasn’t going to work with the amount of defensemen the Flyers have.  The other big trade so far was the one done with the Kings that sent Vincent Lecavalier and Luke Schenn packing and brought back Jordan Weal as consolation.  This was another cap saving move that helps the Flyers out but doesn’t really cost the Kings all that much as Schenn’s contract is up after this year and Vinny has said he’ll retire.  So they get a rental and give up a prospect and a draft pick.  Weal hasn’t had too much playing time, but anything more than a bag of pucks is a bonus from what I was expecting.  As we get closer to the trade deadline I don’t see the Flyers rocking the boat too much but it wouldn’t shock me if they could unload another bad contract or two onto someone a player away from a Cup run.

As for actual play on the ice, I have to say I’m quite surprised.  So many things have gone “wrong” for the Flyers that I would’ve expected them to be much worse off.  Voracek’s slow start and Streit’s injury are the two obvious ones but also having to adjust to a new coach is always rough.  I’m been impressed with the system and style Haskol has implemented and it seems like not only are the players buying in but they seem to embrace it.  Two main things have happened this year that have allowed the Flyers to stay afloat:

  • Consistent and solid goaltending
  • Contributions from their younger players

The first one is obvious, and very much unlike the Flyers but I have seen multiple smart people say they Flyers have had the best goaltending play in the league.  I’m not sure I’d go that far, or feel super confident one of them could steal a playoff series, but the Mason/Neuvirth combination has been very effective.  As for the youth contributions for me it comes down to 3 players:

  • Couturier (thankfully back tonight from injury)
  • Brayden Schenn
  • Shayne (Ghost) Gostisbehere

Ghost is the easy one, he was on the fringe of making the team last year until a nasty knee injury, but has been amazing this year.  Sure he’s making mistakes, but he’s solid enough on defense and such a force on the attack that the good out-weighs the bad.  He’s making a real push for rookie of the year and is looking like quite a draft steal for the Flyers.  Schenn has turned in a nice solid and consistent offensive year helping provide another scorer on the power play to help crowd the net.  But I think the real advance has come this year from Couturier as he just keeps getting better on defense and this year is really turning up the offense.  Its not going to be long until we start seeing his name mentioned in the Selke debates.

Overall, I’m pretty happy the way this year has gone and have lots of expectations rolling into next season as spots open up for some of the exciting youth in the system.  I’m not going to promise any sort of game by game update, but focus more on the big picture kinds of stories.


Healthy Lifestyle Efforts

One of the other reasons I wanted to start back on my site was to try and get a little more social accountability as my wife and I are both working to get back into a more sustainable healthy lifestyle.  We’ve gone through a few changes over the past couple of years and our health has taken a bit of a hit.  Granted, we’re still relatively healthy people without any sort of illnesses, but the lack of exercise and reliance on takeout is going to come back and bite us at some point.  So I figured I’d use this platform to talk about what we’re doing and maybe get some advice and support from ya’ll as well as possibly spark something in someone else.

When it comes to exercise, it has always been something I’ve enjoyed and have been pretty successful in keeping it up.  However, it is also one of the things I can easily leave out if I’m not quite in the mood to do it.  I also have noticed that my joints (knees and ankles primarily) are much more fragile now that I’ve gotten older.  I’ve always been a runner (ran competitively in High School and College) so that’s been my go-to for exercise typically.  But I usually end up going too hard, too fast, and too soon such that I pick up some nagging injury that just derails things.  While that’s still a focus for me, I’m also trying really hard to rotate in some non-impact exercise too.  Bike riding is a natural complement and is also something I enjoy, so the trick now is finding some other places to ride such that I’m not just doing laps around my neighborhood.  We also have one of those Maxiclimber’s that while I’m not super sure it will live up to the commercials (not that I expect it too) it does a good job of kicking my butt!  So far I’ve been using Runkeeper as my logger of choice to keep track of things and it does a pretty good job.  Every once in a while it craps out on my (like yesterday) but it handles both running and cycling as well as outdoor walks and is a nice complement as I usually have my phone with me for music.  We’ve also switched Health Care providers this year and are incentivized to be more active, so I have a pedometer that I use as a way of getting me off my chair and walk around periodically.

Exercise is only one part of getting healthy, the other (and probably more important) is eating well.  For the most part, when we cook, we eat pretty healthy but our downfall has been laziness/procrastination which forces us to rely on take-out sometime more often than nights we actually cook during the week.  We’re attempting to go a full 2 months without takeout and have tried to put a more or less weekly game plan together to not only provide options but to keep things reasonably vibrant as opposed to having he same thing every week.  Our plan is to do a mixture of grilling (living in Houston pretty much allows for grill access all year), stir fry, and finally using our crock-pot to provide enough variety for the different protein and vegetable combinations.  The crock-pot has been nice as the “dump and cook” concept makes prep work quick and easy and usually leaves us with plenty of leftovers for at least another dinner plus lunch options.  We’re also trying out the Paleo diet for a little bit to try and eliminate some of the more damaging crutches we both have.  This has also forced us to try some new things like Quinoa and using squash as a pasta replacement.  We’ll most likely just roll those in as we both realize that we enjoy pasta and bread, so this really is just a short term thing to help us diversify our diet.

I’m not going to try and make this a daily workout review or meal dissection, but as I hit milestones or find new things I plan on sharing those.  Or as I realize certain tools (like our crock-pot) are useful I’ll share those as well.  And for those of you who use Runkeeper, I’d be more than happy to connect there as well, just reach out and let me know.


The Secret World Fun

It seems like all I needed to do was write about my lack of actually playing MMOs to be able to carve out some game time and convince a friend to join me for some fun in The Secret World.

I was actually able to get my friend addicted to this game, so I will take blame (credit) for that, but now he’s surpassed me in progressing in the game and many times he’s there to help me run through quests or when I get stuck.

So last night we set out on the goal of trying to work on some of the story line in Tokyo.  I had last left off mid-way through the “One Kill Ahead” quest chain so we finished off that and did a good chunk of “Nightmare in the Dream Palace” before my lack of Aegis power stalled my progress. This combined story is the kind of material that makes The Secret World (TSW) the game that it is.  It sprinkled in enough challenge to make it hard and thought provoking, but yet not too hard that I wanted to quit.  There were enough things that I had to piece together to force me to pay attention to what was going on.  And while there was some jumping involved, it wasn’t overly complex, touchy, or unforgiving.

I really don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t done it, but the dream sequence is some really good stuff and especially if you’re playing with headphones it gets downright creepy.  I’m pretty sure I did jump a couple times in my seat, and if I wasn’t conscious of the fact that I was on skype, I might have blurted it some other things too.  Mixed in is one of the best (if not the best) implementation of being drunk in a game that not only blurs your vision but screws up your controls.

There was a portion of the chain that is solo only and while I don’t normally like group un-friendly quests, I think this actually helped my enjoyment of the quest and worked well.  Not only would I have continued in my “follow the leader” mode, but the additional person really would’ve impeded my immersion.

Overall I think this quest line is probably my favorite in the game, right up there with the Tyler Freeborn line from a few episodes ago.  Granted it is also quite long, with some areas not quit “pausible” but it is well worth it.   Needless to say, that time spent questing has sparked my interest in TSW and is making me better understand that whole Aegis thing.  But I’ll continue that in another post.

My only regret was that I didn’t take any screenshots as I was paying too much attention to what was going on – but certainly you can google the quest name and find more about it.  But that’s something I plan to work on as I get back into the swing of things.