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June 20, 2017

It’s finally the end of daze for Philly sports

Those dark days of Philadelphia sports fans being forced to watch other cities enjoy their postseasons while our teams sit at home are coming to an end.

The Sixers’ historic parade of tanked seasons is likely at its conclusion, while the Eagles, Flyers and yes, even the Phillies, seem to be on the road to recovery.

The Eagles and Sixers are paving the road to redemption, and that road will be even better to travel for both teams, who should find some longtime rivals waiting at some dangerous intersections.

We already have a taste of the head-to-head matchup between the Eagles and Dallas Cowboys. The logos alone are enough to fill those games with emotion, but when you add in the direct battles expected between young Eagles franchise quarterback Carson Wentz and the Cowboys’ young star quarterback Dak Prescott, you’ve really got something extra special.

That should certainly get Philly fans through the fall and into the holidays – but after this week there should be no need to curl up and avert your eyes through the short days of winter.

Yes, winter is coming back, and we are not talking about Game of Thrones.

No, we are talking about games that might actually lead to championship thrones or, at least, decent chances at them.

In a rare one-two punch, the sports fans of Philadelphia will get a chance to revel in back to back draft parties when the Sixers connect-the-dots in their recent trade with the Boston Celtics and make Markelle Fultz the first selection of the NBA Draft, and the Flyers follow on Friday with the second-overall pick in the NHL Draft.  

The Sixers are quickly becoming the most interesting team in the NBA as all the maneuvering of the past few horrendous seasons has put them in line for what could be repeated years of postseason appearances.

And – like the Eagles, there is also the delicious added attraction of a head-to-head show of strength with their one-time archrival Boston Celtics.

The deal in which the Celtics swapped picks with the Sixers this week will mean that any games between the two teams from here on out will include a box score on which side got the better of the deal.

It's just too good to be true.

Imagine if you will that Joel Embiid is actually healthy and that Ben Simmons turns into the player you expect. Then add Fultz, and Dario Saric.

On top of that, remember that the Celtics are also vying for the spot to take over the East as LeBron James gets older, and you could very well have a replay of the previous intensely entertaining rivalry with the Celtics, adding the extra-saucy ingredient of annoying Boston general manager Danny Ainge possibly handing the Sixers the weapon to destroy is own team.

It could happen.

And when the hardwood is removed from the Wells Fargo Center, the ice underneath could also be special for the Flyers who got a real bonus in the NHL Draft Lottery when they were awarded the number two pick, behind only the New Jersey Devils.

The real added value to the selection is that virtually all the draft gurus consider this a draft with only two can’t-miss prospects – Swiss center Nico Hischier, and Brandon Wheat Kings center Nolan Patrick.

Since the Devils make the first selection, there will be no stress on Flyers general manager Ron Hextall to take the center who remains. It has been long presumed that the Devils would take the bigger, ready-for-the-NHL Patrick, but it now appears they might take the plunge with the Swiss who has a presumed higher offensive ceiling.

Either way, the Flyers will get a center that will make their opening night lineup.

And if you are counting, there should be at least five rookies on the ice when the Flyers open their season in October. Young defensemen Robert Haag and Sam Morin are virtual certainties, along with Swedish forward Oscar Lindblom, winger Mike Vecchione, who was signed last spring as a college free agent, and either Hischier or Patrick.

That is a pretty good collection, and there are still some highly regarded prospects in the pipeline in defenseman Travis Sanheim and a group of goalies led by Swede Felix Sandstrom.

And it is a good thing there is such a choice of young skaters as the NHL in general – and the East, in particular, is loaded with teams that have already leaned heavily on young skaters, so the Flyers need the influx just to keep pace.

So, you ask, what about the Phillies, a team currently on its way to a season of historically bad proportions?

Well, the answer to that is to simply look beyond the current roster and check out the stats of prospects like first baseman Rhys Hoskins and outfielders Dylan Cozens and Nick Williams.

Those players, along with second baseman Scott Kingery and catcher Jorge Alfaro are already on the radar of baseball fans that want to see some sort of movement by GM Matt Klentak.

Klentak has made some big mistakes this season in terms of veteran players that he brought aboard to help get the Phils through a transition year. It hasn’t worked out, and it sure looks dark from now through the end of the season.

However, the kids are on the way, and the future fortunes of the Phillies would be raised by the rising tide of a better future for Philadelphia sports fans.

We hope.