2 the Rafters? Sources Say Flyers Will Retire Mark Howe's Number

2 the Rafters? Sources Say Flyers Will Retire Mark Howe's Number

CSN's Tim Panaccio and Sarah Baicker are hearing that the Flyers will retire Mark Howe's number before a Flyers-Red Wings game on Tuesday, March 6th. Howe, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame last week (see his honoring of father Gordie here), finished his career with the Red Wings and currently works as their Director of Pro Scouting.

The Hall of Fame induction news brought with it a resurgence in the calls to see Howe's 2 raised to the rafters in Philadelphia, and the Flyers appear ready to oblige.

Howe will join an exclusive club, with only four other numbers having been retired by the Flyers—Bernie Parent (1), Barry Ashbee (4), Bill Barber (7), and Bobby Clarke (16).

It's a little odd when teams allow a number to be worn for years before retiring it, while others put a grace period in place, making a number unavailable for some time before finally allowing it back into use or finally retiring it for good. For many of us, '2' will always be Howe's number in Philadelphia, but we have seen quite a few nameplates above that digit since Howe left, including Lukas Krajicek as recently as the 2009-2010 season. Some of us wondered whether this would prevent Howe from joining the pantheon.

Fans have been begging for this for years, and we couldn't be happier to see one of our first favorite Flyers join the guys we've only read about and seen grainy footage of. Howe is the best defenseman to ever play for the Flyers, spending 10 great seasons in Orange & Black. When we ranked our field of 64 for the top Philly athletes of the past 30 years, Howe was our 1-seed for the Flyers.

Here's what Rev had to say then:

Smooth. Unflappable. Steady. Smart. When I think of Mark Howe these are adjectives that come to mind. Best defenseman in Flyers history also comes to mind. Unlike other defensemen who excelled offensively, Howe was incredibly responsible in his own end. He emerged from the shadow of his father Gordie to carve out a remarkable career. He arrived in Philadelphia in 1982 thanks to a trade which sent Ken Linseman, Greg Adams, and a first and third round pick in the ’83 draft to Hartford. He paid immediate dividends, putting up 67 points (20 goals, 47 assists) his first season in the orange and black. He was a three-time All Star and three-time Norris Trophy (best defenseman) finalist. His 1985-86 season was one of the greatest single seasons ever put together by a defenseman, as he played in 77 games, scoring 24 goals and notching 58 assists for 82 total points. He was the NHL plus/minus leader that year, posting a ridiculous +85. His Herculean efforts were recognized as he was a Hart Trophy (NHL MVP) finalist.  He helped lead the Flyers to two Stanley Cup Finals (1985 and 1987), and won the Barry Ashbee award as the Flyers best defenseman three times. He ended his Flyers career as the all-time leader in points by a defenseman with 480 (138g, 342a) in 594 games. He was, without question, the greatest blueliner in Flyers history.

While it's not official yet, it might be a good idea to look into those March 6th tickets if you want to see the rare sight of a number being raised to the rafters in Philadelphia.

Villanova stays put at No. 2 for the 3rd straight week

Villanova stays put at No. 2 for the 3rd straight week

Villanova stayed put in the national rankings this week.

The defending champion Wildcats remained the No. 2 overall team in the Associated Press top-25 poll behind 24-0 Gonzaga. The Bulldogs received 59 first-place votes while Villanova received five votes. Kansas, which came in at No. 3, received the other No. 1 vote.

Villanova stayed where they were in the rankings after holding their own with two comfortable road wins, in large part thanks to sophomore point guard Jalen Brunson. Brunson was the big man on campus this week, beginning with a team-high 18 points in a 75-62 win at DePaul on Monday. He followed it up with his first career double-double as he put together a 22-point, 10-assist effort in a blowout win over Seton Hall in Newark on Saturday.

The win over the Pirates meant the Wildcats clinched a share of the Big East regular-season title for the fourth straight year. One win in their last three regular season games or one loss each by Butler and Creighton would hand Villanova sole possession of the Big East crown. 

Therefore, it's only fitting that the Wildcats' next two games are against none other than Butler and Creighton. Butler handed Villanova its first loss of the season back on Jan. 4 at Hinkle Fieldhouse, but the No. 22 Bulldogs now have to travel to Philadelphia for the rematch on Wednesday. The No. 23 Blue Jays then head to the Pavillion for a Saturday afternoon duel. The Wildcats beat Creighton, 80-70, on New Year's Eve in Omaha, Neb. 

At this point last season, Villanova had four losses (two in conference) and had just a one-game lead in the conference. This year, they have much more room for comfort, albeit with a tough week with two ranked opponents ahead of them. 

Behind the top three, which remained static this week, the Pac 12 had three teams ranked 4-6 – Arizona, UCLA and Oregon – in the poll this week. The ACC had six teams in the top 25, including No. 7 Louisville, No. 8 North Carolina and No. 10 Duke. Baylor, which lost to Kansas on Saturday, fell from No. 4 to No. 9. 

Sixers were right to reject Pelicans' reported Jahlil Okafor trade offer

Sixers were right to reject Pelicans' reported Jahlil Okafor trade offer

If the reports are accurate, Bryan Colangelo probably made the right decision not trading Jahlil Okafor last week.

After the Pelicans acquired DeMarcus Cousins early Monday morning in a shocking, post-All-Star Game blockbuster, ESPN's Ramona Shelburne reported several interesting pieces of information regarding the Sixers.

"The Pelicans were very close on a deal for Jahlil Okafor about 10 days ago, offering a similar package except it didn't include [Buddy] Hield," Shelburne wrote

A few hours earlier, she reported on ESPN that the deal for Okafor would have netted the Sixers Tyreke Evans, a protected first-round pick and a future second-round pick from New Orleans.

The protection the Pelicans sought was heavy — they wanted top-20 protection, according to Shelburne.

That just isn't a meaningful enough return, even for a player without a role in Philly.

Why? 

• Evans is a free agent after the season who has had three knee surgeries in the last two years and can't shoot threes. 

• A second-round pick is just a sweetener, so moving on from that ...

• A top-20 protected first-round pick isn't that enticing at all. Of the players selected between 20 and 30 in the last draft, only Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Toronto's Pascal Siakam and San Antonio's Dejounte Murray even have roles. 

In the previous year's draft, the best picks between 20-30 were Bobby Portis and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. 

The year before, Rodney Hood and Clint Capela panned out for their teams, but the eight others selected in that range have done little.

This sort of trade might have worked for the Sixers if they weren't already accumulating some roster depth. They don't need to go search for another late-first-round pick they can hopefully turn into the eighth or ninth guy in a rotation. With players developing like T.J. McConnell, Robert Covington, Richaun Holmes and Nik Stauskas, the Sixers are already building a decent second unit for the future.

There are a lot of people in this city ready to give Okafor away, but doing so just makes no sense for the Sixers. All it would solve is the center logjam and awkwardness, but the value in that New Orleans proposal just wasn't there for the Sixers. 

At this point, it's looking extremely unlikely Okafor is traded before the Feb. 23 deadline. The Blazers were interested but acquired Jusuf Nurkic from Denver instead. The Pelicans were interested but landed Cousins. 

The only team left we've heard connected to Okafor is the Bulls, who don't have much of intrigue to send the Sixers' way.

But still, hanging on to Okafor and trading him after the season, or on draft night, could yield the Sixers a better return than New Orleans was offering. Forget about Evans and forget about the second-round pick — that offer was basically a pick in the 20-30 range for Okafor. 

Not enough. 

The Sixers held out in hopes of New Orleans' making the pick top-10 protected or lottery-protected instead, but Pels GM Dell Demps knew the Sixers didn't have much leverage and thought to himself, "If I'm trading away a potentially valuable draft pick, I want a better player in return."

And so he got Cousins. That's how we ended up where we are today.

The Sixers' future is brighter because their pick swap with the Kings now holds more value, so last night was a win for them even though Okafor remains on the roster.