Are 2013-14 Flyers pulling in too many different directions?

Are 2013-14 Flyers pulling in too many different directions?

A new season is dawning for the Flyers, and with any new season comes hope. The road to the Stanley Cup Playoffs is a long one, and there surely will be bumps along the way, but if the Orange & Black can return to the postseason, anything can happen in the NHL.

Are the Flyers a playoff team? I think so. They are healthier than they were heading into last season, their young players have another year under their belts, and they only built on to the roster over the offseason—unless you’re of the belief Danny Briere’s and Ilya Bryzgalov’s modest contributions will be sorely missed.

But are the Flyers a Cup contender? Sure. Anything. Can. Happen. GM Paul Holmgren could swing a monumental trade at the deadline that alters the landscape of the Eastern Conference. Either Ray Emery or Steve Mason could theoretically get hot in net at the right time. Brayden Schenn and/or Sean Couturier could elevate their game to superstar levels. We just don’t know.

But as the Flyers stand today, on Day 1 of the NHL season, do they look like a Cup contender? I’d have to venture a no. To me, they look like a team that’s stuck in between too many opposing philosophies at work.

In June of 2011, Holmgren sent Mike Richards and Jeff Carter packing only one year removed from a Finals appearance. The deals signaled a youth movement that for all intents and purposes is still ongoing. Jakub Voracek (24) and Wayne Simmonds (25) are just now starting to establish themselves as core contributors for this franchise, while we wait patiently for B. Schenn (22) and Couturier (20) to join them.

To complete the picture, Claude Giroux (25) was named captain prior to the 2013 campaign. At that point, Flyers management could have decided to sink or swim with these kids—a pair of whom might be a year or two away from truly blossoming yet (and several others in their minor league system)—watching players grow and picking up more draft picks.

Clearly that was not the direction the organization decided to go in based on their offseason. The Flyers’ additions of Vincent Lecavalier (33) and Mark Streit (35) look like win-now moves, which flies in the face of the very concept of a youth movement. They bring tremendous veteran leadership and one can only hope a couple quality seasons left in the tank. They would be tremendous players to have for a Cup run.

But if that’s not where the rest of this team is at, the moves are perplexing and perhaps demonstrate some confusion over what the next step was supposed to be. By the time everything comes together, Lecavalier and Streit could be another year or three older and further in decline, perhaps even detriments to the Flyers’ progress. They’re here now though, and likely give the club some polish as a playoff contender, but a championship?

That vision doesn’t even align with the situation the front office has created in goal, where the Flyers once again own a timeshare. It’s not a question of whether they were justified in moving on from Bryzgalov—they were—or if a tandem of Emery and Mason is a decent stopgap for one season—it is. But can either man carry an NHL team through the trials of the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

Again, my best guess is no. Emery’s comeback has been amazing, and he posted incredible numbers in Chicago last season, but while facing fewer shots against per start than any entire club in the league on average—it won’t be that easy in Orange & Black. Mason has looked good since his arrival, but it was only seven games. History suggests he’ll come back down to earth.

The Flyers are stuck in a holding pattern at goaltender, either until 2012 second-round pick Anthony Stolarz is ready (and he’s probably a ways off) or somebody else becomes available. Either way, that person is not in Philadelphia right now. Veterans are. And so are a bunch of players that are still developing.

It’s an odd mix to say the least. If the front office goal was to put a legitimate championship contender on the ice this season, I’m not sure they achieved that, or could have for that matter. They tried anyway, and now I’m not sure what they have.

If nothing else, the journey should be fun to watch. Giroux wants to get back in the conversation with the Ovechkins and Stamkos and Crosbys and Malkins. The young core is exciting, and I do want to see what Lecavalier and Streit do to give the Flyers a makeover. I’m just not certain all of the pieces fit.

But then I guess we won’t know until they fall away.

Joel Embiid is the Joel Embiid of trash talking

Joel Embiid is the Joel Embiid of trash talking

Joel Embiid was back in the gym on Wednesday afternoon after enjoying his All-Star break down in New Orleans and appears like he's ready to get back out on the court this weekend.

“I hope that they’re going let me play,” Embiid said after practice on Wednesday. “I feel great. I want to play. If it was my decision, I’d be playing.”

The team doctor's aren't so sure. Joel is currently listed as doubtful for both of the Sixers games this weekend.

But that didn't stop JoJo from talking some smack with one of his favorite teammates, Dario Saric, while battling in a little one-on-one after practice.

Embiid was seen by reporters using some colorful language directed in Saric's direction, screaming "you can't ****-ing guard me!" while the two went at it.

The chatter didn't stop there. Embiid was later asked about the one-on-one and unleashed a little more on Dario.

"He don't like playing me," Embiid said. "He never wins and he doesn't handle me talking trash to him. I would love to play against him all the time because that gives me a lot of confidence beating him every day."

"It's fun playing against him. We both like to compete."

"That's my guy," he added.

And Sixers fans love them both. Let's just hope to see more of them teaming up in actual games soon.

Sixers look forward to results of Ben Simmons' CT scan Thursday

Sixers look forward to results of Ben Simmons' CT scan Thursday

CAMDEN, N.J. — Thursday is significant for the Sixers beyond the trade deadline. It is also the day of Ben Simmons' CT scan to evaluate how his right foot is healing.

"I feel like tomorrow at some point we're all going to be able to lay out a more genuine plan for him," Brett Brown said Wednesday. "I feel like we're going to be good to go with some greater news and a more advanced detail of his plans after this scan."

Once all parties involved assess the results, the team will provide an update, which may not be Thursday. Simmons has been sidelined all season after suffering a Jones fracture during the final scrimmage of training camp. 

On Wednesday, he went through his individual workout plan, which included five-on-none scripting with teammates.

"He's still getting a feel for all of us," Nerlens Noel said. "He's learning to throw it up to me, bounce pass to whoever. It's learning certain tendencies that'll make you start to feel more a part of the team."

The Sixers have not placed a timetable on Simmons' return. The first overall pick has not been cleared for full contact five-on-five practice, the next step in his recovery. Prior to the All-Star break, Brown said he expects Simmons will play at some point this season. He stands by that projection with 26 games remaining. 

"I personally would like to see him play this season. I don't backpedal from that," Brown said. "I think my comments are really very much influenced by his reciprocal desire to play this year, which we all respect. Everybody's got clandestine conspiracy theories on why he might not want to play. I know in my heart and speaking to him, he wants to get on a court and play basketball again.

"I hope he can do that, too. If for some reason he can't, we'll deal with it. But I think it would help him to play NBA basketball and get his competitive juices going again if the doctors point us in that direction."

Simmons' teammates are ready to welcome him into the mix when he is given the green light. Their limited glimpses into his talent have them eager for his debut.

"Unlimited potential," Noel said. "I think with Ben, the thing that makes him so special is his IQ for the game, a sixth sense on the court. Him being able to find little things that not very many 6-10 guys can find. I think that's going to propel his game and make him a special player in this league." 

Added Joel Embiid: "I'm excited ... I thought he was our best player in training camp."