Flyers’ secondary scorers need to step up

Flyers’ secondary scorers need to step up

Jake Voracek: zero goals. Sean Couturier: zero goals. Matt Read: zero goals. Scott Hartnell: zero goals (and injured). Claude Giroux: zero goals. Greg Paone: zero goals. Enrico Campitelli Jr: zero goals. Nick Menta: zero goals.

Ok, so the last three people on that list write for this website and do not play for the Flyers so that should get the point across that the Orange and Black’s offense has struggled immensely so far during the young NHL season.

Through the new campaign’s first eight games, the Flyers have netted just 11 goals, which ties them with Thursday’s opponent, the New York Rangers, for the lowest total in the league.

It should come as no surprise that the Flyers’ record stands at 1-7 and they have a league-worst two points.

It’s pretty safe to say that Philadelphia’s offense needs some type of spark to finally get going. And that spark needs to come from the team’s secondary scorers. Pronto.

You’re probably thinking, “No one is scoring. How can anyone be a secondary scorer?”

Touché. But I’m referring to the guys that were considered secondary scorers heading into the season. I’m talking about the Reads, Couturiers, Brayden Schenns and Wayne Simmonds of the world.

These guys have to get their respective offensive games going to not only get the team some goals, but to relieve some of the immense pressure off the Flyers’ supposed-to-be premier scorers Giroux and whoever plays alongside him, which, heading into Thursday’s visit from the Rangers, looks to now be Vincent Lecavalier and rookie Michael Raffl, and Voracek.

Even though he hasn’t really showed it much through eight games and may or may not still be feeling the effects of offseason hand surgery, Giroux is an elite NHL player. Voracek also hasn’t played like he’s capable of and may still be dealing with a back injury. They will still have to go up against the opponent’s top defensemen throughout the majority of a game. That’s not great news for guys that have been struggling out of the gate.

Take tonight's Rangers game for example. Even though they sit at minus-7 and minus-8 respectively because of New York’s similarly slow start, Dan Girardi and/or Marc Staal will likely be on the ice most of the time against Giroux and Voracek. Ryan McDonagh, who isn’t having as bad a start as his fellow New York defensemen, will also likely see time against Giroux and Voracek. Those Rangers blue-liners are still capable of playing like top-level shutdown defensemen despite their slow starts to the season.

The fact is Giroux and Voracek are going to get a ton of attention even if they are struggling. That’s where the secondary scorers have to step up, especially with those guys struggling.

Schenn has two goals but one was a gift into wide-open net after Florida goalie Tim Thomas misplayed a bounce off the boards on a dump in. Simmonds scored his first goal of the season last week against the Penguins but he’s fanned and whiffed on a season’s worth of passes and shots through eight games. Read has come close with a few posts hit but still hasn’t found paydirt. And Couturier really hasn’t done anything noticeable thus far.

Let’s face it. Through eight games, Tye McGinn leads the Flyers with three goals. McGinn has played in just three of those eight games. Good for McGinn but… Oof, Flyers. Oof.

With the Flyers’ top guys not playing the way they’re capable of, it’s time for these secondary scorers to get going and give the team the offensive punch and spark it so desperately needs.  They are going to get their chances as teams continue to focus on Giroux and Voracek.

Schenn, Simmonds, Read and Couturier have all shown in the past that they’re capable of putting the puck in the net somewhat consistently and have shown they can get on hot streaks. Now is the time for one or two or all of them to do so and spark the Flyers’ sleepy offense. The talent is there to do so.

Maybe a visit from the almost-equally lousy Rangers is just what the doctor ordered.

This was a guest post by Greg Paone

If you hate the Nerlens Noel trade, you value him more than Sixers do

If you hate the Nerlens Noel trade, you value him more than Sixers do

I'll make the Nerlens Noel trade simple for you.

The Sixers don't think he's worth the money he'll be offered after the season.

He's a restricted free agent, and the Sixers don't anticipate matching the offer he'll receive, so they got what they could instead of letting him walk and getting nothing.

"I've often said I wouldn't make a bad deal," Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said Friday, "but yesterday I made the best deal that was available to us."

If you're fixated on the "bad deal" part of the quote -- and judging from the reaction in our newsroom and on Twitter and on our site, plenty of you should be -- then you have a higher opinion of Noel than the Sixers do. 

And that's the point of contention. 

Maybe Nerlens turns out to be Dennis Rodman 2.0. 

If that's the case, Bryan Colangelo will be ripped like Larry Brown has been for choosing Larry Hughes over Paul Pierce (it will never end). The move will be grouped with Moses Malone for Jeff Ruland and Cliff Robinson, and the No. 1 pick (Brad Dougherty) for Roy Hinson. 

(Sixers fans would have broken Twitter had it existed in 1986. If your Sixer fandom survived those trades, then this one barely should elicit a shrug.)  

But Noel also may just be the next Samuel Dalembert.

It will take some time to answer that question, but critics of this trade are also asking about the timing of the deal.

Why not trade Noel earlier? If they weren't sold on him, they could have dealt him last year when free agency wasn't on the horizon and they had more leverage. 

Remember, circumstances were different at the end of last season. Joel Embiid had yet to play. Noel and Jahlil Okafor were their insurance policies -- and Okafor was recovering from a knee injury too. 

"We were plugging in Nerlens Noel as our starting center at that point," Colangelo said. "There was no other way around because the unknowns related to both Joel and Jahlil."

Plus, when Colangelo arrived last April, there were only two games left in the regular season.

"When I was brought in, he was already basically an RFA," Colangelo said. 

Then why not wait until after this season and possibly retain Noel at a decent price? Colangelo didn't want to take the chance.

"Him being a restricted free agent certainly affected how people approached that type of player," he said. "It was more or less the case with every conversation I had that that concern about what that contract might look like in the future was certainly a factor in people's apprehension to move forward."

Perhaps the biggest conclusion to draw from the deal is this: The fact that the Sixers traded Noel -- and were clearly also willing to trade Okafor -- is a sign of their confidence in Embiid's potential, and more importantly, his durability.

"That Joel has emerged as a transformational type of player, it certainly made the decision to possibly move Nerlens that much easier," Colangelo said.

The Sixers clearly are confident that Embiid will not be the next Greg Oden and will recover to be the player who -- as a rookie -- is averaging nearly a point a minute. 

Risky? Certainly. Crazy? We'll find out. 

That said, the Sixers are also asking you to remember Richaun Holmes, who, as Colangelo put it was "in the shadows last year as an emerging backup."

And he's still emerging. Holmes has shown promise on both ends of the floor and is more polished and versatile offensively than Noel. Let's see what the kid can do. Maybe he'll find a home backing up Saric at the four and Embiid at the five.

Speaking of backups, the Sixers clearly weren't satisfied with the offers for Okafor, who unlike Noel isn't facing free agency. So they held onto him. Good move; he's too young to give away. 

Now it's up to the coaching staff to convince Okafor that the best way to earn a starting spot anywhere is to play defense and actually hustle after a rebound or two. 

The coaching staff's other priority is Justin Anderson, the key piece in the Noel deal. Anderson gives the Sixers another solid wing defender to go with Robert Covington. But -- like Covington this season -- he's struggled from three. Anderson recently has shown signs of being the player worthy of the 21st pick in 2015. Brown and company must help him rediscover his shot and become the next Jae Crowder

But back to the beginning. Regardless of your opinion of Noel, remember this: The keystones of this team are Embiid and Ben Simmons. If they recover from their respective injuries and live up to expectations, then this team should -- with its wealth of assets and cap room -- be in position to complete "The Process". 

If not, then there's probably nothing Nerlens Noel could have done about it anyway.

Process behind Sixers’ Nerlens Noel trade as bad as deal itself

Process behind Sixers’ Nerlens Noel trade as bad as deal itself

As recently as December, Bryan Colangelo insisted the Sixers would not trade one of their centers just for the sake of clearing up the logjam in the club’s frontcourt. “I will not make a bad deal for this organization,” the general manager said.

What changed in the past two months?

On Thursday, Colangelo sent Nerlens Noel to the Dallas Mavericks for a conditional first-round draft choice that in all likelihood will become a pair of second-round picks; Justin Anderson, a second-year prospect with nowhere near Noel’s upside; and Andrew Bogut, who may never even wear a Sixers uniform (perhaps the best case scenario, in all honesty). This is an objectively bad deal for the Sixers!

Sure, there are numerous explanations for the disappointing return on Noel. The NBA is well aware the Sixers have too many centers, so Colangelo was bargaining from a position of weakness. The Sacramento Kings didn’t do the Sixers any favors, either, by woefully short-changing themselves in the DeMarcus Cousins swap. And Noel will be a restricted free agent come July, creating the kind of uncertainty that tends to hurt value.

Yet none of those excuses justifies Colangelo’s decision, and the reason is very simple. There was absolutely nothing compelling the Sixers to make this move right now.

If Noel wasn’t gone at the trade deadline, then what? They risked losing him in free agency and winding up with nothing in return.

First, to that argument, the return the Sixers did get on Noel feels like nothing. Even a top-18 protected pick isn’t much of an asset to the franchise at this point, while two seconds are essentially meaningless. Bogut is, too, for that matter. Anderson is not without some promise, although his ceiling probably isn’t as high as Noel’s floor.

Nothing the Sixers accomplished here is going to help the team win a championship.

Of course, the fear that Noel would walk away and leave the Sixers with empty pockets is built on something of a faulty premise to begin with. That was only one potential outcome.

One possibility was also to make an actual attempt to re-sign Noel long-term. Another possibility was matching an offer sheet if those efforts ultimately failed. Another outcome still was a tepid market forcing him to accept the Sixers’ one-year qualifying offer.

By doing literally any of those things, the Sixers could have traded Noel at a later date. Even if Colangelo already determined the 22-year-old was not going to be part of the future, he could have waited to see if a better offer would materialize at a later date.

Any number of components would have changed over time. The Sixers could’ve dumped Jhalil Okafor, creating room in their frontcourt and restoring the organization’s bargaining power in the process. The market would’ve had a chance to reset after the disastrous Cousins trade made moving bigs for any semblance of value next to impossible. By merely holding on to Noel, the Sixers could’ve created the perception they just may want to keep him around, allowing the front office to raise the asking price.

An injury to a key player could've driven up Noel's value for a desperate team. His own development might've made him a more attractive piece around the league. Who knows, maybe Colangelo would've come to appreciate Noel's role with the Sixers in the meantime — just saying.

Would there be risks involved with that approach?

Not any greater than the risk of getting fleeced.

There’s little doubt that if Noel went on to sign an offer sheet in July and the Sixers didn’t match, the organization would be facing backlash as a result of that turn of events as well. While it’s a little difficult to accept that could’ve transpired, we can’t pretend the scenario didn’t exist.

Regardless, trading Noel for this package feels like a give-up move on the part of Colangelo. It seems like exactly the thing he promised he wouldn’t do, which was move one of the Sixers’ centers purely because they have too many.

To make matters worse, the timing of all of this suggests Colangelo allowed the trade deadline and Noel’s status as an impending restricted free agent to dictate his decision-making, which is a sin far greater than simply making a bad deal.

That’s the sign of a bad process.