Does the Sharks Proposed Offer for van Riemsdyk Say Something Deeper about His Trade Value?

Does the Sharks Proposed Offer for van Riemsdyk Say Something Deeper about His Trade Value?

At what price, JVR?

That's the question Flyers fans have been wrestling with since James van Riemsdyk's name was first mentioned as part of a potential trade for Toronto defenseman Luke Schenn in late December.

CSNPhilly's Tim Panaccio describes the last two months for the 22-year-old as so: "So many times before, Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk had heard the trade rumors. Headed to Toronto for Luke Schenn. Part of the Rick Nash deal in Columbus. Maybe part of a larger deal that includes a goalie. You can’t be human, athlete or not, and not wonder whether the rumors have some truth behind them."

Some Flyers fans are comfortable with the idea of shipping Van Riemsdyk. Others are wary of giving up on the second-overall pick of 2007 draft so soon.

But regardless of your personal attachment, aren't you at least a little offended by the audacity of the San Jose Sharks?

Maybe it's my own fault for still holding on to the sting of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals, but I can't be the only one who was blown away by San Jose's reported trade offer of Van Riemsdyk for Antti Niemi prior to Monday's trade deadline.

Yeah, that Antti Niemi. The guy who backstopped the Chicago Blackhawks to a cup by being marginally better than Michael Leighton. That guy...for James van Riemsdyk.

On some level, that's insulting isn't it?

First, some concessions about Niemi's value absent from considerations specifically about Van Riemsdyk. Niemi's numbers are better than I would have expected. He recorded a 2.38 goals against average and .920 save percentage in 60 games last season. This year, he's allowing 2.51 per game and stopping 91.4 percent of what comes his way. Those numbers are, sad to say, much better than the 2011-2012 statistics of Ilya Bryzgalov and Sergei Bobrovsky.

So, on paper, the Flyers do have a "need" for a goalie with Niemi's numbers. But a closer look at the proposal reveals it as predictably flawed.

Regardless of how bad the Flyers' goalies have been, Niemi's numbers are good enough for just 20th in the league in goals against and 26th in save percentage (these numbers exclude goaltenders who have not played a required number of games to be relevant as determined by the NHL). Moreover,  a goalie's GAA isn't merely a indicator of his own performance. As a team, the Sharks allow the tenth-fewest goals in the league at 2.51 per game. Some of that is a product of the goaltending; some of it is not. For example, San Jose backup netminder Thomas Griess, a 26-year-old German whose playing just his second season in the NHL, had a 2.36 GAA and .914 save percentage in 17 games.

The key contention is that if Ilya Bryzgalov or Sergei Bobrovsky were Sharks, their numbers might be better, and that, likewise, if Niemi was a Flyer -- whose defense allowed guys to freely park in the slot -- his numbers might be worse.

Moreover, even if the Flyers were interested in acquiring Niemi, it couldn't possibly be as a starter. The team is tied to Ilya Bryzgalov for eight-and-a-half more years and a total of $51 million. Niemi, if he came, would be leaving his starting gig in San Jose to come to Philadelphia as a guy with playoff experience in case Bryzgalov can't get his act together. This is the long way of saying "he'd be coming here as a back-up."

So let's get this straight: Do the San Jose Sharks really believe James Van Riemsdyk's trade value is roughly equal (give or take anything else that might have been added to the deal) to that of a backup goaltender with (potentially) inflated numbers?

And really, the Sharks aren't "sellers" either. They're currently second in the Pacific Division and seventh in the Western Conference. Thus, the following questions appear relevant for the asking:

-- They might not be clear-cut cup contenders, but are the Sharks so confident in Griess that they would take him into the playoffs as a starter in a league where lower seeds routinely make deep postseason runs?

-- Similarly, is Niemi, in their estimation, that expendable?

-- If he is, doesn't that speak to a certain belief on their part that they can stick just anyone in goal and have him be okay?

-- And really, shouldn't a team whose goalies have been just atrocious over the last six games (Niemi and Griess have surrendered 28 goals during the stretch) be looking for a netminder rather than trying to trade its starter, especially if that starter is allegedly good enough to trade straight up for a 22-year-old, second-overall draft pick who remains one of the top young prospects in the league?

Yes, of course, the Sharks would make this trade, but why on Earth would the Flyers? This deal might not make sense for them at an even lesser price, so how could San Jose have possibly had the gall to even inquire about it as presented? Is JVR's trade value that low around the league?

All those questions beg another -- one about how the Flyers might themselves be discussing van Riemsdyk behind closed doors.

How about a breakout game against Sharks goaltender tonight, eh Reemer?

Sixers beat Pelicans without Joel Embiid leading the way

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Sixers beat Pelicans without Joel Embiid leading the way

BOX SCORE

NEW ORLEANS -- Joel Embiid shot just 5 for 15 from the field and the Sixers … wait … the Sixers won. 

Surprising? Actually, that’s just how the Sixers envision finding success.

It’s not about Embiid having a relatively quiet night on offense with 14 points, especially going 0 for 5 from three. It’s about other players getting involved and taking the burden off the rookie. Embiid has proved he can do a lot of things, but carrying a team each night in his first season isn’t what the Sixers have in mind. 

“I think that’s when we’re at our best,” Nik Stauskas said after the Sixers beat the Pelicans 99-88 (see Instant Replay). “Obviously there are a few guys in the NBA like a LeBron (James), KD (Kevin Durant) or Steph (Curry) that can single-handedly win a game throughout the entire season. But most of the teams are going to rely on bench players to step up and make shots and make plays. I think that’s when we’re most effective.”

Embiid entered Thursday night averaging 24.3 points and shooting 48.9 percent in Sixers wins (three games played). His 14 points against the Pelicans were his fewest in a victory this season. He also grabbed seven boards with four blocks and three steals as the team snapped an overall eight-game losing skid and an 23-game road losing streak. 

Instead of being powered offensively by their centerpiece, the Sixers received solid efforts from the starters and reserves. Ersan Ilyasova scored 23 points (along with eight rebounds) for the second straight game. Sergio Rodriguez chipped in 16 points and eight assists. Off the bench,  Stauskas hit three treys en route to 14 points while Dario Saric scored 10 points with five rebounds. 

Embiid’s teammates attribute their success to the fact he is such a focal point of the opponents’ defense. In comparison to the beginning of the season when Embiid was getting stifled by double-teams, he has been learning how to pass out of them. Embiid expects to see two defenders every game and has been making adjustments to create opportunities for others to shoot rather than committing turnovers. 

“We’re not standing around a lot and just focusing on what Jo can do,” Robert Covington said. “Jo is making great moves to find guys that are open. He’s willing to pass. We’re starting to build the chemistry that everyone’s been looking for.”

Ilyasova has noticed a change in the flow of the offense and has capitalized on defensive mismatches when opponents swarm Embiid. 

“We just share the ball well,” Ilyasova said. “I find myself open. Obviously Joel does a great job of as far as when there is a double-team, just kicking out. When I see the open look, I try to knock that shot down.” 

This style of play is mutually beneficial for both Embiid and his teammates. Just because Embiid is passing out doesn't mean he's not getting his looks. Oftentimes, dishing out of a double-team allows him to get a better look on the next touch. 

“It’s a team effort," Covington said. "We’re doing so much as a unit that we’re not just focusing on just get Jo the ball and let him do his thing. He’s getting the ball, he’s surveying the floor and then he’s making his moves. He’s reading the defense really well. He’s doing a lot of [kicking out]. Then we find him a lot of re-posts and finding the open shot and making it easy for him to find the easy bucket.” 

Embiid is capable of scoring 20-plus in spite of his 28-minute restriction. The Sixers are making strides, though, by finding ways to win when he isn’t the running up the scoreboard. 

“I think there’s no doubt Jo is our best player and our offense is going to revolve around him most of the time,” Stauskas said. “But we’re playing our best when he’s posting up and kicking out to guys and they’re hitting threes or we’re taking pressure off him by making plays and the defense can’t just be solely focused on him. In a game like tonight, that’s kind of what you saw.”

Connor McDavid: Brandon Manning made 'classless' comments about injury

Connor McDavid: Brandon Manning made 'classless' comments about injury

Connor McDavid scored his first power-play goal of the season in the second period during the Flyers' 6-5 win on Thursday night (see Instant Replay). After his 12th goal of the year, McDavid made a point to stare down and exchange words with Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning.

In the first period, Manning and McDavid were in the middle of a scrum after the whistle, chirping each other (see 10 observations). The battle between the two roots back to when Manning broke the rising superstar’s collarbone November 2015 during a play against the boards in Edmonton.

“You know what, I did all I could defending him last year in the media," McDavid said after Thursday's game. "I didn’t want to make a big deal saying he did it on purpose.

"He wanted to make some comments today about what went on last year and I thought it was one of the classless things I’ve ever seen on the ice. He said some things and our guys responded accordingly.

"We can put the whole 'he did it on purpose' thing to rest, because what he said out there confirmed that. It shows what kind of guy he is, how he doesn’t step up and fight some of our guys.”

Manning received death threats from Edmonton fans last season, and responded after the game Thursday, reiterating the play that injured McDavid was an accident.

"I think anybody who knows me or who has played with or against me along the road here," Manning said, "knows that I am not that kind of player. I am not out there intentionally trying to hurt people. I'm a guy who plays the game hard and I take pride in that.

"I think going back to last year, it was a total accident. I mean, there were three players involved and there was never any intention of hurting anyone."

The injury ended up costing McDavid a few months, and a year later, the tension is still high between him and Manning.

As the second period moved along, McDavid continued to make plays for the Oilers. At the 4:35 mark in the second period, he took the puck away from the Flyers and then helped set up Andrej Sekera for a shorthanded goal that tied the game, 3-3.

The shorthanded goal helped give the Oilers momentum at the end of the period, but they could not carry it over to the third. The loss Thursday is the second night in a row in which Edmonton lost a game it looked like it was going to win.

“I’m not too sure what it is but I think we will figure it out,” McDavid said. "I’m not too sure what it is, like I said before. Something we need to figure out real fast here.”