Flyers Are Special When It Comes to Developing Defensemen

Flyers Are Special When It Comes to Developing Defensemen

There is plenty of blame to go around this offseason for the Flyers missing the playoffs, but for much of the year defense was their biggest pitfall. The back end was prone to turnovers and complete meltdowns that often led to rushes the other way, a situation no goaltender could possibly thrive.

The thing is, the front office tried to address the problem. The Flyers traded for Chris Pronger in 2009, but his career was cut short by post-concussion syndrome, leaving the club in a bind. They tried to sign Ryan Suter last summer, and gave Shea Weber a huge offer sheet in attempt to steal him away from Nashville. No luck.

Both efforts exposed the Flyers’ real problem though: they haven’t been developing any blueliners on their own. Tim Panaccio wrote at length about the organization’s crippling problem, but the crux of the issue is so powerful in its simplicity.

The Flyers are the only NHL club without a single active defenseman that they drafted since the decade began playing regular minutes for them – not someone else.

Think about that. Thirteen Flyers drafts. Not one every-day player on the Flyers' blue line to show for it.

I would rather not think about that, thank you very much.

Panotch points to the front office’s reluctance to draft defensemen, instead taking the “best player available” approach. He further finds the lack of focus placed on building up the back end from in-house is an approach that dates back to the 1980s. As such, you find very few examples in recent history that the team drafted and developed into a top player.

Honestly, you have to go back to 1990 to find a defenseman drafted and developed by the Flyers who lasted here a significant amount of time and established himself on a No. 1 pairing.

That one player would be Chris Therien, who lasted a decade.

Since Therien was taken with the 47th pick (in the third round), the Flyers have drafted 198 players, including supplemental picks.

Of those 198 players, only three remain as surviving defensemen playing somewhere in the NHL:

It’s a fascinating albeit long read that makes you wonder why there is so little value or at least emphasis placed on the position.

The good news is the Flyers have some promising, young D-men who contributed this year and helped stabilize the back end toward the finish. Erik Gustafsson and Oliver Lauridsen earned more than lip-service opportunities to make the team next season through their performances, outplaying several veterans in the process – at least from this vantage point. Lauridsen was drafted by the team in 2009, while the team signed Gus as a free agent out of Northern Michigan University in 2010.

It’s too early to say whether either player will pan out though, much less become a top blueliner. Perhaps the Flyers should change up their strategy a bit with the 11th pick in the draft this summer.

>> Why haven’t the Flyers drafted and kept top defensemen? [CSN]

Sixers fail to take care of business against Denver Nuggets

Sixers fail to take care of business against Denver Nuggets

It really felt like we could've gotten this one. The Denver Nuggets are hardly pushovers, but they came into this one a 7-13 team that'd lost their last three games, and even last night they seemed fairly beatable, even for a Philadelphia 76ers team still missing Robert Covington (in additional to our usual mini-roster of absentees). But Philly's energy sagged in the third quarter as Denver caught a second wind, and they spent the final frame hitting shots that the Sixers couldn't answer. Final score: Nuggets 106, 76ers 98. 

The most sobering part of the loss was that Joel Embiid finally played what would best be described as "a bad game." Not that bad, of course — even at his worst, Joel still managed 16 points and notched career-high five blocks. But he only shot 5-15 from the field, turned ball over three times, grabbed just four boards and played a large part in the sinkhole offense that the Sixers played in the late third and early fourth that ultimately cost them this one. JoJo still has trouble reading double teams and knowing when not to attack into traffic, and his frustration was extremely evident as he kept trying to do too much and paying the price for it. 

Nonetheless, even with an off Embiid night and a still-slumping Sauce — officially down to Left in the Car Overnight temperature after a night of 4 points on 1-7 shooting in 35 minutes — Philly probably still coulda gotten this one. Sergio Rodriguez appears to have swiped Nik's swag at least temporarily, with a season-high 17 points on 7-14 shooting to go with seven dimes and three steals, while Dario Saric and Ersan Ilyasova also poured in 17 and 8 each, and the Nuggets wings were largely kept quiet for two and a half quarters. But even while struggling, the Nuggets paraded their way to free-throw line — 34 FTAs for the night, including 12 for Danilo Gallinari alone — and once they caught fire late, the Sixers just couldn't keep up. 

A bummer for a team that's now lost seven in a row, and has to face the Grizzlies tonight in Memphis — their fourth game in five nights, and the first of a three-game road trip — without Embiid and also without Jahlil Okafor, out with illness. Even with the Grizz missing their own big names (no Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons, Zach Randolph or Vince Carter lately) and likely suffering from fatigue of their own after a double-OT road win last night in New Orleans, the 4-17 Sixers are gonna have a tough go matching Memphis' grit and grind tonight. Anytime you feel like Supermanning in and saving the day now would be cool, Nerlens Noel. Just sayin'.

Sixers name Elton Brand as Player Development Consultant

Sixers name Elton Brand as Player Development Consultant

Elton Brand is back with the Sixers, albeit not on the court.

The Sixers agreed with the former NBA forward to name Brand Player Development Consultant. In a press release, the team said Brand will be working with Sixers players in 'every facet of their on- and off-court development' while also working in the front office.

“We are extremely excited to bring Elton Brand back into the organization where he will be a valuable resource to our young and developing team," Bryan Colangelo said in the release. "Elton’s leadership and character displayed throughout his playing career as a player align perfectly with our vision, direction and culture of this basketball team, coaching staff and management group."

Brand retired during training camp after 17 NBA seasons, including five with the Sixers over two stints. The 6-foot-8 forward came out of retirement last season to provide a veteran presence for the Sixers and eventually played in 17 games when the team was snakebitten by injuries. 

He will now continue to be an influence on the Sixers' young core thanks to his new role with the basketball operations department.