Goalie Watch 2011: On Short-Term Solutions and the Flyers 'Targeting Tim Thomas'

Goalie Watch 2011: On Short-Term Solutions and the Flyers 'Targeting Tim Thomas'

The 2011 Flyers Goalie Watch continues, this time with an interesting item posted at ESPN.com over the Memorial Day weekend featuring a name that will be painfully familiar to all Flyers fans—Tim Thomas.

Veteran hockey scribe Jay Greenberg pens this story, parts of which are somewhat subtly presented while others are notably more direct. The article is immediately declarative in stating the Flyers' interest in Thomas, with its pointed title reading, "Philadelphia targets Tim Thomas."

No question mark at the end. No "likely to," "may," or "should."

Without giving too much away about what's behind the pay wall of this ESPN Insider story, much of the discussion on the Flyers' interest in Thomas is viewable without the subscription, and it boils down to: They want him, because if Boston again makes him available, he'd be a good fit with the timing of the Flyers' plans.

The article mentions the well-discussed Thomas-for-Jeff Carter trade proposed last year, which the Flyers reportedly declined. There was a different perception of Tim Thomas then though, and I admit, even if Carter had not been the Bruins' target at that time, I was hoping the Flyers wouldn't wind up pinning their hopes (and salary cap space) on Thomas. Whether or not he would have been the difference in 2010-2011, I was wrong about Thomas, who provided a good lesson that a goalie's performance in any given season will not definitively tell you what to expect in the next. The Bruins themselves were willing to deal a goalie that would ultimately earn a 2.00 regular season GAA and take them at least to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Would they be willing to again this summer? If so, would they trade him to the Eastern Conference power franchise they've faced in consecutive postseasons?

That part is obviously unknown at this point, but Greenberg's stated reasoning on the Flyers' current interest in Thomas makes sense given what the organization has already publicly said since their ouster early last month. Although the team is likely looking to add another goalie, they don't want to bring in a long-term guy. According to Ed Snider in previous interviews, the team thinks Sergei Bobrovsky is the long-term answer in goal. GM Paul Holmgren had previously said that he believes Bobrovsky "will be the number 1 goalie" but isn't sure when, very much leaving open that it could still be next season. Given the confidence in Bob but uncertainty as to his developmental timing, combined with Snider's insistence that there won't be another goalie carousel next season, a veteran goalie who is not necessarily looking for a long-term deal would presumably be a good fit.

Thomas, 37, has two years remaining on his existing contract.

Greenberg's article additionally discusses a few other goaltending options, the salary cap issues that must be overcome to add a big piece, and other well-traveled Flyers Goalie Watch roads. There are a few interesting items that I'm leaving out because I don't want to provide everything that appears in his article, as well as information that was viewed beyond a pay wall.

But what's also of interest to me is what isn't there. There are no statements regarding the source of the information. Not Holmgren or another Flyers source (no surprise given that, ya know, Thomas is still playing), or even a softly placed "Sources close to the team" or "NHL sources say." And yet, it doesn't read as though Greenberg is just throwing a popular name out there and attaching it to the Flyers, which is often the case this time of year as we've discussed in previous posts. Upon first read, due to the firmness of its few statements as to the Flyers thinking, it leaves the impression he does have some kind of source.

Who that source is, we don't know, but Greenberg is no stranger to the organization. He has been a hockey writer for more than three decades, including 14 years covering the Flyers for the Daily News and the Bulletin from 1975-1989, after which he was on staff at the New York Post. In 2000, Greenberg published a book on the history of the Flyers called Full Spectrum, and he's recently contributed to CSNPhilly.com.

Perhaps that's just the craft of the experienced writer convincingly building a stable narrative on a speculative topic. But in articles like these in which major outlets discuss a team's intentions, a source is often named or alluded to. In this case, I don't think the lack of a mention means there is a lack of a source, and that's what grabbed my attention as much as the subject being Tim Thomas.

We won't know for sure whether the Flyers will try to trade for Thomas or at least kick the tires with Boston again until the postseason ends and the player movement window opens, and perhaps we won't even know after that. The article doesn't state that Thomas is the only option the Flyers are targeting, nor even the first; several other possible options are mentioned. But the prevailing notion I tend to agree with in the report isn't so much the team's interest in Thomas, but their interest in a short-term but stable answer. It's been on my mind since first hearing the comments of the GM and the Chairman on Bobrovsky. If Bob is believed to be the goalie of the future, why sign an expensive free agent to a long-term deal? Gambling on a goaltender's future performance is scary enough.

Meanwhile, I could also imagine Ed Snider saying the same thing most of us were as the Flyers got swept out of the second round by the Bruins… What's it going to take to get THAT guy in our net?

We'll hold off on delving into whether or not a deal for Thomas is the right fit for the Flyers until we hear more, and possibly until the information comes from a named source. The evaluation of any such deal would heavily involve what the team had to give up both to pry Thomas loose and free up any needed cap space. The "Insert Thomas" part has its obvious advantages.

For now, we're just adding another name to the 2011 Flyers Goalie Watch, but also taking a look at the Flyers' possible short-term line of thinking when it comes to the acquisitions market.

Photo: Greg M. Cooper-US Presswire

Despite blowout loss, Sixers see potential in Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor playing together

Despite blowout loss, Sixers see potential in Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor playing together

BOX SCORE

Brett Brown was ready to do it Wednesday night. The matchup against the Kings presented an opportunity to experiment with playing Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor together. That pairing had to wait two days, though, after the Kings game was postponed

On Friday, Embiid and Okafor shared the court for just under 13 minutes in the Sixers' 105-88 loss to the Magic (see Instant Replay), who also rolled out a duo of bigs in Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic. 

“I thought we had our moments,” Embiid said. “We shared the ball, we made shots. Obviously we need to play more together and learn how to play with each other.”

Embiid and Okafor first played together for 5:29 in the second quarter. They scored all of the Sixers' 12 points during that time, including a pair of threes by Embiid. They also combined for five boards. The Sixers outscored the Magic, 12-9, with the bigs in together.

The benefits of the floor spacing was apparent. Oftentimes in the game, Okafor could be seen open at the basket with a hand up for the ball while Embiid was also getting looks from long range. 

“I liked our spacing, I liked the high-low stuff we were doing,” Brown said. “I think when you post Joel, that Jahlil is going to play sort of hide-and-seek on the other side of the floor, and work that low zone, and become — I hope — a potent offensive rebounder. When you post Jahlil, Joel has the ability to space to three.”

Brown turned to Embiid and Okafor again in the fourth. At that point, the Magic had a 23-point lead. Their next 7:25 together was a chance to give them a long run in live game action. They combined for another 12 points and four rebounds. All of their buckets were layups, dunks or free throws. Both teams scored 19 points with Embiid and Okafor in that segment.

Both Embiid and Okafor finished the game with double-doubles: 25 points, 10 rebounds and four assists for Embiid; 16 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks for Okafor. 

“I thought they played well together,” Vucevic said. “I thought it was tough to guard them because they’re both really good offensively.”

Okafor credited his friendship with Embiid, which dates back to high school, as a key to coexisting well on the court. Both emphasized their off-the-court relationship would help them in a game situation. 

“I think the communication piece went really well,” Okafor said. “He was talking to me, I was talking to him.”

Scoring and communication always seemed to be the easier parts of the pairing to tackle. Defense, though, was the challenge given that one of the centers would have to guard the four spot. Okafor noted their transition D as an area that needs improvement.

“We’re both used to going right to the rim,” Okafor said. “I think I had a couple easy buckets. That’s something we’ll be able to fix.” 

Brown had based his decision of when to play Embiid and Okafor together on the matchups. While the two could boast their own edge on the offensive end, Brown didn’t want to play them in a scenario in which they’d be at a huge defensive disadvantage. 

“It’s not offense to me, it’s defense. That’s the thing that is most challenging,” Brown said. “We want to play fast. We want to put points on the board. You don’t want to play in the 80s. You don’t want to do that, that’s not our sport anymore. So you want to make sure that you're capable of guarding the opposition.”

Vucevic noticed the challenge from an opposing perspective. He understands the necessary changes since playing alongside Biyombo.  

“It takes time for them to get adjusted, especially for the guy that will be playing the four defensively,” Vucevic said. “They’re not used to that because they always back down to the paint guarding the fives. It’s a different look. They have to work on it, communicate, and I think they’ll be fine.” 

On a night with few highlights in a 17-point blowout loss, Brown was able to take away a positive from this anticipated duo.

"I thought Jahlil and Joel did a really good job," he said. 

Sixers Notes: Joel Embiid unhappy with effort; Robert Covington hurt

Sixers Notes: Joel Embiid unhappy with effort; Robert Covington hurt

Joel Embiid didn’t see four quarters of basketball from the Sixers in their 105-88 loss to the Magic Friday night (see Instant Replay). Their efforts were inconsistent as they fell flat in long stretches and allowed the Magic to build up double-digit leads as high as 29 points.

The Sixers gave up a 16-0 run in the first and shot just 6 for 26 (23.1 percent) in the quarter. The Magic, who had lost a one-point game to the Grizzlies in Memphis the night before, rallied together to seize this opportunity.

“They just made a lot of shots that we didn’t,” Embiid said. “That’s the game, but we didn’t play hard all 48 minutes and we need to do a better job next time.”

The Sixers didn’t break 30 points until 4:33 to go in the second and attempted just two free throws in the first half. By the end of the third, the Magic had a 21-point lead which they held on to with in ease in the fourth. 

The Magic outshot the Sixers on all areas of the floor: 47.4 percent to 37.9 from the field and 50.0 to 28.1 from three. While the teams had nearly equal percentages from the line, the Magic shot 18 for 26 compared to only 7 for 10 from the Sixers. 

“They missed a lot of shots,” Magic forward Jeff Green said. “We got stops, were aggressive, guys just played hard and created for one another and played as a team.”

Covington injured
The Sixers are waiting to learn more news on the extent of Robert Covington’s injury. In the fourth quarter, Covington exited and did not return after suffering a left knee sprain when he collided with T.J. McConnell chasing a loose ball in front of the Sixers’ bench. If the starting small forward has to miss time, Sixers head coach Brett Brown is thinking ahead to possible lineup changes. 

“We'll try to figure out what his next week represents,” Brown said. “If we aren't with him, maybe there's a chance we can look at Dario [Saric] a little bit at the three.”

Covington is averaging 8.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.9 steals in 27.5 minutes per game. Saric has been coming off the bench at power forward behind Ersan Ilyasova. He started 10 games earlier this season at the four spot. 

Embiid honored
The Sixers honored Embiid during a timeout for being named NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month (October and November). Embiid was appreciative of the award and has his sights set on the bigger picture this season.

“All the hard work I’ve put in, it feels great,” Embiid said earlier in the day at shootaround. “Obviously, maybe the bigger picture is Rookie of the Year, that’s what matters. … I don’t have my mind set on that. But if I can get it, that would be nice.”

Brown sees this recent showing as just a glimpse into what Embiid will be able to do over his career. Embiid leads the Sixers with 18.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks. 

“This in infant stages, early days for him,” Brown said. “His body of work, given his lack of playing basketball, really is jaw-dropping for what I think he can be. To jump in and get rookie of the month I think is a real, sort of, quick snapshot view of him now. I think what he’s going to be is going to be extremely special.”

Embiid also is shooting 51.4 percent from three, including 3 for 5 against the Magic. When asked if he would like to participate in the three-point contest All-Star weekend, he said "it would be nice" and noted he would have to work on the speed of his release.