LeBrun Links Flyers to Bobby Ryan on Eve of Draft

LeBrun Links Flyers to Bobby Ryan on Eve of Draft

Philadelphia Flyers fans have clamored for the acquisition of Cherry Hill's Bobby Ryan since oh I don't know, his conception? Thursday afternoon, on the eve of the NHL Entry Draft, ESPN's Pierre LeBrun reported that the Flyers are themselves interested in Ryan. It's not the first time we've heard it, but it's worth considering even if it's somewhat unlikely. 
Of course, the Flyers are linked to a handful of big-name players at every major player movement date, and Ryan is just one of a few mentioned in connection to Philadelphia this off-season. Most attention to date has been focused on a pair of defensemen from Nashville, a certain Mr. Nash out of Columbus, and Zach Parise. Each of those four players also have stories attached as to why they are unlikely at best to dress in Orange & Black next season. 
But what about Ryan? 
Nash is expensive, both in terms of his huge cap hit/contract duration and what Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson will likely require to deal him. Parise will be the most sought after forward in the free agent market by a large margin, and there's been a report that he's unlikely to choose a Devils rival. Will the difficult in acquiring one of those two drive up the Ryan market? If so, what would he cost?
The challenge that comes with having high-ceiling young players like Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier on your roster this time of year is that any trade partner is going to start negotiations by naming one of them. In this case, LeBrun has a source saying any deal for Ryan would need to center around Schenn going the other way. 
Coming to Philadelphia along with Wayne Simmonds in exchange for future Stanley Cup Champion Mike Richards, Schenn is a player the Flyers would and should be intensely reluctant to deal. He came over complete with the billing of the best prospect not currently in the NHL, and the Flyers have him locked up for at least the next two seasons, during which he could develop out of potential stud mode into total-stud-right-now mode. 
Ryan's no slouch either, topping 30 goals in his four full seasons (the first being only 64 games). The second overall pick in 2005 checks in at 6'2, 200+, with a cap hit just north of $5M through 2014-2015. 
It's no secret that the Flyers would likely prefer to trade James van Riemsdyk, whose name has fueled most trade rumors lately. But, how likely is it that the Ducks are interested in swapping their big winger from Jersey for another one who has lower production and more injury questions? 
Although the speculation winds seem to be at JVR's back, it's not exactly the ideal time to trade him. Coming off an injury-shortened season and sitting in rehab vs. surgery limbo, it's hard to imagine the Flyers getting full value for the former 2nd overall pick. Just last year, JVR was deemed worthy of a sizable extension. This off-season, perhaps this weekend, the Flyers need to decide whether he's still worth that deal, or they need to convince someone else he is.
In short, if there's any meat on this rumor bone, it would take more cargo being loaded onto the flight to California than JVR. The Flyers' 20th overall is a start, but it'd likely require another rostered player such as a mid-pairing defenseman and/or one of the young forwards not named Schenn or Couturier. Can they afford to give up that kind of defenseman, particularly with Matt Carle ready to test free agency? 
In all of the discussion focusing on Nash, Parise, and Ryan, there is the reality that scoring was not the Flyers' biggest issue, not by a long shot. But with no easy answers on the blue line and the goaltending situation locked in place, it appears Paul Holmgren is in pursuit of another lamp-lighter. If Jaromir Jagr leaves and/or JVR is traded, there will be some opportunities for other forwards to get more minutes. But, also the opportunity for the GM to fill the void with a more proven acquisition. 
There's good reason to assume LeBrun is right that the Flyers are interested in Ryan. The hard part is figuring out a deal that would land him without hobbling the current roster. 
This all might be too deep a look into a simple "Rumblings" report, but with temperatures in the 90s, why not chat some hockey? After last year's draft dealings, nothing can be easily dismissed.
Check out LeBrun's piece for more Flyers discussion points, including St. Louis' interest in Carle and why money won't be the factor that determines whether Jagr is back in Philly next season. 
Stay tuned as things could get interesting ahead of tonight's draft in Pittsburgh… 

Flyers-Islanders 5 things: Still trying to clean up mistakes after bye week

Flyers-Islanders 5 things: Still trying to clean up mistakes after bye week

Flyers (22-19-6) at Islanders (19-17-8)
6 p.m. – CSN/CSNPhilly.com and streaming live on the NBCSports app; Pregame Live begins at 5:30.
 
The struggling Flyers head north Sunday night to battle the Metropolitan Division rival Islanders at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
 
Let’s take a closer look at Sunday’s matchup.
 
1. New week, same Flyers
Those hoping the Flyers would be a refreshed, recharged team after the bye week met a harsh reality Saturday night.
 
The Flyers were blown out of the Wells Fargo Center in a 4-1 loss to the Devils that saw the same things continue to haunt the home team — defensive breakdowns and a lack of offense, among other things.
 
It’s no secret this season is quickly slipping away from the Flyers. They’ve lost their hold on the last wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference to the upstart Maple Leafs and the Hurricanes, Panthers and Devils are breathing right down the Flyers’ backs. To pile on the good news, every other team in the East is within four points of the Flyers, including the last-place Isles, who have 46 points compared to the Flyers’ 50 points.
 
Needless to say, the margin for error is all but gone.
 
This has been said many times recently, but the emphasis still hasn’t waned — if the Flyers want to save this season, it has to start with the next game.
 
2. What’s the mindset?
Michal Neuvirth, who was pulled before the third period of Saturday’s game for “precautionary reasons,” had a striking quote after the loss to the Devils.
 
“When you lose so many games, you lose confidence,” he told reporters.
 
He’s not kidding, and further proof of that came in the loss to the Devils, when the game was tied 1-1. In the second period, Radko Gudas was whistled for a clipping penalty and, boy, was it an awful call. It was nothing more than a hard hip check, aka a solid hockey play. Gudas got the two-minute minor and then Wayne Simmonds received an extra two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct for protesting the call, giving Jersey a full two-man advantage.
 
Predictably, the Devils scored to take the lead. Also predictably, the Flyers unraveled after that point.
 
It just seems lately that when something goes wrong for the Flyers, it all goes wrong for the Flyers. And that’s a troubling trend.

3. Changes in Brooklyn
Superstar John Tavares is still there, but beside that, plenty has changed since the Flyers and Islanders last met, a 3-2 Flyers shootout win in November at the Barclays Center.
 
No more Jack Capuano behind the Isles’ bench, as he was recently canned amidst his team’s struggles. Assistant general manager Doug Weight, whom you may remember from his not so distant playing days, is the interim head coach for the Isles.
 
Remember goalie Jaroslav Halak, who started the two teams’ first meeting? It’s no longer his net in Brooklyn, as he’s had a falling out with the club, lost the starting job to Thomas Greiss and was recently put on waivers.
 
And the Isles have responded positively to the changes, as they’ve won three in a row heading into Sunday night’s contest. The last-place moniker is misleading because the Isles are still just five points out of the final wild-card spot and still have tons of talent.
 
4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: Let’s go with Travis Konecny. Let’s just say the Flyers are in need of an energy jolt these days and the rook has just the type of skillset to provide it. He scored his team’s only goal Saturday against the Devils and isn’t afraid to throw his body around if need be. He also scored against the Isles earlier this season. He’s now up to eight goals and 14 assists on the season.
 
Islanders: It has got to be John Tavares. The guy is an absolute star, but still could fit into the “underrated” or “under the radar” categories just because he plays for the Isles. I mean, check out this goal he scored earlier this year against St. Louis. Holy moly. While you’re at it, get a glimpse of this one he scored against Dallas last week. He’s got 19 goals and 17 assists on the year. In his career against the Flyers, he’s got 15 goals and 13 assists for 28 points, the third-most points he’s tallied against any team in the NHL.
 
5. This and that
• In a scheduling quirk, Sunday evening will mark the fourth straight time the Flyers and Islanders will play in Brooklyn. They haven’t met in Philadelphia in over a full calendar year — Jan. 9, 2016, a 4-0 Flyers win

• Sunday is the second of four meetings between the teams this season. They’ll also play Feb. 9 and March 30, both times in South Philly.

• Greiss will start in net for the Isles on Sunday. He’s recorded shutouts in his last two starts. For the season, he's 12-7-2 with a .927 save percentage and a 2.29 goals-against average.

• Reinforcements could be on the way Sunday for the Islanders, as forward Cal Clutterbuck (lower-body) and defenseman Johnny Boychuk (upper-body) could be ready to return to the lineup after injuries.

• Sunday’s game will be the second of a back-to-back set for both teams. The Flyers are 6-3-2 this year in such situations.

• The Flyers’ ugly road losing streak is up to nine games. A loss Sunday would make it a not-so-perfect 10.

With T.J. McConnell, Hawks say Sixers have 'identity' worth respecting

With T.J. McConnell, Hawks say Sixers have 'identity' worth respecting

ATLANTA – The final score was a little lopsided and the game was sloppy at times, but after beating Philadelphia, 110-93, Saturday night, the Hawks said they see promise in the rising young Sixers.

The Sixers didn’t have the legs on the tail end of back-to-back games to keep up with another hot team, and Joel Embiid did not play, as Atlanta (26-18) won for the 11th time in 13 games to move within a half game of Boston for the No. 3 spot in the East.

Yet if not for the Sixers' 21 turnovers and a second quarter where Atlanta seemed to make every shot, the Sixers (15-27) looked enough like the team that had won eight of 10 games before arriving in Philips Arena that the Hawks see differences.

The biggest change in the Sixers between Saturday and the first two meetings of the season between these two teams — one played with Embiid and one without — is T.J. McConnell starting at point guard rather than Sergio Rodriguez.

McConnell had a game-high 11 assists against the Hawks in addition to his eight points, and the Sixers had 27 assists on a night where they hit 12 of 29 three-pointers.

“They have an identity,” said Atlanta forward Kent Bazemore, who scored 16. “McConnell is playing really well, putting pressure on the defense and their floor spacing is very good. Very disciplined group.

“Guys are in the right spots, if a guy drives, they have a plethora of options: a guy in the corner, a guy on the jumper, a guy on the wing. They kept us honest for a chunk of the game.”

Ersan Ilyasova scored 21 points on 15 shots and Robert Covington added 15 points and 10 rebounds, but the Sixers were gassed in the second quarter, as the Hawks hit 16 of 23 shots in a 37-point period.

Atlanta stretched a 62-54 halftime lead to 18 points late in the third quarter, but the Sixers cut the deficit to 94-87 with 6:46 left in the game on a pair of free throws by rookie Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot.

The Sixers whipped the Hawks, 20-11, in fast break points.

“They were getting some threes in transition,” said Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer, who was on the Spurs' staff for years with Sixers head coach Brett Brown. “Right now, they’re pushing the pace.

“T.J. McConnell does a great job of getting outlets, getting up the court and finding shooters quickly and they’re letting it fly. Covington and Ilyasova and those guys are collapsing us early and shooting early threes.”

The Sixers had problems on the boards in Atlanta, where Dwight Howard grabbed 15 and Paul Millsap added 10 as the Hawks built a 48-38 rebounding edge. Those numbers were every bit as important as Millsap’s 21 points and the 13 added by Howard.

That disparity on the boards and the Sixers' collective loose handle did in the visitors. Atlanta scored 17 points off the Sixers’ 21 turnovers.

Embiid was scheduled to rest Saturday anyway. It’s unclear whether he’ll play Tuesday against the Clippers, who will be without guard Chris Paul and forward Blake Griffin, or Wednesday at Milwaukee.

Embiid suffered a knee contusion in Friday night’s 93-92 win over the Trail Blazers and Brown said he’d be further evaluated Sunday.

Get him back in the mix, and The Sixers have a shot at starting another winning streak.

“We did a good shot of holding them to one shot,” Howard said after the Hawks outscored the Sixers, 14-0, in second-chance points. “They play really hard. They play aggressive. They play good team basketball. They share the ball and find the open man. They have a good group of young guys.

“It wasn’t as easy as people expect out of Philly teams. You have to respect them.”