Re-signing Brayden Schenn shouldn't be the Flyers first offseason priority, but it should be near the top of the list

Re-signing Brayden Schenn shouldn't be the Flyers first offseason priority, but it should be near the top of the list

The Philadelphia Flyers’ first-round playoff loss to the eventual Eastern Conference champion New York Rangers proved that the Orange and Black need significant upgrades at certain positions – most notably speed and puck movement along the blue line and a true finisher to play alongside Claude Giroux – in order to truly reach the upper echelon of the NHL.

But new general manager Ron Hextall came out a few weeks ago and said re-signing restricted free agent Brayden Schenn, the team’s second-line center for most of last season, is the Flyers’ top offseason priority.

Should it be THE top offseason priority?

Probably not.

A top offseason priority? Sure. But not THE top offseason priority.

That distinction belongs to trying to improve and start a youth movement on the blue line, as it has been for years now. It will be interesting to see how that plays out this summer with a new general manager who has played a hand in rebuilding a defensive corps for a team that’s still playing right now. But that’s another story for another day.

Back to the topic at hand, the younger Schenn.

Schenn, as you may recall, was originally considered the crown jewel of the package the Los Angeles Kings sent back to the Flyers in return for Mike Richards prior to the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

That accolade instead belongs to Wayne Simmonds, who has burst into NHL stardom with 72 goals in his first three seasons in orange and black and has endeared himself to Flyers fans with his spirited and physical style of play.

That’s not to say Schenn has been a bad player during his tenure so far in Philadelphia. He’s been quite a good one with 40 goals – including his first 20-goal campaign this past season - and 45 assists for 85 points in three seasons as a Flyer.

But Schenn has been inconsistent at times, gone stretches without goals and can disappear on defense at times as he’s a combined minus-15 over the last three seasons. In fact, his usual line of him centering Simmonds and Vinny Lecavalier finished last season minus-20 combined.

Fair expectations or not, one can assume that Flyers fans and management expected more than they’ve gotten so far out of the guy the team’s captain – and arguably most popular player at the time – was traded for.

Add those facts in with the glut of centers the Flyers currently have on the roster and prized center prospect Scott Laughton ready to challenge for spot with the big club come training camp in the fall, and the question of what to do with Schenn, who is no doubt a valuable trade piece if that option crossed Hextall’s mind, is a somewhat legitimate one.

But he should be re-signed unless Hextall is blown away by an offer that will help the Flyers in the long-term, specifically along the blue line. There’s no way the Flyers should just let him walk to another team’s offer sheet. (Remember, the Flyers would have the right to match any offer Schenn agrees to with another team because he is a restricted free agent.)

The main reason is that Schenn, who will be 23-years-old when the new season starts in October, is an incredibly skilled player with a boatload of potential that has yet to be tapped.

There’s a reason he was the fifth-overall pick in a 2009 draft that included first-rounders such as the New York Islanders’ John Tavares, Colorado’s Matt Duchene, Phoenix’s Oliver Ekman-Larsson and the Rangers’ Chris Kreider.

Schenn hasn’t even scratched the surface of what he can be at the NHL level. Part of that is because of the way he has had to jump around lines and positions during his short NHL career. He’s played on all four lines and on the wing despite the fact he’s a natural center. But it’s the NHL and things like that happen.

Another part of the questions surrounding Schenn could do with the market he plays in.

Philadelphia, at its very core, is hockey-crazed. When a player with the popularity and caliber of Richards is traded and a guy as highly touted as Schenn comes in, superior results are wanted almost immediately. It may not be fair, but it comes with the territory.

A lot of the time, superior results don’t come immediately, especially from a young player.

Young players have to find their respective games.

Schenn just finished his third season – his second full season, one of which was lockout-abbreviated – as a Flyer, is still in his early 20s and is finally getting a chance to play his natural position alongside other talented players on a consistent basis. It takes time.

Sure, more may have been expected sooner, but the Flyers would be foolish to give up on such a high level of young talent. They’ve done that before with disastrous results during previous general manager regimes. (See: Williams, Justin and Sharp, Patrick)

Hextall knows what holding on to young talent can do for franchise. Take a look at what the Kings team he helped build and develop has accomplished not only this season, but over the past few seasons. Sure, additions from the outside were made to push them over the top, but that happens with every successful team. Their core was developed from within.

And, whether you agree or not, Schenn is a major building block as Hextall tries to develop the Flyers in his image from within.

Eagles' rookies get their first taste of what Dallas week entails

Eagles' rookies get their first taste of what Dallas week entails

At the conclusion of his weekly Wednesday radio show on 94WIP, Eagles defensive tackle Bennie Logan was asked about the Dallas Cowboys and the rivalry game on tap this weekend.

First, he said he and his teammates don’t need any extra motivation for this one. But before he got off his mic — in a few seconds that didn’t make it on the air — Logan eloquently dropped a “F--- Dallas.”

Logan gets it.

No, maybe the Eagles-Cowboys rivalry isn’t what it once was. Maybe the days of Seth Joyner refusing to think about signing with the Cowboys because he just couldn’t wear a star on the side of his helmet have passed. But there’s still some bad blood. It’s still a rivalry. And fans in the Delaware Valley still care about two things: winning football games and beating Dallas.

Logan has been with the Eagles since 2013, so he understands. For Carson Wentz and his fellow rookies, this will be their first crack at it.

“I know how much this means to the city, how much it means to these fans,” Wentz said. “There’s a lot of excitement going on just with Eagles football, but definitely this week. I recognize that.

“But at the same time, I don’t let that bother me or let it distract me from the main goal and that’s just preparing every day. Because I know if I get sidetracked by any of those things, it’s going to mess up the preparation and it’ll affect the game on Sunday.”

Head coach Doug Pederson emphasized the importance of “business as usual,” but admitted this rivalry isn’t just usual. He’s been a part of it as a player in 1999 and as a coach under Andy Reid.

He took the correct coach approach on Wednesday, saying the Cowboys game is important because it’s a division game. And it’s even more important because the Eagles lost their first division game a couple weeks ago in Washington.

“It is a little bit different, but our guys have just got to come ready to play, and it's a road game,” Pederson said.

While this is Jalen Mills’ first time being a part of the rivalry as a player, he was raised near Dallas in DeSoto, Texas, and grew up with it as a part of his life. The most important games of the year, he remembered, were Cowboys-Eagles and Washington on Thanksgiving.

Mills said the rivalry was a “pretty big deal” in his house as a youngster. Now, he finds it pretty cool that he gets to be a part of it.

“Oh man, no doubt,” Mills said. “It’s an experience that I can’t wait to experience, but it’s going to be exciting.”

The defensive back said, without hesitation, the biggest rivalry he’s ever been a part of before was LSU-Alabama. The most important thing he learned from those games is that execution is key. It’s OK to buy into the hype during the week, but he realized it was counterproductive to change anything about preparation.

“You can’t get caught up in it,” Mills said. “Of course you’re going to hear about it, like right now before the game. But once that clock starts, it’s all about just playing sound football.”

Like Mills, Halapoulivaati Vaitai grew up in the Dallas area (Haltom City) and has been around the rivalry his whole life. In fact, both rookies have previously played games at AT&T Stadium. Sunday will be the first time Vaitai’s parents get a chance to see an NFL game. Eagles-Cowboys is a pretty good start.

And it’s not just Eagles rookies who are getting ready to experience the rivalry for the first time. Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott will live it for the first time on Sunday too.

How much does he know about the rivalry?

“A little bit, man,” he said on a conference call with Philly reporters this week. “I grew up a Cowboys fan. I can’t tell you certain games or things like that from the past. But I’ve always known it to be a good game anytime they meet up and a good rivalry in the division.”

Nah, not exactly Logan-like responses from these guys. But give them time. They’re rookies.

Gunn's Bullet Points: Flags could fly in secondary for Eagles-Cowboys

Gunn's Bullet Points: Flags could fly in secondary for Eagles-Cowboys

Some notes and keys ahead of Sunday night's Eagles-Cowboys game:

• Since throwing for 301 yards against Pittsburgh in Week 3, Carson Wentz's aerial numbers have declined — 238 yards in Detroit, 179 in Washington and 138 vs. Minnesota.

• Even though he missed two games with an injury, I still can't understand how Zach Ertz has been targeted only 16 times in four games this season.

• Dallas WR Cole Beasley is arguably the best slot receiver in the game right now. Last November against the Eagles, he had nine receptions for 112 yards and two touchdowns. With the Eagles' best slot cornerback, Ron Brooks, out for the year with a ruptured quad tendon, Malcolm Jenkins will have his hands full trying to keep up with Beasley in the slot.

• Eagles and Cowboys defensive backs beware: Jerome Boger's crew is officiating this game. This season, Boger's crew has called 36 penalties for defensive pass interference, illegal contact or defensive holding.

• The Eagles' 20 sacks ties them for third-most in the league. Dallas has allowed just nine, second-fewest in the NFL.

• Does Doug Pederson still have faith in RB Ryan Mathews late in games? Mathews has fumbled with less than five minutes left in two of the last three games. The head coach says he has not lost faith in Mathews, and Mathews says he'll stop fighting for more yards late in games. Time will tell.