Time for Schenn to Shine?

Time for Schenn to Shine?

Last spring,
there were few bright spots in the Flyers' playoff appearance. They
bounced a hated bunch of Buffalo Sabres in the first round, but at no
point during the regular season's stretch run nor their two rounds of
postseason play did they resemble a team that could win the Stanley Cup.
The "run" will forever be remembered for the club's inability to settle
on a goaltender, a problem they immediately sought to remedy in the
off-season to follow. 

The one true positive we could take from the playoff
experience was the elevated play of James van Riemsdyk. JVR was at
times the best player on the ice, and nearly always the best Flyer. He
was dominant with the puck, using his size to shield off defenders while
also showing great stick skills, scoring seven goals in 11 games. The
tallies came when it really counted too, with a goal in each of the last
three games of the Buffalo series, followed by three goals over the
first two in the Boston matchup, when the team was in shambles around
him. 

After the Flyers were bounced and Paul Holmgren
overhauled the roster, the hope was that JVR's progress would continue
in his third NHL season. For a variety of reasons, most notably
injuries, it did not. But a number of players have stepped up their
games, including veterans like Scott Hartnell, Max Talbot, and Wayne
Simmonds (still just 23, but technically a vet) while Claude Giroux
brought his to the Hart Trophy level. For the Flyers to enjoy any
success this regular season and in the playoffs though, their deep cast
of rookies will need to be major contributors. 

Surprising rookie Matt Read is a big part of the
Flyers' scoring depth and will be called on to continue lighting the
lamp, while first-round pick Sean Couturier will be charged with slowing
the league's hottest attack. Along with Eric Wellwood, a handful of
rookies are critical to the Flyers' chances for eliminating the Penguins
and could prove to be breakout performers in the playoffs, but for the
purposes of this post, let's take a look at why Brayden Schenn should
continue his rise when the bright lights are on, emerging as a
difference-maker like JVR did last year.

Pedigree and Stepping Into PotentialMike
Richards is one of the league's best two-way forwards, gritty, and the
club's former captain, so the price for his services was going to be
high. Schenn was seen as an elite NHL prospect when the Flyers acquired
him along with Simmonds, and we've lately begun to see why. He picked up
a huge goal against the Pens in the season finale before the game went
to the zoo, and he played some of his best hockey of the season. Harry Z
may have been the name added to the lineup when Giroux was scratched,
but Schenn took it on himself to be the force that replaced G. 

Not just a scorer, Schenn's shown no reluctance in
mixing it up. You may have seen a clip or two about him nonchalantly
crosschecking Sidney Crosby to the ice
in the penultimate Flyers-Pens
game of the season series.

Briere's BackAlthough he had a down
season production-wise and has had to battle injuries up to and
including the final week of the season, Danny Briere is a primetime
playoff performer. He makes those around him excel too, as we saw when
he centered the previously quiet Ville Leino and the previously slumping
Scott Hartnell two springs ago. They went on to be among the most
productive lines in Flyers postseason history. Now flanking Danny? A
versatile power forward having a career year and a fifth overall pick. 

Hopefully Danny is healthy after taking a jarring hit from Pittsburgh's Joe Vitale. He is expected to be ready for game 1.

Wayne TrainSimmonds
has been crashing crease parties like a boss, resulting in some tip ins
and garbage goals for #17 (not to mention one off his FACE), but also
some screened efforts from others. He's also been tireless in pursuit of
pucks along the boards. Both could result in some good opportunities
for Schenn, as well as Briere.

Shadow of the G UnitThe Penguins will be
trying to get their best defenders on the ice when Giroux, Hartnell, and
Jaromir Jagr take their shifts. That should provide a slightly better
set of matchup circumstances for Briere's line. Every skater will be
feeling the pressure of postseason hockey and the energy of a packed
building, but there could be an advantage to not being the guy
everyone's expecting to carry the team.

In all, the Flyers appear ready to dress six
rookies: Schenn, Read, Couturier, Wellwood, Zac Rinaldo, and defenseman
Marc-Andre Bourdon. Reliance on rookies isn't often cited as a means
toward a successful Stanley Cup run, and the Flyers are certainly
counting on young players not to wilt in a playoff battle against the
team believed by many to be the favorites to win it all. 

Will these rookies have enough to hold off a veteran
group that includes some of the league's elite, players who know what
it takes to win for two spring months? 
Who do you think is the most likely Flyer to have a breakout performance in the postseason?

Hopefully this isn't one long jinx for Schenner...


US Presswire photos

Awwwwe: Chooch leaves his Phillies teammates a love note on clubhouse white board

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Awwwwe: Chooch leaves his Phillies teammates a love note on clubhouse white board

As if you didn't think you could love Carlos Ruiz any more...

Chooch was traded on Thursday afternoon and he's since departed for the potentially playoff-bound pastures with his new-again teammate Chase Utley and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

But not before he left his Phillies teammates a loving note in the clubhouse.

Courtesy of Phillies beat reporter Jim Salisbury.

It reads:

"I will miss all of you guys. Good luck the rest of the season. Love you all, Chooch! (Gracias)"

Awwwwwwwwe.

NHL Notes: Brandon Pirri, Rangers agree to terms on one-year deal

NHL Notes: Brandon Pirri, Rangers agree to terms on one-year deal

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers have agreed to terms with forward Brandon Pirri on a $1.1 million, one-year deal.

The 25-year-old Pirri spent last season with the Florida Panthers and Anaheim Ducks, recording 14 goals and 15 assists in 61 games. His 29 points were a career high.

A second-round pick, 59th overall, in the 2009 draft, Pirri has been traded twice and was considered a potential bargain in NHL free agency. Pirri is something of a shootout specialist, scoring on five of his six attempts last season, and that 83.3 percent success rate ranked first among players with at least five attempts.

In 166 NHL games with the Chicago Blackhawks, Panthers and Ducks, Pirri has 49 goals and 31 assists for 90 points.

Enroth replaces injured Lerner for Sweden at World Cup
NEW YORK -- With goaltender Robin Lehner still not fully healthy, Sweden replaced him on its World Cup of Hockey roster with Jhonas Enroth.

The Buffalo Sabres' starting goalie was bothered by a right ankle injury for much of last season that limited him to 21 NHL games. Lehner underwent surgery in March and had been working to get ready for the World Cup, which begins Sept. 17 in Toronto.

"We really wanted to give Robin the opportunity to recover from his injury from last year, but unfortunately it wasn't enough time for him to feel 100 percent recovered," coach Rikard Gronborg said in a statement released by the Swedish Ice Hockey Association.

Concussion problems held Lehner to 23 games in 2014-15, and he looked to be over those after the Ottawa Senators traded him to Buffalo at the 2015 draft. The 25-year-old injured his ankle early in the season opener and aggravated it in March.

It was not immediately clear when the Sabres expect Lehner to be back to 100 percent.

"As Robin continues to progress during the offseason in his rehab from last season's ankle injury, he felt that it was best to withdraw from Team Sweden for the upcoming World Cup," Buffalo general manager Tim Murray said in a statement. "Robin felt it was important to continue his rehab in Buffalo to prepare for training camp. He has been working out both on and off the ice and we look forward to seeing him on the ice with our team next month."

Enroth, who spent last season with the Los Angeles Kings, recently signed a one-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He joins Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers and Jacob Markstrom of the Vancouver Canucks as the goalies on Sweden's roster.

The 28-year-old has a 2.80 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 147 career NHL games. Enroth was on the Swedish team that earned a silver medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, though he never appeared in a game. He started for Sweden at the 2013 and 2015 world hockey championships, winning gold in 2013 with a 1.15 GAA and .956 save percentage (see full story).

Is Eagles' Carson Wentz the 'holy grail' of modern NFL QB prospects?

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Is Eagles' Carson Wentz the 'holy grail' of modern NFL QB prospects?

The NFL is constantly evolving, but pro offenses, their very design, and the types of athletes who can run those offenses are changing, rapidly beyond recognition.

That is precisely one of the reasons behind the Eagles' bold decision to trade three years worth of draft picks in April for the opportunity to get Carson Wentz out of North Dakota State. Because Wentz didn't represent merely another quarterback prospect coming out of college — some feel as though this 23-year-old kid might be the future of the position in the NFL.

Don't take my word for it. Take that of Brad Childress, former Eagles offensive coordinator who eventually wound up following long-time head coach Andy Reid to Kansas City. It's there where Childress was tasked with a unique role: "spread game analyst."

For more on that, what the spread offense is and how its prevalence in the college game is altering the landscape of the NFL, you'll have to read Kevin Clark's piece over at The Ringer. Trust us, it's worth it. Long-time Eagles executive Joe Banner hails the piece as, "One of the best, smartest, most correct articles I have read in a long time," and it's hard to argue. Chances are you'll learn something.

But for our purposes, the aspect of the piece we'll focus on is how the growth of the spread offense is tied to the selection of Wentz. NFL coaches like Childress or front-office types such as Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman see in Wentz a rare hybrid of the the spread and pro-style quarterback, which as it turns out, may be ideally suited to succeed in a league that increasingly uses both types of offense.

Childress, meanwhile, believes the current holy grail is the prospect who ran spread plays at the college level that can be easily imported to the pro level. He mentioned Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, who at North Dakota State played in a multiple-style offense that incorporated spread concepts. Childress was impressed that Wentz played under center sometimes and in the shotgun at other times, and that regardless of the formation, he was adept at making various throws. He said some of the sweep plays Wentz ran were particularly impressive, and that he wants to incorporate what he saw into the Chiefs’ game plan.

Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman, who took Wentz second overall in the draft, called his college system “a pro-style concept that hints at where the sport is going.” Roseman, like Spielman, said that changes in the college game have forced him to alter how he evaluates passers: Because the college game is so different from the NFL game, Roseman is forced to put less emphasis on tape and more emphasis on test scores and smarts.

It's an extremely interesting perspective. It also jives with another line of thinking many believe led the Eagles to jump all over Wentz: There may not be another college signal-caller with this type of makeup to come around for a long time, as more and more programs go to entirely spread-based systems.

Yes, concepts of the spread have made their way to the NFL, and they're likely there to stay. However, whether it will become an offense that's fully embraced around the league is a bit trickier, which is why it's probably best to have somebody who can do it all. That partially explains why Wentz became so attractive to the Eagles.

It's also not at all surprising that Childress, Reid, Roseman and current Eagles coach Doug Pederson would all share similar mindsets on the direction the NFL is headed. There are too many ties here for it to be purely a coincidence, and Clark's piece about the spread offense would seem to shed some light on some of the back story about how Wentz became an Eagle.