Will the Flyers Trade Sean Couturier or Brayden Schenn for a Defenseman?

Will the Flyers Trade Sean Couturier or Brayden Schenn for a Defenseman?

The NHL offseason sure is long when the Flyers don’t make the playoffs. It’s been more than seven weeks since the Orange & Black last skated, and we’ve still got roughly three to go until the draft or free agency arrives. Just imagine if there was no lockout and the regular season actually ended on time.

We’ll be taking closer looks at the Flyers’ options as those days approach, but according to at least one hockey insider, business might pick up sooner than that. TSN’s Bob McKenzie floated the idea on Sunday that general manager Paul Holmgren could be a busy man this summer as Pro Hockey Talk deftly summarized.

That the franchise will be looking to make some sort of splash during the offseason barely qualifies as news, as such is typically the case around here. Specifically McKenzie mentioned two potential moves to expect from Philly’s front office, one of which would be particularly bold – not like, say, buying out Ilya Bryzgalov’s contract as one of his suggestions entailed.

McKenzie is not alone in his thought process. The Bullies’ biggest problems for much of last season were on the back end, where the club was ravaged by injuries and hurt by suspect play by select veterans. Even with the emergence of a few quality young players – Luke Schenn, Erik Gustafsson, and Oliver Lauridsen – you would have a difficult time convincing another person this area is anything other than a glaring weakness. There really are only two questions left to ask.

First of all, is a true number one defenseman available? That is always the unknown as they can be among the most coveted players in the league, and not all of the names that have been tossed out there are definitively ones.

The big name at the moment is Phoenix’s Keith Yandle, who Holmgren reportedly tried to deal for last offseason up until the trade deadline. Broad Street Hockey takes a more in-depth look at the possibility of a Yandle deal, but a soon-to-be-27-year-old who’s been to two All-Star games and is signed through 2016 is going to be tough to pry away, even from (perhaps especially from) a franchise with ownership issues such as the Coyotes.

Which leads us right into question two: what would the Flyers have to package to land Yandle or another D-man of his caliber? Obviously the two biggest bargaining chips are Sean Couturier or Brayden Schenn, a pair of young talents who could develop into stars, and either is likely only going to start a conversation. What else will such a package entail?

It’s easier to judge the merits of any deal after it’s done, but hypothetically speaking would you be willing to give up Couturier or Schenn plus more for Keith Yandle or another top defenseman if you were the GM?

As I’ve written before, I am partial to riding out the current youth movement, thus giving guys like Lauridsen and Gustafsson opportunities to sink or swim, and L. Schenn a chance to be the workhorse, as long as it means holding on to talents like Couturier and B. Schenn. Then again, I can’t deny what a boost it would be for the Flyers to add a stabilizing piece to the defense, and Yandle's youth and contract situation make him an enticing add.

On the off chance Homer isn’t busy making moves this summer, he’ll be working plenty of hours merely weighing the seeming myriad of options in front of him.

Sixers burned by yet another point guard in loss to Celtics

Sixers burned by yet another point guard in loss to Celtics

The Sixers had been burned by point guards before. Many times, actually. 

Just a week ago, Kyrie Irving dropped 39 points in the Cavs' 112-108 win. Nineteen came in the decisive fourth quarter. 

On Saturday Isaiah Thomas did the same damage. The undersized All-Star tied his season-high with 37 points in the Celtics' comeback 107-106 victory (see instant replay).

“Isaiah’s an All-Star,” Jahlil Okafor said. “He showed us why tonight. He’s the head of their team and came up big for them like he usually does.” 

Thomas made his impact in spurts. During the Celtics' 9-0 second quarter run, he scored six of those points. In the fourth quarter, in which the game was decided, he dropped 12 straight Celtics points. Thomas finished the night 11 for 19 for the field and only 2 of 3 from three. 

The most telling stat was at the free throw line. Thomas shot 13 for 15 after attacking and drawing fouls, a point of emphasis by head coach Brad Stevens for the second half. 

Thomas scored 15 points in the first half. He noticed a change in the Sixers defense in the second and capitalized on it. The Celtics ability to stretch the floor with their three-point shooting bigs also created opportunities for Thomas to get to the rim. 

“In the second half they sat back a little bit and they were switching a lot,” Thomas explained, also noting, “We wanted to put Okafor in a pick-and-roll. He sits far back. I just wanted to attack him downhill. It’s hard for bigs to move those bigs legs they’ve got. So I just tried to stay in attack mode and I saw we were in the bonus.”

The Sixers have had problems defending the one spot all season. Isaiah Thomas is the fifth starting point guard to score 30 points or more against them. He joins Russell Westbrook (32), Jeff Teague (30 in overtime), James Harden (33) and Irving. Another five (Kemba Walker, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Mike Conley and Kyle Lowry) have scored 20 or more points. 

The oneness of these high-scoring point guards doesn’t fall solely on the Sixers backcourt, where Sergio Rodriguez has been assuming the starting role in place of the oft-injured Jerryd Bayless. These opponents have been doing their work inside the arc. Of the five who have scored 30, only two (Harden and Irving) attempted more than three treys. 

“We’re all working hard trying to stop them, but it’s easier said than done,” Okafor said. 

The next point guard the Sixers will face is Emmanuel Mudiay when they take on the Nuggets Monday. Last season Mudiay hit the game-winning, buzzer-beating three in Denver. 

Instant Replay: No. 7 Penn State 38, No. 6 Wisconsin 31

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Instant Replay: No. 7 Penn State 38, No. 6 Wisconsin 31

BOX SCORE

INDIANAPOLIS — Penn State got bullied a bit Saturday, but never gave up its lunch money. 

It spent the second half taking control of the schoolyard.

After getting pushed around for much of Saturday night’s first half, the Nittany Lions were anything but punchy after the break. Penn State (No. 7 in the College Football Playoff rankings) got its high-powered offense into gear in the second and roared back for the school’s first victory in the Big Ten Championship game, 38-31, over No. 6 Wisconsin.

The Nittany Lions (11-2) are bound for the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 2009 season and are outright conference champions for the first time in 22 years.  

Penn State trailed by three touchdowns midway through the second quarter but allowed just three points the rest of the night. Quarterback Trace McSorley threw for 384 yards and a title-game record four touchdowns to spark a comeback that saw the Nittany Lions outscore the Badgers 24-3 in the second half. McSorley was named Big Ten Championship game MVP.

Wisconsin missed a 48-yard field goal early in the second half and Penn State needed just 11 seconds to take advantage. McSorley (22 for 31) hit Saeed Blacknall with a 70-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to a touchdown. Saquon Barkley tied it at 28 later in the third with a 1-yard scoring run.

Blacknall ended the night with six catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns while DaeSean Hamilton had eight grabs for 118. 

Wisconsin retook the lead with a short field goal in the final seconds of the third quarter but Penn State went ahead for good on the ensuing drive, which ended with McSorley’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Barkley.

Tyler Davis added a 24-yard field goal later in the fourth and the Penn State defense sealed the victory when Grant Haley stuffed Wisconsin’s Corey Clement on fourth-and-1 with 1:01 to play.

The Nittany Lions fumbled the ball away twice in the opening half — one was returned for a short Badgers touchdown — but only trailed 28-14 at intermission after McSorley hit Blacknall for a 40-yard touchdown with under a minute to play in the half. 

Mike Gesicki caught McSorley’s first scoring pass, a 33-yarder, late in the first quarter.

Clement finished with 164 yards and a touchdown on the ground for the Badgers (10-3), who also got scoring runs from Bradrick Shaw and Dare Ogunbowale. Bart Houston was 16 for 21 for 174 yards. 

Smelling the roses?
Penn State is likely off to Pasadena for the fourth time in school history and is seeking to reach .500 in college football’s longest running postseason game. The Nittany Lions defeated Oregon 38-20 in the 1995 game but fell to Southern California in their other two trips, in 2009 and 1923.

It appears the Trojans might be their opponents once more; No. 4 Washington won the Pac-12 championship Friday night but appears headed for the playoff. The Rose Bowl gets its choice of Pac-12 runner-up Colorado (10-3) or 9-3 USC.

There is a chance Penn State could be selected to the College Football Playoff, but No. 1 Alabama, No. 3 Clemson and No. 4 Washington all won this weekend, while No. 2 Ohio State was idle. The playoff will be announced at noon on Sunday.

He’s fine
Sophomore running back running back Saquon Barkley showed no ill effects of a right foot injury suffered during a Nov. 26 win over Michigan State. He added the go-ahead touchdown — and another mention in Penn State’s record book — for good measure.

Barkley, who left in the third quarter of Nittany Lions’ penultimate victory, hauled in a touchdown pass from McSorley in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter to give Penn State the lead for good. He had a short scoring run earlier in the period.

Barkley broke Evan Royster’s sophomore rushing record with a 19-carry, 83-yard night to push his season total to 1,302 yards. He set the mark for Penn State freshman (1,076) last fall.

Nice run
Wisconsin’s Andrew Endicott’s 23-yard field goal late in the third quarter snapped a shutout streak that had seen Penn State outscore its opponents 82-0 in the second halves of games. The last scoring play before Endicott’s boot came in the second half of a 45-31 win over Indiana on Nov. 12.