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… 

Sarah Baicker: I don't skate like a man, just a darn good woman

Sarah Baicker: I don't skate like a man, just a darn good woman

In late December, I was invited to play in a pick-up hockey game with some other members of the local sports media community. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I was one of only two women there that day. Even now, female ice hockey players aren’t exactly common.

After the game, a reporter I’ve known a while — a guy I like a lot — said to me: “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you skate like a man.” I didn’t take it wrong, of course; he meant it as a compliment. The reporter wanted nothing more than to tell me I’d impressed him.

I thought about this exchange a lot in the days that followed. Had someone told me I played hockey like a boy when I was 15, I would have worn that description like a badge. Hell yeah, 15-year-old Sarah would have thought, I do play like a boy. I’m as tough as a boy. I’m as fierce and competitive as any boy on my team. I would have reveled in it, just as I reveled in a similar label I’d received even earlier in my adolescence: tomboy.

Yeah, I was a tomboy. I hung around with the neighborhood boys, riding bikes between each other’s houses or catching salamanders in the creek that ran through town. I loved sports, and my bedroom walls — papered with newspaper clippings and photos of Flyers players — were a far cry from the pink-tinged rooms that belonged to the girls at school. 

As much as I could, I dressed like a boy too, even once cutting the sleeves off of an oversized T-shirt before I went out to rollerblade with our next-door neighbors. My grandmother, who was visiting at the time, pulled me aside to tell me I really ought to dress more appropriately. I rolled my eyes.

I was a tomboy, and I loved the word and everything it stood for. I felt pride in my tomboyishness, believing that the things I liked — the things boys liked — were clearly better than the things stereotypically left to the girls.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit it was a conversation with a 15-year-old that changed my perspective, just a few days after my reporter friend had compared my hockey skills to those of a man. I sat down with Mo’ne Davis, the female Little League pitching phenom, for this very project. I asked her if she identified as a tomboy, and she shrugged. Not really, she said. Maybe other people wanted to define her that way, she suggested, but that wasn’t how she viewed things.

You know that record scratch sound effect they play on TV or in the movies? The one that denotes a sort of “wait … what?!” moment? That’s what happened in my head. Mo’ne Davis, the girl who played on the boys’ team and excelled, didn’t consider herself a tomboy?

Something clicked in my head after that. I’ve long identified as a feminist, and I’ve been a big supporter of girls in sports for as long as I can remember. I coach girls hockey, I’ve spoken at schools and camps about playing and working in sports as a woman. For some reason, though, it took a 15-year-old shrugging her shoulders at the label “tomboy” to take the power out of the word for me. Why does one have to be a tomboy, when one can simply be a girl who kicks ass? How had I never considered this before?

In many ways (and especially in sports) if something is male, it’s considered superior. It goes beyond just the things kids like to do, and it’s all old news. It’s also something I’m ashamed to admit I’ve bought into for practically all of my life. But no longer. How can I help change the narrative if I’m too busy playing along with it?

And if I could do it over, when that reporter approached me after our hockey game to tell me I skated like a man, I would have smiled, shook my head and said: Nah. But I skate like a darn good woman.

Flyers-Capitals 5 things: Washington on ridiculous roll into Wells Fargo Center

Flyers-Capitals 5 things: Washington on ridiculous roll into Wells Fargo Center

Flyers (28-24-7) vs. Capitals (39-12-7)
8 p.m. on NBCSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

After finding some offense to finish up a 1-2-0 road trip, the Flyers return home for a not-so-glorious welcome when they host the NHL-leading Washington Capitals on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

We’ll get into that and more with five things to know:

1. Capping things off
What’s the Flyers’ reward for salvaging the final game of a road swing through Canada? A date with the Capitals, who are the NHL’s hottest team since New Year’s Eve, and by a landslide.

Just how dominant has Washington been?

Dating back to Dec. 31, the Capitals are 19-3-2 and have scored an incomprehensible 104 goals in those 24 games. That’s 4.33 goals per game, while yielding only 50 markers over that stretch.

Meanwhile, the Flyers have scored an NHL-low 40 goals since New Year’s Eve and allowed 62 for an Eastern Conference-worst goal differential of minus-22.

Washington, coming off its first back-to-back defeats since Dec. 27-29, has lost three straight games only once this season.

2. A Ghost sighting
On Sunday, for the first time in close to four months, we saw the Shayne Gostisbehere from the Calder Memorial Trophy (top rookie) runner-up season last year.

The sophomore blueliner delivered his first three-point game of his career to ignite the Flyers to a 3-2 win over the Canucks.

Although Gostisbehere has made it clear he’s focused on his defensive game, the Flyers are a different animal when he’s generating offensive chances at 5-on-5 and the power play.

“He had his confidence and a little bit of swagger,” Wayne Simmonds said of Gostisbehere’s performance Sunday.

“Ghost has had his ups and downs this year, but he's a heck of a player and has unbelievable skill. He can be a catalyst offensively for us, that’s for sure.”

3. Good cage match
This one makes for an intriguing goalie matchup between Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby, who were once battling for the net in Washington.

Holtby is having another stud season after winning the 2015-16 Vezina Trophy (top goalie). Among all netminders, he is tied for first in goals-against average (2.01) and shutouts (seven), while he hasn’t been beaten in regulation since Dec. 27.

The 27-year-old blanked the Flyers twice in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and stopped 149 of 154 shots over the first-round series that the Capitals won in six games.

Neuvirth hasn’t been too shabby himself, starting eight of the Flyers’ last 10 games. Aside from a bad showing in a 6-3 loss to the Oilers, Neuvirth has not surrendered more than two goals in any other outing during that span.

A 2006 second-round pick of Washington, Neuvirth was brilliant last postseason against his former club, making 103 saves on 105 shots faced to get the Flyers two victories.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare can be crucial in these types of games. The fourth-line forward often sees work against the opposition’s top offensive threats and is the Flyers’ most important piece to the penalty kill. Bellemare has played 16-plus minutes in both meetings with the Capitals this season, while the PK is 15 for 17 in February and tied for the NHL’s third-fewest goals against this month.

Capitals: T.J. Oshie is such an underrated asset for Washington. The right winger, who played his college hockey at North Dakota under Flyers coach Dave Hakstol, leads the NHL with a 22.8 shooting percentage, a big reason why the Capitals are scoring 3.34 goals per game, good for second most in hockey. Oshie has 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists) in his past 22 games and is a plus-24 on the season.

5. This and that
• Neuvirth has just two career regular-season matchups against the Capitals, going 1-0-0 with a 2.44 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.

• Holtby is 6-4-7 with a 2.71 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 18 lifetime matchups with the Flyers.

• The Flyers are three points out of the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, trailing the Panthers, Bruins and Islanders, all of whom have 66 points.

• Simmonds has four goals in his last five games.

• Claude Giroux has two points (one goal, one assist) in his previous 10 games.

• Washington ranks first in the NHL with a plus-69 goal differential.

• Jordan Weal (upper-body injury) is expected to miss his second straight game.