Why the Flyers won the Talbot-Downie trade

Why the Flyers won the Talbot-Downie trade

The Flyers just got a little better.

After a sleepy 3-8-0 start to the season, many in the hockey world expected the Flyers and general manager Paul Holmgren to make a panic move. Instead, the aggressive GM closed on a depth trade, moving forward and defensive specialist Max Talbot to the Colorado Avalanche for physical forward Steve Downie.

And that’s an overall win for the Flyers.

At face value, what the Flyers get in Downie is familiarity with head coach Craig Berube, a jolt in bullish energy and a pinch of offensive capability that was desperately needed at the wing position.

He’s three-years younger than Talbot and brings different, much-needed strengths to the Flyers’ roster. More of an offensive player than Talbot, Downie, who isn’t completely inept defensively, averaged 16:43 time on ice per game and was a top-four forward on the Avs’ eighth-ranked power play.

Looking for a top-six winger that isn’t Michael Raffl and for someone to help their 25th-ranked power play, the Flyers may tap Downie to play solid minutes next to Claude Giroux, who has struggled without steady finishers and forecheckers on his line.

Downie, who once scored 22 goals with the Tampa Bay Lightning, is currently on pace for a career-high 55 points this season. He has seven assists and one goal in 11 games and was a solid contributor to the Avalanche’s current 10-1-0 record.

This move also makes slight financial sense for the Flyers. With Talbot signed on for three more years at $1.75m, the Flyers give themselves options. If the Downie experiment doesn’t work, that’s OK. He is in a contract year at $2.65m. They can simply walk away.

Tossing that all aside, here’s why the Flyers win this trade: It’s less about Downie’s numbers and more about the decline of Talbot.

Scouting reports will tell you that 29-year-old Talbot is a gritty, physical, energy forward that is above average defensively, an elite penalty killer and will chip in offensively. He has also slowed considerably during the last two seasons.

Talbot was one of the Flyers’ best penalty killers, if not the best. He averaged 15:08 time on ice per game, 3:35 of which went into the PK -- a high for Flyers forwards. And though that’s what the Flyers will miss most, it’s also where his contribution ended.

The smallish forward has just 11 hits in 11 games and hasn’t shown the same aggressive forechecking fire that got him his reputation. Caught between being a fourth-line center and third-line winger, Talbot drew tough defensive assignments but couldn’t really overcome them, scoring just one goal and one assist this season. He has also managed just 14 shots on goal, his lone score coming off an unknowing skate defection.

Coming off a shortened season in which he only earned 10 points in 35 games, Talbot’s decline from his 19-goal 2011-12 season was swift. Though his tempo and production might change under Avs coach Patrick Roy, Talbot was little more than a slowing bottom-five defense-only player on a bad team.

Steve Mason rediscovers himself in New York just before Flyers return

Steve Mason rediscovers himself in New York just before Flyers return

It had been a while since Steve Mason saw himself.

Walking into the Barclays Center on Sunday, the Flyers’ goalie was 0-6-2 with a 4.03 goals-against average and .844 save percentage over his last 10 appearances (see more recent Flyers numbers and stats).

A far cry from how Mason truly sees himself in net.

But heading into Wednesday’s rivalry clash with the Rangers, Mason will have something to build on, something he couldn’t say since Dec. 21 — the last time he had earned a victory. He’s fresh off his first win in over a month, a gigantic one for Mason considering all the key moments on Sunday the Flyers hope invigorate his confidence.

Without numerous clutch stops from their goalie, the Flyers don’t come back from two goals down to beat the Islanders, 3-2, in overtime. Mason made four saves  — three on four-time All-Star John Tavares — in just over a minute of a third-period power play. The Flyers ended up having to kill two New York man advantages in the final 10 minutes of regulation in order to force overtime.

The extra session is when Mason was just as good, if not better, stoning Tavares on a breakaway attempt that had game-winner written all over it. Mason made four saves in overtime after 13 in the third period.

“I was happy with the way that, personally, this game went for myself,” Mason said Sunday. “It’s been a tough stretch and this is more the type of game that I expect of myself. In recent games, the team was lacking the big saves and tonight it shows what kind of difference it can make.”

It was a massive performance heading into a massive three-game stretch against the Rangers, Maple Leafs and Hurricanes.

“Mase made some huge saves for us,” Simmonds said. “It allowed us to get back in that game.

“It’s not just Mase [with the] ups and downs. Everyone in here has been kind of fighting it and squeezing sticks pretty tight. That one felt good and I think Mase led the charge for sure.”

Mason understands just one game doesn’t turn around a season.

“It’s nice to feel good after a game,” Mason said. “At the same time, whether you’re winning or losing, you have to have a short mindset and get ready for the next one.”

That brings the Flyers to Madison Square Garden Wednesday to face the Rangers, who they’ve lost five straight games to dating back to last season. Mason hasn’t had much luck against New York this season, allowing seven goals in two losses with an .860 save percentage. However, in 2015-16, Mason put up a 1.74 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in five games against the Rangers.

“That’s going to be a tough game going into MSG,” Mason said Tuesday (see story).

The good thing: Mason was in New York two days ago, remembering what he can be.

Manute Bol's 7-foot, 17-year-old son dominates in HS season debut

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Manute Bol's 7-foot, 17-year-old son dominates in HS season debut

Bol Bol, the 17-year-old son of the late Manute Bol, is a top high school basketball prospect with offers from schools like Arizona, Kansas and Creighton. This highlight tape should give you an idea why.
 
Bol, whose father played in the NBA for parts of 12 seasons, including 215 games for the Sixers, now attends the famed Mater Dei High School in California and played in his first game of the season this past weekend. Listed as the No. 16 overall prospect in the 2018 recruiting class by Scout, Bol started his season off with a big 21-point, 10-rebound effort.
 
Take a look at the highlight tape from the 6-foot-11 Bol and expect to see him carry on his father’s legacy on the court at a major NCAA college basketball program soon.