Wild Friday Night Plans: Flyers Hockey in the Buff

Wild Friday Night Plans: Flyers Hockey in the Buff

On Tuesday, most of you got your Flyers fix after two weeks off due to the Olympic break. Sadly I missed that one, but on a more positive note, I missed the next one too. ("Nationally televised" on Versus doesn't usually apply to hotels nor many bars, and I've been out of town for a week, so tonight's action will be the first I've seen in a while.)

Two games into the post-Olympic season, "1-1-0 and head-scratchingly weak on team defense and goaltending" isn't the start we were hoping for. It won't be any easier tonight against Captain America, Ryan Miller, to whom we owe some respect and acknowledgment... 


Ryan Miller~Buffalo Sabres Dec 30 '06 game Atlanta, originally uploaded by Shelley K.

...before giving way to the desire to see him either not get the start or otherwise get scored upon repeatedly. 

Fortunately, the Sabres haven't come out of the Olympic gates on fire either, losing their first two games since the break. Unfortunately, they didn't lose them to teams from Florida, instead dropping back-to-back contests to the defending champion Penguins (ugh) and the NHL-leading Capitals on Tuesday and Wednesday, 3-2 and 3-1, respectively. Those are the kinds of losses that motivate good teams, and the Sabres are definitely that.  

It's not too early to start counting point-swings in the standings (full disclosure: we've been leaning on that little crutch all season, while saying it's too early to do so), and the Sabres are directly ahead of the Flyers in the East. Six points separate the teams, and the Flyers need to start closing that gap rather than the four points that stand between them and the ninth seed. 

As far as the roster is concerned, Frank Seravelli of the Daily News reports that Michael Leighton will return to the crease after Brian Boucher out-awful'd him to steal the loss on Wednesday. Darroll Power Wheels will be out again, replaced by Ville Leino, who is on pace for 21 goals as a Flyer if he stays in the lineup. Leino will skate with Carter and Briere. 

Give and Go: No. 3 pick or an impact free agent more important for Sixers?

Give and Go: No. 3 pick or an impact free agent more important for Sixers?

Before the offseason craziness starts, our resident basketball analysts will discuss some of the hottest topics involving the Sixers.

Running the Give and Go are CSNPhilly.com Sixers Insider Jessica Camerato and producer/reporters Matt Haughton and Paul Hudrick.

In this edition, we analyze whether the No. 3 pick or adding an impact free agent is more important for the Sixers.

Camerato
The Sixers have the third pick in the 2017 draft. 
 
They also had the same pick in 2014. 
 
And 2015. 
 
And the number one pick in 2016.
 
The No. 3 is a nice addition of potential young talent, but how much further does *another* high lottery pick progress the Sixers?
 
The team is at a point where they need more experienced players to boost the development of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric … and basically everyone on the roster except Jerryd Bayless, who is the only player under contract for next season with more than four years of NBA experience.
 
Veterans make younger players around them better. This isn’t only being a voice in the locker room either. This season the Sixers could greatly benefit from a vet who is in game with them, not just on the bench. Look at what 35-year-old Joe Johnson did for the Jazz this season. 
 
Do the Sixers need to go out and sign a big name free agent to a max contract? No. They have the money to spend but also a lot of questions to answer about Simmons’ role and Embiid’s health before locking in someone long-term. 
 
Can adding experience develop them further than potential would at this point? Yes.

Haughton
There's always a delicate balance between blending homegrown talent and free agents. With this Sixers team, I think adding another young piece to the core with the No. 3 pick is far more important than luring someone on the free-agent market.

If we're being honest about the team's roster, there are only two real difference makers in Embiid and, in all likelihood, Simmons. In that third draft slot, the Sixers have an opportunity to select yet another top-tier talent and address an area of need (guard or wing) without spending a boatload of cash.

The Sixers' youthful makeup resembles a college team and makes it easier for rookies to mix into the group. That also means the draft pick has a chance to grow on the same track as his teammates and build for the long-term betterment of "The Process" instead of a free agent that is likely trying to speed things up to win now.

Speaking of FAs, there will be a nice pool of guys available for the Sixers. However, it's not like any of them are going to put the team over the top and in the conversation for any postseason hardware.

Stick to the script and focus on the draft. Whichever player hears his name called at No. 3 will have a far bigger fingerprint on where this franchise goes next than anyone acquired via free agency.

Hudrick
The Sixers have identified Embiid and Simmons as their franchise players. Embiid is 23 and Simmons will turn 21 in July. Embiid has played in 31 games and Simmons has yet to take the floor.

I mention this because this Sixers team is still very much building. They're nowhere near a finished product. The veteran additions of Gerald Henderson and Bayless (who was limited to mostly a mentoring role last season) no doubt helped the team last season. But what does signing a marquee free agent do? 

Looking at the market, the two most obvious choices are point guard Kyle Lowry (31) and two guard J.J. Redick (32). Lowry and Redick both fills needs and will make the Sixers better immediately. 

But this team won 28 games last year while only having Embiid for 31 games and not having Simmons at all. Add the No. 3 overall pick to that equation -- whether it's Josh Jackson, Malik Monk, Jayson Tatum or De'Aaron Fox -- and the Sixers should improve on that mark.

There will be a time to sign a big-name free agent. I'm just not sure this is the offseason to do it. They need to get their first-round pick in here and see how that player gels with the team's core. After you see how the team starts to take shape, that's when you need to add a free agent to put you over the top.

Tonight's lineup: Howie Kendrick returns, Odubel Herrera rides the pine

Tonight's lineup: Howie Kendrick returns, Odubel Herrera rides the pine

Updated: 4:33 p.m.

Howie Kendrick is back after a month and a half on the disabled list while Odubel Herrera is heading to the bench for a few days.

The Phillies reinstated Kendrick from the DL and he's in the lineup, batting second and playing left field vs. the Marlins (7:10/CSN and CSNPhilly.com). Meanwhile, manager Pete Mackanin said pregame slumping center fielder Odubel Herrera will be on the bench both today and tomorrow. Maikel Franco was moved down further in the lineup.

Kendrick batted a sterling .333 in his 39 at-bats in April, looking the part of a top-of-the-order hitter. The former infielder played only left field during his 10 games before going down with an oblique injury (see game notes). He gives the Phillies a chance to rest their outfielders or allow them a new look in the corner infield. 

Herrera is in the midst of a 1-for-22 slide that has brought his batting average down to .217. Mackanin said postgame on Sunday that he would move Herrera down in the lineup and would give him a few days off at some point with Kendrick back as an extra outfielder. Mackanin hoped time off would help lessen the pressure on the scuffling Herrera.

Mackanin also mentioned the inconsistent at-bats of Franco, who is down to seventh in the lineup. Catcher Cameron Rupp was moved ahead of him to sixth in the order with Franco batting .213 and going 2 for 18 since his eight-game hitting streak ended on Monday.

Jeremy Hellickson makes his first start since allowing a seven-run third inning to the Rockies on Wednesday. The good news for the righty is that he dominated the Marlins last season and was similiarly strong in a victory vs. the Fish in April.

Here's the full lineup that will oppose Edinson Volquez:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Howie Kendrick, LF
3. Aaron Altherr, CF
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Michael Saunders, RF
6. Cameron Rupp, C
7. Maikel Franco, 3B
8. Freddy Galvis, SS
9. Jeremy Hellickson, P