5 Burning Questions the Philadelphia Flyers Must Answer Early in 2013 Season
Each year the Philadelphia Flyers have high expectations, yet many unanswered questions. Even during this current, shortened season the philosophy remains the same.
The Flyers started the season with three consecutive losses out of the gate, including two key division losses against the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils.
The road will not get any easier for the club, as they prepare to play 48 games in 99 days. Now, more than ever, is the time to quickly address and correct issues. Despite some major setbacks, the Flyers were able to bounce back from the early losses with back-to-back wins but still have much to fix.
Here are five burning questions the Flyers must answer in 2013.
Can the Team Overcome Injuries?
The Flyers were hit with the injury bug early in this compact season.
According to Comcast Sports, Philadelphia lost two players for at least four weeks —Scott Hartnell and Andrej Meszaros. This is a major blow on offense and defense.
Hartnell, who suffered a broken foot, was coming off a career season in which he tallied 37 goals (via ESPN), and Meszaros worked extremely hard in the offseason to recover from an achilles surgery, only to injure his shoulder this season.
Both players bring different aspects to the game—on and off the ice. Hartnell is a gritty player with an attitude to match. His presence in the locker room is extremely important for team morale and confidence. Where Meszaros is likely the most versatile defenseman on the Flyers' roster.
These are large shoes to fill, as the Flyers recently signed veteran forward Mike Knuble and recalled defenseman Andrej Lilja (via CBS Philly) to ease the pain, but additional players must step up their games for their fallen teammates.
Will the Team Regret Trading James Van Riemsdyk?
You never want to second-guess a transaction, but in this case we are. Now that the Flyers are down two players early in the short season, depth is the most important element to survive.
Last June, the Flyers traded James Van Riemsdyk to the Toronto Maple Leafs for young defenseman Luke Schenn.
This was a tough pill to swallow for fans, as the New Jersey native was growing popular with the fan base and his teammates, but the Flyers needed to address issues on defense.
Yes, it would have been nice to have JVR playing a larger role, but the Flyers currently have a plethora of talent at the forward position. Players like Sean Couturier, Matt Read and Jakub Voracek will now have the opportunities to shine.
The Flyers added depth on defense and the decision was correct. Having Schenn's physical and youthful presence on the ice was necessary, especially for the shorter season.
Hopefully it pans out.
Can Luke Schenn Elevate His Game?
This was a nice segue into another Flyers' question to be addressed.
The club is full of talented, young players on offense, who are ready to elevate their game to the next level but defense is the question mark.
Luke Schenn, 23, is the youngest defender on the team but will be called upon a number of times this season to play a major role. He will need to spell veterans—especially when the club is playing on consecutive nights—and now must help fill the absence of Meszaros.
Schenn must now gain the respect of Flyers' fans, and help them move on from JVR.
Let's hope the youngster is up for the challenge.
Will Special Teams Improve?
The Flyers' special teams have been nothing short of awful through their first six games of the season.
The club currently ranks 25th in the league on power-play conversions and 26th on the kill (via ESPN). Additionally, according to CBS Sports, Philly ranks first in penalties committed, and opponents are taking advantage of the foolish mistakes.
These untimely penalties have put the Flyers, specifically both goalies, in extremely difficult situations each game this season—largely contributing to four losses in six games.
With the return of Danny Briere, the Flyers should gain experience and success on special teams, but this area needs to drastically improve or you can kiss the season goodbye.
Will Ilya Bryzgalov Live Up to His Contract?
The Flyers have been synonymous with goalie issues for many seasons since the "Ron Hextall era".
Last year, the team signed goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to a lucrative $51M salary over nine seasons, but his first season's productivity fell short of everyone's expectations.
This offseason, rumors swirled about the Flyers potentially talking trade with Vancouver Canucks' goalie Roberto Luongo, but general manager Paul Holmgren quickly shot down this rumor (via TSN).
Bryz has played solid in five starts with a 2.22 GA (via Yahoo! Sports) with little to or no help from special teams. He will need the support of his teammates, but ultimately Bryz must produce and finally put the Flyers' goalie issues to bed.
For now, Bryzgalov is still the man in Philly.