Philadelphia Flyers' 5 Biggest Questions Ahead of the Olympic Break
The Philadelphia Flyers have been an incredibly frustrating team this season. The inconsistency all year brings a number of pressing questions heading into the Olympic break.
The offense has sputtered at times, Steve Mason has been unreliable lately, and they've gotten badly outplayed by a number of good teams, which is concerning.
But they also sometimes look like legitimate Stanley Cup contenders, like they did against San Jose this past Monday.
Here are the Flyers' 5 biggest questions heading into the Olympic break.
Can Mark Streit Carry the Load?
I have harped on the Flyers' slow and offensively inept defense this season, but that may not be fair to one certain player.
Streit has been exceptional over the past couple months after a slow start, and has essentially been the Flyers' only offensive threat from the back this season.
He's sixth on the team with 28 points, and fifth with 21 assists. His ability to skate and get the puck up ice is invaluable, and his slap shot from the point can be lethal.
The Flyers have gotten essentially no offensive contributions from their defense aside from Kimmo Timonen's 17 assists. If they're going to be competitive after the Olympic break, they'll need Streit to continue carrying the blue line.
What Happened to Vincent Lecavalier?
Lecavalier was one of the Flyers' best players at the beginning of the season and made Philadelphia fans excited about the big five-year contract he signed this past offseason.
But the injury bug bit him yet again this season, and he hasn't been the same player since. He's looked out of rhythm and nowhere near as confident with the puck.
His playing time has suffered as a result, and that's the kind of tailspin that is tough to pull out of.
Since his return on December 21st, Lecavalier has just three goals and five assists in 22 games. Slumps happen, and they're always tough when compounded by injury woes.
But Lecavalier needs to get himself back in gear and pick up the slack. The Olympic break should give him some time to further recover and get his legs back under him.
Which Steve Mason Will Emerge?
Mason has been overall a very positive contributor for Philadelphia. He kept them competitive while their offense lagged early in the season, and has had flashes of brilliance since then.
But as is the case with any Flyers' goaltender, he's also dealt with some extra scrutiny and that didn't exactly go away when he signed a three-year contract extension a couple weeks back.
But he also had a few really fantastic stretches where he looked unbeatable, and that's the guy the Flyers need to show up down the stretch.
If they get consistent play from Mason, they'll make a push for the playoffs. If he's unreliable, then they will fall in the standings. It's as simple as that.
Can Jakub Voracek Elevate His Game?
Voracek was arguably the best and most consistent offensive player for the Flyers in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.
He scored 46 points in 48 games and seemed to be able to completely take over on some shifts. That offensive ability has been there this season, but only in very small bursts.
Claude Giroux and Voracek haven't always looked like they've been on the same page, and Michael Raffl isn't a high-scoring producer on the other wing.
But Voracek needs to get greedier and show some more consistency. He has 39 points in 57 games this year, and scored his first goal in eight games on Monday against San Jose.
While he's picked up the pace somewhat in this calendar year, he has only two multi-point games since January 7th and hasn't been quite as dynamic as the Flyers would like.
Voracek is Giroux's right-hand man. Both the captain and the team need him.
What Changes Are Coming?
Everyone knows that Paul Holmgren likes to make moves, especially unforeseen big ones, and naysayers are quick to jump on some of the unwise decisions he's made.
But there are also some really good deals in Holmgren's past, and I still trust him to do what is best for Philadelphia's future.
Right now, the Flyers seem to be in a bit of a logjam. They aren't going to move Brayden Schenn or Sean Couturier, but they desperately need some defensive help.
Steve Downie, Kimmo Timonen and Andrej Meszaros' contracts are up at the end of the year, and the Flyers will look to upgrade across the board. Brayden Schenn and Michael Raffl are both restricted free agents and will almost certainly be re-signed.
Scott Hartnell could be a decent trade option, but he has a no-movement clause in his contract.
Holmgren essentially has to figure out how to balance the present with the future. He needs to hang on to his core while still building a defense and also dealing with his glut of centers.
If that means guys like Scott Laughton, Nick Cousins and Luke Schenn are on the table, then so be it. Meszaros may also be a potential trade chip with his expiring contract.
Keep in mind that the NHL Draft is in Philadelphia this upcoming June. That means the Flyers' draft picks won't be going anywhere, and don't be surprised to see Holmgren try and add a few.
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