As Flyers future draws closer, thoughts of what could be

As the hockey world is buzzing around the NHL All-Star Game and its events in Nashville, this is the lull in the season for Flyers fans to get a little creative and take some more time to reflect on the season in its current state.

For the Flyers and their fans, that evaluation isn't always easy. After starting off January by moving to within two points of a playoff spot, the Flyers lost three straight games before getting an unlikely win in Washington to move to within five points of the final wildcard spot.

At this point, things could go in either direction and it could be a spring of actually seeing some playoff hockey or another year of looking ahead to the Draft while 16 other teams focus on the playoffs.

But project those thoughts to next season and the 2017 NHL All-Star game in Los Angeles. With a little positive thinking and daydreaming of days when the Flyers were the class of the East instead of fighting for their playoff lives and hovering around the line of teams that are playoff-worthy or in line for a Top-10 draft pick. With a little positive thinking and daydreaming, you can put yourself back in those days. Now do that with the 2017 Flyers.

Imagine a Flyers team that has multiple All-Stars, not just the like of Claude Giroux, who was the Flyers lone rep this season, but Jake Voracek, Shayne Gostisbehere, perhaps even Michal Neuvirth or Steve Mason depending on who gets the bulk of the starts.

Envision a season where the Flyers can compete in the standings with the likes of the Capitals, Rangers and Islanders and challenge for first place in the Metropolitan Division.

Picture this: There is talk of Dave Hakstol becoming Coach of the Year and nearly everyone believes that Ron Hextall will be crowned the general manager of the year for his overall strategy, a strategy that consists of building for the future along with the potential for some deft moves that could be made as soon as 2016, but are more likely to come in the coming years as the Flyers do content.

What if the Flyers were in the market this season to make a deadline splash? What if the names Jonathan Drouin and Dustin Byfuglien were just noise and actually meant something to the Flyers direction? Certainly Flyers fans have the trust in Hextall to make the right move at the right time, especially once the time comes that the Flyers can be bigger buyers, and have embraced his philosophy through the past two seasons.

The only nagging question is in the goaltending. Michal Neuvirth has been the statistical top netminder and highly regarded as the team's MVP to this point, but the Flyers not only seem married to the idea of moving forward with Steve Mason for better or worse what to do with Steve Mason, who seems to still struggle with "personal issues" and has had his share of hot and cold moments all season.

The Flyers also have seemed to form a stable top line with the addition of Wayne Simmonds on the wing with Giroux and Voracek. If the line stick into another season, there could also be a chance for Simmonds to evolve into an All-Star. Simmonds is highly regarded as one of the more underrated players in the league.

Now for the young guns: with the emergence of Gostisbehere, one of the big thinking points for Flyers fans is in regards to which prospects will be up with the team next season. The two most talked about prospects are both of the team's first-round picks Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny. With Gostisbehere in the discussion for the Calder Trophy, the Flyers have a chance to bring some strong rookies to the team next season.

So, enough of John Scott’s saga, his goal-scoring and his dropping gloves with Patrick Kane. Forget Brett Burns and his amusing Chewbacca stunt, P.K. Subban’s Jaromir Jagr impression, and the amazing 108.1 mph slap shot by Shea Weber. While those were all entertaining, it's time to get back to Flyers hockey and focus on the rest of this season and the anticipation and excitement that is sure to come in another few months with the dawn of next season.

Denise Mroz is a contributing writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow her on Twitter @denisemroz10.

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