Philadelphia Flyers: Jakub Voracek entering critical stretch

(Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
(Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images) /

For Philadelphia Flyers winger Jakub Voracek, the final two months of this NHL season will go a long way towards determining his future with the team and his legacy.

As the Philadelphia Flyers finally get back to game action on Friday following a long layoff for the all-star break and bye week, the team’s attention will focus on doing whatever it takes to get back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after badly missing last season.

This year, maybe more than ever, the franchise is in desperate need of success as they try to appease an increasingly fed up fanbase. And it will largely be up to the team’s veteran leadership to carry the load and get them into the playoffs, hopefully even making some noise once they get there.

More from Philadelphia Flyers

It’s times like these where the Flyers have to lean hard on players like Jakub Voracek. And Voracek must deliver.

He’ll never fully live up to the massive, 8-year contract he signed in 2015 that pays him $8.25 million per year and still has four years left to run after this one.

But that cap space was allocated long ago. It is what it is, as they say. Voracek still shows flashes of brilliance on a regular enough basis for us to believe that the Flyers have time to squeeze a playoff run or two out of him. Remember, the team hasn’t gotten past the first round since 2012, which was Voracek’s first season in Orange and Black. The bill is long past due.

Now, at 30 years old, his opportunities are starting to get limited as he attempts to show that he’s not just “a player who was good enough to get paid,” but rather one who can make a true difference both on the scoresheet and in the leadership department for his team.

Voracek will never light the world on fire in the goals department, having tallied 20 on the nose in each of the last three years and probably falling short of even that number this year. But he excels at his strength with the puck, which subsequently draws defenders and allows openings for teammates. It doesn’t always result in an assist in the box score, but such plays are noticed by anyone who knows the game.

This year was shaping up to be a subpar one for Voracek; however, a recent hot streak where he registered 11 points in 8 games has at least put him back on pace to finish in his normal scoring range. But long dry spells such as a November stretch where he posted a single assist in seven games cannot be tolerated. The ever-vocal Voracek would even be the first one to tell you that.

So, what do the Flyers need from Jake the Snake in the season’s final 32 games?

A point per game pace is probably too much to ask, but if Voracek can post something like 25 points to get into the mid-60’s on the season, it would be a good sign for the team’s playoffs hopes. But really, whether he scores 5 points or 55 points the rest of the way, the bottom line is that he and the rest of the leaders on this team have to find a way to get the team into the playoffs. No excuses.

In another wrinkle to Voracek’s story, the as yet unnamed Seattle expansion club will begin play in 2021, and it’s highly likely that the Flyers will expose either Voracek or James van Riemsdyk in the expansion draft because of their high salaries. That’s quite a ways off, but a strong stretch run this year by #93 can go a long way toward showing the Flyers that he deserves to stick around in town for the life of his existing contract.

There are no guarantees that the Flyers wouldn’t expose him next year anyway. Or that the team might just decide to see if they can trade his contract at some point for some potential cap relief. But if Voracek ever wanted to truly endear himself to Flyers fans, he’d deliver some of his most inspired hockey for the remainder of this season.

Otherwise, despite some gaudy career point totals for the Flyers, he might just go down in team history as a disappointment. It wouldn’t be a totally fair assessment, but it’s what happens when a lack of team success overshadows individual accomplishment.

Flyers: Freddy Meyer is the gift that keeps on giving. dark. Next

It’s time for Voracek to change the narrative.