Philadelphia Flyers: Sean Couturier should finally get his due

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Sean Couturier does it all for the Philadelphia Flyers, and it looks like he will finally be able to take home some hardware to back up what everyone has known for a while.

He recently turned 27 years old, but Sean Couturier is already in his ninth NHL season with the Philadelphia Flyers. Is it just me, or does he keep getting better every year?

It all came together for the man they call “Coots” during the 2017-18 season, when he blew away his career highs with 31 goals, 45 assists, and 76 points. Before that, he had been viewed as a nice player, a shutdown center who could chip in some occasional offense, but maybe not fulfilling all of the promise that made him the eighth overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft.

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Two seasons ago, he made the leap to “complete player”, and he authored a repeat performance last season as he subtly moved past captain Claude Giroux as the team’s best overall player. This year, his numbers might fall just short of the heights that he’s hit in the past couple seasons, but there is no doubting how vital he’s been to what might end up being the Flyers’ most successful season in years.

Couturier has the numbers, not just in scoring, but in areas such as faceoffs, where he’s riding a 59.6% clip that currently leads the NHL and is the best mark of his career. If you watch him on a nightly basis, he clearly passes the “eye test” that many like to reference, but the advanced analytics of hockey also assert the fact that Couturier is an impact player on the ice.

Owing to this, it’s a no-brainer that he is headed for his first Selke Trophy this season, given annually to the “forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.” Couturier was nominated once before, two years ago in his breakout season, but ended up losing out to perennial contender Anze Kopitar in a reveal that was a complete botch job by some magician that the NHL hired.

This year, though, Couturier’s game has put him on another plane, even as stalwarts like Kopitar (two Selke wins) and Patrice Bergeron (four Selke wins) have continued their solid play. The NHL has a funny thing about players “paying their dues”, with the occasional exception made for generational players like Connor McDavid, when it comes to winning awards. Now is the time for Couturier; you can start engraving his name today.

But why stop there?

The NHL awards voters also seem to be obsessed with players carrying their teams to the playoffs when not that much was expected of the club in a given season. You can look at Taylor Hall‘s work with the New Jersey Devils two years ago, as he won the Hart Trophy as league MVP.

We’re not talking about the exact same situation here, as this Flyers team is much deeper than those Devils, so Couturier has gotten support from his teammates that Hall really didn’t. But Couturier can’t be entirely dismissed from Hart consideration either, especially if the Flyers manage to keep up this kind of play and end the season atop the Metropolitan Division or very close to it. He won’t have the raw scoring numbers of players like Leon Draisaitl, Nathan MacKinnon, or others, but it won’t be easy to discount him from the running.

In the end, I don’t believe he’ll be a nominee for the Hart (top three in voting), but he’s done more than enough to sit within the top ten this season once all of the ballots are counted. This recognition, plus the Selke that’s in the bag, will serve as the final notice of just how great of a player Couturier is. He’s also perhaps the best bargain in the league, as the Flyers have him under contract for two more years at $4.33 million each, but a big payday is coming. Start clearing the cap space now, Chuck.

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It certainly took a while for him to fully form into the player that he is, but there’s no doubt that Sean Couturier is one of the best in the league. He’s making an emphatic point about it this season, in case you still had any doubt.