Photo credit: NHL.com
By Brandon Murphy (@2murphy8)
Sean Couturier’s expectations have been high since he posted back-to-back 96 point seasons in the QMJHL and was selected eighth overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2011. He hasn’t been able to reach the 40-point plateau in his career (though hit 39 points twice) due to his defensive role and injury riddled seasons, yet he remains one of the Flyers’ best 5-on-5 point producers.
Either you love Couturier or you hate him, there is no in-between. His name has surfaced in many trade talks among the Flyers faithful over the years.
Couturier is known for his defensive style of play and has yet to emerge offensively, but certain statistics say his two-way game is a lot stronger than some suggest. Fans usually clash when debating Couturier’s role and production on the team.
So let’s settle it.
Last season, Couturier started in his own end 57.2% of the time but still managed to post incredible Corsi and Fenwick numbers – 54.5% and 55.1% respectively, according to Hockey-Reference. His skating is lackluster, but Couturier can control the puck, find the open man and shutdown opposing teams’ top players. The addition of Valtteri Filppula at the deadline brought some relief to the Flyers center core and Couturier went on a hot streak, posting five goals and 17 points in a 20 game span – all at even-strength.
Injuries have been a concern in the last two seasons with ‘Coots’, he missed 19 games last year while putting up a career best 0.62 points per game. He fell off the rails a tad this season when he missed 16 games and only scored at a 0.52 point per game pace. That being said, Couturier would have hit 50 points in both seasons if he remained healthy.
Let’s break down Couturier’s HERO chart when we compare him to a second line center in 2016-2017. Keep in mind that a value of five on the chart is the league average.
When we take a quick look, Couturier is either equal or better in every category for a second line center. His time on ice, point production and shot generation are all average or above. What really gives him the boost is his shot suppression. Like it was previously mentioned, Couturier’s best asset is his defensive game. When his offensive numbers pick up, he will be getting much more consideration for the Selke trophy.
Couturier notched 34 points during the 2016-2017 campaign, 31 of them came at 5-on-5. The only Flyers player with more even-strength points was Jakub Voracek with 38 in 82 games. What certain fans fail to understand is that Couturier constantly plays a complete two-way game, shutting down the opposing teams’ first lines while producing at a steady rate at even-strength. He isn’t the flashiest player on the team, but he is a key piece of the future. At only 24-years-of-age, Couturier still has time to develop offensively.