(Photo credit: Amy Irvin, 38 Photography)
Earlier today, news broke that Sean Couturier is out four weeks with a lower body injury. With the Flyers building some momentum towards a playoff spot, this is a huge blow to any chance of a miracle playoff run. The question is, who can fill Couturier’s minutes internally.
Via Own the Puck
Sean Couturier is a legitimate second line center. The Flyers, who recently were one of the deepest teams in the league down the middle, are now going to be hard pressed to replace him. Brayden Schenn is likely a wing due to defensive concerns and Scott Laughton may not be quite yet ready for the long haul as a second line center.
Via Own the Puck
Obviously, one of Sam Gagner or RJ Umberger is about to become a regular in the Flyers lineup. Gagner’s had a recent track record of success, but injuries have slowed him down and it’s possible he won’t regain his former ability. RJ Umberger is paid like a second line player, but his talent is clearly fourth line variety.
Jordan Weal should likely get a shot as his AHL production indicates he’s likely able to at least replicate the scoring needed from a second line center. Of course, NHL-Equivalencies merely indicate an average expectation, not a sure fire guarantee. And Weal’s defensive game is likely not even close to what Couturier brought to the table.
In the AHL, Nick Cousins is likely ready to take the next step. He projected, as of that writing, as a third line player, but a quick update of his current AHL season has him as 38 points per 82 games, or the same talent as Jordan Weal. Cousins again could replace the offense, and it’s possible he may even be able to produce decent enough defensive results.
If I was forced to pick a replacement for Couturier right now, I’d suggest that Jordan Weal step into the roster spot leaving the following forward lines:
With Umberger as the healthy scratch. Raffl and Read would have to be the defensive forward on their respective units. And Laughton or Raffl would likely need to step up on the PK to help out in the absence.
Because the Flyers are chasing a spot, there’s no room for error. If Weal doesn’t work out, the Flyers need to get Cousins into the lineup and see if he does. If not, by the trade deadline, Ron Hextall would need to sell any contract that isn’t nailed down or part of the future.