Photo by Amy Irvin/38 Photography
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Sean Couturier was surely one of the most polarizing players on the Flyers this season. With 37 points, the 22 year old failed to equal his point production mark from the year before. Despite his career high 10.1% shooting percentage, he occasionally appeared to have trouble finishing plays. On the other hand, Couturier was routinely asked to take on the most difficult defensive assignments, and he spent most of his season playing alongside RJ Umberger and an injury-weakened Matt Read. He made some visible strides in many other important aspects of his game.
The end result is a season that some have had difficulty evaluating. Myself, Jess and Matt looked at some important topics regarding Couturier’s season and how it should be evaluated.
WERE YOU SATISFIED WITH COUTURIER’S OFFENSIVE PRODUCTION. WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN IN ORDER FOR HIM TO TAKE THE NEXT STEP OFFENSIVELY?
Jess: Overall, I’d say yes I was satisfied with Couturier’s offensive production this year. When you factor in his usage and linemates it’s surprising that he was within 2 points of his career high. It’s entirely possible he might have eclipsed that if he his linemates didn’t struggle to produce this season. I think quite a bit of his success next year may depend more on his linemates than his actual usage. It would certainly be nice to see him get more offensive zone starts, but until they find another center to take some those draws/assignments, I don’t think we should expect his usage to change all that much next year. He’s shown the ability to take steps forward in his offensive development despite his usage which is encouraging. Starting next season with a healthy Matt Read may do wonders for his point production next year.
Matt: Yes; Couturier’s lack of scoring was a product of Matt Read being injured along with being forced to carry around dead weight like the corpse of RJ Umberger and Zac Rinaldo while playing some of the toughest minutes in the league. Couturier still scored at the pace of an elite 3C despite basically playing with replacement level or sub replacement level talent. The way to take the next step is to move from playing with 18-36 to some combination of 10-24-17 or splitting up Giroux and Voracek and using 93-14-24 as the second line. With either of those, Couturier would see a huge uptick in scoring. Especially since an average second line center scores 46 points, he’s not too far from being there.
Scott: I was not satisfied one bit with Couturier’s production, to be honest. If Couturier was really a two way center like Patrice Bergeron, he would be able to score the same number of points with any linemates. The whole “defensive zone starts” thing is just a giant excuse. Do marathon runners complain if they don’t get to start the race at the finish line???
WHAT WERE YOU MOST ENCOURAGED BY ABOUT COUTURIER THIS SEASON?
Jess: I’ve been most encouraged by his improved play in the neutral and offensive zone. He’s carrying the puck with speed through the neutral zone more than he ever has in his career. He’s dictating play as he enters the zone making him difficult to defend against, which is something he wasn’t doing in prior years. I think the big question about his neutral zone play is whether or not he will be able to continue that success. Prior to this year his average controlled entry percentage was about 47%. So is this season a true sign of progression, or just an anomaly? From tracking him the past couple years I’d like to think it’s a true sign of progression when you consider he was able to maintain this success even after Read got healthy. In the offensive, he’s gotten very good at using his body to protect the puck and win puck battles.
Matt: Once again, it’s his ability to produce even while deployed in the toughest of the tough situations. The fact that he got scoring chances while never seeing any offensive zone time is alone a testament to how special of a player he really is. His lack of goals isn’t a lack of goals, it’s the fact that scoring is down league wide. With 20 goals going from meaning a slightly above average 2nd line center just 6 years ago to now meaning a borderline top center, 15 goals is nothing to scoff at. 16 goals is the new 20 and with competent linemates, I expect that assist total to head up into the high 20s to low 30s. If you get 18 goals and 27 assists from him next season with his defense, you’ve got a bona fide 2C for years to come.
Scott: Basically nothing. One time 57 point scorer RJ Umberger was only able to produce 15 points on the mediocre center’s wing. Based on my eye-test evaluation, he is currently 7th on the organizational depth chart at center (Behind Giroux, Schenn, Laughton, Cousins, Bellemare, Rinaldo). It is time to cut our losses and trade him for a mid round pick or even Brandon Sutter. Again I am right in my analysis.
Jess: It’s hard for me to find something to be discouraged about. Personally, I’d like to see him produce more on the power play next year. That may be tough one for him to do since that whole second unit doesn’t produce much. I know a lot of people may point to his finishing abilities as a disappointment this year. I just don’t think missing a few breakaway opportunities are worth getting discouraged over, especially when he had a career high in goals.
Matt: There was nothing that he had any control over that was discouraging. While the lack of finish was frustrating, given the minutes he played, by the team he fired off the scoring chance, he’d be dead tired from dragging the puck up ice. Sure maybe he could have gotten a few more bounces, but it’s exactly that, he needed the bounces to go his way, not against him. And since that’s beyond his control, that is not discouraging at all, but instead encouraging because once they go his way and he has a better coach, he’s set up to break out and succeed in a big way.
Scott: Shootouts. He seemed to not even care about his shootout attempts, which is selfish and inexcusable. He should be spending the entire summer in shootout school. Playing for team Canada instead of enrolling in shootout school is an extremely selfish move, and the Flyers should consider buying out the last year of his contract if it continues.
Jess: I’d give Couturier and 8 for the season. All things considered, I think he made some great strides in his offensive game without sacrificing his defensive play. I’m looking forward to see if he can at least maintain his neutral zone success from this year. Hopefully a full season playing alongside a healthy Matt Read and Brayden Schenn will see him finally get over the forty point mark; since that’s apparently the only way to consider his season a success offensively.
Matt: 9. What he did with the hand he was dealt in terms of usage and linemates was absolutely astounding in a positive way.
Scott: 3. If he played every game against the Penguins it would be a 10. Unfortunately he just does not try during any of the other games.