Sean Couturier Re-Injures Right Knee, Out 4 Weeks
Careful what you wish for, Flyers fans.
Now deep into the dog days of the offseason, we have all been waiting for news. Any news. Just not this news.
Sean Couturier was undoubtely one of the best stories of the Flyers season last year. Couturier broke out last season, scoring 31 goals and 76 points, nearly doubling his previous career high on 39. Things only got better in the playoffs, as Couturier led all Flyers with 9 points in 5 games, including a hat-trick in Game 6.
Of course, the reason he only played in 5 games instead of 6 was because prior to practice in Game 4, Couturier gruesomely collided with Radko Gudas during practice. The collison tore Couturier's right MCL, and although he was able to return after missing only 1 game, anyone who watched the final 2 games of the Flyers 1st round series with the Penguins could tell he wasn't the same.
Still, it looked like Couturier would be fine by training camp with a offseason of rest, so long as he didn't reinjure the knee of course.
Early (like 4:00 in the morning early), Flyers beat reporter Bill Meltzer reported that Couturier had reinjured the knee in a non-contact injury in an offseason hockey game. The injury is in the same knee as the torn MCL (right), but is not the same type of injury that Couturier previously suffered. Couturier is not expected to need surgery, which is good, but will still be out approximately 4 weeks, according to GM Ron Hextall.
Obviously this is bad news for the Flyers and Couturier. A Selke runner-up last season, Couturier is one of the biggest keys to the Flyers forward core. Couturier played in all 3 situations for the Flyers last year, and was one of the team's few good penalty killers. He has consistently been the Flyers best shutdown center since he came into the NHL in the 2011-12 season. And he spent the majority of last season of the top powerplay unit, recording 14 powerplay points after scoring only 23 in his first 6 years in the NHL combined.
The good news, as you've probably figured out from doing the math in your head, is that Couturier should be ready for the start of the 2018-19 season. He may miss part of training camp and the pre-season, but, when healthy, Couturier should slot back into his normal 1st line center role.
However, Couturier's injury could give some of the kids a greater chance to impress the coaching staff in training camp. 3rd line center is the Flyers biggest queston mark, and with prospects Morgan Frost and Mikhail Vorobyev on the NHL doorstep, Couturier's injury may give them some extra time to shine. Additionally, the Flyers may also use Couturier's absence to help figure out where James van Riemsdyk will slot into the Flyers powerplay. Couturier's role in the slot is usually reserved for a left-handed shot, so they could put JVR there and see how he fits, or try him at the front of the net in the role usually occupied by Wayne Simmonds and, late last season, Nolan Patrick.
All the Flyers can do now is wait and hope Couturier makes a quick and full recovery. Couturier missed 19 games in 2015-16 and 16 in 2016-17, as well as the final 5 games of the Flyers first round series against the Capitals in 2016, giving him a bit of an injury-prone label. The good news is Couturier played in all 82 regular season games last season and only missed 7 games total in his first 4 NHL seasons. Hopefully the next time Couturier sees the ice, sooner rather than later, he's fully healed up and better than ever, but only time will tell.