Examining the Sean Couturier-Jordan Staal Comparison

DISCLAIMER: This post features a sizable chunk of analysis via advanced statistics. These numbers can all be found at For those who are unfamiliar with how advanced stats work in hockey, here's an pretty good basic primer on them from SB Nation's Tampa Bay Lightning (thanks for Vinny, guys!) blog Raw Charge.

Coming out of the QMJHL in 2011, Sean Couturier was frequently compared to Jordan Staal. It made sense at the time, and it makes sense now: both projected as big top-6 centers who play an excellent two-way game and can be used in a defensive role. Staal was projected to score more than Couturier coming into their draft years (perhaps as a result of his pedigree and extra inch and 20 pounds on Couturier) despite Couturier far outpacing Staal's production in junior hockey.

Staal played 2 years of junior hockey, both with the OHL's Peterborough Petes. In his first year with the Petes, at age 16, he put up 9 goals and 28 points in 61 games. In his second (draft) year, at age 17, Staal put up 28 goals and 68 points in 68 games. It's important to note that by turning 17 at the start of his draft year (by virtue of his September birthday), Staal was unusually young for a top prospect.

Couturier, on the other hand, played 3 years of junior hockey. All 3 of his years of juniors came with the Drummondville Voltigeurs (god, I love Canada) of the QMJHL. In his first year with Drummondville, Couturier posted 9 goals and 31 points in 58 games. His second year saw those totals jump dramatically to 41 goals and 96 points in 68 games (at age 17). In Couturier's final (draft) year (age 18), he put up 36 goals and 96 points in 58 games while battling mononucleosis for part of the season.

Just by looking at the junior statistics, it would seem that Couturier should have been regarded as a superior prospect to Staal. However, concerns about his skating ability and the fact that his final year of juniors didn't take another leap up from his second (though scoring the same amount of points in 10 fewer games is nothing to sneeze at, mononucleosis aside) pushed Cooters down in the draft rankings.

So now let's look at their production once arriving in the NHL. Both started their NHL careers in the season immediately following their draft, so the timelines should be similar.

Year 1: Jordan Staal, 2006-2007.

Staal jumped into the league with a bang, as his Penguins team that finished last in the Eastern Conference with 58 points (lol) made the playoffs as the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference and tied for the 3rd-most points in the East with 105. The Penguins fell in 5 games to the Ottawa Senators. Staal played 81 games and racked up 29 goals and 42 points, good for 0.36 goals per game and 0.52 points per game in the regular season before scoring 3 goals in their 5 playoff games.

Great numbers, and I think most of us here at BSH would be absolutely thrilled to see Coots put those up. The Corsi numbers for Staal are not available for the 2006-2007 season ( started tracking Corsi for the 2007-2008 season), but there are still statistics that show his rookie season was definitely lucky. Staal generated 131 shots in his 81 games for a very respectable total of 1.62 shots per game. However, he shot a whopping 22.1% on those shots, a statistical outlier that would definitely not prove to be repeatable. And just for fun, Staal scored his 3 goals on 8 shots in 5 playoff games, giving him a playoff shooting percentage of 37.5% to put the cherry on top of his puck luck-filled season. Let's compare this to Sean Couturier's rookie year.

Year 1: Sean Couturier, 2011-2012.

Couturier jumped into the league with a bang, as his Flyers team that was completely retooled in the offseason and projected to miss the playoffs by many made the playoffs as the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference and accumulated the 3rd-most points in the East with 103. The Flyers won a 1st round playoff series over the Pittsburgh Penguins in 6 games before falling to the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in 5 games. Couturier played 77 games and scored 13 goals and added 14 assists for a total of 27 points, good for 0.17 GPG and 0.35 PPG. In 11 playoff games, he added 3 goals and 4 points. So basically, Cooters had less points per game than Staal did goals per game. ZOMGZ COOTERS SUX AND WILL NEVER BE AS GOOD AS STAAL, right? Well, let's take a look at some of the underlying numbers.

Couturier generated 116 shots, good for 1.51 per game, comparable to Staal's 1.62 shots per game. The difference was that Couturier shot 11.2% while Staal shot 22.1%, nearly double. All in all, a really nice year for Sean, especially when you look at the advanced stats and remember that he put up these numbers while facing a Corsi Rel QoC of 0.760 (6th-highest on the team behind Timonen, Coburn, Talbot, van Riemsdyk, and Giroux) and having a Corsi Rel QoT of -1.741 (5th-worst on the team, ahead of only Zolnierczyk, Shelley, Rinaldo, and Wellwood among players who played at least 20 games). His top linemates were Max Talbot (40.9%) and Zac Rinaldo (36.4%). He only started in the offensive zone 40.3% of the time, something his defensive role would seem to indicate, yet still finished in the offensive zone 45.4% of the time, suggesting he drove play forward. Combining all this with the fact that he received almost no powerplay time, had under 11 minutes of ES TOI, and had the 3rd-most PK time among forwards (behind Talbot and Read), and his point production looks pretty good. He finished with a -3.4 Corsi Rel, which isn't great, but was still comparable to players like Wayne Simmonds (-3.5) and Danny Briere (-3.1) who played with better linemates against worse competition and had more favorable zone starts.

In conclusion: great first year for Cooters considering the circumstances he was thrown into. We don't have the advanced statistics for Jordan Staal's rookie year, but Staal's superior point production was due to an unsustainably high shooting percentage (Cooters actually had one more assist than Staal did his rookie year, but Staal's shooting percentage was nearly twice as high). Let's check out year 2 for both of these players.

Year 2: Jordan Staal, 2007-2008

As lucky as Staal got as a rookie, he was that unlucky in his second season. He played in all 82 games, but only put up 12 goals and 28 points (0.15 GPG, 0.34 PPG) despite firing 183 shots at the net (2.23 shots per game, an increase of over 27% from his rookie year). He actually regressed past the mean and his 6.6% shooting percentage was the main culprit behind what I'm sure the Pittsburgh and national media called a "sophomore slump" at the time. In the playoffs, ironically, he had 6 goals and 7 points in 20 games during the Penguins' run to the Cup finals, aided by a 17.6% shooting percentage.

As far as advanced stats go, Jordan Staal wasn't exactly dealt a great hand that season by Michael Therrien. He only had 37.5% offensive zone starts, yet managed to drive play forward and finish in the offensive zone 46% of the time. His Corsi Rel of 2.6 ranked 8th on a Stanley Cup finals team among players with at least 20GP behind Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marian Hossa, Ryan Malone, Sergei Gonchar, Pascal Dupuis, and (surprisingly) Tyler Kennedy. However, his Corsi Rel QoC of 0.900 was 4th on the team (behind Gonchar, Mark Eaton, and Dupuis) while his Corsi Rel QoT of 0.103 ranked just 13th. Amazingly, there were only 3 forwards in his top 10 most frequent linemates, with the most common being Tyler Kennedy (32.9%) and Petr Sykora (20.0%). That year, as a rookie, Kennedy had 10 goals and 19 points in 55 games while Sykora had 28 goals and 63 points in 81 games. I'd say those are pretty decent linemates to have, despite the low overall Corsi Rel QoT and Staal's on-ice shooting percentage of just 7.01%. Finally, Staal was 7th on the team in ES TOI (behind just Malkin among forwards), 3rd in PK TOI (tops among forwards), and just 10th in PP TOI (behind Malkin, Sykora, Hossa, Crosby, and Ryan Malone among forwards). However, the ES TOI might have been inflated due to Crosby missing 29 games that season. Now let's check out Sean Couturier's infamous "sophomore slump" from last year.

Year 2: Sean Couturier, 2013

We all saw Sean's offensive struggles firsthand last year, as he played in 46 of the 48 games in the lockout-shortened season but was only able to manage 4 goals and 15 points (0.09 GPG, 0.33 PPG). I found it interesting to note that despite seeing his goals per game ratio cut nearly in half, his PPG stayed almost the same (a drop of only 0.02 PPG). How could this have happened, you might ask? If you guessed "a really shitty shooting percentage", then you are correct! In those 46 games, he fired 75 shots at the net (1.63 shots per game) but was only rewarded with a 5.3% shooting percentage. Again, I find it important to note that his shots per game increased by 0.12 shots/game. While that increase wasn't as dramatic as Staal's leap from 1.62 to 2.23, it's still nice to know that he didn't actively regress.

When we look at the advanced stats, it paints a much clearer picture of what happened. He only started in the offensive zone 32.1% of the time, but was able to drive play forward to finish in the offensive zone 44.7% of the time. Cooters started in the offensive zone 5.4% less often than Staal did, but finished in it only 1.3% less often than Staal. He did this despite facing a Corsi Rel QoC of 0.952 (higher than everyone on the Flyers but Max Talbot) by a long shot-in 3rd was Brayden Schenn with 0.523) and having a Corsi Rel QoT of -2.637, ahead of only Ruslan Fedotenko and Zac Rinaldo. His most frequent linemates on the season were Max Talbot (33.9%), who missed the final 13 games with a broken leg, and Matt Read (31.8%), who missed 6 games with a rib injury. When either of those two was out of the lineup, Couturier's 3rd-most frequent linemate was Mike Knuble (23.8%). Yikes. Read had 11 goals and 24 points in 42 games, Talbot had 5 goals and 10 points in 35 games, and Knuble had 4 goals and 8 points in 28 games. Couturier had an on-ice shooting percentage of 7.26% though, so surprisingly the lack of talent of his linemates didn't lead to a dramatically lower figure in that area. Couturier was 10th on the Flyers in ES TOI last season (behind Giroux, Voracek, Schenn, Read, and Simmonds among forwards), 5th in PK TOI (behind Ruslan Fedotenko and Talbot among forwards), and 9th in PP TOI (behind Giroux, Voracek-who played most of his PP minutes on one of the points, Simmonds, Schenn, Hartnell, Briere, and Read among forwards). However, you can argue that those figures (particularly at ES) would not have been as high without injuries to Scott Hartnell, Danny Briere, and Max Talbot among others.

In conclusion: Both Staal and Couturier had their goal numbers decrease due to declines in shooting percentages (Staal's dropped about 15.5% to 6.6% while Couturier's dropped 5.9% to 5.3%), while their assists per game rose slightly (Staal went from 0.16 APG to 0.19 APG while Couturier went from 0.18 APG to 0.24 APG). Both had very unfavorable zone starts and drove play forward. Couturier started 5.4% less often in the offensive zone and finished in it only 1.3% less often than Staal. Couturier averaged just over 11 minutes of ES TOI per game, while Staal averaged nearly 13 minutes of ES TOI. Neither played much on the power play, and both did a lot of heavy lifting on the penalty kill. Extrapolated out to a full season, Couturier would have produced a line of 7 goals and 27 points in 82 games compared to Staal's 12 goals and 28 points in 82 games. Interesting. Let's take a look now at what Jordan Staal did in his 3rd season.

Year 3: Jordan Staal 2008-2009

Staal played in all 82 games again that season and rewarded the Penguins with 22 goals and 49 points, good for a bump back up to 0.27 GPG and 0.60 PPG, a new career high. In the 24 postseason games en route to winning the Stanley Cup, he added 4 goals and 9 points. He actually had fewer shots on goal in his 3rd season (166 vs. 183 in 2007-2008) but had his goals increase by 16 by virtue of his shooting percentage rising back up to 13.3%. He would eventually stay within 3.5% of that figure every year until 2013, when it dipped down to 8.8% in his first year with Carolina (one that was ironically chalked up to be a sign that Staal couldn't handle being "the man" on a team by large segments of the media).

In addition to the increase in shooting percentage, Staal's underlying numbers highlight a few more causes for his increased production. One was that his zone starts got better, as he started in the offensive zone 40.3% of the time (a 2.8% increase from the previous year), although he finished in the offensive zone only 43.7% of the time (a 2.3% decrease from the previous year). Another was his abnormally high on-ice shooting percentage of 9.92%, which was nearly a full 3% higher than 2007-2008. He spent most of his ES TOI (7th on the team with just over 13 minutes, ranking only behind Malkin, Crosby, and Chris Kunitz among forwards, though most of Kunitz's came with the Anaheim Ducks before he was traded) with Tyler Kennedy (44.1%) and Matt Cooke (43.2%), with dashes of Petr Sykora (18.9%), Miroslav Satan (17.3%), and Ruslan Fedotenko (16.1%) sprinkled in for good measure. Kennedy had an excellent year, with 15 goals and 35 points in 67 games on an 8.8% shooting percentage. Matt Cooke had 13 goals and 31 points in 76 games on a shooting percentage of 15.1% He retained his top spot among Pittsburgh forwards in PK TOI (and only Rob Scuderi was ahead of him), and saw an increase to 7th on the team in PP TOI (behind Malkin, Crosby, Guerin, and Sykora among forwards, though a hefty chunk of Guerin's came while with the New York Islanders). Staal's 6.0 Corsi Rel was 5th on the team that year (behind Kunitz and Kennedy among forwards and ahead of Crosby (5.4) and Malkin (-5.1)) despite a Corsi Rel QoC of 0.683, 5th on the team (behind Malkin and Sykora among forwards). Interestingly enough, his Corsi Rel QoT took a jump up to 0.379, good for 8th on the team (behind Kunitz, Guerin, Talbot (lol), and Satan among forwards). Among forwards who played the whole year with the team, his Corsi Rel QoT was 3rd, ahead of Crosby (7th) and Malkin (10th). I think this increase in Corsi Rel QoT for Staal can be largely attributed to Tyler Kennedy, who had a monster 2008-2009 season with a 12.7 Corsi Rel.

What To Expect from Sean Couturier in 2013-2014

This is what we're all wondering, right? Cooters has no goals and 2 assists through 8 games on 13 shots. Although it's absurdly early to use this as a real predictive tool, Couturier's Corsi Rel so far is 5.3, good for 6th on the team behind Hartnell, Voracek, Raffl, Talbot, and Read. He's doing this despite an on-ice shooting percentage of 2.33% and a personal shooting percentage of 0.0%. His offensive zone starts have increased 8.2% up to 40.3%, and he's finishing in the offensive zone an even 50% of the time as a result. He's still just 10th on the team in ES TOI (behind Giroux, Read, Voracek, and Schenn among forwards, though this number will figure to decrease over the long-term with the returns of Hartnell and Lecavalier from injuries). He has a Corsi Rel QoC of 2.305, (5th-highest on the team behind McGinn, Grossman, Talbot, and Coburn) despite a Corsi Rel QoT of -0.221, 14th on the team (ahead of only Raffl, Talbot, Rinaldo, Newbury, Hall, and Rosehill among forwards). His most frequent linemates have been Talbot (a whopping 73.3%) and Read (55.9%), though with the line changes announced at practice yesterday he will be working with Read and Simmonds for at least the next game or two.

Obviously all these stats are through incredibly small sample sizes for this season. 8 games isn't enough to determine much of anything (although apparently 3 games is enough to decide to fire a coach), but the bottom line is that we need patience with Cooters. For the role he's put in with defensive zone starts, he does a very good job. Hopefully this year his linemates get better (playing him with Simmonds is a step in the right direction) via the trickle-down effect of keeping McGinn and Raffl in the lineup over Rosehill/Newbury and perhaps Rinaldo and he does less heavy lifting in the defensive zone (less likely, but the increase in offensive zone starts is promising) with the Hall-Talbot-Rinaldo trio picking up some of that slack.

He's not going to shoot 0.0% for the rest of the year, and he's probably not going to shoot 5.3% again like he did last year. His linemates probably aren't going to shoot 2.33% all year, especially not if he gets good players like Read and Simmonds on his wing all year.

To view all the mumbo jumbo from the last 2900 words in table format:

Year 1:

Traditional Statistics Staal Couturier
Games 81 77
Goals 29 13
Assists 13 14
Points 42 27
Shots 131 116
Shooting % 22.10% 11.20%
Goals/game 0.36 0.17
assists/game 0.16 0.18
points/game 0.52 0.35
shots/game 1.62 1.51

Advanced Statistics Staal Couturier
Corsi Rel n/a -3.4 (15th, 9th among Fs)
Corsi Rel QoC n/a 0.76 (6th, 4th among Fs)
Corsi Rel QoT n/a -1.741 (5th worst)
O Zone Starts n/a 40.30%
O Zone Finishes n/a 45.40%
On-ice shooting % n/a 9.55%
Top linemates n/a Talbot (40.9%), Rinaldo (36.4%)
5v5 TOI/game n/a 10:45 (15th, 9th among Fs)
5v4 TOI/game n/a 0:27 (14th, 9th among Fs)
4v5 TOI/game n/a 2:37 (5th, 3rd among Fs)

Year 2:

Traditional Statistics Staal Couturier
Games 82 46 (48)
Goals 12 4
Assists 16 11
Points 28 15
Shots 183 75
Shooting % 6.60% 5.30%
Goals/game 0.15 0.09
assists/game 0.20 0.24
points/game 0.34 0.33
shots/game 2.23 1.63

Couturier's second year numbers extrapolated to a non-lockout season vs. Staal's numbers in his 2nd season:

Traditional Statistics Staal Couturier
Games 82 79
Goals 12 7
Assists 16 19
Points 28 26
Shots 183 133
Shooting % 6.60% 5.30%
Goals/game 0.15 0.09
assists/game 0.20 0.24
points/game 0.34 0.33
shots/game 2.23 1.63

Advanced Statistics Staal Couturier
Corsi Rel 2.6 (8th, 7th among Fs) 2.1 (7th, 5th among Fs)
Corsi Rel QoC 0.900 (4th, 2nd among Fs) 0.952 (2nd)
Corsi Rel QoT 0.103 (13th, 7th among Fs) -2.637 (18th, 11th among Fs)
O Zone Starts 37.50% 32.10%
O Zone Finishes 46.00% 44.70%
On-ice shooting % 7.01% 7.26%
Top linemates Kennedy (32.9%), Sykora (20.0%) Talbot (33.9%), Read (31.8%)
5v5 TOI/game 12:40 (7th, 2nd among Fs) 11:24 (10th, 6th among Fs)
5v4 TOI/game 1:30 (10th, 6th among Fs) 1:29 (9th, 8th among Fs)
4v5 TOI/game 3:19 (3rd, 1st among Fs) 2:22 (5th, 3rd among Fs)

So, to compare. Couturier faced tougher competition with worse zone starts and much worse teammates than Staal, but finished relatively close to him in Corsi Rel. Staal had more 5v5 and 4v5 TOI than Couturier, but they were roughly the same on the power play. Keep in mind, though, that the TOI numbers are taken from total TOI, and thus players who missed a large chunk of the season due to injury (Crosby for Staal, Hartnell/Briere/Talbot for Couturier) lag behind in total TOI but very well could have had higher per-game numbers than Staal and Couturier. They had nearly identical points per game numbers, and while both had low shooting percentages, Couturier's was 1.3% lower. While Staal generated 0.6 more shots per game than Couturier, Cooters produced more assists. Overall though, pretty similar numbers for players who were used pretty similarly by their respective teams.

Here are Staal's numbers for his 3rd season with what Couturier is on pace for now (All Flyers numbers only taken for players with at least 5 games played so far. SSS, I know. Bear with me.)

Year 3

Traditional Statistics Staal Couturier
Games 82 82
Goals 22 0
Assists 27 21
Points 49 21
Shots 166 133
Shooting % 13.30% 0.0%
Goals/game 0.27 0
assists/game 0.33 0.26
points/game 0.6 0.26
shots/game 2.02 1.63

Advanced Statistics Staal Couturier
Corsi Rel 6.0 (5th, 3rd among Fs) 5.3 (5th, 4th among Fs)
Corsi Rel QoC 0.683 (5th, 3rd among Fs) 2.305 (4th, 2nd among Fs)
Corsi Rel QoT 0.379 (8th, 5th among Fs) -0.221 (9th, 6th among Fs)
O Zone Starts 40.30% 40.30%
O Zone Finishes 43.70% 50.00%
On-ice shooting % 9.92% 2.23%
Top linemates Kennedy (44.1%), Cooke (43.2%) Talbot (73.3%), Read (55.9%)
5v5 TOI/game 13:12 (7th, 4th among Fs) 10:49 (10th, 5th among Fs)
5v4 TOI/game 2:09 (7th, 5th among Fs) 1:07 (8th, 6th among Fs)
4v5 TOI/game 3:20 (2nd, 1st among Fs) 2:15 (7th, 4th among Fs)

Now obviously I know this doesn't have much use for Couturier. Obviously he's not going to shoot 0.0% all season, and his linemates aren't going to shoot 2.23% the rest of the season as well. His most frequent linemates figure to shuffle a bit, as he's recently had Wayne Simmonds replace Max Talbot on his line, which will hopefully bump his Corsi Rel up a bit. But the fact of the matter is that if the Flyers want Sean Couturier to become Jordan Staal, they have to use him like Jordan Staal! In his 3rd season, Staal played against easier opponents with better teammates, started in the offensive zone more often, and got more ice time at even strength and on the power play while keeping his penalty killing duties the same. Again, it's a very small sample size, but if things continue like this Couturier will have less even-strength and power play ice time this season compared to last year while playing against tougher competition with teammates that, while better than last year, are still a negative. The scary part is that these ice time figures are with Scott Hartnell and Vinny Lecavalier out. With those two returning, one would figure that his 5v4 TOI and probably his 5v5 TOI would both decrease.

Unfortunately, we don't have the advanced stats for Staal's rookie year, but you can see that Staal's Corsi Rel, Corsi Rel QoT, offensive zone starts, and ice time in all 3 phases of the game increased from his 2nd season to his 3rd season while his Corsi Rel QoC decreased. His goals and assists also increased back to (or above) his rookie levels as his shooting percentage rebounded and his on-ice shooting percentage took a leap up. In comparison, Couturier's Corsi Rel went up in his sophomore season compared to his 1st season despite having fewer offensive zone starts and seeing his Corsi Rel QoC go up (playing against tougher opponents) and his Corsi Rel QoC go down (playing with worse teammates). His decrease in goal scoring and overall points can be partially attributed to those factors as well as his shooting percentage dropping by over half (11.2% to 5.3%) and his on-ice shooting percentage dropping by 2 percentage points (9.55%-7.26%). Although it's early in his 3rd season to be making sweeping judgements, Couturier has a higher Corsi Rel so far with slightly better (though still not good) teammates and playing against harder opponents with more frequent offensive zone starts. His personal and on-ice shooting percentages are very low and both figure to rebound over the course of the season.

If the Flyers want Couturier to have a 20-goal, 50-point season like Staal's third year in the league (ok, 21 goals and 49 points but close enough), the onus is on them to utilize him in a role that is conducive to that kind of production. Give him more ice time at even-strength and on the power play, play him with better teammates, and don't always use him in a shutdown role.

However, there are no guarantees that the Flyers will heed my advice, so we need to take into consideration the fact that it is very likely that his role stays the same. With that in mind, what kind of stat line could we expect to see Cooters put up this season?

The average shooting percentage for forwards in the NHL last year was 10.57% (h/t Quant Hockey). Via Arctic Ice Hockey, the average shooting percentage for 20-year old players is 11% and for 21-year old players (which Cooters will become in December) is 11.5%. Let's be conservative and say that he shoots at a slightly below-average mark, 10%. The average for on-ice shooting percentage (and this could be wrong, I had to do some calculations of my own based on Eric T's claim here that 9.2% is 67% closer to the mean than 11%) is around 8.3%. So let's say that Cooters continues shooting at the same clip (around 1.63%) that he has so far and his saves against (or shots for)/60 stays the same (32.6) for the rest of the year, but his personal shooting percentage rebounds to 10% and his on-ice shooting percentage rises to the league-average of 8.3%. Assuming everything else stays constant (a humongous assumption for 8 games of hockey), his shooting % would suggest that he'll finish with 13 goals and his on-ice shooting% would suggest that he'll be on the ice for 40 goals, giving him 27 assists if 13 of those goals are his own. That's just even strength production, though. I'm not quite sure how to calculate power-play and shorthanded production with this model (perhaps someone could help me out with that). He had 2 shorthanded goals and no power play goals in his 77 games as a rookie, and none of either last year. I'm going to somewhat arbitrarily award him 1 goal and 3 assists on special teams this year. Adding those to the previous numbers would give Couturier a 2013-2014 stat line that looks as follows:

Traditional statistics Couturier
games 82
goals 15
assists 31
points 46
shots 133
shooting % 10.00%
goals/game 0.18
assists/game 0.38
points/game 0.56
shots/game 1.63

Compared to Staal's stats from his 3rd season, it would look like this:

Traditional Statistics Staal Couturier
Games 82 82
Goals 22 15
Assists 27 31
Points 49 46
Shots 166 133
Shooting % 13.30% 10.00%
Goals/game 0.27 0.18
assists/game 0.33 0.38
points/game 0.6 0.56
shots/game 2.02 1.63

Basically, Couturier would have 7 fewer goals on 33 fewer shots due to a shooting percentage that is 3.3% lower than Staal's. He would have 4 more assists than him and 3 fewer points than him despite less 5v5 and 5v4 TOI than Staal had. Simply put? Sean Couturier's pretty damn good and has been the victim of bad luck for the last 52 games he's played in. He's performed very well given the circumstances he's been deployed in, much like Staal did early on with Pittsburgh. Anyone who's disappointed in him and/or thinks he should be traded expected him to be better than Jordan Staal, doesn't understand how luck works in hockey, or assumes every player on a team's role and teammates on the ice is equal.

The bottom line is that Couturier has put up similar numbers, both traditional and advanced, to Jordan Staal at similar points of their careers despite having worse puck luck, playing with worse teammates, and playing against better competition. None of this is meant to discredit Jordan Staal. It's not his fault the Penguins in his 2nd year (Cup finalists) and 3rd year (Cup champions) are light years better than the Flyers in Couturier's 2nd year (missed playoffs) and 3rd year so far (woof). He played a very similar role that Couturier did, but simply had better teammates as a result of being on a better team. However, the Penguins seemed to recognize his talent and even though he might have nominally been a "3rd-line center", they managed to get him out on the ice more often in all 3 phases of the game than the Flyers have with Couturier.

Hold tight, folks. I promise things with Cooters will get better if we give it time and allow regression to the mean to occur. Hopefully Paul Holmgren, Ron Hextall, Craig Berube, and Ed Snider realize this as well, and make the necessary changes to make this happen (patience, better linemates) for Couturier rather than the unnecessary ones (a change of scenery).

I actually really enjoyed doing this, so if anyone's got any other comparables they'd like me to take a look at I'm happy to do so. One idea I had was comparing Brayden Schenn to Mike Richards since that's what Holmgren said at the press conference after the infamous trades, but I'm more than open to ideas. Post any ideas you've got in the comments or any other thoughts about the piece. Follow me for Flyers, Eagles, Phillies, and Sixers-related shenanigans at @GoingHard_inger as well as the other unrelated musings of a 19-year old college freshman.

Thanks for reading!

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