It's always a shame when a player misses significant time due to injury, but in the case of Sean Couturier's 2015-16 season, it feels as though we really missed out on what could have been a special year.
And in fact, it was a special year for Couturier, who played at a Selke Trophy-worthy level for 63 of the team's 82 regular season games this season, and could have been in real contention for that award had he played the full string. Couturier also finished with a career high in points at 39, matching his previous career high of the same number -- which came over 82 games in the 2013-14 season.
Oh, and did we mention that he's only 23 years old?
|Age||23 (December 7, 1992)|
|Contract Status||Signed through 2021-22 for $4,300,000 per year|
2015-16 Regular Season Numbers (click button to expand)
|Total||5-on-5||Power Play||Penalty Kill||Other|
|Corsi For %||Corsi Rel %||Goals For %||PDO|
Back in January, Charlie wrote about Couturier's Selke-worthy season to that point. So let's just update the breakdown that Charlie outlined in that post. Among his Flyers teammates, Couturier finished the season ranked first in even strength points per 60 minutes of ice time, second in Corsi For percentage, he played against the toughest competition of any Flyer, and he started the least amount of his shifts in the offensive zone compared to his fellow forwards.
Take those last two stats and compare to the first two -- he had some of the toughest assignments in the team and yet he still was the team's most efficient scorer and he still drove play better than just about everybody. Super impressive stuff from Sean Couturier.
Across the league among players with at least 800 minutes played at 5-on-5, Couturier finished 35th in Corsi For percentage. He finished 36th in the NHL in five-on-five points per 60 minutes, just ahead of Alex Ovechkin. Among those same players, only 31 started a smaller percentage of their shifts in the offensive end -- and most of those were fourth-line grinders or defensive specialists -- and only 15 faced tougher competition.
Compare all of these points and it's clear: Couturier was one of the most effective defensive forwards in hockey this season, and his absence for 19 games definitely hurt the Flyers. More importantly perhaps, his absence for five (closer to six, really) playoff games against the Washington Capitals was as close to a fatal blow as the Flyers could have taken in that series.
Couturier would have changed the dynamic against Washington's incredible offensive depth, and that's before we talk about the penalty kill effect. The Capitals efficient power play was a major reason the Flyers lost that series, and it's doubtful that one player could have changed that tide. But Couturier would have helped: he was easily one of the team's most effective penalty killers this season, as he has been for multiple seasons now.
At 23 and about to enter his sixth NHL season, Couturier has become one of the most versatile players the Flyers have. He plays in every possible situation, he takes on the hardest players the opposing team has to offer, and he's still providing offense despite that. And I'm just going to say for good measure that, again, he is 23 years old.
Sean Couturier's best years are still ahead of him, and hopefully they'll be injury-free. As long as he stays healthy, he's going to be in the Selke Trophy conversation for the rest of his career.
CPlayer Card (via hockeyviz.com)