As the 2021-22 season continues to become a setback for the Philadelphia Flyers, it is time to start taking a look at some of the smaller pieces that are creating the bigger picture. For the Flyers, Sean Couturier is one of the smaller pieces to that puzzle creating a larger issue of inconsistent play night after night. He is typically one of the most consistent players on the ice, but that just has not been the case for the majority of this season.
While there are points where he looks like the most dominant player on the ice, there are others where he looked like he was clearly struggling. That pattern was sort of broken as the Flyers finally snapped a 10-game losing streak, in which Couturier contributed on all ends of the ice, including special teams (from ‘Flyers quench 10-game winless drought in the desert, beating the Vegas Golden Knights, 4-3,’ Philadelphia Inquirer 12/11/2021). During the post-game interview with the media, he discussed the importance of their play and keeping focus moving forward.
There have been some games this season where he has looked absolutely lost on the ice at some points, which is a huge problem for the Flyers if this continues. To add to his inconsistent play this season, in 24 games played, he tallied 15 points (six goals, nine assists), which is alarming if this pattern continues later into the season. Over the course of the last six games, he only has one goal and one assist among a 10-game losing streak for the team.
While some might not view his play as of late as a problem for the team moving forward, there is a major cause for concern as he is considered one of the best players on the team. If this pattern of inconsistent play continues, the Flyers will not be able to break the mantra of being one of the worst defensive teams at the moment. With a change in leadership coming earlier in the week, it is time for him to turn things around and figure out how to get back to that player he once was.
Breaking the Pattern
Obviously, Couturier has nothing to prove as he has shown up season after season, but his play of late has started to become a huge concern. This season he is a minus-6 during the first 25 games of the season, which is the complete opposite of where he was during his Selke Trophy-winning season in 2019-20. There have been flashes of that same player during this season, but not on a consistent enough basis. He needs to come out each and every single night to give his best effort moving forward to help this team in any way he can.
“I think special teams tonight were probably the difference,” Couturier said. “We went 2-for-3 and we killed a lot of penalties. I think it was a difference-maker in the game. We had Hartsy [Carter Hart] make some big saves when we needed him. For the power play, I think it was just moving the puck quick and getting it to the net.”
During the game, he missed the final minutes of the first period and a portion of the second after he was cut by a skate on the wrist. While he skated off the ice, Vegas scored a moment later to take a lead into intermission. His absence at that moment proved his importance on the ice, but obviously doesn’t guarantee a no-goal in any situation, especially the way this season has gone so far.
Moving Forward for Couturier
Hockey is 82 games for a reason as there are ups and downs for all players. With Couturier being one of the best players on the team, there are obviously difficulties when it comes to his struggles as of late, but he will break out of them. Hopefully, with a coaching change and the leadership core stepping up, he will be able to get back to his game and continue to lead the Flyers to success seen in the past.
Couturier and the Flyers will look to build off the momentum of snapping a 10-game losing streak as they head into a handful of games against struggling teams this week. If the team is able to string together a couple of wins, things could quickly turn around and head in the right direction.
Bobby Bader Jr. is a freelance journalist born and raised in Philadelphia, PA covering the Philadelphia Flyers for The Hockey Writers since the start of the 2020-21 National Hockey League Season. He currently works with the Hershey Cubs Hockey Club (USPHL Premier) as the team’s media coordinator as the team competes in their inaugural season. He also serves as the Assistant Sports Information Director at Penn State Harrisburg. For interview requests or to provide content info, follow Bobby on Twitter or his social media accounts. They appear under his photo on articles like this one.