Sean Couturier’s Injury Puts Flyers In Tough Spot

After the news broke that forward Sean Couturier would miss the remainder of the 2021-22 season following successful back surgery, the Philadelphia Flyers were again left scrambling for replacement options from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Since the beginning of the season, the Flyers have recalled countless players, including Connor Bunnaman, Morgan Frost, and Isaac Ratcliffe, who have played significant minutes filling in spots.

From the look of things, this was the only option for Couturier, who has struggled for most of this season. There were times when he looked uncomfortable and out of place, so the news that he will sit out the rest of the campaign makes perfect sense. The team tried to solve the problem with non-surgical methods, including a couple of epidurals, but that didn’t seem to help (from ‘Flyers center Sean Couturier out for the season after undergoing successful back surgery,’ The Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/11/2022).

Philadelphia Flyers Sean Couturier
Philadelphia Flyers Sean Couturier (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

“There were things we looked at non-surgically that may have helped short-term, but there were some concerns about long-term,” said general manager Chuck Fletcher. “So the procedure he had today, to the best of everybody’s knowledge at this point, should resolve the issue.”

In addition to Couturier, the organization is also without Kevin Hayes, Ryan Ellis, Joel Farabee, and Derick Brassard, all due to potentially season-ending injuries. At this point, the Flyers are running out of options to replace these players, which makes losing another key player even more difficult.

What Went Wrong for Couturier?

Entering the season, everything seemed fine for the former Selke Trophy-winner, but things quickly changed as the injury got more serious. Couturier ended up playing 29 games with the Flyers before being placed on injured reserve in late December. In those 29 games, he put up 17 points (six goals, 11 assists), which is far below expectations. At the time, no one knew the extent of his injury, so everyone just thought he was underperforming in an already bad season. 

As it turns out, he was seriously hurt and needed surgery to (hopefully) get him back to full health by the beginning of next season. The organization did what they could to help him, but things were far more serious than anyone realized.

“This wasn’t an issue that was bothering him coming into this year. I think he started having issues in the fall and tried to battle through,” said Fletcher. “We tried to treat things nonsurgically, a couple of epidurals to be exact, tried to resolve the issue that was there. You try to do your best to avoid back surgery if you can, but ultimately the doctor and Sean felt confident that the best way to resolve this going forward would be to have this surgical intervention.”

The 29-year-old forward will look to make a full recovery over the next three months and be fully healthy for the start of training camp in 2022-23. There is no telling whether he will return to the player he once was, but the organization is hopeful he will return to his former self sooner rather than later.

Lehigh Valley Phantoms Attempting to Step Up

With Couturier out for the remainder of the season, the Flyers have turned their attention towards finding a long-term replacement. For most of this season, the Phantoms have filled in spots, but how much longer will that last? The Phantoms are already dealing with injuries of their own as options are thinning.

While replacements like Morgan Frost, Gerry Mayhew, and Isaac Ratcliffe have done a decent job of being a replacement for the time being, the Flyers just need something more in order to make a real impact. The biggest problem is the fact that the bottom-six forwards are entirely made up of AHLers. 

The Flyers are going to need to do something fast if they want to make up any ground in the standings, but at this point, it is probably not even worth it. The team is already depleted and sits second to last in the Eastern Conference. It just seems like one thing after another this season, so what more could bring this organization down?

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