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Musings & Quick Hits: Couturier, Showcase Roster, TIFH and More

June 22, 2021, 8:51 AM ET [571 Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Quick Hits: June 22, 2021

1) There is a segment of the Flyers fan base that advocates for trading Sean Couturier this offseason strictly because he is 28 years old (he will turn 29 on Dec. 7) his next contract will see him get a significant raise on his underpaid ($4.33 million AAV) deal signed back in 2015, and the term will take him into his mid-30s.

For the record, I am only in favor of trading Couturier if he ultimately is not inclined to sign an extension with the Flyers and Philadelphia were to face the prospect of losing him for nothing to unrestricted free agency. The two-time Selke Trophy finalist and 2019-20 winner of the award for the NHL's top defensive forward has already been through a four-season soft rebuild (or, if you prefer this terminology instead, emphasis on draft asset stockpiling over aiming for a deep playoff run) during the Ron Hextall era.

The 2019-20 season raised a lot of hopes, and this past season was a huge disappointment. Going forward, Couturier wants a bonafide chance to win something, preferably in Philadelphia, and I can't blame him for that. I understand why he'd want to see first what direction the team goes this offseason and next year.

As far as trading Couturier goes, he would be an extremely hard player to replace in the Flyers' lineup. Perennial Selke candidates who are also two-time 30 goal scorers and bankable to score at least in the mid-20s in an 82-game season are hardly easy to find. I'm also not afraid of the player's age.

Patrice Bergeron, the player against whom Couturier is most often measured, had a down year for Boston the year he turned 30. But how have his 30s gone? Have the Bruins had reason to regret the big extension he signed one year prior to his dip to 22 goals and 55 points in 81 games? He rebounded offensively the very next year and. At age 35, he remains the gold standard of two-way NHL centers.

How about Anze Kopitar? Has the Slovenian center, himself a multi-year Selke winner and nearly perennial Selke candidate, dropped off a cliff production wise although he'll turn 34 this summer and the Kings' fortunes as a team have declined steeply in recent years? Nope. Kopitar's career-best season offensively came at age 30 and he's coming off a 50-point season this year in 56 games.

Ryan O'Reilly turned 30 in February. Does the former Selke winner seem to be showing signs of decline? No, he does not.

Nicklas Bäckström and Couturier are different players style-wise. But from the standpoint of worrying about a steep drop in productivity just because a player is nearing his 30s, the 33-year-old Bäckström is another prominent current NHL center who hasn't seen a steep (really, much of any) decline because he's passed the arbitrary line of being "too old" to produce at a high level.

Blake Wheeler isn't a center but I'll use the 34-year-old Winnipeg right winger as another current example of a player who has remained highly productive well into his 30s. Wheeler will turn 35 before the start of next season. T.J. Oshie is also 34. Has he not remained a fine producer?

We could also mention that Couturier's 33-year-old teammate, Claude Giroux, is among the NHL's top 20 scorers (283 points, 17th) dating back to the season he turned 30; one more point than Auston Matthews or John Tavares (who will turn 30 in September), one fewer point in that time period than Steven Stamkos (who is now 31) and two fewer than Alex Ovechkin (who will turn 36 in September). Sidney Crosby (who will turn 34 on Aug. 10) is 10th in the NHL in scoring over the last four seasons with 298 points.

I am not saying that Couturier is in the same class of players as all-time greats such as Crosby or Ovechkin. He may not even be quite on par, year-in and year-out, as Bergeron. The point here is that shying away from re-signing a key player on your team solely because he's now in his late 20s is a defeatist and, quite frankly, illogical framework. These decisions must be made on a case-by-case basis.

Couturier keeps himself in top physical condition. He has some injury history, which is a consideration to some degree, but that's not automatically a reason to avoid a deal that will take him into his mid-30s. He's not reliant on speed and finesse to be effective; even when he was a teenage rookie, speed was never his calling card. Losing him from the Flyers' lineup would be a huge step backward, and quite possibly for many years to come. There's a price limit on any contract, but I don't see a scenario in which the Flyers -- a team whose No. 1 need right now is to lower their GAA and re-establish buy-in to two-way hockey -- trading Couturier being anything other than a way to be a perennial lottery team for a number of years to come.

Some fans -- the ones who don't see to understand that drafting early, year after year, is still far from a guarantee of team success even if one or two of the selections become superstars -- seem just fine with the idea of starting the clock on another rebuild. I am NOT fine with it. Again, if the Flyers underachieve in 2021-22 and face the prospect of Couturier departing by unrestricted agency -- or if the re-signing ask gets up into superstar territory -- my point of view would change on trading him.

2) On the latest edition of the Flyers Daily podcast on the Flyers Broadcast Network, Jason Myrtetus and I continued our Offseason Outlook series with a discussion of Couturier, Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux, James van Riemsdyk and Travis Konecny. Next time, we talk about Joel Farabee, Kevin Hayes, Oskar Lindblom and Wade Allison. In part 3 of the forwards series, we will discuss Scott Laughton, Nolan Patrick, Nicolas Aube-Kubel and others. In previous editions, we talked about the goalie outlook and the defense. To listen, click here.

3) The final rosters are set for the Flyers Alumni vs. Flyers Warriors Showcase game this coming Sunday at the IceWorks complex in Aston, PA. The Flyers Alumni roster is as follows:

4) June 22 Flyers Alumni birthdays: Ilya Bryzgalov (1980), Roger Pelletier (1945), Darroll Powe (1985). In memoriam: Wayne Stephenson (Jan. 29, 1945 - June 22, 2010).

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