When a player enjoys the kind of possible Selke Trophy-winning season Sean Couturier was experiencing, it’s only justice he get to see it through to its completion, at least with a shot at a championship.
While Couturier might say he’s more concerned with the Flyers’ fortunes in the planned 24-team Stanley Cup playoffs, deep down he must believe it’s his time to be recognized with a national award for his strong two-way play.
He nearly won the Frank Selke honor (best defensive play by a forward) two years back when he put together a breakthrough season – setting career highs in assists (45), points (76) and an eye-opening plus-34 in plus-minus stats.
Couturier wound up finishing second in the Selke voting to the Los Angeles Kings’ Anze Kopitar.
But this season, at least the first 69 games of it before the pandemic shut things down, Couturier might have been at his very best because numbers like his plus-21 translated into the Flyers challenging for the Metro Division lead.
Keep in mind, the Selke is based only on regular season play and voting has already been completed by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association. So as far as awards go, what’s done is done.
The 27-year-old Phoenix native has been skating for about a week at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J. and gave the impression he’s excited about at least getting back on the ice in the NHL’s Phase 2.
So far, these informal workouts have been held in small groups of a half-dozen or less (due to social distancing rules) with no official instruction by coaches, etc. But the players will take what they can get as they look to get ready for the start of training camp on July 10.
“First, it’s nice to be out there and get some ice,’’ Couturier said in an interview with the Flyers’ public relations staff on Tuesday. “Get back familiar with the practice facility. It’s not easy being split into groups of five/six out there so the drills are a little tougher. It’s tough to go for long practices.
“But it is what it is. We’re adapting ourselves and getting ready to resume the play here.’’
Couturier has been sort of a “Dr. Fix-It’’ as the team’s No. 1 center. Anyone who played with Couturier – be it leading scorer Travis Konecny, Claude Giroux or Jake Voracek among others – seemed to pick up his level of competition at both ends of the ice.
That’s one of the things voters look for when trying to find the next Patrice Bergeron.
Just to be compared to guys like the Bruins’ defensive ace gives Couturier a sense of recognition.
“Just to be considered is already a great honor,’’ Couturier said. “It’s a trophy that’s kind of for players that are solid in all areas of the game. It’s something I try to take pride into my game. Be solid offensively but also defensively and take pride in that side of the game.
“It definitely would mean a lot if I win. But just to be mentioned with other guys for the award, it’s already pretty flattering.’’
The question now is, can the Flyers play a handful of round-robin games against Boston, Tampa Bay and Washington (for seeding purposes) and expect to be ready for the intensity of first-round Stanley Cup playoff competition?
Couturier indicated any momentum the Flyers may have garnered from a nine-game winning streak spanning February and early March can pretty much be thrown out the window.
“Well, I think everyone that made the playoffs or play-in (round) is starting on the same ground,’’ Couturier said. “I don’t think there’s much momentum going in because it’s been awhile since we’ve played.
“I think it’s going to be important just to get a good training camp in, work hard, try to get better and try to get (to) our peak as soon as possible. Just get going from where we were. We had played some of our best hockey of the season and it’s going to be important to find that same level of play early.’’
For the fourth-seeded Flyers, the round-robin is pretty much a no-lose situation.
“For us, the round robin is a great thing,’’ Couturier said. “We can only move up in the standings and the seedings. For us, it’s a nice situation to be playing for.
“I can understand other teams probably are disappointed that they have to win some games to keep their No. 1 seed. But in the situation we’re in and the conditions we are (in), I guess it’s best for the situation.’’
Couturier agreed with teammate Joel Farabee’s assessment on Monday regarding the difficulty of starting over after an unscheduled three months off vs. the traditional summer break.
In a nutshell, this experience might be tougher.
“I think it’s different for sure,’’ Couturier said. “There are so many unknowns. There really weren’t any set dates to when we were coming back. Usually you know around what date training camp starts and you’re getting ready for an 82-game season.
“Whereas now you didn’t really know if we were going to resume the season, jump into playoffs or just get ready for next season. So there were a lot of unknowns, a lot of adaptation in the training, stay in shape and getting ready to resume. But it is what it is. . .everyone is in the same situation. It’s just important to take responsibility and be ready.’’
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