Couturier possible back reinjury cause of concern for Flyers

Sean Couturier

Training camp hasn’t even begun yet and there’s already a black cloud hovering over the Flyers’ upcoming season.

Top center Sean Couturier, whose 2021-22 season was ended after back surgery back on Feb. 11, will be sidelined at least several weeks – and maybe much more – after it was announced on Monday he has “an upper-body injury’’ and will be re-evaluated during training camp.

However, several media outlets are reporting Couturier is suffering from a herniated disk in his back and could be out for an appreciable amount of time.

Couturier only played in 29 games last season and managed to record just 17 points (six goals/11 assists) in that limited timeframe.

At the time of the surgery, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher expressed optimism Couturier would make a full recovery from the operation, which was performed by Dr. Jon Yoon at Pennsylvania Hospital.

“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,” Fletcher said after the surgery. “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.”

At the time, Fletcher said Couturier’s recovery was about three months. The Flyers expected him to be 100 percent come training camp ahead of the 2022-23 regular season.

However, that’s not going to be the case. Even Couturier admitted during a recent press briefing that he experienced some “ups and downs’’ during the summer.

Last February, Fletcher said he was hopeful Couturier could resume his career at full speed.

“There were things we looked at nonsurgically that may have helped short term, but there were some concerns about long term, so the procedure he had on Feb. 11, to the best of everybody’s knowledge at this point, should resolve the issue.”

Couturier, who turns 30 on Dec. 7, has spent his entire career with the Flyers since being drafted eighth overall in 2011. In 720 career games, he has recorded 180 goals/460 points.

For the 2019-20 season, he was named recipient of the Frank J. Selke Trophy for the NHL’s best defensive forward.

On Aug. 26, 2021, he signed an eight-year contract extension for a total of $62 million dollars.

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Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.