After recovering from back surgeries, Flyers’ Couturier nominated for Masterton Trophy

Sean Couturier

He had made the Flyers’ roster as an 18-year-old, was the 2020 winner of the Frank J. Selke Trophy for NHL’s best defensive forward and recently was named captain of the team.

But when all is said and done, the honor Sean Couturier may one day treasure the most is being nominated for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.

Couturier has returned to the Flyers’ lineup this season after he missed the better part of two seasons due to a pair of back surgeries. He’s been in the lineup for all but a handful of games.

The Masterton is awarded annually to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to ice hockey. It is named after Bill Masterton, the only player in NHL history to die as a direct result of injuries suffered during a game (1968 while playing for the Minnesota North Stars).

Couturier was nominated by the Philadelphia chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

During a media Zoom call on Friday, Couturier, who is currently sidelined by an upper-body injury, expressed his gratitude for the nomination and confirmed he is honored to be considered for the award.

His efforts to recover from back problems have been inspirational.

“Yeah, I’m definitely happy to be back playing all year,” he said. “The back has been feeling great. There were a lot of questions and doubts over the last year-and-a-half, two years about how I would recover and respond.

“I’m happy with how the year has gone personally. . .how my back feels and all that stuff. I’m just happy that I can sustain somewhat of an 82-game season with my back.”

Past Flyers winners of the Masterton include Bobby Clarke, Tim Kerr, Ian Laperriere and Oskar Lindblom.

Each of those players went through trying times. It’s been the same for Couturier. There had to be moments of doubt and frustration.

“It was definitely tough when it (back injury) happened the second time,” Couturier admitted. “The first time I wasn’t too worried. I said, ‘OK, I’m done for the year. I’ll be back next year.’ But when that got taken away from me, right before (2022) training camp, it was tough to accept.

“I started having doubts and questions. ‘Is this going to keep coming back every time?’ So I’m glad the second surgery and everything went well. I recovered well. It’s behind me now. I can just focus on playing hockey and enjoying the game I’ve been playing since I was a kid. Just happy to be back playing hockey at a high level.”

Couturier was asked if being named team captain in February was something of an acknowledgement that he’s braved some tough times and come all the way back as a player and a leader.

“It was an honor,” he said. “It was a great pat on my back, a vote of confidence. I know there were doubts and questions all year long if my back would be able to sustain a full season. Now that it’s behind me – it was a tough period in my career and my life the last year-and-a-half – to kind of get over it and focus on playing hockey and doing what I love most that’s the most enjoyable thing out of this whole history.”

Going through something like this can be a stark reminder how delicate a player’s career can be. Most NHL careers only last four or five seasons. Couturier has been around since 2011.

“Yeah, I don’t take anything for granted, that’s for sure,” said Couturier, who’s posted 191 goals/496 points in 791 career games. “Not that I really did before but you try and enjoy every moment you can through the ups and downs.

“Even through the last month or so personally it’s been tough for me (he hasn’t scored a goal since Feb. 10 vs. Seattle), I’m just trying to stay focused and enjoying the game.”

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About Wayne Fish 2444 Articles
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.