Atkinson, Couturier still believe they have something left

Cam Atkinson

      VOORHEES, N.J. – In several ways, Cam Atkinson and Sean Couturier seems to be following similar career paths at the moment.

      Both Flyers veterans underwent back surgery (actually twice for Couturier) and missed substantial playing time.

      The 34-year-old Atkinson failed to score a goal after Jan. 23 (Tampa Bay) and the 31-year-old Couturier didn’t put on a red light after Feb. 10 (Seattle).

      Each has question marks surrounding their futures after the Flyers were eliminated on the final game of the season Tuesday night.

      Atkinson sat out 13 games this past season, Couturier eight, including the first two healthy scratches of his career.

      As the Flyers packed up for the summer on Wednesday at the Flyers Training Center, the two talented players were asked about this past season and what lies ahead.

      “I guess I could say disappointed,” said Atkinson, who was only playing about 10-12 minutes per game as mostly a fourth-line winger. “It’s unlike any situation I’ve been in in my career.”

      The Connecticut native has one more year left on his contract ($5.875 million). Right now he’s playing it season by season.

      “I know the player I am,” he said. “I’ll never lose sight in how I am. And what’s it made me the player I am today and what’s gotten me to this level.

      “I feel like I still have a lot of juice still left in the tank for the right situation. I can only control what I can control.”

      The odd thing is, Atkinson was playing well at the start of the season and then tailed off.  He scored eight goals in his first 15 games, then just five more the rest of the way.

      Was he physically OK?

      “I think the first half of the season I had a lot of juice in the tank,” Atkinson said. “I was playing good, scoring goals, piling up points. I think the second half kind of got away from me a little bit as far as just the wear and tear and grind. So I’m not going to sugarcoat it that way. I feel like I still have a lot of juice left in that tank.”

      It took him awhile to get used to a limited role. He and coach John Tortorella had several conversations about playing the youngsters more, so it wasn’t like Atkinson was caught off-guard.

      “That aspect of it was like nothing I’ve experienced,” he reiterated. “All 13 years I’ve been a go-to guy. Contributed offensively and been put in different situations to have success. So when you go from that to in and out of the lineup, fourth line with limited minutes, there’s only so much you can do.

      “When I was out there I tried my hardest to just make some sort of impact. I’ve never experienced that so I’ve gone to playing one to three shifts a period. It’s hard. But being a good teammate and controlling what I can control, I’ll never go down that negative road. I want all my teammates to succeed and we all want to be difference-makers. When your role changes, you have to find ways to contribute any way you can. It wasn’t on the scoresheet but I thought I handled it pretty well.”

      Can be get back to a semblance of the player he was at the start of the season?

      “I know this is a very important summer for me, getting back to the player I want to be and know I can be,” Atkinson said.

      Couturier is in a slightly different position. He was named captain midway through the season and has six years remaining on a contract which pays him $7.75 million annually.

      “My body was feeling better as the year went on,” he said. “Earlier in the year I was more banged up at times and got through it. It’s not an excuse for my play. I just stunk. A lot of it was mental. If you don’t play for almost two years — you go through some ups and downs; it’s how you handle them.”

      The Flyers still believe Couturier will recover completely and get back to the player he once was. It’s just going to take time.

      “Maybe I can learn from this experience,” he said. “It’s not the way I wish it would have went. I guess I’ll learn from it and be better down the road.”

      After Couturier was benched, his game never really came back, he said. There were moments when he would look like his old self, then regress a bit.

      “I tried to help the team win any way I could,” he said. “Obviously it wasn’t good enough. I guess I never really found that jump I had earlier in the year.”

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About Wayne Fish 2437 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.