Coach says he gave Couturier fair notice he was being benched

Sean Couturier

      VOORHEES, N.J. – Much was made of the first benching of Flyers captain Sean Couturier’s NHL career.

      He had gone more than 780 games without being a healthy scratch, so naturally it made headlines.

      At the time of the lineup change back on March 19 (and then March 21), coach John Tortorella made it clear he wasn’t singling out Couturier just for sub-par play, even though the player hadn’t scored a goal since Feb. 10.

      However, Couturier didn’t seem to accept the benching and made his feelings known to the media at the time.

      On Friday at the Flyers Training Center, Tortorella was asked about the situation with Couturier and whether or not the veteran had been warned regarding the healthy scratch ahead of time rather than just see his name not written on that night’s lineup card.

      “Why wouldn’t I communicate with him?” Tortorella said. “I did. I went to him the day before. We had a discussion about why he’s coming out. Why would I want to disrespect him that way?

      “Sean and I communicated through that. I know what Sean said to you guys (beat writers). It kind of caught me off-guard. I think it’s the first time Sean’s been through something like that. It wasn’t a big deal for me but it turned into a bunch of drama.”

      Tortorella made it clear that no player on the team deserves special consideration. If he’s not playing well – and others are – there’s a chance he might sit.

      “It turned into a situation where I get he’s the captain,” the coach said. “The timing isn’t great. But the captaincy is not going to stop me from holding him accountable.

     “If I determine that other players are playing better – I’m going to make that call. I don’t want them coming to the board and saying, ‘Oh, I’m out.’ Those conversations were had the day before. I’m always going to communicate in that type of situation and whether the player agrees with it and Sean didn’t, that’s what I love about him. He disagreed.”

     It sounds like the two have patched up their relationship, which is important given the duo have meaningful titles.

     “We just talked yesterday and we disagreed on a lot of stuff,” Tortorella said “That’s what I love about him, he’s willing to say what’s on his mind. That’s how our relationship is going to grow. I’m not in the business to disrespect anybody.

      “If I’m going to take a guy of that stature out, I’m going to communicate what it was. I felt I did. Then we followed up after with video and tried to work that.”

      Without question, Tortorella is an old-school coach. He’s definitely not worried about hurting someone’s feelings if it’s for the greater good of the team.

      “Sometimes the way I do things, I’m honest about it,” Tortorella said. “It turns into a bit of a frenzy of all this sensitivity stuff. If everybody’s going to be happy, I’m not doing my job. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him (Couturier). But I’m going to coach players the way I need to coach them.”

      >Praise for Zamula

      Tortorella liked the progress shown by young defenseman Egor Zamula this season.

      “That’s a big man who has the willingness to make a play,” the coach said. “A willingness to hold onto pucks to make plays. He helped out power play – which stunk – but helped it at certain times. I thought he took a big step in the right direction in progressing. I still think there needs to be more.

      >Power play puzzle

      No need to reiterate how bad the Flyers’ 32nd-ranked power play was. At barely 12 percent, it was the worst in franchise history.

      “I think we need to have a discussion on our power play,” Tortorella said.

      Tortorella said there are no plans to pull assistant coach Rocky Thompson off that assignment.

      “Rocky is one hell of a coach,” Tortorella said. “He’s so frustrated, as the players are, as we all are. (GM) Danny (Briere) and I are going to sit as an organization (including special advisors Patrick Sharp, Dany Heatley and John LeClair) and just discuss it.”

      Tortorella also said the Flyers need to improve their three-on-three play (in OT, where the team was 4-8) and four-on-four play (in certain penalty situations).

      “I think I made a mistake this year on our three-on-three,” the coach said. “We did not practice it enough. Because it’s so important. We did not do enough work with that.”

      Tortorella said the Flyers may have to bring in talent to help on power play and three-on-three.

      “It cannot be as bad as it was this year with the people we had,” he said. “We have to look at ourselves. We need to look for different ideas.”

      >Goaltending outlook

      Samuel Ersson would appear to be the Flyers’ No. 1 goalie heading into the 2024-25 training camp.

      “Sam, I just think he’s made tremendous strides,” Tortorella said. “There were struggles because I played the hell out of him (51 games, when he was only supposed to get about 20 starts).”

      Russian goalie Ivan Fedotov is also in the mix. Carter Hart’s future remains in doubt.

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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.