We’ve already seen Sean Couturier go up against Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jonathan Toews, and Tyler Seguin and just run them into the ice.
Three assists. That was their combined stats over three games.
Which is what a shutdown centerman is supposed to do.
In a short three seasons, the 21-year-old who was born in Phoenix, but enjoys dual citizenship while competing internationally for Canada, has proven himself capable of being an elite defensive player who plays the angles on the league’s toughest forwards and comes out ahead.
The question many have, however, is whether Couturier’s defensive prowess has come at the expense of offense.
This is a 40-goal player who averaged 96 points his final two years in junior. He was and can once again become a gifted scorer.
His NHL rookie year, he had 13 goals. He’s on pace to match that now, but he’s capable of scoring a lot more. If, perhaps, the Flyers get him a more offensive-minded scorer on the left side.
Michael Raffl seems a better fit than Steve Downie, but Raffl is not drawing full-time duty there.
But do the Flyers need 20 goals or more from Couturier a season? Mike Richards routinely picked up votes for the Selke Trophy and scored more than that as a Flyer.
Couturier is cut into that same defensive mold.
So our Twitter question this week was:
If Couturier is comfortable routinely scoring 15 goals but continues to handle the toughest defensive assignments, is that enough to ask of him to be considered a success as a Flyer?
Here are your responses:
@tpanotchCSN keeping players like crosby off the score sheet is more important to me. this team has plenty of offense from other players— Ariel Melendez (@ArielHeartsYou) March 20, 2014
A: I think fans have really changed their tune on this and agree with you this year. Before, there was the discussion that Couturier is capable of delivering so much more offensively. Now people see his real value. If they ever solve the issue at left wing on that line, the goals will come.
@tpanotchCSN guys like Couturier prove that defense even at that position is just as pivotal as Offense. just ask Crosby— Ed Kaul (@NotEdKaul) March 20, 2014
A: I think there will be constant reference to Mike Richards, who did both and was a goal scorer.
@tpanotchCSN On pace for 40pts as 3rd liner. Move him up and he'd likely produce more, while shutting down other teams. Couturier's are rare— Jesse Larch (@JesseLarch) March 20, 2014
A: Right now, that’s an issue because of Brayden Schenn/Vinny Lecavalier pairing. The other side to this is: What if Couturier had a better, more offensive-minded left wing to work with him?
@tpanotchCSN you think he could be a Joel Otto type?— Bill Weisbrod (@Bweisbrod) March 20, 2014
A: Interesting comparison. Otto won a Stanley Cup in Calgary. Offensively, he never hit his mark here as a Flyer when many felt he could have been a 15- to 20-goal guy. But he was a superb defensive center.
@tpanotchCSN Absolutely! I foresee him even improving on his goals/yr output while keeping all of his defensive prowess.— Alex Price (@AlexPrice93) March 20, 2014
A: A lot of fans felt earlier this season that he needed to be an offensive force like he was in junior, scoring 96 points each of his last two years.
@tpanotchCSN depends on $ he gets... But yes— Brian Fioretti (@Instigatorz889) March 20, 2014
A: Couturier’s begins a two-year extension next season worth a very underpaid $1.75 million, so that likely won’t be an issue.
@tpanotchCSN 15-20 goals with 30+ assists, and being a shutdown center sounds perfect for him— Tyler Fisk (@Tfisk29) March 20, 2014
A: He could finish with 12-13 goals and easily 30-plus assists this season.
@tpanotchCSN yes...he held Crosby, Malkin, Kane, toews to a combined one point in 3 games...yes he doesn't need to score!!!— EagleFreak (@GjacksonGlenn) March 20, 2014
A: No easy task
@tpanotchCSN If it eventually leads to a cup, I'm fine with him playing goalie.— Shawn Ciglar (@ShawnC1077) March 20, 2014
A: Great response!
@tpanotchCSN YES 100 times! Negating Crosby, Towes, etc. is just as good, if not better than offensive output.— Kevin DeAngelis (@KDiesel63) March 20, 2014
A: Every team needs this kind of player and Couturier has quickly established himself as one of the best at a very young age -- just 21.
@tpanotchCSN if he's selke caliber or near it absolutely— Aaron Miska (@am19208) March 20, 2014
A: Mike Richards got a lot of annual votes from the Philly chapter of the PHWA but not enough from around the league to ever win a Selke.
@tpanotchCSN if they have depth at center like they do now then yes— David Leggieri (@legsanity) March 20, 2014
A: They always seem to have too many centers.
@tpanotchCSN Absolutely. He'll probably settle in at around 20-25G 55-60pts. If he's an elite shutdown C, that's basically Patrice Bergeron— Josh Hoffman (@jihoffman) March 20, 2014
A: Very good point.