End to End: Does No. 2 pick make Sean Couturier expendable?

End to End: Does No. 2 pick make Sean Couturier expendable?

Throughout the offseason, we’ll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are producers/reporters Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall, and Greg Paone.

The question: Does the No. 2 overall pick make Sean Couturier expendable in the trade market?

This is an interesting question because, in Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier, the Flyers will be getting another top-six center to build around and eventually take over for Claude Giroux. It also is an interesting question because there appears to be a certain sector of Flyers fans and the media that has soured on Couturier and want to move on from the 24-year-old. Perhaps it’s because Couturier has yet to blossom into an elite scorer at this level. Perhaps people see his draft position and want more points. Whatever the reason is, I don’t get it.

We know a few things about Couturier as an NHL player. He’s an excellent defensive pivot who plays tough minutes against opponents’ top players. (He does that extremely well too.) He scores plenty at even strength — his 14 even-strength goals and 31 points were second only to Jakub Voracek last season, and that’s something the Flyers need. His possession numbers have increased each year that he has been an NHL player. Last season, of players who played 20 or more games, only Jordan Weal (55.9) had a higher Corsi For percentage than Couturier’s 54.5. During the final month-plus of the regular season, Couturier led the NHL with a plus-18 rating, and from March 4 to April 9, he recorded the 17 even-strength points, which was fourth-most in the NHL during that span. He’s a piece to build around.

Sure, there are frustrating parts of Couturier’s game. He’s not good on the power play. That much we can say. The Flyers have given him ample opportunity the past two seasons to prove he can produce on the man advantage and he simply hasn’t been able to prove it. It’s frustrating, sure, but it’s not a reason to turn on Couturier. He’s more than capable of producing at even strength. He dealt with some injuries last season and claimed he wasn’t fully healthy when he returned. Let’s remember, he was solid before the injuries hit, too.

Trading for Valtteri Filppula helped take some pressure off Couturier, and having a full season of Filppula will help too. Adding either Patrick or Hischier to the fold will also help. There aren’t many untouchables on the Flyers’ roster — Ivan Provorov is the only definite — but for me, Couturier is a player I would continue to build around. The overall package there is too valuable to a team, and if he’s, at worst, a third-line center, then that’s OK.

I don’t think landing the No. 2 pick makes Couturier any more available than he was before. But that’s also because I don’t think he is a guy the Flyers should want to trade anyway.

Drafting a high-caliber center at No. 2 would certainly give Hextall greater flexibility and incentive to trade Couturier.
The Flyers are about to add to their cupboard, so trying to sell Couturier high wouldn't be a terrible idea because he is only 24 years old with tangibles teams covet.
Some may think Couturier is what he is after seeing him for six seasons. But I feel like the Flyers believe there's bigger potential for him to reach and Hextall isn't ready to throw that away just because they've landed a prominent draft slot and will add a prospect that plays Couturier's position.
And, heck, maybe Couturier would thrive as a bottom-six center. That would be true depth and secondary scoring the Flyers need. We all saw what Couturier did at the end of the regular season once he felt healthy and some pressure was lifted by the acquisition of Filppula.
Maybe Hextall will be more open to the thought of trading Couturier, but the still-maturing center is locked up by the Flyers through 2021-22 and I don't see that changing. 

I find this to be a very intriguing, thought-provoking question and possibility. It's a question that makes me (and hopefully you guys, too) think. And that's a good thing.

Let's recall the Flyers went into this season with Couturier pegged as their No. 2 center behind Giroux. Things didn't go as smoothly as planned and Ron Hextall felt the need to go out and get Filppula from Tampa at the trade deadline and slide the veteran into that No. 2 center slot.

After that trade, Couturier slid down to the third line and played extremely well down the stretch. But then the Flyers landed the No. 2 pick, which will net them a potential stalwart center.

I do think the No. 2 pick makes Couturier more available than he was before the ping-pong balls were drawn last Saturday night in Toronto. How could he not be with a young center on the way and how pleased the Flyers were with Filppula?

But this pick also means a lot of different things are on the table now. It's a game-changer.

Also, remember Filppula is a free agent after this coming season and Couturier and Giroux are locked up for the long haul.

Teams like to build these days with strength down the middle at center. A triumvirate of Giroux-Patrick/Hischier-Couturier down the middle of the lineup would be the envy of a lot of teams around the NHL.

So do I think Couturier is more available now? Yes, probably so. Do I think he will get moved prior to when the new season starts in October? No, I believe he'll be here. He's still just 24 years old and the Flyers shouldn't be ready to move on just yet. He brings a two-way dynamic that can be invaluable. Consistency, especially at the offensive end, is the missing ingredient.

I'm very interested to see how he fits into a lineup with a new, young center in the mix. If it's as a third-line center, there's nothing wrong with that.

Why the Flyers? How Canadians decided to 'bleed orange'

John Boruk/NBCSP

Why the Flyers? How Canadians decided to 'bleed orange'

Aaron Roberts proudly wore his No. 88 Eric Lindros jersey when the Flyers traveled to Edmonton in December. Roberts also owns a John LeClair jersey, a Wayne Simmonds sweater, and at the time, a Claude Giroux that was on order.    

Roberts, like many who attended that game, is an orange and black die-hard who was born and raised in Canada.

“Growing up when Philly won their Cups I started watching hockey,” Roberts said. “I don’t know. I went with a winner then and I just never, ever veered away from it. Of course, there’s temptation, but it’s always been Philadelphia for me.”

It’s not unusual to see a Philly faithful make their way out of the Canadian woodwork. Their popularity even rivals that of American-based original six teams.  

“I find that when I go to games, Flyers fans are more friendly, like everyone wants to high five and stuff, which is cool,” said Troy Krechuniak, who lives in Calgary, but grew up in Edmonton. “I had to go through all of that (the Oilers winning the Stanley Cup). That’s the problem going through the (Wayne) Gretzky years, 1985 Game 5, 1987 Game 7.” 

So why this allegiance to a team located hundreds of miles away in another country? 

At one time, the Flyers were as Canadian as the Montreal Canadiens themselves, considering they’re still the last team to win a Stanley Cup with an all-Canadian roster. 

“First off, you choose the identity of a team when you’re probably 6-to-9 years old, and at my age, I cheered for the Broad Street Bullies — Bobby Clarke, Dave Schultz and so forth,” said Rick LeFort of Saskatchewan. “I moved to Manitoba years later. Manitoba connections are Bobby Clarke and Reggie Leach.”

More than 40 years after bringing the city of Philadelphia its first Stanley Cup championship, the Broad Street Bullies left behind a legacy that has impacted a region where hockey is indeed a religion.

“Being in Calgary when there was no team, you got to choose which team you wanted to affiliate yourself with,” said Shawn Cochlan of Langdon, Alberta. “I did love that brand of hockey, and yet, a lot of my friends didn’t. I liked Philadelphia better because they were tougher.”

And the allegiance to the Flyers has been passed down from a generation of fans to their children and siblings.  

“My aunt and uncle were big Flyers fans, and I loved being an outsider,” said Ryan Doram of Edmonton. “Every year when the Flyers come to Edmonton we make sure we come to the games. I loved Lindros. I loved the Recchi years, and you always find your new favorites I guess. You always find players you look and gravitate to.”

Giroux has that gravitational pull. As the Flyers hit Ottawa and Montreal one final time Saturday and Monday, you’ll see No. 28 jerseys scattered throughout the arenas for the Hearst, Ontario, native.

“We haven’t won a cup in a while. We’ve been there four or five times, but we’re getting better. I like what Ron Hextall is doing, and we’re going in the right direction,” 54-year-old Tom Banks said. 

“You cut me in the winter months, I bleed orange.”

Pekka Rinne notches milestone in Predators' rout

USA Today Images

Pekka Rinne notches milestone in Predators' rout

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Pekka Rinne made 33 saves in his 300th career win and the Nashville Predators routed the San Jose Sharks 7-1 on Thursday night.

Nick Bonino, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson each had a goal and an assist, and Scott Hartnell, Kevin Fiala and Mattias Ekholm also scored for Nashville, which has won three straight. The Predators moved within one point of expansion Vegas for the Western Conference lead.

Nashville defensemen Roman Josi and P.K. Subban each had two assists.

All of Rinne's wins have come with Nashville. He tied former Predators goalie Tomas Vokoun for 33rd place in NHL history.

Logan Couture had the San Jose goal. The loss snapped the Sharks' three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Wild use big 2nd period to top Devils
NEWARK, N.J. -- Joel Eriksson Ek and Chris Stewart scored in a 39-second span during Minnesota's three-goal second period, and the Wild rallied from two down to beat the New Jersey Devils 4-2 on Thursday night.

Wild defenseman Mike Reilly also scored in the second period and Eric Staal iced the game with an empty-net goal, his 900th NHL point. Backup goalie Alex Stalock made 38 saves as the Wild moved into third place in the Central Division after winning for the 11th time in 17 games (11-3-3).

Taylor Hall and Stefan Noesen scored for the Devils, who have lost two in a row after a four-game winning streak. Eddie Lack made 21 saves.

Hall's 13-game point streak is the longest in NHL this season, one more than David Pastrnak of Boston.

Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau made the right moves in this one, inserting Reilly and Stewart into the lineup and electing to give No. 1 goaltender Devan Dubnyk a night off (see full recap).

Matthews exits Maple Leafs’ SO victory with injury
TORONTO -- Tyler Bozak scored the shootout winner and the Toronto Maple Leafs edged the New York Islanders 4-3 on Thursday night.

Auston Matthews tipped in Jake Gardiner's shot to tie it 3-all with 3:29 remaining in the third period, but later left the game favoring his right side after taking a hit from Cal Clutterbuck and did not return. The 20-year-old Toronto star missed six games in December with a concussion and another four games with an undisclosed upper-body injury.

Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly had the other Maple Leafs goals, and Frederik Andersen made 32 saves. Toronto (38-20-5) has won eight straight at home.

Ryan Pulock, Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle scored for the Islanders (29-26-7), and Jaroslav Halak turned aside 28 shots. New York, one point out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, dropped to 4-6-2 since the All-Star break and 13-15-3 on the road this season.

With his three points, Barzal has a team-leading 65 and a 14-point lead over Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks in the NHL's rookie scoring race (see full recap).