Flyers

As Selke Trophy winner is announced, Couturier has motivation in all directions

Flyers

Sean Couturier will depart his Selke Trophy throne on Friday night.

The NHL is set to announce the 2020-21 winner of the award given out annually to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game. In a landslide last season, Couturier took home the honor for his first-ever Selke victory.

This season, the finalists are Aleksander Barkov (Panthers), Patrice Bergeron (Bruins) and Mark Stone (Golden Knights). Couturier did not make the cut to defend his crown. In the shortened, 56-game regular season, the Flyers' do-it-all center missed 11 games because of injuries and finished as a minus player for just the second time in his career. Couturier was a minus-4 as the Flyers allowed a staggering 3.52 goals per game, the most in hockey.

In the second game of the season, Couturier suffered a costochondral separation and was forced to miss the next 10 games. He also dealt with a previous nagging hip issue, which forced him to miss a game in March against the Islanders and had lingering effects. Considering the circumstances, Couturier still had a pretty solid season. He won his third straight Bobby Clarke Trophy as team MVP, led Flyers forwards with 19:20 minutes per game, finished second on the club in goals (18) and fourth in points (41).

"It was a grind," Couturier said at his end-of-the-season press conference in May. "I only played 45 and it was a grind. Especially when I missed that game there in the Island and I came back, took me probably seven to 10 days to kind of get my legs going again and I wasn't feeling as good as before that injury. But yeah, it was tough to recover from any sort of little injuries, so it was a grind. But every team went through that schedule. It might have been a little tougher because COVID hit us, but we needed to be better and we weren't good enough."

 

A reason why Couturier steadily developed from a defensively sound center into a Selke Trophy winner has been because of his internal drive. But if Couturier needed any extra motivation this offseason, he'll have it. The Flyers have a ton to prove after missing the playoffs this season, a year in which Couturier had noted they were too easy to play against at times. Added fuel will come in the form of a contract year. Couturier can hit unrestricted free agency after the 2021-22 season, the final year of his six-year, $26 million contract. Couturier is due for a payday, even in this flat-cap climate, as his $4.333 million average annual value has turned into a bargain.

"I mean, I obviously love it here in Philly, it's a great city, the organization's been awesome to me since I've gotten here, so obviously I'd love to stay," the 10-year Flyer said. "But it's part of the game, part of the business and we'll see what happens. I still have another year to play, so we'll see."

After the Flyers had mentioned how some of their younger Canadian players experienced difficulty with training last offseason amid the tight COVID-19 restrictions, the 28-year-old Couturier was asked if he had to make adjustments.

"There were limitations," he said. "I had to rent the ice by myself two, three times a week, so it wasn't easy, it was tough to kind of motivate myself to do it, but found a way. I have a gym at home, so there was no excuse for me. I felt good, I felt in pretty great shape actually, no distractions from outside the world. All I had to do was with pretty much train and recover; you couldn't really do much else."

Next season won't have the unheard-of nature the NHL experienced in 2020-21. The Flyers are banking on the benefit of normalcy and should know what to expect in 2021-22. With Couturier, they always know what to expect. The Flyers won't mind if their first-line center ups his value with a slam-dunk contract year. If Couturier returns to the Selke conversation next season, it will only mean good things for the Flyers' hopes of returning to contention.

If the Flyers' pockets tighten, so be it. The organization knows his value by now.

 

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