Flyers

Where does Flyers' Sean Couturier rank among NHL's best centers?

Where does Flyers' Sean Couturier rank among NHL's best centers?

Going End to End today are NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jordan Hall and Brooke Destra.

The topic: Where does Sean Couturier rank among the NHL's best centers?

Hall

A considerable fuss was made on social media among Flyers fans when the NHL Network published a ranking of top-20 centers in the league. Jeremy Roenick chimed in, as well.

Couturier did not make either cut and Flyers fans justifiably took exception.

You'd be hard-pressed to argue that Couturier has not climbed into that echelon over the past two seasons. Among all NHL centers since 2017-18, the 26-year-old is tied for 10th in goals with 64 — the same total as Sidney Crosby — and tied for 11th in points with 152. Over that span, his 21:51 ice time per game ranks fourth, his plus-36 is eighth and not one center on the list has played more shorthanded minutes.

The 2017-18 Frank J. Selke Trophy runner-up plays in all situations, logs heavy minutes, wins faceoffs and now he's making his mark statistically.

It's quite simple: Couturier is a top-20 center in this league.

1. Connor McDavid
2. Sidney Crosby
3. Nathan MacKinnon
4. John Tavares
5. Steven Stamkos
6. Aleksander Barkov
7. Brayden Point
8. Auston Matthews
9. Patrice Bergeron
10. Mark Scheifele
11. Evgeni Malkin
12. Sebastian Aho
13. Tyler Seguin
14. Evgeny Kuznetsov
15. Ryan O'Reilly
16. Jack Eichel
17. Sean Monahan
18. Nicklas Backstrom
19. Sean Couturier
20. Jonathan Toews

Destra

Couturier continues to fly under the radar, not only on the scale of importance for the Flyers but also across the entire NHL. It has to stop — it's finally time he gets the recognition he deserves, especially after the leaps and bounds that were made over the past two seasons of his career.

Not to mention, he was one of six centers last season that averaged over 22 minutes TOI (22:08), all while having his second straight 30-plus-goal season.

If Couturier wasn't coming off of his MCL injury at the start of the season, odds are he would have ended in the 85-90-point range (he finished with 76 points through 80 games).

His importance is only going to continue to grow as the 26-year-old is heading into the prime of his career.

Couturier should've been a top-20 center this season, there's no way around it. He not only has the stats to prove it but also found a way to make those he shared a line with better players — something that often goes unnoticed.

1. Connor McDavid
2. Sidney Crosby
3. Nathan MacKinnon
4. Steven Stamkos
5. John Tavares
6. Brayden Point
7. Aleksander Barkov
8. Auston Matthews
9. Mark Scheifele
10. Patrice Bergeron
11. Sebastian Aho
12. Tyler Seguin
13. Jack Eichel
14. Ryan O'Reilly
15. Sean Couturier
16. Evgeny Kuznetsov
17. Evgeni Malkin
18. Sean Monahan
19. Nicklas Backstrom
20. Logan Couture

It may be a little early to give a prediction for 2019-20 — but Couturier will be a top-10 center in the NHL. Just wait and see.

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2020 NHL playoffs: Flyers' outlook for round robin, first round

2020 NHL playoffs: Flyers' outlook for round robin, first round

The round-robin tournament of the NHL's 24-team return-to-play format will represent different kinds of importance for the fourth-seeded Flyers.

Firstly, they couldn't ask for a better tune-up ahead of their first-round series. They'll play each of the Eastern Conference's top three teams once before meeting their opening-round opponent.

Secondly, those dates with the East's best could help the Flyers climb even more. The total points accumulated in the round-robin tournament will determine the conference's seed Nos. 1-4. If there are ties after the set of games, which will feature regular-season overtime and shootout rules, the regular-season points percentages of each club will serve as the tiebreaker.

How could the Flyers fare in the round-robin portion and what would it ultimately mean for their outlook in the 24-team setup?

Here are three factors to note:

1. Can Flyers win round robin?

They shouldn't be considered heavy underdogs. The Flyers will be confident in their opportunity to improve their seed after going 2-1-0 against the top-seeded Bruins during the regular season and 3-0-1 vs. the third-seeded Capitals. The second-seeded Lightning were the one club that gave the Flyers trouble. The Flyers dropped two games in regulation to Tampa Bay, but one was a 1-0 defeat and the other was a chippy 5-3 loss with an empty-netter in the final 22 seconds.

The Flyers have a goalie who keeps them in games and a group that held its own with the fellow top seeds in major statistical categories:

Goals per game

Lightning — 3.47
Capitals — 3.42
Flyers — 3.29
Bruins — 3.24

Goals against per game

Bruins — 2.39
Flyers — 2.77
Lightning — 2.77
Capitals — 3.07

Power play percentage

Bruins — 25.2
Lightning — 23.1
Flyers — 20.8
Capitals — 19.4

Penalty kill percentage

Bruins — 84.3
Capitals — 82.6
Flyers — 81.8
Lightning — 81.4

2. Wait, would they want to climb?

It's an interesting question right now because the NHL and NHLPA are undetermined on the format for the first and second rounds, whether it be bracketed or reseeding after the qualifying round.

That's a huge question.

Say the Flyers stayed at No. 4 in a bracket-style scenario and the 12th-seeded Canadiens knocked off the fifth-seeded Penguins, the Flyers would face Montreal. On paper, that would be a pretty favorable matchup against the lowest seed in the East. Whereas the No. 1 seed in the conference would face the winner of the No. 8 vs. No. 9 matchup.

If the league instead agrees to reseed, such a scenario would see the No. 1 seed face the Canadiens during the first round, whereas the Flyers, as the fourth seed, would get the highest remaining seed to advance from the qualifying round.

When/if the Flyers play round-robin games, the NHL will have made a decision on the format for the first and second rounds. Right now, just about everything is undecided for the Flyers.

3. The good thing?

The Flyers can't hurt themselves in the round robin. As the lowest seed of the four, they can only improve their seed. If the Flyers struggle, they stay put at No. 4 and at least played three competitive warmup games for their first-round series.

The Flyers went 22-8-5 against the Eastern Conference playoff field during the regular season, so they'll like their chances against whichever team they draw.

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With the 2019-20 NHL regular season concluded, Alain Vigneault should win the Jack Adams Award

With the 2019-20 NHL regular season concluded, Alain Vigneault should win the Jack Adams Award

In general manager Chuck Fletcher’s first offseason with the Flyers, he had quite an extensive to-do list before October came around. While adding depth and a few new faces to the roster were toward the top of the list, nothing was more important than the task of bringing in a new head coach.

Many had their sights set on Joel Quennville, who was fired by the Blackhawks early in the 2018-19 season. It was a shock to the hockey world, considering he helped Chicago bring home three Stanley Cups over the course of 10 years. Ultimately, he chose to go to Florida. No, not to retire. Quennville was off to his new team the Panthers to be their bench boss. 

Eventually, news broke that Alain Vigneault was coming to town. Like every other offseason acquisition, the response was all over the place. Little did Philadelphia know at the time, but it just received a perfect fit for its city, its team and the organization.

It is an honor to be selected as the next head coach of the Flyers," Vigneault said following his hire. "The history they have established and the passionate fan base has made this a first-class franchise. I am excited to work with Chuck, the talented group of players and prospects coming up through the system, in order to return Philadelphia to the top of the NHL landscape.

Who knew that in just a few short months, the Flyers would in fact be near the top of the NHL landscape once more. Again, a lot of this is owed to Fletcher and his moves in the offseason and around the trade deadline — but when you look at the team’s overall success on a nightly basis? That’s all Vigneault.

There was a mentality tilt this season in comparison to prior ones. The locker room had a different vibe right from the jump and you could sense how it has positively affected the Flyers' overall game. Vigneault has also shown he is not afraid to speak up and be honest to his players and the media to give his team a kick in the right direction.

The abrupt halt to the NHL season has been rough for many — especially Flyers fans, as they had been anticipating a season precisely like this one for quite some time. The official word was released that if hockey does return, the league will go straight to the playoffs, meaning the 2019-20 regular season has concluded. Now, since that’s the case, league awards will have to be given out based on the condensed season — all the more reason to name Vigneault coach of the year. 

A few key examples

• From the beginning of training camp, he didn’t hold back when discussing his thoughts on Travis Konecny and the need to have him here to get familiar with the new faces and systems in the organization. Thankfully for the Flyers, Konecny and the team came to terms, he arrived shortly after and is having the best season of his young career. 

• Vigneault has not been afraid to call out the veterans on the team, either. Knowing what his players are capable of, it’s important for him to get the best out of them.  

• When the Flyers released a statement that Oskar Lindblom had been diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, it was a difficult time for everyone. Sports aside, the human aspect of it all is mentally draining. Lindblom has received such overwhelming support from players, fans and especially Vigneault — always referencing his “great smile” when the 23-year-old forward attends a game or practice.  

• Looking at a near-complete season without Nolan Patrick (migraine disorder), a shortened season from Lindblom and injuries that popped up throughout the whole season — James van Riemsdyk with a broken hand, Shayne Gostisbehere’s knee injury, Scott Laughton and Michael Raffl’s broken fingers and Konecny missing a handful of games because of a concussion … it’s safe to say it never looked like this team was missing a key player. That’s all due to call-ups and how Vigneault adjusted his lines every time the Flyers hit the ice. 

Vigneault has been everything the city could want in a coach and more. And while there certainly are a handful of other coaches within the league that are also deserving of this award (John Tortorella in Columbus, Travis Green in Vancouver), nothing comes close to the case the new bench boss has made in Philadelphia.

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