The Philadelphia Flyers signed their talented 20 year-old center to a two-year deal that will pay him $1.5 million in 2014-15 and $2 million in 2015-16. Each year will count $1.75 million against the salary cap and the Flyers will retain negotiating rights when Coots becomes a restricted free agent in 2016-17.
As a registered Paul Holmgren hater, the card is in my wallet, I will admit that this is a smart move for a couple of reasons.
- It’s a cap friendly contract at a time when the Flyers will have to negotiate new deals for Brayden Schenn and Matt Read next year
- A team the lacked defensive prowess extends the contract of arguably the best defensive player on the team
- We get to see that smile for two more years
If you’re asking yourself why I would name Sean Couturier as the Flyers best defensive player from last year I will provide some statistical proof for how invaluable he was.
To my left you will notice this handy little table I made for your viewing pleasure. This table outlines the players who played at least 40 games this past season and their respective offensive zone start percentage. Offensive zone start percentage is pretty self explanatory in that it measures the percentage said player started their shift in the offensive zone. So knowing that, you can then extrapolate that Coots’s defensive zone start percentage is 67.9%.
The reason this piece of data is so relevant in relation to defensive skill is two fold.
First, the percentage clearly shows that Peter Laviolette heavily depended on his 20 year old center to win defensive zone face-offs and move the puck out of the Flyer’s part of the ice. Coots unsurprisingly led the Flyers in defensive zone face-off percentage at 41% this past season; consequently this also led Coots to register the smallest offensive zone face-off percentage of 19%.
And finally, you can see on that table that Sean was the only player to register a Corsi Rel of at least 1.0. So, even though he was usually playing on a line of low quality teammates, against some of the best players on the opposing team, the Flyers were still able average 2.1 more shots while Coots was on the ice. A pretty incredible feat considering again, that this kid is still just 20 years-old and still learning the nuances of this game.
I will be watching the evolution of Sean Couturier with great enthusiasm these next two years seeing whether or not the Flyers might have one of the best up and coming defensive forwards in the NHL.