Despite missing the playoffs, the Flyers weren’t totally awful. Oh, they had bad stretches…like the 10 game losing streak in November-December and the seven game skid near the end of the year. And even then, they finished only seven games under .500 in regulation games and had 13 overtime losses. Overall, that’s not bad when you consider what this season had stacked against them.
Right off the bat, they were without two of their top forwards: Cam Atkinson and Sean Couturier. Atkinson was kind of a surprise loss as there was no indication he was hurt. He just never did much in training camp and then BAM!….didn’t play. At one point, he was skating with the team, was going to return to the lineup, and then was shut down.
For Couturier, it’s been a longer process. He’s been out since December of 2021. Alain Vigneault was still around then. He had surgery and then was deemed not ready to go. There were times he seemed as if he may come back, but the Flyers shut down their star forward.
With all of those games missed by two star players, what can be expected of each. Well, there are two scenarios worth looking at and can apply to both.
Scenario #1: Both Players Return to Form or Close Enough to It
This is the scenario everyone wants. We want to see them succeed. Even if Atkinson can’t score 23 goals (like he did last year), can he get to 20? If Couturier can’t get to 33 goals, like he did in 2018-19, can he get to 20? Anything they can add here is good.
Besides the production, there is the leadership. There is the “ice-vision” that this Flyers team is lacking. The young guys need someone to look up to and emulate. Someone who can showcase what a true John Tortorella player can be.
If the Flyers can get anywhere from 30-50+ goals from this duo, it would be good. They could play any of the top three lines and work with the younger players like Morgan Frost, Noah Cates, and Joel Farabee. They could help them improve their games with all of their collective years of hockey knowledge they’ve accumulated.
Scenario #2: If They Can Return at All, They are Shells
However, there is this scenario too. Sadly, this is the most likely. After years of being battered around, and despite being just 34 and 30 years old respectively, Atkinson and Couturier just can’t do it anymore. They are shells of what they used to be.
They would, sadly, be standing in the way of someone who might be able to contribute and are going to be too overpriced to be sentimental about it. Atkinson has two years left with $5,875,000 per season while Couturier’s $7,750,000 a year contract ends after 2029-30. This is why Daniel Briere has some tough choices ahead. Atkinson is a relative newcomer to the Flyers, but Couturier has been here since 2011-12. Only Brandon Graham of the Eagles has been around the Philly sports scene longer and he is tied with Jason Kelce, also of the Eagles. That’s hard to cut ties with.
Whatever happens, we all hope that they can come back and play hard. A whole year removed from being banged around could help them or it could slow them down. The Flyers will have to find out pretty quick. Likewise, Atkinson and Couturier will each have to figure out how much more they can give.