With Philadelphia Flyers training camp underway, no one is more excited to get things going than Sean Couturier. He has not appeared in an NHL game in almost two years. Two back surgeries later and Couturier will be returning at full capacity. What better way to test the body out than a John Tortorella training camp?
That means skating the entire length of the ice, whether that is suicide style or circling the entire rink. The first day of camp is nothing but skating tests. There will not be a puck in sight as Tortorella works the players and works them hard.
That will be most important for Couturier. While he did return to practice toward the end of the season, he did not end up playing a game. The Flyers staff determined it was best for him to have an entire summer of training to get back up to speed instead of jumping into games that didn’t matter at the end of the season. So the first test for Couturier will be making it through conditioning with no side effects. And it looks like he passed the first test with flying colors.
"”This was a big test. This is hard on the body, it’s tough mentally, but it went pretty well. But that was Day 1 and I just got to build on that.” Couturier said after the opening day of training camp."
Couturier joked that he was nervous coming in because he didn’t take part in things last year. So he was asking questions to those who went through the gauntlet to learn what it was like. But he felt great afterwards and now it will be about how he recovers from it. There isn’t necessarily a concern in terms of how he will feel the next day or so. It is something he will have to be mindful of in the future now, though. It’s about taking extra care of his body more than he was in the past.
"“Having two back surgeries takes a little more rehab, or taking care of just to make sure I maintain my health and that I feel good on a daily basis. I think the medical staff and the trainers downstairs — they showed me a nice little program on a daily basis to have my routine to get me going and feel good. That’s what I’ve been doing pretty much all summer and it’s working so I just have to maintain that.”"
There is no concern from the trainers or medical staff that Couturier is in any danger or re-injuring himself. It is more of a mental thing in terms of being in a game and “getting crushed” to know how it’s going to feel. That will be one of the main hurdles to cross. It’s something that Couturier is actually excited for in order to test himself. It’s one thing to skate in practice or take part in scrimmages. Nothing will be able to replicate a game situation. That’s why Couturier told management and the coaching staff that he wants to play in as many preseason games as possible. He also added on more weight during the summer in order to be able to take hits and be a bit more physical himself.
Coming back after two back surgeries, there are no doubt people who believe that Couturier will not be the same player that he was before. Or that he will even come back in the first place. It’s not a far fetched thing to believe with the amount of time that has gone by. It’s something that gives Couturier motivation, even if he just wants to prove to himself that he can come back and potentially be even better than he was before.
"“They have their reasons to question or doubt, but I know what I’m capable of and the kind of person I am and the character that I have. Not only to them, but to myself, I want to prove that I’m able to be the player I was, if not better. So that’s always a little extra motivation when you hear some doubters.”"
The Flyers will have scrimmages during camp on Friday. That will be the next step for Couturier even if the pace isn’t as high as it would be during an actual game. It’s all about feeling good and making it through each day. We won’t know anything for sure until Couturier steps on the ice with the Flyers for the first game of the season. For now, there’s plenty to be excited about with him on the ice at training camp, a place he wasn’t able to get to last season.