6:10 PM: Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli reports that the Flyers are “hoping” that Couturier’s back will heal in six to eight weeks. He also adds that if Couturier’s back doesn’t heal in that timeframe, surgery would be required, which would leave Couturier out for what Seravalli called a “significant period of time.”
5:00 pm: The Flyers have released an official statement on Couturier, confirming that he has an upper-body injury. His official status is week-to-week, although that shouldn’t discredit the reports of SanFilippo and Friedman.
3:55 pm: Philadelphia Flyers star center Sean Couturier has a herniated disk in his back that could keep him out for the entire 2022-23 season, reports Crossing Broad’s Anthony SanFilippo. It’s expected that Couturier will be out for at least several months.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports the Flyers and Couturier are seeking out a second opinion to determine the exact nature of the injury. It’s unclear whether it’s the same issue that kept Couturier out for all but 29 games last season.
Couturier, now 29, has played just 74 games over the past two seasons after winning the Selke Trophy in 2020. The Flyers have certainly felt his absence, missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1993 and 1994. Given the state of the team now, especially without Couturier, it’ll be a third such season in 2022-23.
One of the league’s best defensive forwards, Couturier’s stock has risen astronomically over the past five seasons after a somewhat slow start to his career. Elevated in the lineup for the 2017-18 season, Couturier then enjoyed back-to-back 76-point seasons while playing over 20 minutes a game. Now the team’s uncontested no. 1 center with Claude Giroux gone from the team, he’s the heart and soul of the Flyers’ offense.
Significant back injuries in back-to-back seasons also don’t bode well for Couturier’s long-term future. If it’s another significant injury that requires him to miss the whole season, it becomes a question mark whether Couturier will be able to return to his previous level of play when healthy.
The Flyers have been busy adding forwards on the PTO market in the past few days, including Antoine Roussel and Artem Anisimov. Neither of them, even if they sign, would come even close to replacing Couturier’s crater-sized hole in the Flyers’ lineup. Kevin Hayes will have a huge role to play next season as the team’s likely first-line center for the foreseeable future after having 31 points in 48 games last season.
What might have been at least a mediocre season for the Flyers if everything went right now seems over before it even began. Without Couturier, it’s hard to imagine this edition of the Flyers finishing anywhere outside of the bottom-five teams in the league, if not bottom-three. It’ll be an incredibly challenging first season for new head coach John Tortorella, who’ll be tasked with reconfiguring the offense in Couturier’s absence.