6:10 pm: Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff reports that the Flyers “hope” Couturier’s back will heal in six to eight weeks. He also adds that if Couturier’s back doesn’t heal within that time, surgery would be needed, leaving Couturier for what Seravalli called a “significant period.”
5 p.m.: The Flyers have released an official statement on Couturier, confirming that he has an upper body injury. His official status is week to week, though that shouldn’t discredit SanFilippo and Friedman’s reports.
3:55 pm: Philadelphia Flyers Star Center Sean Couturier has a hernia in his back that could keep him out for the entire 2022-23 season, reports Anthony SanFilippo of Crossing Broad. Couturier is expected to be out for at least a few months.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports the Flyers and Couturier are looking for a second opinion to determine the exact nature of the injury. It’s unclear if it’s the same problem Couturier held for all but 29 games last season.
Couturier, now 29, has played just 74 games in the past two seasons after winning the Selke Trophy in 2020. The Flyers have certainly felt his absence, missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1993 and 1994. Given the state of the team now, especially without Couturier, it will be such a season for the third time in 2022-23.
Couturier, one of the league’s best defensive forwards, 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 enjoyed consecutive seasons of 76 points while playing more than 20 minutes per game. Now is the undisputed number of the team. 1 center with Claude Giroux vanished from the team, he is the heart and soul of the Flyers’ attack.
Significant back injuries in successive seasons also don’t bode well for Couturier’s long-term future. If it’s another major injury that will put him out of action for the entire season, it becomes a question of whether Couturier will be able to return to his previous level of play if he is healthy.
The Flyers have been busy adding advancements in the PTO market over the past few days, including: Antoine Roussel and Artem Anisimov. Neither, even if they sign, would even come close to replacing Couturier’s crater-sized hole in Flyers’ line-up. Kevin Hayes will play a big role next season as the team’s likely frontline center for the foreseeable future, having racked up 31 points in 48 games last season.
What could have been at the very least a mediocre season for the Flyers if all went well seems to be over before it has even started. Without Couturier, it’s hard to imagine this edition of the Flyers finishing anywhere outside the bottom five teams in the league, if not the bottom three. It’s going to be an incredibly challenging first season for new head coach John Tortorellawho will be tasked with reconfiguring the crime in Couturier’s absence.