Within the next five games, the Philadelphia Flyers will have to make a crucial decision with their lineup. That decision is whether to keep rookie Sean Couturier on the main roster or pack him up and ship back to juniors.
In five games thus far, the 18-year old rookie center has one goal, and two assists on 10 shots. He’s had a plethora of scoring chances and finally cashed in Tuesday night in Ottawa, recording his first career NHL goal.
It’s only a matter of time before Couturier begins to find a scoring touch.
Now, head coach Peter Laviolette and GM Paul Holmgren are the men who hold Couturier’s fate in their oh-so-nervous hands.
With super-prospect Brayden Schenn honing his game in Adirondack with the Phantoms, the Flyers have been able to give Couturier a full evaluation.
He’s been fantastic, and his coach has noticed. Don’t believe me? Just watch the very first game of the season when Laviolette had him out there for 4:34 on the penalty kill aand for the entire final minute against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Is that enough trust for you? That spoke volumes from my view. Couturier has earned his way into the Flyers lineup for good.
Of course, there are some negatives both Laviolette and Holmgren have to weigh with the many positives Couturier has shown.
Can he withstand the constant grind of a full 82-game NHL schedule? That’s a major component on whether or not the Flyers will decide if Couturier is worth the close $1.38 million cap hit. If he does indeed stay with the big club the rest of the season, where will he fit in the lineup for the long-run?
Those are just two questions the Flyers will ask themselves while pondering their final decision for next weeks nine-game deadline.
If the Flyers don’t exactly want to rush bringing up Schenn, which they won’t do, keeping Couturier is that much more of a safe bet for Laviolette.
With players like Matt Read and Andreas Nodl logging more and more minutes as a unit, the Flyers have had no choice but to reduce minutes for veterans like Scott Hartnell. That could just be by Laviolette’s design or a sign of things to come for the young guns.
Once Schenn gets the call to finally come up and make his impact, Couturier and Read might or might not find themselves with less minutes. Another veteran, like Hartnell, could find themselves sitting more than usual.
Eventually, the goals will come for the American-born Couturier. For the time being the best possible situation for him is to remain with the big club. Sending him back to juniors at this point could damage his confidence.