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Sean Couturier Underwent Sports Hernia Surgery; Expected To Be 100% for Training Camp

(Heather Barry Images, LLC)

The return of Sean Couturier in 2023-24 was a tale of two halves. It ended in mysterious fashion with the captain going without a goal in his final 25 games but it’s now being reported that he underwent surgery for his sports hernia and should be ready for training camp.

His first 41 games – the exact midpoint of the season – was vintage Couturier and it really looked like he hadn’t missed a beat. The latter half was filled with droughts, healthy scratches, and being benched. While many theorized what it could’ve been it was a nearly unexplainable phenomenon until today as he opened up a little bit on a podcast appearance with Derek Settlemyre and Riley Cote on Nasty Knuckles.

“I’m doing some rehab right now, had a little sports hernia surgery, lower abs,” Couturier told the podcast. “Feeling great now, so would like to head back home this week and start the full training.”

After undergoing two back surgeries on nearly the same spot that forced him out of the lineup for the majority of the 2021-22 season and the entire 2022-23 season, expectations were up in the air for his expected return. Would he be the same dominant force between 2017-18 and 2020-21? Or would it be very obvious that the back injuries were going to be a problem?

Well, right off the hop, the vintage Couturier was back. In his first 41 games he had recorded 10 goals and 30 points, was +12, and was averaging 19:59 of ice time while playing all situations. The Flyers effectively had their top-line center return with a bang and it was truly a sight to behold for a club that was surprising the NHL with a potential playoff push.

In his final 33 games, Couturier scored 1 goal and tallied 7 assists, he held a -22 rating, had only 77 shots on goal, and saw just 15:08 ATOI. He was named the 20th captain in franchise history ahead of their February 15th tilt against the Toronto Maple Leafs, which is essentially when his season took a complete turn for the worst.

In the two-month stretch that followed, he played in 24 out of a possible 28 games, had 0 goals and 5 assists, held a minus-22 rating, and saw just 13:50 ATOI. He saw less than 14 minutes of ice time in 11 of those games, saw less than 12 minutes in 6 of those games, and finished the season without a goal. It was believed that he might’ve been butting heads with head coach John Tortorella, especially considering the lack of ice time he received and the few press box visits given to the captain in a crucial juncture of the season.

Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff had an interview with Nasty Knuckles at the end of April discussing a few topics related to the end-of-season collapse, Tortorella and his iron rule, and how the Couturier scratch affected the team. He mentioned that the decision to scratch him rubbed a lot of players the wrong way and wonders what that meant for the following season.

“I can’t help but think that the team, the feel of the team changed after the Sean Couturier healthy scratch. Look, I don’t think the Flyers are making a coaching change, they have 8 million reasons not to but for me, my big question for the Flyers heading into next year, will there be a hangover from the Torts tornado? I’ve talked to some guys in that room on a pretty regular basis and there’s certainly some players heading into the offseason after the exit interviews that aren’t really happy and that’s not a shock based on how things played out.”

Couturier is expected to be ready for training camp – alongside injured defensemen Jamie Drysdale and Rasmus Ristolainen – but the way his season unfolded and how the Flyers failed to hold onto their playoff position might be the biggest drawback from what was supposed to be a rebuilding season. He missed two games in the middle of January and noted that upon his return, things never felt the same.

“My game itself never really came back after that, if you really look back at it,” Couturier said after the season. “But I was just trying to grind through it, show up every night, and help the team win in every way I could. Obviously, wasn’t good enough. I guess I never really found that jump that I had earlier in the year.”

Being named captain in the middle of the season was also a shock considering that the Flyers were almost dead set on rolling through another season without one. There weren’t many options to choose from but it was either going to be Couturier and Scott Laughton and with the former signed long-term and the latter in trade rumours and on a soon-to-be expiring contract, the Flyers made their decision – albeit at a very odd time in the season.

The entire hockey world was in an uproar after Tortorella decided to scratch the newly named captain in mid-March. Couturier was unhappy, his agent at the time in Eric Lupien was dismayed by the situation, and both were seemingly caught off guard as they stated the decision came from a lack of communication. Fast forward a couple months later and Couturier changed agents and joined Pat Brisson, which led many to believe there was a strife between player and club.

Couturier is signed through the end of the 2029-30 season at a cap hit of $7.75 million. He also carries a full no-movement clause and after being named captain, it almost seems like an impossibility that the Flyers try to trade him. On top of the fact that not many teams will be lining up to trade for an expensive veteran centre who has a lot of mileage under his belt and has gone through the ringer over the last 2+ seasons with injuries.

Tortorella’s comments at the end of the season would also suggest there isn’t much fuel to the fire of a strife between him and his captain.

“I know what Sean said to you guys after (he was scratched),” Tortorella said. “It kind of caught me off-guard a little bit, but I think it’s the first time Sean’s been through something like that. So, it really wasn’t a big deal for me. I think it turned into a bunch of drama.”

Tortorella continued, “We just talked (after the season finale), and we disagreed on a lot of stuff. That’s what I love about him. He’s willing to say what’s on his mind. That’s how our relationship is going to grow. I’m not in the business to disrespect anybody and if I take a guy of that stature out, I’m going to communicate what it was (for), and I felt I did.”

As things stand today, it seems like we finally have a better understanding as to why Couturier’s season ended in such horrific fashion. He is expected to be ready for training camp and he’s excited to return in contrast to what many previously believed.

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