When the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) announced the winners of their mid season awards around the NHL, Sean Couturier was the lone name in contention for any award.
The Frank J. Selke Trophy is an annual award given “to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.” When hearing that description, who comes to mind faster than Sean Couturier?
Flashing back to 2018, Sean Couturier was named a finalist for the Selke after his stellar 2017-2018 campaign. During this season, Couturier was third in the League with a plus-34 rating. He was second in total ice time (1,770:31) and third in average ice time per game (21:35). Couturier also averaged 1:53 in shorthanded ice time per game, nearly 50 percent more than the next Flyers forward (Valtteri Filppula, 1:17).
To put it into perspective for the analytics crowd, he also led the Flyers in puck possession (53.17 percent SAT, minimum 50 games played). In layman’s terms, the Flyers controlled the puck at an elite clip with Coots on the ice.
During the 2018 NHL awards, Couturier was competing against Patrice Bergeron and Anze Kopitar for the award. Both Bergeron and Kopitar were familiar with the award, as Bergeron has won four times, and Kopitar won it for his second time that year. Now, it is finally Couturier’s turn to take the throne.
Coots continues to be one of the Flyers’ most valuable players. Through 50 games, he is tied for the team lead in points (43), first in assists (30) and even-strength points (35). He trails only Claude Giroux in shots (131), and in faceoff win percentage (58.3). He sits behind only Kevin Hayes with takeaways (31) and only behind Philippe Myers in plus-minus (plus-15). To base off of that, his expected plus-minus (7.0) also leads Philadelphia.
As for time on the ice, he is third in shorthanded minutes (101:51) and fourth in ice time per game (20:02) on the team. On the advanced stats side of things, he also boasts a 55.37% CF, 55.09% xGF and 62.90% GF. The Flyers outscore opponents 39-23 when he is on the ice. The Selke is a defensive trophy, but offensive numbers matter. He continues to make an impact no matter how many Flyers are on the ice.
Throughout his career, Coots has flown under the radar due to his not-so-flashy point totals. However, he set a career-high in points (76) in 2017-18 that he then reached again last season. He has surpassed the 30-goal mark in each of the last two seasons, scoring 31 and 33 goals respectively.
His team contributions do not go unnoticed by coach Alain Vigneault. Last month, AV complimented Coots:
“He plays that full 200-foot game, but he’s also got some good offensive abilities,” Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said last month. “He goes to the net hard, you see him a lot times challenging defensemen 1-on-1 and not being afraid to bring that puck and go to the tough areas. He’s got the ability to make plays with the puck, he plays power play and penalty killing and 5-on-5.”
AV has lived up to that praise as a coach as well. Whenever a player seems to be struggling, Coots is the main go-to for being a key play maker. On the season, he has helped the likings of Oskar Lindblom, Travis Konecny, Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, Michael Raffl and most recently Joel Farabee get back onto the stat sheet.
If Sean Couturier continues his two-way game, producing night in and night out, the Selke will only be his to lose.
Mandatory Credit – © Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports