Tuesday, February 28, 2017

In Which I Argue That Sean Couturier Is Better Than Anze Kopitar

A year ago, as the Flyers were gearing up for their playoff push (remember that? Fun times) we had some discussions on the Flyers' internet community about Sean Couturier's status as a candidate for the Selke Trophy. Couts has always - from the day he entered the league - been an underrated defensive forward.

Last year seemed to be a breakout season in terms of national-level recognition. I sort of wrote about it, the way I always sort of write about things. Broad Street Hockey's Charlie O'Connor broke it down significantly better.

As the year progressed and Couturier lost time due to injury, he slipped out of the conversation. He ultimately finished eighth. Here's how the final vote went:

  1. Anze Kopitar (1145 votes)
  2. Patrice Bergeron (996)
  3. Ryan Kesler (424)
  4. Jonathan Toews (409)
  5. Joe Thornton (166)
  6. Aleksandr Barkov (115)
  7. Sidney Crosby (73)
  8. Sean Couturier (62)
  9. Pavel Datsyuk (55)
  10. Filip Forsberg (51)
  11. Joe Pavelski (46)
  12. Nicklas Backstrom (42)
  13. Jordan Staal (32)
  14. David Backes (32)
  15. Alex Steen (27)
Obviously, missing almost 20 games did not help Couturier. But it's not crazy to think that a full season of his usual level of play would have vaulted him up just below the Kopitar/Bergeron/Kesler/Toews quadrumvirate that always seems to win the Selke. Maybe next year. 

But this post isn't really a Couturier-centric post. During last night's Kings-Wild game, I was SHOCKED to see that Kings center Anze Kopitar - he of the $10 million cap hit - has scored just 6 goals and 35 points this season. Could you imagine if one of the Flyers' big names scored at a one-goal-per-ten-games pace? I mean this is, by all accounts, an awful year for everyone on the team except Wayne Simmonds. Here are their goal paces:
  • Simmonds: 0.41 goals per game
  • Brayden Schenn: 0.33
  • Jake Voracek: 0.26
  • Claude Giroux: 0.20
  • Sean Couturier: 0.20
  • Shayne Gostisbehere: 0.12
Even Ghost, who plays defense and has been the subject of no less than forty "sophomore slump" articles, has scored at a higher clip than Kopitar this season. And it's not just because of the Flyers' high-octane power play, either. Kopitar's individual 5v5 goals per 60 minutes is less than half of the numbers put up by Simmonds and Couturier. 

And then when you factor in that Kopitar has nearly doubled Couturier's power play time on ice (with the Drew Doughty/Jeff Carter unit, instead of the Mark Streit/Nick Cousins one), and I'm almost at a loss as to why Kopitar should make more than twice Couts' salary. 

You want to compare them head-to-head? Let's do it. This is all going to be via Hockeyviz, which is the best site on the internet. 

First, their average teammates and competition: 

Kopitar gets Doughty, and he's almost exclusively on the top line for the Kings in terms of ice time. As such, he gets a minuscule-ly more difficult matchup on the opposing blueline. But the forwards he plays against aren't as good as the ones Couturier's line has to face, and Couturier does it with primarily middle-six forwards and second-pair defensemen by his side. 

So here is my message for everyone who ever wants to talk shit about Sean Couturier: shut the fuck up and don't ever talk to me again. There might not be a player in the NHL who gets stuck with a worse combination of tough minutes and shitty linemates. Dave Hakstol - or whoever - needs to staple Jake Voracek to Couts' hip for the rest of their contracts. 

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