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Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier need to have breakout seasons for the Flyers

Friday, 10.4.2013 / 9:47 AM ET / News
By Jay Greenberg  - philadelphiaflyers.com
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PHILADELPHIA - Brayden Schenn buried Vinny Lecavalier’s feed like Schenn needs to bury last season. In game number one, he took a passout and snapped it past goalie Jonathan Bernier even faster than people forget Schenn still is only 22 years old.

Los Angeles has a Stanley Cup and Philadelphia just one series victory since the Flyers traded a captain at his peak, Mike Richards, for a kid who had played in nine NHL games. So nobody really wants to hear that the Flyers are on a youth kick.

But to a large extent they are.

Some of the older defensemen (Andrej Meszaros, Nick Grossmann, Kimmo Timonen) need to be healthier than they were last season. And one, 28-year-old Braydon Coburn, has to be much better. But the Flyers’ goalie with the upside, Steve Mason, is only 25, and of their forwards only Lecavalier, Scott Hartnell and Max Talbot are over that age.

Up front, the Flyers are a work in progress, and because progress halted last season, restlessness settled in as early as Wednesday night, when fans were booing at the end of a contest that territorially their team won decisively. That said, Schenn’s goal was the only one the Flyers got in a 3-1 loss. So they can tell themselves this was a game they win eight times out of ten, but they won’t unless they can score.

Not only do the Flyers young feet have to accelerate, they need finish to prove they are not finished in this era as a serious Cup contender. With a lot of the same elements of a power play that was the only bright spot in 2012, plus the addition of a solid point man in Mark Streit, one would think goals with a man advantage will not be a problem. But power plays can be fickle from year to year and, besides, the Flyers need to start scoring at even strength.

So Schenn must develop into the 30-35-goal scorer the organization expects him to be. And too much also is invested in Sean CouturierJeff Carter for Jake Voracek and the draft choice that Couturier became – for him to settle for being a career-long defensive specialist. To watch him in the opener, it seemed like a long time ago that Couturier had a hat trick during the 2011 playoff series win in Pittsburgh while frazzling Evgeni Malkin besides. But Couturier did contribute offensively. Still only 20, he may be the third-line center for as long as Lecavalier is playing at a high level, but ultimately Couturier must become a good No. 2 to justify an eighth-overall selection.

Voracek, 24, emerged as a point-a-game player last season, a reasonable expectation of the level expected of him for the peak years he is entering. Matt Read’s 2012 numbers projected over a full 82 games were comparable to what they were in his rookie year. Already 27, Read probably is near his peak. But the guys with plenty of room to grow can’t shrink in 2013-14.

“No question, it is a big year for both Brayden and Sean,” said Paul Holmgren, just as it has become a big one for the GM to have those kids justify the boldest moves of the GM’s career. Both Schenn and Couturier have been given offensive support – Claude Giroux centering Schenn, Voracek on the wing with Couturier – so let the full flowering begin.

Brayden Schenn is being counted on for more offense this season, and is getting a chance to play on the top line with Scott Hartnell (middle) and Claude Giroux (right).

“A year ago neither were where we need them to be,” said Holmgren. “But I don’t think it was as bad (26 points for Schenn in 47 games, 15 for Couturier in 46) as what people made it out to be.

“Project their totals from 48 games to 82 and they were close to what they had done as rookies. The team stumbled out of the gate, they never got their feet under them, and with other things going on with the team, more fell on their plate, maybe unfairly. Sean also had a lingering injury (sustained in the AHL) coming out of the lockout.

“Maybe, like a lot of second-year players, they took the moderate success of their rookie years for granted, but overall I think [their struggles] were more a function of the whole team.”

The whole team has a mandate for 2013 to prove last season was an aberration of injuries and the short schedule. Schenn’s mandate is to bang, break for the holes and when the pass comes, be as sure of himself as he was on Wednesday night. Couturier’s mandate is to not settle for being a generic checker, but force the big stars he is marking to respect his ability to counter. He has to want to be a 50-60 point a year producer in order to become one.

“There is more there,” said Holmgren. “I think he should be the perfect example of a good two-way player, smart defensively, rarely out of position and a good penalty killer.

“If we used him on the power play, he would produce there. I think he wants to be in offensive positions. During the exhibition season, he put a pass to Hartnell though a couple of sticks to set up a goal.

“Brayden is sill learning the little puck battles that come with experience. Sean is ahead in that regard, has put on some weight to improve his base.”

Going into last season, the Flyers needed defensive help in the short run and invested in a high pick, Luke Schenn, who should be in Philadelphia for the long run. But to get him they traded James van Riemsdyk, a No 2 overall pick who has blossomed as a 30-goal caliber scorer in Toronto.

The Flyers could use some blossoming to go on around here, too.




1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69


C. Giroux 78 22 45 -8 67
W. Simmonds 81 32 28 -7 60
B. Schenn 80 26 33 3 59
J. Voracek 73 11 44 -5 55
S. Gostisbehere 64 17 29 8 46
S. Couturier 63 11 28 8 39
M. Raffl 82 13 18 9 31
M. Read 79 11 15 -5 26
M. Streit 62 6 17 -1 23
S. Laughton 71 7 14 -2 21
S. Mason 23 19 10 .918 2.51
M. Neuvirth 18 8 4 .924 2.27
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