Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Point/Counterpoint: Couturier and Trade Values

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to another edition of the bi-monthly series known as Point/Counterpoint, where the Phanatic's hockey editor locks horns with a guest of his choosing on a number of topics.

This time around, it's a favor repaid. Hal G. from Flyers Faithful  Pattison Avenue will be taking on the issue of Sean Couturier's high trade value.

Point, Hal: Bob, I’m not going to lie to you. When I wrote my piece on trading Sean Couturier, I was angry. The team was playing terribly and Couturier was in a scoring drought, one that we Flyer fans have become all too familiar with.

Since I wrote my scathing piece, Couturier has been on fire with a six-game point streak. Still, for the Flyers to take the next step, any step, trading Sean Couturier is the right move.

Counterpoint, Bob: Whether he's starting in the Magical Land of OZ or stuck in the rear with the gear taking faceoffs in the DZ, Couturier's value is in his defensive and checking games. All else is icing on the cake. With the loss of fourth-liner Adam Hall in the offseason, there's no other dedicated player on the roster as currently constructed who can adequately perform those duties on a nightly basis.

While Couturier's inherent value lay in the execution of his role and his trade value may be bolstered by an offensive upside we've all wished could occur more, his value as an anchor on this unorganized mess of a team is much higher. He's operating at better than 50 percent in d-zone draws, a hair under 50 percent overall, almost 55 percent on power-play faceoffs and an amazing 19-of-21 against Derek Stepan of the Rangers -- a team we need to beat in small areas in order to beat them on the scoreboard and climb towards a playoff berth.

All of that while totaling 15 points and collecting an even plus-minus, so what would be a guaranteed return that could replace it?

Hal: As we know, this Flyers team is flooded with centers, so much so that the $4.5 million dollar man known as Vinny Lecavalier can’t even get into the line up anymore and can't even remain healthy once he's been relegated to the press box.

The Flyers need to improve, and the only way to get talent is to trade talent. This team has two immediate and pressing needs: defense and a top-line winger to pair with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. Couturier, with his ever-increasing value, will never be a hotter commodity.

Bob: That's a great thought, dangling Couturier in front of a willing sucker and thinking you're going to get not one, but both pressing needs for a 22-year-old. 

The doctrine of "equal value" quoted often by all 30 GMs in the league might not permit Ron Hextall to simply swap one player for more than one asset, not to mention the Flyers' perpetual salary-cap woes which may only allow body-for-pick trades -- none of which are palatable unless it's clear in the present that the club has lost so many games that a sell-off is imminent. Even then, the possibility of a crash for a top draft pick may come so late in the year that Couturier's value suffers.

Hal: Right now we are seeing the best of #14 in your game program. As big of a fan of Couturier that I am, what scares me is wondering, is this the best he can be? If it is, the Flyers have a player with the big club already capable of filling his role (hello, Scott Laughton).

Trade Couturier now while he has value and is controllable, because in another two years, the Flyers will have to choose between re-signing a possibly stagnant and status quo Couturier, an improving Brayden Schenn, or an emerging superstar in Jakub Voracek.

Bob: Hal, you ignorant slut.

Scott Laughton is just beginning to find his way in the NHL and though I know he'd do better with a defined role, why cast an unproven talent in a part that demands immediate competency? You wanna talk about a Flyer with maximum trade value? Let's level up here and kick around Voracek.

At this second, he will bring a veritable ransom in return as the league's leading scorer, a dynamic puck mover, fluid skater, great passer and a key cog in the power play and a relatively young talent. THAT's the guy who will net you the scorer on the top line and a defensive presence, and maybe something else special and unexpected.

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