With Ryan Ellis, Sean Couturier injuries, Flyers have scary unknown on the verge of camp

The Flyers lost 57 games last season. They had separate losing streaks of 13 games and 10 games.

Their 25-46-11 finish marked one of the worst years in franchise history for a team that was born in 1967.

Two absences, among the team’s various injuries, were most damaging: Ryan Ellis and Sean Couturier.

Ellis, a top-pair, all-situation defenseman, was traded to fill the Flyers’ most glaring hole. A complex, multilayered injury in his pelvic region forced him out for all but four games.

“One player shouldn’t be enough to sink our team, but Ryan Ellis is an elite puck mover, he’s elite in transition, he would allow us to put everybody in the right chair,” general manager Chuck Fletcher said last November amid the Flyers. ‘ 10-game skid.

Couturier, a first-line, all-situation center, has been widely considered the Flyers’ best and most important player. A back injury that required season-ending surgery in February limited him to 29 games.

“When we’re down a goal, we play him. When we’re up a goal, we play him,” Fletcher said in August 2021 after signing Couturier to an extension. “He’s a rare talent. You just can’t find these players.”

With 33 combined games from those two players, the Flyers were utterly broken, with little chance to make something of their season even if everything else broke their way.

An overwhelming theme over the back half of last season and throughout this offseason was health to key players. Get Ellis healthy and the Flyers are a different team next year. Getting Couturier healthy and the Flyers are a different team next year.

Better health gives the Flyers a much better chance in 2022-23.

“We should get this thing right and we should be in it next year,” Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott said in January.

Two days before the start of the 2022 training camp, the Flyers are still without Ellis and Couturier. And both injuries overflow with concern.

Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli reported Tuesday that Ellis will not be ready to start the regular season and “there is no hint of a timeline” for his return.

The report came a day after it was announced that Couturier recently suffered another injury to his back area. Right now, Couturier is being reevaluated and considered week to week. He was originally considered week to week last December before eventually undergoing season-ending surgery in February.

This is not the way he or the Flyers envisioned his first year of a new eight-year, $62 million contract beginning.

If Couturier is to miss significant time, the Flyers will pivot to Kevin Hayes, Scott Laughton, Morgan Frost and Patrick Brown down the middle. They’ll have the trade route at their disposal, but they’re not in a favorable position to make a major move yet. Not from a salary cap perspective and not before they even know what’s in store for the start of this season.

John Tortorella, a dogged competitor who salivates at a good challenge, has a daunting task cut out for him.

Joel Farabee had to undergo surgery to his neck area on Tortorella’s birthday, just a week after the head coach was introduced. Now Tortorella will be without Ellis and Couturier to open his first training camp and regular season in Philadelphia.

Frighteningly, there’s not much evidence to tell you this season will be a lot different than last season.

It’s possible this season becomes about next season. Too often, recently, that has been the case for the Flyers and their fans.

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