As fans sharpen their pitchforks and light their torches and get ready to storm the Wells Fargo Center after a brutal offseason by GM Chuck Fletcher, the biggest acquisition the organization made during the offseason has fallen by the wayside, and that’s the hiring of head coach John Tortorella. The new bench boss is the second most winningest among American-born coaches and currently sits 14th in victories in NHL history.
His aggressive style and famous antics have led many to wonder how the comfortable roster players will handle the transition? Considering he was brought in for the sole purpose of shaking things up, which players can we expect to sink or swim under John Tortorella?
Atkinson will be tasked with building bridges between the current team and John Tortorella as the only player that has experience playing under the new coach. He apparently advocated for the hiring and rightfully so, the two best seasons of his career came under the watch of Torts. He posted 35 goals and 62 points in 2016-17 and followed that up with a 41-goal, 69-point campaign in 2018-19. Considering Atkinson was the Flyers’ best overall performer last season, the prospect of him potentially returning to old form is a good thing for the team.
There’s been a very simple story to Kevin Hayes’ time so far in Philadelphia- he’s been very good when healthy and not so good when injured. He’s expected healthy entering the 2022-23 season and the team will rely heavily on his role as 2C and his above average two-way abilities. He’ll be used heavily on the penalty kill, an area in which was the renaissance of his career during 2019-20, which will in of itself go a long way to moving Hayes back into the good graces of the team and fanbase.
Laughton was drafted a decade ago and is somehow still getting better. He’s an all around Swiss army knife in the middle six and is one of the very few players in the top nine that can transition from wing to center as need be. His defensive skills are on par and is capable of chipping in a dozen goals and around 30 points, and with that kind of flexibility, there’s no reason to think he won’t succeed under the new regime.
Provorov desperately needs a helping hand to stabilize his game, and who better than the wrinkly paw of 64-year-old John Tortorella to be that hand. He has a new questionable defense partner in Tony DeAngelo, and his ability to adjust to his new settings will determine just how effective Provorov could be. He’ll still undoubtedly eat heavy minutes, but whether or not he returns to form as a top defenseman or flounders another season will be determined heavily by the new head coach teaching him a new trick or two.
Frost came a long way last season in terms of his overall abilities, but they’re still not quite up to snuff, and if he doesn’t show drastic improvement, one has to wonder how he’ll fall into Tortorella’s system. He’s more than likely the opening night 3C thanks to Fletcher continuing his oath of refusing to add center depth, but the two-way demands that come with the job mean Frost is going to have to rise to the occasion to meet the expectations. If he doesn’t, it could be another long and underwhelming season for the 23-year-old.
James Van Riemsdyk
There are few players that personify the term “human traffic cone” quite like James Van Riemsdyk. You can basically pencil him in for 20 goals and around 40 points already, but how he goes about getting those points is by far the most frustrating thing about his play. He’s not fast, he’s not overly skilled in most roles outside of netfront on the powerplay, and as the third longest tenured veteran on the team, his underwhelming style of play could mean he’s the player Torts makes an example out of to stick it to the young guys.
Sanheim is coming off the best overall season of his career. A year in which he succeed because the reins were loosened and he excelled offensively. Though with Tortorella in the mix, what if he forces Sanheim to refocus defensively? He’s never been the strongest player in his own end and that may not bode well for his place in Torts’ system. Considering Cam York and Egor Zamula are breathing down his neck for a roster spot and Sanheim’s contract is up at the end of the season, if he can’t adapt to Tortorella, he may get passed up quickly in favor of a better defensive option.
More than anything else, Konecny desperately needs a star player to partner with and guide his game back to acceptable, though thanks to Chuck Fletcher and his bang up job during the offseason, TK doesn’t really have anybody to keep him in line. He’s a beneficiary player capable of hanging with the big dogs, but not really being the crux of the production himself. He ended last season strong, primarily as a playmaker, so if someone else can step and and score goals, it’s possible Teeks can buy back in, but entering year seven of his career, the hopes and dreams of true stardom are fading quickly.
As of right now, Farabee is the brightest young star on the main roster with the most offensive talent among the bunch. Even though he’ll start the season on IR. He’s proven in the past the he can handle just about any role on the team, from top line scorer to fourth line grinder, and while that’s an admirable and worthwhile trait to possess, it also means someone like Torts could revert to using him as a middle-six scrapper instead of a legit top offensive guy. It’s definitely the worst case scenario, but it’s the only scenario the Flyers know how to live by these days.
Much to the chagrin of the “well ackshually” crowd, Ristolainen had a fairly decent season during the 2021-22 campaign, but admittedly his playing style isn’t perfect. His big, mean, physical style of play seems like something that Tortorella would appreciate, but if intent on holding players accountable and Ristolainen has a rough stretch of play, it’ll be interesting to see how that works itself out.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: tampabay.com