I’m not much of a sports betting guy myself, but the Vegas odds on the Philadelphia Flyers opening the season 3-0 including a win over the Tampa Bay Lightning must’ve been minuscule. Though somehow this team beat the odds and prevailed, but more surprising is that they did it while sticking to the plan they entered the season with- development first.
After Chuck Fletcher and his band of merry assholes in the front office promised an aggressive retool then followed that up by refusing to sign Johnny Gaudreau, or add any actual talent outside of Tony DeAngelo, it sure seemed like the 2022-23 Philadelphia Flyers were destined to continue their string of miserable hockey that has plagued them for the last few years.
Even though the roster on paper is throughly underwhelming, there’s one man leading the renaissance of the Flyers and that’s new head coach John Tortorella. His hard-nosed, refuse-to-quit style of coaching has given the ragtag group of fringe NHLers a real fighting chance on a night to night basis.
“Win by committee” is a pretty standard battle cry in the NHL, but for the most part, it holds very little substance as an actual plan. Plain and simple, there’s just not enough talent on this roster to make any kind of serious run this year. Tortorella’s ability to get everyone on the same page is so far covering up for the missing star power, but it’s not going to hold out forever. They’re bound to take a couple ugly losses now and again, and the big test will come in the form of how they rebound from them and whether or not they can keep this level of work ethic up all season.
Even as their first loss rolled in against Florida in a relatively messy hockey game, it’s the kind of outing that with theoretically help build the team further. At the end of the day, the name of the game for this season is development. With a roster composed of so many players in their early 20’s with little to no NHL experience, the losses are going to happen, the mistakes are going to happen, but it’s not about the individual blunder; it’s about how the player and team overall respond to the error and correct it.
Fans have been screaming about the Flyers and their lack of development for years, and now that the coaching staff is letting the kids take their bumps and bruises at the NHL level, they’re calling for the prospects to be returned to Lehigh if they don’t immediately make an impact.
SPOILER ALERT: This is the proper way to develop talent. Guys like Egor Zamula, Noah Cates and Felix Sandstrom are going to make mistakes. You don’t punish them at the first sign of struggle. That doesn’t accomplish anything. You let them make a mistake, they learn from it and don’t make that mistake again. In the short term, it’s not always going to be pretty, but at the end of the season they’ll know exactly who is cut out for the NHL, which will more than likely be most of these guys.
While the early winning is dinging their overall chances of stealing the first overall pick in the Connor Bedard sweepstakes, it may not be the most important thing at the end of the day.
If the Flyers have a repeat of last season’s atrocities, they may walk away with Bedard, but if there’s no progress taken with the rest of the roster, then does it really matter? Now you don’t just have a turd, you’ve got a diamond-encrusted turd.
Instead, winning a few extra games may take them out of lottery contention, but if the young guys like Noah Cates, Egor Zamula and Wade Allison all take steps forward and Carter Hart rebounds to the solid levels we’ve seen him at before and everyone buys in to Tortorella’s system, the team is setting a proper foundation for the future rather than relying on one player to miraculously save the day.
It’s a long season, and how this team responds to John Tortorella as the days drag on will be the most intriguing storyline moving forward. This team doesn’t exactly have a great track record of buying into coaches systems long-term, especially when things start going wrong on-ice. Godspeed, Torts, you’re going to need some divine assistance to get the Philadelphia Flyers back on a successful track.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com