The Philadelphia Flyers, led by general manager Chuck Fletcher, entered the 2022 offseason with the ideology of an “aggressive retool” leading the way. And it very much felt like a path they were going to pursue when they named John Tortorella as the 23rd head coach in franchise history in June of 2022. Then Fletcher followed up that hiring by being about as aggressive as a toddler with a whiffle ball bat.
Even though Chuck Fletcher failed to build up the roster and it ultimately cost him his job, John Tortorella held up his end of the bargain and brought some much needed life back to the Philadelphia Flyers on the ice.
His drill sergeant approach mixed with his oddly compassionate yet strangely cold handling of his players drug far more out of an otherwise underwhelming roster than anyone expected.
The uptick in effort level was very noticeable for a vast majority of the season. A much needed change of pace from a team that crumpled under the slightest bit of pressure the last few years. It’s a “by committee” mentality that masked the team’s true lack of high-end talent. It carried them out of the direct basement of the league, elevating them to 31 wins and an additional 14 standings points, which saw them finish seventh worst instead of fourth worst in 2021-22.
John Tortorella’s unique coaching strategy brought the best out of the roster during the 2022-23 season, but the method to his madness of the “82 game playoff” style can be a hard bar to maintain… especially when it doesn’t amount to making the actual playoffs.
We’ve seen this team respond well to a coach during the first year, then completely give up on the second year and beyond in recent seasons (hello, Alain Vigneault) and if the hard work this team puts out there doesn’t pay off, the Tortorella effect may overstay its welcome much sooner than expected.
At the end of the day, it’s an approach that doesn’t have a particularly long shelf life in the modern era. Look no further than Darryl Sutter in Calgary. A similar hard-nosed veteran demanding coach who won a Jack Adams Award in 2022 then got fired at the conclusion of the 2022-23 season after his style caused his players to mutiny.
Tortorella certainly isn’t going to change his ways, so it’s up to the new-look front office to keep the on-ice product fresh enough that the gospel Tortorella preaches doesn’t have a chance to get stale. Palpable roster changes -even it it doesn’t necessarily lead to a major uptick in expectations or immediate results- will go a long way to keeping the end goal of a competitive hockey team alive so the hard work the players put in doesn’t seem like it’s for naught.
Right now, Tortorella is very much the linchpin to the Flyers organization. He was named as part of their “Triumvirate of Leadership” alongside Danny Briere and Keith Jones, so he’s clearly not going anywhere anytime soon. He’s the de facto face of a captain-less franchise, and he’s not going to stray away from the limelight. How the players react to being pushed to their limits for a second season will be one of the top storylines heading into the 2023-24 season, especially if Danny Briere fails to bring in real talent to elevate the on-ice product to a competitive level. Can his demanding message work twice?
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com