John Tortorella will officially be introduced as the Philadelphia Flyers’ 23rd head coach in a Zoom call Friday afternoon, and his mission is to transform a sad-sack team into a Stanley Cup contender.
It won’t happen until the roster is remade.
With Torts aboard, general manager Chuck Fletcher says the transformation will be quick.
“During the interview process, we discussed a number of factors that are crucial to bring this team immediate success,” Fletcher said in a statement, “and it became clear to me that his vision and style make him the right person to restore a winning environment to our locker room.”
Tortorella, a two-time Coach-of-the-Year winner, will need help — lots of it — from Fletcher, who needs to upgrade a roster that was depleted by injuries last season.
It was also depleted by a lack of speed and depth, poor offensive finishers and a porous defense, and horrendous special teams. Oh, and they had no identity.
Other than that, they were Stanley Cup-worthy.
I could bore you with lots of negative stats, including the second-worst power play in franchise history (a league-worst 12.6 percent), and a next-to-last-in-the-NHL average of 2.56 goals per game. They were 27th in goals allowed per game (3.59).
Great choice. He’s a no nonsense coach that will hold players accountable. He may not be the long term solution, but he’ll light the fire to turn this team around. The bigger problem is and always has been the front office (Comcast).
— Ted Turzanski (@TTurzanski10) June 17, 2022
Needed: Young talent
But the bottom line is that the Flyers need a better pipeline in the farm system. That would keep the cap more manageable when the players are recalled, and, in a perfect world, keep a steady flow of young talent headed to Philadelphia.
Just because the no-nonsense (and extremely entertaining) Tortorella is here, won’t mean he will magically turn a mediocre roster into a powerhouse. Remember this: Three years ago, the Flyers hired Alain Vigneault, another man with an impressive resume and another bench boss who was deeply respected in his early days with the team, and that didn’t end well.
For a decade, it has been the roster, not the coach, that has made the Philadelphia Flyers the definition of mediocrity.
The roster and the meh farm system. And the lack of substantial development from most of their prospects.
“I am very excited to be joining such a historic and well-respected franchise like the Philadelphia Flyers,” Torts said in a statement released by the team.
Update: #Flyers just changed the Zoom news conference from 1 pm to 2 pm. Guess only Trotz was available at 1, Torts at 2. 🤪 It will be live-streamed on Flyers’ website.
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) June 17, 2022
That historic franchise hasn’t won a Stanley Cup since 1975, has one playoff-series victory in the last 10 years, and is coming off the second-worst season in franchise history.
From Fletcher’s perspective, the hope is that Tortorella will restore some of the franchise’s once-proud qualities, like Mike Keenan did in the 1980s, or Ken Hitchcock did in the early 2000s, or Peter Laviolette did three years after Hitch was dismissed during the 2006-07 season.
Yes, a new coach can help make a turnaround, but Keenan, Hitchcock, and Laviolette had multiple stars on their teams. These Flyers don’t.
“From my very first conversation with Chuck, I knew this was the right fit for me, and I believe in the direction the team is headed,” said Tortorella, whose four-year deal will pay him $4 million per season. “Having faced the Flyers for several years, I know first-hand how tough a city Philly is to play in (for opponents), and I look forward to being on the right side of the bench on opening night in front of such a loyal and passionate crowd of Flyers fans.”
Those passionate fans are angry about the direction the team has gone over the last decade. Angry that a rebuild was never done properly. Their anger was displayed by the dip in attendance last season and by the plunge in the Flyers’ TV ratings.
Will Torts change things? Will Fletcher get creative and trade a veteran player, such as Ivan Provorov, for quality prospects and high draft picks?
Or will the on-the-hot-seat general manager gamble that a return to good health by key players Ryan Ellis and Sean Couturier — and a full, healthy season from Kevin Hayes — be enough to make the Flyers extremely competitive?
Gamble that Tortorella will hold his players more accountable and get more out of them with his fiery personality?
Gamble that Torts and his staff will be able to get a high level of development from young players like Joel Farabee (he looks like the real deal), Morgan Frost, Owen Tippett, Noah Cates, Wade Allison, and Cam York?
We will know more about Fletcher’s and Tortorella’s game plan Friday in a Zoom call, which will be live-streamed on the Flyers’ website at 2 p.m.