Since being named the 23rd head coach in the Philadelphia Flyers’ history last month, John Tortorella has had meetings with several of his players, starting a bonding process.
As it turns out, the hard-edged coach also has a soft side.
During his chats, Tortorella hasn’t even mentioned the disastrous 2021-22 season, the two double-digit losing streaks (10 and 13 games), and the second-worst record (25-46-11) in franchise history.
The meetings, he said, are about learning about the person more than the player.
Getting to know you
“It really hasn’t been about what happened last year or what’s going to happen this year,” Tortorella said in a recent exclusive interview with Philly Hockey Now. “ It was just about meeting face to face and talking about their families.”
He learned about some players’ progress as they rehab from injuries.
“Some guys are nicked up a little bit and they were telling me how they are feeling and about their training,” Tortorella said. “Just a lot of general conversations. It wasn’t in depth about how we’re going to do it, or Xs and Os. Just kind of an initial conversation and about putting a face to a name.”
It won’t happen for a while. In fact, it might not happen until after the season starts. There is a chance the Philadelphia Flyers will have only alternate captains at the beginning of the season.
Claude Giroux was the captain for 10 years before being dealt to Florida on March 19. The Flyers never named anyone to replace him with the “C.”
“There’s no definite to me,” Tortorella said. “I’m not even sure it will be (named) after camp. It could be, sure. It will have to play out in front of me and in front of the experiences we go through in camp and exhibitions — and maybe into the regular season and go through some situations and see how people react.”
Tortorella, 64, will get input from others, “but I’m a big believer that I need to see it,” he said. “It’s not that I’m not trusting people on their thoughts from our organization, but I want to see it. I think that’s only fair. I’m going to let that play out, and that will speak to me when we make our decision.”
The captain may not be named until early in the season?
“Yeah, it may not be named (until then). I don’t know … I’m not a big letter guy. I think it’s important, and as I get to know the team, if it’s important to what the team needs and what they think they need, that’s how I answer to it,” he said.
Tortorella said he answers to his players in regard to the need for a captain.
Confer with ‘the boys’
“If I feel the boys think someone needs to be named and they want to lean on him at certain times, then we’ll go about our business,” he said. “But if not, if it isn’t a big priority on their mind, we’ll let it play out. They may hit me about it right away, and we’ll do it. But I just don’t want to say it’ll be done at a certain time. That’s not fair to you and that’s not fair to me and not fair to the team.”
Based on social media, the fans seem pleased that Tortorella was hired.
“I hope so and hope it stays that way,” he said. “They’ll be crawling all over me. I know that. There’s going to be times (they disagree with him).”
The fans’ passion is one of the reasons Tortorella was attracted to Philadelphia.
“That’s part of the lure for me — that they care,” he said. “I want to be here because I know it’s a great sports town. And we’re going to give it everything we can to get this back on the rails.”