In an exclusive interview with Philly Hockey Now last month, new Philadelphia Flyers coach John Tortorella talked about a variety of topics, including his expectations, how he wants his team to identify with the city’s hard-working people, and the “challenge” of getting things back on track.
He reiterated some of those feelings, and more, in a recent sitdown with NHL.com.
Tortorella, 64, said he missed being behind the bench — he was a TV analyst for ESPN — for the last year. He said a month after last season started, he realized he needed more than a microphone.
The man they call “Torts” said he “terribly” missed not being in camp or meetings, “not having the conflict with the players and the good stuff with the players, and not hearing the music after a win.”
So here he is, leading a Philadelphia Flyers team that is coming off the second-worst record in franchise history, a team that made few offseason moves and is depending heavily on Sean Couturier, Kevin Hayes, and Ryan Ellis to return to good health.
It will be a learning experience for the Flyers, and there will be bumps along the road. The adversity, Tortorella said, will make the players stronger.
In other words, it will take time for Tortotrella to develop a winning culture on a team that has won just one playoff series in a decade.
“To build the right way, with the right standard, you have to go through some experiences and teaching them, ‘Geeze, that was really good,’ and then, ‘Holy (crap), that is not good enough,’ with video and conversations,” he said.
He called it “spontaneous coaching. When things happen, good and bad, that’s how you create a standard.”
That standard, he added, “means nothing until you start going through some things and see how they react to it.”
Training camp starts Sept. 22 with on-ice activities in Voorhees.
Tortorella said the Flyers don’t yet understand what his expectation level will be “because they haven’t gone through any experiences with me. They haven’t gone through camp (with him); they haven’t gone through some of the mental and physical tests that we’re going to go through in camp.”
Translation: It will not be a country-club atmosphere.
“I’m going to tell them what we’re looking for. We’re going to push to that level, and if some guys aren’t willing to get there, or maybe there’s some stubbornness about getting there, we’ll look to someone else,” he said.
Take that as a warning shot.
He said the players will show him who deserves playing time, and it should be “really good” for them to know it’s a “blank sheet.”
Tortorella believes recently acquired Tony DeAngelo, who will move to the top pairing because Ellis (pelvic injury) isn’t ready to return, “will add juice to our team.”
For the Flyers to be a playoff contender, they can use the “experts” negative opinions as inspiration to prove them wrong, Tortorella said. Most predict the Flyers will finish at or near the bottom of the Metropolitan Division (again) and out of the playoff picture.
“If you want to be great, you have to find those extra motivations,” he said, “and we’ve got one staring right in our face.”
He added that “everybody” — he was referring to outsiders — thinks the team is going to stink.