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Flyers’ Torts Has Evolved Because Players Have ‘Attention Span of an Amoeba’

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John Tortorella (AP photo)
New Philadelphia Flyers coach John Tortorella enjoys a laugh at practice Thursday in Voorhees. Photo: Zack Hill.

After three decades of being an assistant or head coach in the NHL, John Tortorella has simplified things for his players.

No longer does he overly fixate on where players should be on the ice in particular situations.

No longer does he hand his players ottoman-sized books detailing, well, just about everything about his system.

No longer is the new Philadelphia Flyers coach as concerned about his system as much as he is the players’ conditioning and relentlessness.

“It was like I was programmed,” Tortorella said of his earlier coaching years. “I feel totally opposite about the game right now, especially with today’s athletes and an attention span of an amoeba. And just getting a couple minutes out of them, and I mean it.”

He drew chuckles.

“You can’t give them that,” he said after a practice session Thursday in Voorhees. “And so what outweighs the Xs and Os is the will, and what you coach is the will.”

Wants Hunger

In other words, he wants hungry players, not robotic players who follow a certain system so closely that they fail to improvise on the ice.

“You need to have your structure. I get it,” he said. “It’s a cool word to talk about — structure and Xs and Os. I’m not sure what is more important now in today;’s game vs. allowing them to play (freely). But play the right way and play hard. And so the small things that bring in the will of the game” are critical.

Sounds as if the old-school coach has adapted to the new-look (read: speedy) NHL game.

He wants the Philadelphia Flyers, who don’t have much speed, to play fast. He wants them to get opportunities off the forecheck, and not get bogged down in his system.

‘Not rocket science’

“It’s not rocket science, as far as I’m concerned,” he said, downplaying the amount of time it will take his players to grasp a new system. “I’m just touching them on a couple of little different situations on how we want to coach.”

He is different than when he took the Tampa Bay head-coaching job in 2000-01.

“I feel totally opposite about the game right now, especially with today’s athletes,” he said.

The coach has been talking with different players, including No. 1 center Kevin Hayes, about details in their game that need to be improved.

“I think, the way this organization is right now, I think the small things need to be addressed. The minute things,” Tortorella said. “Because I do think we have to start there to create the proper foundation here. I do. I think there’s sloppiness here, and when there’s sloppiness, you have to start over. We’re starting over, and the smallest little thing I’m looking for, because I think those things might turn into a bigger thing; maybe it’s a disease sometimes.”

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