Late in his first year as the Philadelphia Flyers’ head coach, John Tortorella called it a “Godforsaken season.”
He’s lucky he wasn’t here last year.
Now that was a Godforsaken season.
So finishing 31-38-13 for 75 points — 14 more than last season — was far from the 2021-22 disaster (25-46-11, 61 points).
A year ago, the Flyers finished just two points behind New Jersey, which had 63 points.
The Devils’ youth led the way this year and engineered a staggering 49-point improvement. New Jersey (52-22-8) finished with 112 points and in second place in the Metropolitan Division.
No one is saying the Flyers are on the same path. New Jersey, whose rise has former GM Ray Shero’s fingerprints all over it, has many elite young players. The Flyers don’t. But if Philly continues to add impact players in the draft, the climb to relevance might not be as painful as Tortorella is imagining.
On Monday, when Tortorella had his season-ending session with the the media at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, the coach was in a more positive frame of mind. He didn’t call it a Godforsaken season.
In fact, he sounded pleased about what transpired over the last six-plus months.
“I thought we had some really good progress from our young players,” Tortorella said. ” … So in a year where I’m sure everybody around us (said): ‘An atrocious year as far as this, that, the record, not making the playoffs.’ I don’t look at it that way.”
He backed away from his Godforsaken comment and said it was a positive step “of the process.” No one likes losing games, “but that’s a part of it,” he said. “That’s the part we’re in right now. But there are some really good things in my mind in how some of our kids progressed.”
Tortorella said it was important for him to learn about the players in his first year with the club.
“I think I have a pretty good handle as far as some of the personalities of the players and how we go about coaching them in the future,” he said.
Tortorella said there are “some players that we just don’t think will be a part of it” — he was probably referring to Kevin Hayes, among others — “and those are all things we went through this year.”
Now he knows which players he wants to be a part of the future, and which ones should go elsewhere.
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) April 17, 2023
Needed: More accountability
Tortorella wasn’t all sunshine. He said there were some players who weren’t accountable.
“You find out about people, and I have found out about people,” he said. “As far as people who simply don’t know what the word (accountable) means. Some players just don’t want to be held accountable. Or just can’t handle it.
He said no matter what you say about the Flyers’ season, the effort was there. “One of the biggest points was how hard we played,” he said. “I think that’s the starting ground of building a standard. There weren’t many nights we didn’t play hard, so I’m really encouraged with that.”
“The accountability factor as far as what’s expected? As far as play, as far as being a pro, conduct, practice habits, being a teammate and playing in a team concept? We’ve got some work to do. Not with all of them, but with a number of our players. And I expected that. We’re going to keep banging away at it.”
Tortorella said “we have work to do as far as the mental state of what it is to be a National Hockey League player and what’s expected each and every day.”
He sees several players from the Phantoms battling for jobs with the Flyers next season. He didn’t name which ones, but the list includes defensemen Ronnie Attard, Egor Zamula, Adam Ginning, and Emil Andrae; forwards Tyson Foerster, Elliot Desnoyers, Bobby Brink, and Olle Lycksell; and goalie Sam Ersson.
“There are some veteran guys that I’m hoping some kids take their spot,” Tortorella said.
Briere is happy Cutter Gauthier will go back to Boston College for another year. Believes he will come back back, stronger and faster when he joins #Flyers.
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) April 17, 2023
‘No locks’ on defense
He said he thinks the Philadelphia Flyers’ forwards made strides, but that the defense was lacking. “I’d like to see some youth come in there and push some people, because there are no locks,” Tortorella said.
That makes it seem like veteran defenders Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Tony DeAngelo will be available in the right deals.
At least one of them is expected to be dealt.
DeAngelo was benched for the final five games of the season.
“That’s going to stay between Tony and I,” Tortorella said. “My job is to make decisions for what’s best for the hockey team.”
DeAngelo called the benchings “ridiculous.”
Tortorella said “that’s a situation that Tony and I need to work through, along with the team.”
Tortorella reiterated that some players need to be subtracted from the roster “because of the road we’re at in our process.” He said “this happens to all teams that are trying to get better. And I think sometimes teams get the order backwards — they try to add people before there’s subtraction. And that’s when you’re spinning your wheels.” … Tortorella said he had players “come right back at me” after benchings and he was happy to see it. “You solve the problem quicker that way and you solve it as men.” He mentioned that Travis Konecny, Morgan Frost, and DeAngelo were among the players who came into his office and voiced their opinions. “Does it cause conflict? Sure it does. Conflict is not a bad thing,” he said. “… That’s how you build relationships.” … Tortorella said the medical staff is now “on the right road.” He added that things aren’t completely fixed.