Flyers coach John Tortorella made a point and he made it with passion.
At the recent New Era of Orange news conference, Tortorella went out of his way to blister those who have criticized the Flyers’ decisions over the years to rely on former players to help run the team.
Those critics have been vocal and, they believe, justified. From 1984 to 2019, Russ Farwell was the only general manager who was not a former Flyers player.
The GM list:
Bob Clarke, 1984-90
Paul Holmgren, 2007-14
Ron Hextall, 2015-18
Chuck Fletcher, 2019-23
Daniel Brière, 2023-
Tortorella is starting his second season coaching the Flyers. His first season was promising, given the talent on the roster and the injured players in the press box. The Flyers made strides from the previous season.
“And I want to make a point,” Tortorella said, shifting gears on what he was saying at that news conference.
“I don’t want to speak out of turn, but I don’t get sometimes in this process when people start talking about Flyers; alumni; Jonesy, an ex-Flyer; Danny, an ex-Flyer; what has happened?
“Why do people think that they’re diseased? If you’re an ex-Flyer and you come from the organization that you shouldn’t be in this organization, that we need to look outside?
“I’m not sure who said it here, but it’s the person you’re looking at. I’m proud that they are Flyers. I’m proud of these guys over here [attending the news conference], and other alumni that care about this organization.
“That’s what thrills me the most. I think we have strong personalities and I think they care, and I don’t get some of the thinking out in this city. ‘Oh, it’s an ex-Flyer again, they’re doing it the same way.’ G— damn.
“It is so important to have that belief. I’m thrilled. I can’t wait to get to work and already starting to do it.”
When Jones was hired as team president, it surprised me. They hired another inside guy was my knee-jerk reaction. But as I analyzed the hire, I started thinking Jones was not only a strong candidate but maybe the right one.
Slow To Change
Some criticism of the Flyers has been reminiscent of how some businesses stagnate: “That’s the way we’ve always done it.”
That approach doesn’t necessarily lend itself to outside viewpoints. Maybe there *are* better ways of running a hockey franchise.
In the 13 years between 1974 until 1987, the Flyers made the Stanley Cup finals six times. They won the Cup twice and lost in the finals four times. In the years they didn’t make the finals, they were serious contenders to get there.
When you have that level of sustained success, it’s easy to believe in everything you do. If that means hiring from the deep well of who you know and trust, and someone with whom you’ve shared the glory days, well, you can understand why they’ve stayed within the family.
In the 36 years since 1987, the Flyers have been to the finals twice. In some years, they were not contenders for anything. They’ve missed the playoffs four of the last five seasons.
Flyers’ fans were spoiled by success and maybe ownership was, too. It was unrealistic to believe that level of accomplishment would continue. Pro sports have cycles of success — especially in the salary-cap world.
Part of having a successful franchise is being in position to succeed. Being good enough to make the playoffs and win in the playoffs.
It’s going to be a fascinating journey watching this proud franchise rebuild under the leadership of two former Flyers.
Flyers, In Case You Missed It:
TNT overlooks Flyers’ historic win over Bruins in 2010.
Gold-medal winner Scott Laughton has plenty to celebrate.
Picking the Panthers, with their group of Flyers, to win the Stanley Cup in six games over the Golden Knights.
The Flyers shouldn’t trade their most valuable asset, goalie Carter Hart.
Around The National Hockey Network:
Florida Hockey Now: Former Panthers interim coach Andrew Brunette lands Predators’ head-coaching job.
Vegas Hockey Now: Former Vegas coach Pete DeBoer wants to see some of his former players win the Stanley Cup.
Washington Hockey Now: The Capitals have a new head coach, Spencer Carbery.
Detroit Hockey Now: Henrik Zetterberg doesn’t want to join Red Wings’ front office.
Boston Hockey Now: Bruins might not be able to bring back winger Tyler Bertuzzi.
Stanley Cup finals:
Game 1: Florida at Vegas, 8 p.m. Saturday, TNT