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Can Tortorella, Johansen Set Aside Differences for Flyers’ Benefit?

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Ryan Johansen
Ryan Johansen once played under John Tortorella in Columbus; can the two reconcile their hockey differences to benefit the Flyers? (Photo: AP)

The Philadelphia Flyers acquired Ryan Johansen in the Sean Walker trade on Wednesday – a player who briefly played under Flyers head coach John Tortorella in 2015.

Johansen has already been put on and passed through NHL waivers, banishing him to the AHL for the first time in over a decade. The 31-year-old doesn’t have the greatest history with Tortorella on the ice, but time heals all wounds, as they say.

“He’s different. We’ve all kind of heard how he approaches the coaching situation. He’s an in-your-face type of coach and tries to get the most out of you, and that’s the way he knows how to. When he makes some decision on scratching me or (Scott) Hartnell, it’s easy to talk about in a negative way,” Johansen said after being traded to Nashville in 2016.

“Me and coach got along fine. We had a couple of disagreements with things, but that’s part of the game, and I think he was looking out for my best interests and wanted me to be the best I could be.”

Tortorella reciprocated the sentiment then and went out of his way to say just how talented Johansen was.

“No, no, no. Joey gave us some good minutes the other night. I’ve been honest about it. I think he’s been inconsistent,” Tortorella said of Johansen after the trade in 2016. “He’s got a ton to learn. He has more ability than a lot of players in the league. It’s trying to get him to get there all the time, to use that ability. And that’s a process.

“That’s a maturity level. And he hasn’t totally matured yet.”

Just over eight years later, has Johansen matured enough to make peace with Tortorella on the ice? Indeed, the Flyers have no use for Johansen now, but the veteran center will be under contract for the 2024-25 season as well.

Johansen has twice been given away for free by his previous teams since June, and his NHL career appears to be in dire straits. Johansen’s eight years of playoff experience at the NHL level will be of great use to the young Flyers, but it all becomes pointless if he can’t get it done for them on the ice.

Before he appears in an NHL game for Tortorella and the Flyers, Johansen must pass his first test: the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the AHL.

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