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Bailey: Tortorella’s Criticism of Flyers is Unfounded



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Owen Tippett out-hustled Kyle Palmieri to prevent the Flyers from sinking to an empty-net goal. (Photo: AP)

The Philadelphia Flyers have lost five straight games, and have a record of just 2-5-3 in their last 10 games.

Of their five most recent losses, the Flyers have lost twice in overtime. The Flyers scored only one goal in each of the three regulation losses.

Their latest defeat, a 4-3 overtime loss to the visiting New York Islanders, was enough for head coach John Tortorella to blow a gasket, as he blasted the team in his postgame press conference.

“There are certain people that don’t have a clue how to play,” Tortorella boomed. “Or just don’t have it in them to play in these types of situations.”

That’s a pretty harsh assessment for a Flyers team whose theme all year has been ‘the little engine that could’.

There’s seldom been a Flyers win this season where resiliency or determination weren’t central themes. And yet, despite all the losses that have piled up over the last few weeks, the Flyers are still in a playoff spot. Not by much, but they are in one.

Tortorella, by now, should be well aware of the ill effects of players playing fatigued. He’s been a head coach in the NHL since 2000, but hasn’t won a thing since 2004. That was before future Hockey Hall of Famers like Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, and Evgeni Malkin were even drafted.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Kind of like how the Flyers have repeatedly thrown Sam Ersson to the wolves despite a.) the fact that he is an overworked 24-year-old rookie, and b.) Tortorella, Danny Briere, and the Flyers publicly acknowledged this. It’s almost abuse at this point.

The Flyers are 11-15-5 in 30 games since the last time Carter Hart started for the team on Jan. 20. Ersson is 9-11-4 since then, with a .874 save percentage and 3.30 GAA. Ersson has played 26 of those 30 games, which includes his relief of Hart on Jan. 20.

Over an 82-game season, that prorates to 71 games played for Ersson. That’s virtually unheard of in today’s NHL.

Tortorella coached Sergei Bobrovsky and Henrik Lundqvist at the peaks of their careers, and only Lundqvist played more than 70 games under him, doing so just once. A rookie Ersson is not prime Lundqvist.

Is this young Flyers team really not build for the playoffs, or is the coach exempt from the responsibility of putting them in a position to succeed?

The power play has been terrible all season and still ranks dead-last in the league; their 12.92% conversion rate is nearly 2% lower than the second-worst Blue Jackets, who currently sit at 14.43%. There is no creativity present in that department and very few changes have been made in an effort to try and improve the power play.

Sean Couturier was named captain, demoted to the fourth line, and then benched. Tortorella then decided to give Couturier his place back on the top line against New York, only for him to leave injured after three minutes of ice time.

Oh, and a line of Noah Cates, Couturier, and Denis Gurianov had a 100% expected goals percentage (per Moneypuck) in four minutes in Saturday’s 5-1 loss to Chicago, and in the very next game, that line was broken up and Gurianov made way for Cam Atkinson.

The same Atkinson that hasn’t scored a point since Jan. 23 against Tampa Bay – an 18-game scoring drought for him. That’ll help fix the offense and the power play.

Not to mention Bobby Brink was a healthy scratch once again.

Ronnie Attard and Adam Ginning were held out of the lineup in favor of Erik Johnson and Egor Zamula, and together, the latter two put together another nightmarish performance as a pairing against New York on Monday night.

Which Flyers truly “don’t have the balls” to play in these games? Couturier, Joel Farabee, Travis Konecny, Scott Laughton, and Travis Sanheim are all holdovers from the last time the Flyers made the playoffs in 2020 and have been here before.

Farabee was a teenager on opening night, while Konecny and Sanheim were in their very early 20s. Couturier and Laughton both finished with nine points in 15 playoff games, and everyone, in general, contributed a reasonable amount in terms of scoring.

Sure, Konecny went goalless in his 16 playoff appearances that year, but he still had seven assists. Konecny also struggled to score at a regular clip again up until last season. Now, he has back-to-back 30-goal seasons for the first time in his career.

And, Farabee has not been without struggles of his own, but he’s enjoyed easily the most productive season of his career with or without said struggles. Morgan Frost, who deserves mention, bought the Flyers an important point despite his failure in overtime; both moments could decidedly determine the Flyers’ fate in the next two weeks.

It would be totally unreasonable for Tortorella to levy such harsh criticism on players like Cates, Tyson Foerster, Owen Tippett, Ryan Poehling, and Garnet Hathaway, all of whom have been instrumental to the Flyers’ success at various points in the year.

Jamie Drysdale had just returned from injury, and Sanheim and Cam York are both playing on empty batteries. Brink didn’t even play, and neither did Attard, Ginning, Gurianov, or Olle Lycksell. For Tortorella to grandstand and blast the Flyers after that loss to the Islanders is just nonsensical.

Tortorella has done plenty good for the Flyers this season, but he’s done some bad as well. The game needs to be called evenly on both sides.

If the Flyers miss the playoffs, it will be due to more illogical decisions that have put the team in a position to fail.

For more Flyers news and up-to-date coverage, visit Philly Hockey Now and like our Facebook page.
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