John Tortorella was introduced to the Philadelphia media today. To say he was very prepared would be an understatement. He had just come off nailing the interviews to get the job and he answered every question with great ease. In the summer, everything is easy, breezy.
“Culture and accountability are easy to say and difficult to do,” said Tortorella. “They are summertime words.”
The new coach is going to put in the time to get to know his players, save Cam Atkinson, who is a neighbor of his in Connecticut besides playing for him before. The player he’s most interested in speaking with is Kevin Hayes. Hayes is a lynchpin of this team based on salary and position. He had a hard time last year, but this is a new year and a new coach. He was better late in the season, but he didn’t play to Tortorella’s standards (my words).
“I want to work with Kevin. I think there’s more there,” Tortorella stated.
Tortorella talked about playing away from the puck a lot. So did Mike Yeo, but we know there’s a difference between the two. That’s obvious, now getting all the players that remain when camp opens doing that won’t be simple. If it were simple, they would have done it more regularly last season. The Flyers wanted to be harder to play against last season, and they weren’t. They were one of the worst teams in the league.
The cap challenge the Flyers face is big. They may have been one of the six or so teams trying to acquire Shea Weber’s contract, but they didn’t. General Manager Chuck Fletcher says the right things, but he has to produce. He has to do that with cap management, trades, and free agency. There is no magic pill for this team in the upcoming season, and the coach wasn’t going to proclaim this team will make the playoffs either. He’s smarter than that.
James van Riemsdyk is bad away from the puck. He got 24 goals, but his 25 blocked shots were the most he had since he was in Toronto in 2016-17. Is he willing to double that and trade goals for hits against the opponent? Will he be on this roster when training camp opens? I don’t think so, but you never know.
“I want players to allow players to play offensively, but show me by playing away from the puck. I won’t make them a checker,” Tortorella promised.
The best coach in the world can make a team harder to play against. For sure, I’ve seen it happen. This coach will ask for 100% buy-in from every player every time they are at the rink. That hasn’t happened in three seasons. That doesn’t mean every player didn’t try or wasn’t trying. What that means is as a collective group they failed to do that.
“I won’t critique what’s happened here before,” Tortorella added.
Travis Konecny has never been good away from the puck or in his end other than one season under Dave Hakstol, and that got bumpy at times. Is he ready to turn this around like he’s only done once in his career, more than a few years ago? As a man, he’s been accountable in year-end press conferences. But that’s after the season went south for him. Giving the puck away is still an issue. If he’s scoring 25 goals, some will be forgiven If he’s scoring 16 goals, it will cost him some playing time. I think there’s a chance he gets traded before we find out.
Tortorella wants the team to play better in front of Carter Hart. That’s the main objective. But by doing that they will cut down on their offensive production. I’ve seen it happen before with him. Tortorella might look at the defense and move Provorov out of the #1 spot and surprise us with the #2 if Ryan Ellis isn’t back to start the season.
As far as the assistants, Tortorella gave a clue about how that process will go.
“We both have a list. I asked Chuck for his help. I want a power-play guy.”
He wants that coach to help the offensive players. That’s good. There was no talk about Lehigh Valley. That’s still a huge unknown and something that eventually has to be in lockstep with the big club. It wasn’t even close last year.
The coach is now the face of the Flyers. He talked about the emblem. He said a lot of things that we’ve all heard before regarding the Flyers. So fans that wanted that page turned it’s not. This should please a lot of the older Flyers fans.
Tortorella has changed. He talked about that too. This change has come over many years. Again, this team isn’t close to being a playoff team with all the question marks. If some of them are eliminated, then you will see a better team this season, but that’s all I’m willing to say at this time.