Following the announcement that John Tortorella would be taking over the role of head coach for the Philadelphia Flyers, it is debated that this could mean hope for the Flyers.
But how successful is John Tortorella as a coach? With 1,383 regular season NHL games coached, Tortorella ranks 13th of all time. Only standing three games behind Mike Keenan for 12th in NHL history. Two other recent Flyers head coaches (Alain Vigneault and Peter Laviolette) are right there behind him. He is the first American-born NHL coach to reach 500 wins and has won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top coach twice. Even with these achievements, Torts is both praised and feared by players and fans alike. Flyers right winger, Cam Atkinson vouched for the coach while ex Blue Jackets player, Brandon Dubinsky warned against Tortorella and his coaching tactics, Tweeting “Praying for the NHL Flyers players!” following the announcement.
Tortorella in his recent press conference described his plans to instill a structure for the Flyers. There’s evidence that Torts can, indeed, pull that off. Evidence for that lies within his previously coached Blue Jackets. In the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Tortorella’s Blue Jackets won their first playoff series in franchise history by eliminating his old team, the Tampa Bay Lightning; also being the first time that the Presidents’ Trophy-winning team failed to win any playoff game despite the Lightning matching the record of 62 regular season wins. Showing that Tortorella is capable of overhauling an inferior team to a playoff series winning team.
Despite this, the Flyers have a major loss of their captain, Claude Giroux to free agency. Losing one of their main sources of team morale. The Flyers need to focus on improving their offense, talent, speed and skill in order to take on the higher class teams in the NHL. It’s not that the Flyers don’t have potential. They have young players that could make a bigger impact if given the opportunity. They have injured players that could return better than ever. Those are certainly possibilities.
The problem with each of these possibilities is that they are rooted in hope. Hope that the injured players return as advertised and stay healthy. Hope the young players take that big step everyone has waited for. Hope that the team can perhaps conjure up some well thought out trades or free agent signings to fill the holes that the team is lacking in speed, skill and morale to change the game.
But optimism and hope isn’t enough. Pinning all of your hopes on a seasoned coach and the comebacks of injured players is not enough. Serious changes needs to be made to the Flyers to see improvement on a larger scale. Whether that means a complete rebuild or not, it is up to John Tortorella and future trade decisions to deliver the Flyers we deserve to see.
The Flyers have such limited cap room, they will have to get creative just to fill the minor holes. They may have enough space for one big-name free agent signing this offseason. One player will not magically transform the team and it’s been evident enough that the current lineup offers little hope of a significant turnaround.
Ultimately, there’s an issue with the Flyers as a whole. The players lacked fundamentals on the ice throughout the regular season. There was no team chemistry. By the end of the season, there wasn’t any motivation or energy. It was aimless, passionless hockey. That has to change. John Tortorella has a lot of work to do, but there is hope for the Flyers if he delivers and if they make the right trade decisions moving forward.