As the Philadelphia Flyers head into the 2022-23 season, all eyes will be on general manager Chuck Fletcher and the team’s core of leaders as the organization begins the process of an “aggressive retool”. They have a core of players that have the ability to be competitive over the next few seasons, but it certainly will not be easy right off the hop.
The leadership core is hungry to prove the naysayers wrong, especially head coach John Tortorella, as the new bench boss has a strong history of voicing his opinion and sticking up for his players. During a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia, he expressed confidence in his players and also displeasure with some of the predictions heading into next season.
“Listen, I’ll say, we make our own bed, too. I think we were third from the last, I’m not sure where we were, 61-point team? You’ve got to take some s—, too. But I really look forward to the challenge of this. I appreciate it, but it also fuels me, some of the media and how it’s all perceived, how they’re talking about the team. They have a perfect right to talk about the way it is now because of where we’re at.
“But it also gives me, and more importantly I hope it gives our players, a little bit of fire as far as getting it straightened out, let’s get it back on the rails.”
A vote of confidence from the head coach is all some players need to get things going. Between the coaches’ confidence and the leaders of the team stepping up, the Flyers could be in a better spot than everyone realizes.
Heading into his second season with the Flyers, veteran forward Cam Atkinson will be taking on a much bigger role with the organization heading into next season. A leader both on and off the ice, he is one of the most down-to-earth human beings in the whole organization. During his six years with the Columbus Blue Jackets, he developed a strong relationship with Tortorella. Their relationship was rekindled after he vouched for his former coach once he was officially hired.
“Cam and I went through a number of different roads, sat Cam out a few times along the way,” Tortorella said. “But I look at that guy now and what he’s become, how hard he plays, how he has grown as a leader and has grown as a person. I’m very fortunate to have spent some time with him.
“I kind of rely on him sometimes, I relied on him in Columbus as your relationship changes. As a coach, you have to remember, that you put them through the paces, and they grow, show them a little respect. You need to back off and allow them to maybe help you a little bit. I think that’s where Cam and I are now in our relationship. A family man and I couldn’t be prouder of him.”
This season will allow the pair to continue growing and developing their relationship while setting an example for the rest of the team. Atkinson played some of his best hockey under the new head coach so hopefully, he will be able to get back to that player he once was and lead the team in a new direction.
Entering his 12th season with the Flyers, veteran forward Sean Couturier is expected to be a monumental leader in the locker room this season. Coming off major back surgery that kept him out for half of last season, he is expected to be ready for opening night. The former Selke Trophy winner will look to get back to his game next season following a tough year in which he only played a total of 29 games, netting 17 points (6 goals and 11 assists).
Couturier’s absence from the lineup proved to be a huge downfall down the stretch last season as he is one of the most influential players of the last decade. Heading into next season, he will be a leading candidate to fill the captain vacancy left by Claude Giroux after being traded during last season’s trade deadline.
“I try to lead in any way I can. More by example, I should say,” Couturier said during a 2018 interview. “I’m not really the guy who’s going to yell or talk often. I try to lead by example. Maybe show the new guys, I should say young guys, how the game should be played. Play it out by example.”
With a roster full of young talents, such as Bobby Brink and Noah Cates, he will be leading by example in more ways than one. These younger guys look up to players of his caliber and model their game after his example. After all, he is one of the best defensive forwards this organization has ever witnessed.
At the end of the day, this next season will be a difficult one to watch, but there is hope for the future. Given the right talent and leadership, the Flyers can start getting things back on track, in an attempt to get through the “aggressive retool” as quickly as possible.
Bobby Bader Jr. is a freelance journalist born and raised in Philadelphia, PA covering the Philadelphia Flyers for The Hockey Writers since the start of the 2020-21 National Hockey League Season. He currently works with the Hershey Cubs Hockey Club (USPHL Premier) as the team’s media coordinator and serves as the Assistant Sports Information Director at Penn State Harrisburg. For interview requests or to provide content info, follow Bobby on Twitter or his social media accounts. They appear under his photo in articles like this one.