With John Tortorella officially being hired as the 23rd head coach in the history of the Philadelphia Flyers, a new era of hockey is set to begin in Philadelphia. Tortorella brings more than 20 years of coaching experience to the Flyers organization having previously coached the Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Vancouver Canucks at the NHL level. He became the first American-born NHL coach to reach 500 wins during their career while also capturing two Jack Adams Awards and a Stanley Cup Championship with the 2004 Lightning.
Tortorella certainly brings experience to the Flyers bench, but his fiery personality can be difficult to deal with at times. Above all else, he is well-liked by his players, including former Blue Jacket and current Flyer Cam Atkinson, who was openly campaigning for him to come to Philadelphia. (from ‘Report: Flyers have offered coaching job to John Tortorella,’ Philly Hockey Now, 6/15/2022).
Atkinson said, “You practice how you play, especially when I turned pro. I learned that from John Tortorella. He was great in that aspect. There just wasn’t a lot of practice times” this season due to a somewhat-compressed schedule.”
He added: “It was hard to mold and gel as a group when you’re playing so many games (and not practicing much) … You can’t really get on the ice and do it. I think going into next year, we need to find a way to have some more grit, some more jam, more ‘F you” to our game, on both sides of the puck, in our crease, defending our goalie and in their crease. I thought we were a pretty soft team this year in my opinion.”
Under the new bench boss, the Flyers will thrive under new leadership and head in the right direction for the first time in more than three seasons. Expect the current core of players to take a step forward next season and move towards their true potential. He will get everything he possibly can out of this roster and more, so keep an eye out for the Flyers to be a competitive team in 2022-23.
Having already played for Tortorella once in his career, Flyers forward Cam Atkinson will have the opportunity to play under one of his favorite coaches once again, as he played under his former and now current coach for five seasons with the Blue Jackets. During that time, the team only missed the playoffs once and made it to the second round twice.
Coming off what would be considered a down year for Atkinson, he was named the Bobby Clarke Trophy winner as the team’s most valuable player. In a total of 73 games played, he tallied 50 points (23 goals and 27 assists). While more was expected of him following his career in Columbus, he was right on par with the rest of the roster in a severely disappointing year for the organization.
The 33-year-old forward is heading into his 12th season in the NHL and possibly one of the best of his career. If he can get the gears clicking early on in the season, there is no telling how many goals he will score alongside Kevin Hayes and Joel Farabee. What matters at the end of the day, is that he will feel more comfortable in a system that he is already used to and will be more willing to step out of his comfort zone to make things happen.
Atkinson will benefit most from a familiar face being hired behind the bench as he played some of his best hockey under Tortorella, scoring 25 or more goals three out of those five years. He could easily get back there next season as long as everything else up front works out as well. He could see some flashes of his former self, which would be a very good thing for the Flyers.
The last two years have not been kind to Flyers goaltender Carter Hart, but change is on the horizon as Tortorella will bring a unique approach to how he treats goaltenders. In the past, he has been known to ride through a season with two goaltenders which has proven to be a successful approach. While in Columbus, he rotated between Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins, which led to a successful 2020-21 season for both goaltenders. Having two No. 1 goaltenders in the NHL is never a bad thing, especially when the team is winning games (from ‘Blue Jackets already benefit from alternating Joonas Korpisalo, Elvis Merzlikins,’ The Athletic, 1/30/2021).
“The goaltending situation is obviously very important. If you’re going to win or lose hockey games, they’re going to be the main reason, both ways. I feel very comfortable, and I’m not really thinking about it, just knowing we’re going every other (game),” said Tortorella in reference to his former goaltending tandem.
“I think it helps them, too, because we let them know right away (before the season) that this was going to be the schedule. It was, ‘We’ll let you know when we want to change the schedule,’ but it lets them get mentally ready for their next start during our practices … the few practices we’re able to have.”
Hart could benefit from a system similar to this if the Flyers are able to go out and get a second top-end goaltender for next season. The new bench boss could put pressure on management to get someone to go along with Hart for the 2022-23 season. The team is currently in need of a second goaltender, so this could be the perfect opportunity to scoop up someone with big potential.
Hart would no longer have all the pressure of being “the guy” if things start going wrong once again next season. He would be able to focus on the fundamentals and truly solidify his game. Having two top goaltenders creates a competitive environment that will only help him develop into an even better goaltender over the course of the year.
Despite what the Flyers fanbase thinks about the potential relationship between Travis Konecny and Tortorella, the young forward has an opportunity to grow and flourish under a new leadership style. Coming off a disappointing season, Konecny already has pressure to perform next season so things can not get much worse. He already knows what he has to do to get better before the puck drops in October, but having a new coach should help move things along faster.
The new coach of the Flyers will certainly be hard on the forward, but for all the right reasons. He will get the most out of players like Konecny while holding them accountable for their play on the ice. If he feels like a player is not performing up to their fullest potential, then he will demand more. This is the perfect opportunity for him to get better on and off the ice, especially since he is a core member of the organization.
If Konecny is able to get back to his former self, the Flyers will truly be able to compete in the ever-so-competitive Metropolitan Division starting next season. It seems like he is willing to put in the work to get better, but no one will know if that is true until the season starts.
Hiring Tortorella was the best thing the Flyers could have done for the current state of the organization. The new head coach will bring leadership and accountability to a struggling team with plenty of talented players. The 2022-23 campaign could finally be the year that the ship turns around in Philadelphia and starts heading in the right direction.
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.