Now that preseason is over and training camp is coming to a close, the regular season is just around the corner, and everyone is in hopes that this season could be a step in the right direction for the Philadelphia Flyers. This year, the organization made headlines before the season even started with the news that John Tortorella would be the new head coach for the 2022-23 season.
Tortorella’s Coaching Background
Tortorella earned his first NHL head coaching gig in the final four games of the 1999-00 season with the New York Rangers. Shortly after, he was hired to man the Tampa Bay Lightning bench, where he stayed for seven seasons and won his first Stanley Cup championship. He returned to the Rangers from 2008-2013 and then moved to the Columbus Blue Jackets from 2015-2021. He has 673 wins under his belt and two Jack Adams Awards as NHL coach of the year to his credit.
Tortorella is known for his gritty coaching style and assertiveness. He holds his team accountable both on and off the ice. The Lightning are a good example of his guidance and skill as a team that struggled to succeed before he took over behind the bench and that he eventually shaped into a strong, competitive club through his drive for them to be successful.
In his introductory press conference, Tortorella stated what Flyers fans can expect from him behind the bench. And general manager Chuck Fletcher further commented that “players will respond if they know you’re demanding. But you’re demanding in the sense that you care about them. You want what’s best for them. You’re not being demanding for yourself. You’re being demanding to make the player better, to make the team better, and nobody personifies that more than John Tortorella.”
His plans for the Flyers after taking the position consisted of goals that would help reshape and change the culture of the organization, with the hopes to create a franchise everyone could be proud of.
Flyers Preseason & Training Camp
Training camp marked the beginning of the Tortorella era for the struggling organization. One key focus was high-volume skating and conditioning, with each day scheduled with scrimmages, followed by practices, on-ice conditioning, and off-ice training.
The Flyers participated in their first preseason game on Sept. 24 against the Boston Bruins, a 2-1 win. And for the first four exhibition games, Tortorella took a back seat and allowed the Lehigh Valley Phantoms’ coaches, as well as his own assistant coaches, to take the reins. It wasn’t until Sunday’s contest that he took the bench for the first time.
During his press conferences, Tortorella remained optimistic, speaking positively about the players and commenting on the veterans and the need to see more from them. He’s assured fans that he is working with all players in all areas, exercising their individual skills and working to build momentum by incorporating young players into the lineup.
Goals & What to Expect From Flyers in 2022-23
With the preseason nearing an end, I think fans can expect to see a more assertive Flyers team this season, one that is far more accountable than in the past. No team becomes a Stanley Cup competitor overnight, especially after Fletcher’s promise for an “aggressive re-tool” didn’t happen this offseason. A demanding coach who can push players and encourage them to explore all their potential should help the team find its way out of the bottom.
One player Tortorella has his eye on to be a possible turning point for the team’s defensive play is Cam York. By keeping a close eye on him during training camp, he made it clear he wanted to work on anything and everything with the young defensemen. He plans to unleash the full potential of the young 21-year-old and that being “ok” isn’t what the club is striving for and said this of his expectations for the 2019 draft pick:
“Being really good is making a difference. Those are the things we have to go through the process with him, and we didn’t expect this to happen overnight” (from ‘You can be OK, or you can be really good’: John Tortorella pushing for more out of Flyers’ Cam York, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/4/22).
With key defenseman Ryan Ellis out with injuries, this is an opportunity for York to showcase his strengths as a primary defender for the team. Creating a stronger defensive game should be one of Tortorella’s main goals, which means a more accountable group and special teams units.
Goaltending has been another struggling aspect for this group in past seasons. In Columbus, Tortorella’s strategy was to play both goaltenders throughout the season, which was deemed successful. And it might not be a bad thing for a young goaltender like Carter Hart to rotate games; if things go south, he won’t be the only one dealing with pressure and getting worn down. Reimplementing a strategy like this could be beneficial for the team’s goaltending group to help turn things around in this campaign.
Flyers Team Dynamic a Focus in 2022-23
Not only is Tortorella emphasizing teams chemistry on the ice, but he had also made points regarding chemistry off the ice before training camp had even taken place. His attention to the dynamic in the dressing is a good sign, especially without Claude Giroux’s leadership.
In an interview with NBC Sports back in June, Tortorella stated that the locker room dynamic is one of the first problems he will try to resolve: “We can’t do anything right on the ice unless we’re together in that locker room, and that’s a very important part of the first piece of work I need to do is to get everybody to believe that we’re together.”
An interconnected group off-ice could be another thing that may help the Flyers going into the regular season, a change that hopefully gets noticed by the fans and organization. A team isn’t built through a single individual. Tortorella isn’t one to take it easy on his players, and those who don’t adapt to his style and personality will struggle with him behind the bench.
Tortorella, without a doubt, has multiple goals for this season but is ensuring everything gets taken one step at a time. Expect to see changes, but patience will be key since it won’t be all at once. His goals for this squad should start small, like in the dressing room, before he focuses on the power-play and penalty-killing units. The accountability he brings, in addition to leadership and experience behind the bench, is exactly what this team may need to turn their game around in 2022-23.