Flyers Defenseman Ivan Provorov can thrive under Tortorella, Shaw

Flyers' Ivan Provorov
Flyers’ Ivan Provorov (Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre)

The Philadelphia Flyers will enter the 2022-2023 season led by a new coaching staff with John Tortorella at the helm. Many players will be looking to bounce back and improve after a dreadful 2021-2022 campaign.

Ivan Provorov was the centerpiece of criticism throughout last season. His name has been brought up in trade rumors this summer, his current abilities and potential have been questioned, and his desire to even play for the Flyers has been brought into speculation by fans.

Provorov’s 2021-2022 season wasn’t as fantastic as many thought it would be at this point in his career but he’s still the most valuable defenseman in Philadelphia. With the additions of Tortorella and Brad Shaw behind the bench, Provorov can thrive under their leadership and reach the ceiling that he was projected to hit after being drafted 7th overall in 2015.

What Tortorella and Shaw bring to the Flyers

Tortorella and Shaw worked together in Columbus from 2016-2021. They managed to turn the Blue Jackets into a perennial playoff team during their tenure. The only year where they missed the playoffs was 2020-2021. Tortorella and Shaw were not with the Blue Jackets in 2021-2022.

Shaw oversaw the defense and penalty kill in Columbus; he’ll be in the same position with Philadelphia. Shaw transformed the Blue Jackets’ defense and penalty kill into one of the top units in the NHL.

The best seasons that Columbus had defensively ranked them 2nd in goals against in 2016-2017 and 3rd in 2019-2020. In 2018-2019, the Blue Jackets finished in a tie for the NHL’s top-ranked penalty kill at 85%.

Both Tortorella and Shaw gave average rosters an identity and grit. They transformed average players into above-average and elite ones. The credit for changing hockey in Columbus is due to Tortorella and Shaw.

Provorov vs Werenski

The leader of the Columbus blue line is Zach Werenski. Werenski was drafted right after the Flyers picked Provorov in 2015. Brad Shaw helped transform Werenski into the top-pairing defenseman that he is today. Provorov and Werenski are similar players and Shaw can help Provorov get the most out of his abilities both defensively and offensively.

Provorov and Werenski have constantly drawn comparisons since their draft day. Werenski currently has the edge over Provorov, points-wise. He’s scored 237 points in 403 games compared to Provorov’s 190 points in 450 games played. Werenski’s career plus/minus is -2,  Provorov is -11.

Both players are workhorses for their respective teams. Since joining the Flyers in 2016, Provorov has averaged 24:16 of ice time and has seen most of his time on the top pair since making his debut. He plays the most minutes out of anyone in Philadelphia.

The same goes for Werenski. He’s averaged 23:13 since joining the Blue Jackets in 2016 and most of his time has been on the top defensive pair.

Werenski finished 3rd in the Calder Memorial Trophy voting for the 2016-2017 season. Provorov finished 9th.

A lot of Werenski’s success has come from playing with another defender who complements his game. Werenski saw a lot of his time paired with Seth Jones, another player whom Tortorella and Shaw helped reach the next level.

Provorov has lacked a pair partner that compliments his game for most of his career. In 2019-2020, Provorov looked most comfortable with Matt Niskanen. Since Niskanen’s retirement in 2020, Provorov hasn’t looked the same. Provorov and Ryan Ellis had chemistry at the start of 2021-2022 but it only lasted four games. Ellis missed 78 games due to injury.

Ellis remains doubtful to be ready for the start of next season.

Provorov and DeAngelo?

Provorov’s new pair partner appears to be Tony DeAngelo if Ellis isn’t ready. DeAngelo scored 56 points in 64 games with the Carolina Hurricanes last season. 22 of those points came from the power play. He also scored 10 points in 14 playoff games. Provorov can find the chemistry with DeAngelo that he had with Ellis.

DeAngelo’s offensive abilities can complement Provorov and help him from doing too much. Last season, most of Provorov’s mistakes came from doing more than what was expected of him. Poor positioning, poor choices with the puck, and rushing plays were just a few reasons that caused Provorov to struggle.

Another reason for his struggles was playing with Justin Braun on the top pair, a place in the lineup that Braun isn’t accustomed to. Braun fits better on the third pair.

Tortorella is excited about the addition of DeAngelo and what he brings to the Flyers.

“The thing that bothers me and some of the things I’ve read is people are upset about Tony DeAngelo,” Tortorella said. “Tony DeAngelo’s a hell of a player, Tony DeAngelo has personality. Is he going to say and do some stupid stuff? You’re damn right he is. But I’d rather have a guy doing stupid stuff than having a choir boy here just going about your business. You don’t win that way, you don’t win championships, you don’t build a team without any personality. Tony’s going to bring that and, plus, he’s a hell of a player.”

John Tortorella; 7/20/2022

It’s up to Provorov now

Tortorella and Shaw will provide Provorov with the tools he needs to take the next step in his career. Provorov is only 25 years old and it would be silly for the Flyers to give up on a player of his caliber this early.

Tortorella’s aggressiveness and Shaw’s attitude with defenseman can turn Provorov into the elite NHL player that scouts and analysts once projected him to be.

Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre