There’s no doubt after what can be described as a rough free agency period, many of the Philadelphia Flyers’ hopeful are wondering what- if any- silver linings are left for the team. General manager Chuck Fletcher has angered a team that saw its 2021-2022 Stanley Cup run end due to a combination of the league’s worst penalty kill percentage (74.6) and the NHL’s most goals against at 3.56 per game.
With no notable names being signed during the offseason, at least the team got its new bench boss in John Tortorella. Love him or hate him, he has a goal of improving on the team’s 61-point season.
However, does he have the coaching staff to get the job done? And if so, they might be the sole bright spot in what might be- at least personnel-wise- a rougher than desired campaign.
Torts To Save the Day?
Hired on June 16th, 2022, there’s no doubt that Tortorella has very large shoes to fill. It’s the fifth head coaching job for the 64-year-old after first taking to the bench for the 2000-01 season. He’s the 23rd head coach for the Flyers and most of the hockey world knows of his reputation.
Torts has been fined 12 times in his 33-year coaching career and suspended three times. Known for a firey, tough-love style of coaching, it has not always meshed with the men he coaches. Some will see that he has a passion for the sport, which might be what is needed to propel the Flyers from a 29th finish position. Others might see it as a tyrannical rule that will do more harm than good in the locker room.
He has a desire to make the Flyers a team that will be a force to play against. Utilizing (not to mention keeping healthy) Carter Hart is key but he has a desire to play away from the puck. Size matters to Tortorella and its been visible when looking at guys he’s wanted in free agency. Using Sean Couturier up the middle is who he desires but at the end of the day, he knows it’s a mentality that needs to be changed.
Tortorella is very much a man who will either inspire or create fear but if he’s able to tap into that fire, there might be something for the Flyers on the ice.
Coaching for Goals
As holders of the NHL’s goals against record in 2021-22, a focus for Tortorella is bringing in a coach to help fix the problem. This is where Brad Shaw enters the picture. Do not make a mistake, that is going to be a pressured fill position. Torts worked with the 58-year-old Shaw during his time at the helm of the Columbus Blue Jackets during the 2016-17 to 2020-21 seasons.
So what is his style? A pressure defense mindset is what he’ll stress as an associate coach for the Flyers. Philly lacks structure away from the puck and Shaw excels at working with teams to fix that position. In the backend, it’s clear the Flyers have a lack of stability. Shaw will be able to work on the young defense and bolster their confidence on the ice.
But he can also work on the team’s penalty kill. That will-and should be- his most critical focus. In the five years he spent with Columbus, he helped the Blue Jackets had a penalty kill of 80.9 percent and in 2018, finished in a three-way for the league’s best at 85 percent. Considering the Flyers surrendered more power-play goals (102 if you’re counting) over the past two years, there is nowhere to go but find someone who can fix this. Shaw might be that guy.
Rounding out the Roster
There are a few final additions to the coaching staff that Tortorella can highlight as the season rapidly approaches. Assistant coach Daryl Williams and Kim Dillabaugh will still be here and while they’re holdovers from last season, they bring experience to the squad.
Williams was an Alain Vigneault guy, actually his right hand man when they were at the New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks. He was hired in the 2021-22 season and while he wasn’t originally hired to work the PK, that’s where he ended up. Williams will go back to pre-scouting but may be relied upon to help with Shaw’s penalty kill work.
Dillabaugh, while not a name everyone knows, has been the team’s goalie coach in the 2015-16 season. He has a better relationship with Carter Hart than most and there is no mistake that his fingerprints can be found on anything with a netminder attached. Dillabaugh has shown he can develop talent in goal for the team but that also relies on Hart’s ability to stay healthy.
The final man on the roster is Rocky Thompson. His absolutely tall order is fixing Philadelphia’s worst man advantage. He’s young blood by coaching standards, 19 years younger than Tortorella. Thompson is expected to oversee the club’s group of forwards and power play.
He was with the San Jose Sharks during the 2021-22 season but did not have a successful go of it with the Sharks’ power play at 14.1 percent. Philly sat at 12 percent so there’s tons of room for improvement. Thompson is the final piece in the rounded puzzle and taking a look at the bench, it’s clear that there is some hope for Philadelphia.
Photo Credit: Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire