Flyers’ Tortorella, Shaw could prove critics wrong

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Flyers' John Tortorella
VOORHEES, PA – JULY 14: Flyers head coach John Tortorella watches development camp behind the netting at the Flyers Training Center on July 14, 2022 in Voorhees NJ. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)
(Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

On the ice, the Philadelphia Flyers strayed from the correct path. Over the last two days, vital cogs of the Flyers’ core spoke about their displacement in 2021-2022. About as loudly as the previous offseason, the ‘culture’ drum is getting its workout.

Acquisitions last season featured former players of leadership from different franchises. Chuck Fletcher focused primarily on capturing players who could lead. Unfortunately, as the lineup fell apart, so did the locker room. Leaders were without a compass. Following the firing of Alain Vigneault, Mike Yeo served as the interim head coach to similar results.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people who have said he’ll be very hard on you, but he has your back. If you give a good effort, he’ll do everything in his power to get the best out of you. From what I’ve heard from players like Martin St. Louis, Foligno, Cam, Ryan McDonagh, Nasher, and Staalsy, they’ve all played for him and said he’s an unbelievable guy, he holds everyone accountable in a different way, and it’s exciting. If you can’t take getting yelled at or pushed to a certain limit, maybe don’t handle it the right way and fade away from it, it’s going to be a tough road for you.”

Kevin Hayes; 9/12/2022

Dropping the ego at the door and embracing the grind could be the wisest way to attack a John Tortorella training camp. The way he intends on testing this roster ahead of the season will be grueling but invaluable by many accounts. Tortorella will push limits physically and mentally. When Philadelphia skates onto the ice on October 13th, 2022, at the Wells Fargo Center to host the New Jersey Devils, the expectation is to make sure the Devils tell the rest of the Metropolitan Division that the Flyers are ready to compete.

“I think everyone’s pushing themselves, whether it’s in the gym or on the ice. The scrimmages are intense. We’re trying to push ourselves, trying to get a jumpstart. Everyone’s here early, buying into this process.”

Sean Couturier; 9/12/2022

Admit it, there is a voice that tells you Philadelphia might just surprise quite a few critics.

“If we can all come back healthy and bond together early and buy into the new systems and coach’s philosophy, we can surprise a lot of people.”

Sean Couturier; 9/12/2022

It takes buying into Tortorella and his bench. He helped the Columbus Blue Jackets, once in a similar position, and his system could right the ship for the Flyers.

Once upon a time, playing hard and proactive on defense worked with Vigneault. That was 2019-2020, coincidentally the last time Philadelphia held themselves accountable. Not long ago, this team with low expectations was among the NHL elite. After Vigneault was relieved of his duties, it was clear the issue didn’t exclusively reside on the coach. The red flag is large enough for Tortorella to be concerned before the start of the 2022 Philadelphia Flyers Rookie Camp tomorrow.

“I’m in no rush to name a captain, so, that’s that. As far as the room, I have major concerns about the room, as far as, I’ve spent the summer going back and forth, I live in New York, I’ve been going back and forth to Philly trying to relocate there, but spent some time in the office talking to players, talking to personnel, talking to Chuck, and I have concerns about what goes on in there. Before we even step on the ice, situations and standards and accountability in the room is forefront.”

John Tortorella; 9/8/2022

What is holding yourself accountable to Tortorella? Cam Atkinson said it was ‘playing the right way,’ channeling what Tortorella would reiterate. Travis Sanheim is looking forward to the heavy ‘skates to ice’ training camp, pressing his capabilities. Kevin Hayes hinted towards the Tortorella ‘tough love’ relationship, stressing that these players must handle his tests appropriately.

It’s all of those things. Practicing how you play is critical, to which Atkinson provided a revealing answer, comparing a Tortorella training camp to his first with the Flyers.

“Not that last year wasn’t hard, I feel like training camp is always pretty tough; just kind of getting into battles, one-on-ones, two-on-twos, situational play, but at Torts’ camp, there’s no surprises. One thing that I appreciated is that we’re all doing it together. It’s a grind. It’s a way for us to build that camaraderie and build that brotherhood, knowing that it sucks for not only you, but every guy around you. There’s a rhyme for the reason. It’s meant to be hard; so when you start the regular season you have your legs in the third period when other teams don’t.”

Cam Atkinson; 9/13/2022

Before Atkinson answered, he did laugh. He’s helping his teammates prepare before training camp. After all, he is the only player familiar with a Tortorella training camp, and he knows it’s far more taxing than Philadelphia’s last offseason.

Conditioning allows the team to play hard in front of Carter Hart; enter the Tortorella system.

“He helped us in Columbus by playing the right way; playing defense first, not always blocking shots, but playing the right way allows you to play freely in the offensive zone. It’s amazing when you do play quick and hard in the defensive zone, it usually leads to good zone time in the offensive zone where everyone wants to play.”

Cam Atkinson; 9/13/2022

Mitigating entries by holding the blue line in the defensive zone allows forwards to play more freely. Going for the big hits along the boards or blocking shots are appreciated but could result in missed opportunities to make the better play defensively. The Flyers were miserable at keeping the puck out of the back of the net, whether it meant defensive positioning was lost or the opposition capitalized on a rebound. Tortorella presents his plan to reduce the goals against.

His partner to help execute the game plan is his old partner with the Blue Jackets, Brad Shaw. Their defense, between 2016-2020, hovered around the league elite. During 2018-2019, Shaw coached the best penalty-kill in the NHL.

“I don’t worry about outside noise. All that matters to me is the guys in the locker room. Doesn’t matter who you are, where you played, how much money you make; we’re going to play the right way, we’re going to play hard. Every time we went to an away rink, guys knew, especially with the Blue Jackets, we were coming in to play hard. We didn’t necessarily have the highest skill in the world, but you practice how you play, and you better believe we’ll be a whole different team this year for the better.”

Cam Atkinson; 9/13/2022

Transforming this roster without the superstar talent is possible behind this leadership. Let the legs feed the wolves.

(Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)