As long as the lineup gives a consistent, honest effort, John Tortorella leaves the arena in a decent mood. He said as much following a grueling overtime loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden:
“Some guys are growing, and as long as I see effort and care, and belief in what we’re trying to do; I’m leaving the building in a decent mood.”John Tortorella; 11/1/2022
Tortorella would agree the effort and care is evident from his lineup during the first ten games of the 2022-2023 season. However, the Philadelphia Flyers feature many areas that need improvement. Puck possession and clean entries into the offensive zone are complementing struggles. Another controllable aspect is how long the skaters occupy the box, leading the NHL in penalty minutes.
The Flyers are not dictating the pace of games. They’re playing opponents hard with the intention of wearing down the opposition ahead of the third period. It’s a perfect storm of a high compete level mixed with opportunistic play.
“Playing in your own end, as much as we have, it’s due to a little bit of not having the puck and making more plays. Somehow, we’ve got to instill some confidence in our players to not be afraid to make a mistake and make some plays.”John Tortorella; 11/2/2022
Philadelphia is 5-3-2 to begin 2022-2023. When regulation expired against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Flyers were in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division. Is it an indicator of how the season will unfold? Currently, analytics do not reflect a sustainable formula.
“I don’t think we know who we are in ten games. I don’t think you can define who you are. I have a sense of what we would like to be, but we’re not there.”John Tortorella; 11/3/2022
Everything is day-to-day with Tortorella. He doesn’t get wrapped up in the record through ten games. On more than one occasion, Tortorella mentioned his focus on the next opponent. Even after a victory, he is satisfied for a few minutes, then on to the next. The big picture in 2022-2023 features roster stabilization for the future.
“When you’re building a team, you’re not only looking to build and grow your players; you’re also looking at players that you simply don’t think are going to be a part of it.”John Tortorella; 11/2/2022
In that particular soundbite, you sense there are players Tortorella already has an opinion about, positive or negative. He already indicated that Scott Laughton is the only player he felt should have a letter on his sweater, basing that decision on his established tenure with the Flyers. It was an interesting tidbit from Tortorella.
On ‘The Best Show Ever,’ Tortorella opened up about Travis Konecny and Carter Hart, speaking highly of those two along with Ivan Provorov and Tony DeAngelo. Additionally, he was critical of Travis Sanheim. Sanheim recently inked an 8yr/$50mil extension to stay in Philadelphia.
First, we’ll begin with the forwards. Earlier this season, Tortorella shortened the bench versus the San Jose Sharks. In doing so, he excluded Konecny from the third period with Kevin Hayes. Yesterday, he said this about Konecny, four games removed from his benching:
“TK has been probably our best player; not probably, he has been. Other than our goalie, Carter, TK’s been our most consistent player. I just love the way he plays.”John Tortorella; 11/3/2022
A message from Tortorella was loud and clear to Konecny. He has five multi-point games in 2022-2023. In the same breath, Tortorella touted the most consistent player on the team, Hart. Hart is an elite goaltender through the first ten games of 2022-2023. On defense, he praised the overall work from Provorov and DeAngelo on the top pair, rewarding Provorov for being the steadiest defenseman in the lineup:
“I was pretty honest with Provy that we weren’t going to give him a lot of powerplay minutes until we got his five-on-five game straight because I’ve seen the level he’s played at. He’s basically told me, with his play, that ‘I’m ready to bring in all situations in my game.’ He’s been our most steady defenseman from the start of the year.”John Tortorella; 11/3/2022
On the flip side, Sanheim was the best defenseman from 2021-2022. Tortorella hasn’t seen it. It’s not what you want to hear from the head coach of a player who signed an extension through 2030-2031. Overall, Sanheim doesn’t offer the jam required, a prerequisite. It sounds similar to why Cam York didn’t make the 2022-2023 NHL roster out of training camp.
“Not good enough. Not nearly good enough. I don’t know him; I haven’t seen him make a difference for us. I know him as far as people have talked to me about him, but I certainly haven’t seen it. Forget about using the word ‘consistency;’ I have not seen it.”John Tortorella; 11/3/2022
Within those sentiments about Sanheim, Tortorella mentioned that he is a great guy, but remained steadfast that he has yet to see Sanheim make a critical impact.
Sanheim isn’t alone. Tanner Laczynski came back into the lineup, replacing Morgan Frost. Lukas Sedlak took over at 3C while Laczynski filled in at 4C. Along the 3LW, Tortorella assigned Kieffer Bellows. Considering what Tortorella said, perhaps Frost isn’t a pillar in his rebuild.
Tortorella favors skaters who play with zip and urgency, all in favor of playing valuable defensive minutes to take advantage of scoring chances. Effort and care are evident in physicality, hustle plays, standing up for teammates, and clogging shooting lanes. After all, the foundation for success is built on an honest effort.
Over the next ten games, look for a difference in Sanheim and Frost. Tortorella sent his messages before, and each one was received with clarity.
(Photo Credit/Alex McIntyre)