The first chapter of a franchise rebuild is in the books. The Philadelphia Flyers closed the season with two consecutive victories, one at the Wells Fargo Center and one in Chicago.
The Flyers aren’t in the postseason for the third season in a row, the second time in franchise history.
John Tortorella helped set a standard where the Flyers worked hard, despite being a good team. As a franchise, they’re going through critical changes. Daniel Briere replaced Chuck Fletcher as the interim general manager, and Dan Hilferty will succeed Dave Scott as the CEO of Comcast Spectacor tomorrow before becoming the Flyers’ governor on July 1st.
Every indication presents a busy, aggressive offseason from the Flyers. In some areas, they found skill through developing younger NHL skaters and recalls from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Other skaters didn’t quite jive, reigning uncertainty about their future in Philadelphia. What were the impressions from their 2022-2023 Exit Day interviews?
Laughton was the only player to wear a letter on his sweater, denoting leadership on a captainless Philadelphia Flyers team. This season was about finding who is part of the rebuild and who must go. Laughton was a barometer of leadership in the locker room with the ‘A’ stitched on his sweater. It is a bummer to miss the postseason again, but the Flyers cannot fix themselves without completing this process:
“It really does suck to play meaningless games and have nothing to look forward to; the last month was definitely long, but I hope to grow with Tortorella throughout the summer and have those conversations. I can’t say enough good things about Torts; he gave me the opportunity, gave me great looks, and treated me very fairly, and with a ton of respect. I appreciate that.”Scott Laughton; 4/14/2023
Atkinson missed the entire season. He got the same surgery Farabee did in addition to healing from an atrophy in his left tricep. The season off the ice was a test of emotional and mental toughness. In the week ahead, he’ll get cleared for contact:
“[I’m] gonna’ get cleared hopefully next week. [I’ve] been skating a lot the last three weeks; training hard, no setbacks. [I’m] just looking forward to getting cleared for contact and having a really, really good summer training. [I’m] revving it up even more than I ever have and itching for next season to start already, selfishly.”Cam Atkinson; 4/14/2023
Sanheim is an offensive defenseman, most comfortable joining the rush. Tortorella called out Sanheim, saying he didn’t see it, citing his consistency after a loss in Toronto. Then, Sanheim scored a shorthanded goal to help the Flyers snap a ten-game losing streak versus the New York Islanders, beginning his best offensive stretch. Whether you realize it or not, Sanheim finished the season strong, contributing on the scoreboard and defensively.
“Guys go through ups and downs, especially when your team’s struggling; it’s pretty easy to fall out of place. I had a good run. I thought I put some good games together towards the end of the season and some bad ones in-between.”Travis Sanheim; 4/14/2023
Similar to Atkinson, Couturier is already looking forward to training camp. Most importantly, Couturier feels ready to play. As the Flyers rebuild, so does Couturier off of two back surgeries. He had the perspective of watching the younger skaters grow throughout the season and anticipates playing with some of the talents:
“Tippett, he’s a pretty fun player to watch. I haven’t seen such a good shot in a while from a young guy. He’s definitely a guy that I’d love to get the opportunity to play with. There’s a lot of guys that I think improved. Catesy’s one that plays a really mature game.”Sean Couturier; 4/14/2023
Hayes had a strange season. He represented the Philadelphia Flyers at the NHL All-Star Weekend. Despite that, the discussion centered on Hayes potentially getting traded, specifically before the NHL Trade Deadline. Hayes stated that he “picked up the message that was sent months ago,” later following up with, “I don’t know if they want a guy that’s making the money that I’m making playing nine, ten minutes a night.”
“If you’re playing the right minutes, you don’t care where you play. I think I played ten games at center. I got signed here as a center. Torts doesn’t see it like that, but I don’t mind playing the wing, honestly.”Kevin Hayes; 4/14/2023
Similar to Sanheim, Tortorella called out Ristolainen before the ten-game losing streak, citing everything about his game needing to be better. He put in a lot of time working on defensive positioning with Brad Shaw. Ristolainen and Sanheim both finished the season better than they started, ignited by Tortorella. Admittedly, Tortorella gets the most out of Ristolainen:
“He’s honest. The way he is and the way he coaches probably gets the most out of me. That’s why I appreciate the honesty, good or bad. Sometimes I need a little push and kick in the ass.”Rasmus Ristolainen; 4/14/2023
James van Riemsdyk
He hasn’t received any official word that the Philadelphia Flyers are heading in a different direction, but the writing is practically on the wall that van Riemsdyk played his final game in Philadelphia. The longest-tenured Flyers skater from the 2022-2023 roster is the final piece from the last time the franchise made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. Frost and Tippett both credit playing with van Riemsdyk as a catalyst to their explosive 2023. He deserved an opportunity to make a run at another Stanley Cup this postseason, but Fletcher failed to move him at the NHL Trade Deadline:
“I’m extremely proud to be a Flyer and play for the Flyers for as many games as I have, and as many years as I have. That being said, that was probably one of the more disappointing things that I’ve gone through for a whole host of different reasons. [I’m] definitely disappointed that I wasn’t able to get that opportunity.”James van Riemsdyk; 4/14/2023
Provorov had a more positive attitude than he did in his 2021-2022 Exit Day interview. He reached out to York, helping keep his confidence up after not starting the season with the Philadelphia Flyers. Additionally, it seems Provorov grew as a professional, and Tortorella had a profound effect. Interesting insight approached when Provorov spoke about beginning with the Flyers during a rebuild, to which he elaborated on his feeling about beginning a new rebuild:
“I wouldn’t say it’s the most positive news you can hear, but there’s a bright future here, and there’s a lot of great players that can keep growing.”Ivan Provorov; 4/14/2023
Konecny surpassed the thirty-goal milestone this season. It was his best goal-scoring season since 2019-2020. In 2020-2021, Alain Vigneault scratched Konecny because he wasn’t “playing the right way,” or hockey talk for lacking a two-hundred-foot game. His first season with Tortorella also included the first time he was a penalty killer in the NHL, where Konecny tied Laughton for the team lead in shorthanded goals.
“This league’s all about having that one person believing and giving you an opportunity, and it’s what you do with it.”Travis Konecny; 4/14/2023
Deslauriers signed with the Philadelphia Flyers in a frenzied period where fans only wanted to hear about Johnny Gaudreau, and in a twist, became a fan favorite in Philadelphia. He is helping foster a hard brand of hockey, a trademark of a team coached by Tortorella. One bit about his exit interview cited the team being closer than the credit they get. Deslauriers pointed out how many of his teammates did take a step forward in 2022-2023:
“I don’t think it’s just a couple, you could name. How many career highs did guys have? Obviously, young kids are playing their first year. We got Catesy that had an unbelievable season, and he was in situations that even older guys won’t even get in there, and he did a great job. You got Tipper. You got Frosty. Beezer’s still young. Everybody did something. Yorkie came up from having to go through being sent down at the beginning of the year to proving that he’s a guy that can play in this league. Everybody brought something.”Nicolas Deslauriers; 4/14/2023
Farabee, who had neck surgery, said he never felt skeptical about his body after the surgery. By July 4th, he’ll be in Philadelphia preparing for training camp. It was a critical step in the right direction, playing in all 82 games, setting a career-high with 39 points (15G, 24A). He echoed Deslauriers about not being “too far away,” citing that he sees people writing the Philadelphia Flyers off ahead of 2023-2024:
“A lot of people forget Couts won a Selke before he got hurt and was one of the top players in the league. Cam’s been a forty-goal scorer in this league. [If] you add both those guys to the offense, it helps a lot. It takes pressure off a lot of guys. I really don’t think we’re too far away. We have a lot of good pieces; good players to build around.”Joel Farabee; 4/14/2023
Frost found another gear in his confidence, expecting to step onto the ice to secure a point rather than just hoping to play well. Before the season began, he signed a one-year extension, serving as an opportunity to prove that he is a part of the Philadelphia Flyers’ future. Tortorella pushed Frost, and by the end of the season, he began to play more minutes and received more opportunities. In finding his confidence in the season, Frost cited Laughton and Konecny, two skaters Tortorella hinted to be leaders, as teammates who had his back when Frost doubted himself:
“There was a ton of guys I can’t say enough things about. My teammates, in terms of helping me and giving me confidence, whether it was some of the younger guys I’m closer with or some of the older guys like Laughty and TK. They always believed in me and pushed me to be better, even when I didn’t think or wasn’t sure I had it in me at some points.”Morgan Frost; 4/14/2023
Seeler is the Philadelphia Flyers nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. He stepped away from hockey and had a sneaky good season, most effectively playing his role in the defense. Fletcher gave Seeler another NHL opportunity with the Flyers last season, and a season later, Seeler completed his best NHL season. Tortorella hinted at those sentiments during the season.
“I certainly know my role. Torts gave me my role early on in the year, [and] I dove into that. Me and Torts mesh really well; a lot of it has to do with a fit [in] certain areas I was placed this year where I hadn’t been previously. Torts respects guys who work hard, and put their head down, and do the right things.”Nick Seeler; 4/14/2023
DeAngelo was a healthy scratch for the final five games of the season. He hadn’t had many discussions with Tortorella or the other assistant coaches who served as the bench bosses, though Rocky Thompson had a telling quote. Certainly frustrated with sitting in the final games, DeAngelo cited the recalled players getting an opportunity, which included Ronnie Attard and Adam Ginning for one game each. Braun played the other three games in his role, including a 5-3 loss to the Boston Bruins when Seeler was out sick, choosing a format of thirteen forwards and five defensemen.
“I plan on being back. I want to come back. I have no clue what’s going to happen. It’s not my decision, but I’ll be training and getting ready to play another season here.”Tony DeAngelo; 4/14/2023
Tippett finished the season with 49 points (27G, 22A) and a confidence boost after his first complete season with the Philadelphia Flyers. He works well under Tortorella, smashing expectations from before he arrived in Philadelphia. Tippett entered the season ready to take on this process and challenge. He wants to achieve what Konecny did this season; scoring at least thirty goals next year.
“The more situations you get in, [and] the more comfortable you become in those situations, helps with confidence. When you play those big minutes in last minute periods in games, it goes a long way. You become more comfortable in those situations. It helps a lot with overall confidence and just knowing that you’re trusted at times.”Owen Tippett; 4/14/2023
Cates grew immensely this season with Frost, Tippett, and York. That four help set a foundation moving forward. Cates adapted to playing C on the fly in the NHL, garnishing some Frank J. Selke Trophy votes. It isn’t ideal to bounce around Cates between C/W like Laughton, but he proved he can handle the change in the NHL.
“Another part of what I’m looking forward to next season is seeing him [Couturier], and hopefully Cam, and what we can do with those guys. They’ll be hungrier and ready to go after taking this whole season off.”Noah Cates; 4/14/2023
Hart was the team MVP, receiving the Bobby Clarke Trophy. He keeps trending back to his best form from 2019-2020, but as a whole, the team was mightily different. A lot of discourse revved up about his timeline alongside the Philadelphia Flyers’ rebuild. Entering the prime of his career, Hart wants to win, but has faith in Briere:
“The way he carries himself around the team and tries to be involved with the guys and talk to all the guys on a personal level. We really appreciate that. He’s gonna’ be a good fit for us.”Carter Hart; 4/14/2023
Laczynski was in the doghouse. He was stagnant this season, totaling four points (2G, 2A) in 32 games. Where a lot of the younger players took a step forward in their confidence, Laczynski is on the first level, searching for his baseline. Injuries aren’t the setback for Laczynski, but he felt encouraged by earning an opportunity in the lineup to close the season.
“I think if I come out and have a good camp, and they’re evaluating the camp; obviously they’re going to evaluate some of last year, that’s even more of why I got to come out next year and prove to them and the organization I’m worth keeping.”Tanner Laczynski; 4/14/2023
Allison got his first crack at a whole season with the Philadelphia Flyers. He is still learning the nuances of a mature NHL game, which will go far in his usage under Tortorella next season. One of those nuances is gauging his style of play with what he’s looking to do with the puck, making more intelligent decisions. Tortorella is wary of Allison and his injury history.
“It’s whatever. It’s fine. I’m doing my best to be healthy. I can’t control injuries. I’m doing my best to stay healthy.”Wade Allison; 4/14/2023
York was a favorite to make the Philadelphia Flyers out of training camp but did not. He continued to adapt, playing on the right side of the ice instead of his natural left side, blossoming into a part of the foundation of the rebuild. His relationship with Shaw is a budding one, where both understand particular nuances of what will make York a better defenseman on the top pair with Provorov. Not all is square with York, as Tortorella continues on him about playing aggressive hockey, a trait that kept him off the opening night roster.
“He’s on me often about it. It’s something that I try to bring every game. Sometimes it doesn’t go my way; I’ll make a mistake or a turnover, and it doesn’t end up well, but it’s something that when I’m playing my best, I am really aggressive. I think he sees that too.”Cam York; 4/14/2023
(AP Photo/Chris Szagola)