2023 Flyers Training Camp: ‘Safe Is Death’

Flyers' Rasmus Ristolainen
LOS ANGELES, CA – DECEMBER 31: Philadelphia Flyers Defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen (55) skates in warm ups before an NHL game between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Los Angeles Kings on December 31, 2022, at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Rob Curtis/Icon Sportswire)

As usual, John Tortorella began the 2023 Flyers Training Camp on Thursday with the bag skate, his dreaded skating test.

“Goodness gracious, that was hard. I’m going to find his rope, I think, and burn it. That my number one priority. That test is one of the hardest I’ve ever done. It’s one of those things where your legs hurt so bad you can barely stand up, but you got to find a way to finish strong, and that’s what I felt like I did.”

Cam York; 9/22/2023

This weekend, the Philadelphia Flyers scrimmage often. With a change to the camp format from his first season, Tortorella and Daniel Briere need to see the players compete, replicating game scenarios. The conditioning will follow.

Conditioning is more than raw skating. Jumping straight into puck battles is as critical. That kind of conditioning directly correlates to stamina on the ice. To provide quality, competitive minutes in a Tortorella lineup, the tenacity and willingness to fight for the puck at the boards is a prerequisite.

Wade Allison fits that description. He has a lot of heat on him from Tyson FoersterGarnet Hathaway, and Bobby Brink for his spot with the Flyers in a crowded RW room after Tortorella began trying Owen Tippett at LW.

“I’m trying Tip [Tippett] on the left side right away, in the scrimmage and exhibition games because the right side’s so filled, to see if we can help the left side. Ally [Allison], he’s in a dogfight. Just do the math. I think he knows that, and I hope he accepts the challenge, and we’ll see where it goes.”

John Tortorella; 9/22/2023

Hathaway didn’t go unnoticed by Tortorella on Saturday. The fourth line, centered by Ryan Poehling, including Nicolas Deslauriers, looks good. On the bottom line, Hathaway sets a tone for the Flyers, leading by example. He knows one speed, and Tortorella pointed out how Hathaway plays a ‘hard’ brand of hockey. That is the ‘dogfight’ Allison faces.

“I don’t want anything handed to me. I want to work for it. That’s what I’ve got here at this camp, it’s what I’ve got at last camp, it’s what I’ve had my whole life. This is just part of it now. It’s just how it goes; how I expect it to be.”

Wade Allison; 9/23/2023

Emil Andrae made a good impression on Friday. Tortorella commented on his poise and awareness to make the right pass instead of dumping the puck down the boards. He is another player who will have a lot of prominent eyes on him during the preseason. Travis Sanheim will switch to RD, allowing Cam York to play LD. Nothing is guaranteed to stick, but competition is giant for developing a wide-open defense.

“Sanny [Sanheim] is going to play the right side right away. He’s done it in the scrimmages, he’s going to do it in the exhibition season because I want to give Cam York a really good shot at the left side. But there’s nothing rock solid about Cam York playing the left side.”

John Tortorella; 9/22/2023

Nothing is in stone. York could begin the season on the top pair with Rasmus Ristolainen, but Sanheim could switch from RD back to LD. The last thing Tortorella wants to do with Sanheim is pile too much responsibility onto his 2023-2024 season. Sanheim is coming off of a down season, and a change away from Ristolainen and to the opposite side of the ice is a lot to handle.

Generally speaking, Tortorella is paying close attention to how his players keep composure throughout the scrimmages, whether it’s after a rough shift or if they’re playing well. Consistency is vital, especially on defense.

“A lot of the young guys, they look really good. I’m excited about this year, and it’s how it should be. You got to earn your spot, and whoever is getting the spot, it’s well earned.”

Rasmus Ristolainen; 9/23/2023

The battles in the defensive unit are fascinating. Andrae is a defenseman who reads the rink and mitigates defensive risks with his play. He continued his consistent effort from Friday into Saturday:

“I saw that right away, and that’s why I’m very interested in him [Andrae]. I don’t think he’s afraid to make a mistake; he made a ton today, but I don’t think he’s afraid to. That’s a mindset, and to me, it’s a skill; it’s a mental skill. You can see he has that right away.”

John Tortorella; 9/23/2023

‘Safe is death’ is a sign Tortorella has from his days with the Tampa Bay Lightning, a motto about living with mistakes and learning from them, and an application that lives through his philosophy of developing the Flyers.

(Photo by Rob Curtis/Icon Sportswire)