Tortorella playing Flyers youth in correct situations

Flyers' Tyson Foerster
Philadelphia Flyers right wing Tyson Foerster (71) knocks Ottawa Senators left wing Tim Stutzle (18) off the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023, in Ottawa, Ontario. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP)

John Tortorella described the Philadelphia Flyers as a ‘land of opportunity’ in 2023-2024. He isn’t getting in the way of the youth as they continue to grow and develop at the pace of the NHL.

“When you’re a team that has very publicly stated that we’re starting over and trying to get this right, there is opportunity. It’s always interesting to see what happens in a camp when there is that type of opportunity.”

John Tortorella; 9/21/2023

Tortorella tried different variations of the Flyers lineup, beginning with a forward unit featuring Bobby Brink and Morgan Frost, then Yegor Zamula on defense in Columbus. Against the Senators, he swapped Tyson Foerster in for Brink and Emil Andrae for Zamula. Then, Brink and Foerster deployed, making Frost a healthy scratch in the home opener versus the Vancouver Canucks. A shutout versus the Canucks kept the status quo, but Andrae alternated with Zamula again versus the Edmonton Oilers. Then, once Marc Staal suffered an upper-body injury, Tortorella entered Zamula and Andrae into the defensive pairs in Dallas.

The ‘land of opportunity’ applies to players hoping to establish themselves in the Flyers lineup by thriving in the designed systems with and without the puck.

Seizing the opportunity is an entirely different beast. Unsurprisingly, the Flyers have a competitive prospect pool of young talent fighting to break through to the NHL. The young talent initiative is alive and well throughout each position.

Measure the results the Flyers exhibit. They hold the pole position in the NHL Metropolitan Division. It comes from playing hard hockey, forechecking, and wearing down the opposing lines. The physical fight is as critical as the mental battle, and if a skater is letting a lack of ice time rent space, they’re losing their head.

Other coaches in the NHL acknowledge the Flyers. Rick Tocchet and Peter DeBoer credited the imprint Tortorella is leaving in Philadelphia. Tocchet, ahead of a shutout loss, said, ‘I don’t see that,’ referring to the idea that the Flyers will finish near the bottom of the NHL. DoBoer was wary of teams coming out with ‘a lot of belief after long summers,’ understanding the Flyers have something to prove. Later that night, Travis Konecny and Sean Walker made magic, scoring three shorthanded goals to force overtime, collecting an all-important point in the standings.

DeBoer provided further analysis, admitting how effectively the Flyers apply pressure all over the ice. His observation stands out because the best hockey teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs are among the elite checking clubs. It is a prerequisite for establishing a role in a Tortorella lineup, which explains the lines as of late.

Lately, the penalty kill is exploding with scoring, the forwards are smothering on the forecheck, there is puck protection in the neutral zone, and the defense is playing physically to aid goaltending. If you had the rebuilding Flyers shutting down Connor McDavid on your bingo card, keep playing the hot hand.

After the way the Flyers battled back against the Dallas Stars, Tortorella isn’t feeling forced to change anything about his lineup.

“The bench was good all night. We’ve been coming back all night long; never had the lead. They just kept on playing. One of the things we talked about before the game, especially in this building, they can get them revved up pretty good here. You just got to handle some of the momentum swings, and just keep playing. I really liked how our team handled itself as far as staying with themselves and trying to find a way to crawl back in.”

John Tortorella; 10/21/2023

Momentarily, that means it’ll be tough to circulate Frost into the lineup. Checking keeps the Flyers competitive against quality opponents, which is not a strong suit for Frost. Tortorella has depth to design his lineup based on matchups. While it wasn’t initially a plan to keep Frost a healthy scratch, Tortorella isn’t putting him in a bottom-six role.

“I know I need to get him in. I want to get him in. I just have not seen an opening for him right now. I’m not going to put Frosty [Frost] in to a checking role or play him on the fourth line. If I’m going to put hm back in, it’s going to be in an offensive situation.”

John Tortorella; 10/23/2023

Articulating a lineup that plays to the strength of the roster starts and ends with Tortorella. Tomorrow, the Vegas Golden Knights host the Flyers. They’re the defending Stanley Cup Champions. If there is a team who can check with the best of them, Vegas fits the bill. 

Brink is contributing with Joel Farabee to the scoreboard, and Foerster vastly improved away from the puck, something he spent all summer working on. Limiting the role for Frost means that other players are executing better, not that Tortorella gave up, as water-cooler discourse leads to believe.

Flyers' Morgan Frost
Philadelphia Flyers’ Morgan Frost, left, is congratulated for his goal against the Buffalo Sabres during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, April 1, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Frost knew he would have to earn his role despite a streaky finish to last season. There is more to the big picture than point production. For Frost to break back into the lineup, he has to be as noticeable with the puck as Brink or without it as Foerster—the space in between means invisible minutes, which Frost can’t afford.

“Just build on what I was doing at the end of the year. The way he [Tortorella] is, I still think I’m going to have to almost regain the trust again right away at the start of the season.”

Morgan Frost; 4/27/2023

Tomorrow, the Flyers visit the Golden Knights at the T-Mobile Arena at 11pm.

(Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP)