John Tortorella Conveys Passion, Excitement in Opening Press Conference

Dec 2, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella looks on from behind the bench against the Washington Capitals in the second period at Capital One Arena. The Capitals won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 2, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella looks on from behind the bench against the Washington Capitals in the second period at Capital One Arena. The Capitals won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

After it had been rumored for quite some time, John Tortorella and the Philadelphia Flyers put pen to paper to make him the 23rd head coach in franchise history. And just a few hours after the hiring was made official, Tortorella spoke to the media for his opening press conference.

And if you happened to catch his media availability, one thing was very clear from the get go. Tortorella was extremely excited and honored to be hired to coach the Flyers. He has coached for 12 seasons  within the Metropolitan Division. With the New York Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets, Tortorella has gotten an up close view at what the team and city itself is like.

And he has had an interest in coaching in this city for quite some time. When he was with the Tampa Bay Lightning back in 2004, Tortorella detailed coming through Philadelphia when Tampa won their Stanley Cup. He wanted to have the opportunity to one day be the head coach. It was something he even told Chuck Fletcher about in their meetings.

"“I couldn’t be more excited about being part of the Philadelphia Flyers. It may sound a little silly, but even when I was coaching other teams, I’ve always thought about that city. I’ve always thought about that team. About hoping to have an opportunity along the way.”"

And it conversations with Fletcher, it appeared the two were comfortable from the beginning. They both had an understanding of what the other was looking for. Tortorella brings a demanding, structured style to his teams. And that demanding style is likely what drove him to the top of the candidate list.

Fletcher confirmed that the team hired an outside source to help them in their coaching search. There was quite a few different qualities that the Flyers were looking for with their new head coach. They wanted someone who had extensive experience in the NHL, a track record of success, and a proven ability to hold players accountable.

Experience and Success

Aside from an unsuccessful season with the Vancouver Canucks, Tortorella has had head coaching tenures of over five years with the Lightning, Rangers, and Blue Jackets.

During his first coaching stint in Tampa Bay, Tortorella steadily improved each year, culminating in a Stanley Cup in 2004. A mid-season replacement during the 2000-01 season, he helped transform the Lightning into a championship contender. They made a total of four playoff appearances during his tenure, including the Stanley Cup victory.

Named head coach of the New York Rangers more than halfway through the 2008-09 season, the team made the playoffs four out of five seasons with him behind the bench. He also lead the Rangers to their third ever 50-win season in 2011-12.

With the Blue Jackets, he earned the second Jack Adams award of his coaching career after leading the team to a 50-24-8 record during the 2016-17 season. Columbus would also win their first playoff series in franchise history during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Tortorella and the team decided to multually part ways at the end of his contract following the 2020-21 season. He finished with the most wins in franchise history.

With those teams, Tortorella combined for 12 playoff appearances and one Stanley Cup. His teams often made it to the postseason, though the only time he made it to the Finals was the one season with Tampa. Still, he has the kind of track record that Fletcher was looking for.

Structure and Accountability

Two other qualities that Fletcher was looking for, Tortorella has proven to be someone who demands the most out of his players. He wants to help them reach levels that they’ve never gotten to before. But that won’t come by limiting players offensively.

It’s clear that the Flyers need to become more structured defensively. Far too often they left their goaltenders out to dry with their lack of coverage. Tortorella has been known as a more defensive kind of coach. But don’t think that means he hasn’t been able to evolve in his thinking.

Tortorella admitted that he used to want to be able to predict every aspect of the game. He wanted them to play exactly as he thought. But with the changes in today’s NHL, it just doesn’t work that way anymore. So he won’t be turning skill players into checkers, but they need to understand how to play the right way defensively as well.

"“I need to allow them to play, but it’s going to be a two-way street. It needs to be a two-way street, just show me that you’re willing to give us something away from the puck. Not going to turn you into a checker, but you got to show me and more importantly show your teammates that you’re willing to do some of the other stuff as an offensive guy away from the puck. Then you have something and I think that’s what develops the right camaraderie of a hockey club.“"

In order to play better, structured hockey, it all starts before even stepping on the ice. One of the things Torotrella mentioned about the Flyers was needing to be harder to play against. Heard that before, right? Far too often the team would fold under the early pressure and games would snowball from there. Becoming harder to play against starts with having the right mindset before you even get into the arena.

It also comes with being able to have open and honest conversations between a player and coach. That is something that Tortorella is known for. A player will always know where they stand with him. And he expects the same out of his players as well. Sometimes a coach needs to step back and listen before jumping in. And that framework will begin even before the season starts. Tortorella is expected to start meetings with players as soon as next week.

While he has a great relationship with Cam Atkinson, one of his first calls was actually with Kevin Hayes, someone he believes is an important piece to this roster. It was a tough season for him, but Tortorella feels like he has even more to give and is excited to hear what he has to say. It’ll then be his responsibility to find a way to get him to that next level. Those are the kinds of conversations that can help build the foundation that this group is looking for.

There’s still a few months before the team will come together for training camp and really get an idea on how to play under John Tortorella. And based on how he spoke during his availability, there is going to be plenty of work for them to do once they get there.