Tortorella Talks About Flyers Culture…And It’s Not Good

Nov 12, 2019; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella leaves the ice after the defeat against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 12, 2019; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella leaves the ice after the defeat against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports /

The season hasn’t even started yet — heck, training camp hasn’t started yet — and Coach John Tortorella is saying something that should have us all concerned. Very concerned. The new Flyers’ coach is no stranger to controversy. He has a long history of saying things that can rile up his players. It’s part of that reason that he was hired as the new head coach of this team in hopes that he can spark something in the talent that we have here. Torts has a history of turning teams around quickly and even has a Stanley Cup championship under his belt.

In a recent interview on Sirus XM, Torts said the following:

"“As far as the room, I have major concerns about the room as far as – I’ve spent the summer going back and forth, I live in New York, I’ve been going back and forth to Philly trying to relocate there. But spent some time in the office talking to players, talking to personnel, talking to Chuck [Fletcher], and I have concerns about what goes on in there. Before we even step on the ice, situations and standards and accountability in the room is forefront. You can’t get squat done on the ice until you get your room straightened out, and I think we have a little bit of work to do there.”"

And if you recall, he said similar things back after being hired:

“I can sense that the locker room’s a bit splintered, it’s not together.”

So, what does he mean? Hockey teams are different than the other Big 4 sports in that players don’t usually air their dirty laundry publicly. Most teams keep issues like this in house unless it boils over.  So, there are four possible reasons for this disconnect that Tortorella is seeing:

1. Someone Doesn’t Like Tortorella

As stated before, he is a coach players either love or hate. Cam Atkinson has been cheering him on ever since it was announced he was going to be the coach. But reputations spread. It’s one thing for a young player, say Morgan Frost, to have reservations about playing for him. What about the vets? Has James van Riemsdyk, Travis Konecny, or Kevin Hayes stared that they do not want to suit up for him? An issue between the team leadership and the head coach can divide a team quickly. Is this the problem that Torts is talking about?

2. There Is An Issue Between the Players Themselves

What if there is a personality problem between the players? If you have two or more guys who want to be the star, they can divide the team up amongst themselves. It can create a poison atmosphere. Team chemistry is a big, big deal. Teams that can’t get along rarely win. As Philly sports fans, we’ve seen chemistry carry the 1993 Phillies and the 2017 Eagles to great heights. We’ve also seen it destroy just about every version of a team the Sixers through out here. Is there some issue between players on the Flyers that is not being talked about?

3. The Guys Have Gotten Used To Be Lazy And Apathetic

We can see this. We’ve all watched a Flyers game that we can tell, even if there is no score OR we are up, “We’re going to lose this game.” They aren’t chasing the puck into the corner. They aren’t forechecking with any effort. They are lackadaisical on the attack. It is my opinion, and hope, that this is what the coach is talking about. If so, this is an easy fix. The team knows how to play and how to work together. All they need is someone to light a fire under them. If so, Tortorella is the man to do that.  But after years of playing below their talent level, the Flyers have gotten used to it. Time to stop that.

4. The Team Is Already Anti-Tortorella

This is related to the first one, but the first item on our list was about Torts getting hired. What if in the initial meetings with players, some of the guys don’t want to hear what he is selling? They don’t want to change their ways and playing style (see above bullet). They want to continue to rack up a paycheck and do things their way, regardless of whether or not it is working (it’s not). In these initial meetings, it is possible he has already started to ruffle feathers as he tries to get players to play a little bit harder and with more energy. If they are not buying into what he is saying, this is season is going to go down like the Titanic.

Maybe there is another issue we don’t know about, but these are the most likely conclusions. Whatever it is, hopefully it can be cleaned up before the season is too deep.