John Tortorella Defends Flyers After Losses

Oct 13, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Flyers head coach John Tortorella during Opening Night ceremonies against the New Jersey Devils at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 13, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Flyers head coach John Tortorella during Opening Night ceremonies against the New Jersey Devils at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Flyers have now lost three games in a row, with two of the losses coming against very beatable teams (Columbus and Ottawa). Fans are starting to get a little restless as the team is struggling with scoring and with basic fundamentals. In the first two losses, goalie Carter Hart was left out to dry as the team turned the puck over too much and failed on the penalty kill. Against Dallas, a high powered offense had Felix Sandstrom scrambling.

After the game, Coach John Tortorella was asked to give his thoughts on the team. If you know anything about the coach over the last few years, he has a “reputation“. He will “give it” to reporters who he thinks is treating his team unfairly. He also has no problem going after players who he thinks aren’t doing enough. Earlier this season, he benched Kevin Hayes and Travis Konecny in a shutout loss to the Sharks. A few weeks later, he called out Rasmus Ristolainen for not playing up to his abilities.

A lot of national press has talked about his relationship with players over the years. He had a public feud with Patrik Laine after Laine was traded to Columbus. CBJ’s Pierre Luc-Dubois also had a public spat with him. Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler admitted he almost got into a fight with the coach.

Even with all of these incidents, there have been players who have spoken up on his behalf. Among them is injured Flyers star, Cam Atkinson. So, I guess in retrospect, it depends on how your relationship with the coach goes. If you appreciate him trying to get more out of you, you can deal with him if he gets snarky. If you can’t, you lash out.

Which brings us to Sunday’s loss against Dallas. The press, as I said earlier, was asking about what Torts thought about this Flyers team. In the press conference, this is what he shared:

"“I’d be a lot more upset with a loss if I don’t think they’re trying. You can boo us, you can talk s— about us, I will back those guys because they are trying. If it was an effort problem, then it’s a different story. Those are the things that I have to coach, those are the things that I have to be fair about when we’re trying to build this team. I’m very pleased with the effort. I don’t give a s— what people think about out here.”"

If you step back, there is a LOT packed in those comments.  Let’s break them down:

“I’d be a lot more upset with a loss if I don’t think they’re trying.” — We saw Torts calling out Risto for “not trying hard enough”. But as the losses are mounting up, he’s not “flipping out”. He sees that the team is struggling with injuries and inexperience. Yes, he is somewhat pleased. He’s not pleased that the Flyers are losing, but he is with the fact that the team is putting their all on the ice. Even if it isn’t good, the young guys are learning from mistakes. Sometimes you learn more from mistakes than doing well.

I will back those guys because they are trying. If it was an effort problem, then it’s a different story — Similar to what I said before here, but focus on the “I will back those guys.” He will defend this team from unfair accusations. A coach who will do what he can to deflect unfair criticism towards his players is a coach that any player who is worth his mettle will go to battle for. Despite everyone wondering if he will fit in with the players, I would say he is doing fine. A team seeing that the coach will go to bat for them will go to the ends of the Earth for him.

Those are the things that I have to coach, those are the things that I have to be fair about when we’re trying to build this team. — This team isn’t where he wants it to be yet. There are a lot of top players injured. A lot of rookies and second year players are filling holes and playing in roles that they haven’t been used to before.

Seven of the twelve guys who suited up on Sunday are 25 years old or younger. Coach Tortorella is saying we have to be patient and wait. We aren’t winning the Cup this year, but he is planning on being here for a while. Take a seat and wait. And we have to be fair in how we treat the new guys before we run them out of town.

I’m very pleased with the effort. I don’t give a s— what people think about out here. — Yup, they are professional athletes and are getting “paid to play a game”. But they are under a microscope most of us are not. No matter what it is you do, imagine having millions of people watching and judging you for your performance.

There are a lot of subtle things that go into hockey that we might not be aware of because we watch it on tv or go see it live at an arena. We don’t live it and understand the minute finesse points that the coaches and players do. There are things that Coach Tortorella sees that we do not. There are things he understands that we don’t.

In October, we all thought that this team played above and beyond what it was capable of.  Lately, they have been struggling. But, the season is 82 games long. Teams get streaky…both in good and bad ways. Sometimes patience is required as a fan…and being a Philly sports fan, that isn’t always easy.

Coach Tortorella is not happy with the losses, but he is pleased with the effort. With good effort, pucks will start to take the lucky bounce you need and get in the net. With good effort, a defender can deflect a pass or a winger can feed that pass to the center on our team and not the opposing one. A team that keeps trying with good effort is a team that will click and start winning. They will start to believe in themselves.

If Coach Tortorella can believe in this team and be pleased in the effort, I don’t see a reason why we shouldn’t either. Trust his judgement and trust in the process. Give this team a chance. Give Torts a chance. He’s slowly turning this team around. If you need proof, last year, this team would’ve given up after the first goal was surrendered. This year, the Flyers have given up the first goal in almost every game.

And in almost every game, the Flyers have been fighting tooth and nail until the final whistle. That’s Tortorella’s doing. That will pay dividends as the year goes on. It may not seem like it now, but this team is going places. Sit back and watch. You’ll see I’m right.