The Philadelphia Flyers current roster is very similar to that of the 2021 roster as that season went on. Everybody may not want to remember that season, but it is a good parallel to examine this current roster to a past one. Especially having two different head coaches who both had a similar system structure.
The big difference is John Tortorella’s ability to adapt his system to that of his current roster, create lines that can have a ton of success, but also having his young talent developing and thriving here in Philadelphia.
John Tortorella Doing What Alain Vigneault Could Not
Alain Vigneault was supposed to bring this team to the promised land. Chuck Fletcher added and fit puzzles onto this team that already had some great talent to be a contender for the 2019-2020 season. Unfortunately, that team didn’t get to go into the playoffs the way they should have with the pandemic pause. When that happened, the Flyers, under Vigneault, were one of the hottest teams in the NHL and were working their way up to a higher seed for the playoffs. When the season stopped, no one knew what would happen, but the NHL was able to set up a bubble for each conference to play.
The Flyers came into the bubble as a team playing a round robin series instead of a play in round like a majority of teams were. The Flyers had to play against the Capitals, Lightning and Bruins. The Flyers went into that Round Robin and dismantled the three teams and looked like they never lost a step. Until they got into the first round as the first seed playing against the Montreal Canadiens.
The Flyers barely got through that series after struggling and then went up against the New York Islanders. A similar team to the Canadiens, the Flyers heavily struggled against the Islanders and ended up losing is 7 games after not showing up for game 7.
This was the opening night roster for the Flyers in the 2021-22 season:
This was a roster filled with talent and promise for a second season under Vigneault. This team suffered a lot of injuries and lost players for weeks at a time due to covid and we all remember the lineup that the Flyers had to ice for the Lake Tahoe game.
Vigneault had a good roster three seasons in a row before injuries and even after, but could not keep this team competitive. Whether it was the players lack of engagement or tuning Vigneault out, the lack of constant effort and consistency was clearly an issue and one that was finally addressed in the following season.
In 56 games, Vigneault led the Flyers to a 25-23-8 record in a shortened season. With even more talent than the 2021 season, the Flyers were still an absolute disgrace. They ended the season with an interim head coach and won just 25 games.
Tortorella’s current lineup is filled with young talent due to this organization going through a rebuild or an aggressive retool. However you see it, this team is still just trying to get back to being a competitive team who shows up 99% of the games. Since their last Stanely Cup run, the Flyers haven’t been consistent in going to the playoffs nor have they been hard to play against. This season has been fun and exciting to watch, not because the Flyers are a top five team or a playoff contender, but because they fight and battle every night. Tortorella has brought the best of his guys.
The biggest difference is the development of young players under Tortorella. Something the Flyers and Chuck Fletcher have wanted from this team and prior coaching staff would be the development of young talent like Morgan Frost, Travis Konecny, Carter Hart and others who played under Vigneault. Under John Tortorella, not only did the kids return to the form they were before Vigneault’s second season, but they also took a big step into becoming leaders and players who are relied on in order to be difference makers.
The overall support and backing from Tortorella for his players has absolutely been a breath of fresh air. Tortorella refuses to ridicule his players to the media or blame anybody. When the team sucks, he lets everyone know, but when they are playing the game the right way, they earn his praise and trust. The standard is changing, and this team has life. The struggles of having a young team have a lot of bumps and hiccups, but those will be great learning experiences for this team.
While some of the players who played under Vigneault liked him, they did tune him out after a while, and you could feel that a change was needed in order to right the ship. Vigneault has always been a coach known for his misuse of talent and young talent. Players typically don’t develop under him. A good example was Chris Kreider during his tenure with the New York Rangers. We saw him opting to play veterans who aren’t exactly contributing to a ton of success (cough cough Nate Thompson cough cough).
Vigneault also couldn’t get to the promised land with a great Vancouver Canucks team filled with potential hall of famers. Nor could he do it with Henrik Lundquist backing a talented Rangers team. Vigneault eventually takes those talented rosters and pretty much destroys them. It happened in Philly towards the end with the departures of Gostisbehere, Elliott, Voracek, Raffl, Patrick, Myers and even good depth talent that was acquired during his tenure with Pitlick and Grant. The talent level disparity from 19/20 to 21/22 was apparent. Even adding Ryan Ellis (5 games), Cam Atkinson, Erik Gustafsson, and Martin Jones, the roster just couldn’t stay healthy and was again blasted by Vigneault on a nightly basis.
When Chuck Fletcher finally realized that Vigneault wasn’t the answer, he made the move and is fixing the roster and mistakes that he allowed Vigneault to make. Tortorella has reinvigorated the veterans of this roster and brought the most out of the youth and has done what Alain Vigneault was unable to.
Current Flyers Roster Playing Better Despite Less Talent
This is the roster that the Flyers would open the season with. A few changes were later made due to cap compliance.
The talent is so off compared to what the previous rosters look like on paper. Under Tortorella, this team would outwork these previous rosters and most likely beat them in a seven game series. Their work ethic, system implementation, and willingness to grind during every shift makes this team competitive and hard to play against. Tortorella knows who he wants here and has shifted the lineup around, bringing up Cam York and Wade Allison. Getting a healthy Patrick Brown and a reinvested Zack MacEwen.
Everyone has bought in, whether or not they needed a benching or talking to behind the scenes. Tortorella has worked hard at getting this team to buy into his system and it has worked. He has taken a team who were projected to be a bottom three team in the league to a team who is six points out of a playoff spot.
And they could be poised to make a run during the second half of the season. If Tortorella can get a healthy Sean Couturier and maybe a few pieces to trade for, this team can get into the playoffs and as we have seen in Philadelphia, anything can happen.
Trusting in Fletcher and Tortorella moving forward is going to be the move and if Fletcher can’t deliver who and what Tortorella wants, then he will find himself the odd man out. Tortorella will bring this franchise back to its previous glory and the Flyers are fun and competitive once again!