There are many times that when a general manager is let go, the head coach is also not long for this Earth either. The last time the Flyers saw a general manager dismissed, it was when Ron Hextall was terminated. Soon thereafter, Dave Hakstol was done. And often, it is because the new GM wants to put his own stamp on the team.
With Chuck Fletcher ousted, it is reasonable to ask if John Tortorella’s job is in jeopardy. Torts has defended him publicly amidst all the cries for his job during the past offseason when no major moves were made and recently when…well, the same happened at the trade deadline.
However, due to the “success” of the team, Tortorella’s job is pretty safe, as long as he wants it. The team has not been good, but they have been performing a lot better than most people felt that they would. And up until recently, they were near a .500 record.
But when you look at what this team has, there is a way to fix this. There are two models that the Flyers can use to help this team get better with what they have. Ironically, both teams happen to be divisional rivals.
Ever since taking over the team as head coach, Rod Brind’Amour has transformed the Canes from a basement dweller into one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. I’ve written about this before, but the premise still remains.
Carolina is a deep team. They don’t really have a lot in the way of superstars. Yes, Sebastian Aho, Martin Necas, and Andrei Svechnikov are really, really good players, but they are really good in the same vein as Travis Konecny. They are not Connor McDavid or David Pastrňák good, but they are really good players. Jacob Slavin is one of the best defensive minded defenders.
However, outside of them, they are not dominant. What they are is deep. Every line is solid. Jordan Staal is not the prolific scorer he was billeted to be, however he fills a role on the Hurricanes much like Scott Laughton does for the Flyers.
The goal here would be to make the Flyers like the Canes. If the Flyers could recapture what they had between Christmas and the All-Star break, they could make this work. A few pieces (either called up or acquired) could turn this team into a Carolina style team: a team that capitalizes on the mistakes of others.
Carolina is 11th in the league in goals scored, but second best in goals allowed and on the penalty kill. If the other team can’t score, they can’t beat you. The Canes have enough role players on there to make it work. That is something that the Flyers could model themselves on.
New Jersey Devils
This is the other team the Flyers could model themselves after. No, I am not talking about the current iteration of the Devils. That would’ve required some great recent drafts with a bunch of young talented scorers. We don’t have that.
I’m looking at the Devils from the mid 90s to the mid 2000s. There is a lot of things about that version of the Devils that match up with the current Flyers. Both teams had a great young netminder. I’m not trying to compare Carter Hart to the greatest goaltender of all time, Martin Brodeur. But both were goalies on teams that were more defensive minded than offensively capable.
Tortorella has a reputation for wanting his players to play a more defensive-minded, responsible offensive that doesn’t create a lot of turnovers. However, if you combine that style with a neutral-zone trap defense, this team might be able to turn things around. We have some capable defenders. We have some good defensive minded forwards, like Laughton, Sean Couturier, and Noah Cates. This could be something that works.
Yes, Brodeur was a great goalie, but facing just 15-20 shots a night certainly helped him out. Likewise, how much better would Hart be if he faced 22 shots or 17 shots instead of 37 or 33 a night? In a highly competitive Metropolitan Division that is filled with a ton of scoring threats, what if a team found a way to neutralize that offense by slowing the game down at center ice? It worked for the Devils for over a decade against players like Eric Lindros, Mark Messier, Jaromir Jagr, and Mario Lemieux. It could happen again.
The Flyers are not good right now, but they are not very bad. They are just a few pieces away from actually being able to get into the playoffs. Maybe Cutter Gauthier could end up being our Jack Hughes. They are several pieces away from actually being able to be considered legitimate playoff threats.
But with the coach they currently have and the players they have on the roster and on the way up, there is still a way to salvage what they have. By either focusing on making deep solid lines, a defensive minded team, or a combination of the two, the Flyers would start to be competitive again and relatively soon. They have the right coach to turn this team around. Now they just gotta give him some ammo to play with.