John Tortorella: Flyers Are “Too Damn Sensitive”

Mar 9, 2023; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Philadelphia Flyers head coach John Tortorella walks off the ice after the game against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 9, 2023; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Philadelphia Flyers head coach John Tortorella walks off the ice after the game against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /

We, as a society, can be hypersensitive about things. As a high school/middle school teacher, I see it with my students. One little comment, one little thing will ruin their whole day. Likewise, we can see with media personalities that if something is said in any wrong way, like with the Flyers, the social mediaverse goes ballistic.

Some are upset over things that they rightfully should. Others can’t take any criticism and crumble like a house of cards.

So, why am I bringing this up in a hockey article about the Philadelphia Flyers? Well, it starts with some comments made by John Tortorella.

"“It’s a great word. But holding people accountable, you find out about people. And I have found out about people as far as people that simply don’t know what the word means. And I’m talking about players. Some players just don’t want to be held accountable or just can’t handle it. That’s building a standard….I don’t care what you call us, what you say what our year was — one of the biggest points was how hard we play. I think that’s the starting ground of building a standard. There weren’t many nights we didn’t play hard. So I’m really encouraged with that….We have a ways to go there. I think we’re way too God damn sensitive out here about that, about simply coaching. … That’s something that we’re going to have to really grow at….There isn’t a clause in my contract that says I can’t coach a damn player and I can’t hold him accountable.”"

That’s a lot to dissect, but there are some great nuggets of truth here.

First of all, he once again talked about how proud he was of the Flyers for playing hard. Over and over he said he didn’t care about wins or losses as long as the team put forth their full effort. As long as they gave it their all, he was happy no matter what the outcome. Due to injuries and whatnot, the Flyers had a lot of guys playing out of position, but they fought hard all year.

Secondly, he talked about accountability. This is why he sat Travis Konecny and Kevin Hayes. Konecny responded by having his best year ever. Hayes pouted. Konecny became a team leader. Hayes showed, despite having a letter on his jersey last year, that he was not.

Some players will take criticism well and others will not. Some will rise to the challenge. Others will fail. We in Philly have seen this before. Scott Rolen pouted when Larry Bowa called him out. Carson Wentz couldn’t deal with “being coached”. And who in Philly, or the USA for that matter, can forget the infamous “practice” rant by Allen Iverson.

A coach’s job is to coach his players. A player’s job, on the team, is to listen to the coach. If the player doesn’t listen, there will be consequences for that; usually uncomfortable ones. And as a player, you are going to be under the microscope by the fans, media, and your team as well as your coach. It’s part of the life you chose and you will have to deal with it.

Now later on, he address Tony DeAngelo.

"“I know that’s probably a big topic for you guys, Tony didn’t play the last five games, so something happened, right? That’s going to stay between Tony and I and the team. That’s a situation I think that Tony and I need to work through, along with the team. Not publicly.”"

This is one of the things that I respect about Tortorella the most. He may have issues with players on this Flyers team and they may have issues back. But he still respects them enough not to comment on it. By doing that, he is still keeping that bridge open.

Maybe he and Hayes can repair their relationship and get things settled. Maybe not. Maybe DeAngelo can sit down and work things out to the point where both are satisfied. Maybe not. But the olive branch is always there.

We have seen in our society what happens when people get all upset over “little things”. I always tell my students that there is no such thing as a little thing, because if it was little, you wouldn’t be upset. Professional athletes are no different. They are human and like you and me. They have emotions like you and me.

And just like us, they don’t want to be told that they are doing something wrong or not doing good enough. Sometimes a player will improve, like we do. Sometimes, they sulk, like we also do.

For the Flyers, they have a coach on their team that is willing to put his neck out there and defend his team while not throwing them under the bus. It may not always be pretty, but he has their back and their best interests at heart. He has one Stanley Cup championship under his belt as well as eight playoff appearances in his 13 years of coaching. The team should give him a chance and listen to him. Good things will happen. 

In the meantime, some of the guys need to put “on their big boy pants” and roll with it. That’s how you grow and mature as a player and as a person. Things aren’t always easy, but we grow more in difficult times than easier ones.