The Flyers were never a rebuilding team. Throughout their history, the Flyers’ goal was singular — win the Stanley Cup. Rebuilding was for the other guys.
Interesting hockey times in which we live. Forget the Cup, the Flyers haven’t even made the playoffs for three seasons.
In their recent end-of-the-season interviews, interim general manager Danny Briere and coach John Tortorella sounded fully in agreement with the obvious and inevitable.
The Flyers are — wait for it —rebuilding.
The road back
“It started with me, with the rebuild,” said Briere, who was named interim GM in March, but who certainly looks, acts and sounds like a non-interim GM.
“I didn’t hide behind it. I came in, I said it. Now, how fast or how long it’s going to take, players will dictate that. But everybody’s on board. Everybody agrees that we need to do this the right way.”
The right way, according to Briere and Tortorella, is to play the kids and don’t chase veterans or other teams’ star players.
“We’re not looking out to go sign a big-time free agent with lots of term on the contract, at the moment,” Briere said.
Despite their 31-38-13 record, the Flyers have young players who improved this season. Their continued development will help dictate the quality of their success.
The Flyers are counting on it.
Owen Tippett, Travis Konecny, Noah Cates, Morgan Frost, Joel Farabee, Wade Allison, Nicolas Deslauriers and Tyson Foerster give the Flyers a nucleus of young talented forwards. Whether each is talented enough to win in the NHL remains to be seen.
If Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson return from injury, the Flyers’ forwards could be productive and competitive every game.
Meanwhile, the defense has issues the Flyers are expected to address. Who is NHL-worthy? Who should they replace? What d-men are coming up in the system?
“I thought we had some really good progress with our kids,” Tortorella said. “A lot of them were put into some heavy minutes in key situations.
“So in a year where I’m sure everybody around us, an atrocious year as far as this, that, the record, not making the playoffs, I don’t look at it that way.
“The way we have to, Danny and I, and the organization is the step that we are in in the process. That was going to be losing some games. No one likes doing it. But that’s the part we’re in right now.”
When they weren’t rebuilding, the Flyers chased veterans in free agency or before the trade deadline — looking for that one missing piece they thought could put them over the top.
Those days look to be over for the foreseeable future. The Flyers’ next step is to decide which players they want in the organization next season and which ones they don’t.
“We can’t change course — we’ve got to stay the course and let our kids develop,” Tortorella said.
“I’m not going to give you the number, but I think there are people [who need to be subtracted] for the organization to move forward,” Tortorella said.
Tortorella spent the final few games of the regular season sitting upstairs with Briere observing the team. They talked about individual players along with the style of play. Both said they will work together in orchestrating the rebuild.
“We’re all going to be involved,” Briere said. “It’s not going to be just a one-man show making all the decisions or two people making all the decisions. It’s going to be a group of people. There’s some really good information that we can get from the coaching staff.”
“I don’t think there’s many disagreements between Danny and I as far as the people [that need to be subtracted],” Tortorella said.
So Flyers fans can expect some growing pains. They’ve had the same pain recently without the pretense of a team still hunting for the playoffs.
“We might need a little bit of patience from fans in that regard,” Briere said about the rebuild.