Rebuilding a hockey team means more than getting new players and replacing other ones.
Building a winning culture is part of process, so to speak. So is fostering a team concept, where the team matters more than the sum of its parts.
The Flyers were going nowhere this past season. Playoffs were unrealistic. In adverse times, you want to see the character of players — what kind of players they are and especially what kind of teammates.
Would the players quit? Would they lone-wolf it — trying for individual glory or trying to make hero plays outside of the team concept? Players might have had personal incentives to reach and that’s understood if it’s understood that team always should come first.
Would players stick up for each other?
Accountability is a word synonymous with hockey. Teams want players to be held accountable. Part of a coach’s job to set standards and make sure the players meet those standards.
The Flyers played hard this season. This is universally acknowledged. The Flyers played some bad games and they were defeated by superior talent but they didn’t appear to quit.
That’s a huge step in building culture.
"“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,” Flyers coach John Tortorella said.“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.”"
Down the stretch, Flyers center Scott Laughton was hit from behind by Dallas’ Luke Glendening. It sure looked like a cheap shot. Laughton didn’t get up immediately and James van Riemsdyk, not known for physical play, jumped in to defend his teammate.
JVR dropped the gloves and had a scrum with Glendening, a rough customer. It wasn’t an actual fight — there was a lot of holding and dancing. JVR got a double-minor, not even a fighting penalty. JVR has only had four fights in his 14-year career.
"“The locker room has been great. It really has,” Tortorella said.“Dangerous hit on Laughts, blind, I think it’s to the head. We’ve talked about this, that we need to learn to take hits.“Like the other night when Seels [Nick Seeler] took a penalty when Ronnie [Attard] got hit. I don’t think we need to fight there.“And that’s the fine line we got to watch here. I think that when you develop a team, you need to take hits in hockey games and not expect someone to go fight for you.“Tonight’s different. I think it’s a dirty hit. I’m not sure if the guy has intent but is certainly is a dirty hit. High marks to James for jumping in.”"
Here’s another example of what you want to hear about a team trying to right itself.
After a late-season loss in Ottawa, Flyers center Noah Cates talked about his teammates and how they hadn’t given up on the season.
“Everyone was talking about how we can be better,” Cates said, in a video posted on the Flyers’ website.
“That’s kudos to the guys for being pros and really trying to prepare.
“I thought that was super-cool that we were talking about that, how these games might not mean much but guys were still giving their full effort and battling and finding solutions to get better.”
This is a small sample size. But if the Flyers are going to build their way to respectability, this attitude is necessary for the team and welcomed words for the fans.