DeAngelo was supposed to bring an offensive punch to the Flyers blue line. He was expected to quarterback the power play; a unit that has been quite anemic this season. In training camp, he looked strong. He was excited to be home and be part of a young team that he could help resurrect. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long.
His season started off well, scoring five points in the first four games. In the first 12 games, he stood a respectable +4 on defense, having blocked 25 shots. As the Flyers began to drop game after game in November, concerns started to grow about DeAngelo’s game. Yes, he was putting up decent offensive stats and had six power play points through Thanksgiving, but it was all one-sided.
His defensive abilities started to wane. DeAngelo seemed to be more interested in his own offensive stats or jump starting a play forward than protecting the zone. He started to turn the puck over more and started to get caught out of guard and then BAM! —a goal by the other team. More and more, he was becoming a liability on defense.
To be fair to DeAngelo, he didn’t have a defensive partner in Philly that could compensate for these liabilities like he had in Carolina. In Raleigh, he was often paired up with someone like Jaccob Slavin or Brett Pesce, two of the best defensive minded blueliners in the Eastern Conference. DeAngelo could play up a bit further ahead while his partner could hang back and protect the zone. In Philly, he was paired up most often with Ivan Provorov or Travis Sanheim.
John Tortorella tried to mentor DeAngelo, much in the same way he tried to mentor Hayes. Whereas with Hayes he wanted to unlock the potential dominant center within, Tortorella was hoping to help DeAngelo become a better defensive minded blueliner. If DeAngelo could retain his offensive skills while building on his defensive ones, because after all, he IS an NHL defender, he could become one of the elite defenders in the league.
When talking to him and coaching him didn’t work, he was scratched a few games; although to be fair, some of those scratches were dealing with a family issue. But when he returned, he was different. There was mounting tension between him and the coach, much like you saw with Hayes. Just like with Hayes, the more he played with that tension, the less playing time he got. By the end of the season, he was scratched again. This also came after he was suspended for hitting an opposing player in the crotch with his stick; reeking of the stupid, reckless actions he took in the past.
When the season had ended, DeAngelo addressed the press. He sort of took responsibility for his actions and expressed his desire to play for the Flyers again. During the press conference, he also talked about his relationship with Tortorella.
"“He’s the coach of the team, so you’ve got to respect that and I respect what he does. Do I agree with it, what happened in the last five games? Absolutely not. I think it’s ridiculous that I didn’t play the last five. That’s one thing. But he’s also the coach of the team. It’s not my job to decide that. All I can worry about is being a good teammate, which I think I did. Tried to stay out of the way. I don’t want to be a distraction to anybody, these guys had stuff to play for — there’s milestones guys are trying to get to, guys are trying to play for contracts next year.”"
Basically, he admitted that Tortorella is the coach and in charge. At the same time, he doesn’t agree with his coaching decisions. He understands that the team was hoping to test some of the younger players and see what they bring to the table as well as give Justin Braun a shot at some career milestones. However, when you read in between the lines, he’s not very repentant on the breakdown of the relationship with his coach.
We all have a boss we have to answer to. Even if you own your own business, you have to answer to shareholders, the government, or some sort of board. Teachers have to answer to principals who answer to superintendents. Government officials have to answer to voters. Sometimes, your boss tells you to do something you don’t like or agree with. But hey, you have to do it if you want to stay employed.
Being an athlete is no different. If your boss, the coach, says, “Hey, you need to do this….”, you have to do it. Hayes was told to play center different so he could be more effective. He refused to do that and he’s gone now. DeAngelo was told to focus more on defense instead of just on the offensive side of the puck. Like Hayes, he refused and he is also gone.
Yes, Tortorella has a reputation for being a tough coach, but he is not unreasonable. The players who seemed to have a problem with him over the years are those caught up in their own ego and abilities instead of being into a “team first” mentality. There are an equal amount of players who love and appreciate what Tortorella has done. Hayes and DeAngelo couldn’t/wouldn’t adapt.
Ironically, this serves as a great teachable moment for the younger players. No matter how skilled you are, you can always improve. There is no perfect player in the NHL. And if your coach is trying to help you improve your skill set, take him up on the offer and learn. Good things can happen. If you buck the system and defy the coach, you will be on the outside looking in and you will be replaced.
Despite all of his talent, DeAngelo has been released by two teams in one of the most competitive divisions in the NHL that could easily use a blueliner of his abilities. DeAngelo has all the talent in the world to be one of the premier blue-liners in the NHL. He has to learn to get out of his own way first.