Flyers hoping to get swagger back as they begin second half

John Tortorella has always been open and honest about what the Flyers need. He was no different as the team returned from the All-Star break.
John Tortorella has always been open and honest about what the Flyers need. He was no different as the team returned from the All-Star break. / Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking after practice the last couple of days, John Tortorella – sporting a new haircut – seemed to spend much of his time off reflecting on the state of his hockey club. He made insightful yet blunt remarks on the upcoming trade deadline. He shed some light on what decisions the organization may make in the coming weeks.

Normally a no-nonsense type of coach, Tortorella even made time for some laughs. He noted that after Joel Farabee attempted the “Michigan” on January 27th against the Bruins, the entire team turned their heads to check his reaction. Jokingly, he said he would’ve taken it “off the board” had it gone in.

But clearly, the most pressing issue for the head coach was getting his team back on the rails and finding ways to win hockey games again.

“We’re trying to win every [expletive] game we play. We’ve lost our last five. I think it’s very important that we get our energy back, our swagger back both offensively and defensively to start these last 30 plus games and try to find a way.”

One thing that will help is getting Owen Tippett back in the lineup. After an awkward crash into the boards forced him out of a January 20th matchup with the Avalanche, Tippett missed the club’s last four games leading up to the All-Star break. The Flyers went 0-4-0 without him and were outscored 20-8.  

Tortorella knew Tippett’s absence would be felt and in a big way.

“Make no bones about it, that was a huge hole for me not having him. I’ve been double shifting him when we’ve been playing 11 and 7. He creates so much offense on his own. He drives the offense.”

With Tippett slated to return to the lineup Tuesday night against his former team, the Florida Panthers, Tortorella anticipates we’ll see a return of that swagger and speed that was missing with him out.

“Tip makes us look faster. He’s one of the fastest players in the league…Tip generates [offense] himself, he doesn’t need any help. He’s going to help other people. That’s a very important guy to get back into our lineup and try to get some other guys going.”

Expect the locker-room culture to remain paramount down the stretch, too. Guys like Scott Laughton, who by Tortorella’s admission has been inconsistent on the ice, provide essential intangibles off it for mentoring a young team.

On Laughton, Torts said, “He’s a very important guy for us…He’s the glue, especially with some of the youth that we have around here. I think they rely on him and ask him questions. Just the way he plays the game I think it’s so important [for] what we’re trying to build here.

Defensively speaking, Tortorella isn’t as concerned. It’s in large part due to assistant coach Brad Shaw and the growth of certain players on the backend, namely Cam York.

York has come a long way since a poor performance in November landed him on the bench for the entirety of the third period against Los Angeles. So far, the coach lauded him as one of the team’s best defenders after practice on Monday.

“I think Cam York is one of our better defenders…I think he’s progressed as we’ve gone through here, remember at the beginning of the year I didn’t think Cam York was a National Hockey League Player. I wasn’t sure, judging from his last quarter of the prior year… He still has to get better, we’re going to still keep working with him, but I think he’s made tremendous improvement.”

The Flyers hope that progress rubs off on a newcomer and personal friend of his, Jamie Drysdale. Expect the two to be paired together when the Flyers take the ice. They were seen doing drills together in practice.

“I liked how they handle themselves just in the drill here. I watched Cam go over to Jamie and talk to him a little bit. I think that’s very important for that communication to happen instead of me beating him over the head with my stick trying to teach him. It’s better coming from a teammate.”

Tortorella later touched on how York and Drysdale have a relationship off the ice. When discussing the possibility of the pairing talking hockey over dinner, he delivered a gem.

Well, alright then.

The break seems to have softened Tortorella a bit. Whether we can expect that to continue as the Flyers go through the trials and tribulations of a potential playoff push, don’t hold your breath.