John Tortorella's Defense of Kevin Hayes Shows His Respect for Players

It was no secret that John Tortorella and Kevin Hayes didn't get along. But that doesn't mean there isn't a respect between the two.
It was no secret that John Tortorella and Kevin Hayes didn't get along. But that doesn't mean there isn't a respect between the two. / Derek Cain/GettyImages

Unless you've been hiding under a rock or perhaps a foot of snow, you've heard by now that the Philadelphia Flyers have traded away 2022 first-round pick Cutter Gauthier. The trade, thanks in large part to the stealthiness of the deal by Daniel Briere, sent shockwaves throughout the NHL. It seemingly came out of nowhere. However, Briere admitted that the team had quietly been working on something for a few months.

Because it was such a surprise, hockey experts tried to come up with their theories as to why it happened. Did he not like John Tortorella or Briere, or was he not happy with the direction the team was going? Could he have been upset he wasn't called up the season before? Everyone had their little take on the deal and why it happened. The answer we have is from Gauthier's agent, who said it was a "personal decision." At this point, it is what it is.

The problem is that some people like to take things and make them into something they are not. As we all have seen over the last 10+ years, the internet loves some crazy conspiracies. One of these conspiracies tried to explain this trade away.

According to this theory, former Flyer Kevin Hayes got his hooks into Gauthier and convinced him not to play with Tortorella and the Flyers. It's utterly ridiculous and has even been refuted by Hayes himself. Keith Jones verified this news. More importantly, Tortorella called out the "reporter" who claimed it during a press conference.

""Are you kidding me? You think Kevin Hayes is going to do something like that? ... It just pisses me off that you guys throw that around and affect someone's life. Kevin Hayes and I had a problem and we couldn't come to an agreement how to play.

That's a good man. That's a good man. And what you said is going to stay with him. That's what you guys don't understand. You're going to sit there and say you have the right sources...I call bull****."

John Tortorella

Here, we see Tortorella defending a player he had a problem with the season before. Professionally, they may not have gotten along, but there is still a level of respect there. Hayes never trashed Tortorella publicly, and last season, Tortorella never spoke to the press about any internal issues he had with Hayes, Tony DeAngelo, or any other player. To be fair, this is something about Tortorella we have seen consistently, but we don't talk about it as often as we should.

He has a reputation for being "tough" on his players. He "demands too much" and wants them to adhere to "his system" of playing instead of letting them do what they want. He has a mixed history wherever he has coached. Some guys love him, like Cam Atkinson. Others, perhaps, not so much.

One thing that Tortorella has not done while a coach of the Flyers is air out dirty laundry to the press and media. He has chastised the media numerous times for trying to create "distractions" by talking about what is going on behind the locker room doors.

Tortorella has not commented on Morgan Frost being benched. When Gauthier was traded, Tortorella didn't want to talk about him but instead wanted to talk about the newest Flyer, Jamie Drysdale. Last year, he defended his players during a 10-game slide by saying he was proud of their effort despite the losses. He spoke highly of former GM Chuck Fletcher after he was fired. Time and time again, he has defended players when they played poorly or were scratched. For a guy with a rep for being "hard," this doesn't seem to fit.

Not only that, but his defense of Hayes, when you read his words, came on very strong. He admitted that they had a personal issue between them, but he defended Hayes's character. That shows that even with all the stuff between them, Tortorella still cares about his guys. He never wanted anything more than the best for his players. If that means he has to push them a bit harder than they like, so be it.

After he coached his 1500th game, the NHL did a profile piece on him and his softer side that people don't see. One of the many stories told was when Scott Hartnell retired, Tortorella was one of the first people who called him up, which kind of shocked him.

""But he does care about you. ... You have this persona of what this guy is and you're afraid of him a little bit, but at the end of the day, he's a teddy bear as well.""

Scott Hartnell

Tortorella may be many things. I guess it would depend on your interactions with him and how you view him. Sometimes we need someone to kick us in the butt to get us where we need to be. Sometimes, we need someone to take our hands and guide us along. Say what you will about Tortorella, but he has turned this team around quickly. The more his players see how he'll rally behind him, the harder they will play in front of him. He's the right man for this job, and we are lucky to have him.