The Philadelphia Flyers have hired hard-nosed John Tortorella to lead a major culture change and re-set a standard which has dropped significantly over recent seasons.
|What||NHL Season 2022/23|
|Where||USA and Canada|
|When||7th October 2022 - June 2023|
|How to watch||Premier Sports & bet365's Sports Live Streaming|
COL Avalanche 17/4, TOR Maple Leafs 8/1, FLA Panthers 9/1, TB Lightning 10/1, CAR Hurricanes 11/1
Philadelphia have failed to qualify for the playoffs in each of the past two years, most recently finishing bottom of the Metropolitan Division with a 25-46-11 record.
In the past 10 seasons, they have missed the playoffs six times and have just one playoff series victory to their name since 2012/13.
64-year-old Tortorella has 20 years coaching experience in the NHL, most recently with the Columbus Blue Jackets from 2016 – 2021. His record is a strong one, going 673-541-37 with 12 playoff appearances, including a Stanley Cup championship with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2003/04.
He ranks 14th in NHL history for wins, is a two-time winner of the Jack Adams Award, voted as NHL coach of the year and led the Blue Jackets to a first ever playoff series win, against Tampa Bay in 2019.
During his time with the Blue Jackets, Vancouver Canucks, Lightning and New York Rangers, Tortorella has built a reputation for being a demanding coach and already pre-warned his players of the hard work that is to come.
While the Flyers have some good pieces in place for Tortorella to work with, they lack high-end talent and so the American's first focus will be to help them achieve better than the sum of their parts.
As a believer in defence first and dedication to blocking shots, winning battles and other controllable intangibles, that will suit Tortorella who stated, "Every single player will be tough to play against, and above all, give an honest effort. If they don't, you won't see that player very much."
Last season Philadelphia allowed 3.59 average goals per-game, sixth-most in the NHL, and 34.0 shots on goal per-game, fourth-most. During Tortorella's five full seasons as coach of the Blue Jackets Columbus allowed 2.73 goals per-game, sixth-fewest in the NHL, and 30.6 shots on goal per-game, tied for 12th fewest.
Tortorella has fallen out with several high-profile players during his time in the NHL, including high-scoring forward Patrik Laine who was benched for significant periods before being traded away from the Blue Jackets.
He said of what he expects from his Flyers, including Travis Konecny who led the team in points last season (52; 16 goals, 36 assists), "It needs to be a two-way street…. I'm not going to turn you into a checker, but you've got to show me, and more importantly show your teammates, that you're willing to do some of the other stuff as an offensive guy away from the puck."
An advocate of Tortorella is Cam Atkinson who was second to Konecny for points (50; 23 goals, 27 assists) last season.
He and Tortorella were together for several seasons in Columbus where the now 33-year-old averaged 25.6 goals and 48.3 points during Tortorella's tenure with the Blue Jackets, including 69 points (41 goals, 28 assists), each an NHL career-high, in 2018/19.
The Flyers will enter 2022/23 with mostly the same line-up but a couple of useful additions have been made.
6'1" power forward Nicolas Deslauriers was signed to a four-year contract from free agency and fits Tortorella's mantra for the Flyers to be harder to play against precisely.
In 81 games last season with the Anaheim Ducks and Minnesota Wild the 31-year-old had 13 points (eight goals, five assists) and 113 penalty minutes.
Offensive defenceman Tony DeAngelo was acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes and will help a Flyers powerplay which ranked last in the NHL last season at 16.6 percent.
DeAngelo, like his new coach an often-controversial character, scored 51 points (10 goals, 41 assists) in 64 games for the Hurricanes with 20 (two goals, 18 assists) coming on the powerplay.
With little help in front of him, 24-year-old netminder Carter Hart has struggled to maintain the .917 and .914 save-percentage which he recorded in his first two NHL seasons, dropping to .877 and .905 over the past two years.
A focus on team defence will certainly benefit him, and help to re-build his shattered confidence.
Hart will be partnered by 25-year-old Swede Felix Sandström who was a 2015 round three draft pick of the Flyers and played five games in the NHL last season with a respectable .910 save-percentage.
Philadelphia's bad injury luck has continued with rugged defenceman Ryan Ellis and Captain Sean Couturier set to miss a significant period of the 2022/23 season, if not the entirety of it.
29-year-old Couturier played just 29 games last season before having back surgery. Expected to be recovered in time for the new season, he suffered another setback during training camp herniating a disk.
Ellis, 31, has not played in the NHL since February due to a lower-body injury and in total has appeared just four times for the Flyers since being acquired last summer.
The pair would have been a big part of Tortorella's plans, but really their absence changes little.
Without them wins will be harder to come by, but Tortorella won't allow that to be used as an excuse. How much the Flyers can improve by focussing on their fundamentals in a draconian culture is unclear, but one thing is for certain under Tortorella, they will be much talked about again after far too long in obscurity.