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NHL - US Sports: Flyers appoint Tortorella - What to expect

The Philadelphia Flyers have made one of the most intriguing decisions of the NHL off-season appointing the much talked about John Tortorella as their new head coach.

What can the Flyers expect from exciting appointment in the new season?

Flyers seek immediate impact

The Flyers (25-46-11) were one of the most disappointing teams in the NHL last season, finishing last in the Metropolitan Division. Alain Vigneault was fired after an 8-11-4 start to the campaign which included an eight-game losing streak.

The veteran was replaced by assistant Mike Yeo who did little to inspire going 17-36-7 as the Flyers missed the playoffs for a second consecutive season.  

Describing his plan as an "aggressive re-tool" this summer, General Manager Chuck Fletcher made it abundantly clear with the appointment of Tortorella that the Flyers expect a quick return to relevance rather than moving towards a period of re-build.

Philadelphia are +7500 to win the Stanley Cup next season.

Mixed relationships

It's no secret that 63-year-old Tortorella is one of the most demanding coaches of the current era, and patience is often in short supply.

Tasked with bringing back a "winning environment" to the Flyers organisation, Tortorella's 19-year history in the league has proven that he is a polarizing figure, often clashing with media and several of his own players.

Whilst the consensus of his hiring in the Flyers' changing room remains unknown, Tortorella does have a fan in forward Cam Atkinson who played for him whilst with the Columbus Blue Jackets. 

The 33-year-old was one of a few bright spots in a bleak season for the Flyers scoring 50 points (23 goals, 27 assists) in 73 games, and he said he vouched for Tortorella in his end of season exit meeting.

Tortorella has enjoyed the backing of his employers in the majority of public unrest cases. 

His harshest critic Brandon Dubinsky was traded from the Rangers, and when Tortorella later joined him again at the Blue Jackets, the forward was again slowly removed from the line-up and persuaded into retirement.

Tortorella's shortest stint as boss was one season with the Vancouver Canucks, but that is an outlier in the hard-nosed coach's resume. He lasted six years each with the New York Rangers and Blue Jackets and seven seasons behind the bench of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Proven experience

Well known for his controversial opinions and memorable outbursts, Tortorella's public image often overshadows the good work that he has done in the NHL. 

The American most recently coached the Blue Jackets (2015-2021) and became the winningest coach in franchise history (227-166-54). 

In four of his six seasons the Blue Jackets qualified for the playoffs. They only once won a playoff round, but that was a sweep of the top-seeded Lightning in 2019. 

On three occasions Tortorella coached a team into first place of their division, and won the Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2004. 

He is a two-time winner of the Jack Adams award as the NHL's coach of the year, and his 673-541-37 record, ranks highly amongst coaches of his era.

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Work to do

The Flyers need to quickly improve in all areas after finishing the NHL season with the second-fewest goals scored (210), and the sixth-most goals allowed (294). Their powerplay was the worst in the league (12.6%) and they had 26th least successful penalty-kill (75.7%).

In his first press conference Tortorella spoke of instilling a better structure for the Flyers, something he has proven capable of doing in a short period of time. 

In his first season with the Blue Jackets, Tortorella was named coach of the year after putting a system in place which saw the team allow the second-fewest goals in the NHL (195) and score the sixth most (249). 

That balance slowly slid, and by the end of Tortorella's reign the Blue Jackets were known as a somewhat one-dimensional defensive team, but one who still remained in playoff contention year after year.

Case for the defence

Tortorella's teams have generally not been among the most talented in the league, but yet he has made the playoffs in eight of his last 12 seasons as head coach.  

His defence-first model is often a needs-must approach and has a proven track of success.

Tortorella is a coach who will address many of Philadelphia's most glaring on-ice flaws, namely a lack of consistent structure, little on-ice chemistry between players and a lower than required intensity and focus.

The plan seems sensible for the short-term and there is a strong chance he'll make the Flyers better than the sum of their parts and improve their place in the standings next season.

The ceiling isn't a high one though, and GM Fletcher will need to find ways to significantly improve the roster if they want to make some noise in the playoffs once again.

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