UPDATE [Friday, 9:30 a.m.] — The Flyers made Tortorella’s hiring official. He is the 23rd coach in franchise history.
“This is a critical moment for our franchise, and [general manager Chuck Fletcher] has made a strong selection in John Tortorella as the next Head Coach of the Philadelphia Flyers,” team governor Dave Scott said in the press release. “John embodies the values of this franchise and city – hard work, grit, and determination – and I’m excited for him to get to work with our team right away.”
The Flyers will hold a Zoom conference at 1 p.m. to introduce Tortorella, per The Athletic’s Charlie O’Connor.
In the meantime, Cam Atkinson, who will be reuniting with Tortorella after their run in Columbus, seems pretty happy about the move.
John Tortorella is the next head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers.
ESPN’s Kevin Weekes broke the hiring Thursday night after reporting on Tuesday that Tortorella had been offered the job. Negotiations on a contract still needed to be completed though, but it appears those talks are now done.
Tortorella has a four-year deal in the range of $4 million per, according to Weekes.
An official announcement from the Flyers is expected Friday.
The soon-to-be 64-year old bench boss will now be tasked with guiding a team that inspired little more than apathy this past season back into the playoff picture.
Tortorella comes in with a reputation as a tough-love coach who has a big emphasis on accountability and discipline. It’s an approach that ultimately has a shelf life yet has thrived with rosters low on star power, but high on younger players trying to find their footing as pros and veterans who are willing to get their hands dirty and grind out shifts.
In other words, the Flyers as they’re currently constructed.
Tortorella coached seven seasons in Tampa Bay, guiding the Lightning to their first Stanley Cup in 2004; six years in New York, where he had the Rangers consistently in the playoff picture; one forgettable season in Vancouver, which was a bad match from the start; and six seasons in Columbus, which saw the Blue Jackets make the playoffs in four of them and finally win their first series via a stunning sweep of Tampa Bay in 2019.
He hasn’t led a team past the second round of the playoffs in a decade though and faces a tall order in bringing the Flyers back into relevance.
The club completely bottomed out in 2021-22, going 25-46-11 through multiple losing streaks, including a 10-game and then a franchise-record 13-game winless drought.
They came into the season expecting to compete but instead ended up with the NHL’s fourth-worst record behind a lineup that was heavy on injuries and often just too slow to keep up with a majority of the league’s better teams.
Alain Vigneault, in his third season, was fired in December along with assistant coach Michel Therrien as a result. Mike Yeo was promoted in the interim, but all he could do was get the team to the finish line in what quickly became a lost cause of a year.
General manager Chuck Fletcher is hoping what has been dubbed an “aggressive retool” — along with the fully healthy returns of players like Sean Couturier, Joel Farabee, Ryan Ellis, and Kevin Hayes — will get the team headed back in the right direction after this summer, but that’s something way easier said than done.
They’re right up against the salary cap and have little wiggle room with a roster that’s become a mismatch of banged-up veterans and youth that has mostly underwhelmed.
The Flyers also became a group that, as the year went on, grew more and more prone to sloppy, lethargic, and flat-out uninspiring play. Their special teams were one of the league’s worst, and their -87 goal differential ranked 29th out of the 32 teams. Only the Arizona Coyotes and Montreal Canadiens, who both finished in the basement at 31 and 32 respectively, played at a greater deficit.
They’re a team in bad need of identity and structure, and the hope is that Tortorella can establish those.
“I think going into next year, we need to find a way to have some more grit, some more jam, more ‘F you’ to our game, on both sides of the puck, in our crease, defending our goalie and in their crease,” forward Cam Atkinson, who will be reuniting with his former Columbus coach, said after the season. “I thought we were a pretty soft team this year in my opinion.”
“We were defending all the time and that is something we have to look at,” Fletcher said last month. “We were not exiting D-zone well enough. There are certainly things we have to look at in terms of our structure and our details. We didn’t have the puck enough and when you defend all the time, bad things happen.”
Tortorella’s name was a common one brought up in the Flyers’ coaching search throughout the past month and a half, along with the likes of Pittsburgh Penguins assistant Mike Vellucci, former Flyer Rick Tocchet, St. Louis Blues assistant Jim Montgomery, and — after he was fired by the New York Islanders — Barry Trotz.
The team reportedly made progress in the past week and narrowed down its list of candidates, with Tortorella and Trotz being two of them, per the Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli.
Then on Tuesday night, Weekes broke that the Flyers had offered Tortorella the job. This after he previously reported Tortorella’s initial interview with the club, while host John Buccigross had been teasing him landing in Philly.
Tortorella, after mutually parting ways with the Blue Jackets at the end of last season, has spent this one working as an in-studio analyst for ESPN.
Trotz, who became the top name on the coaching market after being let go by the Isles and had known interest from several other teams (Winnipeg, Vegas, and Detroit), was believed to be the Flyers’ top choice per Anthony SanFilippo at Crossing Broad and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman (via The Jeff Marek Show) but seems to be looking elsewhere for his next role.
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