The Philadelphia Flyers have admitted that they are in a much-needed rebuild.
The cards have been on the table long before this past year. It has been clear that change was needed in the organization and the team needed to start fresh.
They have done that and plenty more early in the off-season. Their culture change dates back even further to when the team hired John Tortorella last summer. He was brought in as the Flyers believed they needed to shift the way that others perceived them.
They wanted to be harder to play against and have teams fear them when they entered the building.
“Bottom line, I want the team to be harder. I think we need to present ourselves, look harder, coming off the bus, coming into buildings,” Tortorella said during his introductory press conference in July 2022. “I want other teams to say, you know what, we've got our hands full tonight.”
Tortorella was well aware of the reported problems going on in the Flyers locker room.
He was the first step in turning the team around. One of the biggest pieces involved giving the team’s younger players a chance to show if they could be a part of the future or not.
The Flyers needed to know what they had in their prospect pool and who could or couldn’t make it moving forward.
That was one of the biggest things Tortorella talked about before the season began. He was going to play “the kids” and get to know what he had.
The Flyers have a lot of younger players both on their NHL roster and in their system that still have question marks around them.
Philadelphia entered the season with 11 players on its opening night roster that were 25 years old or younger.
“We need to get a good foundation of what our kids are. So they're gonna get every opportunity,” Tortorella said during training camp in September. “I'm not gonna be afraid to put them into situations that'll maybe bump another guy out that thought he was gonna be there. I think it needs to be a little bit of merit here as far as where everybody stands"
Seven players ended up playing rather large roles for the Flyers during the season. Travis Konecny, who turned 26 in March, had the biggest impact out of everyone.
After an early-season benching, he found ways to improve himself and learned how to add penalty killing to his game, something he’d never done before. His six shorthanded points were second on the Flyers, one behind Scott Laughton.
Philadelphia was fifth in the league with 11 shorthanded goals. Konecny had a career year, breaking the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career. Konecny was one of numerous players that Tortorella trusted.
Noah Cates is another perfect example of a young player growing over the course of the year.
As one of only three players to play in all 82 games, Cates became a well-respected player in the league, earning both Selke and Calder votes. He proved himself as a shutdown defender, with an xGA/60 at 2.51, not far off of what Patrice Bergeron, the player who won the Selke, had (2.06).
Among the 10 rookies who played the same amount of minutes, Cates was second in that stat, just behind Matty Beniers of the Seattle Kraken. Cates was on the ice for a total of 39 goals against in his over 1,000 minutes of ice time at 5-on-5.
Carter Hart was voted MVP when awards were handed out during the Flyers’ final home game. In fact, Hart would go on to receive three of the team’s six awards that night.
He set career highs in games started/games played, saves, and shutouts. He’s been a large reason why the Flyers haven’t completely bottomed out.
Morgan Frost, a player who may have been running out of time, took a huge step forward and spent the entire season in the NHL. He played more games this past season (81 games) than his last three combined (77 games).
He showed more consistency toward the end of the season and was improving in more than just his offensive game. While Tortorella never shied away from criticism of him, by the end of the year he was talking about how much improvement Frost made over the season
That was the thing for Tortorella. He never blasted any of his players in the media or elsewhere.
Everything stayed inside the room no matter what happened. If he took a player out or benched them for any period of time, he would never air their personal conversations out. For a coach that is known to have a fiery personality, it was a very different approach to what we have seen in the past.
That’s not to say that Tortorella stayed absolutely quiet about players.
Looking at two more younger players, Wade Allison and Tanner Laczynski, Tortorella often talked about each being injured too often to be able to gauge what they can be. Or how their play wasn’t up to the standard he was looking for, with Laczynski often being the one who was scratched due to him not showing enough to warrant playing time.
Even with the criticisms, they weren’t done in a way to embarrass players. They were done to help them grow and learn how to be effective NHL players.
Laczynski admitted at the end of the season that he can use those comments to fuel him and show Tortorella that he belongs.
Allison took in Tortorella’s words about his play and spoke of wanting to do whatever the team needed. He added how much he enjoyed playing for Tortorella and how they would talk about what he needed to do to improve his game.
Tortorella defended this team nonstop and never once lied about where they were going. He was very open and honest, being the first one to talk about how things were going to take some time to change in the organization.
It was a breath of fresh air to hear and the first bit of open communication that the organization had shown.
The changes this summer have shown the Flyers continued acceptance of where the franchise is.
But it was the hiring of John Tortorella and his impact, especially on the younger players, that has things looking a lot brighter in Philadelphia than they did before.