What a weekend for Philadelphia sports. NLCS-tied Phillies, Eagles 6-0 and… undefeated Philadelphia Flyers?
Well, let’s not rush.
The Flyers have been considered the ugly half-sister of Philadelphia Sports for a few years now. The once-feared club characterized by the reputation and success of the Broad Street Bullies of the ’70s, along with years in the Metro Division’s best and myriad playoff appearances from 1994 to 2012, the Flyers have lost their identity and their respect in the league in recent years, especially after hitting rock bottom last season.
“We have no respect in this league. I’m willing to admit that,” head coach John Tortorella told ESPN reporter Emily Kaplan.
Invited with what should be a long road to reset for the club, general manager Chuck Fletcher called it an “aggressive refit” last January, with CEO Dave Scott going so far as to say “we should be there the next year”, in reference to the 2022-23 season (from “Flyers fans have every right to be exasperated by ‘aggressive retooling’ failures”,” AthleticismJuly 14, 2022).
While expectations for this year’s team by Tortorella and most Flyers fans don’t seem to match those of Fletcher and the rest of the brain trust, the 2-0 start to the season was a pleasant surprise that has to the very least gave fans some glimmers of hope for the club going forward.
Form a new identity
Ultimately, while qualifying for the playoffs is still a long way off, the focus this year will be for the Flyers on forming a new identity rooted in an improved locker room culture and developing their youth in the game. part of a new training system.
In their first two games of the regular season, we saw a lot of refinement in the Flyers’ game from last year, but most importantly, we saw them play full 60 minutes in both games.
In their first game of the season and Tortorella’s debut as head coach against the New Jersey Devils, the Devils opened the scoring on the power play eight minutes into the first period with a goal of Alexander Holz. Even with so much hockey to play, fans couldn’t help but groan at what seemed like the start of another abysmal Flyers hockey season.
However, instead of falling behind, the Tortorella club fought back, something we didn’t see much of last year.
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The Flyers responded to the Devils with a four-goal streak, starting with Wade Allison’s wrist just 23 seconds after Holtz’s first-period power-play goal. After Allison, veteran right-winger Travis Konecny scored two, along with a goal from 23-year-old center Morgan Frost. The Devils eventually returned to the board in the third with a goal from Damon Severson to bring them within two, but Frost then added another to the scoresheet for the definitive 5-2 win.
Two days later, the Flyers picked up another win in their home opener against the Vancouver Canucks, even after falling 2-0 in the first period.
Tony DeAngelo, a New Jersey native and lifelong Philadelphia sports fan, picked one up for Philadelphia, as the defender scored his first goal as a Flyer with more than 200 family and friends in the crowd for attend at the time. Center Scott Laughton then tied the game with a shorthanded goal, and in the third period Konecny completed the comeback with the game winner.
After a 2-0 deficit early in the season, the Flyers played more inspired hockey in their second game of the season than they arguably did all of last year.
The Tortorella Effect
So what has changed? According to the players, it’s the embrace of the new culture that Tortorella is creating on and off the ice, something that started in training camp.
Konecny, considered the Flyers’ best offensive player despite a few years of decline, praised the ruthless mentality of Tortorella and the rest of the coaching staff introduced to the team in preseason.
“That’s what they preached all through training camp,” said Konecny. “Everyone has to join to do it, and it’s a tough way to play, but playing the right way will reward you. You’re not going to win every game, but it will keep you in games and this is what you need.
Known for his particularly physically demanding boot camps and workouts, Tortorella explained the method behind his madness.
“Part of the things we do at camp, of course, is physical, but it’s more mental and camaraderie,” he remarked. “I hope it works, you hope it helps, and it looks like if they tell you [the media], they think about it. You have a bit of success early on coming back and finding ways to stay fit as a team, without breaking up, these are really good things to build on when you find yourself in this situation.
The “country club” feel is no longer in the locker room as Cam Atkinson called it. Instead, the Flyers are more motivated than ever. “We have a group of hard working guys and we may not be the nicest team, but if you don’t work hard you don’t play,” says Kevin Hayes. “Everyone works really hard and it starts in training, it starts in camp…it’s tough, but it’s a lot more fun when you win.”
Let the children play
With an improved team culture, thanks to the high standards of work ethic and gameplay enforced by the Tortorella system, in turn, it became a better environment to grow Philadelphia’s abundant youth movement.
Since joining the Flyers, Tortorella has made it clear that giving the Flyers’ youngsters playing time is important to him.
In the first two games alone, we saw big contributions from Frost, Allison, DeAngelo and Ivan Provorov. Owen Tippett was part of the opening night lineup against New Jersey, although he suffered an upper body injury during the game. To take his place, the Flyers called up Jackson Cates for the home opener. After the win over Vancouver, Zack MacEwen and Louie Belpedio were called up, and Felix Sandstrom, 25, was activated off injured reserve to support 24-year-old starting goaltender Carter Hart.
Philadelphia has no shortage of exciting young guys, both at the NHL level and in their farming system. As one of the youngest teams in the league, the average age on their roster is 26.
The combination of Tortorella’s new system, along with the membership of veterans such as Konecny, Hayes and Atkinson, fosters a much better learning environment for the Flyers’ youngsters. Although the organization has a lot to determine in terms of where it will go with so many young players, it is already much better suited to the development of these guys than it was just a few months ago. .
Looking Ahead: A Reality Check
Look, the Flyers aren’t 82-0-0. Even this early in the season, I would say if they finished above .500, it would exceed expectations for this team. As I mentioned, they have a long way to go in terms of retooling.
The silver lining to it all is that this team is in a better place than it was when its season ended last April. While they may not join the ranks of their fellow Philadelphia sports teams in the pursuit of a championship this year, the Flyers have the talent and potential to rebuild their identity as a club, an essential success in the years to come.
With their first straight game of the season on the road this week with games against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday and the Florida Panthers on Wednesday, we’ll have a better idea of what to expect from this Flyers team as they face two teams in contention for the Cup.
Sarah Griffin is from Boston and covers the Philadelphia Flyers for The Hockey Writers. She has a passion for hockey as well as lacrosse and is currently a reporter for the Premier Lacrosse League. His two favorite people in the world are his dog Freddy and Patrice Bergeron.