John Tortorella’s reputation, from his fiery outbursts to his badass coaching style, precedes him. However, we recently caught up with the new Flyers coach to see for ourselves what he’s talking about.
During the hour-long chat, Tortorella touched on topics ranging from his views on the modern game to the lessons he’s learned coaching his kids. He shared his impressions of some Flyers players and the locker room as a whole.
Here are some of the highlights of our two-part conversation. (Questions and answers have been shortened for brevity.)
READ MORE: Chuck Fletchers discusses plans for No. 5 draft pick, free agency and provides updates on Ryan Ellis, Sean Couturier and Joel Farabee
Tortorella: For me, it’s a mentality. And, if we’re going to get into the Xs and O’s, the first thing I want to teach the coaching staff is to play away from the puck, play in front of Carter [Hart]. And when we talk about “playing away from her”, it’s not always the defensive zone. It is also the other areas. You just want to try and get the puck to get it, so there’s not as much time spent in your own zone.
And I think when you start teaching that part of the game, a lot of different facets of the game, to the extent that both are difficult, come into play. It’s completing checks, it’s shutting people down, it’s is wall battles, it’s deal with Carter [Hart] in blue paint. … This is where I think you start to create a mentality.
If we don’t do some of the things, in terms of how difficult it is…then the conversations kick in. And like I’ve always said, maybe the conflict kicks in. I want that. … And then we end up getting individuals to not only understand the mentality that we need to have to be a tough team to play against, but you get a camaraderie.
And block the shots, [is] a big part of the game. Everybody crawls on me because so many years ago blocking shots was a really big part of my game. And now you listen to the players talking during the playoffs, it’s is what they are talking about. I know the National Hockey League story is the offensive part of the game. You still have to be able to play away from the puck. You have to be a difficult team to face. And we’re going to attack this part first. And then we will turn to a mentality.
READ MORE: Is John Tortorella a good candidate for the Flyers? Well it’s complicated
I think there is “cheating” and that there is, [the ability to] ‘to anticipate.’ It is a skill of anticipation. Some players don’t. These offensive guys do. …I’ll get out of their way there. Coots [Sean Couturer] plays at both ends of the ice. He’s a little different from Kevin [Hayes]. Kevin will learn that you will have to do that too, away from the puck. And if people start seeing our best players doing that, guys [whose] strength is playing away from the puck, saying, “You know what, they’re joining us.
Everyone thinks that when you talk defense or play away from the puck, you’re trying to turn a scorer into a controller. That’s the last thing I’m going to try to do. But they have to show me that it’s a two-way street. And then I’ll let them go.
Both. Chuck and I have talked about it in terms of free will, trades or whatever. We both talked. I look at Cam Atkinson, a smaller guy, but he agrees. It’s a mentality. And, look, it’s not a league of people hustling. The game is not played that way. It’s a fast and skilled league.
Size is important. It’s exciting for me to see a Kevin Hayes and a Couturier in the middle if they’re healthy. It might change some things. Maybe if they were healthy last year, you and I wouldn’t even talk. … My biggest responsibility is to change the mentality of who we are, to have an identity. And we are working in this direction. And we had discussions about the staff itself.
I watched it in Buffalo. We had many conversations – I had people tell me about him. I can not wait to see him. I hope it rubs off on other people because I think he is very willful [and] very aggressive. And it’s not about fighting or anything like that. It’s just being tough. I can’t wait to train him. And hopefully he can be one of those guys that brings everyone into the fray when it comes to this part of the game.
READ MORE: 2022 NHL Draft: Potential Flyers target Matthew Savoie uses high criticism ‘as motivation’
Yeah, I had such a good chat with him. And very open. I really enjoyed that. I watched him play. And I’ve seen him eat shots, block them. He’s such a competitive guy. I think there is another level in his game. And I want to try to help him get there. And it will be a huge piece. You get a healthy Ryan Ellis and [a] Prove that I think I can take it to another level, it paves the way with your background.
We really didn’t dig too deep. I don’t want information. I want to see him. I want to see him at a National Hockey League camp. I want to see him in a competitive situation. I want to see when I teach, maybe go to a young player one-on-one, [and seeing] how they react. It’s invaluable to me, when it’s me and them. People don’t tell me that.
In a world of caps, this is a very important job of an organization and coaching staff, the development part of it. I can’t wait to do it. I know we’re kinda against it [the cap] a little. Bring it on. I want to develop children. And when I get into programming, I don’t look at the money, what they earn. I don’t look where they were written, [or] what is their status.
This is how you create accountability, you create competition within the team. I don’t care about the name. I care about the player in this position. If he plays better than this guy, he will play. And when you’re a team where you ended up last year, that’s how it’s going to be. We need to shoot this. And there are no presents here.