Flyers coaching staff could be bright spot in 2022-23 season – Philly Sports

There’s no doubt that after what can only be described as a difficult period of free agency, many Philadelphia Flyers prospects are left wondering what, if any, silver linings are left for the team. General manager Chuck Fletcher has angered a team that saw its 2021-22 Stanley Cup run come to an end due to a combination of the worst penalty kill percentage (74.6) and the NHL most goals conceded at 3.56 per game.

With no notable names signed in the offseason, at least the team got its new bench boss in John Tortorella. Love him or hate him, he aims to improve the team’s 61-point season.

However, does he have the coaching staff to do the job? And if so, they could be the only bright spot in what could be – at least from a staff perspective – a tougher-than-desired campaign.

Crimes to save the day?

Hired on June 16, 2022, there’s no doubt that Tortorella has some very big shoes to fill. This is the 64-year-old’s fifth head coaching job after he was first appointed to the bench for the 2000-01 season. He is the 23rd head coach of the Flyers and most of the hockey world knows his reputation.

Torts was fined 12 times during his 33-year coaching career and suspended three times. Known for his feisty, badass coaching style, he hasn’t always been engaging with the men he coaches. Some will see that he has a passion for the sport, which could be just what it takes to propel the Flyers from a finishing 29th position. Others might see it as a tyrannical rule that will do more harm than good in the locker room.

He has a desire to make the Flyers a team to play against. Use (not to mention stay healthy) Carter Hart is the key, but he has the desire to play away from the puck. Size matters to Tortorella and it was apparent when watching the guys he wanted in free agency. Using Sean Couturier in the middle is who he desires but at the end of the day he knows it’s a mentality that needs to be changed.

Tortorella is truly a man who will inspire or create fear, but if he’s able to tap into that fire, there could be something for the Flyers on the ice.

Goal Coaching

As the 2021-22 NHL goals-against record holder, Tortorella is focused on hiring a coach to help solve the problem. It’s here that Brad Shaw enters the picture. Make no mistake, this will be a job under pressure. Torts worked with the 58-year-old Shaw when he was in charge of the Columbus Blue Jackets during the 2016-17 to 2020-21 seasons.

So what is his style? A defensive mindset is what he will insist on as associate coach of the Flyers. Philly lacks structure away from the puck and Shaw is great at working with teams to correct that position. In the backend, it is clear that the Flyers lack stability. Shaw will be able to work on the young defense and build his confidence on the ice.

But he can also work on the team’s penalty kill. This will be – and should be – its most critical objective. In his five years with Columbus, he helped the Blue Jackets to an 80.9% penalty and in 2018 he finished in a league-best 85% hat-trick. Considering the Flyers have allowed more power-play goals (102 if you’re counting) over the past two years, there’s no choice but to find someone who can fix that. Shaw could be that guy.

Complete the list

There are a few final additions to the coaching staff that Tortorella can point out heading into the season. Coach’s Assistant Daryl Williams and Kim Dillabugh will always be there and although they are survivors from last season, they bring experience to the team.

Williams was a Alain Vigneault guys, actually his right-hand man when they were with the New York Rangers and the Vancouver Canucks. He was hired in the 2021-22 season and although he wasn’t initially hired to work with the PK, that’s where he found himself. Williams will return to pre-scouting, but he can be counted on to help with Shaw’s shorthanded work.

Dillabaugh, while not a name everyone knows, served as the team’s goaltending coach in the 2015-16 season. He has a better relationship with Carter Hart than most and there’s no doubt his fingerprints can be found on anything with a netminder attached. Dillabaugh has shown he can develop talent in goal for the team, but that also hinges on Hart’s ability to stay healthy.

The last man on the list is Rocky Thompson. His absolutely grand order is to fix Philadelphia’s worst man advantage. He’s young by training standards, 19 years younger than Tortorella. Thompson should oversee the club’s attacking group and power play.

He was with the San Jose Sharks in the 2021-22 season, but was unsuccessful with the Sharks power play at 14.1%. Philly was sitting at 12%, so there’s plenty of room for improvement. Thompson is the final piece of the rounded puzzle and looking at the bench, it’s clear there is hope for Philadelphia.

Key word: hope.

Photo Credit: Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire