John Torchetti makes the rounds, joins a Flyers coaching staff that’s in audition mode

One by one, a sympathetic John Torchetti bounced from player to player.

He looked eager to talk about hockey with his new team.

After all, he had been locked up in his hotel since arriving in Philadelphia last week.

“We caught him at the airport and two hours later he was under COVID protocol,” Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said last Wednesday. “You can’t make this stuff up.

Torchetti, 57, was hired as the Flyers’ new assistant coach last Tuesday. He joins interim head coach Mike Yeo, assistant coach Darryl Williams, goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh and player development coach Nick Schultz to round out the Flyers’ staff for the rest of the season.

Torchetti hit the ice Monday for his first practice. He wasted no time getting to know his new players. Torchetti had many one-on-one conversations with guys before, during and after practice. The team welcomed Torchetti by having him lead post-workout stretches.

“He’s excited,” Yeo said Monday. “The poor guy was like a caged animal in the hotel last week. It was great to get him back. He brings a lot of enthusiasm, he loves the game, he loves teaching, he loves working with the players.”

The Flyers had been understaffed on their coaching staff since Dec. 6, when the club fired head coach Alain Vigneault and assistant coach Michel Therrien. Schultz, 39, has been behind the bench ever since. Torchetti will join the staff behind the bench on Tuesday when the Flyers host the Jets (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

“Some people aren’t interested in two-month opportunities, walk away from their families with no promises,” Fletcher said. “But it took a bit of time. We had just gone through an eight-game-in-13-day streak where you’re literally trying to make sure you have enough time to make the right decision.”

At this point, Flyers coaches are certainly coaching for their job. This season has been well below expectations for the Flyers, so they’ll be in line to name a permanent head coach early in the offseason. A new head coach usually has a say in hiring assistants.

Nothing will be easy — and it hasn’t been — for the current staff given the Flyers are 14-22-8, beleaguered by injuries and eyeing a massive rise in the standings. Yeo tries to win the head coach job (or another one). Williams, a former Vigneault, was hired during the summer. Dillabugh has been with the Flyers since 2015-16. Schultz, who replaced, will likely still have his player development role at the end of this season.

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Torchetti has ties to Fletcher and assistant general manager Brent Flahr. He worked in the Wild organization under Fletcher and Flahr when the two were in Minnesota. Torchetti coached the Wild’s AHL affiliate and also led Fletcher’s 2015-16 Minnesota team to the playoffs in 27 interim games. That season, Fletcher fired Yeo 55 games in his fifth year as Wild head coach.

“John is on a life sentence, he’s a man I’ve worked with before,” Fletcher said. “He’s technically very savvy, he’s running power plays, he’s running PKs, he’s been an interim head coach, he’s coached in the American League, coached in the ECHL, coached in Russia. He’s got it all. I think it’s going to really help Mike and the coaching staff and the players.

“We have a handful of players who are in the NHL right now who maybe wouldn’t normally be there, and so we’re also – in addition to preparing for games and trying to win games – developing. in the NHL, which is not a usual thing and John is excellent in this field. So we appreciate that he came and offered to help us.

Yeo said the Flyers will ask Torchetti to focus on a special teams group and other specific responsibilities once the all-star break begins after Tuesday’s game.

“It’s going to give us the opportunity to start doing a little more individual work with the players, even if it’s skill work on the ice, before or after practice,” said Yeo about adding Torchetti. “Most importantly, doing that one-on-one video with the players. A lot can come out of that. Obviously that involves teaching, but there’s also dialogue and communication with the assistant coaches which I think is crucial for s ensure players’ heads are in the correct space to enter games.”

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