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John Tortorella on Flyers: “It’s a place I’ve always wanted to be”

The Philadelphia Flyers have much history against John Tortorella during his lengthy career as an NHL head coach, but now the Orange and Black, and their fanbase will prepare for life with the veteran manager behind their bench.

Tortorella was hired as the Flyers new head coach on Friday, ending a lengthy search for Flyers GM and President Chuck Fletcher and the rest of the front office. A two-time Coach of the Year winner and one-time Stanley Cup winner, Tortorella returns to coaching after one season without a job following his firing in Columbus in 2021.

While Tortorella’s personality from a bird’s eye view might be too much for this group of players to deal with, the hiring remains exciting as the franchise itself aims to get back on its feet after back-to-back seasons without a playoff appearance.

“Let’s first talk about the emblem,” Tortorella said. “As I told Chuck, I look at that emblem. Back in 2004 we were fortunate enough, I was coaching Tampa [Bay Lighting], we went through Philly to win a Stanley Cup, beating Philly in the Conference Finals. I remember telling my wife and I told Chuck this story, ‘Man, that is a place I would love an opportunity to be in and coach.’ The passion of the people, the building, everything about the city. It was really neat for me. I remember one of my first meetings with Chuck when we started this, he wore a shirt with the emblem and I said, ‘That’s where I want to be.’ That’s an opportunity that I have right now as I speak with you.”

“I know Chuck wants to get going here and turn it around,” he added. “I am not going critique anything that’s happened before. I know it’s been a little bit of a struggle. I think Chuck and I spoke the same language on how we get this fixed quickly and it was really intriguing to me. It did nothing but enhance my interest as I went through the process with Chuck and the other guys asking questions about what they want this standard to be. Guys I couldn’t be more excited being a part of the Philadelphia Flyers. It may sound a little silly, but even when I was coaching other teams, I’ve always thought about that city, I’ve always thought about that team. I would hope to have an opportunity along the way.”

Tortorella has ample years of experience in the NHL, serving as head coach of four different teams and making the playoffs in 12 of his 20 seasons in charge. The 63-year-old has worked with several historic franchises, including the New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks, where he managed several top talents in the league.

Tortorella-coached teams have claimed .548% of the available points in regular season, making him a consistent winner during his time in the NHL. His presence in Philadelphia will certainly have fans excited for what’s to come and have players ready to go for when training camp begins this September.

“We were looking for somebody with a lengthy track record of success,” Fletcher said about the search for a new head coach. “We were looking for somebody that had demonstrated ability to introduce structure and reduce goals against, improve penalty killing, make life easier for our goaltenders. We were looking for someone with a proven ability to hold players accountable to a high standard. A standard of conduct on and off the ice, a standard of play, a standard of team orientation, a standard of what you put into your game. We were looking for somebody with a proven ability to develop young players. We were looking for someone with strong communication skills.

“I think deep down, there are a lot of demanding coaches in the NHL, ultimately players will respond if they know you’re demanding, but you’re demanding in a sense that you care about them,” he added. “You want what’s best for them. You’re not being demanding for yourself, but you’re being demanding to make the player better, to make the team better. Nobody personifies that better than John Tortorella. There was a few other attributes in the profile we put together and I know through the interview process, Brent Flahr and Danny Briere joined me in the initial round of interviews. Dean Lombardi joined that group for the second round. We were the people in the room. It was handled internally the interview process and to a man, we all felt John was the guy for the job.”

Now the hard work for the Flyers begins after the team finished with the fourth-worst record in the NHL last season and struggled on both ends of the ice. Longtime captain Claude Giroux is gone, several other players could be on the move before the start of the new season, and new faces could be added into the squad over the next few months.

Cam Atkinson, Carter Hart, Kevin Hayes, and Joel Farabee headline an intriguing mix of players in the roster, while other depth options will be considered for roster spots. The Flyers are still four months away from kicking off the 2022-23 regular season, but Tortorella is remaining optimistic despite watching the team’s struggles from afar over the past three years.

“I don’t make predictions,” Tortorella said. “I’m not going there. I did that early in my career and it just backfired. I’m not going there. You know what I see this as? I see this as I am one fortunate guy that went through the process with Chuck. The Philadelphia Flyers chose me to run that team. I’m going to go in there and run that team that way I think I should. I’m looking to try win games, I’m trying to get our team ready to be the right people, the right pros and play as a team, then we’ll take it one day at a time. I’m not looking ahead; I’m going to focus on an unbelievable opportunity I have to coach with that emblem.”

You can follow Larry Henry on Twitter (@lhenry019) and e-mail him at [email protected].

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