John Tortorella has interviewed for the Philadelphia Flyers’ coaching job. Other candidates include Barry Trotz, Rick Tocchet, and Kirk Muller.
The Philadelphia Flyers have said they’re happy to take their time in filling their head coaching vacancy. And while general manager Chuck Fletcher doesn’t intend to make his candidate list transparent, John Tortorella confirmed earlier this week that he has interviewed for the job.
After leaving the Columbus Blue Jackets at the end of last season, Tortorella has been working as an analyst on ESPN’s hockey coverage this year. His ESPN colleague, Kevin Weekes, initially broke the news of the interview on Tuesday.
— Kevin Weekes (@KevinWeekes) May 24, 2022
Tortorella then confirmed the report. But as someone who typically dislikes talking about himself, he kept his remarks characteristically brief.
“Very fortunate to have the opportunity. But I will leave it at that”
— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) May 24, 2022
Is Tortorella A Fit?
Tortorella is a veteran bench boss with plenty of name recognition — and the Flyers have never been shy about going after high-profile candidates.
He has coached 1,383 regular-season NHL games with the Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers, Vancouver Canucks and Columbus Blue Jackets. His record is 673-541-37-132, for a .549 career points percentage.
He took the Lightning to their first Stanley Cup in 2004 and also won his first Jack Adams Award as coach of the year that season. He added a second Adams honor in his first full season with Columbus in 2016-17, when he engineered a 32-point improvement in the regular-season standings and ushered in a period of four-straight playoff appearances.
In 2019, Tortorella was behind the bench for the Blue Jackets’ first and only playoff series win in their history — their stunning sweep of the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning.
Tortorella is known as an old-school taskmaster who doesn’t shy away from holding his players accountable. That can sometimes lead to resentment, but many players appreciate his no-nonsense approach.
That list includes Flyers winger Cam Atkinson, a sixth-round draft pick who evolved into a scoring star during his six seasons with Tortorella in Columbus.
“I think it all starts with practice — you practice how you play,” Atkinson said at his season-ending media availability. “Especially when I turned pro, I learned that from John Tortorella. He was great in that aspect.”
Atkinson lamented how the condensed schedule in the first half of last season limited the amount of practice time the Flyers could carve out. He also wants to see the team play with more bite.
“I think going into next year, we need to find a way to have some more grit, some more jam, more ‘F-you’ to our game, on both sides of the puck, in our crease, defending our goalie and in their crease,” he said. “I thought we were a pretty soft team this year in my opinion.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean fighting, he added.
“I don’t have a single NHL fight but I score a lot of my goals in the hard
areas,” Atkinson said. “I go back to when we played Chicago at home (a 4-3 win on March 5). It felt like a playoff game because we were sticking up for each other, getting into scrums, protecting our goalie and getting in front of their goalie.
“It’s as simple as that. It shows your teammates that you’re going to stick up for each other. You can feel the excitement, too — not only on the bench but in
the arena. Something like that really brings a team together.”
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The Trotz Case
Barry Trotz is another name that has been linked to the Flyers. Reports that he was set to interview with the team last week did not come to pass. And while Jeff Marek declared on ‘32 Thoughts‘ last Saturday that Trotz would interview with Philadelphia this week, there have been no further updates as of Thursday afternoon.
We do know that Trotz has interviewed with the Winnipeg Jets in his home province of Manitoba. And while some reports suggested a deal there was all-but-done, there has not yet been an announcement.
With his impressive resume and track record of success, Trotz has options. And with his 60th birthday on the horizon in July, it would make sense that he’d be looking for a situation that will set him up for the long term — possibly including a promise that he can eventually move into management.
It’s believed that the Flyers would be as competitive as any suitor when it comes to a compensation package for a coach as highly regarded as Trotz. But it remains unclear whether they’d be willing to make a commitment to eventually putting him into a management position. And while fixing the Flyers could be a project that a coach might relish, Trotz may see a better path back to winning in another organization.
Trotz may have good reason to take his time, but Fletcher can’t wait forever.
When he announced the dismissal of interim head coach Mike Yeo in early May, Fletcher said that the Flyers would be interested in keeping Yeo in the organization in some capacity, but would need to “see how things go over the next five, six weeks.”
While Fletcher wanted to cast a wide net while looking for his next bench boss, that sounds like he wants to have his new coaching staff in place no later than mid-June.
And that makes sense. It would give the organization a few weeks to strategize on player personnel decisions before the most important window of the season. This year, the draft will be held on July 7-8 and free agency is set to open on July 13.
A couple of other candidates have also generated some buzz. Flyers Hall of Famer Rick Tocchet is currently working as a broadcast analyst with TNT. As Philadelphia’s all-time leader in penalty minutes, he carries bucketloads of goodwill with the fanbase.
First-year Calgary Flames associate coach Kirk Muller is also looking for a head-coaching gig. A veteran of 1,349 NHL games who won a Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens in 1993, Muller spent three seasons as head coach with the Carolina Hurricanes, but failed to get his team into the playoffs. He has also done two tours of duty with Montreal in assistant and associate roles, and spent two years as an assistant with the St. Louis Blues.
Before he signed on with Calgary last summer, Muller’s name was in the mix for a number of head-coaching vacancies. On the ‘32 Thoughts‘ podcast this Wednesday, Elliotte Friedman linked Muller to the current openings in both Philadelphia and Winnipeg.
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