Should Flyers fans be excited about John Tortorella?


Considering his seemingly-always-simmering feistiness, you could argue it was only a matter of time before John Tortorella became head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers. In a way, it almost seems too obvious.

But is it actually a good idea? From a blogging/grab the popcorn perspective, it’s great. The Flyers’ history cements the idea that what’s good for bloggers can be quite the opposite for the team.

There are a lot of layers to peel back.

Before we dive in, let’s roll out a confession. It’s tough to judge any NHL head coach. As a spurned journalist would say to Rangers-era John Tortorella, you’re sometimes forced to speculate.

Myths, ‘culture’ and more: one can only guess if Torts’ approach works with players

How successful has John Tortorella been as a head coach?

Much like Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher, you can at least tip your cap to Torts for finding ways to land and keep jobs. With 1,383 regular-season NHL games coached, John Tortorella ranks 13th all-time. He’s three games behind Mike Keenan for 12th in NHL history. Amusingly, two other recent Flyers head coaches (Alain Vigneault and Peter Laviolette) are right there behind him.

Does John Tortorella really worthy of a fifth shot as an NHL head coach? That hinges on how you gauge a coach.

One camp might view Torts as someone who gets the most out of his teams. In a great recent piece for The Athletic, Charlie O’Connor noted that John Tortorella found ways to keep limited Rangers and Blue Jackets rosters competitive at 5-on-5.

Yet, you can also run into a chicken-and-the-egg problem here.

What if the coach of that underdog team plays some role in that team being underdogs in the first place?

That’s one key area where things get murky. If your coach runs stars out of town, does he deserve credit for getting more from less? Naturally, Torts had an answer for that.

“To me, it’s a myth,” Tortorella said. “I feel very confident if you talk to some of the players that people think I ran out, I’m very confident you’d have an interesting answer to your question.”

It sure seems like actions will speak louder than words.

[Looking back at Torts benching Pierre-Luc Dubois and Patrik Laine]

Sure, players from Pierre-Luc Dubois to Sergei Bobrovsky noted their “appreciation” for Tortorella’s “honesty.”

(Even with those comments, it carries the vibes of Bill Burr’s bit about people struggling to find anything nice to say about an angry person beyond “they sure paid their bills on time.”)

And, yes, the Flyers have at least one strong Tortorella proponent in Cam Atkinson.

While former Torts player Brandon Dubinsky ranked among the few to vocally share their disdain.

All due respect to a still-effective Cam Atkinson, but the key will be if Tortorella ends up being a talent repellent. That could happen through trades and free agency.

One can blame Columbus as a market for the exodus of big-name Blue Jackets players. Yet, at a gut level, is there a sense that Torts’ presence didn’t help? Philly ultimately has to hope that it’s indeed a “myth.”

Look at their roster, and ask yourself: how many players stand out as likely “Torts guys?”

At a glance, it seems like there might not be that many. That’s especially true in the uncomfortably plausible scenario where a hard-working, quality defenseman like Ryan Ellis may not be healthy for some time. For every Sean Couturier who could at least plausibly appeal to Tortorella, there are worries that other Flyers players might not get optimized. It’s hard to shake the impression that the Flyers will ignore my advice not to trade Travis (Sanheim or Konecny), for instance.

Pandering with the usual ‘bully’ bluster

Depending upon your preferences, John Tortorella’s press conference was heavy on the sort of stuff you lap up, or you might find yourself rolling your eyes.

Yes, the Flyers organization is obsessed with bringing back more of its “Broad Street Bullies” image. This quote still made me chuckle, though, personally.

“Bottom line is, I want the team to be hard,” Tortorella said. “I think we need to present ourselves, look harder coming off the bus, coming into buildings. I want other teams to say, ‘You know what, we’ve got our hands full tonight.'”

Oh dear.

Better structure is the most promising thing Torts may bring to Flyers

Yet, elsewhere in his press conference, Torts evoked some of his evolution as a head coach. In particular, Tortorella spoke about instilling a structure for the Flyers.

There’s evidence that Torts can, indeed, pull that off. Broadly, John Tortorella did some of his best work early on with the Blue Jackets.

That included a 2016-17 season when he won the Jack Adams. Ponder these Hockey Viz heat charts to get an idea of his strong work. Or, consider that the Blue Jackets ranked sixth in goals for that season (249) and allowed the second-fewest (195).

Now, eventually things dried up. That balance slid until the Blue Jackets were a fairly one-dimensional defensive team hoping for big goalie performances. By the end, not a whole lot went right.

In the grand scheme of things, the Flyers want to get back on track. Combine better health luck and even a temporary boost from a coaching change, and maybe they’re at least a playoff bubble team.

Playing the hits?

Candidly, it would be refreshing if the Flyers pushed harder to try to parallel the innovations of a team like the Avalanche.

Instead, it feels like Chuck Fletcher and the Flyers organization is, in some ways, chasing the past. Consider Vigneault’s former coaching staff, with included other retreads in Mike Yeo and Michel Therrien.

Even the pattern of the Flyers hiring Torts feels a bit like a rehash. The Rangers, Canucks, and now Flyers have all brought in both Vigneault and Tortorella over the years. It’s tough to shake the feeling that we’re watching warmed-over sequels with diminishing returns.

If they were thinking bigger, maybe you’d truly embrace a rebuild, and hope you catch fire like the Rangers. This approach seems more likely to compare to Fletcher’s Wild run, where the team settled for the middle.

But, hey, you know what? Sequels tend to make money. Maybe John Tortorella will get the Flyers to Fly Harder, and that will be enough. We’ve seen worse movies before.

Blue Jackets’ Patrik Laine out 2-4 weeks with triceps injury

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus Blue Jackets forward Patrik Laine is out 2-4 weeks after straining a triceps muscle in practice, yet another blow to the last-place team in the NHL that has been hampered by injuries all season.

The Blue Jackets announced Laine’s absence before their home game against the New York Islanders.

They already have 454 man-games lost to injury, one of the highest numbers in the league, and have a record of 22-41-7.

Laine missed two separate stints with elbow and ankle injuries in the fall. The 24-year-old Finn is the team’s second-leading scorer with 52 points in 55 games.

Columbus has been top defenseman Zach Werenski since November because of a torn labrum and separated shoulder. Forward Sean Kuraly recently went on injured reserve with a strained left oblique muscle but is set to return Friday.

Tortorella earns 700th career win, Flyers top Wild 5-4

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PHILADELPHIA — John Tortorella needed one word to sum up if 700 career wins meant anything to the Flyers coach.


OK, then. Good thing the brusque Stanley Cup winner isn’t paid by the word.

James van Riemsdyk scored the only goal in a shootout, and Philadelphia beat the Minnesota Wild 5-4 on Thursday night for Tortorella’s 700th victory.

Tortorella is 700-573-181 in 1,454 games as an NHL head coach. His 700 wins rank 12th in NHL history and his career games rank ninth in NHL history. He led Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup in 2004. In his first season coaching the Flyers, Tortorella joined Peter Laviolette as the second American-born coach to win 700 games.

“I think the culture’s kind of changed around here,” Flyers forward Joel Farabee said. “I think he’s done a really good job of keeping the group together.”

Farabee, Scott Laughton, Rasmus Ristolainen and Tyson Foerster scored for Philadelphia. The Flyers have two straight games for the first time since Jan. 9-14 when they won three straight. Yeah, it’s been that kind of season.

“Farabee’s starting to pop, he’s looking real good. Tyson is looking real good,” Flyers defenseman Tony DeAngelo said. “This is all about laying the foundation for next year but we get a lot of money to do this job. It’s something we love, so we’re gonna go out and give it our best every night.”

Matt Boldy had two goals for the Wild, and Oskar Sundqvist and Marcus Foligno also scored.

“We weren’t very good. They were good,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “We knew they were playing well, they played well tonight. We were loose. We were not firm, turnovers, it didn’t look like our hockey club.”

The Flyers and Wild were tied 1-all at the end of the first period, 3-3 at the end of the second and 4-4 headed into OT.

The rebuilding Flyers have been plucky of late. They had won two of three coming into the game, with the lone loss in overtime. They showed some of that grit in the final two periods, scoring late tying goals.

“It’s a credit to their group, to their coaching staff, that they’ve got them playing the right way,” Evason said.

Boldy poked a backhander past Carter Hart with 6:28 left for a 4-3 lead. The Flyers, playing more for the No. 1 pick and for pride, tied the game on Foerster’s second goal of the season.

Farabee tipped in Cam York’s shot early in the second for a 2-1 lead.

The Wild got going when Boldy ripped one top shelf past Hart for his 24th goal of the season that tied the game 2-all. Foligno scored his seventh goal for the 3-2 lead.

Ristolainen buried a hard slapper from the blue line on the power play for the tying goal with 23 seconds left in the second.

“I think it’s good to try to lay this foundation, kind of get ready for next year. You see guys getting confidence,” DeAngelo said.

The Flyers only played ahead in the first period.

Laughton scored off the rush for his 17th goal of the season and a 1-0 lead. Sundqvist celebrated his birthday with a deflection for the tying goal with 3:24 left in the period.

The Flyers had been one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NHL until the start of this seven-game homestand (3-2 so far). They have scored at least three goals in every game and at least four in the last four.

“We have definitely gotten to the net better,” Tortorella said. “We have spent a lot of time on the ice and with tape as far as getting to that area.”


Wild: Host Chicago on Saturday.

Flyers: Host Detroit on Saturday.

Crosby reaches 30-goal mark, Penguins knock off Avalanche 5-2

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DENVER – Sidney Crosby wasn’t even aware of reaching yet another milestone. He’s simply locked in on helping the Pittsburgh Penguins make a 17th straight postseason appearance.

Jeff Carter had a pair of goals, Crosby scored on a nifty backhand shot in the second period to reach the 30-goal mark for an 11th season and the Penguins beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2.

Crosby moved into a tie with Hall-of-Fame center Mario Lemieux for the most 30-goal seasons in Penguins history. Another milestone reached – it came as news to him.

“I think the most important thing for me is just try to be consistent and if that reflects that great,” said Crosby, who turns 36 in August.

Even more, Crosby’s the first player in league history to post a 30-goal campaign at 18 years old and again when he was 35-plus, according to NHL Stats.

“It means I’ve been in the league for a while,” Crosby cracked. “That’s been the thing that’s driven me since since I got into the league – in your first year, you want to prove that you belong. Even at 35, I still think you want to prove you belong, because it is a younger league.”

Jake Guentzel also scored and Bryan Rust added an empty-net goal for the Penguins, who snapped a four-game slide and moved back into a wild-card spot in the East.

“It’s definitely a big one for us, for sure,” Guentzel said. “Defending champs, coming to their building, you know how good they are. Top to bottom, we defended hard and that’s what we have to do at this time of the year.”

Pittsburgh goaltender Tristan Jarry stopped 28 shots in improving to 11-4 this season against teams from the Western Conference.

J.T. Compher and Devon Toews had goals for the Avalanche, whose six-game winning streak was halted. Nathan MacKinnon had an assist to extend his home points streak to 18 games.

It was a missed opportunity for Colorado, which could’ve pulled into a three-way tie with Dallas and Minnesota in the Central Division with a victory.

“We knew they were going to play with urgency,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “But I didn’t feel like there was any reason why we couldn’t, either. … We didn’t get it done. Hopefully we get another one.”

Alexandar Georgiev made 40 saves, including several critical ones in a second period controlled by the Penguins, who outshot the Avalanche by a 21-9 margin. It could’ve been more than a 3-1 deficit heading into the third period.

Toews’ power-play goal made it 3-2 with 9:32 remaining. But Carter wrapped up the win with his first multigoal game in the regular season since Jan. 11, 2022.

“I’m thrilled for him. We’re all thrilled,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said of Carter. “He cares about the Penguins. He wants to win, and he wants to contribute in helping us win so we couldn’t be happier for him.”


Bednar was appreciative of the three-year extension he signed Tuesday that goes through the 2026-27 season. In his seventh season, he’s the third-longest tenured coach in the NHL behind Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper (March 2013) and Sullivan (December 2015).

“It’s not a forgiving league or sport, for the most part, but obviously that’s part of the reason why I’m so grateful and thankful,” Bednar said. “Because there were times over my tenure that got a little hairy and management could have made another decision. But obviously they didn’t.”


Avalanche D Cale Makar missed a second straight game with a lower body injury. “I still have him as day-to-day,” Bednar said. … F Darren Helm returned after missing 64 of 69 games this season with a lower-body injury. … Penguins D Jeff Petry (upper body) skated in the morning but sat out his third straight game. … The Penguins are 11-1 against the Central Division this season. … Penguins standout Evgeni Malkin assisted on Guentzel’s goal to reach the 50-assist mark for a seventh time in his career.


Penguins: At Dallas on Thursday night.

Avalanche: Host Arizona on Friday night.

Report: Blackhawks will not wear Pride-themed jerseys

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CHICAGO – The Chicago Blackhawks will not wear Pride-themed warmup jerseys before Sunday’s Pride Night game against Vancouver because of security concerns involving a Russian law that expands restrictions on activities seen as promoting LGBTQ rights in the country.

The decision was made by the NHL organization following discussions with security officials within and outside the franchise, according to a person familiar with the situation who spoke to the AP on Wednesday on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the move.

The Blackhawks have worn Pride warmup jerseys previously and donned special warmup jerseys on some other themed nights this season. There had been ongoing conversations about a Pride jersey with the players, according to the person who talked to the AP, but the organization made the decision to hold Pride Night without the jerseys this year.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law in December that significantly expands restrictions on activities seen as promoting LGBTQ rights in the country. Chicago defenseman Nikita Zaitsev is a Moscow native, and there are other players with family in Russia or other connections to the country.

The decision by the Blackhawks comes after San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer and Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov refused to take part in warmups with Pride-themed jerseys. The New York Rangers opted not to wear Pride jerseys or use Pride stick tape as part of their night in January despite previously advertising that plan.

Russians Nikolai Knyzhov and Alexander Barabanov wore the Pride-themed jerseys for the Sharks on Saturday.

While Chicago will go without Pride warmup jerseys this year, the team has planned a variety of activities in conjunction with Sunday’s game. DJs from the LGBTQ community will play before the game and during an intermission, and the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus also is slated to perform. There also are plans to highlight a couple of area businesses with ties to the LGBTQ community.