It’s been quite an eventful offseason for the Philadelphia Flyers, but not necessarily in a good way.
Despite the promise of an “aggressive retool” from general manager Chuck Fletcher last winter, the Flyers essentially opted to bring back much of last year’s roster. James van Riemsdyk is back, Rasmus Ristolainen is back, Kevin Connauton is back, Nick Seeler is back. Even Justin Braun, who the team shipped to the New York Rangers at the trade deadline, is back.
The Flyers did make some additions this offseason, though none of them exactly move the needle much, if at all. Defenseman Tony DeAngelo was acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes during the draft, and while his scoring numbers may raise some eyebrows, he is far from an ideal fit in a new defensive scheme that’s expected to be more structured than in years past (not to mention off-ice issues to consider).
Nic Deslauriers is also here, but he is known more for his toughness than his skill. In 506 games as an NHLer, Deslauriers has posted 521 penalty minutes and just 85 points (44 goals, 41 assists).
Perhaps the Flyers’ biggest addition of the offseason is none other than their new head coach. John Tortorella has a lengthy track record of success, and he’s one of the very best head coaches in recent NHL history. He’s a Stanley Cup winner, a two-time Jack Adams Award winner and, until last season, was the winningest American-born head coach in NHL history. Tortorella knows how to win, and win often.
However, it appears he’s not exactly thrilled with what he’s seen from his players since being named the 23rd head coach in Flyers history.
While speaking with Sirius XM NHL Network Radio on Wednesday, Tortorella expressed serious discontent with the Flyers’ culture in the locker room, and with franchise icon and former captain Claude Giroux now playing for the Ottawa Senators, Tortorella made it vehemently clear that he’s in no rush to name a new captain.
“As far as the room, I have major concerns about the room,” said Tortorella.
“I’ve spent the summer going back and forth — I live in New York and I go back and forth to Philly trying to relocate there, but spent some time in the office talking to players, talking to personnel, talking to Chuck (Fletcher), all the front office, and I have major concerns about what goes on in there. Before we even step onto the ice, situations and standards and accountability in the room is forefront, and you can’t get squat done on the ice until you get your room straightened out, and I think we have a little bit of work to do there.”
The culture within the Flyers’ locker room has been a known issue for several years running, but with Giroux no longer in the fold, so too is the glue that held the room together.
While concerns abound, there are still several key voices in the locker room keeping the ducks in a row — Sean Couturier, Cam Atkinson, Scott Laughton and Kevin Hayes immediately come to mind. But accountability concerns are not new for the Flyers. Tortorella even admitted as much in his earliest days as Flyers head coach.
“I can sense that the locker room’s a bit splintered. It’s not together,” Tortorella told NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Taryn Hatcher in June. “That’s my No. 1 goal right now is, we can’t do anything right on the ice unless we’re together in that locker room, and that’s a very important part of the first piece of work I need to do is to get everybody to believe that we’re together. It’s a team sport. I think it’s a bit splintered, and it’s my gut feeling as I’ve gone through the process here.”
It may not be realistic to expect things to magically improve following the departure of Giroux. But Tortorella has united locker rooms before, and it’s not unreasonable to think he’ll be able to do the same thing in Philadelphia.
He certainly has his work cut out for him, though.