Patience, ‘too God damn sensitive,' more in takeaways on Tortorella, Briere


VOORHEES, N.J. — As the NHL playoffs started Monday, the Flyers were discussing important tasks to the organization's restart.

In various ways, the franchise is facing decisions that qualify as a restart.

The Flyers have a new head of ownership in Dan Hilferty, who is continuing to get acclimated. They need to hire a president of hockey operations. And they need to name their full-time general manager, a position that sure appears to be in the grip of Danny Briere's hands.

Oh, and the players. The most important aspect of the Flyers' revival. Plenty to be done there, too.

John Tortorella, the veteran bench boss steering the ship, met with Hilferty and Briere on Monday at Flyers Training Center.

In March, Tortorella didn't sugarcoat his thoughts on what he felt was next for the Flyers' on-ice process.


"These are discussions that we're beginning to have," the head coach reiterated Monday.

"I don't want you to think this is ... 'holy crap.' This happens to all teams that are trying to get better. I think sometimes teams get the order backwards. They try to add people before there's subtraction. That's when you're spinning the wheels, that's when you spin in the mud."

Tortorella and Briere held separate end-of-the-season press conferences Monday, discussing all topics related to what's ahead for the franchise's rebuild.

Here are our five takeaways:

1. Talkin' timelines

Briere doesn't know when the Flyers would like to bring in a president of hockey ops.

"That's not up to me," the interim GM said.

The Flyers do have some time with their decision. The NHL entry draft is June 28-29 and free agency opens July 1 at noon ET.

But it's definitely their first order of business. The hire should start the process of the Flyers getting situated upstairs before they hit on significant decisions downstairs this summer.

When Briere took over for general manager Chuck Fletcher, who was fired March 10, the beloved former Flyer didn't shy away from talk of a rebuild.

Continuing to develop a young foundation and supplementing it through the draft are paramount in the eyes of Briere.

"We might need a little bit of patience from the fans in that regard," he said. "It might be some growing pains to go through, but when you look at how some of our young players got better this year, I think that was really impressive. And exciting for the future."

The Flyers went 31-38-13 in Year 1 of the Tortorella era. They missed the playoffs for a third straight year, the first time doing so since 1989-90 to 1993-94, when they went five straight seasons without a postseason berth.

From the outset, the Flyers' 2022-23 season had been viewed as a major transitional year.

Briere, only 45 years old and getting his first crack at this, has no reason to pin himself into a corner by predicting how many years it could take for when the Flyers are contending again.

"I don't have a number. I really don't know," he said. "We got excited at the end of the season because we're playing better, we're winning games, our young guys are playing better and better. But what happens next year if we come back and there's a regression there? And we've seen it many times over. So I want to be careful. I don't know exactly where we're at in the process. I wish I could give you a timeline, but I'd be lying to you. I don't know if it's two years or five years or eight years, I really don't know at this point."

It's a positive that the Flyers aren't dancing around the reality of their situation. But the actions will speak louder than words. The vision has to be there with follow-through.

After all, the fan base has heard a lot over the last three seasons, even the last decade-plus, but hasn't seen much to instill hope.

2. 'Way too God damn sensitive'

For Tortorella, an overwhelming topic of discussion Monday was accountability.

He feels the Flyers still need work there, an area he finds to be a pillar to developing a winner.

"It's a great word. But holding people accountable, you find out about people," Tortorella said. "And I have found out about people as far as people that simply don't know what the word means. And I'm talking about players. Some players just don't want to be held accountable or just can't handle it. That's building a standard."

What Tortorella liked about his team this season was its effort. He highlighted that throughout the year, that he seldom had an issue with it.

"I don't care what you call us, what you say what our year was — one of the biggest points was how hard we play," he said. "I think that's the starting ground of building a standard. There weren't many nights we didn't play hard. So I'm really encouraged with that."

But it sounds like the Flyers still have a ton of work to do with the player-coach relationship. That will continue to be Tortorella's biggest challenge — getting players to keep buying in through hard coaching and all kinds of teaching.

Patience will be required not just within the fan base.

"We have a ways to go there," Tortorella said. "I think we're way too God damn sensitive out here about that, about simply coaching. ... That's something that we're going to have to really grow at."

The head coach definitely has an old-school way of doing things. Conflict creating a culture. Building relationships through some confrontation. He has done it that way for 20-plus years and it produced a Stanley Cup winner with the 2003-04 Lightning.

Tortorella hopes his honest coaching is not taken as a personal attack. If it's not, he believes something special can be formed.

"There isn't a clause in my contract that says I can't coach a damn player and I can't hold him accountable," he said.

"I feel I know how to coach this hockey club. When the people above me feel that I've missed the mark, they'll let me know, right? They let you know; that's a coach's job."

3. Play the kids, not the market

In late February, ahead of the March 3 trade deadline, Fletcher said the Flyers were looking for two more kids to push their way onto the roster next season.

Does Tortorella see it that way?

"There's going to be competition," he said. "There are some veteran guys that I'm hoping kids take their spot."

The Flyers are already decently young up front. If Sean Couturier (back) and Cam Atkinson (neck) come back healthy, as expected, and depending on what subtractions are made this offseason, the Flyers may have a couple of jobs up for grabs at the forward position.

But Tortorella believes they can get younger on the back end.

"I think we're going to have healthy competition in all spots," he said. "I think you look at our forward position, I think some kids have progressed nicely there as far as our youth. I think the next spot is defense. I'd like to see some youth come into there and push some people. Because there are no locks. Not judged on the overall play of all those players on our back end; there are no locks there.

"So I'm hoping some kids come in here. Certainly not going to be given. I'm certainly not going to disrespect the veteran guys and want to get them out of there, but everybody's going to have to earn their spot."

Both Briere and Tortorella said the Flyers will have an opportunity to add in free agency. Time will tell what type of player they can pursue. But it's clear there will be a continued emphasis on playing younger players and developing what they have in-house.

Briere noted how the Flyers have depth on the right wing but not as much on the left wing.

"There's going to be some changes," Briere said. "We're really strong on the right side obviously, everybody knows that. With Cam Atkinson coming back and the emergence of many of our right wingers, the right side, that's the really strong side. Coots coming back in the middle, how [Noah] Cates has played obviously helps us down the middle.

"Looking quickly at it, yeah, on the left side, we might need some help there. But we're not looking to go out and sign a big-time free agent with lots of term on a contract at the moment. We want to give our young players the opportunity to develop and we want to see what we have before kind of blocking the young guys."

The Flyers will have a really good opportunity to add to their prospect pool in the June entry draft. Briere called the Flyers' 2023 first-round selection "a critical pick for the organization moving forward."

The club is slotted at No. 7 in the NHL draft lottery odds. It'll have a 6.5 percent chance at the top overall pick. It can fall no lower than the ninth overall pick. The lottery will be held May 8 at 7 p.m. ET.

"We're fortunate it's a good year," Briere said of the draft crop. "We have quite a few picks and we have a high one.

"As far as what we're going to do there, it's way too early. We're going to look, we're going to inquire to see what we can do. But the most likely is we're going to keep our pick and pick in the slot we're going to end up with."

4. Hayes, Provorov and DeAngelo

Part of any rebuild is not only get younger, but also gathering assets and freeing up cap space by understanding which players may not fit your timeline for contention.

Kevin Hayes is the Flyers' highest-paid forward and Ivan Provorov the highest-paid defenseman.

Hayes is an All-Star and a well-liked leader in the locker room. He turns 31 years old next month and has three years left on seven-year, $50 million deal ($7.14 million annual cap hit). Last Friday, he said he "picked up the message that was sent months ago" about whether he's wanted in the Flyers' rebuilding direction.

Provorov is the team's most relied upon blueliner, but there has been growing speculation about his future in Philly over the last three seasons. He's 26 years old and has two years left on a six-year, $40.5 million contract ($6.75 million cap hit).

"First of all, they're two great players, guys that have played well, have had great careers up to this point," Briere said. "We'll see what happens. I think it's a little too early to jump to conclusions.

"In Kevin's case, I know I saw the report that he doesn't know where he stands. We can't forget that Kevin is a 6-foot-5 centerman that can put up a lot of points. They're not easy to find. There are lots of teams that would love to have players like him. He's got a lot of value.

"I know at times it might've not been the way he wanted the season to go, but we can't forget that he's still a really good player. We'll figure what needs to be done with Kevin. If he's here or somewhere else, but I hope at the moment, he's our property, he's part of our team and we are assuming that he's going to be a part of the team next year. We'll see as the summer develops, if there are different opportunities there."

Tony DeAngelo's immediate future has been put in doubt after Tortorella benched the defenseman over the club's final five games.

"I know that's probably a big topic for you guys, Tony didn't play the last five games, so something happened, right?" Tortorella said. "That's going to stay between Tony and I and the team.

"That's a situation I think that Tony and I need to work through, along with the team. Not publicly."

Next season, the 27-year-old will be on the second year of a two-year, $10 million deal.

"I'm not going to go into what happened. I think Torts has been really clear, some of the stuff happens in the locker room and it stays between the players and the coaches," Briere said. "Tony had an up-and-down season. There were times where he was dominant and there were times where he was struggling. It's going to be a big summer for him. As of right now, he's a part of the team and I plan on bringing him back. We'll see where that goes. It's definitely not a fun situation at the moment for him the way things ended."

More: As his Flyers days wind down, JVR hits milestone, leaves impact on next foundation

5. The power dynamic

Briere said the philosophy of a rebuild starts with him and that the organization, from Hilferty to Tortorella and on down, is behind it.

"Now, how fast or how long it's going to take? The players will dictate that," Briere said. "But everybody's on board, everybody agrees that we need to do this the right way."

There's no doubt Tortorella will have a say in decision-making with the roster. His voice will be heard. Briere, of course, will have his own opinions and has to make the calls. The two will have to work together, along with the new president of hockey ops.

How everything comes together and functions will be a huge storyline this summer.

"We'll do what's best for the team," Briere said. "It's not about Danny Briere, it's not about John Tortorella. What's important for the Flyers' organization moving forward, that's what matters."

Like Briere, Tortorella stressed building it correctly, without skipping steps.

"The biggest point out of this is when you commit to a process of what we have to do to try to get this right, you can't go looking when there's that guy out there that is a fairly big name and you change course, 'Let's go get him,'" the head coach said. "We can't change course. We've got to stay the course and let our kids develop.

"I hope we're younger next year and keep developing our kids. And there's going to be a time when the bigger name is out there. I think we're all in agreement with that. I think that's the most important point here is that everybody believes in how we have to do this."

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