Sorry, media, but Tortorella is ready to shut his mouth and see his Flyers work


VOORHEES, N.J. — Ever since his introductory press conference on June 17, John Tortorella has done the media rounds and then some.

"Holy s---, yes I have," he said Wednesday with a deadpanned expression.

And kudos to him. Suffice it to say the head coach doesn't love the countless interviews, but he has been a team player for the Flyers, trying to put the franchise out there when fan excitement isn't exactly permeating the Delaware Valley.

That tells you a lot about Tortorella and his buy-in level, his willingness to sacrifice his preferred routine for the organization.

So with all those 1-on-1s, radio hits, television sit-downs, that must make Tortorella pretty excited to finally play a damn game.

"Just to get the hell away from you guys, yes, yes," the 64-year-old said with a smile.

Yeah, he's ready to go.

"Especially the players," Tortorella said. "Enough's enough. Listening to us, meetings, we've had a ton of meetings this week, tape, practice. Let's play. That's when everything starts coming together — as far as accountability, conflict, good stuff, bad stuff, music on, music off, lousy days, good days — when all the games start being played. The evaluation part of it and getting ready for a season is done with. Now, this is what players want to do — they want to play."

For the first time under Tortorella's direction, the Flyers will play a game that matters in the won-loss column Thursday night. They welcome the Devils to the Wells Fargo Center to kick off a 2022-23 season that has those daunting words rebuild, retool and restart draped all over it.

The Flyers went 25-46-11 last season and traded longtime captain Claude Giroux. They had an offseason that elicited questions and criticism. With a new head coach, two new assistant coaches, injuries still a storyline and plenty of youth, the Flyers are very much staring down a transitional season.

On the outside, expectations are not high for the Flyers. And they're aware.

"Very aware," Scott Laughton said Sunday. "The way it's gone here, obviously you've got to sleep in your own bed when you make it. But it's the way it's gone. We know what the outside is saying about us and everyone is saying about us. And that's fine.

"We've got to show up Game 1 and build something here and go from there. There's no point in looking into the future. I think everyone's staying in the present and that's a big thing for us."

The Flyers are hoping they see more of their future become the present this season.

"This is a young, fast team," general manager Chuck Fletcher said. "I think there’s 12 players on the 23-man roster that are 25 and under, I think nine of them are 24 and under. So they’re a little bit unproven, that’s something we’re going to have to work through that Torts has been addressing. ... We have a lot of work to do, but there’s a lot of upside."

Fletcher understands pressure in this business and in this market. He's certainly facing it in his fourth full season. He'll be tasked with winning back many fans, ones that have grown frustrated and impatient over the past two seasons. The club has highlighted its youth and Tortorella's ability to coach it as reasons for optimism.

"We’re going to get better," Fletcher said. "I think we are an exciting, young team. We’re going to be fast, we’re going to be aggressive. Right now, we’re working hard to come together as a group. Like everybody, you get your 20-odd days in camp and you’re throwing line combinations together now, we’re still working on systems, but I see a lot of potential for this group to grow. I think we have some good young talent and I think we’re going to be an improved team and a team that’s really fun to watch."

Along with Fletcher, Tortorella isn't talking playoffs or setting massive expectations for a flip-of-the-switch turnaround.

And that's fair. The head coach is the first to say he doesn't know how everything will work out.

It's time to see it all start.

"I think when you start talking about expectations, it's always about the results, the record," Tortorella said. "When you do the small things — and there's a lot things we have to correct and get better at — and just the essential foundation stuff, I think that transforms into the winning and losing, and hopefully winning more than losing. That's what I'm going to say.

"There are high expectations put on the players by the coaching staff each and every day in how we play. I'm not going to go on a media tour and talk about, 'We're going to be this, we're going to be that.' Because first of all, I don't know. And I think it's wrong for the coach to do it, especially this coach, because I just believe deeply I'm taking it one day at a time."

No more talking for now. After almost four months of that, it's time to see what Tortorella and the Flyers can prove.

"I think we should shut our mouths, as I said — shut our mouths, keep our head down and work," Tortorella said. "And not talk about rebuild, retool or playoffs, this. I don't even want to get into the conversation because I don't think we deserve to be in that conversation right now. We just need to get our foundation straightened out and try to play as hard as we can the right way. That's my expectation that we're going to try to get to."

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