One by one, a personable John Torchetti bounced from player to player.
He looked eager to talk hockey with his new team.
After all, he had been cooped up in his hotel ever since arriving to Philadelphia last week.
"We grabbed him at the airport and two hours later he was in COVID protocol," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said last Wednesday. "You can't make this stuff up."
The 57-year-old Torchetti was hired as the Flyers' new assistant coach last Tuesday. He joins interim head coach Mike Yeo, assistant coach Darryl Williams, goalie coach Kim Dillabaugh and player development coach Nick Schultz to complete the Flyers' staff for the rest of this season.
Torchetti hit the ice Monday for his first practice. He wasted no time getting acquainted with his new players. Torchetti had numerous 1-on-1 conversations with guys before, during and after practice. The team welcomed Torchetti by having him lead post-practice stretches.
"He's excited," Yeo said Monday. "Poor guy was like a caged animal in the hotel there last week. It was great to get him back. He brings a lot of enthusiasm, he loves the game, he loves teaching, he loves working with the players."
The Flyers had been undermanned on their coaching staff since Dec. 6, when the club fired head coach Alain Vigneault and assistant coach Michel Therrien. The 39-year-old Schultz has been behind the bench since then. Torchetti will join the staff behind the bench Tuesday when the Flyers host the Jets (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).
"Some people aren’t interested in two-month opportunities, move away from their family with no promises," Fletcher said. "But it took a little bit of time. We'd just gone through a stretch of eight games in 13 days where you’re literally just trying to make sure you have enough time to make the right decision."
At this point, the Flyers' coaches are certainly coaching for their jobs. This season has fallen well short of expectations for the Flyers, so they'll be in line to name a permanent head coach early in the offseason. A new head coach usually has a good amount of say in hiring assistants.
Nothing will be easy — and it hasn't been — for the current staff given the Flyers are 14-22-8, besieged by injuries and staring at a massive climb in the standings. Yeo is trying to win the head coaching job (or another one). Williams, a former Vigneault guy, was hired during the summer. Dillabaugh has been with the Flyers since 2015-16. Schultz, who has been filling in, will likely still have his player development role when this season is finished.
Torchetti has ties to Fletcher and assistant general manager Brent Flahr. He worked in the Wild organization under Fletcher and Flahr when the two were in Minnesota. Torchetti coached the Wild's AHL affiliate and also took Fletcher's 2015-16 Minnesota team to the playoffs in 27 games of interim duties. That season, Fletcher fired Yeo 55 games into his fifth year as head coach of the Wild.
"John’s a lifer, this is a man I’ve worked with before," Fletcher said. "He’s technically very savvy, he’s run power plays, he’s run PKs, he’s been an interim head coach, he’s coached in the American League, coached in the ECHL, coached in Russia. He’s done everything. I think he’ll really help Mike and the coaching staff and the players.
"We have a handful of players that are in the NHL right now that maybe typically wouldn’t be, and so we’re also — in addition to preparing for games and trying to win games — developing in the NHL, which is not a usual thing and John’s great at that area. So we appreciate him coming in and offering to help us."
Yeo said the Flyers will have Torchetti focus on a special teams group and other specific responsibilities once the All-Star break commences after Tuesday's game.
"It's going to provide us an opportunity to start doing some more individual work with players, even whether it's skill work on the ice, pre-practice, post-practice," Yeo said of Torchetti's addition. "Even more importantly, doing that individual video with players. A lot can come out of that. Obviously there's teaching involved with that, but there's also dialogue and communication with the assistant coaches that I think is crucial to make sure players' heads are in the right space going into games."
Subscribe to and rate Flyers Talk