Tortorella, Laughton starting to build relationship between coach, leader


VOORHEES, N.J. — John Tortorella can often take the temperature of his team through his leadership group.

If he doesn't like something, address it with a leader. If he needs to know something, ask one of his leaders.

He has been known to do that with his past teams — keeping close tabs on his group by communicating with the brain trust of his roster.

"I haven't done a lot of it this year," the Flyers' head coach said Monday. "I'm still trying to get to know them. I think it's important that they feel they can come talk to me and I go to them with certain things. Hasn't been a lot of it, but I think that'll grow. As we get to know one another more, I think that'll grow."

After practice Monday, he called over his only player to wear a letter so far this season: Scott Laughton. The two had a conversation for close to a minute. Tortorella wouldn't divulge the details of the conversation, but the relationship between the head coach and Laughton is definitely starting to take form.

It's an important relationship. Laughton is 28 years old, a heart-and-soul guy for the Flyers. He made his NHL debut with the club at 18 years old. Last season visibly wore on him because he cares that much about the organization.

Last month, Tortorella said he felt Laughton deserved to be the team's lone alternate captain. With the potential for other alternates, he's going to wait and see what happens moving forward. He said he probably won't name a captain this season.

"As far as Laughts' game, I don't need to explain it to you guys," Tortorella said Monday. "He leaves it on the ice all the time. You can tell the spots I'm putting him in, we depend on him. ... Does he make mistakes? Yeah, but I'm going to go with him. I have a good feeling of who he is. He's done some really good things for us."

There hasn't been a ton of 1-on-1s between Tortorella and Laughton. That's likely a good thing as it relates to the process of the team.

It's a long season and things will only pick up in intensity.

"Honestly, haven't had that many with him," Laughton said Monday. "Just talked to him briefly today, kind of just checking in on how everything's going here.

"Our team has battled. We've had 11 games (6-3-2), we've battled hard together and guys are starting to have a little bit of a belief in the room. The way we go together, it might not always be pretty, but it's a complete 180 I think from the last couple of years where it's been a ton different.

"The guys are working together. Another hard practice out there today where we battle and grind and I think it translates into the game pretty well."

Laughton noted how Tortorella has brought more than just accountability to the Flyers.

"The feel he has for the game and the way he presents himself," Laughton said. "Even when we go over tape, things like that, I think he's pretty spot on. It's been great so far."

Three days ago, Laughton played against a leader he has learned a lot from in Claude Giroux. The Flyers beat Giroux's Senators, 2-1. It was the first time the 34-year-old Giroux had ever faced the Flyers in his career.

At one point during the game, Laughton and Giroux grabbed each other in a scrum.

"I asked him to go there, I was asking him to go," Laughton said with a laugh. "I think his dad was doing the stats upstairs, too, with the faceoffs. Anyway, I thought I cleaned his clock in the dot, but I guess not when your dad's doing them."

The numbers can lie, right?

"One hundred percent they do," Laughton joked. "But, no, it was definitely weird seeing him. It's weird when you're with a guy for 10 years, you battle with him, compete and you're trying to win a Stanley Cup and you're always together. I don't know if that feeling will change a lot, but definitely weird to see him."

Giroux was traded to the Panthers at last season's March deadline and signed with Ottawa in the offseason. Jakub Voracek was traded to the Blue Jackets in July 2021. Sean Couturier has been battling a back injury.

Laughton has become the face of the Flyers' leadership group. He's no longer a youngster.

"I think we have a lot of leaders in here," he said. "Don't want to change too much, just want to be the same guy, bring that consistency every day. I think that's one thing that I've always tried to pride myself on is being the same guy every day, not getting too high or too low. Try to bring that, some compete and work ethic to my game, and be a vocal guy for some of the young guys."

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