The Philadelphia Flyers officially hired their new head coach after last week’s edition of “Flyers News & Rumors,” and the dominoes of a franchise-alternating offseason are finally beginning to fall. The hunt for pieces to patch a broken roster will begin shortly after the Stanley Cup Final ends (as early as Friday). Chicago Blackhawks right winger Alex DeBrincat is becoming a major focus of the upcoming offseason, but are the Flyers a team that will make noise with such an impactful addition?
Tortorella Making the Rounds
Newly-hired head coach John Tortorella held his introductory press conference on Friday. From lauding the Flyers emblem and history to talking about “shoveling a lot of (expletive)” in recent months, his first impression came as advertised. He even described Philadelphia as a city he decided he “would love an opportunity to be in and coach” after facing the Flyers in the 2004 Eastern Conference Final as head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
He continued to make the rounds with appearances on The John Kincade Show on 97.5 The Fanatic and The Jeff Marek Show on Monday. During a short introduction to the Philadelphia media at the team’s practice facility on Tuesday, the soon-to-be 64-year-old revealed that his new job will be his last as an NHL head coach. He also granted an extended sit-down interview with Jason Myrtetus on the Flyers Daily podcast that aired on Wednesday.
His words shared some common themes about the establishment of a new standard of accountability within the organization. The excitement surrounding Tortorella’s hard-nosed sentiment stems from the hope for a new culture and new identity for a franchise that has slipped from its once prominent status. However, the veteran bench boss will need to materialize these subjective concepts if the Flyers expect to regain a position as a playoff contender in 2022-23.
DeBrincat on the Trade Block
Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reported “ongoing discussions” about DeBrincat getting moved by the Blackhawks this offseason (from “Barry Trotz’s next move coming soon, Jeff Petry trade in the works: LeBrun rumblings,” The Athletic, 6/17/22). It’s no secret that the Flyers lack top-end offensive talent. Eight NHL players topped the century mark in points last season for the first time since 1995-96. Meanwhile, Travis Konecny led the Flyers with just 52 points and finished 119th overall.
Despite the obvious need, general manager (GM) Chuck Fletcher has his hands tied. Any move to acquire DeBrincat and his $6.4 million cap hit in 2022-23 would likely require a salary dump involving James van Riemsdyk, which might also require giving up a sweetener to another team. It’s a tall task for Fletcher, who also spent last summer aggressively retooling the roster after a disappointing 2020-21 season. His words on the Flyers Daily podcast this week suggested that he might be hedging his bets to temper expectations for a big move this summer.
“Right now, the narrative seems to be about what we can do in free agency and trades to get better. We have a long runway here that we have to go down to improve internally and a lot of opportunities for internal growth, for players to develop, to be a harder team to play against, to defend better. There’s a lot of internal improvement that we will need to get better. You can’t just look to the outside all the time. That’s one of the main reasons that Torts (Tortorella) was the guy.”
A move involving van Riemsdyk would be a major indicator of the offseason plan. Clearing the significant chunk of cap space would clarify a timeline for the expectations for the Flyers to return to contention. Tortorella will take over the bench in 2022-23 and attempt to establish a winning attitude. However, it’s possible that the plan to acquire top-end talent extends past the 2022 offseason.
Vacant Flyers Captaincy
The Flyers dealt Claude Giroux, the longest-tenured captain in franchise history, to the Florida Panthers ahead of the NHL trade deadline in March. The organization will likely name a replacement closer to the beginning of the season once the players have a chance to reconvene during training camp. The decision is practical considering Tortorella isn’t familiar with the players or his surroundings yet. Bill Meltzer had an interesting thought about Scott Laughton as the potential replacement.
“A player does not have to be a team’s biggest star to be an effective captain. He has to show leadership in a variety of ways. On a daily basis, Laughton brings an outstanding work ethic to the rink. If you didn’t know he was a veteran whose roster spot is safe, you’d think he was a tryout player trying to make an impression at practice. As a well-established player, it’s been years since Laughton was playing for a job. He’s just conducting himself on the ice the only way he knows how: with gusto.”
Charlie O’Connor of The Athletic has expressed a similar sentiment about Laughton. Sean Couturier is more likely to wear the “C” next year, and Cam Atkinson also has a case as a player with a productive history under Tortorella. However, two of the most credible Flyers media voices have now brought up an interesting alternative in Laughton as the right choice.
Flyers fans will keep their eyes on the Stanley Cup Final this week, but the crazy season isn’t far away. After almost two uneventful months, the answers to the burning questions of the 2022 offseason are finally coming. The 2022 NHL Entry Draft will take place in Montreal in just two weeks, and free agency will quickly follow on July 13. Stay up to date each and every week with the Flyers as a team to watch this offseason.
Colin Newby is a freelance journalist from Delaware County, PA covering the Philadelphia Flyers for The Hockey Writers. He is an encyclopedia of useless sports knowledge with an uncanny ability to rattle off Flyers goaltending stats from 2004 and every Stanley Cup winner during his lifetime. The depths of his knowledge stem from spending his entire life following the Flyers and the NHL, from fan favorites like the “Legion of Doom” and Claude Giroux to forgotten journeymen like Andy Delmore and Branko Radivojevič. He joined the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (PHWA) in 2022.
Colin also covers the Philadelphia Eagles and works for 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia.