For months, the stance that Dave Scott, Chuck Fletcher and company held for the Flyers future was that of an “aggressive retool.” Before any aggressive player changes could be made, the team needed a head coach.
They certainly got aggressive with their head coaching decision, hiring John Tortorella. Tortorella has a reputation often shadowed by viral moments of fiery passion for the game, usually directed at a player or media member. That doesn’t tell the entire story, as Tortorella has a reputation of caring for his players and holding them accountable on an equal level, promoting team-first mentality.
If you were wondering just what the Flyers were going to try to do with this offseason or questioning if they were serious about an aggressive approach, you got your answer on Thursday. Tortorella is only the first piece of what could be a very busy offseason that features equally as many changes and moves as the last, likely even more aggressive than ever before.
Right or wrong, the Flyers management feels like Tortorella is the right fit. Right or wrong, the Flyers management thinks they can contend for a playoff spot next season. Right or wrong, they will do everything in their power to get a roster that can achieve that on the ice.
Whether they succeed remains to be seen, but the flawed thinking in this process is hoping that hiring a coach of Tortorella’s stature or signing the biggest free agent on the market will instantly drop a savior into town. The Flyers are much farther away than one coach or one player can take them. This could very well take them beyond Tortorella’s tenure and several offseasons of savvy acquisitions and proper player development for prospects to return to the level that became the gold standard.
Hell, their own GM may not be the one who gets to see this process through.
With all that in mind, it explains why the process is what it is for the Flyers. The team reluctantly entered a rebuild under Ron Hextall until the patience ran out. It’s simply not something that is in their DNA. It’s not a concept that has been executed under the current general manager or the two former ones that occupy the management room during several home games at Wells Fargo Center.
The Flyers can hire another coach who ranks in the Top 15 in all-time coaching victories, as Tortorella does. They can acquire a superstar player, move one of their higher-value contracts to open up space to sign a big-name free agent, such as Johnny Gaudreau, but it doesn’t make the problems disappear like a magic potion.
One player or one roster move will not suddenly take a floundering power play and abysmal penalty kill and rank it among the best. One player or move will not create the depth that the teams consistently contending for the Stanley Cup possess. One player or move will not sure up an entire defensive core that has been among the worst in the league for the last two seasons.
Despite that, the Flyers are going with the age-old approach of being aggressive and hoping it pays off. That will start with Tortorella, but it’s likely only scratching the surface on the plans that this regime has up its sleeve this offseason, trying to solve their problems quickly for a franchise that dropped deeper into irrelevance last season.
It’s what they have always seemed to do. It may have worked before the salary cap existed, always being aggressive to get the best coaches and players and try to build a super contender that was playoff-driven. Now, right or wrong, it’s a liability of the team’s management that could sink them further as much as the team hopes it could turn them around.