Philadelphia Flyers

5 Takeaways From John Tortorella's First Interview as Flyers Head Coach

Tortorella pumped for 'damn' Flyers, his 'two-way street,' more in 5 takeaways originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

With each question, John Tortorella grew more impassioned.

His first press conference as Flyers head coach surpassed the hype.

It lasted over 51 minutes. And it was on Zoom.

The real introduction comes Tuesday. Tortorella, from his home in rural New York, set the bar high Friday.

He sure didn't sound intimidated by the Flyers' predicament. 

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"Rebuild, retool, whatever language is used," Tortorella said. "We’re attacking it."

The soon-to-be 64-year-old is champing at the bit to hold that whistle again after doing in-studio color commentary for a year.

"And now I get to coach this damn team, the Flyers," he said. "I'm so lucky to spend a year away and come to this organization, an organization that I have truly respected."

Let's get into five takeaways from Friday's interview with Tortorella and Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher.

1. Passion, passion, passion

Tortorella had plenty of it.

It became clear why he evidently nailed his interviews with the Flyers and landed the job.

Those in the Flyers' organization know his track record well. The Flyers were revered by Tortorella, as well.

He has coached against the Flyers a good bit from his days with the Rangers and Blue Jackets. With the Lightning, Tortorella also knocked the Flyers out of the 2004 playoffs, outlasting them in an intense seven-game Eastern Conference Final series.

Even as Tortorella's Lightning went on to win the Stanley Cup, the Flyers left an impression on him.

"I remember telling my wife, and I told Chuck this story, 'Man, that is a place I would love an opportunity to be and coach,'" Tortorella said. "The passion of the people, the building, everything about the city — it was really neat for me."

He was enamored with the Flyers' logo.

"I remember my first meeting with Chuck, when we started this, he wore a shirt with the emblem and I said, 'Man, that's where I want to be,'" Tortorella said. "I know Chuck wants to get going here and turn it around.

"I think Chuck and I spoke the same language in how we get this fixed quickly. It was really intriguing to me and it did nothing but enhance my interest."

While words are just words — and he admitted that it will ultimately be about action — the way Tortorella spoke with conviction and belief stood out. The energy had to at least be refreshing for Flyers fans who had to watch their team go 25-46-11 this season.

2. Why Tortorella time?

The Flyers took about a month and a half with their coaching search.

Fletcher called it a "very good, long, exhaustive process."

For the Flyers, the appeal to Tortorella wasn't just the perception of his hard-nosed style.

It was the way in which he goes about it.

"There are a lot of demanding coaches in the NHL," Fletcher said. "But, ultimately, players will respond if they know you're demanding, but you're demanding in the sense that you care about them, you want what's best for them. You're not being demanding for yourself, you're being demanding to make the player better, to make the team better. And nobody personifies that more than John Tortorella."

Fletcher noted Tortorella's past of instilling accountability, developing young players and using strong communication skills as factors in the Flyers' decision.

As they missed the playoffs the last two seasons, the Flyers allowed 3.56 goals per game, tied for worst in the NHL, and sported a 74.6 penalty kill percentage, last in the league.

"We were looking for an experienced, respected coach, preferably somebody with extensive NHL head coaching experience," Fletcher said. "We were looking for somebody with a lengthy track record of success. We were looking for somebody that had a demonstrated ability to introduce structure, reduce goals against, improve penalty killing — make life easier for our goaltenders."

More: Are Tortorella and Vigneault that much different? Flyers clearly have work to do

3. 'It needs to be a two-way street'

Getting players to buy in is huge for Tortorella. You can see why it matters so much to him.

He will push players. But he mentioned how he has adapted over the years.

OK, maybe he's not a fun-loving player's coach. You're not going to feel like his best friend at times.

However, he said he has realized the importance of letting players play to their skill levels and strengths.

"I think especially in today's league, I think that's very important with such a young league," Tortorella said. "I remember back early in my career, I would dot every I, cross every T. I almost wanted to predict the game. I wanted them to move the way I wanted them to move in certain situations and kind of prepared the team that way.

"You need structure. I think one of the most important attributes of a head coach is to define and teach the structure away from the puck. I work at that. I kind of get coined as that defensive guy. You can coin me any way you want, you can say what you want about me, but that's a huge part of winning.

"On the other side of that, I think you have to get out of the way. I do think we over-coach at times. It's something that I try to check myself daily as I'm dealing with the players, especially in the offensive part of the game. I don't have the ability or the sight that offensive people have or the creativity that they have. I need to allow them to play.

"But it's going to be a two-way street. It needs to be a two-way street. Just show me that you're willing to give us something away from the puck — I'm not going to turn you into a checker — but you've got to show me and, more importantly, show your teammates that you're willing do some of the other stuff as an offensive guy away from the puck. And then you have something. That's what develops the right camaraderie of a hockey club and it develops the right attitude of a hockey club in how hard you have to be. And I think it starts with your top guys."

4. The third party and process

Fletcher said the Flyers worked with an outside search firm called the Coaches Agency.

The purpose was to "set the process up and to make it a formal search process," the GM said.

"I've hired coaches before, but I can't say I ever had a great process," Fletcher said. "I've interviewed some great candidates."

Bringing in a third party is more common in the corporate world. Fletcher said it's starting to become more common in the pro sports industry.

The agency helped the Flyers build an ideal candidate profile and whittle down 50 names of candidates into 15 or so. Then, following research and meetings, the group of candidates got filtered down to eight.

Fletcher said the Flyers took it from there, with the interviews of those eight candidates being held internally. Assistant general manager Brent Flahr, senior advisor Dean Lombardi and special assistant to the GM Danny Briere were all involved with the interviews.

Four candidates received second interviews.

On Monday, Fletcher made the decision that Tortorella was his head coach.

"I was sitting in our pro meetings on Monday and I said, 'Torts is the guy, he's the guy we need,'" Fletcher said.

"To a man, we all felt John was the guy for the job."

Fletcher informed Tortorella on Tuesday that he was the No. 1 candidate on their list. After talking about various things 1-on-1 and getting to know each other more, Fletcher offered Tortorella a contract Thursday.

"Took 10 minutes, shook hands and here we are about 22 hours later," Fletcher said. "That's the whole process in a nutshell. John was absolutely my first choice, it was my decision."

The process was in stark contrast to Fletcher's hiring of Alain Vigneault. It took only nine days after the 2018-19 season ended for Fletcher to name Vigneault his first head coach.

After these last two seasons, the Flyers were in no spot to rush or be stubborn about the thoroughness.

More: How the Flyers got here, the pros/cons to the hire and what's ahead

5. 'Look harder coming off the bus'

Throughout this season, the Flyers were focused a ton on their play with the puck.

Tortorella sounds like he wants to change that primary focus. And he feels it will help Carter Hart in net.

"I do believe the first thing, as far as on ice that I need to attack, is the play away from the puck," Tortorella said. "I think we need to give Carter a little bit more support as far as how we play around him, allow him to really get himself into the National Hockey League. He’s 23, 23 as goalie and I’m not going to give any criticisms of his prior play, but this is how you go about it. When you’re teaching that part, that’s when so many different avenues come into play in teaching what your identity is."

So much of what Tortorella does is all about mindset. And lacking the mindset of being tough to play against is something Fletcher has harped on a bunch.

"Bottom line is, I want the team to be hard," Tortorella said. "I think we need to present ourselves, look harder coming off the bus, coming into buildings. I want other teams to say, 'You know what, we’ve got our hands full tonight.'"

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