Tortorella getting to know his players on the fly

Flyers coach John Tortorella talks about his team on first day of training camp. (Photo by Wayne Fish)

VOORHEES, N.J. – Like Butch Cassidy once asked the Sundance Kid, “Who are those guys?’’

That was pretty much the same question Flyers new head coach John Tortorella kept repeating to the media on Thursday when scribes continually sought evaluations of players.

Tortorella would love to supply answers but given this was the first day of camp at the Flyers Training Center and he barely knows anybody, there was a lot of shoulder shrugging.

However, despite the lack of familiarity, Tortorella had no trouble putting about 70 players through some demanding skating drills and so forth.

In fact, there were more than a few tongues hanging out by the time three-plus hours of on-ice activity came to an end.

Given time, Tortorella will get to know all these guys. And let’s face it, he’s coached against stars such as Kevin Hayes, Ivan Provorov and Joel Farabee.

It’s just a matter of working together over the next few weeks to get everyone on the same page.

The very first query of the press briefing involved the status of Sean Couturier, who apparently has reinjured his surgically repaired back.

If Couturier is out for a considerable amount of time, who can fill that vacancy?

“I don’t know,’’ Tortorella replied. “I don’t know what the team is. I don’t know who’s who, who’s going to play where. He (Couturier) is an important guy. But I’m not even thinking that way. To start assessing – if he’s out – what happens, I can’t tell you because I don’t know what the team is going to be.

“There’s nothing given here as to where people are playing and who they’re playing with. We haven’t even used the pucks.’’

Those will be play on Friday when the Flyers hold their first scrimmages. There isn’t much time to develop chemistry because the first preseason game is Saturday night against the Boston Bruins at the Wells Fargo Center.

“We’ll get about it,’’ Tortorella said, “and see where it all lands.’’

One topic Tortorella felt comfortable talking about was the team’s level of conditioning and prepartion.

“I was thrilled that everyone came in early,’’ the coach said. “They’ve been here since the 1st (of September). And I think they got in some good work together that way; some camaraderie comes into it also.

“I think today was just about getting through some skates. It doesn’t matter what you look like as long as you finish the skate. We had no problem. I don’t think anybody gave in.’’

Although many of the young Flyers are new faces to Tortorella, he expressed a desire to bring along their development in a timely manner.

“I’m going to play the kids,’’ he vowed. “I’ll tell you right now. It doesn’t matter to me – stature, draft pick, what you’ve done before. It’s kind of a clean slate. Because I really don’t know the players. I need to watch them but I do feel as an organization we need to get a foundation underneath us. Get it back on the rail. We need a good foundation of what our kids are. So they’re going to get every opportunity.’’

Tortorella thinks he can get more out of players such as Hayes, Provorov and Farabee.

“Kevin is a huge part if we’re going to get to where we want to be,’’ the coach said. “For him to say to other guys, ‘follow me.’ I’ve watched him from afar and you say, ‘you know, there’s more there.’ And you want to get that. I need to add some more responsibility to him and I hope he can handle it.’’

Farabee, coming off neck surgery, hopes to be cleared for the season opener.

“For me, I don’t know him, I’ve watched him,’’ Tortorella said. “I love his willingness. We need to get him stronger, he’s still growing.’’

Finally, Tortorella spoke to the 800-pound gorilla in the room, namely the Flyers’ esprit des corps (or lack thereoff). That starts with accountability.

“I think more accountability needs to be brought in here,’’ the coach said. “I think the room is close, I think it’s a good group of guys. I think they like one another. But sometimes in a locker room it’s not always about friendship. It’s about holding the other guy accountable.

“It shouldn’t be the coach all the time. But you don’t win until the locker room, the players, put their hand up to the coach and say, ‘we got this.’ That’s where it needs to tighten up.’’

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About Wayne Fish 1793 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.