Flyers coach prefers vets giving advice over iPad use

James van Riemsdyk

VOORHEES, N.J.  – With the in-game use of iPads to review strategy virtually banned from the Flyers’ bench, other more personal forms of communication to discuss issues become more incumbent.

Coach John Tortorella revealed the other night that he finds iPads to be too much of a distraction (are you listening Travis Konecny?)

This is where a veteran such as James van Riemsdyk comes in. He’s a 15-year NHL veteran and can impart wisdom in a way which will catch the attention of young linemates such as Morgan Frost and Owen Tippett.

After Friday’s practice at the Flyers Training Center, Tortorella said he actually relies on seasoned veterans such as JVR, Scott Laughton and Kevin Hayes to get the message across.

“I think players listen to players more than they do coaches,’’ Tortorella said as his team prepared for a rematch game against the Capitals on Saturday night in Washington. “I think sometimes they’re forced to listen to a coach, feel like they’re being forced to listen to a coach. I get it, because they have to listen to us all the time.

“So I think when a player, a teammate talks to you. . .I watched JVR on the bench the other night grab both his linemates – I can’t tell you what he said but it was the proper thing to say. That’s when you’re taking steps in the right direction in your locker room.’’

When you have players with experience guiding teammates, it makes for a closer locker room. Plus it makes the coach’s job a lot easier.

“To be a team that’s going to compete, maybe be successful in the playoffs, that room has to self-sustain. It can’t be us (coaches) being in there all the time. So it’s really important as we keep growing here.’’

With his five-year contract coming to an end, this most likely is JVR’s final season with the Flyers. He’s 33 and probably will be traded at the deadline because he can become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

“Since I’ve come back from injury (fractured index finger), I’ve played mostly with ‘Frosty’ and ‘Tipp,’ and I just remember being back to their age and the key thing is talking things through on the bench,’’ van Riemsdyk said. “I really try to do that, be as vocal as I can. Let them know what I’m seeing, ask them what they’re seeing. Just try to get us all on the same page. I think we’ve had some success doing that.’’

No doubt this system seems to be working. Over the past few wweks, Frost has put together two four-point games and Tippett is on pace to have a 25-goal season. He already has 13 goals, six more than his previous career best.

“I think that communication has made guys more confident,’’ van Riemsdyk said. “We’re talking through certain plays. I think our younger players have taken a lot of strides from the start of the year until now.’’

Frost appreciates JVR’s input.

“We like to talk a lot on the bench,’’ he said. “Talk about plays in between periods. For Tipp and I, it’s just good to listen to James. We’ve learned a lot from him. I think it’s a well put-together line.’’

>No real need for iPads

Tortorella has made it clear how he feels about iPads for in-game use. Aside from a coach challenging a call on the ice (there’s a TV installed on the bench for that), Tortorella doesn’t see the need for players to constantly watch replays of previous action.

“It’s a fine line, we’re not going to have them,’’ Tortorella said. “I think we need to get into a (place) where we just get ready for the next shift. We’re going to point it out, we don’t have to see it. We just saw it and then we overcoach.

“I think we get in the way sometime and we’re clouding their head with what just happened instead of let’s take care of business on the next shift. Everybody thinks technology is great, sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn’t. I think this is a time that it isn’t.’’

Frost smiled when Konecny’s name came up. Will Frost miss the iPads?

“Not as much as TK,’’ Frost said. “I like to look at them sometimes. Even last game, I remember a couple times I reached back and it wasn’t there. It makes sense. I think it (the ban) is a good thing. Sometimes you get a little too caught up. Sometimes you’re just looking at it to look at it. I think he (Tortorella) is right, it can be distracting.’’

>Defending Ovechkin

The Flyers did a good job defending against Alex Ovechkin’s line (Evgeny Kuznetsov, Sonny Milano) the other night in the 5-3 win over the Caps. The line of Noah Cates-Joel Farabee-Travis Konecny did a good job keeping “The Great 8’’ off the scoreboard.

They’re hoping to continue that trend on Saturday night.

“Definitely a tough line to match up with,’’ Cates said. “They’re very creative, hard to defend. Watch a lot of tape, be stronger defensively. Not let them enter the zone clean.’’

>Reducing penalties key

The Flyers also did a good job giving the Capitals only one power play (the Flyers actually scored shorthanded there and lead the league in shorties with eight). If they can continue to cut down on their penalties, it improves their chances of winning.

“We’re rolling lines, keeping guys fresh,’’ Cates said. “Staying out of the box is obviously huge. Our kill has been good when it’s needed to be. If we can not get into those situations and give their top offensive guys time and space, it will help us for sure.’’

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About Wayne Fish 2444 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.