Tortorella accepts some blame for Flyers’ finish but looks forward to next year

John Tortorella

      VOORHEES, N.J. – John Tortorella wants to see the job through.

      After two years of helping the Flyers get back on their feet as head coach of the team, he’s making it a point to say he wants to be back next season to finish the task.

      At the same time, he understands there are a lot of people out there who believe he should accept some of the blame for the Flyers’ rocky finish, which saw them endure an eight-game (0-6-2) winless streak and dropping out of a playoff spot after holding one for 124 straight days.

      The Flyers have now missed the playoffs four straight seasons and are within one of tying the franchise’s darkest era, which lasted five years (1990-1994)

      During Friday’s end-of-season press briefing at the Flyers Training Center, Tortorella admitted there were some things he could have done better.

      “It’s disappointing,” the coach said. “I think the eight-game losing streak, I don’t think we played as bad as the record showed. It’s easy to pinpoint that because it’s so fresh in your memory. A lot of different things could have happened early in the year where we could have had a few more points.

      “I guess the biggest thing is I’m a little frustrated with is that I couldn’t get the team to close the deal. That’s what we wanted to do. It was a concern of mine 25 games left or so. Can we stay with it?”

      The coach said he’s ready to take another crack at it.

      “I’m as energized as I’ve ever been,” he said. “This team, the organization, I love working here. I’m already thinking  about next year. I just spent an hour with Danny (GM Daniel Briere). I am totally in until Danny says get the hell out of here.”

      Tortorella won a Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004 and took a struggling Columbus franchise to the playoffs four straight seasons. He knows how to coach. The Flyers might have improved greatly this season but they still came up a little bit short.

      “I think it’s my job to get it to the end,” Tortorella said. “I think the team played hard right to the end. I just did not close the deal. Was the messaging right at certain times? There are a lot of things that run through my mind as a coach when you’re that close and then you don’t get there. So that’s something I have to evaluate over the summer. Could I have done some things differently? That’s kind of the process I’m in right now.”

      Not many picked the Flyers to contend for the playoffs anyway. With the team in solid rebuild mode, there’s still room for improvement. And possibly some salary cap space to add some more talent.

      Tortorella had a feeling as far back as September the Flyers could challenge for postseason play.

      “I still think we need to add talent to our team,” the coach agreed. “I think it goes hand-in-hand. When I saw the room come together early on, you could sense that we found a way pretty quickly to play as a team. And I think that’s really important in a seven-month, 82-game schedule. That’s one of the blocks of the foundation to play as a team.

      “Early on I felt we were going to be competitive. We were getting solid goaltending. You could sense it in the room, ‘let’s go.’ Let’s block out the noise of what people thought we were going to be. Let’s just keep it together. We played as a team.”

      If nothing else, Tortorella indicated he wished he could have the last couple months over again.

      “I loved the way we played but when you get to the last quarter or so, things change,” he said. “That neutral zone shuts down. And that’s where I think – and it falls on my shoulders – that you can’t play the same style all the time. We needed to add a little bit more forechecking.

     “We have grind on our team. We didn’t get pushed around. We needed to develop more offense within the zone. That falls on me. That point hurt us at the end. We didn’t spend enough time on that part of it.”

      Tortorella does believe the Flyers can pick up where they left off and continue to improve. But there are still a lot of challenges left in order to become a serious contender.

      “We are a ways away,” he said. “We have so much work to do with this team. There are holes on the team. It’s going to take more time. Just because we got close and got a look at it. It’s frustrating for me, because that’s a part of development to get there. You want to get in. Because that’s where you get to test them a little bit more.

      “I’ve done a lot of thinking of what could I have done better here. Coaches don’t get much feedback. I think it’s important as a coach to keep evolving. You need to self-evaluate honestly. It’s a game of mistakes for players, it’s a game of mistakes for coaches. I’ve made some mistakes this year.”

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About Wayne Fish 2437 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.