Candidates to be Flyers’ coach: John Tortorella

Throughout May and possibly in June, we’ll look at potential candidates for the Flyers’ head coaching vacancy.

“We’re going to sit down and try to build that ideal candidate profile and really keep all options open, maybe look at it from a little broader perspective,” Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said May 3. “Clearly we have to sit down and really drill down in terms of what we’re looking for. I’m sure there will be a lot of quality candidates we’ll speak to.”

We’ve looked at Barry Trotz, Rick Tocchet, Paul Maurice and Jim Montgomery. Next up in our series is John Tortorella.

Why Tortorella would be a fit

The curt but oftentimes entertaining Tortorella comes with branded experience.

He led the Lightning to the 2004 Stanley Cup title, is a two-time Jack Adams Award winner, has three seasons of 100 or more points, 12 playoff berths and 10 series victories.

Accountability and discipline are Tortorella trademarks. His teams play the right way and prevent goals.

At his last stop, the Blue Jackets yielded the NHL’s 11th-fewest goals per game at 2.75 over his parts of six seasons. Columbus also had a top-10 penalty kill in that span at 81.2 percent.

Prior to Tortorella taking the reins of the Blue Jackets, Columbus had missed the playoffs for 14 of 16 seasons since its birth in 2000. With Tortorella, the Blue Jackets had a run of four consecutive postseason appearances.

Fletcher has pleaded for his Flyers club to be tougher to play against over the last two seasons. It’s something the GM had wanted from Day 1 and got in Year 1. But the next two seasons, the Flyers lost their way, which is how Fletcher put it multiple times in his December press conference following the firing of Alain Vigneault.

Tortorella’s demanding style could have an instant impact on a Flyers roster that will feature a blend of veterans wanting to win again and impressionable youngsters eager to earn their roles.

Cam Atkinson, who quickly became a well-respected member of the Flyers’ leadership group, played for Tortorella during the coach’s entire tenure in Columbus. He seemingly could provide a very good buffer between his teammates and the head coach.

“You practice how you play. Especially when I turned pro, I learned that from John Tortorella,” Atkinson said at his end-of-the-season press conference last month. “He was great in that aspect.

“I think going into next year, we just have to find a way to have some more grit, some more jam and more ‘F you’ to our game, on both sides of the puck. In our crease, defending our goalie and in their crease. I think we were a pretty soft team this year in my opinion.”

Why Tortorella would not be a fit

The Flyers may be pretty hesitant to go this route. A Tortorella type of coach can undeniably have a short shelf life. The tough love resonates and then suddenly it no longer does.

Whether it’s fair or not, a locker room can be lost that way, which essentially seals a coach’s fate.

A lot of the really good old-school coaches come with a clock and Tortorella is in that mold. Peter Laviolette probably falls under that umbrella. Vigneault, while a little more lighthearted, probably does, too. He was a Jack Adams runner-up in his first year with the Flyers and then gone 22 games into his third season. He never even had a full 82-game campaign in his Philadelphia tenure.

The last thing the Flyers want to do is run the risk of a short stay. This will be Fletcher’s second head coaching hire. He’s aware of the situation and the pressure to get it right.

Another element to consider: would Tortorella gel or clash with the Flyers’ fan base? That could go either way. His persona could be polarizing in a city like Philadelphia.

Tortorella, who turns 64 years old in June, has done an in-studio color commentary for ESPN this season. While Tortorella’s résumé is distinguished, it’s fair to note he has not had as much playoff success as some of the other established coaches in the league. He’s 56-64 lifetime in the postseason and has suffered six opening-round exits.

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