John Tortorella may not be for everybody.
His brutal honesty and hard-nosed approach to coaching hockey games usually makes people pick a side very quickly in terms of a love-hate relationship.
But there’s no denying that some players have taken their biggest steps forward and turned a corner in their pro careers because of Tortorella’s style. It didn’t go well for everyone, most notably former Vancouver dynamic twin duo Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who had one of their worst seasons under the fiery coach. And Brandon Dubinsky spoke out recently through social media based on his rocky relationship that included two tours with Tortorella.
This week, we keep things positive and try to predict which Flyers will have the most success under Tortorella, who signed a four-year contract with the Flyers last week to become the 23rd coach in the franchise’s history.
Carter Hart: Tortorella preaches accountability and shot suppression and Sergei Bobrovsky benefitted big time in Columbus during Tortorella’s time there. In the three full seasons Bobrovsky played for the Blue Jackets under Tortorella, he finished top 10 in Vezina voting all three times, and won the trophy for the second time in his career. In his first full year under Tortorella, Bobrovsky posted a .931 save percentage and 33.5 goals saved above average while winning 41 games in 63 starts. In New York, Henrik Lundqvist also finished top 10 in Vezina voting every single year under Tortorella. True, Lundqvist was top 10 ten different times but he never missed in six seasons under Tortorella and he won the trophy in 2012 during that stretch.
Can we expect the same from Hart? It remains to be seen, but for the first time in his still blooming career, Hart can expect to have some help in the defensive end.
Ivan Provorov: Seems like a perfect fit, right? Tortorella loves guys who work hard and nobody outworks Provorov, especially in the offseason. There were rumors the Russian defenseman was unhappy and could be dealt in the offseason, but smart money would now be on his staying here and being a much more appreciated asset under Tortorella.
Tortorella loves penalty killers and shot blockers, but he also probably doesn’t get enough credit for allowing his defensemen to be part of the offense. Seth Jones and Zach Werenski each had three 40-plus point seasons under Tortorella, with Jones accumulating 57 points in 2017-18 when he finished fourth in Norris Trophy voting.
Provorov may not reach lofty offensive numbers due to not being the top option on the powerplay, but he should reach another level in terms of becoming an all-around player.
Cam Atkinson: Atkinson had his best years under Tortorella, which included a 41-goal season in 2018-19. It wasn’t all rosy, as Atkinson struggled his last two seasons under Tortorella, scoring a combined 27 goals in 100 games, but the magic could still be rekindled in the right situations. Atkinson could see an increased role as a trusted player by the new coach.
Sean Couturier: Almost forgotten after Couturier missed the bulk of last season, he’s still a perennial Selke candidate and seems like he plays Tortorella’s style away from the puck. If he returns healthy, Couturier should be a prime candidate to flourish under the new coach and get back to producing nearly a point per game as he did for the four seasons prior to last year.
Kevin Hayes: There’s no history and no major comparisons, but Tortorella seemed excited during his Zoom meeting with reporters about unlocking another part of Hayes’ game.
“Kevin is one that I’m anxious to work with,” Tortorella said. “I think there’s more there. I think he’s a huge piece to the puzzle up the middle of the ice for this organization.”