'Not there yet': Tortorella illustrates Flyers' rebuild to fans

ByEmily Kaplan ESPN logo
Monday, February 6, 2023

Philadelphia Flyers coach John Tortorella sent a letter to season-ticket holders on Monday saying while he's pleased by the team's effort, the organization has work to do to fulfill his vision.

"I'm not going to lie to you -- and I want to be clear about this -- we're not there yet," Tortorella wrote in the letter, obtained by ESPN. "This year was the first step in building the future of the Flyers and restoring our reputation as one of the most respected teams in hockey."

Philadelphia returns from the All-Star break in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division but only six points out of the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot. However, Tortorella's letter suggested the organization is focused on a long-term approach and could be sellers ahead of the March 3 trade deadline.

According to sources, Philadelphia is fielding calls about several players, including pending unrestricted free agent James Van Riemsdyk, who has 21 points in 31 games this season -- though the Flyers would likely have to retain some of Van Riemsdyk's $7 million salary in a trade.

Philadelphia has been looking into trading defenseman Ivan Provorov this season, per multiple sources, though a rival NHL executive told ESPN there is more league-wide interest in depth defenseman Nick Seeler -- who could be moved to open up playing time for younger players over the final stretch.

Tortorella praised the way his team has "consistently responded to the challenges we've faced." The coach said the team has "some kids who have impressed me. Some who have taken on heavy minutes and big responsibilities," adding that "this development of our young players is absolutely crucial for our future."

The coach also admitted he has "challenged the veterans on the team" and said he has been happy with how they've responded.

Tortorella, the two-time Jack Adams Award winner, is in the first year of a four-year contract with Philadelphia. He has openly talked about establishing an identity from day one, which began with a physically demanding training camp and continued with healthy scratches of veteran players like Tony DeAngelo, Kevin Hayes and Rasmus Ristolainen.

The coach wrote that midway through the season, he's going to see how his group responds to the grueling schedule ahead.

"This excites me because I can promise you this -- the answers to those questions will come," Tortorella wrote. "You and I will find out together, and we'll be an even tougher team for having gone through it. That's because we're in the midst of establishing an identity. Not just any identity -- but an identity that reflects the city of Philadelphia and the proud history of the Flyers organization."

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