The Flyers still won’t say they’re rebuilding, but they made a small step to admitting it with the letter from coach John Tortorella to season ticket holders that was released Monday, hours before the Flyers first game in eight days.
It was seemingly a follow-up to when Tortorella openly said in December that the team hadn’t even put a foundation in place, but was “at the footers” on the same day that GM Chuck Fletcher was extolling his team for being just five points out of a playoff spot.
The difference is, this time it’s not Torts just going off at a press conference but rather an actual endorsed statement and letter from the organization.
It’s their first mea culpa that, yeah, we’ve been doing it wrong.
The one thing, though, is fans shouldn’t read into that this letter came from Torts and not GM Chuck Fletcher or Chairman Dave Scott. The organization recognizes that the messenger that most resonates with their fan base right now is Tortorella, and not Fletcher and/or Scott. So, having this message come from Torts definitely feels more genuine.
And how genuine is it?
From what I’m told, it’s the real deal.
It wasn’t that long ago that the Flyers were one win away from the Eastern Conference Final. There was a real belief that the organization was close to where it needed to be.
And then, it quickly deteriorated. However, rather than acknowledge it was going in the wrong direction, the Flyers tried to convince themselves that it was still fixable via tweaks, and failed miserably in trying to recreate the mojo that was with the Flyers just before the pandemic hit.
Too many people in the front office held on for too long to the notion that what was in place was, in fact, competitive enough to compete. It was a completely misguided approach.
And then last offseason, the Flyers chose the third of three options. They didn’t go for it again, but they also didn’t go into “tank mode” with roster construction – and instead chose mostly to stay the course. This is most likely to end without a playoff berth and without a high draft pick.
There’s less than a month to the trade deadline, and The Flyers are going to be sellers, no doubt. Which means the final month of the season could start to get ugly, with an even younger and more inexperienced lineup taking the ice every game.
But the Flyers are too far ahead of the worst teams to get back into the tank-a-thon and will likely end up picking somewhere in the 7-9 range in the 2023 draft.
It should never have gotten to this point. The acknowledgement should have come sooner, but there was some internal stubbornness that prevented it from happening and led to a third straight year of frustrating, meaningless hockey.
At least this season the team has been mostly competitive on a game-to-game basis, which is all thanks to Torts. That’s been the one major plus.
But the time has finally come, Flyers fans, for the team to admit its mistakes and move forward with the intention of building something that could be successful in 2-3 years, and the first step in that process is admitting a rebuild is necessary, and, in act, the franchise is already in one.
No more “aggressive retool.” No more counting the points out of a playoff spot. No other wool needs to be pulled down over anyone’s eyes. The Flyers are telling you they know they know they aren’t good enough, that they’re at least a couple years away from being good enough and that if they stick to the plan – they can be good enough for a sustainable period of time.
This team doesn’t need to be torn down completely. Torts has done a nice job getting young players ice time and finding the players he believes will be a part of the team’s success going forward. And while nobody should be considered untouchable at this point, the Flyers don’t have to trade guys like Travis Konecny and Carter Hart “because they’ll bring back the most value in a rebuild.”
Instead, the Flyers will try to offload veteran players, some with contracts that, if they can be moved, getting the cap savings is reward enough, and then they’ll look to refine the roster further with young players heading into next season.
And because Torts is subtly asking fans for patience in this letter, I would expect Season Ticket Holders to get some sort of “thank you” for sticking with the team – and that’s not swag, or experiences, but rather in some sort of financial benefit – whether it’s keeping ticket prices the same next season, or some other sort of discount/rebate – or both. And I expect, after today’s letter, they’ll hear that soon.
For the first time the team is saying the right things about the product on the ice. For the first time they are admitting to the fans that they see the same things that the fans do and that they know they can’t keep trying to resolve it with bubble gum and duct tape.
For the first time, the Flyers are recognizing they have a problem and are admitting they are willing to rectify it.
That’s all good stuff.
The question that lingers, and will continue to do so, is are the right people in place to do the rectifying?
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