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April 12, 2024

Eytan Shander: Firing John Tortorella would be foolish

The Flyers' need time to build. Removing John Tortorella's culture would be unwise, writes columnist Eytan Shander.

Flyers NHL
John-Tortorella-End-of-Season Eric Hartline/USA Today

Flyers head coach John Tortorella.

Slow down.

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but you look dumb calling for John Tortorella’s firing.

The answers aren’t what the rest of us want to hear because it’s nothing more than looking for a reason to be angry after not getting the instant gratification. I find it hard to believe that anyone sitting through nearly 82 regular season games thinks that Tortorella is the main issue here, at least to the point of needing to be fired.

This isn’t the NFL, but we tend to treat every other sport like it, especially from a growth perspective. Both the NHL and NBA demand time served before making a leap, culture needs to be cultivated and teams need to lose. The NFL is a total crap shoot. Teams can go from worst to first far easier and can be derailed or helped by injuries around the league. One guy misses four games in the NFL and that’s a problem, not so much with a longer schedule.

I personally find Tortorella exhausting. He’s a walking cliché of the angry coach and seems to enjoy playing it up in a city that fights back. I don’t care about reporter feuds nor press conferences with the guy because I can already tell you what he’s going to say. You all can. His approach to the team is different and something that doesn’t take into account any of our feelings about the guy.

He’s a pain in the ass. He’s confrontational and loud. He appears to be angry more than happy.

Who cares?

He’s the man for this job and blaming him for a failure to reach the playoffs is about as short sighted as it gets. Fools want change without reason, while people paying attention can tag responsibility and know when it’s time to move on. Not all firings are equal. Nick Sirianni should have been shown the door last year for his overseeing one of the worst Eagles collapses in recent memory. Brett Brown and Doc Rivers equally deserved the door for not improving the Sixers.

Tortorella did everything in his power to push this team to the postseason. He challenged players, benched them and called them out in public. He also defended them when it was the right thing to do, showing there is a more compassionate side.

Here’s a monster reason why Torts stays in the building — support. Keith Jones and Danny Briere see Tortorella’s voice as still being heard. We can’t know if this will last through next year even, but there’s grounds now to retain the coach who oversaw one of the more overachieving years in Flyers history.

Just look at player stats compared to other teams around the league. Check where the top point performers on Philadelphia matched with the rest of the NHL — it’s not good. Injuries hurt this team. This season was not an easy one to navigate, yet Tortorella maintained the ship in his own fiery way.

As of right now, the Flyers have an ultra-slim chance of making the playoffs. Some idiots will judge the season tenure of the head coach by what happens around the league. That’s unfair not only to the coach but also to the circumstances.

Culture can’t grow without a lead voice. Sometimes that is the star player, other times it’s the loud and abrasive head coach. The brass up top understands that a super young team like the Flyers needs a consistent voice, even if that’s one yelling in their ear.

The team ran out of gas. That happens to teams that aren’t supposed to be in that situation. Not everyone rides the final week into the sunset of post-season glory, some fall just short. It’s one to grow on, a season that produced more positives than what we thought were negatives.

Let’s see what the former players up top do to help the current head coach before raising pitchforks and demanding this season was a failure because calling for Tortorella’s head is exactly what that means.

Eytan Shander is a long time radio and TV personality in Philadelphia. In addition to his weekly column, you can currently listen and watch him on Fox29’s Good Day and other sports shows. He’s giving betting advice on OddsShopper. A lifetime Eagles fan, Eytan lives just outside the city with his wife.

Follow Eytan on Twitter: @shandershow