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February 06, 2023

John Tortorella pens letter to Flyers fans: 'We're not there yet'

In a letter sent to season ticket holders on Monday, Tortorella wrote "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."

Monday night against the Islanders will mark the Flyers' return from their bye week and the NHL All-Star break, and it seems the organization is going into this final stretch of the season looking to temper expectations the rest of the way. 

Earlier Monday, season ticket holders were sent a letter from head coach John Tortorella regarding the state of the team, who wrote that while there has been promise, "I'm not going to lie to you – and I want to be clear about this – we're not there yet." 

"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," Tortorella continued. "We're in the thick of the season right now, and we're going to see how our group responds to the challenges that lay ahead with a grueling schedule.

"It's a grind, but all of that is extremely important to see what we have and what we need to move forward."

The letter in full below, via the Daily Faceoff's Frank Seravalli:

The letter doesn't stray away from anything Tortorella has said already about the direction of the Flyers since being brought on last summer.

Back in December, he was direct about the team needing "to be built and it needs to be built from the footers."

"We're not even in the foundation," he added. "We're in the footer position as far as I'm concerned to just try and build this foundation the proper way."

It's also of note that the letter came from Tortorella and not general manager Chuck Fletcher, who has generally shied away from any rebuild-type language and has his long-term future with the franchise beyond this year, at the very least, in flux.

At 21-21-9 with 51 points after 51 games, the Flyers do sit just six points out from the second wild card spot in the East, but it is a very steep six points to make up and then maintain, with Ottawa, Florida, the Islanders, Buffalo, and then finally Pittsburgh – in possession of that last playoff spot – all ahead of them and able to at least skate toe-to-toe with them. 

On the other end is draft positioning, with the chances of landing a high draft pick (i.e. the right to Connor Bedard or Adam Fantilli) only worsening the more competitive the Flyers try to stay. 

Right now they're sitting in the middle of both outcomes, and when it comes to communicating a clear direction forward, it's often an awkward and indecisive spot to be in. 

The trade deadline is March 3 and the general expectation is that the Flyers will still be sellers, with veterans James van Riemsdyk and Justin Braun on expiring contracts but still likely to fetch returns from teams looking to add depth for a playoff run. Names like Ivan Provorov and Kevin Hayes have been popping up in the rumor mill of late as well. 

To the Flyers' credit, they have overachieved this season thanks to bounce-back years from Travis Konecny and Carter Hart, a handful of younger players (like Owen Tippett, Cam York, Noah Cates, and Morgan Frost) finding their footing as everyday NHLers, and just playing an overall more competitive brand of hockey. 

But they still lack a clear-cut star to build around and the means of how they'll find it going forward is up in the air. 

"That excites me because I can promise you this – the answers to those questions will come," Tortorella wrote in his letter. "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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