March 28, 2023
A rebuild and some highly uncertain times lie ahead for the Flyers, but head coach John Tortorella at least knows one thing for sure going into next season: There still won't be any captain.
"There won't be a captain next year, so you don't have to ask me next year," Tortorella said Tuesday from the team's training facility in Voorhees. "There will not be a captain next year."
Yeah, that subject was pretty open and shut.
Despite the Flyers entering this season in a state of limbo, there were still a few veteran names on the roster who were generally expected to make up the team's leadership group, with one of them possibly succeeding Claude Giroux – who was dealt last March – as the next to wear the C.
But Tortorella came into training camp with "major concerns" over the team's locker room culture and was upfront about being in no rush to name a new captain.
He meant it.
When the season began on October 13 against the Devils, Scott Laughton was only the player on the Flyers wearing a letter on his chest and it was an A to denote him as an alternate captain. The team stuck with that and now seems like it will do so for the foreseeable future.
Before camp and Tortorella making his initial stance on the captaincy known, veterans like Cam Atkinson and Kevin Hayes were originally thought of by many as possible candidates to earn the C. Atkinson, however, never played because of an undisclosed upper-body injury, which ultimately led to season-ending neck surgery. Hayes, meanwhile, was shifted up and down the lineup, benched, scratched, and floated around in trade rumors leading up to the deadline earlier this month. And as the Flyers began strongly expressing a desire to get younger, that came with the implication that the 30-year-old Hayes was no longer in the organization's long-term plans.
Then, of course, there was Sean Couturier, the longest-tenured Flyer who was always considered next in line for the captaincy once Giroux was gone. That didn't pan out either, with lingering back issues and another resulting surgery knocking out most of his season and potentially all of it if he can't get cleared in time to finish out the remaining schedule.
Granted, it probably wouldn't have affected Tortorella's position either way.
"Whether Coots is here or not, there's no captain next year," he said. "It's just the way we're gonna go about it here."
And that maybe isn't the worst thing.
The C is an honor within hockey, one where the true value of it is always being debated among fans, but an honor nonetheless. It doesn't have to be handed out though, and given where the Flyers are right now – having fully come to terms with needing to undergo a rebuild – there's little reason for them to.
They're in the early stages of trying to forge a new identity and the even earlier stages of trying to build up a younger, more talented roster. So they might as well wait for a player to come along and truly earn the letter while they're at it.
After all, there's a good chance now that the next captain isn't even in the building yet.
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