September 22, 2023
Never one to mince words, John Tortorella used the term "horror show" a couple of times on Thursday, once to anticipate the inevitable rough nights ahead for what is going to be a younger Flyers blue line, and the other to describe how Cam York – a key defenseman to that group – looked during his go at the infamous Day 1 conditioning skate of training camp.
The former isn't going to be pretty, the latter definitely wasn't, but in a now clearly stated rebuild, it all has to be a part of the process.
"Just as you look at the layout, especially our back end, that is definitely young," Tortorella said from the Flyers Training Center over in Voorhees. "We're gonna have some horror shows certain games with our young back end, but we're going to work with them. We're going to live through some of the mistakes and see what we have there. When some veteran guys leave, it opens up more spots for the young guys to grow."
And there's plenty of room for that now, and time.
In the offseason – via trade, buyout, and retirement – experienced defensemen Ivan Provorov, Tony DeAngelo, and Justin Braun all departed. Travis Sanheim, Nick Seeler, and Rasmus Ristolainen remained, while Sean Walker was acquired from LA on an expiring contract in the three-way Provorov deal and seasoned veteran Marc Staal signed on for a year fresh off a run to the Stanley Cup Final with Florida.
At its face, that's still a relatively older defensive group that the Flyers are more than likely set to enter the new season with. However, the 22-year old York, who earned his way into a regular NHL spot last season, and prospects like Emil Andrae, Adam Ginning, Helge Grans (also acquired in the Provorov trade), and long-term project Egor Zamula, they're all being set up for a shot to try and take on more.
In fact, part of the 36-year old Staal's job this season, Tortorella said, will be in helping to make sure the young guys do.
"Let's face it, guys, our back end - Provy's gone, Tony's gone, Brauner's gone – it's a very young back end," Tortorella said. "Marc Staal is gonna play a major role with them, even if Marc isn't playing some games along the year.
"As I stated to him, he's not gonna get in the way of the kids, of us developing the kids. There are gonna be some nights he's not gonna play, but he's gonna be just as important on those nights and those days leading up to games that he's maybe not playing in than he is putting the uniform on. He's a Staal, he's a great pro, and it's a huge asset for us just to have him around the locker room."
He'll make those inevitable "horror shows" just a bit easier to navigate for a developing defense as they come.
But as for the one York just went through on Thursday with the conditioning skate? It was brutal, but he survived it.
The drill was the same as last year: Three laps around the rink as hard as you could skate on the whistle to complete a set, except this time around, Tortorella upped the total number of sets for the day from six up to eight.
And York felt it by the end. A lot of the Flyers did.
"It's more of a test," Tortorella said. "I thought our guys could handle it and they did. You look at Cam York out there, it was an absolute horror show for him. After the second rep, and I could tell, he was done. But I watched Yorkie, he finished every time.
"I found him right after his route through it and it's probably the most emotion I've seen out of Yorkie. I can't tell you what he said to me about that test, but he finished, and that's the key. That's building a standard of what you have to do."
Far from pretty, but part of the process.
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