97.5 The Fanatic Flyers Roundup: Tortorella’s Standard, Atkinson’s Health
The Flyers are through two preseason games, and just two weeks remain before the regular-season opener. Head coach John Tortorella and members of the front office have some roster decisions to make, but the health of veterans Cam Atkinson and Sean Couturier should be a bigger focus than two preseason outcomes.
Losses to the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders might not be encouraging, but they also aren’t a legitimate concern.
Health of Cam Atkinson, Sean Couturier
The Flyers entered camp hoping for fully healthy versions of Atkinson and Couturier, the two players on the roster with the most career NHL points. Neither veteran played in a single game in 2022-23.
Couturier skated for 18:05 in the preseason opener, a 6-0 loss in New Jersey. He expressed confidence in his health after his first live-game action since Dec. 18, 2021.
Atkinson, however, has not suited up for a preseason game. Tortorella, Atkinson, and Danny Briere have all downplayed the situation, chalking it up to general soreness and the reasonable need for a 34-year-old to manage his workload.
Fans of the Flyers have been absolutely crushed by injury news in recent seasons. Atkinson expected to begin the 2022-23 season fully healthy until a mysterious injury within days of the opener appeared. The injury ultimately threatened his career.
The situation doesn’t call for panic, but Tortorella himself has previously acknowledged the reason why fans will worry about Atkinson’s status. Just look back to his comments on The Best Show Ever on March 2.
“When I took the job, I didn’t realize there was so much minutia going on all around us, some of the things outside of hockey and getting things straightened out, our medical stuff, a lot of different stuff that goes on in the organization. I didn’t realize that some of it had to be cleaned up. I do think we’re on the right track in both off the ice and on the ice.” -John Tortorella
Minutia surrounding the medical staff especially doesn’t inspire fan confidence. Atkinson should be fine for the season opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Oct. 12, but the organization should certainly recognize they don’t have the benefit of the doubt based on recent history.
Final Roster Selection
John Tortorella runs a tough camp. It’s not exactly news that he’s a demanding coach, and he has consistently emphasized accountability and a high standard.
The two-time Jack Adams Award winner spoke on Thursday about selecting the final roster. Some players on the roster bubble, like Felix Sandstrom and Egor Zamula, must clear waivers if they’re sent to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms to begin the season in the AHL.
Would the danger of losing a player on waivers outweigh camp performance when the organization makes its final roster decisions?
“I don’t think so. Sooner or later, you’ve got to start moving by that stuff. It’s kind of unfair when we talk about merit and not stay with merit right on through no matter what position it is. That’s the concern of mine in that question. There (are) some situations in my mind, and not just the goaltending, where there could be some surprises.” -Tortorella
The players know the standard. The head coach and the rest of the organization must also stand by it. The Flyers have had a tough camp so far, and maintaining the competitive spirit is one of the stated priorities of the rebuild. It certainly looks like Rasmus Ristolainen and Garnet Hathaway understand that.