Members of the Philadelphia Flyers organization throw around the word culture repeatedly. Danny Briere emphasized the subjective concept in July 2023 when speaking about his approach to free agency.

He passed on the masses calling for a tank to improve NHL Draft Lottery odds. He later passed on the chance to deal veteran players at the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline. Why? He’s kept an eye on developing young players in a winning culture.

However, the clock has struck midnight on John Tortorella and an overachieving Flyers team in the final stretch of the 2023-24 season.

The culture they’ve looked to build has done nothing to stop the floodgates from opening during a brutal losing streak. It’s cost a team that was firmly in the driver’s seat for an Eastern Conference playoff berth.

How has Flyers “culture” affected the organizational rebuild at a micro level and a macro level?   

“The culture is, we felt, the first thing that needed to change around here. I didn’t like how our team was playing the last few years. We were a team that was easy to play against… I think the first step in that change was John Tortorella. (He) brought an identity to our team (and) forced our players to play a certain way that makes it tough to face…We try to take time and space away from the other team.” -Danny Briere (3/8/24)


  • Danny Briere Rebuilding Culture

    Briere’s approach in the Philadelphia front office from March 2023 through March 2024 helped an underwhelming roster solidly into a playoff spot.

    His roster construction strategy leaned heavily on keeping veteran players with strong intangible value in place to help the internal development of young players who will play a more significant role in the organization’s rebuild.

    The former Flyers winger retained grinders Scott Laughton and Nick Seeler despite potentially substantial trade value. He acquired 31-year-old Garnet Hathaway despite a crowded group of right wingers pushing for NHL minutes.

    The intangible presence of Travis Konecny factored significantly into the organization’s trust in him as a long-term building block. Briere also made smaller-scale decisions to sign Marc Staal and acquire Erik Johnson for minimal resources.

    Danny Briere, Philadelphia Flyers at NHL Trade Deadline


  • Culture Fails 2023-24 Flyers

    “The New Era of Orange” got off to a fast start. The Flyers sat with excellent odds to hold off a group of underwhelming teams behind them in the Metropolitan Division standings less than a month ago. 

    They Flyers withstood a seven-game schedule hurricane in March. The loss of Carter Hart, a depleted blue line, and rampant outside doubt hadn’t sunk them. Did the emphasis on culture work? 

    A less talented team dependent on culture then got no return on their investment during an embarrassing six-game stretch against five bottom feeders and a bubble playoff team. They destroyed their playoff hopes with an 0-5-1 stretch and a -20 goal differential from March 28-April 9.

    Their disastrous night against the Montreal Canadiens on April 9 poked holes in the idea of an organization that could lean on a renewed culture. The last-place Habs jumped on the Flyers from the opening faceoff in direct contradiction to Briere’s statements about time and space.

    Laughton committed a horrendous turnover in the opening period, and Travis Sanheim followed suit. The lapses came one week after Konecny’s careless dumped puck handed the New York Islanders a crucial goal.

    The bottom fell out from under the Flyers in the second period. Montreal swarmed their zone to take a 6-0 lead reminiscent of the 9-0 blowout against the New York Rangers on the “St. Patrick’s Day Massacre” of 2021.

    The usually reliable Nick Seeler was on the ice for five goals against in the 9-3 loss.

    The younger players didn’t prove themselves ready for meaningful games in a playoff race. Owen Tippett fell into the trap of brutal turnovers. Joel Farabee continued his recent struggles. Bobby Brink provided no defensive help on a cringe-worthy backcheck on the final goal of the worst period of the 2023-24 season. 

    This team was supposed to have more character. They were supposed to have moved on from the embarrassment of 2020-21 and 2021-22. Their subjective culture failed them in a six-game stretch that could’ve catapulted them into a playoff berth that would’ve helped the city move past the worst era in the history of a once-proud franchise.

    Scott Laughton and Travis Konecny of the Philadelphia Flyers, who didn't benefit from culture during their losing streak

  • The John Tortorella Factor

    The polarizing head coach is supposed to put substance behind the subjective culture. John Tortorella implemented a strong defensive structure, an effective transition game that led to offensive success, and the attitude that helped his team gain confidence. 

    His ability to challenge young players in their development highlighted his case to become only the second coach in NHL history to win the Jack Awards Award three times. Voters wouldn’t be able to ignore his ability to drag a team to the playoffs after the loss of Hart, the decision to trade Sean Walker, and the nagging injuries late in the season.

    Tortorella landed in the headlines constantly down the stretch. Why? He might’ve sensed the need to spark his team or send messages to help them pick up steam.

    He sat recently-named captain Sean Couturier as a healthy scratch. He took on a suspension for his behavior on the bench in Tampa Bay on March 9. He publicly mishandled (by his own admission) a question about his struggling backup goaltender.

    None of the bullets he fired produced the desired effect to help his team avoid a six-game disaster against inferior competition.

    The credit Tortorella deserved for his effort to put the Flyers in good late-season position won’t shine as much considering the failure against the NHL’s worst tier.

    “This time of year, all teams are tired. We’re not as gifted as some teams. We have a process that we’re going through. We can’t forget that. We’re still building here. I appreciate all the work they’ve put in to put us in this spot to play these type of games, but we just have not been able to elevate our game. It’s my responsibility to put them in that spot and try to get them to elevate the game. I’ve not done it.” -John Tortorella

  • Hockey’s Most Important Position

    Conversations around NHL teams with strong culture often attempt to explain the success of teams with seemingly less talent. The same conversations sometimes ignore the magnitude of the ultimate equalizer in the sport of hockey.

    Goaltender is the most important yet least scrutinized position in the game. A good or bad performance between the pipes sometimes means that an inferior team of skaters wins, which has nothing to do with culture.

    The effect of losing Carter Hart took its toll on Sam Ersson and the entire roster. The absence of strong goaltending exposes inefficiencies drastically.

    The Flyers lost their top goaltender, and their projected backup couldn’t handle the wear of a season he entered with the expectation of making about 20 starts.

    An overachieving team lost the luxury of strong goaltending. The magnitude of the situation in net played an undeniably major factor.

    Briere hoped that either Felix Sandstrom or Cal Petersen could emerge as a serviceable backup late in the season. He acquired defenseman Erik Johnson as a low-risk move on deadline day instead of aggressively bringing in a veteran goaltender behind Ersson.

    The Flyers in hindsight would have benefitted from claiming Antti Raanta off waivers instead of waiting for a desperation move to bring in Ivan Fedotov.

    Briere and the Flyers must address goaltending as a top offseason priority if they plan to stay competitive next season.

    Sam Ersson and Carter Hart of the Philadelphia Flyers

  • The Future of Flyers Culture

    Failure during a six-game sample size doesn’t mean the failure of an entire rebuild. The emphasis on culture didn’t help the 2023-24 Flyers reach the postseason. It could help their long-term outlook if it’s kept within proper proportion.

    Mistakes from Farabee, Tippett, or other young players don’t define their careers. Could veterans still enable the internal development of young players? Yes. Is it possible that the failure pushes these players to succeed in future playoff chases? Yes.

    Consider Jamie Drysdale. The 22-year-old committed blatant defensive mistakes on his way to an ugly -6 in the blowout loss against the Canadiens. However, Briere and Tortorella have voiced the organization’s feelings about their young defenseman as a long-term project who will grow into a foundational piece of the blue line.

    John Tortorella couldn’t push that Jack Adams case over the edge. However, the organization will still afford him as much power as any other NHL coach. He took accountability for the team’s failures and stated his belief that his team maintained their effort.

    Danny Briere, Keith Jones, and the front office never directly emphasized the need for a postseason berth. They conversely downplayed it at surprising points.

    The Flyers took steps forward in their pursuit of an organizational rebuild in 2023-24. They still must focus on acquiring the top-end talent capable of leading them to Stanley Cup glory. The flawed, subjective idea of culture didn’t get them to the finish line, and it certainly won’t outweigh in their pursuit of a Stanley Cup. 

    “I’m not questioning their effort. I just think we’ve lost ourselves in managing games. I think some guys may feel it a little bit because they want to try to get us out of this, but I don’t question the care. I don’t question the efforts because, as I said, it’s been a strong group all year long. I’m frustrated for them because this is rock bottom tonight for us.” -John Tortorella

    Cam York, Owen Tippett, Ryan Poehling, Joel Farabee

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