Flyers Emphasizing Scrimmages and ‘Safe is Death’ Message
After the skating test that opened training camp on Thursday, the Flyers went through practice drills on Friday and Saturday, but also held two scrimmages that got the competitive juices flowing.
On Saturday, the first scrimmage featured a shoving match following a whistle, getting heated and physical at times. Midway through the second scrimmage, John Tortorella abandoned his perch above the rink and went back down to ice level to put a halt to play. He gathered the two teams together and addressed them on the spot.
“I thought the first scrimmage was good. I thought the second group sucked,” Tortorella said. “They sucked.”
It was yet another reminder of Tortorella’s standard. It’s about putting in the work, doing things the right way, and being accountable.
“I don’t think it’s uncommon. Now they’re all down there eating together and chumming around, I get that. But you still have to get your work in,” Tortorella said. “I just don’t think we were anywhere near being busy enough in that scrimmage. I thought it was better as it moved along. It’s not about hurting anybody or doing something stupid, but you need to get your work in. I just felt the first part of that they weren’t."
Scrimmages will continue to be a part of the schedule on Sunday and mark the last time the team has them on the schedule. Monday will present the next step, the first exhibition game, and the schedule intensifies from there with five of the six preseason games taking place over the next eight days.
But with so many battles taking place in camp, the scrimmages provide even more for the competition. It’s another way to play in game-like scenarios with so many players that the team wants to see.
“We’ve changed camp around here a little bit. We’ll still get our conditioning. I wanted to see more game action,” Tortorella said. “There’s a number of people that both Danny and I have talked about that we want to see in these exhibition games. The ones we want to see will play, it’s just how many games?
“Just going into the summer, when I was doing camp, I think we need to see more game action because I don't think some guys will get the amount of ice time in an exhibition game that we’d like to give them. So more scrimmaging instead of conditioning just being skating. We’re starting into the battle right away into that kind of conditioning.”
Within the scrimmages and exhibitions, the Flyers are also trying to develop situationally and provide a more forward way of playing. Tortorella’s teams back to his time in Tampa Bay have followed the slogan of “safe is death.” While making the safe play can sometimes be the right decision, it also needs to help set up the opportunities where a greater chance is taken.
Some of that is situational too. Last season, Tortorella took the iPads off the bench to force players to focus on the momentums within a game and not on the previous play.
“I’m trying to find out about the makeup of the person. How they handle themselves in any type of ups and downs if they have some struggles on a shift,” Tortorella said. “Quite honestly, how they handle themselves when they’re playing well. Does it get good to them and do they get sloppy? Those are all the things we’re looking for.
“I believe, we have it written down there, ‘safe is death.’ We don’t want to be safe, but there’s certain times you may have to just settle yourself back down and make an easy play. You get your game back going, then you make that play through two people and we get going offensively.”
Tortorella also is learning that as the game has gotten younger, there are more mistakes being made. As a coach, it’s about letting those mistakes go and continuing to push through and help the player get through those moments.
“We evolve as coaches too. We can pick apart every mistake, but the thing I’ve learned the past couple of years, it’s just a game of mistakes,” Tortorella said. “There are so many mistakes happening. You’ve got to live with them. You’ve got to turn away. If you don’t turn away, you’re going to lose your mind. And then you’ve got to buckle up your players where they’re tightening up their sticks. We’re going to continue to try to help them through it, as long as they manage it the proper way at certain times too, that they don’t get stubborn on us.”
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN. Follow him on social media @Kevin_Durso.
Philadelphia Flyers Uniforms Through The Years