By Jenny Masters

For most of the season, the Flyers not only played over their heads, they succeeded while navigating the loss of No. 1 goalie Carter Hart to sexual assault charges and the murky circumstances that led to 2022 No. 1 draft pick Cutter Gauthier forcing a trade.

Yet the end was so crushing because a playoff berth was in hand until an eight-game losing streak that bridged March and April that proved the death knell for their season.

All season the Flyers fan-boy media have stoked the notion that they had overachieved, and that they were playing with “house money” in their quest for the playoffs.

Then, that house crashed with a devastating eight-game losing streak, and they missed the postseason for the fourth straight year.

The Flyers’ acceleration from expected painful rebuild to the cusp of the playoffs was faster than expected — especially among those whose opinions matter most, coach John Tortorella and general manager Danny Briere — which made the late-season freefall all the more puzzling and gut-wrenching.

As far as next season? Even then, the playoffs aren’t necessarily a benchmark in the process.

“We are a ways away,” Tortorella said Friday.

“We have so much work to do with this team. There are holes in the team. It’s going to take more time.”

Added Briere:

“I know the expectation next year will be, oh, we’ve got to get in the playoffs. I don’t even know that we’re there yet. It was a great year. But there’s still a long ways to go.”

“I think we still need to add talent to our team,” Tortorella said.

“I am totally in,” Tortorella said, “until Danny says, ‘Get the hell out of here.’”

Tortorella largely took the blame for the collapse.

“I couldn’t get the team to close the deal,” Tortorella said.

“It was a concern of mine, 25 games left or so in the season, can we stay with it? I think it’s my job to get it to the end. I think the team played hard right to the end. I just did not close the deal.”

“I’ve made some mistakes this year,” Tortorella said, ”not the ones you may think I did.”

The big mistake — arguably, of course — was benching Sean Couturier only 34 days after he was named team captain.

Only those inside the locker room know the true consequences of Tortorella’s choice in mid-March to make a such a bold and controversial call. But Tortorella fielded multiple questions and needed nearly 10 minutes to defend himself Friday — and stood by his decision.

While Tortorella admitted the timing wasn’t great, he added, “the captaincy’s not going to stop me from holding people accountable.”

Couturier said at the time he was “frustrated with the way I’ve been treated” and his agent called out the franchise for a lack of communication.

Tortorella said Friday the criticism “kind of caught me off guard, a little bit” but defended his style inside the locker room and insisted his players always know where they stand with the coaching staff. Tortorella also blasted agent Erik Lupien calling him, “a little piss-ant out there pounding his chest that really doesn’t know what’s going on between Sean and I.”

“I think it turned into a bunch of drama,” Tortorella said.


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