Chuck Fletcher and John Tortorella Agree: They Always Have
A letter sent to Season Ticket Holders was sent yesterday that took the Flyers fanbase by storm. The letter was a rousing success from the standpoint of getting attention. it got many people dedicating many words to the Flyers, and don’t get this twisted, that was the entire point.
Throughout the discussion of the letter online, everyone approached the letter from a particular perspective. They approached the letter with the “knowledge” that there are two different positions in the organization: the John Tortorella position, and the Chuck Fletcher position.
On the surface, that seems appropriate. John Tortorella speaks often about how this is going to take a while, and how we have building to do. Chuck Fletcher, for his part, speaks often about how they’re actually going to surprise people.
When the letter was released, Charlie O’Connor of the Athletic championed the theory that this was actually a signal that the organization had finally embraced the John Tortorella point of view.
Detractors–including his podcast co-host Bill Matz–argued that the letter didn’t have anyone’s name on it except Torts, so there’s nobody to hold accountable for following the dictates of the letter except the one guy whose name is attached: Torts.
The whole argument boils down to an attempt to answer a simple question: Does the Flyers’ Front Office now agree with John Tortorella?
Well, to better answer that question, maybe we should read through the entire letter. All of it.
Then compare the contents of the letter to the contents of the interview Chuck Fletcher gave in December, which now lives on in infamy. You can read the interview here.
“At the beginning of the season, we set out to build a foundation for the future and a standard for how we’re going to play, night in and night out.”
“Now that we’re halfway through the season, I want to share with you what I’ve seen from our guys. I have been very pleased with our team’s effort, drive, and hunger to compete.”
The first two paragraphs of the letter can be boiled down to two words: mission accomplished! We set out to set a standard for how we’re going to play, and we did it!
Chuck Fletcher has repeatedly–and excitedly–hyped up the idea that they were going to have Torts set this standard, and Torts is saying that he’s set the standard. Where, exactly, do you see the disagreement?
Far short of disagreement, Chuck Fletcher said the same thing himself! In December!
“But I think the hope is to build that foundation of how we want to play and re-establish that identity,” Fletcher said. “And then, obviously, we have to find a way to add more talent. As we get a couple players back from injury here, I think that will improve our talent level. But clearly, we have work to do.”
And you think Chuck disagrees when Torts says mission accomplished?
I highly doubt that.
Let’s move on.
“We also have some kids here who have impressed me. Some of them have taken on heavy minutes and big responsibilities, and they’re growing into the impact players we need them to be. This development of our young players is absolutely crucial for our future.”
Do you think Chuck Fletcher disagrees that young players already in-house are developing wonderfully? In fact, Torts does a brilliant job of completely letting the front office off the hook.
According to Torts, the process has already begun and these kids are growing into the impact players we need them to be, and that’s absolutely crucial for our future.
Well, it’s a good thing we don’t have to go out and find anymore young talent. According to Torts, we have all the young talent right here and they’re developing. And then one day, they’re gonna form a competitive core on par with the best hockey teams in the league!
You think Chuck Fletcher disagrees with that? As Torts tells everyone that we have all the pieces in place and it’s just a matter of time before we explode into a window of contention, is Chuck Fletcher raising his hands and shouting, “NO!”
Far short of that, Chuck said similar things himself! Again, in December!
“So there are some players in the pipeline that are coming,” Fletcher said. “We do have three first-round picks the next two years. So we have certainly tried to be aggressive in adding some young talent, and we’ve tried to find a way to add some pieces here to keep us competitive.”
So, where is the disagreement? Where is the division and discord that I was promised? Torts and Chuck are completing each other’s sentence, but maybe it’s later on in the letter.
“This season, I’ve challenged the veterans on the team, and I’ve been very happy with their response. Beyond the stats, they’ve shown a willingness to adapt, compete, and lead our group both on and off the ice.”
Well, golly, not only are the young kids impressing… but so are the veterans! They’re leading the locker room, and they’re performing! Everything is just so wonderful!
My God, it’s almost as if the Flyers are the Boston Bruins instead of the 3rd worst team in the Eastern Conference.
And again, I ask, what part of that is Chuck Fletcher supposed to be vehemently disagreeing with? What part of that view has Chuck Fletcher ever disagreed with? He’s never disagreed. In fact, he said this was coming. Forgive me, the article decided to describe Fletcher’s comments to them instead of quoting him. So, I’m going to quote the article.
Tortorella also mentioned that they’re figuring out who does and doesn’t fit into the team’s future. Fletcher agreed with that statement, but they both acknowledged that they can’t just decide a player doesn’t fit and get rid of him. Contracts get in the way. Tortorella said that, on his part, he just gives Fletcher information. He lets Fletcher figure out the contracts and trades. Fletcher didn’t explain how he would move players who don’t fit but have bad contracts.
“Kevin Hayes, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Travis Sanheim are players with large, long contracts from whom Tortorella has explicitly stated he needs more. Fletcher clarified that that doesn’t necessarily mean Tortorella thinks they aren’t a fit but that he sees more in them.“
Not only did Fletcher clarify that we don’t have to get rid of any of these guys, Torts agrees completely so far!
Again. Disagreement? They’re completing each other’s sentences.
Surely, I will find the disagreement when we move on.
“Now, I’m not going to lie to you—and I want to be clear about this—we’re not there yet. This was the first step in building the future of the Flyers and restoring our reputation as one of the most respected teams in hockey.”
This is supposed to be the money line. This is the line that tells everyone that the organization understands the problems they face, and that they’re embracing the Torts view of the rebuild or quasi-rebuild or the build or whatever the hell he is calling it today.
Which, by the way, Chuck doesn’t know what to call it either!
“Does that mean it’s a rebuild? Fletcher said he’s not sure what the label for it is.”
For both Chuck and Torts, the word rebuild is tantamount to Voldemort. It shall not be named.
But at least Torts describes something like a rebuild and says it’ll take a while. Chuck doesn’t say this will take a while, does he? This is where Fletcher comes in and says something entirely different… right? Again, the article elected to describe rather than quote, so I will quote the article.
“This may, in fact, take time, contrary to their comments at the end of last season. Organizations and fans aren’t always patient, but Fletcher said he isn’t thinking about whether he’ll be fired before his process yields results.“
Wow. No, he also said the exact same thing here. But how is that possible? I heard stories of a civil war. Is Torts giving quotes for Chuck Fletcher now?
Have you gotten the point yet? Have you seen how everyone is approaching this debate completely wrong?
If you haven’t, it’s because you’re thinking of that one Chuck Fletcher quote where he talks about being 5 points out of a playoff spot. And that’s understandable. After all, it’s certainly way different from the general tenor of the letter. So I get it completely.
But let’s play the same game in reverse. We quoted John Tortorella and then pulled quotes from Chuck Fletcher expressing shockingly similar sentiments.
Let’s quote Chuck Fletcher and find John Tortorella expressing shockingly similar sentiments.
“I expect to be more competitive the rest of the way,” Fletcher said. “We’re five points out of a wild-card spot now. We’ll see if we have the capability of staying in that race and competing.”
Now, Chuck didn’t say he expects the Flyers to make the playoffs. It’s Chuck Fletcher, and we all hate him with good reason. But because we hate him, we put words in his mouth. He said we’ll see. He said maybe they’ll stay competing in that race. He hopes to see that.
And guess what? So does Torts. This is from his January 7th media availability, a month after Chuck Fletcher’s notorious comments. You can watch the whole thing here.
“I hope we put ourselves in a spot that we’re sniffing [a playoff spot]. You start sniffing and then how do you react in those type of situations? For coaches, it’s constant information you’re looking for out of players. That’s not through speaking with them; it’s watching them. And the more and more important the games are, the more and more information you get, good or bad.”
I’ve said enough.
Chuck Fletcher and John Tortorella don’t disagree at all, and they never have. Their vision for the future of the franchise is the exact same.
But one figure is hated, and one is loved, so we pretend as if there’s a division there. Then we assign the position we favor to the guy we like and assign the position we oppose to the guy we hate. It’s human nature. It’s nobody’s fault.
But it’s time to pull up the curtain and see what’s really going on here.
Maybe you still agree with John Tortorella’s vision of the future. But if you do, you have to realize you also agree with the Chuck Fletcher vision. They’re the exact same.
This isn’t the Front Office signaling that change is ahead by embracing the John Tortorella view because they always have embraced the John Tortorella view. It was always the exact same perspective.
Do you still agree with the Torts and Chuck Fletcher vision? That’s beyond the scope of this article. So, you tell me.
Mandatory Credit: Zach Hill