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Farabee Riding the Pine is Just Another Example of Tortorella’s New Era of Orange

(Heather Barry Images, LLC)

A lot of people don’t agree with John Tortorella’s tactics, but he’s the type of head coach who lays down the rules from day 1 and if they are not followed to a tee, you will not go unpunished – no matter who you are. We’ve seen that with Kevin Hayes, Tony DeAngelo, Travis Konecny, Owen Tippett, Morgan Frost, and Joel Farabee among others.

This season alone, he has scratched Frost 10 times and players like Noah Cates, Scott Laughton, and Farabee have been benched mid-game. Farabee’s recent treatment in their 4-3 overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils on Thursday brought about a lot of criticism, and while I don’t agree that he should have sat 58+ minutes, it’s the consistency and accountability factor that reigns supreme from Tortorella.

Last season was the first time in recent memory that the Flyers were held accountable for their actions. It was refreshing to see a head coach sticking to his guns, regardless of the player’s standing with the club. There was general outrage from within the fan base and well beyond that the handling of Hayes and DeAngelo was out of pocket because they represented top players from their respective positions. However, Hayes lackadaisical effort finally came to a boiling point and DeAngelo’s overly aggressive play didn’t work in the Flyers new system.

Players under Tortorella’s regime generally get warnings, it’s not like he just drops the swift hammer of justice out of the blue. Hayes was benched in the third period of an early season game last year alongside Konecny. They both received the same treatment, yet Konecny came out on top and never looked back, while Hayes sulked and butted heads.

The same thing happened to both Tippett and Frost, where they rode the pine mid-game but came out better players as they were two of the more consistent performers throughout the season. Travis Sanheim, Nick Seeler, and Rasmus Ristolainen also received the same deprivation of minutes but bounced back and didn’t receive the same punishment again for the rest of the season. DeAngelo was a good point producer but that was not the point of the 2022-23 season.

What everyone was bellyaching about for years upon years is that the Flyers lacked accountability and that they had lost their culture. The Mike Richards era might have ended that culture train as the Flyers lacked an identity even at their peak with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. That was exactly why Tortorella was brought in and his first season was a test to weed out the undesirables as they looked towards 2024 and beyond.

The growing pains will absolutely be there, however the players that stick around will be in a much better position to succeed than in previous seasons. Last year was rough for Farabee, who arguably had his worst season since being drafted in the first round of the 2018 draft. He endured a 26-game goalless drought and it was evident that he had not fully recovered from his off-season surgery.

This season, he has shown up with 8 goals and 15 points in 23 games. Most of his goals have either been the first goal of the game or at least the Flyers’ first goal, he’s converting at a 15.7% clip, and all but one point has come at even strength. Before his 56 second appearance, he was averaging 15:26 TOI, which is 1.5 minutes less than last season but that has more to do with Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson returning from injury.

He rode the pine because on the game’s opening goal from Alexander Holtz, Tortorella did not like what he saw from Farabee. The play started in their offensive zone as the Devils were looking to move up. There was a play made just inside of the blue-line where Farabee tried to pinch to keep the puck in the zone, but Michael McLeod banked it off the boards and jettisoned the odd-man rush.

Noticing the impending rush, Farabee did not look to have shown the type of backchecking that Tortorella demands; it was reminiscent of what got Hayes in a lot of trouble last year. Farabee wasn’t the only one caught as Scott Laughton had to cover for Travis Sanheim, who was the furthest back of all players wearing the Orange and Black.

Sanheim hustled his way down as fast as he could and with Laughton acting as the defenseman, the Devils were able to patiently work things around before Holtz wired a shot from the slot – unmarked.

At the time of the goal, the camera showed 4 Flyers players in the area with Farabee coming in very late as the 5th man. When they showed the replay, Farabee seemed a little lost in who he was supposed to mark because he hesitantly traversed the neutral zone into the defensive zone, hunched over and covering nobody.

At the end of the game, Tortorella only said one thing about the situation and that was that Farabee “didn’t listen”. We don’t know what that was in reference to, nor will we anytime soon, but Farabee understood what had happened and remained a good sport at the end of the bench all throughout:

“Once I figured out I wasn’t playing the rest of the game, all I tried to do was be a good teammate on the bench.”

You thought that maybe after Garnet Hathaway was tossed out of the game that the Flyers would go back to Farabee, but instead Tortorella operated with 10 forwards and they fired 23 shots in the 2nd period and 48 for the game as they rallied late to force overtime.

It’s not the first time he’s been benched and maybe it won’t be the last time either, but Farabee has shown he’s capable of bouncing back as has Frost, as has Bobby Brink, and as have the myriad of other players that have been felt the wrath of their bench boss.

Farabee remained in the lineup ahead of their first game against the Pittsburgh Penguins where he took 2 shots, recorded 2 hits, had a blocked shot, and was a minus-1 in 15:06 TOI. He started the game with Scott Laughton and Cam Atkinson and looked like a fire was lit under him at times with a harder back-check and a more aggressive forecheck evident during stretches of the game.

The cycle will continue throughout this season and the next, but Farabee remains a vital cog for the present and the future. In fact, any player that shows a lack of hustle, determination, and fight will receive the same flack but it’s how you fight through that adversity that matters the most and Tortorella appreciates that Farabee didn’t sulk – or for that matter Frost as well.

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