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Flyers: No Reason to Question Tortorella Coaching Michkov

Matvei Michkov with HK Sochi in the KHL. (HK Sochi Social Media)
(HK Sochi Social Media)

Regarding rumored reports of Matvei Michkov and the Philadelphia Flyers, it is critical to understand nothing is confirmed. However, ‘Michkov Mania’ is coursing through the veins of Flyers fans.

Overall, Philadelphia has fluid communication with SKA St. Petersburg, per Alexander Medvedev, the chairman. They want the best for Michkov in North America, and in an interview with Medvedev a few weeks ago, a mention of a change of scenery has to do with the tragedy of Matvei’s father, Andrei. A jump to the NHL begins a pursuit of his goal: the Stanley Cup.

Right now, it’s important for me to finish the goal that my dad had for me, and that’s to win the Stanley Cup.” – Matvei Michkov; 6/28/23

If Michkov were to arrive in the NHL sooner than expected, he would remain on the Flyers’ roster. He wouldn’t dip to the AHL or ECHL at risk of returning to the KHL. Additionally, Roman Rotenberg, the head coach of SKA St. Petersburg, didn’t deny rumored reports of Michkov embarking on Philadelphia. Nothing is official, and you can bet Daniel Brière and the rest of the organization will remain tight-lipped, per usual.

So, what if Michkov is on the Flyers roster next season?

Before everyone begins playing lineup bingo, there are more important questions to ponder. Many have opinions on the current bench boss in Philadelphia, John Tortorella. Is he the correct coach for a talent like Michkov upon arrival in the NHL? Fans are divisive in their vocal opinions, but Tortorella and Michkov are competitive spirits. Tortorella will remain true to his coaching style, but there isn’t any reason to suspect that will rattle Michkov.

NHL Development

A maestro with the puck, the Flyers know they’re getting a high-end forward with potential generational talent. Michkov paced ahead of Connor Bedard, the highly anticipated first-overall pick from the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, during the 2021 IIHF U18 World Juniors. If Bedard is a proper benchmark of what to expect from Michkov in the NHL, Philadelphia will add an explosive goal scorer and playmaker in his true rookie season.

But, what matters almost as much are the intangibles.

Michkov wants to and is ready to win. He is the vehicle for the Flyers on the upswing in the NHL.

“Everybody that knows me knows that I hate losing. I’m going to do whatever I have to, I’m going to work as hard as I have to, to make a big impact in Philadelphia.” – Matvei Michkov; 6/29/2023

However, don’t expect Tortorella to treat Michkov differently. Tortorella will set similar expectations and standards for Michkov, especially when he has a clause in his contract that allows him to return directly to the KHL if Philadelphia considers a reassignment to the AHL, per Medvedev. That clause puts pressure on Michkov to produce upon arrival. No one believes Michkov won’t live up to expectations, and there isn’t an intention from the Flyers to pivot Michkov away from the NHL, regardless of the KHL clause.

“Unlike the situation with Ivan Fedotov, we are in contact with Philadelphia. The Flyers’ management does not even hide their desire for Matvei to come to them and try his hand at the NHL. But, if you go earlier, then you need to have a provision in the contract that if Philadelphia is tempted to send him to the AHL, he will have the right to return.” – Alexander Medvedev; 4/30/2024

Mix in the no-nonsense coaching style of Tortorella with the generational excellence of Michkov, and you get a reaction that jumps off the pages. Brière, Tortorella, Keith Jones, and Dan Hilferty have worked tirelessly to build a winning culture. Some people roll their eyes at the buzzword, but a team needs to learn how to compete against the best while adding top-tier talent to become winners. Michkov is the vital ‘missing piece’ Philadelphia didn’t have in their arsenal. If Michkov proves to be the competitor in the NHL that we’ve witnessed in international play, he’ll test his teammates, and even Tortorella, in a way the Flyers will appreciate.

The saying goes, ‘pressure creates diamonds.’ Tortorella will never change his standard, and Michkov, internationally and in the KHL, is a diamond. Dubbed ‘The Mad Russian’ by Tortorella, the clear implication is that Tortorella is genuinely ready to coach and develop Michkov as much as Michkov is truly prepared to strap on the ‘Orange and Black.’

“Sometimes, in my mind, you get to the future, moving away a couple of years ago from now, when ‘The Mad Russian’ comes over here. You start bringing in some free agents when the time is right with some more offensive skill. I want that to fall into place when they come in. I want them to stay with this style.” – John Tortorella; 11/30/2023

Youth and Tortorella

There is a tired stigma surrounding Tortorella. He doesn’t know how to develop younger players, favors too many veterans, or isn’t the right coach for a rebuilding club. That isn’t true. If you believe that, you’re bending light to fit an incorrect narrative that doesn’t match this season.

Philadelphia wasn’t supposed to sniff the postseason, and that was the take during training camp and preseason. Then, the Flyers overachieved. They were competitive until the final stretch when the last spot of the NHL Metropolitan Division or NHL Wildcard berth slipped away.

Sam Ersson, Owen Tippett, Joel Farabee, Travis Sanheim, Morgan Frost, Tyson Foerster, Cam York, and Ryan Poehling are players who took a step forward in their careers. Except for Sanheim, 27, all those players are under 25.

Will Tortorella and Michkov Mesh?

Yes. There will be an adjustment with a new coach, but Tortorella is the correct coach to deploy the competitive nature of a prospect like Michkov.

Will there be a bit of abrasion between Tortorella and Michkov? History says ‘probably.’ However, the brass in Philadelphia is handling this with white glove care. But, there is a difference between the confidence Michkov has versus how long it took for a player like Frost to confront and navigate Tortorella.

If or when fire meets fire, it’ll mean the Flyers’ opponents won’t want the smoke.

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