VOORHEES, N.J. — John Tortorella is nothing if he's not intensely loyal.
The coach will go to battle for those alongside him, even in the most extreme circumstances.
A day after Chuck Fletcher faced heavy backlash for not finding a way to trade James van Riemsdyk by Friday's 3 p.m. ET deadline, Tortorella smiled in befuddlement of the criticism directed at the Flyers' general manager.
"Do you not think he tried to move him? Are you guys kidding me? He tried like hell to move him," Tortorella said Saturday following practice. "There are so many different scenarios that went on. I just don't get the criticism of James still being here, like Chuck held onto him; $7 million [contract], we've got to eat some of the money, probably half of it, as I'm sure you guys know.
"Chuck tried. But everybody wants to pile on."
Fletcher is in his fourth full season as the Flyers' GM. In Year 1 of his tenure, the Flyers won their first playoff series since 2012 and fell a win shy of the Eastern Conference Final. The following two seasons, however, the Flyers missed the postseason in consecutive years for the first time since 1992-93 and 1993-94.
This season, the club has changed its course to more of a future-focused rebuild of sorts under Tortorella. The Flyers were sellers at a third straight deadline and Fletcher said they were "willing to listen on just about anything if it makes sense."
They made two deals on expiring contracts but were unable to move van Riemsdyk, their most obvious chip and one of the bigger rental names left on the market when Friday started.
The 33-year-old winger was practicing Saturday with the Flyers instead of traveling to join a new club.
"Definitely, based on what I was hearing, a little bit surprised," van Riemsdyk said at his locker stall. "But you ultimately realize, being around long enough, that things go the way they're going to go. ... Nothing's ever certain until it's done."
Van Riemsdyk said he had not had a conversation with Fletcher about the result of Friday's deadline. To no surprise, van Riemsdyk is ready to put his best foot forward over the Flyers' final 20 games.
Fletcher has been in pro hockey for 30 years, so he understands the pressure that comes with his position and in a market like Philadelphia. Tortorella has not shied away from criticism and the challenge at hand with the Flyers.
But he didn't feel Fletcher or the Flyers deserved the vitriol here.
"For me, I want it to be legitimate criticism," Tortorella said. "For you to come out and criticize Chuck for not moving JVR — I guess that's what's out there — I don't get it because he tried like hell. And why wouldn't we? First of all, out of respect to JVR. That's the bottom line with Chuck, he's such a good man. He wants [van Riemsdyk] and [Justin Braun] playing.
"But I get it. I haven't been here the whole time. I think Chuck has been kind of run over and chucked darts at for quite a bit here. For me, chuck darts at me when you guys think I deserve it. I just don't want you to manufacture criticism of Chuck at this point in time at the deadline because something sexy didn't happen. Nothing sexy was going to happen, I think we all understand that, don't we, going into this. Expiring contracts, we were trying to gain assets. That's the key. And he tried. But you still need people that are willing to join in."
During July, Tortorella defended Fletcher's offseason, which was met with some scrutiny.
On Saturday, he stuck by his GM on the non-trade of van Riemsdyk.
"Don't get me wrong, we need to grow some skin around here," Tortorella said. "Criticism is all part of it and we deserve some criticism as far as where we're at as a team. I just don't like the unjustified ... you have enough things to criticize me or Chuck about. I don't think criticizing Chuck about his day yesterday is warranted because him and the scouts were waiting, willing and able. And it just didn't happen.
"We deserve a lot of crap out here, we do, from you guys. We do. But not that one, not for me."
Subscribe to and rate Flyers Talk
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube