The team has gotten faster, when were they able to skate with a team like Edmonton in the past?
Ironically, they actually struggled more with the Isles and Preds, I think b/c they have a lot of young forwards who can get out of their comfort zone against a tough checking team.
Give Torts a GM who'll find him his kind of players and they can turn it around pretty quickly - he has a history of turning teams around - the problem in CBJ was the GM made the mistake of thinking early success meant the job was done, didn't manage the cap, then made a couple big TDL trades - and when Bob, Panarin and Duchene walked, the party was over.
I think this is why Torrts has been so public about the need to build this team - this is his last go round and I think he wants to build his legacy by leaving a team behind him that's among the league's elite - making the playoffs means nothing to him with his resume. So he's trying to make it harder for Fletcher to go for the quick fix to save his job. Notice how he's praised Briere, I think he wants a GM on the same page when it comes to rebuilding.
Torts actually is comfortable with the "new" NHL, he's developed fast undersized forwards (St Louis, Atkinson, now TK), he encourages D-men to attack in the O-zone (but requires his forwards to know when they need to cycle back and cover for the D-man), but also stresses back checking and shot blocking b/c he wants to be aggressive on offense (that is, make mistakes of aggression then skate like hell to make up for them).
Three things you need to make his scheme work: speed, motor and IQ, play fast, play every shift and don't be stupid.