Flyers

5 takeaways from Alain Vigneault's breakdown of Flyers' 2019-20 coaching staff

5 takeaways from Alain Vigneault's breakdown of Flyers' 2019-20 coaching staff

Chuck Fletcher and Alain Vigneault built a 2019-20 staff with a mixture of head coaching experience and Flyers experience.

"We're all in this for the same thing and that's to win," Vigneault said Wednesday in a conference call. "I believe that Chuck and I have put a solid staff together that's going to permit us to do this."

After speaking with Vigneault, here are five takeaways on the coaches:

1. 'This was myself and Chuck'

Fletcher and Vigneault worked together in naming the coaching staff. Both the general manager and head coach were going to have input.

As they came together and highlighted Michel Therrien and Mike Yeo as candidates, it's clear who likely made which suggestion. 

Vigneault said he has known the 55-year-old Therrien "for a long time." 

"I know the type of hockey person he is, I know the type of person he is, I know what he can bring," Vigneault said.

Fletcher gave the 45-year-old Yeo his first NHL head coaching job back in 2011 with the Wild.

"I've known Mike Yeo through coaching against him, but Chuck Fletcher had a real good relationship with him," Vigneault said. "I felt real strongly about what he could bring to our coaching group."

The fact that both Fletcher and Vigneault could listen to each other's suggestions in constructing the staff is a major positive for the GM-coach relationship. Fletcher is a big listener and Vigneault values advice, as well. It's why both targeted experienced guys for the staff.

2. Role changes

When the Flyers announced the additions of Therrien and Yeo, it would have been surprising if either of the two guys with a combined 1,296 games of head coaching experience wouldn't oversee a special teams unit.

That means the role of Ian Laperriere — who was brought back along with goalie coach Kim Dillabaugh — was going to change. Laperriere will no longer be in charge of the Flyers' penalty kill, which ranked in the bottom 10 of the NHL in each of the past five seasons.

Yeo will coach the penalty kill and defensemen, while Therrien will lead the power play and work with the forwards. Laperriere's focus will shift to pre-scouting and focusing on the next opponent. He will move from the bench to the booth during games.

"I've always been a believer that the coach that's running the defense should be running the penalty killing also, and the coach that's doing the power play is a little bit closer with the forwards," Vigneault said. "That's how I've always spread my roles and my tasks in the past and that's how I'm doing it this year."

3. 'Faith in Ian Laperriere'

Vigneault spoke highly of Laperriere, who has often been the subject of criticism for the Flyers' penalty kill struggles, a unit that has ranked 30th in the NHL since 2014-15.

Vigneault and Fletcher likely heard plenty of good things about Laperriere. He has great relationships with the players, has been around the current roster and knows the organization. He can still help in a lot of areas and the Flyers saw that.

"This is about me bringing in people that bring different characteristics, different qualities to the Flyers," Vigneault said. "I've got a lot of faith in Ian Laperriere. I had a good talk with him and I know what he can bring to the Flyers. He's a true Flyer, he wants to be here, he wants to help the team in any way he can. 

"After thinking it through and talking with Chuck, I felt we needed an eye in the sky that was relaying what he was seeing to one of the coaches and that coach is going to be Michel Therrien. And I needed somebody to help us out with our advanced scouting, and that's going to be Ian."

4. 'The two best candidates'

What Vigneault really liked about hiring two former head coaches as assistants is that Therrien and Yeo know what is needed from those roles. A former head coach understands what works with an assistant, which made Therrien and Yeo popular choices.

"I felt that both Mike and Michel were the two best candidates right now that were available to do this job," Vigneault said. "If you look at my pedigree and the coaches that I've worked with in the past, I've always worked with strong, capable coaches."

Following the regular season, Fletcher lamented "bad habits" on the ice that resulted in the Flyers' inconsistency and missing the playoffs for the fourth time in the last seven seasons. The Flyers believe Therrien and Yeo will go a long way in cleaning things up by working closely with the team's personnel.

"This is about giving our players coaching, this is about giving our players direction," Vigneault said. "Both guys, they've been head coaches before. Nobody understands more of what's needed from an assistant than a head coach. So they understand their roles, they know that part of being an assistant is being closer with the players, you have to have an open mind about hearing their concerns sometimes and they bring different situations to me, and it's my job as the head coach to handle the different situations. 

"That experience that both of those guys are going to bring is going to be beneficial throughout the organization — not just me, but to the pro scouting, to the management staff and especially to the players."

5. Special adjustments

The Flyers' power-play percentage of 17.1 this season was the club's worst mark since 2010-11, when the unit was at 16.6.  The Flyers' penalty kill, despite significant improvement down the stretch, finished 26th at 78.5 percent. 

"No doubt that with the stuff that we're bringing to the forefront here, there will be some adjustments as far as philosophies and what we need to do," Vigneault said of the special teams. "I don't want to get into the specifics here on a conference call, but I have certain aspects of penalty killing that I believe in, that have been very effective in the past, just like power play. 

"But I also know Mike Yeo will bring something to the table, as will Michel Therrien and Ian Laperriere. So I want to have the opportunity to sit down with my coaches and brainstorm and look at the personnel that we have at our availability and come up with the best possible system for the power play and penalty killing that will help us."

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The Flyers have a day off the ice Tuesday.

Don't expect them to be making new friendships with their biggest rivals in the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament.

The Flyers are staying in Hotel X Toronto with the Bruins, Lightning, Capitals and Penguins during the tourney.

No problem.

"It’s been good," Scott Laughton said last week in a video interview. "I think we’ve mostly been together, guys have been together most of the time. Not much interaction with other teams or anything like that, I think everyone’s kind of on their own schedule and different practice times and stuff, so haven’t been seeing much of the other guys. I’m sure once playoffs ramp up, I don’t think there will be many hellos. It’s been good so far and very comfortable for us. We've got a great set up here; it’s been pretty smooth for us."

The seven other Eastern Conference teams in the tourney — Hurricanes, Islanders, Maple Leafs, Blue Jackets, Panthers, Rangers and Canadiens — were assigned to the Fairmont Royal York.

The NHL knows its clubs will leave the intensity on the ice.

"We had an assignment protocol based on regular-season finish, who had more point percentage than the others," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said last Friday in an interview with NBC Sports' Liam McHugh. "At the end of the day, our players are professionals. My guess is the teams may stick more to themselves other than the relationships 1-on-1 that players have with players on other teams."

After all, the Stanley Cup is on the line and players were away from their teammates for quite some time during this pause.

"We’re finding from our players, this is the Stanley Cup Playoffs and they are competing for the Stanley Cup, and it’s their interest to be separated," NHL chief content officer and senior executive VP of events and entertainment Steve Mayer said in July just before the teams traveled to the two league bubbles. "The team lounges, the player meeting rooms, the player meal rooms, of course are team by team.

"I think there are going to be certain areas where, let’s call them common areas. For the first five days we’ve put a very, very stringent tone for the fact that they have to be separated, both in restaurants and everywhere. But we really have felt that the players’ feedback is their interest to be separated throughout, and we’ll see how that evolves as the tournament moves on."

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