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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NHL trade deadline: Flyers acquire Derek Grant in trade with Ducks

NHL trade deadline: Flyers acquire Derek Grant in trade with Ducks

Updated: 1:37 p.m.

VOORHEES, N.J. — General manager Chuck Fletcher has put a focus on adding to his group of forwards to augment the Flyers' playoff push.

Shortly after acquiring Nate Thompson (see story), the Flyers made a much more notable depth acquisition ahead of Monday's 3 p.m. ET trade deadline. Fletcher acquired Derek Grant from the Ducks in exchange for Phantoms forward Kyle Criscuolo and a 2020 fourth-round draft pick. The pick will be the better of the two fourth-round selections the Flyers have — their own pick and the one they acquired from the Predators last deadline.

Grant, a well-traveled forward with positional versatility, already owns a personal-best 14 goals and is five points away from breaking his career high of 24 set in 2017-18.

Head coach Alain Vigneault mentioned how Grant, who can play center or winger, could open on the wing with the Flyers, while Thompson appears to be a fourth-line center type.

The 29-year-old Grant checked a lot of boxes for the Flyers (see story). His cap hit is only $700,000 and he can become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, so he doesn't block the club's future down the middle or on the wing.

"We’ll have to figure out where he fits in best with our team," Vigneault said Monday after practice. "In doing our homework, the feedback that we got back was that he’s a very versatile player who can play all the positions. I felt that was important. It gives me a little bit more leeway as far as certain nights when some guys are on top of their game or some other guys are a little bit off. We’ll see. We’ll have some decisions to make."

Grant was playing fourth-line center for the Ducks, his sixth NHL team, and was one of their best penalty killers. The move made Connor Bunnaman an odd man out of the lineup as the rookie was loaned to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley after practice. He played well as a rookie, but Grant gives the Flyers experience, size, a boost on special teams and some secondary scoring potential.

"This was obviously the whole staff getting together — pro scouts, management and coaches — analyzing our team, analyzing where we are," Vigneault said. "I think it was an easy conclusion to make that if we could improve our depth, we would do that. So far, that’s what we’ve done. We’ve been able to add a fourth-line centerman that’s going to help us in Thompson on the PK. Grant’s got a little bit more versatility, he can play all three positions, he’s been used in a PK and power play role.

"So we felt that we needed a little bit more depth in this final push here moving forward, and so far that’s what we’ve added."

The Flyers have relied on younger forwards Bunnaman, Joel Farabee and Nicolas Aube-Kubel, all of whom have held their own during the playoff race. Since Jan. 8, the Flyers are 13-5-1 with an NHL-high 68 goals.

However, the Flyers had only 12 healthy forwards with 20 games remaining and competing in the NHL's deepest division (see story). Farabee was also loaned to the Phantoms, but there's a good chance he'll be back with the big club at some point.

"We're pretty comfortable with the group we have, but bringing in some experience always helps. You can't have enough experience down the road," Sean Couturier said. "It's nice to see the confidence from the management. It's just up to us now to go out there and keep doing our job, keep winning games."

Grant is expected to be in the Flyers' lineup Tuesday night against the Sharks (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

"Remembering him, he's a big guy, pretty strong out there, tough to play against," Couturier said. "It's nice to see some addition. I think he's having a great year, too, so we'll definitely need him down the road."

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Flyers NHL trade deadline 2020: A boost from Ducks center Derek Grant

Flyers NHL trade deadline 2020: A boost from Ducks center Derek Grant

Leading up to the Feb. 24 NHL trade deadline, we looked at potential targets on the market and why they may or may not fit the Flyers' plans, including Ducks center Derek Grant.

At 11:30 a.m on deadline day, the Flyers acquired Grant. Below is our original profile of him. 

***

Derek Grant

Age: 29
Height: 6-3
Weight: 206
Team: Anaheim Ducks
2019-20 cap hit: $700,000

Scouting report

The well-traveled center has picked an opportune time for a career year. Grant, who is playing for his sixth NHL team, already owns a personal-best 14 goals and is five points away from breaking his career high of 24 set in 2017-18.

Grant, who has some positional versatility, possesses the characteristics the Flyers targeted last offseason — quality size, good physicality and strength in puck battles.

He's not highly skilled or an active playmaker, but the fourth-line center leads Anaheim's forwards in shorthanded minutes per game and is solid in the faceoff circle.

Projection

This one checks a lot of boxes.

It would make sense for the Ducks, who are in second-to-last place of the Western Conference, to sell high on Grant's stock. He's an older role player putting up career numbers and can become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.

Grant's cap hit fits the Flyers' plans and he wouldn't block the team's future down the middle given his expiring contract.

The Flyers very well may be happy enough with 21-year-old Connor Bunnaman's play. And if they want more offense, Morgan Frost is heating up at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley (three goals, two assists in last five games). The 2017 first-round pick could take over third-line center duties, while Scott Laughton would give the Flyers tons of depth at fourth-line center.

But if they want more experience and a player enjoying his best offensive season yet, Grant is a nice option. Adding him would likely only require trading a lower-round draft pick.

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