Flyers

5 takeaways from Alain Vigneault's introduction as Flyers head coach

5 takeaways from Alain Vigneault's introduction as Flyers head coach

VOORHEES, N.J. — A new era of Flyers hockey officially commenced Thursday morning when the organization introduced Alain Vigneault as its new head coach.

At Flyers Skate Zone, Vigneault and general manager Chuck Fletcher answered questions in a televised press conference and also addressed the media afterward.

Here are five pertinent takeaways from the gathering:

1. That didn't take long

Everything happened quickly, which tells you how much Fletcher wanted Vigneault.

Ten days ago, Fletcher said the process of identifying the Flyers' next head coach was underway. Shortly after, he contacted Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton to ask for permission to interview Vigneault, who was still under contract with New York following his firing last April. 

Vigneault said the Flyers were one of two teams to already request an interview.

Fletcher and Vigneault set up a meeting over the weekend in Aventura, Florida, where Vigneault has a home. Following an interview and dinner, Fletcher knew Vigneault was his guy. Vigneault also knew the Flyers were his fit.

"Met Chuck, flew down to Florida last Saturday," Vigneault said. "Had a great meeting, talked again Sunday and finalized things on Monday."

Fletcher did his due diligence but clearly Vigneault was on his radar from Day 1.

"Once I knew there was a fit, there was no reason to continue the process," Fletcher said.

"There were a couple people right at the top of the list when I took over. I focused on that group and Alain was the guy.

"There were a few other people I had phone calls with or had permission to speak with, other quality coaches, but I will say I spent much more time with Alain than with anybody else."

2. The time is now

Fletcher and Vigneault clicked on many topics, from organizational philosophy, coaching tactics, communication and areas to improve.

One area that truly stood out was how both believed the Flyers could win now.

That shared belief may have been most important.

Fletcher was brought on board behind an urging from management to make the Flyers more competitive again, much sooner rather than later. At this stage of his career, Vigneault perfectly coincided with that message. He has come up short in two Stanley Cup Final appearances and likes what the Flyers have in place.

What I was looking for in my new opportunity to coach were three things. First thing I was looking for was an opportunity to win — an opportunity in the short term to win a Stanley Cup. When I look at and analyze the parts we have here in Philly, when I look at and analyze the options that we have in improving this team, it gets a check mark from me.

This is without a doubt one of the best franchises in the National Hockey League. In my mind and after talking to a lot of people who have been in the game that know this franchise, this team is on the upswing.

In my bucket list, I need one more thing: I need to win a Stanley Cup. I've come close twice. I've been very lucky to work for three great organizations: the Montreal Canadiens, the Vancouver Canucks and the New York Rangers. I've come close twice. I think this will be the right one. 


(Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)

3. Assets are good

It also doesn't hurt to join an organization with financial flexibility to fill holes and supplement what is already in place.

"Yes, there's no doubt," Vigneault said. "No doubt at all."

Vigneault knew that was an enticing part of the package with the Flyers, who could have upwards of $30 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly.com, before the team takes care of its young restricted free agents.

"We've sat down and established and identified a real good list of where we need to improve this team, where we need to get more depth," Vigneault said. "You talked about goaltending, up front, the center position would probably be somewhere where we'd like to take a look at. Is that going to be possible? We'll see. But we're looking at some options and if we can put the right things in place, it's going to be a lot of fun."

When Vigneault met with Fletcher, he was sold on the big picture, which he believes will attract players, too.

"We expressed different theories, different principles, I talked to him about the importance of the organization," Vigneault said. "In today's game, you've got to make sure the environment that you're creating is — I don't want to say pro-player, but it can incite players to choose Philly as a destination because they'll get the best development, they'll get the best coaching whether it be strength, psychological coaches, etc. 

"You need total commitment from ownership and there's no doubt that we have that here."


(Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)

4. 'Talent has no age'

Vigneault said he has no qualms with playing younger players, which was a hot topic during his days in New York.

I firmly believe that talent has no age. If a guy who's 19 can step in and help the Flyers win and be competitive, he's going to play. Talent has no age. You just have to put players, young and old, and your core guys, in situations where they can best help the team.

But he will stress systems, fundamentals and playing the right way, which is why Fletcher liked him so much for the Flyers.

"Players look for direction," Vigneault said. "If you give a player and a team a path and you do this, you do it this way, you put in the time, you're going to have success. You do the same thing with your team, they're going to follow you."

On a conference call Monday, Fletcher emphasized accountability.

Vigneault said there's a balance when enforcing it with players in order to get the best out of them.

Certain players have a little bit more money in the bank because they've been around a little bit longer and they've got a better skill set than others. Certain players are given a little bit more latitude to make certain plays. But there are some times … you've got a one-goal lead, five minutes left in the game, or two minutes left in the second period, or two minutes left in the first — there's no latitude then. 

You've got to make the right play at the right time for the benefit of the team. And you live to retry it another day. Those are all parts of players understanding what it takes to win. Once they understand that, you've got a real good environment.

5. First order of business

This is a busy time for Vigneault. He will be the head coach of Team Canada in the 2019 IIHF World Championship from May 10-26.

What is atop his to-do-list with his Flyers tenure underway?

"Right now, because of my schedule, I would like to first meet and talk to the coaches that are here," Vigneault said. "If I have a decision to make moving forward, I can quickly talk to Chuck. Since I'm going to be gone for the month of May, I can probably start, if I need to start a process, I can during that time."

So far, no decisions have been made regarding the statuses of assistant coaches Kris Knoblauch (power play), Ian Laperriere (penalty kill), Rick Wilson (defensemen) and Kim Dillabaugh (goalies).

"There's no doubt in my mind that the coaching staff that is here at this time is very solid and very competent, so I do want to take the time to talk to those guys, hopefully in the next week before I leave for Europe," Vigneault said. "Chuck and I will circle back and figure out what's best for this group."

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What was most troubling about Flyers' 0-2-1 road trip?

What was most troubling about Flyers' 0-2-1 road trip?

Going End to End today are NBC Sports Philadelphia's Katie Emmer and Jordan Hall.

The topic: What was the most troubling aspect of the Flyers' 0-2-1 road trip?

Emmer

How many other NHL teams had to deal with the crazy travel schedule for the first five games of the season like the Flyers? You guessed it — none. 

No other team in the league traveled across nine different time zones to start its season and I believe the most troubling aspect of the road trip was just that — adjusting to time zones. 

From traveling to Lausanne, Switzerland, for the final preseason game to the final game of the three-game Western Canada road trip, the Flyers had flown over 14,853 miles, played in four different time zones and spent parts of 19 of 21 days on the road since Sept. 27.

Now that is a long road trip.

I think it’s fair to say the extensive travel led to phases of fatigue for the team. Battling through that many time zones in a short amount of time, all while trying to physically give your best efforts on the ice, wears anyone down. 

With action returning to the Wells Fargo Center this weekend, there’s potential to hit the reset button and start fresh on home ice against Dallas. 

On a side note — I’ve heard Jakub Voracek is a very nervous flier and I hope he was comforted during these trips by his teammates. 

Hall

Everyone heard it in the opening of the NHL Network’s “Behind The Glass” series.

“I want to score f---ing hard,” Alain Vigneault said, “and hard to the net.”

The Flyers focused on developing a brand of size and smarts during the offseason and preseason. Look at the additions to the lineup and roster:

Kevin Hayes — 6-foot-5, 216 pounds
Justin Braun — 6-foot-2, 205 pounds
Matt Niskanen — 6-foot-1, 203 pounds
Tyler Pitlick — 6-foot-2, 200 pounds
Connor Bunnaman — 6-foot-3, 226 pounds
Carsen Twarynski — 6-foot-2, 206 pounds
Chris Stewart — 6-foot-2, 243 pounds

But what happens when size and smarts square off with top-end speed and skill?

Will they be enough to combat and control the better teams?

The Flames and Oilers won that battle against the Flyers in the final two games of the road trip, outscoring the orange and black by a combined 9-4.

The Flyers have a new identity and system — the product can work.

However, it did not meet two early challenges. In the aftermath, you can’t blame anyone for wanting to see a whole lot more before believing this season will be different.

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Connor McDavid gives Flyers a nightmare finish to 0-2-1 road trip

Connor McDavid gives Flyers a nightmare finish to 0-2-1 road trip

BOX SCORE

Connor McDavid and company laced up the burners and blew past the Flyers on Wednesday night at Rogers Place.

The Flyers lost to the Oilers, 6-3, to finish their three-game road trip 0-2-1.

McDavid put on a five-point show to send the Flyers back home 2-2-1 overall. Alain Vigneault's team will look to find good vibes at home after traveling to Boston, New York, Lausanne, Switzerland, Prague, Czech Republic, Philadelphia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Calgary, Alberta and Edmonton, Alberta, over a span of 24 days (including the final three preseason games).

The Flyers actually had 52 shots to Edmonton's 22. You would have never guessed it.

The Oilers are 6-1-0 and scoring ... a lot.

• If you blinked, you missed McDavid and the Oilers flipping the game upside down. Trailing, 2-1, to start the middle stanza, the Flyers were actually all over Edmonton, putting six of the period's first seven shots on goal. The Flyers had a number of chances to score an early equalizer — maybe the game takes a different turn if they do.

Alas, they did not and McDavid then decided to pounce. The 22-year-old superstar went off for a goal and two assists in fewer than four minutes. Just like that, the Flyers were in a 5-1 hole.

McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and James Neal entered with a combined 16 goals in their team's six games — more goals than six NHL teams had in the same number of games or more.

The trio did further damage against the Flyers as McDavid finished with a goal and four assists, Draisaitl two goals and an assist, and Neal an assist.

• Carter Hart had a homecoming to forget. The 21-year-old from right outside of Edmonton (Sherwood Park) allowed four goals on 14 shots. The first two were more than stoppable, the third was McDavid being the best player in the world and the fourth was a power play tally.

Hart was not good and yanked in the second period. Prior to the outing, he had stopped 75 of 80 shots faced in his first three games.

• The first 10 minutes of a game are imperative to any road team in the NHL. The Flyers fell behind early in all three games of the Western Canada swing.

Against the Canucks, they trailed 5:01 into the game. Against the Flames, 1:35 into game. And against the Oilers, 1:13 into game.

The Flyers were one of the NHL's worst first-period teams in 2018-19 with a minus-31 goal differential during the opening stanza. Through five games this season, the Flyers have been outscored 5-2 in the first period. Vigneault needs more early offense to kick his system into gear.

• After going scoreless in the Flyers' first four games, his longest drought to start a season, Jakub Voracek got on the board with a first-period power play goal. He added another man advantage goal and an assist when the game was out of reach late in the third.

The 30-year-old is a player who fuels on confidence as one goal or play can lead to points in bunches. Voracek had 12 multi-point games last season and the Flyers were 9-2-1 in those contests.

They need him to bring this mojo home.

Also, remember when it was a 1-1 game at this point?

• Travis Konecny went scoreless for the first time this season. James van Riemsdyk has 15 shots on net over the past two games but no points to show for it.

• The Flyers are back at the Wells Fargo Center Saturday to play the Stars (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP). A loud start in front of the home fans would do wonders for their confidence.

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