Flyers

5 takeaways from Chuck Fletcher's hiring of Alain Vigneault as Flyers' head coach

5 takeaways from Chuck Fletcher's hiring of Alain Vigneault as Flyers' head coach

Chuck Fletcher needed a week to find who he wanted to spark this Flyers team, a group that underwhelmed significantly in 2018-19 and has visions of jumping right back into contention for 2019-20.

In reality, Fletcher probably had Alain Vigneault on his mind for some time. Over the course of last week, the general manager realized Vigneault was the "right fit for the Flyers" as head coach (see story).

"I think this is a great day for the Flyers' organization," Fletcher said Monday night on a conference call. "Any time you get a chance to get a guy like Alain Vigneault, it's a real positive move. He's one of the top coaches in the league and he has been for many years. We're just very excited that he's agreed to come work."

Here are five takeaways after Fletcher addressed the media:

1. Résumé speaks volumes

It's clear Fletcher was eyeing a coach with deep experience. He wasn't about to get cute with this hire.

Frankly, there isn't a lot of room for patience or error. Fletcher wants to be competitive out of the chute next season. The core's clock ticks with each year and the youth must make bigger strides. Bringing in a coach who has been there, done that was important.

The decision to hire Vigneault says a lot to upper management, which brought in Fletcher to push things forward at a much quicker rate.

The 57-year-old Vigneault owns two Stanley Cup Final appearances, three 50-win seasons and eight 100-point campaigns.

"He's always been what I've considered to be a top coach in the NHL," Fletcher said.

"He's coached for many years in this league, he's won a lot of games, both in the regular season and in the playoffs. His teams have had playoff success. He's won the Jack Adams Trophy, won the Presidents' Trophy. So certainly that track record of winning games is critical."

2. 'Holding his players accountable'

A week ago, Fletcher lamented bad on-ice habits by the Flyers, laying out a laundry list of issues that resulted in maddening inconsistency and another year of no playoffs.

Finding a coach to hone in on better fundamentals and ensuring bad habits are short-lived was obviously on the mind of Fletcher when he pursued Vigneault.

"He has a tremendous track record of developing players, holding his players accountable, instilling proper habits in his players," Fletcher said. "I think he's one of the better bench coaches in the National Hockey League. His ability to adapt and read the game and make changes as he sees fit is top notch. He's obviously a hard-worker.

"In my time with him here over the past few days, I've found out he's also a really good person and somebody that I communicated with well."

3. Faith in the Flyers

Vigneault's decision to hop on board signifies the Flyers are still an attractive destination. They aren't lacking a ton of talent, the prospect pool is promising, Philly is one of the larger markets and the fan base is devoted.

Fletcher said Vigneault was impressed by the Flyers' makeup. Both sides are in win-now mode. The fact that Vigneault chose the Flyers shows he believes in the possibilities of turning this team into a contender.

"He obviously likes our team, likes our group, and thinks there's a lot of upside here," Fletcher said.

"Alain, I think he's at a stage of his career where he wants to win, and he sees a lot of potential in our roster. Right now, it's about trying to continue to build our group and become as competitive as quickly as we can."

4. What's next for Gordon?

Similar to Dave Hakstol, Scott Gordon faced quite a tall task in trying to win over a new GM from outside of the organization.

A general manager almost always wants to hire his guy for the head coaching position. It's one of the firmest and most important imprints a GM can make on his team.

Gordon joined on the fly with little practice time throughout the schedule. He should be commended for bringing the Flyers to within three points of a playoff spot after the team was in last place of the 31-team NHL standings more than halfway through the season.

"First of all, I just want to comment that he did a good job for the Flyers," Fletcher said of his former interim head coach. "He came in under tough circumstances and I thought he did a very good job with our hockey team. When I spoke with him this morning, obviously he was disappointed. He wanted to be the head coach. I just advised him to take some time, we can talk again over the coming weeks."

Gordon said the run with the Flyers had invigorated his desire to coach in the NHL again. If anything, he earned back his previous post within the organization.

"Certainly the Lehigh Valley job is his if he wants it, but right now I don't think is the time to discuss that," Fletcher said. "I just think he needs to take some time and let everything sink in, and a few weeks down the road, we'll have another discussion as to what path he wants to go down."

5. How about the assistants?

The fates of assistant coaches Kris Knoblauch (power play), Ian Laperriere (penalty kill), Rick Wilson (defensemen) and Kim Dillabaugh (goalies) don't look great.

That's what happens when a new head coach is hired. With Vigneault's experience at three different stops, he'll likely have plenty of names in mind for his assistants.

"We haven't made any decisions," Fletcher said. "We'll work together to hire the assistant coaches. We had a conversation about it; we haven't made any final determinations. We really haven't discussed a lot of names other than that we agreed we'd work together to find the right group to surround him."

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Ready for Flyers' roster? Play the wing? Morgan Frost will have much better chance to provide answers

Ready for Flyers' roster? Play the wing? Morgan Frost will have much better chance to provide answers

The Flyers played eight preseason games last year.

Morgan Frost appeared in just one.

At best, the 2017 first-round pick held an outside chance to win a roster spot. With only one game to work with, in actuality, Frost never had a shot. From the outset, he appeared destined for his fourth and final junior hockey season instead of the Flyers' lineup.

"I mean, I got to play in the one exhibition game," Frost said last month at development camp. "I didn't really get to do as much as I could, but I think I was just getting my feet wet. It would have been nice to play another game or two and kind of really get to show [myself]. It's always tough when you kind of jump into a one-game situation like that. Hopefully this year I'll get some more games to prove myself and take it from there."

This fall, it'll be a whole new ballgame.

Frost should have a more realistic fight for the Flyers.

"I'd like to think so, yeah," Frost said.

"I think your chances when your this young get better every year because you turn into a better player and you know what to expect when your in camp."

At development camp, Frost hit on plenty of good points when discussing 2019-20.

He's a year older, which always helps. That fact also means he's now ready for pro hockey, whether it's the Flyers or AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

Another important note: Frost will be playing in front of a new coaching staff and general manager this time around. Having to win over a new regime can be seen as a challenge, but it's also an opportunity.

I don't think it changes the way that I approach things or how I play or carry myself, but it's a new staff — they're going to have open eyes and a fresh look. Just continue to do me and I'm not going to try to change anything.

- Frost

In 2018-19, Frost experienced another dominant year. The dizzying playmaker torched the OHL again by scoring 109 points (37 goals, 72 assists) with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Over his final two OHL seasons, the 20-year-old center put up 221 points (79 goals, 142 assists) and a plus-103 rating in 125 regular-season games. On top of that, he dazzled through the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship with four goals and four assists in five games for Team Canada, which lost in the quarterfinals.

"What they always said is that when you're playing in a medal round or a gold-medal game, it's almost like an AHL playoff game — that's the pace that it's in," Frost said. "It's definitely a lot quicker than the OHL and you're playing against all elite players that are around my age. That was probably the best experience I've ever had playing hockey. It was a lot of fun, it was too bad we didn't do better."

The experience should help Frost's transition to the pro level. Once again, he'll head into training camp with added weight; he's around 187 pounds and his goal is 190. 

"You can see the way he thinks the game and sees the ice — he can make plays," Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr said. "Whether he's ready physically to handle the rigors of the NHL, training camp will dictate that."

He'll also head into camp with a third-line job up for grabs. That vacancy appears to be on the wing, not at Frost's natural position. However, Frost said he played winger in world juniors and at times during the OHL season alongside 2018 fifth overall pick Barrett Hayton.

"I've played wing before," Frost said. "It's definitely not my strong suit right now, but I can definitely adjust to that."

This year, the Flyers have seven preseason games. What will Frost try to prove?

"Just that I belong," he said. "You have to do stuff to stick out but at the same time, you want to blend in with the better players. Just try to do everything I can to make an impression."

Frost should expect more than one game — and he'll know to make them count.

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Scott Laughton, Flyers agree to 2-year, $4.6 million contract

Scott Laughton, Flyers agree to 2-year, $4.6 million contract

No arbitration for Scott Laughton and the Flyers. Not even close.

Laughton and the Flyers on Friday agreed to a two-year contract extension with an average annual value of $2.3 million.

The restricted free agent and the club had an arbitration hearing scheduled for July 30. It's not surpring they never got to it.

This is a good deal for Laughton — and deserved. It's an honest contract for a player that has paid his dues. The 25-year-old's previous contract was a two-year, $1.925 million deal with an average annual value of $962,500.

The 2012 first-round pick has found his niche in the NHL, becoming one of the Flyers' more vital depth pieces. During 2018-19, Laughton delivered career highs in goals (12), assists (20), games (82) and ice time per game (14:51). Just as importantly, Laughton has turned into a valuable penalty-killer as he was second on the team last season in shorthanded ice time (183:52), behind only Sean Couturier (184:51).

The Flyers' 2018-19 campaign was ravaged by inconsistency, but Laughton always played hard and stood out with his effort on the PK. He is slotted to be the Flyers' fourth-line center in 2019-20, between Michael Raffl and possibly Tyler Pitlick.

"When you look at Laughts and Raf, they play some heavy minutes, they can grind it out in the offensive zone and make it hard for the opposition and change momentum," former Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon said in March. "So the next line that comes out there can have an easier time because the previous line from the opponent couldn't get onto the ice.

"Those guys are invaluable and they are just as important as guys that are putting up the big points."

Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny, both not arbitration eligible, are the Flyers' remaining RFAs. Provorov's new contract could take time as both sides appear to be at somewhat of a standstill, while Konecny could be in for a bridge deal (see story).

"I expect as the summer goes on, we'll continue to chip away at this," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said Friday via a conference call. "The market will continue to flesh out as we go and we'll get there; we'll get there by the end."

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