Alain Vigneault did not walk back his comments.
Not even close.
And why should he have?
What we've learned about Vigneault over the course of his first season in Philly is that the been-around-the-block head coach calls it how he sees it. He's honest, he means what says, he's no bulls--t. Flyers fans have opened their arms and embraced his makeup as a bench boss. The victories and renewed sense of optimism around the team haven't hurt. But Philadelphia likes to relate to its coach.
Outside of his abilities to make teams better on the ice, there's a reason why Vigneault not only survived in three major markets before arriving to Philadelphia, but also had considerable success.
He is unfazed by external pressure and noise.
When the noise started permeating the hockey world with the news of Brendan Gallagher's fractured jaw, much of it was funneled right in the direction of Vigneault and the Flyers. Gallagher suffered the injury during the third period of the Flyers' 5-3 Game 5 loss Wednesday in their best-of-seven first-round playoff series against Montreal. Gallagher was crosschecked by Matt Niskanen, who was suspended for Game 6 by the NHL Department of Player Safety. Gallagher will miss the remainder of the series in which the Flyers hold a 3-2 lead entering Friday's Game 6 (7 p.m. ET/NBC).
After the play, which occurred with a little over five minutes left in the third period, Gallagher was left bloodied. The Canadiens' winger, a two-time 30-plus goal scorer who plays with an edge, was animated and seen talking a lot to the Flyers following Niskanen's crosscheck. Gallagher received medical evaluation and treatment on the bench and returned to the game for a shift.
On Thursday, prior to the announcement of Gallagher's diagnosis, Vigneault said the crosscheck to Gallagher "seemed like a hockey play that unfortunately cut him a little bit," stating that he believed Gallagher "seemed fine" because the 28-year-old forward got up and was talking to the officials and Flyers players "the rest of the game."
On Friday morning, Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin was "extremely disappointed that A.V. would make a comment about a player, his injuries, without knowing the extent of it."
“Brendan Gallagher will be missing an extended period of time and will be eating his meals out of a straw," Bergevin said in a video interview. "I don’t wish that on anybody, and that includes the Flyers players."
On Friday around 12:30 p.m., it was Vigneault's turn again. He was asked about Bergevin's comments. Vigneault expressed no regret and explained why in a calm but blunt manner:
Via the memory of the Associated Press' Stephen Whyno, there's apparently history with Gallagher, Vigneault and a previous broken jaw, going back to the 2014 Eastern Conference Final between Vigneault's Rangers and the Canadiens. Just when you thought a war of words couldn't become more amplified.
In this whole back-and-forth drama, it's hard to fault Vigneault for explaining what he watched. He was honest in what he saw. He was right there on the bench, he watched Gallagher and he heard Gallagher. The outside pressure and noise boiled Thursday night into Friday morning, but Vigneault didn't break. When you've coached in Montreal, Vancouver, New York and Philadelphia, tackling daily pressure becomes a part of the job description. In reality, his firm stance only brightens the spotlight on the coach as the series heightens in animosity.
On Friday, Vigneault wasn't going to hide behind the press conference table and retract his comments.
Vigneault stood by his word — he said Thursday what he saw on the ice Wednesday.
"At the end of the day, at this time, there are no friends," Vigneault said before this series started. "There are no friends in coaching and there shouldn’t be any friends as far as players. There’s a lot of respect obviously on both sides, but it’s time to play and it’s time to bring it. That’s what both the Flyers and Montreal are going to try to do."