Last season, Dave Hakstol asked his Flyers to “sack up.” The team was 4-6-0 through 10 games, giving up the NHL’s most goals and Hakstol pleaded for a spark.
The former Flyers head coach returns to the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night as an assistant with the Maple Leafs. A year later, Hakstol’s successor finds himself in a similar spot. Eleven games into 2019-20, Alain Vigneault is staring at his new team and challenging it, looking for a response just like his predecessor did.
Vigneault took the Flyers’ job in April because he believed in the potential. A head coach with two Stanley Cup Final appearances, Vigneault saw another sincere shot at the sport’s pinnacle achievement right here in Philadelphia.
Watching the Flyers get convincingly outworked and outplayed in consecutive losses to divisional opponents was not a part of his vision. He feels the Flyers are capable of much more and not many would disagree with that assertion.
The Flyers followed up an uneven 5-3 loss to the Islanders with an embarrassing 7-1 defeat to the Penguins. They finished October 5-5-1 and are a combined 31-38-7 during the season’s opening month over the past seven years.
In particular, Vigneault wants his established players to set the bar.
“At the end of the day, we’ve got to push the reset button here,” Vigneault told reporters Tuesday night in Pittsburgh. “Our leaders have to lead by their play on the ice. We’re going to go home, reset and get ready for the next game.
“There’s no doubt in my mind and there should be no doubt in anybody’s mind that we’re a much better team than we’ve shown the last couple of games.”
Will the Flyers answer his call? They’ve got a fair challenge.
Vigneault is looking at his veterans who have been here before. The Flyers’ core has been given chances, it has gone through different head coaches and seasons.
This head coach might be its best bet to prove itself. The Flyers are nowhere close to panic mode, when everyone on the outside questions everything on the inside. This season, the Flyers have better depth at forward (even with injuries), two accomplished defensemen and their goalie of the future coming into the present.
They’ve made strides in special teams, scoring and goal prevention.
Through 11 games last season, the Flyers allowed a league-high 46 goals, scored 31, had the 24th-ranked power play (15 percent) and the worst-ranked penalty kill (67.5 percent).
Through 11 games this season, the Flyers have allowed 37 goals, scored 36, have the 10th-ranked power play (23.8 percent) and sixth-ranked penalty kill (85.3 percent).
But October wasn’t a whole lot different from years past.
The #Flyers in October over the past 7 seasons:— Jordan Hall (@JHallNBCS) October 30, 2019
2019-20 — 5-5-1
2018-19 — 5-7-0
2017-18 — 6-5-1
2016-17 — 4-5-1
2015-16 — 4-4-2
2014-15 — 4-4-2
2013-14 — 3-8-0
Combined record: 31-38-7
And once again, the head coach is expecting much more.
It’s time for the Flyers to answer the call.
Following another divisional game Friday night against the Devils in New Jersey, the Flyers return home Saturday night to face the Maple Leafs.
Behind the Flyers’ bench, Vigneault will continue to look for his challenge to be met.
One of the coaches on the opposing bench will know how he feels.
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