Flyers

A misperception about Vigneault's system with Flyers

Flyers

Alain Vigneault liked to play a north-south, forecheck-based game.

If you can make the opposing defensemen turn, make them turn and play the puck under pressure.

But it's not as if the former Flyers head coach had a dump-and-chase edict.

In fact, he and Mike Yeo — now steering the Flyers in place of the fired Vigneault — share similar methods. Both incorporate an effort-oriented system predicated on pressure, attacking and parking in the offensive zone.

"A.V. was not a guy who ever said, 'I want you to just dump it all the time,'" Yeo, the assistant-turned-interim head coach, said Dec. 13. "What I would say is that he always encouraged offense, entries, making plays there when they're there. Every coach is the same. If the defenseman has a really good gap and there's no play to be made, then every coach doesn't want you to turn that puck over. Those are obviously dangerous situations.

"Understanding that if we're playing our game better, if we're hanging onto the puck longer, if we're forcing them to defend for longer periods of time, if we're transitioning better, that's going to create more situations where we do have time and space, that's going to create more opportunities for us to gain the zone with control. That's what we're trying to show the players — when we do these things, that's sort of the cause and effect of what can come out of it."

More: 5 things to know on the Flyers (and prospects) at the holiday break

 

As Vigneault's club started pressing for offense during its losing streak, there was an easy narrative that the Flyers lacked creativity and chipped the puck in too often from the blue line. A team fighting its confidence is not going to look dynamic offensively. If anything, it's trying to stay away from mistakes and instead score the hard-working goals. In turn, that can help build confidence to create plays.

To say Vigneault was hell-bent on a dump-and-chase game is off base. At the very least, that strategy doesn't sum up his system.

Players are on record saying that from the beginning of Vigneault's tenure in Philadelphia.

"He wants the sure play, like the 100 percent play that is going to help us win," Travis Konecny said in November 2019. "Whether it is chip it in, whether you make a hockey play, you get in and see somebody open, you try to make the play. You better hope it at least gets through, you don’t want it to get picked off. But other than that, there are no real guidelines to exactly what you have to do. He wants you to play hockey, he wants you to have fun, but make sure you’re doing the right play for the team."

In 2019-20, Vigneault's first season, the Flyers were the NHL's seventh-best goal-scoring team with 3.29 markers per game while allowing 2.77, tied for the seventh fewest. The Flyers finished a win short of the Eastern Conference Final.

"Obviously you’ve got to be responsible in certain situations of the game, but I don’t think he tries to take away any creativity offensively," James van Riemsdyk said in January 2020. "You kind of have that leash to make some plays and do things that you see out there.

"Certainly you don’t want to do anything crazy or anything like that, but he’s not married to one particular play in every situation. You can make some reads and you have some freedom to use your hockey sense to try to create. That’s been good."

Missing the playoffs last season, the Flyers were 15th at 2.86 goals per game and had a nightmare trying to prevent them, surrendering an NHL-worst 3.52. This season, the Flyers started 6-2-2 but also went a span of 17 games without scoring more than three goals in a game.

Vigneault and assistant coach Michel Therrien were fired Dec. 6 following the Flyers' eighth straight loss. Through an 8-10-4 start, the Flyers ranked 28th in goals per game (2.32) and 30th in power play percentage (13.4).

Vigneault has gone to the Stanley Cup Final twice in his career and ranks among the top 10 in all-time wins. He went from runner-up for the Jack Adams Award (Coach of the Year) in September 2020 with the Flyers to relieved of his duties in December 2021. That is proof of how cyclical head coaching can be at the NHL level.

 

"Any time there's a big change, whether it's a coach, a GM, a guy traded, it grabs the attention of everyone that's kind of left standing," van Riemsdyk said Dec. 13. "By no means was anyone satisfied with where we were at. No matter who was going to be the coach or not, guys were not happy with the start that we had and we knew we could do way better. Obviously it's unfortunate that someone has to lose their job in that respect, but now we have to move forward as a team, just keep going and try to get the best results that we can."

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