Flyers

NHL awards: Why Mike Sullivan could sneak up on Alain Vigneault for Jack Adams honor

NHL awards: Why Mike Sullivan could sneak up on Alain Vigneault for Jack Adams honor

Make no mistake, Alain Vigneault's body of work this season is front-runner worthy for the Jack Adams Award.

During 2018-19, the Flyers decided to embark on a massive shift within their hockey operations department and coaching staff. The team finished 22nd in the league at 37-37-8 with 82 points, its fewest over a full season since 2006-07.

In just one season (and not even a full one), Vigneault turned the Flyers into a top-six club. Through a shortened 2019-20 regular season, the Flyers went 41-21-7 with 89 points in 69 games. According to Hockey-Reference.com, the team was projected to finish with 104 to 105 points, which would have been its most since a 106-point 2010-11 campaign.

With the abbreviated regular season because of the coronavirus outbreak, only four teams improved their point totals from 2018-19. The Flyers made the biggest jump with a seven-point increase despite playing 13 fewer games compared to last season, while the Oilers improved by four points (79 to 83), the Avalanche by two (90 to 92) and the Rangers by one (78 to 79).

When it comes to Coach of the Year in 2019-20, Vigneault should be right there with anyone.

Bruce Cassidy, head coach of the NHL-best Bruins, of course will be up there, but ESPN's Greg Wyshynski made a great point, noting the coach of the Presidents' Trophy-winning team has won the Jack Adams honor only twice in the past 20 years.

Jared Bednar (Avalanche) and John Tortorella (Blue Jackets) should be in consideration, as well.

One coach who could sneak up and snatch the award away from Vigneault and the rest: Mike Sullivan.

The Penguins have had better regular seasons in the recent past, but Pittsburgh found a way to finish seventh among the league (three points behind the No. 6 Flyers) in the face of losing:

Brian Dumoulin for 41 games
Jake Guentzel for 30 games
Sidney Crosby for 28 games
Patric Hornqvist for 17 games
Evgeni Malkin for 14 games
Bryan Rust for 14 games
Kris Letang for eight games

Crosby, Malkin, Guentzel, Rust, Hornqvist and Letang were six of the Penguins' top seven scorers this season and last season. For sake of comparison, the Flyers' top seven scorers this season missed six combined games.

That does not at all take away from the job Vigneault and the Flyers did in their resurgent 2019-20 season. It's also not to say the Flyers didn't deal with their share of significant injuries (Oskar Lindblom, Nolan Patrick, Scott Laughton, Shayne Gostisbehere, Michael Raffl). But Sullivan's work around those losses will make him a serious challenger to Vigneault for the Jack Adams hardware.

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2020 NHL playoffs: Is home ice even a factor? Gary Bettman weighs in

2020 NHL playoffs: Is home ice even a factor? Gary Bettman weighs in

As teams typically prepare to close out their regular season, where you land in seeding plays a huge factor in the first round of the playoffs — mainly due to home ice advantage. 

After a season that ended in the most unconventional way, we fast forward to how the NHL adapted to the situation and managed to begin the Stanley Cup playoffs. With 24 teams and two bubble cities, the battle officially commenced Saturday Aug. 1. 

With 12 teams in each bubble and only one rink to share, that element of home ice advantage has essentially disappeared. With no fans and a small level of comfortability within the rinks, it’s just about as even of a playing field that you can get. 

Take the Leafs and Oilers — the only two teams with the opportunity to play on their own ice. While the Oilers pulled out a win Monday night, it has been the only victory for these teams in their respective bubbles. 

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman shared his thoughts on this in an interview with NBC Sports' Liam McHugh:

Marginally, I mean obviously the home team designation gives you last change, but beyond that I think once you get on the ice and you’re playing a playoff game, you’re not focused on anything else but what’s taking place right before you in the game.

Aside from still having that last change, things are pretty evenly matched. Goal horns and songs are played for both teams and logos for each are spread throughout the numerous screens in the arena. It's just two teams with the same mission — to win the whole thing. 

There's not much better than that. 

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More Flyers analysis for 24-team tournament

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• So, about those Penguins ... 1st-round matchup for Flyers?

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• Scott 'couldn't be happier' with Flyers, but there's more action to be done

• Trust the captain, he'll know what to do if the Flyers face the Hurricanes

• No scrimmage for Hart but Flyers' goalie provides important sight

• Analyzing Hart's situation, another Flyer becomes a dad, more

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• Flyers-Canadiens is perfect on paper, but would it be a trap?

• What round-robin schedule change could mean for Flyers' strategy

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• A 'dangerous card' in the Flyers' hand, Giroux still wows and more

• Fans can purchase Flyers playoff shirts with new slogan

• What it was like to go back to work at Flyers practice in different times

• Juicy opponent for Flyers' exhibition game; some start times announced

Analyzing the Flyers' schedule to open 24-team tournament

5 questions on Flyers' chances in 24-team tournament

Predictions for Flyers' best Game 1 lineup to start 24-team playoff

Who are the Flyers' top 5 reinforcements for 24-team tournament?

• Elliott has sweet new mask for Flyers' playoff run

• Flyers sign a player to extension at position of strength

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Things get even better for Flyers in NHL's 24-team tournament

Finding the Flyers' best 1st-round matchup for Hart

Flyers have two top 50 pending UFAs; will they re-sign them?

• Everything Flyers fans need to know for NHL's 24-team tournament

Hockey insider details Flyers’ hotel

• Bettman gives Gritty the hard truth for why he can't be in Toronto bubble

Key dates, protocols announced as Flyers set to return

Flyers Talk podcast: Big-time start to round robin, but what's next?

Flyers Talk podcast: Big-time start to round robin, but what's next?

On the latest Flyers Talk podcast, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Katie Emmer and Jordan Hall discuss the team's promising — but how promising? — start in the round robin.

Just how big is the Capitals game? What are the bigger decisions ahead? Let's dive in:

0:28 — Flyers fans couldn't have asked for a better start to the round robin

 9:02 — Which Flyers stood out most? Which players are next up?

• 18:04 — Are we believing in MoneyPuck.com's odds for the Flyers?

29:06 — Being back in studio for Flyers Pregame and Postgame shows.

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