Flyers

Flyers hire Alain Vigneault as 21st head coach in team history

Flyers hire Alain Vigneault as 21st head coach in team history

Chuck Fletcher has his guy.

A week after opening the process to identify the Flyers' next head coach, the general manager named his new leader: Alain Vigneault.

Vigneault was hired as the club's 21st head coach Monday, signing a multi-year contract. He has 1,216 games of NHL head coaching experience and was last with the Rangers from 2013-18. Vigneault won the Jack Adams Award in 2006-07 with the Canucks.

"We are extremely excited to have Alain join this franchise and lead our team behind the bench for many years to come," Fletcher said in a statement released by the team. "He brings a tremendous amount of success over an extended period of time that will prove valuable to our team to take the next steps in returning the winning culture to the Philadelphia Flyers organization."

The Flyers finished the 2018-19 season with a 37-37-8 record and 82 points, their fewest in a full season since 2006-07, when the team went a dreadful 22-48-12 for 56 points. The Flyers fired Dave Hakstol on Dec. 17 after a 12-15-4 start and finished under interim head coach Scott Gordon, who went 25-22-4 behind the bench.

Vigneault's job won't be easy as frustration has built with the Flyers' lack of playoff success over the last seven seasons. The team hasn't made the postseason in consecutive years since 2010-12, when it last won a series.

"It is an honor to be selected as the next head coach of the Flyers," Vigneault said in a statement released by the team. "The history they have established and the passionate fan base has made this a first-class franchise. I am excited to work with Chuck, the talented group of players, and the prospects coming up through the system in order to return Philadelphia to the top of the NHL landscape."

The Flyers were quick in hiring Vigneault. They had to be because there truly is no offseason and other clubs were in search of head coaches, as well. The Panthers didn't wait at all in hiring Joel Quenneville just one day after the conclusion of the regular season.

With Vigneault, the Flyers get a lot of experience. The 57-year-old has coached two teams to the Stanley Cup Final — the Canucks in 2011 and the Rangers in 2014. His résumé includes three seasons of 50-plus wins and eight with 100-plus points. The Flyers have won 50 or more games in a season five times, with the 1985-86 team the last to do it. They haven't accumulated 100 or more points in a season since 2011-12 (see more in 5 takeaways).

Gordon had an uphill climb to win the job. A GM coming from outside of the organization typically puts his stamp on a team by hiring his guy for the head coaching position.

Summoned from AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley, Gordon had the Flyers in the playoff race with an 18-4-2 stretch from Jan. 14 to March 11. However, the team ran out of gas and reverted back to bad habits over a 3-10-0 finish.

The statuses of Gordon and assistant coaches Kris Knoblauch (power play), Ian Laperriere (penalty kill), Rick Wilson (defensemen) and Kim Dillabaugh (goalies) are unclear. On a conference call Monday night, Fletcher said no decisions have been made yet regarding the assistant coaches. He also said the Phantoms head coaching job was Gordon's if he wants it, but advised Gordon to take some time on his decision for 2019-20.

"The way I operate is I usually work with the head coach on naming the assistant coaching staff," Fletcher said last Monday. "I take a lot of direction from the head coach and just make sure we're sort of in agreement on them. Once we get the head coach, we'll work quickly on that."

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Subpar start leads to Flyers loss vs. Lightning but doesn't hurt spot in NHL playoff race

Subpar start leads to Flyers loss vs. Lightning but doesn't hurt spot in NHL playoff race

BOX SCORE

The Flyers didn't bring their A-game to a game they needed it.

There would be no giant killing Saturday as the Flyers lost to the Lightning, 5-3, at Amalie Arena.

Goals from Ivan Provorov, James van Riemsdyk and Claude Giroux weren't enough for the Flyers (32-20-7), who are 6-3-2 against the Bruins, Lightning, Capitals, Penguins and Blues, the league's top five clubs.

Tampa Bay is the only one the Flyers haven't beaten. They'll get a final crack at the Lightning on March 12 in the same building.

The Lightning (39-15-5) have won 10 straight games.

• This really wasn't a bad loss for the Flyers.

They were at the end of a road trip and playing the NHL's hottest team. Tampa Bay is 22-2-1 over its last 25 games and hasn't lost at home since Dec. 19.

The Flyers entered Saturday with a 66.9 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to Hockey-Reference.com, and still hold an Eastern Conference wild-card spot (see standings).

Alain Vigneault's team just needs to recharge and be ready for a big home-and-home set against the Blue Jackets next week.

• Things got chippy in the second period. Travis Konecny was right in the middle of it all.

Steven Stamkos appeared to trip Giroux before a faceoff. Giroux didn't even look to be that mad about it.

During the final 6:09 of the middle frame, 22 penalty minutes were accrued.

• Brayden Point (10-game point streak) is good at hockey.

• Carter Hart, who was coming off his first road victory since Nov. 10, allowed four goals on 23 shots.

The 21-year-old wasn't the problem.

The first goal was a fluky one by Alex Killorn. On the second, Provorov was sloppy with the puck in the defensive zone and Tampa Bay capitalized to take a 2-0 lead into first intermission.

In the middle stanza, the Lightning beat Hart on a 3-on-2 to grab a commanding 3-0 advantage. Tampa Bay improved to 33-4-3 when it scores three or more goals.

Not only are the Lightning really good, but the Flyers also didn't play their typical forechecking, possession-based game until it was too late.

• Outside of the van Riemsdyk's third-period goal, Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy was strong with 30 saves, 15 of which came in the final stanza. 

Vasilevskiy improved to 18-0-1 with a 1.83 goals-against average and .940 save percentage over his last 19 starts.

• Provorov was far from his best against Tampa Bay but he did score the Flyers' first goal to trim the Lightning's lead to 3-1 in the second period. He also had an assist.

The 23-year-old has grown into a power play quarterback this season. He leads all NHL defensemen with seven man advantage goals after scoring only two over his first three NHL seasons.

• Travis Sanheim played 19:43 minutes Saturday after missing almost the entire third period of Thursday's 6-2 win over the Panthers because of a lower-body issue.

• The Flyers are off Sunday, practice at 11:30 a.m. Monday in Voorhees, New Jersey and host the Blue Jackets Tuesday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

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Flyers, Lightning have 4 p.m. start on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Flyers, Lightning have 4 p.m. start on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Saturday's game should be a good one.

The Flyers and Lightning are two of the hottest teams in the NHL. Since Jan. 8, the Flyers have the league's most goals (52) and only one team has more points (21) — the Lightning (27).

Tampa Bay is also on a nine-game winning streak and 21-2-1 over its last 24 games.

The big showdown comes a little earlier than usual. Puck drop will be shortly after 4 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Philadelphia, with Flyers Pregame Live set for 3:30 p.m. ET.

The matchup finishes off a three-game road trip for the Flyers, who then play four of their next five games at the Wells Fargo Center.

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