Flyers

Can (and should) Flyers fans trust Alain Vigneault's process?

Can (and should) Flyers fans trust Alain Vigneault's process?

At his introductory press conference on April 18 following a year away from hockey, Alain Vigneault made a joke about why he was ready to get back into the coaching business.

“After a year off and figuring out that I’ll never be the golfer that I thought I would be,” Vigneault said, “it’s time for me to get back to work.”

Perhaps Vigneault had a difficult time sinking putts.

Following the Flyers’ 4-1 loss Saturday night to the Stars, he put out his hands, smiled and made an analogy in relation to his team.

The Flyers had just outshot Dallas 39-16. Over their past two games, the Flyers outshot the opposition 91-38.

A 53-shot advantage.

However, they had just four goals and two losses to show for it.

“It’s like a golfer that’s in regulation but can’t putt,” Vigneault said with a chuckle.

“The process is good. If you look at our overall game tonight, take a look at the scoring chances for and against, we had a pretty dominating performance. Right now, we’re having a tough time finishing.

“At the end of the day right now, we’re having a challenging time as a group finding the back of the net. We’re doing a lot of the right things — traffic, jamming pucks, going hard to the net. But we’re having a tough time making the other team pay for their mistakes. As far as our process and how we’re playing offensively and how we’re playing defensively, you’ve got to like our game.”

Many fans haven’t loved it. The Flyers heard boos Saturday night after the Stars’ empty-net goal in the third period. The Flyers dropped their fourth straight game, which marks the franchise’s first four-game losing streak in October since the 2014-15 season, when it opened the year 0-2-2.

While the Flyers, who are 2-3-1, have dictated games, the bottom line is they have to score goals. The really good teams create the chances but also finish them. It’s hard to sell to your fans that everything is fine, the process is good, when you’re outscored 10-4 in consecutive regulation losses. These same fans have seen too many slow Octobers. The Flyers are now 28-36-7 during this month in the last seven seasons.

Then again, this is not Vigneault’s first rodeo. It is his first chance at guiding the Flyers, who have taken on his system and looked much better in doing so.

And Vigneault certainly understands the process.

If Flyers fans want to trust him and take solace in something, consider some of Vigneault’s best teams and how they started.

The 2013-14 Rangers opened the season 2-6-0 and were 16-18-2 at Dec. 20 but went to the Stanley Cup Final. It was Vigneault’s first year in New York.

The 2006-07 Canucks — another first year on the job for Vigneault — started 8-10-1 but finished with 49 wins, 105 points and a playoff series victory.

The 2014-15 Rangers began 7-7-4 but ended up with 53 wins and the Presidents' Trophy (113 points).

The 2010-11 Canucks started 2-3-2 and were 10-7-3 after 20 games but won the Presidents' Trophy (117 points) and came one win away from a Stanley Cup title.

“I know our guys are disappointed but our work ethic, you know, we’ve got our work boots on here and we’re trying real hard,” Vigneault said of the Flyers. “As a coach, when your team is giving you 100 percent of what they have — and I believe that’s what we did again tonight — you’ve got to support your players, you’ve got to be behind them and trust them, and I’m very confident things are going to work out.”

Just how confident are Flyers fans? They’ve been patient long enough.

Vigneault will have to make sure, this time, their patience finally pays off.

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What nickname would Kevin Hayes give you?

kein-hayes-quiz.jpg
USA Today Images/NBC Sports Philadelphia

What nickname would Kevin Hayes give you?

Kevin Hayes’ resume has been a compilation of crazy since entering Philadelphia. From completely transforming the penalty kill, to becoming Gritty’s roommate and even co-hosting a day in his new Instagram show, being a former ref and last but certainly not least — creating absolutely insane nicknames for his teammates. 

I did some research (thank you videos of Hayes being mic’d up) and pulled some of the best nicknames throughout the season. 

Which nickname do you think Hayes would give you?

Take the quiz below and find out! 

 

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An opponent's perspective on Flyers' resurgent prospect Jay O'Brien

An opponent's perspective on Flyers' resurgent prospect Jay O'Brien

Jay O'Brien had a BCHL mission in 2019-20.

He was out to regain the bravado that he lost as a freshman at Providence, the get-after-you mindset that made him so appealing to the Flyers in the first round of the 2018 draft.

From Chris Clark's standpoint, the mission was completed. The interim head coach and assistant GM of the Wenatchee Wild saw O'Brien's Penticton Vees plenty during the season.

O'Brien, a 5-foot-11, 184-pound forward rebuilding his brand and penchant for scoring, put up 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in seven games against Penticton's rival Wenatchee.

“Other than the offense, the biggest thing you notice about that kid is that he has a ton of swagger and a ton of confidence," Clark said last month in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. "He plays on the edge, he likes to get into the verbal battles, he has a ton of swagger. You respect that. Obviously you don’t like to see him do well against you when they have that much swagger but you’ve got to respect a kid that knows what he wants."

(Jack Murray)

The 20-year-old looked like himself again after a difficult transition to the Division I level in 2018-19. With the Friars, O'Brien suffered upper-body injuries and scored five points over 25 games. He had trouble with the strength, pace and lack of space in the college game.

"You never want a year like that," O'Brien said last June, "but in a way, it was helpful for me to light the fire even more."

O'Brien transferred and took his fuel to the BCHL, a junior A league and solid stepping-stone for college-bound players. Yes, it's a different level, but O'Brien went to the BCHL with expectations and met them, a major plus for his development as he heads to Boston University in 2020-21.

With the Vees, O'Brien scored 66 points (25 goals, 41 assists) in 46 games and 10 (five goals, five assists) through five playoff contests before the coronavirus outbreak cut the BCHL season short. O'Brien's nine game-winning goals led the league and his 1.43 points per game ranked third, behind only Kent Johnson (projected 2021 first-round pick) at 1.94 and Philippe Lapointe (Michigan commit) with 1.53.

O'Brien established himself among the BCHL's elite, confidence he'll take to the Terriers.

“Oh without a doubt, him and Kent Johnson, who will be a first-round pick next year," Clark said. "I’m not taking anything away from anybody else. I thought there was a ton of talent in the BCHL this year, but he was definitely one of the top three or four players in the entire league ... not even close.

"He carries a ton of confidence and tremendous amount of swagger — which is good, you need that, you’re an offensive player, you know that every night people know who you are, you’ve got to be able to have that swagger. He definitely did this year. Hopefully for his career moving forward, he continues to develop that and have that — because there’s no doubt when he has the puck on his stick, good things are going to happen nine times out of 10.”

(Jack Murray)

Against Wenatchee, a playoff team itself, O'Brien recorded four multi-point games, including a four-point outburst and an overtime winner. The Wild also held O'Brien to only one assist on three different occasions.

"Extremely talented," Clark said. "He had a large number of points against us unfortunately, scored some big goals against us, just dating back to the last regular-season game, getting the OT winner. He’s just one of those players when he has the puck on his stick, you take notice — you know that he’s got a chance to make something special happen, whether it’s scoring or setting up a guy for an unbelievable look. He’s very gifted offensively, there’s no doubt about that.

"I don’t remember firsthand those games where he only had one assist, but I would be willing to bet he probably had some quality chances. ... I don’t know if we can say we shut him down necessarily, but our guys took a lot of a pride, you want to play against those guys. He comes with a lot of notoriety and well deserved — he’s an unbelievable hockey player."

O'Brien will head to B.U. much more prepared for the Division I competition at 20 years old compared to when he was 18 coming right out of high school.

Clark, who has been with Wenatchee since 2008 and was a graduate assistant for Minnesota State (where he also played), sees a player ready for his second D-I shot.

O'Brien made sure everyone saw that.

“In college hockey, you’re playing against men, you’re playing 24-year-old men," Clark said. "A lot of times in junior hockey, you’re playing against 18-, 19-year-olds, 20-year-olds — we have a limit on 20-year-olds in our league, you can have only six or less. A lot of those kids are still developing, they’re still growing into their bodies, they’re still putting on weight. But when you get to college and you’re playing against a 24-year-old senior, that’s a man, that’s a guy who’s probably ready, given the opportunity, to step in and play professional hockey at a high level.

"So I think that’s a big difference, but I just think with his ability to skate, his ability to think the game at a very quick pace, it’s going to translate. I don’t know the ins and outs of what happened his first year at college, but everybody has their ups and downs throughout life — if he considers that a down, I don’t know if he does or not.

"But I would say that he’s going to have no problem when next year he gets to college, he’s going to be a heck of a hockey player.”

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