Flyers

Worried about Alain Vigneault coaching Flyers' youth? There's evidence to ease concerns

Worried about Alain Vigneault coaching Flyers' youth? There's evidence to ease concerns

Kevin Hayes and some Flyers hit the ice Tuesday morning at Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey.

The team tweeted out pictures of its new seven-year, $50 million man in Flyers orange, giving us the first glimpse of Hayes rocking his new threads.

In 2019-20, Hayes will be tasked with great responsibility as the Flyers look to rebound from one of their most trying, tumultuous and disappointing seasons in 12 years. As Hayes signed with the Flyers, he set up a reunion with head coach Alain Vigneault. From 2014-18, the two were together in New York, where Vigneault came under the microscope near the end of his tenure for not developing younger players.

From 22 to 25 years old, Hayes played his first four NHL seasons under Vigneault and scored a career-high 25 goals during the coach's final year with the Rangers.

"It's always tough when you go to a new team and you don't know how you're going to fit in with the coach, you don't know how you're going to fit in with the players," the 27-year-old Hayes said in June. "But playing under A.V. for four years, we had a great relationship, on and off the ice. He demands hard work. If you play the correct way, he kind of lets you play freely offensively. That was a huge factor in the decision — being comfortable with him made the decision a lot easier."

At his introductory press conference during April, Vigneault was asked about being maligned for not utilizing young players enough while in New York. It was a fair question because it was a tactile criticism of Vigneault as the Rangers parted ways.

But just how fair?

"Everybody has their opinion, I respect that," Vigneault said. "I don't necessarily agree with that, but for me, that's just part of the coaching job that you have to do. Some people are going to like some of the things [general manager Chuck Fletcher] and I do, and I do with my staff, and some other people aren't going to like it as much. At the end of the day, you know what we have to do? We have to win."

There are some interesting facts from Vigneault's time in New York, where he went 226-147-37 with three straight 100-plus-point seasons and a Stanley Cup Final appearance. (For some context, the Flyers haven't earned 100 or more points in a season since 2011-12, when they last won a playoff series.)

When the Rangers won the Eastern Conference in 2014, the team's second-leading scorer was 23-year-old Derek Stepan, who experienced a career year over 82 games. Ryan McDonagh was the team's best defenseman at only 24 years old. And Chris Kreider was a team-best plus-14 at 22 years old.

The following season, New York put up 53 wins and 113 points. Hayes had an excellent rookie year (17 goals, 45 points) and the Rangers' youth took strides.

In 2016-17, when New York experienced a 102-point season, the team's second-leading scorer was 23-year-old J.T. Miller and one of its best defensemen was 22-year-old rookie Brady Skjei, who scored 39 points over 80 games.

So there is evidence of Vigneault getting the best out of older and younger players.

At our level, there's not one coach that will not play a player that will permit him to win. I firmly believe that talent has no age. If a guy who's 19 can step in and help the Flyers win and be competitive, he's going to play. Talent has no age.

- Vigneault

The Flyers were not the most disciplined team with the puck during 2018-19. Fletcher talked about bad on-ice habits at his end-of-the-season press conference. But he knows the talent — both young and old — is in place.

The belief is that an experienced coach like Vigneault, along with experienced assistants, can create better habits and smarter decisions from everybody on the ice.

"There weren't a ton of young players during my time with the Rangers that came up in the system because of where that organization was at the time," Vigneault said. "Was I perfect with all of them? No, and I don't think anybody is. I think my record is pretty good with younger players, it's pretty good with core players as far as them coming into a season and having strong performances. It's also good with older players."

The Flyers, once again, have a blend of veterans and youngsters. It gives Vigneault a prime opportunity to reinforce his track record and prove he can win with all ages.

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2019-20 Flyers season grades: Scott Laughton

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Scott Laughton

The 2019-20 NHL regular season has concluded and the next time the puck drops will officially kick off the race to the Stanley Cup. The Flyers are hungry and ready to battle it out, but that is thanks to the hard work from back in October. 

In an End to End series, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Brooke Destra, Katie Emmer, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall will be grading players based on individual performances.

Today we will be looking at Scott Laughton.

Destra

Laughton is an under-the-radar player that the Flyers are lucky to have. While he did miss a handful of games in the early weeks of the 2019-20 season due to a broken finger, he remained a vital asset upon returning. 

Through 49 games, Laughton tallied 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists). The 13 goals were a career best and considering he missed 20 games and there were still 13 left to play, chances are, he would’ve continued adding on to that. 

There has been continuous growth in Laughton’s play over the past three seasons — with his puck handling, work in the neutral zone, and work on the penalty kill — his speciality. The Flyers have truly struck gold in the amount of depth they have on the roster and if Laughton continues to progress in the coming years, he’ll be the core of it all. 

I’ll give Laughton an A — overall, a great season. 

Emmer

Laughton had one of his best seasons in the Flyers uniform.

A guy that can play center and wing, he was a major key to the improved depth. In 49 games, he set personal milestones, scoring a career-high 13 goals and recording a career-high plus-13.

What needs to be recognized is the way he bounced back from adversity this season. Despite suffering 2 separate injuries, the 26-year-old continued to remain a solid role player for the Flyers, moving up and down the lineup when needed and stepping up in a major way on the Flyers improved penalty kill — where he recorded over 83 minutes of ice time. Some more point production could have been expected out of the Flyers 2012 first-round pick, but he certainly improved in his role this season.

Laughton gets a B+.

Fordyce 

There are a number of reasons why Laughton deserves this grade, but I’ll start with the most obvious. Despite multiple injuries this season, Laughton was still able to post a career high 13 goals in 49 games. Even more impressive is that Laughton did this all while playing different places up and down the Flyers lineup.

Laughton has become a Swiss army knife for the Flyers, playing wherever he is needed and doing so admirably. On any given night, Laughton can be a top 6 forward but doesn’t get down on nights when he plays lower in the lineup. Not only that but Laughton has an uncanny ability to elevate the play of others when playing alongside them. Laughton has been one of the most consistent players in the Flyers lineup and has proven that again this season posting a +13 rating. When No. 21 is in the lineup, you always know what you’re going to get. 

Laughton gets an A.

Hall

Laughton has been one of the Flyers' most consistent forwards over the past two seasons.

He's always skating hard, always forechecking, always killing penalties and he's got some offensive strengths, to boot.

After putting up career highs in goals (12), assists (20), games (82) and ice time per game (14:51) in 2018-19, Laughton topped his personal best in markers by scoring 13 despite playing 33 fewer games this season. The 26-year-old, who has played center and winger for the Flyers, was also a career-best plus-13.

Laughton dealt with two unfortunate injuries (broken right index finger, groin), missing 20 of the Flyers' 69 games, so let's go with a real solid B+ for the underrated forward who made up for lost time.

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Kevin Hayes earns Flyers' 2019-20 Gene Hart Memorial Award

Kevin Hayes earns Flyers' 2019-20 Gene Hart Memorial Award

At the beginning of Flyers training camp in September, Kevin Hayes said with a slight smile:

“I think the fans should be excited — I think they're excited, some of them might not be too excited — but I feel great, this is the best I've ever felt and probably the most in shape, most excited I've ever been in my hockey career."

With time, fans have gotten to know Hayes — the player and person.

And they've taken a liking to him.

Further proof of that came Monday as Hayes was named the recipient of the Flyers' 2019-20 Gene Hart Memorial Award, which is given to the Flyer who demonstrates the most "heart,” an honor voted on by members of the Philadelphia Flyers Fan Club. The club will make a $1,000 donation to a charity of Hayes’ choosing.

“I’m humbled that the fan club chose me to receive this award, especially considering all of our success has come from an entire team effort and the willingness to give everything we have to win,” Hayes said in a statement released by the Flyers. "This being my first year, I felt right at home from Day 1. I love this team, organization, fan base and city. It’s hard not to love playing at the Wells Fargo Center every night in front of the best fans in the league.”

With a mixture of lightheartedness and leadership, Hayes has won over his new teammates and fans during the first season of his seven-year, $50 million contract. At first, Hayes' style of play and past offensive production didn't scream excitement for fans when the 6-foot-5 center was acquired and signed in June 2019. However, Hayes provides winning qualities that don't always pop out at you — puck protection, disruptive size, defensive abilities and prowess on the penalty kill.

He has made those strengths clear in Year 1 with the Flyers. He was also on pace to break his career high of 25 goals (he finished with 23 in 69 games) before the coronavirus outbreak cut the 2019-20 regular season short.

“I think at the beginning, with the media and the fans, when you sign that deal, you want to come in and be on everybody’s good graces right away,” Hayes said in November. “When you’re not putting up points, it’s easy to think you’re not playing great hockey.”

Flyers fans are now on board with Hayes' hockey and heart.

The Flyers are handing out their annual team awards throughout this week. Below is the schedule:


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