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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Why Flyers fans should be concerned about post-NHL All-Star break playoff chances

Why Flyers fans should be concerned about post-NHL All-Star break playoff chances

On Saturday, we broke down why Flyers fans should be hopeful for the post-All-Star break stretch. Today, we look at the reasons for concern.

Alain Vigneault has 11 playoff berths on his résumé. He knows the requisites for a postseason club and the Flyers have failed to look like one in a key aspect.

"As a team that considers themselves a playoff team, you need to have a good road record," Vigneault said last month.

The Flyers do not through 25 road games. As stingy as they have been at home, they've been the polar opposite away from home. On the road, the Flyers are 10-13-2, have a minus-30 goal differential and are allowing the NHL's second-most goals per game at 3.80.

The figures above are a major concern and the Flyers must stem the tide over their final 16 road games. Vigneault's team still has two trips to Washington, D.C., two to Tampa Bay, Florida, two to Madison Square Garden and one more to Pittsburgh. Those matchups with the Capitals, Lightning, Rangers and Penguins will be stiff tests.

Speaking of the schedule, the Flyers are battling in the NHL's deepest division and have 14 games remaining against Metro teams. The Flyers are in sixth place of the Metropolitan Division (three points out of third place) but would be in first place of the Pacific Division.

The Flyers will be challenged the rest of the way and so, too, will their depth at forward. The Flyers are a middle-of-the-pack scoring club (15th in the NHL with 3.06 goals per game) and without Oskar Lindblom (Ewing's sarcoma) and Nolan Patrick (migraine disorder).

Is the team's youth in the bottom six enough for the playoffs and a competitive shot? Or will (and can) general manager Chuck Fletcher add at the Feb. 24 trade deadline?

Big questions and we'll have answers soon.

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2020 NHL All-Star Game: Flyers' Travis Konecny shows off his career-high stuff for Metropolitan Division

2020 NHL All-Star Game: Flyers' Travis Konecny shows off his career-high stuff for Metropolitan Division

BOX SCORE

Travis Konecny stormed into the NHL All-Star break already with a new career high in assists. The Flyers' winger has 26 helpers and is projected to finish with 44, a sign of significant growth in a breakout 2019-20 season for the 22-year-old.

On Saturday night in the 2020 All-Star Game at Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Konecny put his facilitating on display during the 3-on-3 action featuring the world's best players. He finished with three assists in the Metropolitan Division's 9-5 semifinal loss to the Atlantic Division.

"I had a lot of fun," Konecny said Saturday, via Flyers senior director of public relations and communications Zack Hill. "It was pretty funny, I was watching my parents in the stands and my mom didn't understand why we weren't playing like a real game.

"It's my first game and it's her first time seeing it. I don't know if she was expecting me to be blocking shots and forechecking, stuff like that. I had a lot of fun with it.

"It was a really cool experience, getting to play with some players, too, that I usually won't get the chance to play with was fun."

Konecny playing in his first All-Star Game at 22 years old should be exciting for the Flyers. Claude Giroux was 23 years old for his first All-Star Game back in 2011. The future looks bright for Konecny, who signed a new six-year, $33 million contract back in mid-September.

With 17 goals and 43 points through 47 games, Konecny is eight goals and seven points away from setting career highs across the board.

A breakout, indeed.

Here are more sights and scenes from Konecny's first All-Star Game:

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