Claude Giroux

Old acquaintances, new acquaintances and Flyers flavor as Alain Vigneault gets head start

Old acquaintances, new acquaintances and Flyers flavor as Alain Vigneault gets head start

These are chaotic times for Alain Vigneault.

Exciting, of course, but chaotic — much different than last April and throughout the 2018-19 season when he was without a job.

"After a year off and figuring out I'll never be the golfer that I thought I would be, it's time for me to get back to work," he said Thursday with a smile.

Back into the workforce in full force.

Not only does Vigneault have a new job, he's got two of them … starting at once.

He was introduced as the Flyers' new head coach Thursday. He is also the bench boss for Team Canada in the 2019 IIHF World Championship from May 10-26.

As busy as it is, coaching in the worlds will give Vigneault a head start on getting to know two of his most important players with the Flyers: Sean Couturier and Carter Hart.

Team Canada will also provide a unique situation with plenty of Flyers ties.

The tournament will serve as a job interview of sorts for Flyers goalie coach Kim Dillabaugh. The statuses of the team's assistant coaches Dillabaugh, Kris Knoblauch (power play), Ian Laperriere (penalty kill) and Rick Wilson (defensemen) appear nebulous with a new head coach in town.

Because of his time with Hart, Dillabaugh will join Team Canada.

"Right now, we have a solid, young goaltender that all I've heard about were positive things," Vigneault said of Hart and the Flyers' situation in net. "We're going to be able to work with him at the world championships. We decided [Wednesday], with Hockey Canada, to also bring a goalie coach — we're going to bring the Flyers' goalie coach to the world championships. He's worked with Hart and he's had real good progression with him."

On Thursday, near the top of Vigneault's to-do-list was to discuss the Flyers' staff with general manager Chuck Fletcher and meet the current assistant coaches. Fletcher said: "We're going to talk a little bit more today and a little bit over the next week or two. I don't think it's going to be a rush to hire or a rush to judgment here."

Couturier will be playing for his new coach and his old coach Dave Hakstol, who is on Team Canada's staff. Former Flyers general manager Ron Hextall is also a part of Team Canada's management group.

Don't expect Vigneault to seek out advice from Hakstol regarding the Flyers. That would be a tad bit awkward.

"I'm going to lean on him for the tournament but I'm not going to ask Dave or Ron Hextall anything about players with the Flyers," Vigneault said. "I've said to Chuck that I want to come here with everybody fresh, clean, no preconceived notion. Players are going to come and they're going to show me what they can do. 

"Those would be two great sources for me to ask, but I'd rather trust my eyes, talk to the guys, get to know them and get a personal feel for who they are, what they can do and what they can bring."

Players like Couturier, Hart and Claude Giroux shouldn't have a problem showing what they bring to the table. They're three of the Flyers' surest bets right now.

Giroux chatted with Vigneault on Thursday at Flyers Skate Zone.

"Everything I've heard about him is this passion to win," Vigneault said of the Flyers' captain.

As for Giroux on his new coach: "Very excited," he said via text message to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Marc Farzetta. "Heard a lot of great things."

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It's not just a quick roster fix, it's a mentality overhaul with Flyers

It's not just a quick roster fix, it's a mentality overhaul with Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — Claude Giroux didn’t just go from a 102-point season to forgetting some of the most basic elements of fundamental hockey.

In the span of nine months, Sean Couturier didn’t go from a Selke finalist to rediscovering what makes a sound, solid two-way hockey player. 

But you would think after listening to general manager Chuck Fletcher’s press conference Monday that some of the most basic principles of playing hockey at the highest level were being taught for the first time under Scott Gordon.

Sure, Jakub Voracek coughs up the puck too easily at times, Giroux may be coasting on a backcheck or Couturier attempts an errant pass, but these are occasional lapses — not systematic, careless mistakes that take place on a nightly basis.

The Flyers' underlying problems go way deeper than this, starting with the younger players on the team.

“I think everybody understands theories. It’s in the heat of the moment, what are you going to do?” Fletcher said. “I’m not trying to overplay this, but it’s habits. It’s building habits in practice because you revert to what you know in stressful situations. It’s more the mindset, it’s habits. We make the game difficult at times.”

The most revealing part of two days and several hours of quotes from the players, staff and front office personnel is that the Flyers, a team that has missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs in four of the past seven years, have developed bad habits, some really bad habits, that require a complete detoxing.

You almost wish the Flyers could start their rehabilitation with training camp on the Monday after Labor Day weekend.

“It starts with me, then it goes to the coaches, then to the leaders and the players,” Fletcher said. “It’s not just mindset, it’s actual details. It’s doing things the right way repeatedly. That’s how you gain confidence and that’s how you learn to play the right way.”

It’s the realization that while former GM Ron Hextall appeared to be more concerned over the intake of inflammatory foods in their postgame meals or who resided in the players' lounge after games, the nuts and bolts of what really mattered was being neglected under the previous regime.  

“It’s not just systems. It's puck management, game management, being in the right spot, holding onto the puck offensively, making more plays offensively, retrieving pucks and winning battles,” Fletcher said. “There’s a whole host of things that go into it. We have some bad habits right now, flying into the zone before we have possession of the puck, not getting in shooting lanes, not keeping the third guy high, turning pucks over in the neutral zone when there’s no time and space to make a play, and just recognizing things.

“It’s mindset, but you need the mindset to embrace the habits.”

Fletcher just rattled off a laundry list of items that make it sound like the equivalent of teaching the golf swing to a 7-year-old picking up a club for the first time. It sounds alarming, and perhaps it should. Even Nolan Patrick mentioned he was exposed to parts of his game for the first time in his career.

“[Gordon] showed me things not many coaches have showed me,” Patrick said. "He helped me a lot with video and stuff I haven’t been shown in a while. Even things on the offensive side of things. It was pretty impressive to see the stuff he was showing me. He’s a smart mind."

The leadership group has to step up 

But it can’t just be on Gordon to do the preaching or whoever the Flyers eventually tab as the next head coach. 

There’s only so many times a coach can get in the ear of a younger player and repeatedly relay the same message. That’s why coaches are “tuned out” when the leadership group doesn’t reinforce the message with players who are developing bad habits or there’s a refusal of buying into a coach’s philosophy of playing the right way.

“I think it’s a question of consistency and doing the little details. We have some young players that are still learning,” Couturier said. “They’re great and they’re skilled. We’re going to have to be more consistent in doing those little things on a nightly basis. It starts from the leadership group as well. We need to be better consistently and everyone has to be pushing in the right direction.”

In doing so, it sometimes requires difficult and uncomfortable conversations.

And if the Flyers' current leadership group doesn’t feel as if it can carry out this responsibility, then it’s up to management to find those who can.

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Flyers at Blues: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Flyers at Blues: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Thankfully, it’s the end of the road.

The Flyers (37-35-8) will wrap up their road schedule against the St. Louis Blues (43-28-9), who have been reenergized by an interim head coach and a rookie goaltender.

Let's take a look at Thursday night's essentials:

• When: 8 p.m. ET with Flyers Pregame Live at 7:30 p.m.
• Where: Enterprise Center
• Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia+
• Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

• With Tuesday’s 6-2 loss to Dallas, the Flyers are limping to the finish line with a 1-5-0 record in their last six games. They will fail to win 40 games for the third time in the past five years.

• With Carter Hart scheduled to start the season finale Saturday, Brian Elliott will make his final start of the season, and quite possibly, the last appearance of his Flyers career.

• After tonight, Claude Giroux and Ivan Provorov will have played in all 41 road games in each of the past three seasons.

• Elliott spent five seasons in St. Louis leading the NHL in save percentage twice during that span: a .940 clip in 2011-12 and a .930 percentage in 2015-16. He is 5-1-0 in his career against his former team.

• Flyers center Corban Knight was placed on waivers on Wednesday and cleared. He’ll likely remain with the Flyers before possibly rejoining the Phantoms.

• Three of the previous four meetings against the Blues have resulted in a shutout. The Flyers dropped a 3-0 setback to St. Louis on Jan. 7. In their last visit to Enterprise Center, Michal Neuvirth turned aside 33 shots in a 2-0 victory.

• Former Flyers head coach Craig Berube has guided St. Louis to a 36-19-6 mark since taking over the head coaching duties for Mike Yeo on Nov. 19 on an interim basis.

Certainly, Berube deserves serious consideration for the Jack Adams award as coach of the year. The Blues were as many as 10 points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference as late as Nov. 29. They’re now one point back of the Central Division lead with two games remaining.

• Much of the Blues' success can be tied to rookie netminder Jordan Binnington, who earned his first NHL win against the Flyers earlier this season. Since then, Binnington has gone 21-5-1, which has included a nine-game winning streak.

• Blues sniper Vladimir Tarasenko is on a two-game goal streak and has now topped the 30-goal mark for the fifth straight season. During that stretch, only Alex Ovechkin and John Tavares have scored more goals than Tarasenko.

• Former Flyer forward Brayden Schenn has just 15 goals in 70 games played this season. It would be his lowest goal total in a non-shortened season since putting up 12 goals as a rookie in Philadelphia during the 2011-12 season.

• Nolan Patrick will not play tonight because of an upper-body injury.

Projected lineup

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny
James van Riemsdyk-Scott Laughton-Jakub Voracek
Oskar Lindblom-Corban Knight-Ryan Hartman
Michael Raffl-Phil Varone

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Travis Sanheim
Shayne Gostisbehere-Philippe Myers
Robert Hagg-Radko Gudas
Samuel Morin

Goalies
Brian Elliott
Cam Talbot

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