In general manager Chuck Fletcher’s first offseason with the Flyers, he had quite an extensive to-do list before October came around. While adding depth and a few new faces to the roster were toward the top of the list, nothing was more important than the task of bringing in a new head coach.
Many had their sights set on Joel Quennville, who was fired by the Blackhawks early in the 2018-19 season. It was a shock to the hockey world, considering he helped Chicago bring home three Stanley Cups over the course of 10 years. Ultimately, he chose to go to Florida. No, not to retire. Quennville was off to his new team the Panthers to be their bench boss.
Eventually, news broke that Alain Vigneault was coming to town. Like every other offseason acquisition, the response was all over the place. Little did Philadelphia know at the time, but it just received a perfect fit for its city, its team and the organization.
It is an honor to be selected as the next head coach of the Flyers," Vigneault said following his hire. "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 prospects coming up through the system, in order to return Philadelphia to the top of the NHL landscape.
Who knew that in just a few short months, the Flyers would in fact be near the top of the NHL landscape once more. Again, a lot of this is owed to Fletcher and his moves in the offseason and around the trade deadline — but when you look at the team’s overall success on a nightly basis? That’s all Vigneault.
There was a mentality tilt this season in comparison to prior ones. The locker room had a different vibe right from the jump and you could sense how it has positively affected the Flyers' overall game. Vigneault has also shown he is not afraid to speak up and be honest to his players and the media to give his team a kick in the right direction.
The abrupt halt to the NHL season has been rough for many — especially Flyers fans, as they had been anticipating a season precisely like this one for quite some time. The official word was released that if hockey does return, the league will go straight to the playoffs, meaning the 2019-20 regular season has concluded. Now, since that’s the case, league awards will have to be given out based on the condensed season — all the more reason to name Vigneault coach of the year.
A few key examples
• From the beginning of training camp, he didn’t hold back when discussing his thoughts on Travis Konecny and the need to have him here to get familiar with the new faces and systems in the organization. Thankfully for the Flyers, Konecny and the team came to terms, he arrived shortly after and is having the best season of his young career.
• Vigneault has not been afraid to call out the veterans on the team, either. Knowing what his players are capable of, it’s important for him to get the best out of them.
• When the Flyers released a statement that Oskar Lindblom had been diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, it was a difficult time for everyone. Sports aside, the human aspect of it all is mentally draining. Lindblom has received such overwhelming support from players, fans and especially Vigneault — always referencing his “great smile” when the 23-year-old forward attends a game or practice.
• Looking at a near-complete season without Nolan Patrick (migraine disorder), a shortened season from Lindblom and injuries that popped up throughout the whole season — James van Riemsdyk with a broken hand, Shayne Gostisbehere’s knee injury, Scott Laughton and Michael Raffl’s broken fingers and Konecny missing a handful of games because of a concussion … it’s safe to say it never looked like this team was missing a key player. That’s all due to call-ups and how Vigneault adjusted his lines every time the Flyers hit the ice.
Vigneault has been everything the city could want in a coach and more. And while there certainly are a handful of other coaches within the league that are also deserving of this award (John Tortorella in Columbus, Travis Green in Vancouver), nothing comes close to the case the new bench boss has made in Philadelphia.
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