Monday, 15 April 2019

Philly Turns To Vigneault

The Philadelphia Flyers, having gone with the US college coach experiment and failed, decided to go back to the NHL ranks to hire their next coach as they introduced former New York Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault as their 21st head coach in franchise history today. The 57 year-old will be responsible for guiding the Flyers back to the playoffs and further after last winning the Stanley Cup in 1975. Scott Gordon, who took over the interim head coach role, was not let by the club, so there is some speculation that Gordon will either stay on with Vigneault as an assistant coach or possibly return to Lehigh Valley where he was having some solid success at the AHL level before being promoted after Hakstol's dismissal.

It was reported, but unconfirmed, that the contract for Vigneault's services clocked in at five years and $25 million which seems steep for a guy who has never won a Stanley Cup after playing in the big dance twice. Vigneault will likely have some weapons at his disposal with the likes of Voracek, Giroux, Couturier, Provorov, and Gostisbehere already signed and the Flyers having some $30 million in cap space to spend this summer, but this is a squad that hasn't been to the second round of the playoffs since 2012. In short, Vigneault will have some work to do.

"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 the prospects coming up through the system in order to return Philadelphia to the top of the NHL landscape," Vigneault told reporters at his introduction.

Where the Flyers should see some improvement with the defensively-minded Vigneault behind the bench is on the goals-against totals that were escalating under Hakstol. Philly gave up 280 goals this season - third-most in the NHL - which was a massive increase from the 236 goals-against they posted in 2017-18 and the 231 goals they surrendered in 2016-17. With the right personnel, Vigneault's systems work as he's shown at the AHL level with the Manitoba Moose and at the NHL level in guiding the Canucks and Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final.

One could argue that having nine 40-win seasons in 15 seasons of NHL head coaching is something to justify that massive amount of money that the Flyers are paying him, and the fact that he's only missed the playoffs four times in fifteen seasons behind NHL benches could be another. I caution that while these results can be repeatable, Vigneault's first season as a head coach in his three NHL stops saw his teams advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs or better. Perhaps Chuck Fletcher is betting big on Vigneault's influence, knowledge, and systems with the money he committed to the coach.

If there is one concern that the Flyers could have, it's that Vigneault has relied heavily on veteran talent at all his stops. While he'll have that talent base to work with in Philadelphia, there will likely be some youth injected into the lineup alongside young players such as Nolan Patrick and Travis Konecny. Both players will need to factor into Vigneault's system, and I assume there will be much work done by Vigneault to continue to make them into effective 200-foot players.

Regardless of what I think, the Flyers have their man and will go into the off-season with a renewed confidence. They'll pick up a solid player with the eleventh pick in June's NHL Entry Draft, and then Fletcher will consult Vigneault on the players he can drop $30 million on that fit into his new coach's systems.

It's a new era in Philadelphia with Fletcher and Vigneault.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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