To say that the 2018-2019 Philadelphia Flyers were a disappointment would be an understatement. After a surprising 2017-2018 campaign that landed them a playoff appearance, every pundit was picking the orange and black to get back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs again this season. With expectations, come consequences. Dave Hakstol was relieved of his duties after a sluggish first couple of months which had the team near the bottom of the league. Interim coach Scott Gordon did a decent job of making them competitive down the stretch, but they could not climb out of the hole they created.
The brass wanted to change course: after giving Hakstol, a college coach with no prior NHL experience the reigns, they wanted a veteran NHL name and they got just that in Alain Vigneault. The pedigree is something to see. In 7 years with Vancouver, Vigneault’s squads won 2 President’s Trophies, 5 straight division titles, and made it to the Stanley Cup Final in 2010-2011. Vigneault also won the Jack Adams award (NHL coach of the year) in 2006-2007. After he was fired in 2012-2013, he immediately was hired by the New York Rangers and led them to the Stanley Cup final in the next season. The Rangers also won the President’s Trophy in 2014-2015. The only thing missing from his resume is a sip from Lord Stanley’s chalice. Had he not run into Tim Thomas and Jonathan Quick, he may have one or two already.
Vigneault is not the only coach with experience added to the Flyers’ staff this offseason. The club recently announced that the assistant coaches will be Michel Therrien and Mike Yeo, both formerly head coaches in the NHL. Therrien will be heading the power play, and Yeo will be in charge of the defense and the penalty kill. Special teams is an area of focus for the Fly guys, as they have been one of the better 5-on-5 teams in the league the past few years, but their PK and PP have been less than ideal.
In the last 5 seasons, the Flyers have averaged 25th in the NHL on the penalty kill. In his last 5 years in New York, Vigneault’s club averaged 13th on the kill and Yeo’s Wild averaged 17th when he was at the helm. If they could just get to the middle of the pack, it would do wonders. When you’re getting scored on at a 25% clip while down a man, it will do things to your confidence. There is no denying the boost that killing off a penalty gives to the team. Especially to a team with a young defense corps and net minder.
There are still a ton of roster decisions to be made with this team for the upcoming season. After trading away a fan-favorite and honorary Flyer for life Wayne Simmonds, they have some cap room to be aggressive in free agency. Deciding which young blue-liners will make it onto the squad, the continued development of Lindblom, Patrick and Konecny, and how long do they think that Voracek and Giroux will be viable stars in the league are all questions that need answered. It seems as though they have the people in place to get this club back on the right track.
As the Blue Jackets and Avalanche showed this postseason, all you have to do is make it into the playoffs and anything is possible. Vigneault’s teams have a history of doing just that.
Between Therrien, Yeo and Vigneault, there are over 2,400 games of head-coaching experience at the NHL level. The only thing missing is that elusive championship. Maybe Vigneault can get that monkey off of his back, while vanquishing the 40 plus year silver back gorilla for the City of Brotherly Love.
Ben Longenecker / Contributor / @LongeneckerBen
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