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Flyers Hire Vigneault as Head Coach

April 15, 2019, 6:46 PM ET [627 Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The Philadelphia Flyers announced on Monday afternoon that they have hired 57-year-old veteran NHL coach Alain Vigneault as the team's new head coach. Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher declined to specify the term of the contract but it has been reported elsewhere that Vigneault received a five-year deal worth $25 million.

Fletcher spoke via conference call with the media at 5 p.m. EDT. The team released a statement with a quote from Vigneault about being honored and excited by the opportunity, but the new head coach will not speak publicly until an introductory press conference that is tentatively aimed for Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center. Vigneault will also serve as the head coach for Team Canada at next month’s IIHF World Championships in Slovakia. Oddly enough, one of his assistants will be former Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol.

Vigneault has coached 1,216 regular season games in the NHL as well as 139 playoff games. His resume highlights include taking two different teams (Vancouver and the New York Rangers) to the Stanley Cup Finals, plus an additional Eastern Conference Final with the Rangers, five other seasons in which his team won one playoff round, eight seasons with 100+ points in the regular season (three President's Trophy honors), and he won the Jack Adams Award as NHL Coach of the Year with Vancouver in 2006-07.

"Alain has always been somebody I’ve admired and respected," Fletcher said. "I’ve watched the job he’s done over the years throughout his career, but particularly in Vancouver and with the Rangers. He’s been what I’ve considered to be a top coach in the NHL. I made a decision that I wanted to speak with him, and during our conversations it just became apparent to me he was the right guy. So once you kind of come to that conclusion it just made sense to pursue it, and we were able to finalize things this morning."

Fletcher said that while overall coaching track record played a big part in the decision to hire Vigneault, he also liked Vigneault's coaching personality and style.

"I also think he has a tremendous track record of developing players, holding his players accountable, instilling proper habits in his players. I think he’s one of the better bench coaches in the National Hockey League. His ability to adapt and read the game and make changes as he sees fit is top notch. He’s obviously a hard worker. In my time here over the past few days I’ve found out he’s also a really good person and somebody that I communicated with well," Fletcher said.

In New York, Vigneault was criticized at times for over-relying on veteran players to the detriment of developing youngsters. Fletcher dismissed that idea as false.

"When you go back to Vancouver when he came in there, all the younger players they had, and he turned that franchise around quickly. They had a slew of young players if I’m not mistaken, players like [Alex] Edler, [Ryan] Kesler, [Jannik] Hansen, [Alexandre] Burrows, all those were young players and some of them he coached in Manitoba. He had a tremendous track record in Manitoba, had a tremendous season there. That Vancouver team really developed and gelled into a top team for many years. I think his track record speaks for itself. He’s had success at the junior level, had success in the minor leagues, and he’s had success in the NHL. You can’t have success at all those levels unless you’re good at developing players," Fletcher said.

Vigneault, like all coaches, has pros and cons and isn't a miracle worker. But, with some personnel additions this summer, the team should good structure and breakouts should improve along with the GAA. The general manager said he will aggressively pursue some roster upgrades this summer.

Fletcher spoke with Scott Gordon, who served as the Flyers' interim head coach after the dismissal of Dave Hakstol, on Monday morning. The GM said that Gordon was understandably disappointed. Fletcher's advice was to take a few weeks to collect his thoughts and the two sides would talk again. It will be left up to Gordon if he wants to return to the AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms head coaching job. According to Fletcher, the position is Gordon's if he wants it.

In terms of NHL assistant coaches, Fletcher said he would work directly with Vigneault to assemble the staff. No decisions have been made on the team's current NHL assistants as of yet. Vigneault by track record hasn't been a head coach who immediately takes the same assistant or two everywhere he goes, ala Peter Laviolette and Kevin McCarthy, but Vigneault did work with Darryl Williams as part of his staff in both Vancouver and the Rangers.

Stylistically, when a Vigneault-coached team is on its game, players have their feet moving and play a puck control game: breakouts look easy, the majority of 50-50 battles are won and turnovers create transitions. Having players who play with pace is crucial; he has to have the horses who can handle that pace up and down the ice. Late in his Rangers' tenure, Vigneault got heat for his team allegedly being passive and stationary, too often hemmed in their own zone and giving up the netfront too easily.
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