Breaking: Flyers Hire Alain Vigneault as Head Coach
The first shoe of a critical offseason has dropped for the Philadelphia Flyers. Philadelphia announced Monday afternoon that they have hired Alain Vigneault to be their 21st head coach in franchise history. Vigneault has signed a 5-year, $25 million deal, per The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun.
This comes out 3 days after Elliotte Friedman reported the club had asked the New York Rangers permission to speak with Vigneault. There were really never any other candidates mentioned, other than interim coach Scott Gordon, who Vigneault will replace. Gordon did an admirable job inheriting a flawed roster near the bottom of the standings; however, the Flyers poor underlying metrics and 3-9-0 limp to the finish line suggested he may not be the right fit for the Flyers.
Vigneault has made three stops in his coaching career: Montreal (1997-2000), Vancouver (2006-2013), and the New York Rangers (2013-2018). Ironically, the last game he coached was a 5-0 loss to the Flyers to end the 2017-18 season (you might remember that as the game the Flyers clinched a playoff spot and Claude Giroux had a hat trick and 102 points and everything was rosy).
Over his career, Vigneault has a record of 648-435-98 (.588 points percentage). His 648 wins are tied for the 12th most all-time and 6th most among active coaches. He won the Jack Adams for Vancouver in 2006-07, and was a finalist for the award as recently as the 2014-15 season with New York.He has been to the playoffs in 11 of his 15 seasons, winning 3 President's Trophies (VAN: 2010-11, 2011-12; NYR: 2014-15) and going to the Stanley Cup Finals with Vancouver in 2011 and the Rangers in 2014, losing both times.
Vigneault comes to Philadelphia with some good and some bad. The good is that he prefers a fast pace style of play with an emphasis on creating high-danger chances rather than simply bombing away from the point. That being said, he has been known for his overuse of veterans, something a Flyers coach has never been criticized for (cough cough Dave Hakstol). In 2017, the Rangers gave up two final two-minute game tying goals to Ottawa with pylo-I mean veterans Marc Staal, Dan Giradi, Tanner Glass, and Brendan Smith on the ice. His tenure with Vancouver was stellar, but after a good start in New York, his last two years were particularly rocky. Which Vigneault will the Flyers be getting?
Perhaps the biggest reason the Flyers targeted Vigneault is name recognition. Scott Gordon was an interim whose only other previous NHL coaching stint was a nightmare in the Island (how are they up 3-0 on the Pens?) Dave Hakstol was a college coach with no NHL experience. Craig Berube is more known for being 7th in all-time penalty minutes than his coaching experience. Or was, until his miracle run with St. Louis this year. This is the biggest name the Flyers have had behind the bench since Peter Laviolette arrived in 2009 three years removed from a Cup win in Carolina.
If the Flyers had kept Gordon, it would have instilled the sentiment that the present was ok, even if everyone, from the players to management, knew it isn't. That might not be fair to Gordon, but life and hockey aren't either (just ask the Tampa Bay Lightning). Vigneault's name demands respect for the players. This is a coach who will not be fired if things stay south next year; instead, it will likely be the roster in front of him that changes. The present has been deemed unacceptable for months now. Trading Wayne Simmonds was a start towards change, but Vigneault is the first true step towards pushing the Flyers back into contention.