Let’s see if the Flyers can respond to Vigneault’s style

Travis Sanheim

Over the years, the Flyers have had some good cops behind their bench and they’ve had some bad ones.

For every Fred Shero there’s been a Mike Keenan; a Paul Holmgren one era, a Peter Laviolette another.

How a team responds to a particular coaching style ultimately comes down to its players.

And so we arrive at the dawn of the Alain Vigneault era – not certain if he’s a Roger Neilsen or a Ken Hitchcock. Or maybe a little bit of both.

This much we do know: Vigneault gets his players to compete hard, be it in Montreal, Vancouver or the New York Rangers.

How this demanding, drill-sergeant style plays with a somewhat young Flyers team remains to be seen.

A lot of these guys have already played for Dave Hakstol, a stern-looking ex-college coach who certainly was no day at the beach. They did manage to make the playoffs in two of his three complete seasons though.

They also showed they could respond to a “good cop’’ like Scott Gordon, who at one point this past season had them on an inspirational 18-4-2 dash before running out of gas.

General manager Chuck Fletcher made it a point during a conference call on Monday to indicate Vigneault did a fine job bringing along some of Vancouver’s youngsters – such as Alex Burrows, Ryan Kesler and Jannick Hansen – on the way to a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2011.

Everything might have changed if the Canucks hadn’t lost that Game 7 at home to the Bruins. Who knows? Vigneault might still be there.

Instead, he wound up in New York and took a Ranger team all the way to the Final in 2014, where it met a Los Angeles King buzzsaw that had already won one Cup in 2012.

The thing which catches our eye is that Vigneault has had success working with kids in junior and the minors.

That should serve him well here, particularly with relative “newbies’’ on defense such as Sam Morin, Travis Sanheim, Phil Myers and Robert Hagg.

Another aspect worth noting is that Vigneault teams always seem to play good team defense and that’s something the Flyers desperately need to learn.

One look at that minus-37 team goal differential can tell you the Flyers need better puck management, fewer turnovers in the neutral zone and an efficient game plan in the attack zone.

Perhaps ownership understands that time is running out for veterans such as Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek. The time for patience is just about over.

Fletcher should have about $15 million in salary cap space when the bell for free agent signings rings on July 1. Knowing he has an experienced, proven coach on the bench might raise his sights a bit and go for something big.

Either that or a trade. One would have to believe Fletcher and Vigneault have already had some discussions as to what changes to the roster have to be made to fit Vigneault’s “style.’’

Whether those come through free agency or trades, nothing would be surprising now.

The Flyers really haven’t been relevant for years.

Imagine what the late Ed Snider would be thinking and saying if he were still with us. One guesses his patience would have run out by now.

So he probably would have endorsed a move like the hiring of Vigneault.

Snider was always a win-now kind of guy and something like this would have been right up his alley. Somewhere he must be smiling.

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About Wayne Fish 2451 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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