Step 1 of parting ways with Ron Hextall as general manager of the Flyers and hiring Chuck Fletcher to replace him had to do with shortening the timeline to contention for a Stanley Cup.
Step 2 took place on Monday when the Flyers went after a proven coach who they believe can, indeed, accelerate the process.
After going with three coaches who had little to no prior NHL head coaching experience, the Flyers went in a different direction by hiring veteran Alain Vigneault to take over behind their bench.
Vigneault, 57, has been an NHL head coach for 1,216 games, including two trips to the Stanley Cup Final – with Vancouver in 2011 and with the New York Rangers in 2014.
He becomes the 21st head coach in Flyers’ franchise history. General manager Chuck Fletcher announced that Vigneault has agreed to a multi-year contract.
In addition to coaching the Canucks and Rangers, Vigneault also coached the Montreal Canadiens in the last ‘90s.
“It is an honor to be selected as the next head coach of the Flyers,” said Vigneault. “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.”
Not since Peter Laviolette was let go just a handful of games into the 2012-13 season have the Flyers had a coach with the sort of resume that Vigneault brings to the Flyers.
Since Laviolette’s departure, it’s been first-timer Craig Berube, another first-timer, Dave Hakstol and then Scott Gordon, who had a brief tenure with the New York Islanders a decade ago.
Vigneault, who has coached 139 Stanley Cup playoff games, most recently coached the Rangers, where he coached five seasons (2013-2018). He also spent seven seasons as the head coach of the Canucks (2006-13) and three-plus seasons at the helm of the Canadiens, where he started his head coaching career in 1997 and departed 20 games into the 2000-01 campaign.
He also will serve as the head coach for Team Canada at next month’s IIHF World Championships in Slovakia.
Vigneault certainly knows his way around NHL rinks.
In Vigneault’s 15 full seasons as a head coach, eight of his teams have finished with 100 points or better. A ninth team, Vancouver in 2012-13, achieved 59 points during the lockout-shortened campaign for a points percentage of .610, equivalent to a 100-point season.
His teams have won seven division championships and have made the playoffs 11 times, advancing past the first round on eight of those occasions, and reaching the Stanley Cup Final twice. Three of Vigneault’s teams have earned the Presidents’ Trophy – Vancouver on two occasions, 2010-11 and 2011-12, and the New York Rangers in 2014-15.
The best season of Vigneault’s coaching career to this point came in 2010-11 with Vancouver, which won the Presidents’ Trophy by 10 points that season with a 54-19-9 record for 117 points. After a seven-game quarterfinal win over the Chicago Blackhawks, the Canucks beat Nashville in six games and San Jose in five to reach the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost in seven games to the Boston Bruins.
Vigneault returned to the Final three seasons later with the New York Rangers, a team that was not among his eight 100-point clubs. That Rangers squad survived a seven-game series against the Flyers in the first round and another against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round before defeating Montreal in six games in the conference final.
Following his first season in Vancouver in 2006-07, Vigneault won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL Coach of the Year after guiding the Canucks to a 13-point improvement from the previous season, earning a Northwest Division title and a return to the playoffs after missing in 2005-06. It was the first of six division championships the Canucks would win under Vigneault, including five in a row from 2008-13.
He has been a finalist for the award on three other occasions – in 1999-2000 with Montreal, 2010-11 with Vancouver and 2014-15 with the Rangers. His career regular season record as an NHL head coach is 648-435-35-98.
Over the course of a three-year playing career as a defenseman, Vigneault appeared in 42 NHL games with St. Louis from 1981-1983. He began his coaching career in 1986 in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, spending one season with the Trois-Rivieres Draveurs and five with the Hull Olympiques. In 1992-93, Vigneault joined the expansion Ottawa Senators as an assistant coach, where he spent three-plus seasons before returning to the QMJHL, where he coached the Beauport Harfangs through the end of the 1996-97 season. He was named the head coach of the Montreal Canadiens the following season.
A native of Quebec City, Quebec, Vigneault takes over for Scott Gordon, who served as the interim head coach of the Flyers from Dec. 17, 2018 through the end of the 2018-19 season. Gordon was 25-22-4 over 51 games in the role.