With proven coaching staff in place, onus to win now on Flyers’ players

Alain Vigneault

Now that the Flyers have hired their first coaching staff with proven NHL experience in nearly a decade, we can make one close-to-surefire prediction:

The responsibility for getting back to serious contention now lies squarely on the players.

One has to go all the way back to December, 2009 and the signing of Stanley Cup-winning coach Peter Laviolette for the last time someone with a bona fide track record stood behind the Philadelphia bench.

After that came first-timer Craig Berube, who got mixed results (although he seems to be doing all right at the moment in St. Louis, wouldn’t you say?); then college coach Dave Hakstol, followed by interim Scott Gordon, who had a brief previous (and unsuccessful) trial with the Islanders.

But now, with two-time Cup finalist Alain Vigneault at the control panel and Michel Therrien and Mike Yeo as his assistants, the players don’t have any more excuses.

It’s been seven years since a Flyer team won a playoff series – the longest drought in franchise history.

If Ed Snider were still here, a situation like this would have resulted in hell to pay.

Veteran players such as Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, Sean Couturier, Andrew MacDonald, Radko Gudas, Shayne Gostisbehere and Scott Laughton know it’s getting close to put up or shut up time.

Remember this: None of these guys were brought in by new general manager Chuck Fletcher. But there’s certainly a possibility that one or more of them could be shipped out by him.

You know how that tune goes. With the exception of Giroux, no one around here is bullet-proof. You could make compelling cases for Couturier, Carter Hart, Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny and a couple young defensemen but everyone else would appear to be fair game.

Now that the coaching staff has the full support of the GM, it’s on the players to show they have what it takes to get the job done.

On a media conference call with Vigneault on Wednesday, the question was asked whether there has to be a different “mindset’’ on the ice and if the new assistant coaches – known for their “no-nonsense’’ approach to the game can make a difference.

“We do have a lot of head coaching experience but there are two former head coaches that want to be assistants and understand that role,’’ Vigneault said.

“Because of their experience, I think that they will be able to analyze different situations, different body language from players, from staff, from members and be able to make the right assessment and take the right steps that will be beneficial to us as a team.

“At the end of the day, we are all in this for the same thing and that’s to win. I believe that Chuck and I have put a solid staff together that will permit us to do this.’’

It will be interesting to see how the Flyers take to Vigneault’s style of coaching. He’s been to the Stanley Cup Final and they haven’t. So, unlike Berube, Hakstol and Gordon, the players shouldn’t be questioning their marching orders.

>Kate not going away quietly

By now, just about everybody knows the Flyers did not take any action against Kate Smith, her statue or the recorded rendition of “God Bless America’’ until the Yankees pulled the plug on her version of GBA once they found out she sang songs with racist lyrics back in the ‘30s.

The Yankees started playing Smith’s GBA every night after the 9/11 terror attacks and continued the tradition long after every other major league baseball team had stopped.

That all came to a screeching halt last month. The Yankees ceased playing Smith’s version but still play GBA by other singers.

Yankee fans, loyal to Smith and always known for their boisterous ways, are not letting this go without voicing their feelings.

When PA man Paul Olden announced in the seventh inning of Monday night’s Mariners-Yankees game at Yankee Stadium “to please rise’’ for God Bless America, the fans broke out a chant of “We want Kate! We want Kate!’’

Meanwhile, back in Philadelphia, Flyers fans have not yet had a chance to express their opinion.

But come this fall, they will have that opportunity. If the Flyers are bold enough to have, say, Lauren Hart sing GBA without Kate, it could get very loud in the old Wells Fargo Center.


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About Wayne Fish 2426 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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