VOORHEES – No matter how long a player has competed in the National Hockey League, there are always new things to learn.
Or old things to be re-learned.
That was some of the reasoning behind Flyers coach Alain Vigneault’s decision to completely reconfigure his practice on Tuesday at the Skate Zone.
He broke down his roster into four five-man units (each on the ice for about 30 minutes) in order for team skills coach Angelo Ricci to provide personal instruction to each individual player.
Vigneault said he believes the players find these sessions both productive and fun.
It’s all about habits – creating good ones and discarding the ones which aren’t useful.
“I’ve done this quite a bit in the past,’’ said Vigneault, who previously has coached at Montreal, Vancouver and the New York Rangers. “I usually call this ‘Hockey School Days.’
“Usually the whole half-hour is skill-oriented. But because we haven’t had a lot of time to work on things like faceoff plays, we’re devoting 10 minutes to that.’’
The tempo for these drills was extremely high. A lot of stick-handling, a lot of passing and a lot of shooting.
The players seem to appreciate the personalized attention. They want to get things right and this is about as close to a one-on-one tutorial as you’re going to get.
“Sometimes before practice, Angelo will work with four or five guys,’’ Vigneault said. “They work on different skills – from picking up pucks off the boards to shooting one-timers to passing through seams.
“It’s something I had when I was in Vancouver and brought to New York. Players, in my experience, love it. . .they love working on that skill work. We don’t usually have a lot of time because of games. So when we do have time, it’s usually a fun day for the players.
“In a long year like we have, you have to come up with days like this now and then.’’
Sean Couturier has been in the NHL since 2011 but he indicates it’s always a positive to get outside observations on what a player is doing.
“This was my first time experiencing that,’’ Couturier said. “Since he got here, AV (Vigneault) has made sure guys are fresh up to game time. There are no excuses energy-wise.
“Today was different, work for 20, 25 minutes on skills. You kind of re-charge the batteries for tomorrow’s practice.’’
Scott Laughton found the session extremely helpful.
“What Angelo does is pretty special, he’s got high energy,’’ Laughton said. “It’s someone you want to work with. He’s always trying to help you better your game, really kind of take you to the next level.
“We have such a busy schedule; when you can get days like this (the Flyers don’t play again until Thursday in Chicago), you take advantage.’’
The Flyers haven’t given permission for the media to speak to Ricci just yet but his background suggests he has plenty to say.
He formerly worked with the Buffalo Sabres and Vigneault received a recommendation about him from Colorado GM Joe Sakic.
In a recent tweet, Ricci said: “It takes one moment to change your course of direction, one decision that makes you step up to the greatness you deserve. And only one LIFE to make it happen. Go after everything you want in this life with everything you have.’’
James van Riemsdyk had a skills coach in Toronto and likes the concept.
“He (Ricci) is an awesome guy,’’ JVR said. “He’s super receptive to work on whatever you want to work on. I work on collecting pucks off the wall and just being more comfortable carrying the puck in different situations in the offensive zone.’’