WASHINGTON – When Alain Vigneault won his first Jack Adams Trophy for NHL coach of the year back in 2007, he was still somewhat of an unproven commodity.
But since that magic year in Vancouver, he’s been to the Stanley Cup Final twice – with the Canucks and the New York Rangers.
Hockey people know Vigneault is one of the brightest, most prepared bench bosses in the league and it shows with the Flyers’ performance this season.
Heading into Wednesday night’s game against the Capitals, the Flyers had rocketed up the standings into second place in the Metropolitan Division and, in terms of points, sixth overall in the NHL.
Prior to the game, several players said they weren’t surprised there’s been buzz around the league for Vigneault to win another Adams Trophy, especially if the Flyers capture the division.
At the moment, it would appear Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella is the favorite. Tortorella lost starting goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and leading scorer Artemi Panarin to free agency and top stars Seth Jones and Cam Atkinson to injury.
“I’m not surprised,’’ James van Riemsdyk said at Capital One Arena. “You look at our team, from where we were last year to where we are this year – obviously we got some different guys but ultimately it’s a lot of the same ones, too.
“So certainly he’s pushed the right buttons that got more out of us this year to have more success. We still have some work to do to finish out the year strong but he’s been a big part of us turning things around.’’
Defenseman Philippe Myers needed some time to win over Vigneault’s trust at the start of the season but since then he’s really taken off.
Myers started the season with the Phantoms but since returning, he’s worked his way into a top four position and began Wednesday night a plus-16, which led all Flyers backliners and was second on the team to Sean Couturier’s plus-20.
Once Myers and Vigneault saw eye-to-eye, things just kept getting better and better.
“I think he holds people accountable,’’ Myers said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a veteran, he treats everybody the same. I think that’s really helped bring the best out of everybody on the team.’’
Vigneault is known for short, high intensity practices. The coaching staff and the players go over everything, including video and instruction boards, before they hit the ice.
That sort of approach breeds confidence.
“It’s all about the mentality of no fooling around out there,’’ Myers said. “As soon as we get out there, it’s straight to business. Get your stuff done.
“We need to bring the same work ethic from practice into games. You know it’s really going to help us be more consistent. It’s helped me personally and it’s the same with a lot of other guys on the team. It’s kind of the culture and the mindset that we want to have here now.’’
Vigneault didn’t want to comment on his chances of winning the award. He’s stuck to the party line of focusing on the here and now.
“At this moment, I’m not going to spend any moment of my time worrying about my own legacy,’’ he said. “My moment right now is the Flyers against Washington tonight.’’
During the Flyers’ six-game winning streak, they had received game-winning goals from five different players. . .Through his first three games with the Flyers, Derek Grant (acquired from Anaheim) won faceoffs at a 64.5 clip. . .The Flyers’ 10 wins in February tied a franchise record. . .Philadelphia went into Wednesday night’s game 6-2-2 in its last 10 road games.