VOORHEES – Now the whole hockey world has figured out what Flyers players have been saying all along – that their coach, Alain Vigneault, has put together one heck of a season.
On Wednesday, it was made official when the National Hockey League announced Vigneault has been named one of three finalists for the Jack Adams Trophy for coach of the year.
The other finalists are Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella and Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy.
Vigneault previously won this award in 2006-07 with the Vancouver Canucks.
The Flyers hired Vigneault last spring and he changed the culture of this team almost immediately.
One number of note: Philadelphia went from a minus-37 team in 2018-19 to a plus-36 this season.
The Flyers ended the pandemic-shortened regular season with a 41-21-7 record, including a nine-game winning streak just prior to the pause.
After 69 games, the Flyers had moved to within one point of the Washington Capitals for the Metro Division lead. This after the Flyers put together a .500 season the previous year.
Vigneault, 59, has now been voted a Jack Adams finalist a record five times (once in Montreal, twice in Vancouver, once with the New York Rangers and now the Flyers).
The Flyers coach said the turning point of this season occurred when the news broke in December about Oskar Lindblom’s diagnosis of having Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.
“(The award). . .in Philly is extra special,’’ Vigneault said after day three of training camp at the Skate Zone. “With Nov. 1 until the end, we had the best record along with Boston and Tampa, in the league. I look at how our players responded to the Oskar situation; I’m so proud of this group and everybody associated with it.
“That was a very challenging time for our group and we responded by doing our jobs, staying focused, players being supportive to Oskar. This nomination for me, considering what could have happened, is extra special. Oskar is well now, so this is very special for me.’’
Vigneault said a big key to the Flyers’ success was the team’s ability to buy into the system almost right away.
“From day one, I felt that the veteran players of this group were looking for direction,’’ Vigneault said. “Basically that’s what my staff did, gave them direction. We told them this is the plan we have, this is what you need to do your job on the ice.
“We knew the month of October would be challenging, the trip to Europe, then the travel out west. But I can’t say enough about the support we got from the hockey community. Great fans. The support was phenomenal.’’
The Flyers themselves have nothing but great things to say about their coach.
“He came in with a system,’’ defenseman Justin Braun said. “It took a while for guys to get used to that. But I think everyone bought in. You saw that toward the end of the year, the points we were collecting.
“I think he set the standard for what he expects every night. Guys went out there and did their jobs. It’s great that we can help him get that honor. Hopefully he can win that. He came in with a plan and we executed it. Things turned out well.’’
James van Riemsdyk has been impressed with Vigneault’s scientific approach since he arrived.
“We are coming back and want to be in a position where we are peaking at the right time so he is leaning on the sports science staff as for how long we practice, how hard we practice, when to push a little harder and when to pull back and give us some time to recover,’’ JVR said.
“Because of all that, he uses all the tools kind of available to him. He’s been really smart about all that stuff. I think as players we have a ton of confidence in what he wants us to do. It’ll help us be prepared and be ready to play as we go through this process and get to Toronto and start playing games.’’
Vigneault, a native of Quebec City, Quebec has a lifetime record of 689-456-35-105 for a .591 winning percentage. He
Has been to the Stanley Cup Final with Vancouver and the New York Rangers.
Under Vigneault’s direction, the Flyers had the most home wins (25) and highest home winning percentage (.771) in the NHL, and finished in the top 10 in both goals for (3.29) and goals against (2.77) per game. They went 16-4-4 against the Metropolitan Division and 30-10-5 against the Eastern Conference.
Vigneault came to Philadelphia with parts of 16 seasons of experience as an NHL head coach, having led the Montreal Canadiens (1997-2000), Vancouver Canucks (2006-13) and New York Rangers (2013-18).
The winner will be revealed during the NHL’s Conference Finals, with the exact date, format and time to be determined.
Four Flyers coaches have won the Jack Adams: Fred Shero, Pat Quinn, Mike Keenan and Bill Barber.