Coach believes Flyers have right pieces to contend for Stanley Cup

Sean Couturier (left), pictured with Hall of Famer Bob Clarke, has been named the 20th captain in Flyers history.
      By winning nine straight games near the end of the regular season and then capturing the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference upon resumption of play, the Flyers raised hopes of postseason greatness.
      Perhaps a little too unrealistically.
      But like Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher’s optimistic outlook, coach Alain Vigneault believes his team is moving in the right direction, even if it did fall short of a serious try at the Stanley Cup this season.
      Vigneault knows he has a good blend of veterans and youth. With Carter Hart, Ivan Provorov, Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny, the Flyers have the talent at key positions to contend for years to come.
      During Monday’s press briefing conference call, Vigneault explained why there’s cause for optimism.
      “Our young players have size, they have skill, they’ve got will,’’ Vigneault said. “We have quite a few of those young players that are scratching the surface as far as talent potential.
      “They can all get better and they all proved this year that they can get better. If you combine that with good veterans that want to play the right way, that want to do the right things at the right time, and I do believe we did show a lot of that this year.
      “Our consistency needs to improve in some areas of our games. We got quite a few young players that were on our team this year or that are coming up that in my estimation are going to be, if they can figure it out, good players and are going to permit us to pursue the Stanley Cup.’’
      >Faltering power play frustrated players
      Vigneault said the Flyers’ lack of success on the power play (0 for 13 vs. the Islanders) might have caused some frustration offensively.
      “Offensively, some of our guys feed off the power play,’’ Vigneault said. “We didn’t have a lot of success on the power play during the playoffs.
      “Their confidence was probably affected a little bit. And I think what happened to us in the playoffs is because some of the guys were pressing, they were probably cheating offensively a little bit, and that hurt us defensively also. This was obviously disappointing, but it should go in our bank of learning experiences and we should all be better for it.’’
      >Working on Konecny’s game
      While Travis Konecny led the Flyers in scoring during the regular season, he came up empty in the playoffs.
      Vigneault believes he can get things headed back in the right direction.
      “There’s no doubt that Travis didn’t perform to his expectations and ours in playoffs,’’ Vigneault said.  “He’s a young player, full of potential. I believe that I’ll be able to help him a lot moving forward, but I have not had the opportunity to sit down with Travis and go through what I believe he needs to focus on, work on and get better at so he becomes the best player that he can be.
      “He was pressing and because he was pressing, it led to turnovers that led to good opportunities for the opposition. TK’s a great young man that’s got a lot of potential and we’re going to work with him and he’s going to become the best player he can be.’’
      >Sanheim-Myers pairing a keeper
      It looks like the Phil Myers-Travis Sanheim No. 2 defense pairing will be around for some time to come.
      Sanheim said the key moving forward is to develop consistency. During the Islander series, it seemed like one player was off his game one night, and then the other player the next.
      “I think we found some chemistry there,’’ Sanheim said via conference call. “In the Islander series, we took a little bit of a step back. It seemed like one night one guy was going and one wasn’t going and the next night it was the other guy.
      “We probably weren’t too happy with the last two games. We’ve come a long way, I think as a pairing we’re a young pairing (Sanheim 24, Myers 23). The Islanders made it hard, they forecheck, they have some big bodies and they made it challenging on us.’’
      With both players having size, length and good skating speed, it’s a twosome Vigneault can depend on.
      “We still made some good plays (against the Islanders),’’ Sanheim noted. “Played well at times. I think the consistency will come with more experience.’’
      >Thompson hopes to be back with Flyers
      Nate Thompson, who was picked up from Montreal at the trade deadline and is a pending unrestricted free agent, said he would like to return to the Flyers but there have not been any contract talks yet.
      “I’d be very interested,’’ Thompson said on a conference call when asked about any desire to return to Philly. “From the time I got here, I love this group of guys, the coaching staff. I thought it was a good fit for me.
      “I think this team definitely has a window of winning. That’s a possibility. I’d like to be part of it.’’
      Thompson, an Alaska native who turns 36 next month, wound up being a valuable center on the fourth line during the late stages of the regular season and into the playoffs.
      He was utilized as an efficient faceoff man in key situations, killed penalties and had a checking role against top lines.
      “I’ve done that throughout the course of my career,’’ he said. “It’s just a matter of execution. At this point in my career, I know what to expect. It’s just a tap on the shoulder, hop over the bench (boards) and just do your thing.’’
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About Wayne Fish 2451 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.