In ancient Greece, the Phoenix is a bird that obtains new life by rising from the ashes of its predecessor. At the end of the day, the bird itself is nothing but a myth, but the symbolism of renewal lives on as a metaphor forever.
After the Philadelphia Flyers hit rock bottom during the dying days of the Ron Hextall era, Ownership stepped in and fired general manager Hextall and, a month later, head coach Dave Hakstol. With a clean slate and new general manager Chuck Fletcher at the helm, there was a renewed hope amongst the fans that the ship would finally get put back on the right path.
In the summer of 2019, The Flyers chose to send interim coach Scott Gordon back to the Phantoms and hire former Rangers coach Alain Vigneault. The initial reaction amongst the crowd was split. Some were worried about Rangers fan’s complaints about his reliance on veteran players, and others were just excited to see a new man behind the Flyers bench. It’s a move that has payed off in spades for the Flyers.
Vigneault, along with Mike Yeo and Michel Therrien have given the Flyers a life behind the bench that fans haven’t seen since the days of Peter Laviolette almost a decade ago.
As of right now, Vigneault has coached the Flyers to a 38-20-7 record, and they are firmly entrenched in a playoff spot. This coming after a season where the Flyers finished with a 37-37-8 record, missing the playoffs by 16 points.
The NHL just recently posted a graphic where a bunch of writers from NHL.com casted their votes for the Jack Adams Award, and the results weren’t really surprising.
Alain Vigneault not finishing in the top three, or a runner up for that matter, is a status quo move by the NHL, totally overlooking the Flyers. And while all the coaches listed are deserving in their own right, AV not getting considered is a snub that is hard to forgive.
Mike Sullivan and John Tortorella, of the Penguins and Blue Jackets respectively, have coached their clubs through major injuries this season. Pittsburgh ranks first in man-games lost to injuries during the 2019-20 season, and the Blue Jackets sit in second. The Penguins are currently third in the metro, and the Blue Jackets are clinging on to the second wild card spot.
Travis Green’s Vancouver Canucks are finally coming out of a rebuilding phase that saw them miss the playoffs for four consecutive years. Now firmly in a playoff spot in the West, they have already tied their wins from last season at 35, and they still have 18 games left.
The other two coaches mentioned are Jon Cooper of Tampa Bay and Dave Tippett of Edmonton. Again, both worthy mentions, as the Oilers are (finally) back in the playoff picture, and the Lightning have been damn near unstoppable after a slow start to the season.
All five coaches listed have their own specific reason for making the cut, so why should Alain Vigneault be among these names? Well let’s compare some numbers.
In terms of man-games lost, the Flyers can’t even compare to the Penguins or Blue Jackets. Other than a knee injury to Gostisbehere, or a few minor injuries to Laughton, Raffl, and Hart, the Flyers have been pretty lucky in avoiding the injury bug this season (knock on wood). The Penguins and Flyers have almost identical records, and both are in better position than the Blue Jackets.
Travis Green and Dave Tippett are two names that should at least be on par with Vigneault. All three have carried their team back into a playoff spot after multiple disappointing seasons. Alain Vigneault and Dave Tippett are both in their first year for their respective clubs, while Green is in his third year in Vancouver. The Flyers currently have the best record of the three, owning four more wins than either team of this writing.
Cooper is an interesting name amongst this group. His team is by far better than any other mentioned here, having two separate ten-game win streaks this season, and all that coming after 12-9-3 start through the first two months of the season. They have gone 28-10-2 since. Win streaks have not been the Flyers strong suit this season, having only one prior five-game win streak right after Thanksgiving, before their current seven-game streak that stretches back to mid-February.
Vigneault might not have had to overcome injuries like Sullivan in Pittsburgh or Tortorella in Columbus, or the impressive win streaks of Tampa, but he has gotten far more out of his team than Green in Vancouver or Tippett in Edmonton, as the Flyers have almost a 10-point lead on either team in the standings. As of this writing, the Flyers are ahead of all the teams listed except Tampa Bay, though they only trail them by four points.
At the end of the day, should we be surprised someone on the Flyers might get snubbed for an award? Nope. However, given his competition, there is no reason Vigneault’s name shouldn’t be swirling around with the current projected finalists. The Flyers still have 18 games left, and have first place in the metropolitan division in their sights. If they can secure that first place spot, it will be even harder to deny what Alain Vigneault has done for the Flyers this season.
By: Daniel Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: spokesman.com