In Defense of Alain Vigneault

It’s been a very long shortened season for Philadelphia Flyers. After a hot start the train completely came off the tracks in the month of March when the team went 6-10-1 where they allowed five or more goals seven times. Now as the season hinders on an important back-to-back with the Bruins early next week, the natives are starting to get restless and want answers for the lackluster product the Flyers have put on the ice this season.

The Flyers have turned into the embodiment of the “this is fine” meme as their free fall in the division continues and the playoffs feel like a further and further reach everyday. The finger of blame has been going around like some twisted version of wheel of fortune and there are some better options for the hand to stop on than others.

Even though Vigneault feels like he’s been around forever already, he was only hired on April 15, 2019 and has coached just 104 regular season games behind the Flyers bench along with 16 playoff games. His first season with the Flyers was cut short due to the covid-19 pandemic, but he managed to produce a 41-21-7 record including a nine-game win streak right before the pause. AV was named a finalist for the Jack Adams Award, and finished second in voting behind Bruce Cassidy.

The accolades that Vigneault carries with him are hard to deny. He brought two teams to the Stanley Cup Final, He’s a two-time Presidents Trophy winner in 2011 and 2014, Won the Jack Adams Award with the Canucks in 2007, and was a four-time finalist overall. On a grand scheme, Vigneault currently sits eighth all-time in coaching win in NHL history with 706. He’s just 43 wins behind Lindy Ruff for seventh place, 48 behind Paul Maurice for sixth place, and 76 away from fifth place Al Arbour. You don’t become a top 10 winningest coach in NHL history by accident or luck.

This year the Flyers are sitting with a 17-14-4 record and are currently a few points back of the final playoff spot in the East Division. The style in which they’ve been losing games lately has been a major red flag. Getting repeatedly blown out of the water with very little fight in them. Truth is, Vigneault is not innocent in this collapse. His roster decisions have been questionable and the in-game adjustments have been poor to say the least.

Though those things shouldn’t hamstring the Flyers by themselves. Swapping out fourth liners and bottom pair defenseman should ultimately have little effect on the game. And the changes are happening because nobody in the group of depth players has stepped up and earned the role in the first place. The young players are underperforming including Travis Konency, Travis Sanheim, Nolan Patrick, Phil Myers and Carter Hart. They’re the guys that are supposed to be stepping up and shoulder the weight but are invisible or actively hurting the Flyers on a nightly basis.

While there is plenty of evidence to build a case for keeping Alain Vigneault, there is less of a battle to keep his assistants Michel Therrien and Mike Yeo. Therrien runs the forwards and the powerplay while Yeo takes care of the defense and penalty kill. The powerplay is firing at 19.8% which is ranked 18th in the league and has gone through long cold streak throughout the season. The penalty kill is ranked 29th in the NHL at just a measly 73.3%.

Before they cut the head off the snake by firing Alain Vigneault, maybe some warning shots will happen first. If things slide even further, sooner or later someone will have to pay. The thing is, Mike Yeo is Chuck Fletcher’s guy and Michel Therrien is Vigneault’s guy. Fletcher retained Yeo for years after his usefulness in Minnesota and AV and Therrien have been working together off and on since their days in Montreal in the late 90’s.

It’s pretty clear things need to change in Flyerland and real quick. But at the end of the day, what would firing Alain Vigneault do? It’s been 104 games. Bring in some other chooch and give him one season before everyone turns on him too? The lackluster state of the Flyers goes far beyond the coach. It’s a group of players that doesn’t gel and they’ve been together for years. they’re very comfortable and feel no pressure to succeed. Chuck Fletcher’s got his hands full after sitting on them all offseason long. There will need to be multiple trades and signing to give the team a much needed facelift. Then, and only then, when Vigneault is given a legitimate roster to work with, can we blame him for the sad state of the Philadelphia Flyers.

By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)

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