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A Day at Hockey School

Vigneault alters practice to have players separated to work on individual skills

by Bill Meltzer @BillMeltzer

The Flyers did something a little out of the ordinary for Tuesday's practice at the Skate Zone in Voorhees. 

Rather than having the entire team on the ice, re-emphasizing specific systems, the day was organized in a fashion closer to what one might see during training camp or in a Development Camp for prospects. 

For a half-hour at a time, each of four groups worked in small groups, with skills coach Angelo Ricci and Alain Vigneault's assistant coaching staff on the ice. The focus on this day was on various elements of individual skills.

"I've done this quite a bit in the past. Obviously, the schedule is going to prevent it [being frequent] but I usually call these 'hockey school days' where, usually, the whole half hour is just skill-oriented," Vigneault said. 

"Because we're coaching a new coaching staff, we haven't had a lot of time to work on face-off play. So we're taking a 10 minute prior to the skill work to work on different face off plays. And then Angelo, our new skill coach, has got the guys for 20 minutes. I split them up into four groups. Usually I split them up six-by-six forwards and the Ds [defensemen] because it's a different skill set. But because of the face-off work, we just decided to do it this way today with four different groups."

Vigneault has periodically done his "hockey school" days dating back to his time as the Vancouver Canucks head coach. He credits former Canucks general manager Mike Gillis for suggesting the idea. It was through discussions with Gillis and the assistant coaches that Vigneault also came to be a proponent of the team hiring a skills coach.

Ricci, who frequently supplements the full-team practices by doing one-on-one or small-group skills sessions with Flyers players, was hired by Chuck Fletcher in the offseason. He came the Flyers highly recommended by Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic. 

Tuesday's practice was the first time that the entire Flyers team had a skills day. Each of the four forward lines -- the same units that were featured against Las Vegas on Monday with the exception of Tyler Pitlick replacing Scott Laughton (maintenance day) on Kevin Hayes' line -- had its own session of 10 minutes of faceoff work and 20 minutes of skills work, consisting of stickhandling, tight turns, touch-passes and shooting. 

"Hockey is a team sport. But within that team sport, there's an individual aspect that goes in. One of it is the skill work of a player. All these young guys growing up in today, they've all got skill coaches, and they all work with them in the summer,. What we're trying to do is just maintain some of the summer work that they do," Vigneault said.

Vigneault said that he got positive feedback from his players in Vancouver and New York on how much they enjoyed the periodic skill-day sessions. To a man, the Flyers players also embraced the idea.

"It was a little different, my first time experiencing that," Flyers center Sean Couturier said. "It was fun out there. I guess AV, since he's gotten here, has done a good job making sure guys are fresh coming to game time. There's no excuses, energy wise. Today was a little different. Just go out there, 20 or 25 minutes, work on some skills and recharge the batteries a little bit to come to [full] practice tomorrow and come to game-time on Thursday."Video: Vigneault , Couturier on Flyers' dedication to skills

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