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Meltzer: A deep dive into the hiring of Vigneault

Flyers contributor on Chuck Fletcher's decision on the head coach

by Bill Meltzer @billmeltzer

With 1,216 regular season games and 139 games coached in the Stanley Cup playoffs, Alain Vigneault is the most experienced NHL head coach that the Philadelphia Flyers have hired in franchise history.  

The next three most-experienced coaches that the Flyers hired prior to Vigneault were the late Roger Neilson (813 pre-Flyers regular season games), Ken Hitchcock (503) and Peter Laviolette (487). 

In his media conference call on Monday evening to explain the hiring, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said that Vigneault's overall track record in the NHL was one key factor in the decision to move quickly in hiring him this season. The other main factor was that Fletcher felt that, based upon their discussions prior to the hiring, that he and Vigneault meshed well with one another in hockey philosophy, vision for the team and communication style. 

In terms of track record, Vigneault is one of the more accomplished veteran coaches in the game. His resume highlights include taking two different teams (Vancouver and the New York Rangers) to the Stanley Cup Finals, plus an additional Eastern Conference Final with the Rangers, five other seasons in which his team won one playoff round, eight seasons with 100+ points in the regular season (three President's Trophy honors), and he won the Jack Adams Award as NHL Coach of the Year with Vancouver in 2006-07.

"I think he has a tremendous track record of developing players, holding his players accountable, instilling proper habits in his players. I think he's one of the better bench coaches in the National Hockey League. His ability to adapt and read the game and make changes as he sees fit is top notch. He's obviously a hard worker," Fletcher said.

Tweet from @NHLFlyers: "It seems like the right fit at the right time for the #Flyers." - GM Chuck Fletcher on bringing AV to Philly. pic.twitter.com/2Hkl8Z0jMO

Last week, Fletcher publicly laid out his vision of the type of team he wants the Flyers to become with much greater consistency: one that possesses the puck the majority of the time but also which plays responsible team defense, and with good pace on both sides of the puck. When he's had sufficient personnel capable of executing his system, Vigneault's teams have won far more often than they've lost.

Although the Flyers slipped from 98 points in 2017-18 to 82 this past season, Fletcher said that both he and Vigneault believe the team can return to the playoffs -- and potentially advance in the postseason -- in rapid order. The GM also reiterated his intention to be aggressive this offseason in seeking upgrades of the roster in areas of need.

"I think [Alain] is at a stage of his career where he wants to win, and he sees a lot of potential in our roster. Right now it's about continuing to try to build our group and to become as competitive as we can," Fletcher said.

Vigneault issued a statement through the team after his hiring expressing that he feels honored and excited by the opportunity to coach the Flyers. He will speak publicly at an introductory press conference tentatively slated for Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center.

"I think it motivates all of us to try to win a Stanley Cup. I can't speak for him, exactly, but I know that's why I'm in the business, I want to win a Stanley Cup here in Philadelphia. I think we're both excited about the opportunity to try to push this group forward," Fletcher said.

At times in his career, Vigneault has been criticized for allegedly over-relying on veteran players to the detriment of developing youngsters. Fletcher dismissed that idea as false. 

"When you go back to Vancouver when he came in there, all the younger players they had, and he turned that franchise around quickly. They had a slew of young players if I'm not mistaken, players like [Alex] Edler, [Ryan] Kesler, [Jannik] Hansen, [Alexandre] Burrows, all those were young players and some of them he coached in Manitoba. That Vancouver team really developed and gelled into a top team for many years. He's had success at the junior level, had success in the minor leagues, and he's had success in the NHL. You can't have success at all those levels unless you're good at developing players," Fletcher said.

Fletcher said that no decisions have been made yet on Vigneault's assistant coaching staff. The new head coach and GM will soon get to work on that aspect. 

Vigneault by track record has not been a head coach who immediately takes along the same most-trusted assistants everywhere he goes, ala Peter Laviolette and Kevin McCarthy in Carolina, Philadelphia and Nashville. Generally speaking, though, Vigneault's staffs have often included at least one assistant who has previous NHL head coaching experience in his own right, a couple of holdover assistants from the previous regime and a new hire or two.

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