The success of any coach's system depends on how well suited -- and, just as importantly how committed -- the players on his roster are to executing it.
The truth of the matter in hockey is that teams can win with just about any system if they have the skaters and, lest we forget, the goaltending to pull it all together. On the flip side, a good coach must also make adjustments based on the personnel he has.
"Every team is different. You change one piece in a team and you're changing the dynamics of the team," Alain Vigneault said at his introductory press conference on Thursday.
Just as Vigneault's teams in Vancouver were not a clone of his Montreal Canadiens teams at the start of his NHL head coaching career, the characteristics of his New York Rangers clubs were not identical to the clubs in his Canucks years. Even within those teams, there were year-to-year adjustments. The same will be true in Philadelphia.
Nevertheless, it is instructive to look inside the numbers of Vigneault's past teams to look for characteristic patterns if any can be found. Where did the teams rank leaguewide in various categories that suggest aspects of both the process and result?
As a general trend, Vigneault's teams (with a few exceptions) have not generated an especially high number of shot attempts yet they have often been among the higher scoring teams in the league. This makes sense in the context of a forechecking system that is not overly aggressive and an attack style than, when executed properly, emphasizes quality of shots and maintaining possession in the offensive zone to throwing as many pucks as possible to the net from any angle.
Defensively, with the exception of Vigneault's final season with the Rangers (while the team was about to begin a rebuilding phase), the majority of his teams have been in the middle of the pack in terms of shots allowed. However, the team goals against averages have generally been either in the top echelon to middle of the pack. This has partially been a product of having excellent goaltending -- hard to do better than Roberto Luongo and Henrik Lundqvist, and the Flyers believe that Carter Hart has the makings of a future star -- but also a product of the teams in front of the goalie typically giving them a reasonable chance to make saves.
Here is a look inside the numbers of Vigneault's years in Vancouver and New York.
Vancouver (2006-07 to 2012-13)
When Vigneault first arrived in Vancouver, the team was coming off a season in which it allowed 255 goals and missed the playoffs under head coach Marc Crawford (a former Stanley Cup winning coach with the Colorado Avalanche). Order of business No. 1 for Vigneault was help cut the goals against. In year one, the team allowed 54 goals. Offensive output went down as well, but that was only temporary. The team returned to the playoffs, winning one round. Vigneault won the Jack Adams Award as NHL Coach of the Year.
Here is the team's year-to-year regular season progression and rankings in average shots on goal per game, shots on goal against, the number of games and the team record when scoring or trailing first over the 82-game schedule, average goals per game and team goals against average.
29.3 average shots per game (16th)
29.2 average shots against (14th)
Scored First: 44 (34-6-4 record)
Trailed First: 38 (15-20-3 record)
Goals per game: 2.65 (21st)
Goals against average: 2.40 (6th)
27.5 SF (24th) / 28.9 SA (15th)
Scored first: 42 (30-8-4 record)
Trailed first: 40 (9-25-6 record)
Goals per game: 2.52 (T-22nd)
Goals against average: 2.51 (7th)
28.5 SF (25th) / SA 29.2 SA (10th)
Scored first: 47 (33-8-6 record)
Trailed first: 35 (12-19-4 record)
Goals per game: 2.96 (11th)
Goals against average: 2.60 (7th)
30.9 SF (10th) / 29.5 SA (11th)
Scored first: 40 (31-7-1 record)
Trailed first: 42 (18-21-4 record)
Goals per game: 3.27 (2nd)
Goals against average: 2.66 (T-11th)
32.0 SF(6th) / 30.1 SA (T-12th)
Scored first: 49 (41-2-6 record)
Trailed first: 33 (13-17-3 record)
Goals per game: 3.15 (1st)
Goals against average: 2.19 (1st)
31.5 SF (8th) / 30.8 SA (30.8 T-21st)
Scored first: 56 (42-10-4 record)
Trailed first: 26 (9-12-5 record)
Goals per game: 2.94 (T-5th)
Goals against average: 2.33 (4th)
2012-13 (48-game season)
28.1 SF (20th) / 28.9 SA (14th)
Scored first: 31 (20-6-5 record)
Trailed first: 17 (6-9-2 record)
Goals per game: 2.54 (T-19th)
Goals against average: 2.40 (T-9th)
New York Rangers (2013-14 to 2017-18)
When Vigneault arrived in New York, he inherited a team that was already a Stanley Cup contender that had gone through a build-up phase but needed to take the next step. Under John Tortorella, the team reached 109 points in 2011-12. The team's goals against average and record when playing from in front -- especially after two periods, where the Rangers were virtually unbeatable -- were stellar. However, the Rangers were unable to get over the hump in the postseason apart from one trip to the Eastern Conference Final in which the New Jersey Devils prevailed in a low-scoring series. Tortorella was dismissed after the Rangers lost in the first round of the playoffs.
In the early part of Vigneault's Rangers tenure, his teams maintained many of the strengths they exhibited under Tortorella and strengthened some other areas that had been works in progress. Over the latter part of Vigneault's tenure, there was increasing roster attrition and some aging effects within the core. That is reflected in the numbers as well. However, the overall weight of Vigneault's body of work was that of steering a tough team to play against.
30.8 SF (11th) / 28.4 SA (7th)
Scored first: 38 (31-5-2 record)
Trailed first: 44 (14-26-4 record)
Goals per game: 2.61 (T-18th)
Goals against average: 2.32 (4th)
33.2 SF (2nd) / 29.4 SA (15th)
Scored first: 50 (41-6-3 record)
Trailed first: 32 (12-16-4 record)
Goals per game: 3.02 (3rd)
Goals against average: 2.28 (3rd)
28.5 SF (26th) / 30.4 (T-18th)
Scored first: 43 (33-5-5 record)
Trailed first: 39 (13-22-4 record)
Goals per game: 2.84 (7th)
Goals against average: 2.62 (T-15th)
28.5 SF (26th) / 30.4 SA (T-18th)
LF: 45 (30-13-2 record)
TF: 37 (18-15-4 record)
Goals per game: 3.08 (7th)
Goals against average: 2.62 (15th)
31.0 SF (23rd) / 35.3 SA (30th)
Scored first: 36 (24-10-2 record)
Trailed first: 46 (10-29-7 record)
Goals per game: 2.78 (T-21st)
Goals against average: 3.21 (28th)Video: New Flyers HC Alain Vigneault gives opening statement