Alain Vigneault’s first season behind the bench with the Philadelphia Flyers has been an unequivocal success, and it would appear that we here in Philadelphia are not the only people who have recognized that.
Vigneault was named on Wednesday morning as one of the three finalists for the Jack Adams Award, which is awarded each year to the coach deemed to have “contributed the most to his team’s success,” as decided by the league’s broadcast crews. Vigneault was nominated as a finalist alongside John Tortorella of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Bruce Cassidy of the Boston Bruins.
Congrats, Coach!— x-Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) July 15, 2020
AV is a Jack Adams Award Finalist. https://t.co/QhyDgiELkp
The trophy will be awarded at ... some point in the future. We’re not entirely sure when, given that there’s still some uncertainty regarding when (and, frankly, if) the season is going to end the way the NHL has planned it to. But since the Adams is a regular-season award, it will be given out one way or the other.
The Flyers are one of only three franchises in the NHL to have won the Adams four different times, and they’re the only team that’s won it with four different people all in the same place. (Which is to say, Detroit’s won it four times but with only three different guys, and the franchise currently known as the Arizona Coyotes has won it four times with four different guys but split those four awards between its time in Arizona and its time in Winnipeg.)
The Flyers would be the first franchise in the award’s history to have five winners if Vigneault, who won the award following his first season with the Vancouver Canucks in 2006-07 and has been a finalist three other times, picked it up this year. And his case? It’s a good one.
Under his coaching, the Flyers managed to improve by seven standings points on the total they collected in front of Dave Hakstol and Scott Gordon in 2018-19, which is noteworthy because they ended this season having played 13 fewer games than they did that year. The Flyers are an improved team across the board, and while some of that is a product of an improved roster, it’s hard to ignore the impact he’s had on this team.
Multiple young players who seemed pretty stagnant or worse last season — Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny, to name two — have taken off this season and been the players we’ve long expected them to be. His lineups, while not flawless, have by and large been without any real issues. He hasn’t had worrisome blind spots for players that don’t deserve them, he’s been quick to notice when something isn’t working, and he’s given time to the things that are. He’s managed his goalies well; Carter Hart’s age-21 season has been excellent, and Vigneault managed to work Brian Elliott into the mix just the right amount.
How the credit should be divided up between Vigneault, his deep bench of assistants (namely, fellow new hires Mike Yeo and Michel Therrien), the front office, and the players themselves is anyone’s guess. But at the end of the day, here’s the truth: the Flyers, in deciding not to blow up the core this past summer and instead bring in a few tier-B reinforcements here and there (i.e. Kevin Hayes, Matt Niskanen, Justin Braun), placed a bet that the foundation in place here was one that they could win with if they had the right guy behind the bench. The early returns on that bet? Lookin’ good.
There’s no guarantee that Vigneault will win — Tortorella kept the Blue Jackets afloat this season despite an absurd rash of injuries, and Cassidy led a pretty good Bruins roster to the top of the NHL standings. But his chances at winning it are real; an NHL.com panel back in late May had him as a narrow favorite to win the award. But whether he brings the trophy back or not, Vigneault’s first (regular) season in Philadelphia has been an unqualified success.