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Alain Vigneault details road to ‘extra special’ Jack Adams nomination with Flyers

Alain Vigneault has been a Jack Adams finalist five times, but this time is extra special.

San Jose Sharks v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

Alain Vigneault was deservedly nominated for the Jack Adams Award on Wednesday. Vigneault led the Flyers to a 31-21-7 record for 89 points in 69 games, good enough for a top four seed in the Eastern Conference.

Vigneault isn’t a stranger to success as a head coach. This is his fifth time being a finalist for the Jack Adams: once in Montreal, twice in Vancouver, once in New York, and now in his first year in Philadelphia. It might lose some of its luster after the second or third time, but every time has had a different set of circumstances.

“This time here in Philly, I have to say is extra special. We had a very challenging month of October where we went to Europe and then went out West. From the first of November to the season was postponed, with Boston and Tampa we had the best record in the league. Boston had 80 points. Us and Tampa had 78.

I look at that and I look at how our players responded to the Oskar situation. I’m so proud of this group and everybody associated with it. That was a very challenging time for our group and we responded by doing our jobs, staying focused, players being supportive to Oskar, organization and fans being supportive of Oskar. This nomination for me considering what could have happened is extra special. Oskar is healthy now, our team did well, so this is very special for me.”

Vigneault has had a different road to being named a finalist all five times, as he spoke about on Wednesday. He has led injury-riddled teams to the playoffs, he’s taken a team rated the best in the league to the Stanley Cup Final, and he’s done what he did this year. He likened his first nomination in Vancouver – and the only Jack Adams Award he has won – to this year’s Flyers team.

“My first time that I was nominated and I won that one in Vancouver, it was a little bit like Philly, I took a team that hadn’t been in the playoffs the year before and we had a pretty good run,” Vigneault said.

The Flyers were looking for someone to take the team to the next level this season, and Vigneault did just that. After falling flat in the 2018-19 season, Chuck Fletcher and Co. went out and hired an experienced coaching staff and made the necessary moves to make the Flyers a true contender.

Vigneault could very well – and possibly should – win the Jack Adams Award again, just like he did in Vancouver, for his hand in the transformation. He came in, implemented a new system with a group of veteran players, and they bought in.

Along with Vigneault, the Flyers brought in a player that played for him before in Kevin Hayes. Hayes has turned into one of the best offseason signings, and he had a hand in helping his new teammates adapt to a new coach.

“There’s no doubt that having coached Kevin before and him understanding what I’m looking for as far as work ethic and attention to detail from players and him maybe understanding my different looks, my different stares that I might give sometimes to players,” Vigneault said.

“That’s another form of communication sometimes. I think he was able to pass on to his teammates at different times and important times, before game, in between periods and after games, what I was looking for. I think that made it an easier transition for everyone.”

Not only did the Flyers have some new faces in the locker room and behind the bench, but they were tasked with an unfavorable schedule to start the season as well.

“We had a very challenging month of October where we went to Europe and then went out West,” Vigneault said.

It’s been over nine months since the season started, so it’s easy to forget how the Flyers battled early on. After a thrilling win in Prague to open the season and a shutout win in the home opener, the Flyers went out to Western Canada and laid a goose egg. In fairness, they were playing three games in three different countries, but it was a rough ride to the tune of a four-game losing streak – three in Canada and one at home – after their first two wins.

They were able to turn it around a bit with a three-game winning streak, but then came up short against the Islanders and suffered a particularly bad 7-1 loss to the Penguins. That ended the Flyers’ October schedule, and left them behind the eight ball at 5-5-1.

Then they turned on the gas.

The Flyers started November with a seven-game point streak (5-0-2) and picked up points in 14 of 16 games (10-2-4) in the month. That gave them a league-high 24 points during the month of November.

As Vigneault said, the Flyers had one of the best records in the league from November 1st on. Many people, myself included, usually point to the Flyers’ record from January 8th on – just after their Disney on Ice road trip – to show how good they were. But it started more than two months earlier.

From November 1st until the end of the season, not only did the Flyers have the second-most points in the league, they were one of the top offensive and defensive teams in the league with 3.29 goals for and 2.66 goals against per game, both of which are the sixth-best rates in the league.

It’s still worth looking at the Flyers’ numbers from January 8th on, though. In those 26 games, the Flyers were tied with the Bruins for the most wins (19) and points (39; 750 point percentage) in the league. The Flyers were the highest-scoring team (3.62 goals per game) in the league, and were behind only the Bruins (2.31) and Avalanche (2.35) with 2.38 goals against per game.

It has been one hell of a run for Vigneault and the Flyers, but he made sure to emphasize that the job isn’t done yet.

When asked whether the team has met or exceeded his expectations, he started out by saying “the only way I can answer that question is that the season’s not over.”

“We’re going into the best part of the season. We’ve earned the right. We’ve made the playoffs. We’ve earned the right to compete for the Stanley Cup. Our business is far from over. That means that my job is far from over,” he continued.

Vigneault is focused on the end goal, and he can tell that the players are as well. “There’s no doubt” that the trust built with the team throughout the season can carry over into a run deep into the playoffs.

The Flyers put in a lot of work during the season to get to where they are now. It’s not how anyone expected the season to end and playoffs to begin, but Vigneault and the players are adapting to it.

“I’m just looking right now at our first three days (of camp) and the way that our veteran group and our veteran players have come here and the focus. If you look into their eyes, they want to be here. They want to put in the work. They want to get ready. They know our first game is August the 11. They’re really looking forward to this challenge and this opportunity. I like the spirits. I like the mood and I like our guys right now. The leadership is coming from our veteran guys. They want to do well, so we’re going to put in the time and put in the effort.”

This will end up being a year-long journey for one team, from training camp at the beginning of the season back in September to the Stanley Cup Final 12 months later. As Chuck Fletcher said, “Why not us?”

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