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With Alain Vigneault gone, Flyers will need to put up or shut up

Coaching is half the battle.

Philadelphia Flyers v New Jersey Devils Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

Alain Vigneault and Michel Therrien are out as coaches for the Philadelphia Flyers, and at this point it’s difficult to assert they deserved anything different. With the Orange and Black staring down a nine game losing streak entering today’s game against the Colorado Avalanche, making a coaching change should’ve been in the cards even if the two aforementioned parties were executing their roles at a high level.

Instead, this comes as welcome news for most Flyers fans, who watched Vigneault’s brilliant first season gradually decay, starting with a brutal playoff run where the notoriously stubborn head coach made few adjustments to counteract the opposition’s advantages with lineup and schematic tweaks. From that point onward, it was all downhill.

Coaching impacts are dubious at best, but this profile reflects upon Vigneault’s decline as a bench boss fairly accurately.
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Sometimes, a coach’s message just gets stale. That process tends to be accelerated when the method of delivery is similar to what we saw last year from Vigneault and company, specifically when he threw Carter Hart under the bus in what was evidently the most difficult stretch of the young goalie’s career.

Other times, the man behind the bench fails to adapt to how teams play against his personnel, and he pays the price. This reason for firing also applies, particularly when looking at the current season. The Flyers relied heavily on forechecking and dump-and-chase entries even when that strategy ceased working, and as the players lost confidence they warped the system and began blasting the zone. The fourth line was continually played at inopportune times, and as the team’s record declined the team only got more conservative in the defensive zone, allowing offenses to prey on their lackluster positioning.

The Flyers have been one of the league’s worst defensive teams analytically, and their tendency to allow chances from the slot is symptomatic of both poor discipline and a conservative approach.
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It is the duty of the players to execute a system, but it is also the duty of a coach to assist in controlling the locker room and making sure his pieces are put in positions to succeed. Vigneault and Therrien have done neither.

Speaking of “French Mike,” an objective look illuminates that his firing was a long overdue decision. A coach whose power plays had been ranked 14th, 18th, and now 30th taking three years to get axed is honestly wild. While the Flyers are far from a coaching change away from solving their man advantage woes, it certainly doesn’t hurt to remove a member of the staff whose personality and failures as a tactician reportedly put him at odds with the players. Keeping around a coach who has never seen legitimate success with his unit and shielding him from criticism is a losing mentality (see: Ian Laperriere).

This brings up the real point of this article, however: firing Vigneault and Therrien while bringing in a new coaching staff might give this team a glimmer of hope for salvaging the season, but to what end? The question remaining is whether the talent on the Flyers’ roster is actually adequate for a team looking to make a playoff run, or if it’s time for a hard reboot.

Vigneault and Therrien actively hurt this team’s success from 2020 playoffs until their firing, but they cannot be the only subject of blame. The Flyers changed their coaching staff, shook up the locker room, and hired a new general manager, all of which contributed to creating the current mess we’re looking at today. At some point, it does come down to the players getting things done on the ice.

With the manner this firing was conducted in, it seems we can expect a swift hire of a new head coach and staff within the coming weeks. With the team entering a chaotic stretch of the schedule where Chuck Fletcher will be trying to resuscitate a dying/dead season, having Mike Yeo behind the bench likely isn’t the plan.

Calgary Flames v Philadelphia Flyers
Rick Tocchet is among names being rumored for the head coaching job following today’s firing.
Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

That rapid transition might ease some of the problems here, but it won’t fix everything with the season so far down the drain. The next month or so will be telling as to what path the organization should take. This is probably the current Flyers’ last chance as a roster to prove they have what it takes. The usual excuses of injuries, coaching, and goaltending fall on deaf ears when the team has entered a win-now window coming off of seven years rife with the same reasons for disappointment.

They can either verify themselves as a quality team, or they can confirm all the doubts. Regardless of the outcome, the excuses are gone. It’s time to perform.

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