There are striking similarities between Alain Vigneault’s time with the Rangers and Flyers

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks...

While perusing the news about newly fired former Flyers’ head coach Alain Vigneault (oh sorry my bad, Big Al), an interesting 2018 article from Blueshirt Banter popped into view.

Alain Vigneault Never Blamed Himself And It Got Him Fired

Does that article title look familiar? It should, given what us Flyers fans have experienced over the last 2.5 seasons. The similarities between what Flyers fans experienced with Alain Vigneault and what Rangers fans experienced are (un)surprisingly one in the same. We can remember Rangers fans repeatedly warning us about the perils of “Big Al”, and while we didn’t take them as seriously back then, in the end their theories proved correct.

Therefore, I’ve enlisted the help of Blueshirt Banter’s Mike Murphy to provide a bit more New York perspective, and to serve as a comparison to what will proceed.

To the point of the title of the above mentioned article, Vigneault’s comments he made while head coach of the Flyers proved to be damning, in particular his comments about Carter Hart’s practice habits.

After Hart’s exit interview following the 2020-21 season, while indeed Hart was not good, his interview opened the eyes of many an observer to the hardships the “COVID Season” brought to NHL athletes, with Hart not being an exception. This made Vigneault’s comments seem both shortsighted, and outright out-of-touch. The coach simply threw his goaltender under the bus. It wasn’t a problem with Vigneault’s coaching, it was a problem with the players, and it was always a problem with the players.

The similarities seem to flow like poetry. Favoring bad veterans over young players? Par for the course in Philadelphia. The only players who can say they bucked that trend would be Joel Farabee, and Carter Hart, who as previously mentioned took a hefty shove under the bus from the coach. Who throws their age 22 goaltender under the bus?! Vigneault simply has always favored players who he “trusts”, and he evidently trusts the likes of Nick Seeler and Patrick Brown, who have done little to deserve a roster spot over the likes of Egor Zamula and Morgan Frost (before Frost’s recent call up).

Murphy: I think about how players like J.T. Miller and Pavel Buchnevich hit their stride after Vigneault was gone and where the Rangers might be if he was better at developing talent instead of leading on more established veterans. One could say the same of Kevin Hayes, who also seemed to become a better player (in a hurry) after AV’s departure in NY.

An inability to see his systems not working? Back in 2019, this very point was brought up, interestingly enough.

Why tactical overhauls in hockey make the Alain Vigneault hire look shortsighted

While at first Vigneault’s style seemed to work, with the Flyers rolling before COVID-19 halted the 2019-20 season, it became quickly evident in the many months following that this success was an outlier. Vigneault’s “defensively offensive” brand of hockey has left the Flyers lagging in their own zone failing to clear the puck. They can’t break out to save themselves, and they don’t have the speed to create any separation. Does this paragraph from that article sound familiar? It should!

In addition, if the stretch passes to break out of the defensive zone aren’t working, Vigneault does not approach the game with any alternative methods of moving the puck up the ice, which is a huge issue if you are taking over a hockey team that traditionally have liked to work a puck carrying break out strategy.

Murphy: Without exceptional goaltending or an exceptional blue line to help buoy above average goaltending, I think his approach is found wanting. But I am sure that is not news to Flyers fans.

Inconsistent performances? We are three for three! Vigneault, as proven by his quotes on Carter Hart, is not the best motivator in the world, and we’ve seen time and time again (apart from in 2019-20) that the Flyers can very easily find themselves in a hole quickly. Then, when they are down and out, they stay down and out. Perhaps they could find ways to come back into games if Vigneault managed to change some aspects to his system, but he rarely does. When he managed to alter elements of his coaching, the Flyers didn’t look half bad! But that was such a rare occurrence that it rendered such moments unexciting in the grand scheme of things.

Murphy: I think what struck me the most about Vigneault is that he didn’t seem to know what to do to spark change or get people out of slumps outside of mixing and matching lines. I can’t speak to what he was like in the locker room or his traits as a coach or even a person, but it is pretty clear that having elite goaltending helped cover a lot of his shortcomings here.

Overall, Alain Vigneault fell victim to the same tendencies he had while in New York, and Rangers fans screamed at us about all his issues. In the end, it turns out they were right, and “AV” was truly blessed with two outstanding goaltenders in Roberto Luongo and Henrik Lundqvist. Perhaps Carter Hart could become just as good, but Vigneault’s system wasn’t doing him any favors.