April 18, 2019
For Flyers fans desperate for the team to free itself from the seemingly endless cycle of mediocrity, hearing Alain Vigneault speak for the first time as the team's head coach was a sure breath of fresh air.
Right off the bat, the 12th winningest coach in NHL history said Thursday as he was introduced to the media that he had three criteria for deciding his next coaching decision. Philly fit all three.
"First thing I was looking for was an opportunity to win," Vigneault said. "An opportunity in the short term to win a Stanley Cup. When I look at and analyze the parts we have here in Philly, when I look at and analyze the options that we have in improving this team, it gets a check mark from me.
"Second thing that I was looking for in my next opportunity was the possibility to work with a general manager that shared a lot of the same ideas as far as building a winner, building a hockey culture that develop players, made this a possible high-end winning environment, and a place where players, coaches, management would want to be. After having a few in-depth discussions with Chuck, that got another check mark.
"The third thing that I was looking for was a first-class organization. In today’s competitive NHL, to be able to win, you need a total commitment from ownership. There’s no doubt we have that here. My three check marks were there."
To summarize, a coach with two Stanley Cup appearances and eight 100-point seasons under his belt thinks the Flyers can achieve the same. And soon.
That has to feel pretty good.
"I believe that I know what it takes for a team to have success on a consistent basis and that’s what I intend to do here with the Flyers," Vigneault said, citing Claude Giroux's excellent leadership as one of the biggest assets the team has. "I believe that with the proper direction, proper coaching staff, a coaching staff working with management, that the Flyers with the potential that is on this team will be a very good team in the near future."
Giroux may be the quintessential leader for a great hockey coach, but Vigneault had someone else in mind too when he was contemplating the ceiling of the Flyers squad he is about to take over.
"There’s some solid youth with a lot of upside here that is coming into its own," he said. "There’s great goaltending, being one of those youth pieces. There’s as solid core group that in my mind needs the right direction. And you’ve got the combination also of some solid veteran players that have been in the league a few years, that can still contribute at a high level in this league."
Carter Hart and Giroux, a storied program and a fan base aching for a winner are a pretty good draw. Vigneault brings with him a ton of experience and clout, and while at first he may have seemed a bit of a surprise as the hire to be the 21st Flyers' coach it seems clear he thinks the team is a lot closer to competing for Cups than their 37-37-8 record in 2018-19 may suggest.
"There are some solid pieces that in my mind and after discussing it with a lot of people that I respect their opinion in the NHL I feel that the Flyers are a very good team that with the proper direction, proper mindset, proper culture and people working together will be a very good team in the near future," Vigneault said.
And then, Vigneault said the words everyone who owns an old Chris Pronger jersey t-shirt, or an Eric Lindros sweater, or any other piece of orange and black in their closet wants to hear:
"On my bucket list, I need one more thing, I need to win a Stanley Cup," the 57-year-old with 1,216 career coaching wins said. "I’ve come close twice. I’ve been very lucky to work for three great organizations, the Montreal Canadiens, the Vancouver Canucks and the New York Rangers. I’ve come close twice. I think this will be the right one. I really believe that we’ve got some strong pieces. Chuck and I have talked in-depth about the areas we’re hoping we’re going to be able to improve. It might not happen quickly, but we feel that we’re going to be able to do it."
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