Fletcher Feels He Found Right Guy with Vigneault
It was just a week ago that Chuck Fletcher talked about the importance of finding the right person to be the next head coach of the Flyers. On Monday afternoon, that person had been found.
The Flyers hired Alain Vigneault to be the new head coach.
Fletcher noted that the process was short because it simply became apparent during conversations with Vigneault that he was the right person for the job.
"Alain has always been somebody I’ve admired and respected," Fletcher said in a conference call with the media on Monday afternoon. "I’ve watched the job he’s done over the years throughout his career, but particularly in Vancouver and with the Rangers. He’s been what I’ve considered to be a top coach in the NHL. I made a decision that I wanted to speak with him, and during our conversations it just became apparent to me he was the right guy."
Vigneault took the last season off from coaching after being fired by the New York Rangers after the 2017-18 season. He will be the head coach of Team Canada at World Championships in May. In his 16-year coaching career, Vigneault has won 648 games, winning the Jack Adams Award in 2006-07 and leading two teams to the Stanley Cup Final -- the Vancouver Canucks in 2011 and the Rangers in 2014. That resume of success -- seven division titles, 11 playoff appearances, eight seasons of 100 points or more -- was a big reason Fletcher felt this decision was the right one.
"He’s coached for many years in this league, he’s won a lot of games, both in the regular season and in the playoffs. His teams have had playoff success. He’s won the Jack Adams Trophy, won the Presidents’ Trophy. So certainly that track record of winning games is critical," Fletcher said. "But I also think he has a tremendous track record of developing players, holding his players accountable, instilling proper habits in his players. I think he’s one of the better bench coaches in the National Hockey League. His ability to adapt and read the game and make changes as he sees fit is top notch. He’s obviously a hard worker. In my time here over the past few days I’ve found out he’s also a really good person and somebody that I communicated with well."
There is the perception that Vigneault is not a coach that is good with kids and young players, particularly based off his final seasons in New York, which is also the most recent part of his body of work as a coach. In his days with Vancouver and his early days with the Rangers as well, the teams competed every year because they had a perfect blend of veterans and youth that worked well and showed great chemistry.
"When you go back to Vancouver when he came in there, all the younger players they had, and he turned that franchise around quickly," Fletcher said. "They had a slew of young players if I’m not mistaken, players like [Alexander] Edler, [Ryan] Kesler, [Jannik] Hansen, [Alexandre] Burrows, all those were young players and some of them he had coached in Manitoba. He had a tremendous track record in Manitoba, had a tremendous season there. That Vancouver team really developed and gelled into a top team for many years. I think his track record speaks for itself.
"He’s had success at the junior level, had success in the minor leagues, and he’s had success in the NHL. You can’t have success at all those levels unless you’re good at developing players, good at connecting with veteran players. He’s a guy that again gets his teams to play hard and gets his players to buy in."
This is just the first of many big decisions for Fletcher over the next few months of the offseason, but it is certainly one of the most important because it sets the foundation for the decisions to come and the style of play that is to be expected. Vigneault is a coach that holds players accountable. He has a defensive-minded system that thrives on strong breakouts, good puck management, and working hard to create opportunities by winning battles. It was everything Fletcher called out as bad habits of this team just a week ago.
Now Fletcher feels he has the right guy to correct those habits and turn this team into a contender again. It is a choice that will likely define his tenure as GM of the Flyers. For his sake, it's a choice that needs to prove to be the right one based on the results.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.