From the first practice back in September, there was a clear goal laid out by Alain Vigneault. Many would think it was to simply make the playoffs. But Vigneault saw a greater opportunity to be successful. He expected a team that not only could make the playoffs, but make a run.

He’s got that opportunity now, and the overall turnaround for the Flyers has earned him a Jack Adams nomination as one of three finalists for the award given to the coach of the year.

For Vigneault, this one is special for a specific reason.

“I think this is my fifth time that I’m up for the Jack Adams, obviously I’ve had great staffs and worked for great organizations. Every time it’s been a little different. This time here in Philly, I have to say is extra special,” Vigneault said. “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.”

Certainly, the response to Oskar Lindblom has been overwhelmed and help unite the locker room even more than it already was. It was around the time of Lindblom’s diagnosis with Ewing’s sarcoma that the team went through one of its worst stretches of the season -- a three-game losing streak on a Midwestern trip and losses in five of six games on a road trip to close out 2019 and open 2020. From there, the team responded by being one of the best in the league.

“Really from Day 1, I felt the veteran players of this group were looking for direction and that’s basically what myself, my staff and management did. We gave them direction. We told them this is the plan that we have, this is what you need to do to do your jobs on the ice,” Vigneault said. “The month of October we knew was going to be challenging with the travel to Europe, the travel back, the travel out west. Like I said, since November 1, we have been top two in the league with Boston and Tampa. This group has progressed.

“I cannot state enough how proud I am of how everyone, the players and the organization, but also the hockey community, the support we got. Hockey has a great community and great fans and great people running it. The support that we got and that Oskar got from other teams, other organizations and players was phenomenal. There’s no doubt in my mind that it helped him go through a very challenging time, a very tough cancer. He’s come out of it with full marks and for our group, everyone that’s close to us, that’s probably the best news that we could have.”

Perhaps the best part of this is how Vigneault views his own performance this season. He would currently call it incomplete, saying that he still has a lot of work left to do with the Flyers resuming play in less than a month as they head into the playoffs.

“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,” Vigneault said. “Our business is far from over. That means that my job is far from over. Right now we’re in what I call Phase 1 of this first segment, which is going to bring us to the bubble. We’ve got a lot of work. We’ve planned it. We talked to the specialists about it. We’re using science to make sure that the group is ready.”

So far, Vigneault seems to like the way the plan is working. The Flyers have come back and had three successful practices with full participation. Thursday will be an off-day from on-ice work, but they will start to bring the groups together on Friday and Saturday for some combined work and scrimmages.

“I’m just looking right now at our first three days 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,” Vigneault said. “They want to put in the work. They want to get ready. They know our first game is August 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.”

Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.