New Coach in Place, It’s On the Flyers Players Now
The start of a new camp breeds optimism. That happens across the league. But there is a different feel to this Flyers camp.
There is a new man in charge behind the bench, and his presence was felt early. Drills were run at a great pace. It was something that left GM Chuck Fletcher amazed.
“I’ve been doing this a long time, been around the game for a long time, it’s still going on, this is the best first day of camp I have ever seen,” Fletcher said. “The players are executing great, the coaches are incredibly prepared. That was a great practice. There is literally ten seconds in between drills. The players are moving, there’s competition. They’re moving the pucks around. I think if you have three weeks of this that will bode well for our ability to play at tempo and conditioning. But everything has a purpose. The coaches are well prepared. I thought the better players, in particular Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier really set a great example in that first practice. I watched Claude leading the skating drills. Guys are really excited. We have a lot of work to do, but I feel like we are going to be prepared when the season starts.”
That is the style that Alain Vigneault is trying to push on the team. Teams that play with pace, that think the game quickly and execute with speed and precision, are usually the ones still playing hockey into late spring. So from the beginning, the pace was going to be fast.
Last season was one to forget for many of the Flyers. Ivan Provorov, fresh off a new six-year deal, noted that players just weren’t on the same page for much of last season. It showed. And that’s why the message has been established from the start.
In the last nine months, the Flyers have undergone wholesale changes at just about every management position -- new GM, new head coach, new assistants. If a player is returning, this is the time to start showing that you belong. With a new coach in place, it won’t be the coach’s problem if the team doesn’t perform under his style. It will be on the players.
Under Vigneault, it already seems there is a sense of accountability. Vigneault didn’t mince words when it came to Travis Konecny’s absence, as Fletcher works on getting the last RFA signed to a new deal.
“I am very disappointed that TK is not here. It’s the start of a new era, new group. I felt that it was very important for everybody to be here,” Vigneault said. “With my time in the NHL, my experience, anyone that falls behind whether its injury or in TK’s situation not coming to camp, it usually takes them a little bit of time to get back at it. Especially this time with a new coaching staff and new way of doing things. It’s unfortunate, but I am going to work with the players that are here, and I am going to work extremely hard with those players.”
In other words, it doesn’t matter that Konecny was a top scorer at even strength in the NHL. He’s missing valuable time and that won’t sit well with the new head coach. It’s why prospect Joel Farabee got time alongside veterans Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier on Day 1 of training camp.
In the same sense, Vigneault is not holding the past against the players. Vigneault knows that a player like Shayne Gostisbehere has had success in the NHL in the past, but that last season was a struggle. It’s a clean slate for all players under the new head coach.
“The beauty about being me right now is I wasn’t here last year,” Vigneault said. “I remember Shayne from my time in New York, him being a real tough defenseman to play against. Good on the breakouts. Jumping up on the play at the right time. Being real effective on the play. That’s my recollection. Don’t know what happened last year, don’t care. I thought today, he was intense. He had a real good pace to his practice. I am confident he’s going to follow it up tomorrow.”
It’s a new beginning for the Flyers with Vigneault behind the bench. And the results now fall on the players, who all have to play for the next day under a new regime.