Vigneault Senses New Optimism with Last Season in Rear View for Flyers
In 24 hours time, the real work begins. The Flyers take the ice for the first time in training camp and preparations started on a new season. Of course, things started on a sour note already, as the Flyers announced three injuries with significant recovery times, all prior to the start of camp on Tuesday.
That’s what head coach Alain Vigneault spent the first part of his Tuesday press conference discussing. But after the formalities with injury updates, Vigneault was very focused on keeping the past in the past and focusing on an optimistic future.
“I’m sensing a new energy around our group. You sense the optimism,” Vigneault said. “Chuck and I and his staff sat down at the end of the year and discussed a few things. As an organization, we probably had a wish list and Chuck went out and got the job done. Now it’s up to me and my staff and my players. We have something to prove. Management’s done their job, now it’s up to us to do ours and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
While last year may not have been a topic that Vigneault wanted to address, he did state that he has told returning players it is not a reflection of the group that is about to take the ice. One such returning player is goaltender Carter Hart, who is looking to put a disappointing 2020-21 season behind him.
“I firmly believe the season we had last year doesn’t represent who we are,’’ Vigneault said. “I do believe there are some lessons there and we need to learn those lessons. Last year is behind us, nothing we can do about it. Let’s focus on the present. That’s what Carter needs to do. Chuck has shown a tremendous amount of confidence with the contract they gave him this summer. I believe in Carter. It’s a new season. He needs to be focused, positive.’’
It’s no secret that it was a busy offseason, and Vigneault acknowledged that he had conversations with Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher in the offseason about the potential of making changes. With several new faces on the roster entering camp, Vigneault shifted focus to his role and the players role in making sure Fletcher’s hard work and busy offseason pays off.
“At the end of the year, Chuck and I took a couple weeks to get the emotion out of the equation and analyze our team. I believe Chuck said it the best when he said if we want different results, we have to make some adjustments. He went out and he made those adjustments,” Vigneault said. “We both agreed that some changes needed to be made. Players that have left the organization were great people, they did what they could for the Flyers organization, but we felt there were some changes that needed to be made to change the team dynamics, to change up the personnel on the ice. Chuck went out and he did that. I believe right now that everybody from coaches to players – veteran Flyer players and new Flyer players – we all have something to prove and now we need to get to work and get it done.”
One thing Vigneault is looking forward to is the season ahead, mainly because the process of getting to the regular season is a full training camp and multiple preseason games, something no team had last year. Vigneault values practice time, and with a full 82-game schedule and typical season of opponents ahead, there is a sense that a lot of things may feel more normal than they were in the past.
“We’re back to normal the way we were my first year here,” Vigneault said. “Players have had a normal summer of training. Players are getting tested on and off the ice. Players are going to be able to show what they can do because we have exhibition games. I think that’s what everyone in hockey wants right now.”
Vigneault said that for the first five practice days, starting with Thursday, leading up to the preseason opener next Tuesday, the line combinations will likely remain the same as a starting point to see where everything is at. He wants to focus on chemistry and build lines that are solid in that area, something that will come with time as the team prepares for the regular season over the next three weeks.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.