First off, let me start off by saying that I am a BIG fan of Philadelphia Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault. As for his assistant coaches Michel Therrien & Mike Yeo: Not so much. Last season it just seemed like every decision Vigneault made, whether it was lineup changes, who the starting goaltender was on any given night, when to call a time out, whatever it was, it all ended up paying dividends for the team. This season however, it’s been the total opposite that’s been happening. Just as the Flyers are getting ready to face the Buffalo Sabres in back-to-back MUST WIN games, Alain Vigneault announces that Carter Hart will be scratched for both those games. Brian Elliott will start, and Alex Lyon will be his backup for those “MUST WIN” games against the Sabres who have lost 17 straight games. Yes, you saw that correctly. Elliott & Lyon… My head hurts just repeating that. Now, let’s get real. Carter Hart has not had a particularly good season so far. But calling him out publicly and alienating the future goaltending star of your team is downright idiotic.
Vigneault on Carter Hart:
“He’s going to skate today in practice, stay on after, practice with the team tomorrow stay on after. Wednesday he will do the same thing, he’s going to practice it and work with Kim (Kim Dillabaugh, goaltending coach) after. We’re going to stay that way here for a little while here. He needs to work on his game. He needs to work harder; he needs to work better. I’ve had a good conversation with him and Kim, about my expectations about his practice habits and him stopping the puck”.
Sorry folks, but this to me seems like a coach who is reeling and trying to grasp at straws and trying to divert blame. Fact is that Carter Hart is a 22-year-old star goalie who is in his sophomore season, playing behind a defense that has been absolutely TERRIBLE all year, in a condensed schedule situation which because worst after the team did not play a game in 10 days due to them being on the Covid protocol. There aren’t too many young goaltenders who don’t go through struggles along the way. Hasek, Price, Roy, Fleury, Brodeur all went through it. It’s part of the learning curve of playing the most difficult position in all of hockey in one of the biggest pressure cooker city in North America.
Vigneault should not have said that publicly. If you’ve seen any of the Flyers games they played in March, one could argue that the team has given up on playing for Vigneault. Take for example Travis Konecny. Yes, that Konecny, who is coming of 3 consecutive 24 goal seasons and was the Flyers leading goal scorer last season. Vigneault decided to bench him earlier this season because he “Did not like the way he played without the puck”. At the time of the benching, TK was a point per game player. Since the benching, TK has scored 2 goals. How well did that work? Vigneault and his staff basically clipped Konecny’s wings. He took the air out of one of the most dynamic players the Flyers have. Do you think Vigneault is happy with those results? Did you really need to try and turn Konecny into a defensive minded forward? Don’t we already have a ton of those? And he really wasn’t that bad defensively to begin with, as is apparent in his career Plus (+) 13. So, you benched him to make him marginally better defensively, but took away all his offense. Yeah great move.
And now you’re trying to do the same thing to Carter Hart. The kid is a stud. Let him work it out. He needs to go through this. As a head coach, you need to give him all the tools to help him get out of his funk on his own, not out him and embarrass him publicly. I get that Vigneault isn’t liking Hart’s game right now. But what about calling out the team’s defensive core? Sanheim and Myers have been absolutely horrific this season, Provorov has had some nice moments, but has not had a great season, Gustafsson makes me miss Andrew MacDonald, Prosser & Hagg have been complete disasters and Gostisbehere has been both very good at times and downright putrid at others. Or how about calling out management for not replacing Matt Niskanen after he retired or at any point during this season and for just standing pat on the trade front? No, instead he tries to make an example of his young superstar goaltender in the making. Now I know Vigneault is in year 2 of a 5-year deal, but his time in Philly is done. When the players stop playing for you and you resort to these types of ridicules antics, it may be time to move on.
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