When the Philadelphia Flyers hired Alain Vigneault to be their new Head Coach on April 15th, 2019, many fans were disappointed. Not because they didn’t like Vigneault, but because just 7 days prior, the Florida Panthers hired Joel Quenneville for the same position, and Quenneville was the guy Flyers fans really wanted leading their team. What really surprised many was that Vigneault in turn hired two ex-head coaches as his assistants, Michel Therrien and Mike Yeo. Both were close friends of Alain Vigneault, so the hiring’s themselves weren’t a surprise, but what shocked everyone was that Michel Therrien, who is widely known in hockey circles as a very defensive-minded coach would be in charge of the Flyers offense? Yes, the ex-Montreal Canadiens head coach, who preached “Let the offense come from the defensive side of the puck” and “Let’s go out there and win every game 1-0 or 2-1” was, for the first time in his career, in charge of the offense of a team and it’s the powerplay.
While the team did very well in the first year under Vigneault and his coaching staff, finishing with a record of 41-21-7 in a shortened season because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the overall offense of the team was nothing to write home about. Travis Konecny finished as the team leader with 24 goals and 61 points in 66 games. Couturier had a typical year with 59 points in 69 games. But the rest of the team’s forwards really struggles offensively. Giroux (53 points), Voracek (56 points) and JVR (40 points) all were offensively challenged to say the least, as it seems a greater emphasis was put on their defensive games rather than their offensive games. Therrien basically instilled the “Let the offense come from the defensive side of the puck” into some good offensive players. The team’s powerplay, which Therrien has been in charge of since his hire, was not good and it hasn’t gotten any better. In 2019-20 the team finished with a powerplay percentage of 20.8%, good for 14th in the NHL, and this season so far their PP% is at 19.67%, good for 19thin the NHL. Admittedly it’s really hard to watch sometimes. Powerplay combinations are being changed all the time, offensive zone entries look difficult with the man advantage, there is barely any sustained offensive pressure, the list of Flyers problems on the PP goes on and on. Yet Michel Therrien continues to be in charge of the teams failing powerplay and offense. Therrien is one of those old-school types of coaches. Everyone knows that. He’s defensive-minded. That’s why he loves his veterans and not so much his younger players. It’s in his DNA.
What I don’t understand is that the Flyers have been struggling mightily defensively this season after a very good defensive season last season under Mike Yeo. The penalty-kill this season has been absolutely abysmal, hovering between 27th and dead last in the NHL. Team defense overall has been absolutely horrific both by the forwards and the defensemen. In the month of March alone, the Flyers surrendered 75 goals. To put that into perspective, the Boston Bruins, who the Flyers are chasing for a playoff spot, had given up 77 goals from the start of the season in early January to April 1st. That’s just 2 goals more than the Flyers gave up in one month. That has to change if the Flyers expect to have any type of success both this season and in the future. So I say, REMOVE Therrien from the offensive side and put him in a position to succeed. Put him where his strengths are, on the defensive side of the puck. I mean with one of the most defensive-minded guys behind the bench, why not tap into that knowledge? I know Therrien can help out the struggling defense and it sickens me that they refuse to put him in a position to do so. Alain Vigneault better open his eyes when it comes to his assistant coaches and have them work to their strengths before it’s too late, otherwise they may all wind up on the unemployment line this offseason.
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