New Philadelphia Flyers coach Alain Vigneault told reporters on the second day of training camp Saturday that introducing a new roster to his system will be a continuous theme of the preseason.
“We’ve seen different things we’ve been working on, as you guys can tell,” Vigneault said, via a transcript of his session. “We’ve been working on our D-zone coverage. We’ve looked at our neutral zone forecheck. Today, we touched a little bit on our offensive forecheck. We’re going through the three zones without the puck. Tomorrow we’re going to touch more with the puck and what we need to do. We’re trying to get everybody on the same page. Obviously, there’s a process to this and that’s where we’re in to right now.”
Team president and general manager Chuck Fletcher named Vigneault the 21st head coach in team history on April 15. Vigneault replaces Scott Gordon, who served as interim coach after Dave Hakstol was fired last December.
The Quebec City native continues to emphasize skill and creativity as he prepares for his 17th season as an NHL head coach. He previously coached the Montreal Canadiens, Vancouver Canucks and New York Rangers. He led Vancouver and New York to the Stanley Cup Final in 2011 and 2014, respectively, losing both times.
Vigneault said he liked the pace and intensity of the early practices, and he especially liked what he saw from the newly formed trio of Kevin Hayes, James van Riemsdyk and 23-year-old Oskar Lindblom, who has been experimenting playing on the right wing, a change for the natural left-handed shot.
“I’ve really liked the way Kevin Hayes has worked and sort of led his two linemates, his two teammates, with and without the puck,” Vigneault said. “For us, we wanted to get a look a Oskar on the right side. We’re probably going to try him there during exhibition. Like I mentioned (Friday), being able to play more than one position is a bonus. I have liked that line. I’ve liked their work ethic. I’ve liked how they competed so far.”
Hayes signed a seven-year contract with Philadelphia in June after the Flyers acquired his negotiating rights from the Winnipeg Jets. He is expected to center one of the team’s top three lines.
Vigneault is familiar with Hayes from their days together with the Rangers, but otherwise, he will be evaluating players he has not coached at the NHL level. The entire Flyers’ new coaching staff — Vigneault is flanked by former NHL head coaches Michel Therrien and Mike Yeo and former Flyers forward Ian Laperriere — will need time to adjust. Vigneault said he is focused more on implementing his system before exhibitions begin than on looking too hard at individual players.
The Flyers will play seven games in the preseason — two each vs. the Rangers, New York Islanders and Boston Bruins and finally a game vs. Swiss club Lausanne HC in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Sept. 30. Vigneault said he will skate most of his veteran players in “three or four” exhibitions this month and give the rest of the playing time to younger players fighting for roster spots.
In particular, 22-year-old defenseman Philippe Myers could make the opening-night roster with a strong camp. Top forward prospects Joel Farabee and Morgan Frost are also in the mix — Farabee even skated on a line with team leaders Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier to open camp.
“There are some guys I want to see more,” Vigneault said. “Some guys we obviously need to make decisions on. There are some guys that will probably play five out of seven. It’ll be a lot of fun. We’ve got some decisions to make. That’s what you want in camp. You need surprises. We need some of these young kids to step up and force us into some decisions. That’s how your team gets better. We’re going to give them obviously an opportunity to do that.”