Alain Vigneault ready to see Patrick Brown, start Flyers' push for return to playoffs

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Vigneault ready to incorporate new piece, start push for return to playoffs originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

VOORHEES, N.J. — If fans are uncertain about buying in on the revamped 2021-22 Flyers and their playoff chances, perhaps they can at least take comfort in the trends.

Alain Vigneault is typically in the postseason business. Over his 18 seasons as an NHL head coach, 12 have featured playoff berths, with nine of those teams advancing past the first round.

He has not missed the postseason in consecutive years since his first NHL head coaching gig with the Canadiens back in the late-1990s, early-2000s. As an organization, the Flyers have not missed the playoffs in consecutive years since the 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons.

Vigneault's Flyers missed the postseason last year, which has them facing the danger of breaking those trends above.

"No no, we're a playoff team," Vigneault said Tuesday. 

Vigneault's track record should give him confidence. So does an active and aggressive offseason by his general manager. Through a slew of trades, subtraction and signings, Chuck Fletcher added seven pieces to the big club roster. Fletcher stabilized the Flyers' defensive group and brought in new experience up front.

The club on Monday submitted its season-opening 21-man roster, a mix Vigneault has had time to mold since Day 1 of training camp in September. On Friday, Fletcher, Vigneault and the fan base will see it in regular-season action for the first time when the Flyers host the Canucks (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

"Chuck has made some real good changes to our team," Vigneault said. "Again, I don't want to take anything away from the players that were here before, but sometimes you've got to change the dynamics. And the dynamics have been changed. Good people have come in, but with some of the players leaving, it's also going to give more room to the guys that were already Flyers, that were already here, that have wanted a bigger role, a bigger say in that team dynamic. All in all, this group is coming together. It needs to improve and it will improve. We're going to get our first goal, which is to get into the playoffs, and the fight for that starts Friday."

Vigneault is in his third season guiding the Flyers. In his first, he finished runner-up for the Jack Adams Award (Coach of the Year), the regular season was cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic and the Flyers fell one win shy of the Eastern Conference Final in the Toronto bubble. In his second, the Flyers disappointed and missed the playoffs in a shortened, 56-game regular season with division realignment.

With a full, traditional 82-game regular season ahead, Vigneault is eager to show what the Flyers can do with it. He's also aware of the tough task in the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference.

"You tell me in our conference which team won't be in the playoffs," Vigneault said. "You look at all the teams that improved, the good ones have gotten better — it's going to be a challenge. We're going to have to be at our best. I look forward to this opportunity. I'm confident that my team, my players feel exactly the same way. We feel good about our situation, we feel good about where we are. We know it's going to take the very best of us to get an opportunity to compete for that Cup, but we're going to do the job. I'm confident of that."

More: Further maintenance? Flyers hoping 2 of their big additions will be ready for opener

The Flyers will add one more new player to their mix Wednesday. Patrick Brown, who the club claimed off of waivers from the Golden Knights, was in the process of flying in from Las Vegas on Tuesday. The 29-year-old forward will be on the Flyers' fourth line Friday night.

"Hard-working young man, keeps his game simple — north-south, plays the body when he has the opportunity," Vigneault said. "I hear that he's a great teammate and should fit in real well with our group."

With their depth at forward taking a hit because of injuries, the Flyers have gotten thinner in the bottom six to start the season. Before the Flyers claimed Brown, their 12th and final forward spot was coming down between 24-year-old center Jackson Cates and 30-year-old winger Garrett Wilson.

"At the end of the day, when the staff, management and scouts analyzed it, they felt Brown was a little ahead of those guys at this time," Vigneault said.

"Everybody that we saw here toward the end of the [preseason], at some time, you have to expect that they're going to be playing for the Flyers. There's just too much movement during a season with personnel, with injuries, etc. I would say anywhere from 25 to 30 guys that we saw in those last few games, at some point, every one of those guys is going to get a chance to come in, show what he can do and help us win some games."

The Flyers are off the ice Wednesday for team meetings. Brown will study system work on video with two of the Flyers' assistant coaches, then practice Thursday and take part in morning skate Friday before making his debut that night.

With Brown a natural center who can play some right winger, Vigneault said the Flyers were looking at these two options for their fourth line:

Nicolas Aube-Kubel-Nate Thompson-Patrick Brown

Nate Thompson-Patrick Brown-Nicolas Aube-Kubel

"He should be real excited about this opportunity and I'm sure everything's going to work out," Vigneault said.

The Flyers are excited to start the opportunity of putting last season in the past.

"I think last year's behind us, we're not even thinking about that anymore," Sean Couturier said. "It's a new year, it's a fresh start for a lot of guys. We're going to show what we can do.

"We have a good team on paper. We've just got to go out and show it."

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