Alain Vigneault has said numerous times that he's in the business to win a Stanley Cup, not just a first-round playoff series.
In April 2019, when he was introduced as the Flyers' new head coach, Vigneault mentioned a reason for why he was back in the game following his first season away from it in 13 years.
"In my bucket list, I need one more thing: I need to win a Stanley Cup," Vigneault said. "I've come close twice. I've been very lucky to work for three great organizations: the Montreal Canadiens, the Vancouver Canucks and the New York Rangers. I've come close twice. I think this will be the right one."
General manager Chuck Fletcher was summoned by the Flyers in December 2018 to speed up the club's process to relevancy and contention. Patience was no longer of the essence for an organization with a go-for-it history, not when its last playoff series victory came in 2012.
"Alain, I think he's at a stage of his career where he wants to win, and he sees a lot of potential in our roster," Fletcher said after hiring Vigneault. "Right now, it's about trying to continue to build our group and become as competitive as quickly as we can."
Neither Fletcher nor Vigneault will be giving a toast or popping confetti over this first-round playoff series victory. They both want more, as does the team's players and, of course, its fans. But wanting more should not damper the meaning of the Flyers winning a postseason series; it is notable because the Flyers hit on two major initiatives, going back to when they decided to embark on significant change. They decided it was time for new perspective; outside perspective. Something is to be said for that difficult decision, particularly given the results of it so far.
What made Vigneault so appealing to Fletcher was the veteran coach's track record of producing immediate results. At Vigneault's previous three stops (Canadiens, Canucks, Rangers), each of his first seasons resulted in playoff bids and at least one series win. Overall, his combined record in those seasons was 131-89-26 with a .585 points percentage.
• 1997-98 Canadiens - 87 points, .530 points percentage, one playoff series win
• 2006-07 Canucks - 105 points, .640 points percentage, one playoff series win
• 2013-14 Rangers - 96 points, .585 points percentage, Stanley Cup Final appearance
• 2019-20 Flyers (69 regular-season games) - 89 points, .645 points percentage, TBD
On Friday night, Vigneault led the Flyers past the Canadiens in the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, giving the franchise its first series victory in eight years. In Year 1 of Vigneault's five-year contract, Fletcher and the Flyers have hit a home run with the hire.
In the first round with A.V., I think you saw what a veteran coach can do," Fletcher said Saturday in a video interview. "He did some really good things in-game, moving players around, moving lines around, not afraid to make changes, has a pretty good sense of the game within the game, if you will, and maybe how to push some buttons there. He's a very successful veteran coach. I think he did a tremendous job in that first round, along with his coaching staff.
"I think we have a very, very good coaching staff altogether. Obviously Alain's the head guy, but Mike Therrien, Mike Yeo, Ian Laperriere, Kim Dillabaugh, our video guys, they work really hard. I think we're a team now that has an identity. A season ago, I don't think we played the game the right way, we didn't defend well, we didn't manage the puck well, we didn't manage the game well. I think we have a much better defensive identity now than what we did, the players understand what's expected of them, they've bought into it. That's very important; I don't think we would be here if we weren't able to accomplish some of those things.
The Flyers wanted excitement among their fan base again, they wanted a playoff run again and the chance to contend again. Those were aspirations for when they hired Fletcher and they've met all of them in the first full season under the GM.
"I couldn't be happier with what we've done, what was done at the trade deadline, the new guys coming in, Kevin [Hayes] and the others," Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott said last month of Fletcher's work. "I think we got it right - it's a great balance, the new additions, the vets fit in really great with our whole team. ... I couldn't be happier with what he's put together."
The Flyers' overall mission isn't about winning first-round playoff series. But the Flyers got back to that on Friday, the first step of wanting more.
Fletcher's work and Vigneault's work are early victories the organization desperately needed. For seven straight seasons, it got away from those early victories that shouldn't be taken for granted.
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