Flyers turn to winner Vigneault to snap championship drought

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VOORHEES, N.J. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Lightning team that just flamed out in the first round of the playoffs is dotted with former New York Rangers who played in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final:

Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Anton Stralman, J.T. Miller all helped the Rangers to get within three wins of their first championship since 1994. Five years later, a new team and a stunning elimination. They were used to deeper runs in New York with Alain Vigneault running the show. He led the Rangers to the Cup Final in his first season and bumped the win total by eight in his second.

After a year out of coaching, Vigneault takes over a fallen Philadelphia Flyers franchise. He seems to expect a similar quick fix.

”I was looking for was an opportunity to win; an opportunity in the short term to win a Stanley Cup,” Vigneault said Thursday.

Vigneault also led the Vancouver Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final, is a former NHL coach of the year and will spend the summer as the head coach for Team Canada at the world championships.

”It’s unusual and difficult to find coaches like Alain,” Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said.

Indeed, Vigneault has done it all on the bench except win the Stanley Cup and he joins a franchise mired in one of the longest championship droughts in the league. The Flyers haven’t won it all since 1975 or even played for the Stanley Cup since 2010. Even worse, they missed the playoffs this season and haven’t made it past the second round since 2012.

And he thinks the Flyers can win in the short term?

Maybe, because the talent is there: Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, James van Riemsdyk and Sean Couturier all have some heavy miles on their skates but are still productive veterans. There’s still untapped potential in a group of promising 20-somethings that include Travis Sanheim, Oskar Lindblom, Shayne Gostisbehere and Nolan Patrick. All have shown flashes of stardom along with infuriating inconsistency.

”I can get them to be more consistent. The way that I prepare a team for games I believe permits a player to understand what he needs to do against that team to be successful,” Vigneault said.

Couturier will get an early peek at Vigneault’s system at next month’s world championships in Slovakia. So will Carter Hart, the 20-year-old rookie goalie who nearly carried the Flyers into the playoffs after his December call up. He won eight straight games and pushed the Flyers (37-37-8 for 82 points) to the verge of a wild card spot until they collapsed over the final two weeks.

The Flyers used a record eight goalies this season. Vigneault knows a true No. 1 should be enough to carry the load in a championship chase. Vigneault rode Henrik Lundqvist in New York to within three wins of a championship and Roberto Luongo had four playoff shutouts when the Canucks reached the Final in 2011.

”I was very fortunate to have maybe two Hall of Fame goaltenders,” Vigneault said. ”Maybe we have a young goaltender that’s got a tremendous amount of potential and might become one of the top goalies in the league.”

One thing Vigneault won’t do is ask former Flyers coach Dave Hakstol (fired in December) and former GM Ron Hextall (fired in November) for a scouting report on the team. Both men are part of his staff at worlds. Giroux, the Flyers captain, is the only player Vigneault has called.

Vigneault, who turns 58 in May, has coached 16 NHL seasons for the Montreal Canadiens, Canucks and Rangers. His teams made the playoffs 11 times and he was named NHL coach of the year in 2006-2007 with Vancouver.

”Players look for direction. If you give a player and a team a path and you do this, you do it this way, you put in the time, you’re going to have success,” Vigneault said. ”You do the same thing with your team, they’re going to follow you.”

History suggests players will follow Vigneault. He took two teams in major hockey markets to the Final and did it in large part because of a hot goalie and an overachieving roster. The Rangers wore down because almost every series went the distance (four Game 7s) and Vigneault took them way behind their talent level.

Vigneault has an offensive superstar in Giroux (82 points) but Patrick (a former No. 2 pick) and van Riemsdyk have more name value than skill. No matter, the coach always pays the price in Philly: Vigneault is the fifth coach since the start of the 2013 season, and he’d like this commitment to last.

”You know what we have to do? We have to win,” he said.

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Flyers hire Alain Vigneault as next head coach

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Alain Vigneault is returning to the Metropolitan Divison after the Philadelphia Flyers announced on Monday afternoon that they’ve hired him as their next head coach.

“Alain has always been somebody I’ve admired and respected,” said Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher. ” I’ve watched the job he’s done over the years throughout his career, but particularly in Vancouver and with the Rangers. He’s been what I’ve considered to be a top coach in the NHL. I made a decision that I wanted to speak with him, and during our conversations it just became apparent to me he was the right guy. So once you kind of come to that conclusion it just made sense to pursue it, and we were able to finalize things this morning.”

Vigneault, who’s currently set to lead Canada’s entry at the IIHF World Championship in May, was fired by the New York Rangers after the 2017-18 NHL season. The 57-year-old was behind the bench for the Rangers for five seasons, guiding them to back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals and the 2014 Stanley Cup Final. He’s won 648 games coaching three different franchise, earned the Jack Adams Award in 2007, and led both the Vancouver Canucks and Rangers to conference titles.

“It is an honor to be selected as the next head coach of the Flyers,” said Vigneault. “The history they have established and the passionate fan base has made this a first-class franchise. I am excited to work with Chuck, the talented group of players and prospects coming up through the system, in order to return Philadelphia to the top of the NHL landscape.”

It was no secret that the Flyers were hot after Joel Quenneville following his November dismissal by the Chicago Blackhawks. But Fletcher, who replaced Ron Hextall, decided to give the organization’s AHL head coach, Scott Gordon, the interim tag after Dave Hakstol’s firing. Even after Gordon led the team to a 25-22-4 record, it wasn’t enough as Fletcher apparently sees Vigneault as the better option going forward on a “multi-year” contract, which is reportedly five years, $25M, per Pierre LeBrun.

Now that he has a head coach, Fletcher can check another thing off his to-do list after assuming the GM job. The goaltending position looks to be set with Carter Hart‘s emergence this season. Who backs him up in 2018-19 is still to be decided. Up next is working on extensions for some of the team’s restricted free agents like Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim and Travis Konecny.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Rangers’ McDonagh won’t need surgery on broken foot

Following the New York Rangers’ Eastern Conference Final loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning it was revealed that Ryan McDonagh was playing on a broken right foot.

On Tuesday the defenseman updated his status with Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News.

“We contemplated (surgery) and we thought the best route was the bones were lined up enough, they said it was an acceptable alignment, I guess, where they didn’t need to do surgery,” McDonagh said. “So that was a crucial part of these last two weeks to make sure the (bones) stayed forming straight I guess, and I obviously have to continue to be cautious for another week or two and hopefully get going.”

Rangers’ head coach Alain Vigneault said his captain was playing through the injury “for a couple of games” following New York’s Game 7 loss to the Bolts.

The 26-year-old scored three goals and nine points while averaging 23:31 in 19 playoff games.

He missed the first half of the first period in Game 7 waiting for the freezing to “kick in”.

“I think the big issue they were talking about (if I had surgery) was the plates on the foot might be a little bit painful during the season next year being in the skates,” McDonagh said. “You want to avoid surgery at all costs, but that was another issue they were contemplating – yeah, we could get the bone to line up perfectly (with surgery), but then you’re gonna be dealing with pain throughout the season, then after the season have to get them taken out again and rest another three or four weeks after that (second) surgery.”

Related: Rangers’ Zuccarello to participate in charity hockey game

2015 Jack Adams Award finalists: Hartley, Laviolette, Vigneault

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The three finalists for the 2015 Jack Adams Award were announced on Wednesday: Bob Hartley (Calgary Flames), Peter Laviolette (Nashville Predators) and Alain Vigneault (New York Rangers).

The National Hockey League Broadcasters’ Association determines who receives the trophy given to the “NHL coach judged to have contributed the most to his team’s success.” (This post’s main image features last year’s winner Patrick Roy with the trophy.)

There was no shortage of worthy candidates, with some citing Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice (among others) as worthy candidates.

Interestingly, Vigneault is the only coach of the three to ever win the Jack Adams, which he did with the Vancouver Canucks back in 2006-07. Hartley and Laviolette probably get the last laugh in that regard, however, as they both have Stanley Cup victories on their resumes.

Rangers hang on, even series with Caps

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Entering Saturday’s game between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers much of the talk centered around the standard of officiating in the playoffs.

Rangers’ coach Alain Vigneault wasn’t happy with how things ended in Game 1 following Nicklas Backstrom’s hit on Dan Boyle. Barry Trotz told reporters on Saturday morning he didn’t feel things changed much in the postseason.

Officiating took a back seat to the goaltending performances by Braden Holtby and Henrik Lundqvist in Game 2.

Lundqvist made 30 saves back-stopping the Rangers to a 3-2 win evening the series at 1-1.

Holtby finished with 32 saves in the loss.

“(Holtby) kept us in the first. We weren’t good, we weren’t winning any races, but he’s grown as a goaltender, and he will continue to grow,” said Trotz.”He’s just entering the prime of his career right now. There’s a lot of good things that he’s learned this year and he will to continue to learn.”

The win snapped a six-game losing streak for the Rangers in Game 2s on home ice dating back to 1996.

Chris Kreider and Boyle gave New York a 2-0 lead after one period.

Boyle’s goal, which came with Joel Ward off for hooking, was the first power play goal allowed by the Capitals in these playoffs.

Evgeny Kuznetsov’s fourth of the playoffs got the Caps on the board in the second period.

Derick Brassard scored the eventual game-winner at 6:07 of the third.

Alex Ovechkin scored in highlight-reel fashion to pull the Caps to within one midway through the third; however, there were no last-second heroics from Washington on Saturday afternoon.

“I thought they had some good looks at the end there. Hank had to come up with a couple big saves,” said Vigneault of the final minutes. “They pulled their goaltender and they were coming at us with everything they’ve got.

“Our guys were working real hard and every time we were real close to getting it out, they were finding a way to pull it back in. It was a tough last couple minutes.”

New York’s last eight playoff wins have all been by one goal.

Game 3 goes Monday night at the Verizon Center in Washington. You can catch the game at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.