Is the sword about to fall on Philadelphia Flyers Head Coach Alain Vigneault?
It sure seems like it could be heading that way given that the Philadelphia Flyers are mired in a 4-5-1 slump, including a humiliating 6-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres last night who were on a 18-game winless streak, and it does leave you wondering about the future of Alain Vigneault and others within that organization.
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The Flyers were seen as one of the heavyweights in the loaded East Division heading into the 2020-21 season and, while they were right in the mix for a while, a lot of their underlying metrics and the eye test on certain players painted a far more alarming picture.
And, as is often the case, who the Flyers really are was soon exposed and it hasn’t been pretty to say the least. This team is 4-5-1 in its last 10 games and 6-10-1 in their last 17, while their wild inconsistency has been a fatal flaw so far.
For instance, they had managed to string together two consecutive wins for the first time in over a month before dropping a humiliating 6-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres last night, despite the fact that the Sabres were riding a franchise 18-game winless streak heading into the contest.
Now, granted, the Flyers were hardly convincing in their win over the New York Rangers and they needed Overtime to beat the Sabres on Monday, but to be blown out by one of the worst teams in the NHL – no disrespect, Sabres fans – isn’t acceptable and it does suggest that there could be bigger issues at play here.
If that’s the case, is Philadelphia Flyers Head Coach Alain Vigneault now on the hot seat? Could General Manager Chuck Fletcher be in trouble too?
Do the Philadelphia Flyers need to make a major change with Alain Vigneault?
There is no doubt that this roster as it is currently constituted is incredibly talented, and it has the perfect blend of youth and experience, speed and skill and size needed to be a legit contender in the National Hockey League.
However, certain players just aren’t performing up to their potential and perhaps the biggest example of that is goaltender Carter Hart, who has had a rough year and is now a healthy scratch while he works on his game with his confidence level seemingly on the floor.
Hart, who is viewed as the second coming for the Flyers and the franchise goalie they have long craved, is 2-6-0 with a 5.04 Goals Against Average and a .815 Save Percentage in his last 10 games, while he owns a 4.04 GAA and a .869 SV% on the year in total. Not great.
He isn’t alone in struggling, of course, with a number of other players lacking consistency, and you have to wonder if there’s a problem inside the room that is now impacting what happens on the ice.
Is the message from the coaching staff now getting stale? Alain Vigneault has been known to take a team so far before his impact drops off and a parting of the ways becomes inevitable, and maybe he’s unable to maximise the talent of what he has at his disposal anymore.
Or does the problem lie in the front office with Chuck Fletcher? Has he done enough when it comes to constructing a roster that can embark on a deep run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs? I do think that the sudden retirement of veteran defenseman Matt Niskanen left a massive void both on the ice and in the room, and maybe there needs to be more accountability and more leadership in the locker room.
It is also clear that Fletcher didn’t do a good enough job of replacing Niskanen, and that fatal mistake has been on display all season long, but the Flyers GM will have an opportunity to right that wrong at the Trade Deadline with Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm a reported target.
If Fletcher can bolster this roster at the Deadline and inject some fresh voices inside that locker room, then maybe that will be enough to help Vigneault to steady the ship and get things back on track in Philadelphia, but that is a big if given that any new additions won’t have long to settle in and make an impact.
When it comes to players not pulling their weight and playing well below expectations, it does happen and this is a weird year so there could be a million reasons why certain players are struggling, but if the overall lack of consistency continues and players like Hart can’t figure it out, then the spotlight will be on Vigneault even more.
The one saving grace for Philadelphia is that they are still very much in play for the fourth and final postseason spot out of the East Division, but they can’t afford to keep slipping given that the Boston Bruins have three games in hand and it is only a matter of time until the B’s get hot, especially if they manage to add a top-six winger at the Deadline.
It is a fine balancing act but the Flyers will probably stand pat until after the Trade Deadline, and we’ll see if a couple of fresh faces can be the spark that this team needs to wake up and get hot down the stretch to ensure that they sneak into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
More ugly blowouts like the one suffered on Thursday, however, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Alain Vigneault loses his job before the season is out, but there is no doubt that he’s already on the hot seat and if he can’t figure his team’s current struggles out and soon, then he could find himself out of a job come the offseason anyway and he could be joined by General Manager Chuck Fletcher.