Flyers fire Vigneault amid skid; Yeo named interim coach
The Philadelphia Flyers fired coach Alain Vigneault on Monday with the team spiraling toward a franchise-worst losing streak.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Philadelphia Flyers fired coach Alain Vigneault on Monday with the team spiraling toward a franchise-worst losing streak, turning to yet another coach to try and end a Stanley Cup drought pushing 47 years.
The Flyers have been one of NHL’s biggest flops this season. Their 7-1 loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday sealed Vigneault’s fate. Assistant coach Michel Therrien also was fired.
“Right now, we’ve lost our way,” Philadelphia general manager Chuck Fletcher said.
Mike Yeo was named interim coach of the Flyers, who lost 7-5 to Colorado on Monday night in his debut for their ninth straight defeat — one shy of matching a dubious team record.
The Flyers are 8-11-4 and in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division. Vigneault went 74-54-19 with the Flyers and missed the playoffs last season.
Fletcher tried to blame injuries last week for the team's recent slide, but it became clear as the losses piled up that a change was needed.
“The last 10, we slipped back. There’s no question,” he said last week. “Now the onus is on our group to get it back. When injured players come back, it makes it easier. We can’t kid ourselves. We have to get better.”
Vigneault lasted two-plus seasons in Philadelphia and never could lead the Flyers in the right direction this year after a promising first season in which he guided them to the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference in the NHL’s restart bubble.
“The guy that is the leader of this group who has both his hands on the steering wheel is me and I have to find a way to get this group to play better,” he said Sunday. “We are in a bad skid right now and we need to end this. We have an opportunity tomorrow night and hopefully we will play better.”
Vigneault had led the New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final and was trying to do the same in Philadelphia, where the Flyers haven't won it all since consecutive championships in 1974 and 1975.
The Flyers instead are trying to avoid a 10-game losing streak for the first time since the 2018-19 season.
“Last night was a good example that our game wasn’t good enough and getting embarrassed in your own building, it’s not acceptable,” captain Claude Giroux said before Monday's game.
Giroux has played his entire career with the Flyers since his 2007 debut and ranks among the franchise leaders in most offensive categories while playing for coaches John Stevens, Peter Laviolette, Craig Berube, Dave Hakstol, Scott Gordon, Vigneault and now Yeo.
The 33-year-old center is in the final season of an eight-year, $66 million deal and could waive his no-movement clause and ask for a trade to a contender.
“Right now, you look at our group and we don’t have an identity,” Giroux said. “We get a goal scored on us and we kind of stop playing. We need to find our confidence within this group. We need to believe that even if a team scores the first goal that we just have to keep playing our game. ”
Giroux scored twice against Colorado, but the Flyers could tie the club record for consecutive losses Wednesday night at New Jersey.
It's up to Yeo, at least in the short term, to figure out how to fix the Flyers. Yeo was fired by the St. Louis Blues in November 2018. He joined the Blues as an assistant in 2016 after five seasons with Minnesota. The Wild made the playoffs in three of Yeo’s four full seasons, but he was fired 55 games into 2015-16.
“This is an opportunity for me to prove that I've grown," Yeo said.
Fletcher was GM in Minnesota when Yeo coached the Wild, and the new coach will likely get some games to prove he can steer the Flyers toward a playoff run.
“The focus is not on interviewing people and rushing to hire a head coach. It’s to support Mike,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher overhauled the roster following last season's 25-23-8 record (58 points) under Vigneault. The Flyers gave out rich contract extensions to Joel Farabee and Carter Hart and an eight-year, $62 million deal to Sean Couturier. Fletcher acquired defensemen Ryan Ellis and Rasmus Ristolainen and signed Keith Yandle and Derick Brassard. The Flyers also signed backup goaltender Martin Jones and traded for forward Cam Atkinson.
“I still don’t know truly what we have here,” Fletcher said.
Again in Philly, the changes weren't enough to make the Flyers a championship contender. They haven't made the Stanley Cup Final since losing to Chicago in 2010.
“I can’t speak for the last 10 years. Most of these guys haven’t been here that long,” Fletcher said. “The process right now isn’t right. We have to get back to playing the right way.”
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Dan Gelston, The Associated Press