The Vancouver Canucks aren’t the only ones making a coaching change. Alain Vigneault has been relieved of his duties as head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers. Vigneault is under contract through the 2023-24 season and is one of the highest-paid coaches in the league with a $5MM salary. Assistant coach Michel Therrien has also been relieved of his duties. Mike Yeo will take over as interim head coach for the time being.
Vigneault, 60, was hired by the Flyers in 2019 after a few years away from the game, and had the team playing incredibly well in his first season behind the bench. Philadelphia posted a 41-21-7 record through the first 69 games of the 2019-20 season before the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown the NHL. When the Flyers returned for the bubble playoffs things didn’t look quite as good, but they still reached game seven of the second round against the New York Islanders after dispatching the Montreal Canadiens. Since that 4-0 defeat against the Islanders, in which they generated just 16 shots despite having won both game five and game six in overtime to extend the series, the Flyers haven’t looked the same.
The team posted a 25-23-8 record in 2020-21, missing the playoffs entirely by finishing sixth in the East Division. The Flyers were the only team in the entire NHL to allow more than 200 goals against in the shortened season, routinely seeing big, crooked numbers put up against them. Combine that with the fact that they scored only 163 and even those 25 wins seem like an unlikely total.
This year, things haven’t been much better. Philadelphia has lost eight in a row, are 1-7-2 in their last ten and were just embarrassed on home ice last night. A 7-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning with Carter Hart getting pulled after five goals on 15 shots was the dagger, in this case, as Vigneault will not get another chance to break the streak and turn things around.
He will be paid handsomely though, as relieving a coach of their duties in the NHL does not break their contract. He’ll be paid by the Flyers for the next two and a half years unless another team buys out part of the contract in order to hire him for their own team. The obvious speculation would land on a return to the Montreal Canadiens, who not only have leaned toward French-speaking head coaches but also now have an extra connection to Vigneault through the executive vice president of hockey operations Jeff Gorton, who worked with him (and fired him) in New York.
Yeo, who takes over as interim head coach, will be on his third stint leading a bench in the NHL. His first was with the Minnesota Wild under now-Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher, where he made the playoffs in three of five seasons. He then took over in St. Louis but was let go before two full years had even played out, with Craig Berube taking his place and leading the Blues to a Stanley Cup championship. Overall, his record as a head coach in the NHL sits at 246-181-55.
Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff was first to break the news.