Alain Vigneault challenges Jakub Voracek, 2020-21 Flyers with a history lesson

Vigneault challenges Voracek with a history lesson originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Oftentimes when Alain Vigneault was asked about the tumultuous 2018-19 Flyers season, a nightmare that consequently summoned him to Philadelphia, the head coach would mention how he wasn’t here then.

Essentially, Vigneault was focused on helping the Flyers turn a new leaf in 2019-20; he didn’t have much desire or reason to discuss the previous season, nor did he want to publicly criticize what had happened prior to his arrival.

But don’t think he doesn’t know the history. Oh, he knows it — and knows it pretty well. Vigneault is out to change the Flyers’ playoff image. After all, he was brought in to end the Flyers’ seven-year stretch of stagnancy.

Before Vigneault led the Flyers to the second round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Flyers had not won a postseason series since 2012. In those seven seasons, they missed the playoffs four times, going every other year. Vigneault over that span, despite not coaching in 2018-19, had more playoff appearances (five) and series victories (six) to his name than the Flyers did since 2012-13, when the club’s drought had begun.

Since 2010-11, the season following the Flyers’ last Stanley Cup Final appearance, Vigneault has been to the Cup Final twice and has won 10 playoff series. The Flyers, on the other hand, have won three series (one with Vigneault) and haven’t been past the second round.

Vigneault is aware of the history. He has yet to cross off winning the Stanley Cup from his bucket list and he knows what the Flyers’ core pieces have yet to accomplish in Philadelphia. For a player like Claude Giroux, he’s missing only the Cup, having gone to the Final back in 2010 with the Flyers. For a player like Jakub Voracek, the second-longest tenured active Flyer alongside Sean Couturier, he has never been past the second round.

Through his career, the 31-year-old Voracek has played in 49 playoff games — 45 of which have come with the Flyers — and has won two series. Vigneault, never one to shy away from being up-front with his players, reminded Voracek of the playoff past leading into this unusual but anticipated 2020-21 Flyers season.

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Call it a motivational tactic by history lesson.

“I talked to Jake about this and I challenged him about this season, about this upcoming year,” Vigneault said Friday in a video interview. “There’s a man that has been in the league for some time now and basically, he has won two playoff rounds — one his first year with the Flyers back in 2011-12, and this past year with me. So I challenged him on that, I’ve challenged the whole group on that. The Flyers haven’t been in the playoffs in back-to-back seasons since I think ’10-11 and ’11-12. So making the playoffs is nonnegotiable here; we’re getting in. We know it’s going to be a challenge, but we’re getting in.

“To do that, we need Jake to get his game to that top level. I think there are a lot of young players that are pushing him, he’s going to have to earn that ice time that he has been able to get the last few years. But I also want him to challenge himself; we are not in this to win one round, and if our expectations are to win, he knows that he’s going to have to be a top performer in the role that he’s given. Our expectations of Jake are very high.”

Voracek had a very good season in 2019-20 after some initial growing pains with a new head coach. From Nov. 23 to the end of the regular season, Voracek recorded 43 points (eight goals, 35 assists) and a plus-17 mark in 47 games. Overall last season, Voracek put up 56 points, a team-best 44 assists and a career-best plus-14 rating in 69 regular-season games.

Voracek, who is entering his 10th season with the Flyers, felt last season’s club was one of the deepest and best in his tenure so far. With the returns of Oskar Lindblom and Nolan Patrick in 2020-21, the Flyers could be deeper and better this season.

“I sure hope so,” Voracek said Wednesday in a video interview. “We lost in the second round. You’ve got to look at it this way: we definitely showed some progress from the years before, but unfortunately we couldn’t close the deal in the playoffs. Obviously when you get a healthy Oskar and a healthy Nolan, when you have a one-year-older Philippe Myers, Travis Sanheim, [Travis Konecny], [Ivan Provorov], they’re in their primes right now. That’s going to be helpful for us and I’m pretty excited to see them go to work.”

During the team’s 2020 first-round series victory over the Canadiens, Voracek had seven points (four goals, three assists) in six games. During the second-round series defeat to the Islanders, he had one point (no goals, one assist) in seven games.

“Last year it took him a while to get going, but he did get going and he was playing rather well when the stoppage of play [happened],” Vigneault said. “When we went into the bubble and into the playoffs, I thought Jake played well in that first round against Montreal. I thought he wasn’t as effective against the Islanders.

“There’s no doubt that Jake, with his talent level and his size, can be a force on our team and a force in this league. I think his last season was a good season. It took him a while to get going, I’d like to say it probably took him the month of October. Sort of when he found his stride a little bit, our team started to find their stride a little bit. I’m hoping that this year, that right off the hop, he’ll be where he needs to be.”

For a while, the way the Flyers were built, the objective became getting into the playoffs and hoping for the best. Sort of a false hope clinging to the unpredictable nature of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

That is not Vigneault’s mindset. Finally, the Flyers look like they’re built for more. The head coach is letting his core pieces know the expectations have changed — and the history can, too.

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Published: 2021-01-09 00:03:15

Tags: #Alain #Vigneault #challenges #Jakub #Voracek #Flyers #history #lesson

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