Even during a slow week in the world of the NHL, the Philadelphia Flyers have a pair of connections to a prominent issue in world affairs, and two intriguing nuggets about major events in franchise history popped up in the news. While fans wait another month for training camp to start, they can get their hockey fix with coverage of the World Junior Championship, memories of the Eric Lindros trade in 1992, and speculation about the unceremonious departure of former head coach Alain Vigneault.
Conversation About Vigneault’s Demise
Jason Myrtetus and Bill Meltzer spoke candidly on the Flyers Daily podcast about Vigneault’s downfall in Philadelphia. The eighth-winningest coach in NHL history finished second in voting for the Jack Adams Award after his first season with the Flyers in 2019-20. Things headed south quickly with a disappointing season in 2020-21 and a poor start in 2021-22 that cost him his job after just 22 games.
“It did almost seem like whatever enthusiasm he had in that first year dissipated in that second year,” Meltzer said about Vigneault.
Myrtetus pointed to Vigneault’s approach to Carter Hart’s struggles during the 2020-21 season as the major turning point toward his downfall. The once-heralded bench boss questioned his goaltender’s work ethic and practice habits at points during a disastrous stretch. He did not become a final candidate for a head coaching job this offseason within an eventful shuffle of veteran coaches.
Challenges surrounding the pandemic certainly impacted the situation heavily. Vigneault dealt with health concerns within his family, and a restricted level of media access restricted the ability of reporters to uncover the full details of issues in the Philadelphia dressing room in 2020-21.
Jackson Cates, Offseason Transactions
The Flyers continued their housekeeping tasks late in the offseason when they agreed to a one-year, two-way contract with Jackson Cates worth $775,000. The depth forward began his NHL career late in the 2020-21 season with a four-game stint after the NCAA season ended. He picked up one assist in his first season and added one goal in 11 games in 2021-22. Last season, he couldn’t make his way into the lineup for extended periods even with the rash of injuries. Gerry Mayhew and Max Willman both played their way into favor over him.
Noah Cates, Jackson’s younger brother, will also fight for a spot in the lineup in 2022-23. The two brothers won an NCAA National Championship together at the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2018-19. They help make up an influx of young American talent who rose into the organization from the college level along with Cam York, Bobby Brink, Joel Farabee, and Ronnie Attard.
The Flyers have lost the rights to Jack St. Ivany, a fourth-round pick in 2018. The defenseman played his first two college seasons at Yale University and the last two at Boston College. The organization has also lost the rights to former draft picks Connor McClennon, Matthew Strome, Maksim Sushko, and Kirill Ustimenko this offseason. They retained the rights to Gavin Hain, a sixth-rounder in 2018 who will spend a fifth college year at the University of North Dakota.
Andrae, Flyers Prospect Updates at World Juniors
The semifinal matchups are set for Friday at the World Junior Championship in Edmonton. Team Canada will take on Team Czechia at 4 p.m. Eastern time, and Team Sweden will face Team Finland at 8 p.m. Eastern time. The Czechs upset Team USA late Wednesday night with a dramatic 4-2 victory.
Emil Andrae has turned the most heads of any of the Flyers prospects at the World Juniors. The captain of the Swedish team has four goals and four assists in five games played. He has shown off his quick wrister from the point (and an excellent goal celebration) and an elusive ability as a puck carrier and an offensive catalyst. The Flyers selected the left-handed defenseman 54th overall in 2020.
Tyson Foerster, Philadelphia’s first-round selection in 2020, scored one goal and added an assist in Canada’s quarterfinal victory over fellow Flyers prospect Brian Zanetti and the Swiss team. He now has three goals and two assists in five games played in the tournament. Elliot Desnoyers added an assist for Canada in 7:21 of ice time in a checking-line role.
Turmoil in Russia for Fedotov, Vorobyev
Unfortunate circumstances in Russia affected the Flyers when news broke in July about the arrest of projected backup goaltender Ivan Fedotov. His trial for evading military service will take place on Thursday. Mikhail Vorobyev, who spent all of his 35 career NHL games with the Flyers in 2018-19 and 2019-20, also pleaded guilty to bribery charges related to trying to evade Russian military service, according to Russia’s official state news.
Jay Snider Speaks on Lindros Trade
Former Flyers president Jay Snider, the son of franchise founder Ed Snider, opened up 30 years after spearheading the famed acquisition of Eric Lindros from the Quebec Nordiques (from The Athletic, “How the epic 1992 Eric Lindros trade happened, as remembered by former Flyers exec Jay Snider,” 8/12/22).
“When he (Lindros) was playing for us for most of the years other than maybe the end with injuries, he was a hell of a player. He was dominant on the ice, he was exciting, there was the Legion of Doom. Would we have been better off long term (not doing it)? You never know, especially looking back. All we know is that we had a great run with him. There was a lot of excitement with the Flyers. I don’t regret it. I think it was the right move. I don’t think he reached the place he could have reached. But he still reached pretty high.”
Jay Snider’s gamble cost the Flyers an opportunity for the prime years of Peter Forsberg and a hefty additional package. The Nordiques won a Stanley Cup four years later after their move to become the Colorado Avalanche, and the New York Rangers snapped a 44-year Cup drought two years later after whiffing on their attempt to acquire Lindros. The most famous and influential trade in franchise history will continue to come up in discussions about Flyers folklore many years from now, especially until the Flyers break their infamous Stanley Cup drought.
Colin Newby is a freelance journalist from Delaware County, PA covering the Philadelphia Flyers for The Hockey Writers. He is an encyclopedia of useless sports knowledge with an uncanny ability to rattle off Flyers goaltending stats from 2004 and every Stanley Cup winner during his lifetime. The depths of his knowledge stem from spending his entire life following the Flyers and the NHL, from fan favorites like the “Legion of Doom” and Claude Giroux to forgotten journeymen like Andy Delmore and Branko Radivojevič. He joined the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (PHWA) in 2022.
Colin also covers the Philadelphia Eagles and works for 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia.