Flyers’ Vigneault Makes Lineup Changes to Send Message

When growing up in Southwest Philly, we had a saying, “If you can’t hang with the big dogs, then get off the porch.”

A veteran-laden team, the Philadelphia Flyers, began the 2019-20 season playing like puppies, still wet behind the ears.

Matt Murray Penguins Claude Giroux Flyers
Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray blocks a shot against Philadelphia Flyers center Claude Giroux. (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

At 6-5-2, the inconsistent Flyers have struggled with sloppy puck-handling, poor goaltending and an overall lack of emotion on the ice. This has prompted head coach Alain Vigneault to call out his veteran stars, Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, and James van Riemsdyk, to step it up. 

Not Producing at the Top

The Flyers top line has scored only 10 goals and has chipped in just 26 points combined.

Failing to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs in two of the last three seasons, Vigneault is relying on his veteran stars. He said in a recent Philadelphia Inquirer interview, “We need (Giroux) to be a top-end performer like he’s been for the past few years. We need (Voracek) to be a top-end performer like he’s been for the past few years. We need those guys to lead the way for us with their play on the ice, and I’m confident that’s going to be the case.” ( From ‘Flyers coach Alain Vigneault sent a message to Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek, and it was a long time coming,’ Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/31/19)

So far this season, the Flyers top-liners have been missing like Waldo. In their last three games, they have been held to only four points – a Giroux goal and assist, and two assists by Voracek, all coming on the power-play against a slumping Toronto Maple Leafs team.

Four of the Flyers wins have come at the expense of the 3-5-4 Devils and the 3-6-3 Blackhawks. Against teams above the .500 record mark, the orange and black have been outscored 28-13. This is certainly not what Vigneault and new general manager Chuck Fletcher envisioned when assembling this team.

Flyers’ Youth Movement

On Thursday, the Flyers recalled three young players from the Phantoms: center German Rubtsov, winger Carsen Twarynski, and defenseman Phil Myers.

A bit coincidental, the moves come after a 7-1 trouncing courtesy of the hated interstate rival Pittsburgh Penguins. It does send a message loud and clear- the Flyer coach and GM have seen enough. No job is secure.

Alain Vigneault Michel Therrien Philadelphia Flyers
Alain Vigneault and Michel Therrien, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

As a team, the Flyers are 17th in NHL for scoring, lighting the lamp 42 times. They are as mediocre on defense, allowing 43 goals against, which is in the middle of the pack. Ranked 16th out of 31 teams, it depends on how you view it. Half-full, or half-empty?

All Eyes on Flyers Stars

The Flyers turn to their cagey veteran leaders for guidance during this inconsistent stretch, hoping history will repeat itself. Hoping Giroux and Voracek return to their All-Star quality play. Hoping to exceed their expectations coming out of camp this season.

What’s most important to this team’s postseason aspirations, though, is that they start playing the right way before the season slips away.

With a new regime comes changes. There is a very small grace period allowed in the NHL as a team grows together and matures, especially in Philadelphia. Becoming more synchronized will take time.

However, the Flyers played only 13 games this season. Their fate isn’t yet sealed. The next six games prove to be critical for the Flyers, as all are against Eastern Conference rivals.

They’ve been called out and called upon – now, the veterans need to set the tone during this stretch of games. If anything, the Flyers need to prove they are ready to play with the elite teams.

For Giroux and Vorachek, this may be their final chance to show the organization that they can win together. 

Win-Now Philosophy for the Flyers

The Flyers have already started to bring in younger players who are hungry for NHL action. If the organization sees signs that this new core of Flyers is more productive and reaps better results, they have shown that no star burns too brightly in South Philadelphia.

The Flyers’ new direction is being paved. Fletcher has shown he will not hesitate to move forward or plan for the future. Vigneault swapped rookie Joel Farabee with Vorachek on the top line after he called out the right-winger. 

The switch moves Voracek to the third line, and he’s now playing beside another player making his NHL debut this season, Twarnyski, as well as center Kevin Hayes. More shuffles like this can be expected if the Flyers don’t start winning.

Jakub Voracek (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

A championship is never won in the opening months of a season, but it certainly can be lost. The Flyers are entrusting their veterans to step it up and take their rightful place on the porch. 

As George Thorogood, a Delaware native, and no doubt a Flyers fan, sings, “Move over little dog, the mean old dog is moving in.”

Obviously written for the Flyers.