May 19, 2023
Last week, as the Flyers introduced their new front-office leadership and made a clear commitment to a rebuild, "collaboration" was the day's big buzzword.
If the Flyers were going to be brought back to relevance, the idea was that it would be done in lockstep between Keith Jones, Danny Brière, John Tortorella, Valerie Camillo and Dan Hilferty.
But what stood out was that even though cooperation and a single vision going forward were the two big points of emphasis, all five had their own clearly defined roles and responsibilities, with maybe none more significant than Brière's.
As the general manager – the full-time general manager now – the roster is completely his to build. Jones, as the new president of hockey operations, and Tortorella, as the returning head coach, will have input for sure, but this isn't a setup like Daryl Morey and Elton Brand with the Sixers or Dave Dombrowski and Sam Fuld with the Phillies.
The final say on all trades, signings and draft picks from here on has been entrusted to Brière.
He's in charge, and how good the Flyers can ultimately be a few years from now will largely come down to his decision-making throughout.
But he's up for the challenge, and was the second he was promoted in the interim following Chuck Fletcher's firing back in March, a tag that Hilferty, the team governor, did finally admit last week was only a formality.
"We're going to do this right and together," Brière said last Friday from a stage assembled on the floor of the Wells Fargo Center. "The fact of the matter is that it's only made me hungrier to turn this thing around. We are on our way already and I consider it my highest duty to rebuild and restore this team to its winning ways for years to come."
But doing that is going to take time, and as Tortorella stressed throughout last season, a lot of pain. Brière is fully aware of that, and though he can't commit to any specific timeline yet, what he could say was that there is a process they're going to follow, patience with it, and precedent for it.
"The quicker the better, obviously," Brière said in a media scrum after the press conference. "Look, if I can put a Stanley Cup contender on the ice in October 2023, I would do it. Obviously, that's not realistic. It depends on how things fall into place, it depends on how players develop. There are so many things at play.
"I think it's too premature at this point to put a number on it. So many things have to fall in place before we have a better idea of where we're going. You can even look to a team like New Jersey. They were spinning their wheels, but they were rebuilding and doing it the right way, and boom! This year they pop and they're one of the best teams in the NHL. So I give them credit. They were patient and they didn't let the noise affect them.
"That's gonna be the biggest, probably toughest thing for us, to stay patient and keep with the process that we believe in."
And even though the Flyers are really only on the ground floor of it, this summer will be critical in how that process takes shape.
They'll have a list of young names and prospects who are either on the way or ready to take on more – like Cutter Gauthier, Tyson Foerster, Cam York, Owen Tippet, Elliot Desnoyers, Emil Andrae and Olle Lycksell – and the No. 7 overall pick in what's considered a deep draft next month. But at the same time, there are a couple of banged up and expensive veterans the Flyers have now long been rumored to be looking to shed (Kevin Hayes and Ryan Ellis), a few key pieces who might not be fits for the long-term plans anymore (Ivan Provorov, Carter Hart, and maybe even Travis Konecny), plus two wild cards in Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson, who are both over 30 and under contract but haven't played in a year or more due to injury.
There's a lot to sort out.
"He's gonna be on the phone a lot," said Jones, who does have hiring and firing power as the president of hockey ops, but stressed that he is going to be a resource for Brière first and foremost. "He's gonna be busy, there's no doubt. But I will be there for him at all times."
And no untouchables either.
"I don't think we're in a position to have untouchable players," Brière said."I like and I love a lot of my players, but we're not in the position to say 'no' or to not listen. My duty is to do what's best for this organization."
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