May 13, 2023
Having worked with Keith Jones for years both on the Flyers' broadcast team and on the WIP Morning Show, Al Morganti got a sense a couple of months ago that something was going on behind the scenes, but when he asked, Jones would just brush it off.
Turns out his hunch was right though.
Jones, the fan-favorite former player and then broadcaster of the past two decades, was announced Thursday morning as the Flyers' new president of hockey operations, alongside an official promotion of Danny Brière to the full-time general manager.
With no prior front-office experience, this will be Jones' first go as an NHL executive, and he won't exactly be starting in an enviable position as the Flyers are staring down a clear rebuild and a long road back to relevancy.
But, as Morganti explained calling back into WIP's Morning Show on Thursday after the news was made official, Jones may be better prepared for the road ahead than most would think.
"I hope that a lot of people realize how much hockey intelligence he has," Morganti said. "He's a funny guy, he comes across that way, and he's very personable. But I've witnessed firsthand with teams coming in, general managers that go over to talk to him, and coaches that go over to talk to him when he is doing a broadcast — nationally or locally — they trust his instincts.
"I can't tell you the number of times I've been there when somebody's asked him, 'What do you think about this?' Then a week later I'll read the trade about the player that Jonesy was talking about."
Al Morganti on Keith Jones: “I hope people realize how much hockey intelligence he has.” pic.twitter.com/4MlmoKhhW9— SPORTSRADIO 94WIP (@SportsRadioWIP) May 11, 2023
Plagued by injuries of all kinds of severity and left bare of high-end, game-changing talent, the past few years have seen the Flyers completely bottom out despite their best attempts to make quick fixes and remain competitive.
They've nearly all been band-aids that have peeled right off, and from the booth – whether it was right here at home for NBC Sports Philadelphia or nationally for TNT and NBC before that – Jones watched as everything increasingly got worse.
But alongside Brière and returning head coach John Tortorella, Jones has the chance to try and fix it, and as a whole – even though the Flyers fan base has been left pretty apathetic from the past few years and extremely apprehensive to more hires from within – Morganti believes the three make for an easy leadership group to get behind.
"The deeper level to this, the top level, obviously you mentioned, you just can't not like Keith Jones," Morganti told WIP. "You mentioned the Flyers kind of have a tough go here in terms of the other [Philadelphia teams], but now you look at it: Danny Brière, tremendously likable, Tortorella's the face of the franchise, and Jonesy, he keeps people together. His great skill is to be collaborative and to get input, and I'm talking about every locker room he's been in.
"When you play on a line with [Eric Lindros] and [John LeClair], and you fit in, and you make things better and you make everybody work better, when you're in a locker room and Patrick Roy's there [in Colorado] and you're still the voice of the locker room, that's pretty impressive stuff.
"I couldn't be happier, I think he's gonna do a great job."
Of course, likeability doesn't equate to wins. Good players do, and the Flyers are going to need them, a lot of them if this direction for the organization is going to work.
The team, however, is going to have to find them in largely uncovered areas and unconventional ways, since they didn't get any luck on generational prospect Connor Bedard in the draft lottery and don't figure to be in on any big-name free agents for at least the next couple of years.
Morganti believes Jones and Brière will excel at that though, that and forming a genuine connection with the fans throughout what's inevitably going to be a long, arduous process.
"I think [Jones'] instincts on young players will be better," Morganti said. "I expect him between him and Danny Brière that they will find players on other teams, since they didn't win the draft sweepstakes there, players that aren't performing on other teams that they realize 'they're just in a bad spot.' He's got a really good eye for that kind of a player...
"I think that will be his real skill and obviously relating to the public. He's been here a long time but if you look at the record, he didn't play that long with the Flyers, so to have this sort of footprint with that short of a career just tells you about what people think of him and how they like him. He'll also work really with Danny Brière. It's a real good combination."
Jim Jackson, the longtime Flyers' play-by-play man on Jones' new gig with the organization:
Our emotions can get pulled in opposite directions. I’m so excited for Jonesy and his new @NHLFlyers role. But I also lose my broadcast partner of the last 17 years. He’s witty, incisive and a joy to be around. I’ll miss our time together in the booth. All the best, my friend! pic.twitter.com/DxinfUypdz— Jim Jackson (@JimJPhilly) May 11, 2023
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