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March 13, 2023

What they're saying: 'The NHL is a better place when the Flyers matter'

The Flyers are a long way from being competitive again, but Danny Brière's first press conference and an admission to a rebuild certainly makes them interesting.

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Danny-Briere-Flyers-2013-Interim-GM-NHL.jpg Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY Sports

Danny Brière's promotion to the Flyers' interim GM caught a lot of interest from around the hockey world.

Danny Brière sat at the podium Sunday morning and spoke with purpose. 

He spoke of the future, he spoke of head coach John Tortorella and his establishing of a new culture, of talks to come with ownership in Dave Scott and Dan Hilferty (quite a few times), and of player development and drafting. 

He spoke on the idea of a "multi-year process," and wasn't afraid to call it a rebuild because that's what it is, and it's fully what's needed to eventually bring the Philadelphia Flyers back to relevance. 

He spoke with the long-term in mind, of a plan, like he'll be here for a while and that the "interim" tag on his new general manager title is nothing more than a formality, which could very well prove true in a couple of months. 

But hey, after the firing of Chuck Fletcher last week, a rumored heavy restructuring of the front office to follow, and ultimately a third straight season that has left the team banged up and going nowhere, the Flyers have to begin the journey toward tomorrow and should be open to any way of getting to it, including whatever Brière may have in mind. 

"I don't have a problem with the interim tag," Brière said in his first talk with the media Sunday morning. "I like that Dave and his staff are going to take the proper time to evaluate who should be full-time in that position. I see myself staying here and being part of the future. I hope they believe in me as well. It feels that way. I honestly don't have a problem with the tag. We'll see what happens next. 

"Like I said, I'm honored to be here and to be in this position. I want to do everything possible to help put this franchise on the right track."

Whatever happens from here, the only path that does seem to be off-limits is the one that got them here in the first place. No more high-priced band-aids, no more quick fixes, no more retools. The franchise reached a tipping point. It has to finally break from the same old Flyer way, and that long-awaited realization may have left the club as one of the more interesting in the NHL right now – even with, and by the team's own admission, being far removed from the playoff picture. 

Here's what they're saying about the Flyers...

The man (probably) in charge

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman | 32 Thoughts (Sportsnet)

Sportsnet's two insiders have been watching the Flyers with a ton of intrigue from across the border over the past few weeks. 

They've been seeing and hearing change on the horizon for the organization for a while now – along with whispers on the futures of guys like Kevin Hayes, Ivan Provorov, Travis Konency, and even Carter Hart in Philadelphia – and now that Brière's promotion to interim GM has the ball rolling, Monday morning's show led with rumors and speculation of all the pieces that could fall into place. 

They discussed what an admitted rebuild means for the Flyers and their perception as a franchise across the NHL, Dave Scott and his future of governing the team after Dan Hilferty recently joined Comcast Spectacor as its new CEO, names that they've heard thrown around as possible candidates to join Brière in the hockey operations department – like Ray Whitney, Shane Doan, and former Flyers Eric Lindros and Robert Esche – and the fact that, for an interim GM, Brière sure did speak with a whole lot of certainty. 

Friedman: "Jeff, does he not sound to you like someone who's in charge?"

Marek: "I thought Brière was in a really tough spot because, as you and I talked about on Saturday, even though the tag is interim general manager, we are both very much of the belief – and I think many people are as well – that he will be the full-time general manager of this team, yet he still holds the interim tag. It was kind of this tricky walk that Brière had to make on Sunday morning as he addressed the media for the first time because you're right, he did sound like this is very much his and he's in charge. But at the same time, what it says on the business card is something different. But yes, he does very much sound like someone who has this job, has this plan, and is starting to enact this plan."

Friedman: "Yes, and that's the thing, if you go through history and you go through a lot of media conferences of people who are interim – whether they're interim coaches, interim managers, whatever they might be – there's generally a lot less certainty about where things are going than what we heard on Sunday from Daniel Brière. This is somebody who is confident in himself, and I believe even more after hearing it – although nobody's gonna say – he's definitely going to be the GM. I would be even more surprised than I was on Friday morning if he isn't going to be the GM eventually. This is a person who has a lot of answers to a lot of questions and has a vision." [32 Thoughts]

And before moving on to other new around the league, Friedman wanted to note that that possible vision leaves the Flyers at least with this:

"The other thing I'll say is this: For a team that's way out of the race, the Flyers matter right now," Friedman said. "They're the talk, and the NHL is a better place when the Flyers matter." 

Here's a briefer rundown of Friedman and Marek's current read of the Flyers from their 32 Thoughts segment on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday:


Where there's smoke

To Marek and Friedman's note that Robert Esche could be in the running for a possible role within hockey operations, perhaps it is worth noting that Esche did tweet this on Sunday about Brière and Tortorella both following the former's promotion.

Esche was one of the Flyers' many goaltenders throughout the 2000s, spending four seasons in Philly from 2002-2007, the peak of which was that Eastern Conference Finals run in 2004. 

Before that, however, he played four seasons with the Coyotes, which ran adjacent with the start of Brière's career in Phoenix. 

Currently, the 45-year-old is the president of the AHL's Utica Comets

Student of the game

Olivia Reiner and Giana Han | The Philadelphia Inquirer

Brière receiving a GM opportunity, even if it's in the interim for now, is far from without merit or for the sake of having another former Flyer in place as the organization has been infamously known to do over the years. 

He's been building toward this chance for a long time, even back when he was still playing, saying Sunday that he paid close attention to his GMs at every stop in his career – Darcy Regier with the Sabres, Paul Holmgren with the Flyers, Marc Bergevin with the Canadiens, and then Joe Sakic with the Avalanche. 

When he retired, he stayed in the area and hung around the Flyers, helping out here and there with player development and rookie camps until he took on running the Maine Mariner in the ECHL after Comcast bought the minor-league club in 2017. 

He also quite literally did his homework on the way to rejoining the Flyers as an assistant to Fletcher. 

From The Inquirer's Olivia Reiner and Giana Han in 10 things to know about Brière:

Shortly after Briére met Valerie Camillo, now the president and CEO of Spectacor Sports and Entertainment, in 2018, the two had a conversation about his future in the business of hockey. Brière informed Camillo of his interest in strengthening his business intellect, and she encouraged him to enroll in a business program.

In 2021, Brière completed a two-year general management program at Penn’s prestigious Wharton School of Business. He took most of his classes online during the COVID-19 pandemic. [The Inquirer]

Building a team for today's NHL

Ryan Quigley | Broad Street Hockey

Regardless of who was going to be the next GM, there was always going to be a massive to-do list to make the Flyers competitive again. 

The responsibility, presumably for the foreseeable future, is Brière's now and he'll have to do all the things required of a rebuild, from piling up assets to clearing out expensive, aging contracts to drafting well. 

And, down the line – again, assuming he is in fact here for the long haul – he absolutely has to build a roster out of players who can succeed in to today's NHL, not the one from the past. 

Wrote Broad Street Hockey's Ryan Quigley in a top-five list of objectives for Brière to accomplish:

The best teams in the modern NHL aren’t built the same way teams in the ‘80s and ‘90s were. Size and toughness are no longer the end-all, be-all. In today’s NHL, speed and skill are king.

Those are two attributes many of the Flyers’ current players lack. And not-so-coincidentally, the team ranks third-to-last in the NHL with an average of just 2.57 goals per game.

...

In order to get the offense back on track, the Flyers need to prioritize adding players with skill and high-end skating ability. They already have a pair players who fit that mold in Konecny and, as of recently, Owen Tippett, but Konecny is out of commission for the foreseeable future and Tippett is a 24-year-old still learning how consistently produce at the NHL level.

Players with high-end skill don’t grow on trees, and acquiring them won’t be easy. But the Flyers won’t become a competitive team until that box is checked. [BSH]


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