It’s a major challenge for anyone, let alone two men who are rookies at their current positions.
Briere made a big splash with his first trade as a general manager in early June. In a three-way deal with Columbus and Los Angeles, he sent defenseman Ivan Provorov to the Blue Jackets. He also dealt two minor-leaguers, and his net gain was the 22nd overall pick in this year’s draft, two veterans, a promising defensive prospect, and two second-round draft picks.
On paper, Briere got off to an impressive start. Provorov never lived up to his expectations, though he did eat lots of minutes and was a good (but not great) player.
“Sometimes, you have to pay the price to get good assets back,” Briere said.
It was the kind of bold move that Briere’s predecessor, Chuck Fletcher, never made.
Good for Briere.
On May 11, Briere was named the Flyers’ full-time general manager, while Jones was selected as the team’s president of hockey operations.
Briere’s hiring was expected. Jones’ wasn’t.
As the interim GM, Briere had already been making moves and was seemingly being groomed to take over duties on a full-time basis.
Jones was working for the Flyers and Turner Sports as a highly skilled TV hockey analyst. But few go from the media to such a key job.
Can two rookies in the front office work?
Jones, 54, believes it can.
He points to the contacts he and Briere have developed over their years in hockey. Those contacts will help them get acclimated and will be resources he and Briere can lean on if needed.
Using ‘every resource’
“Using all the relationships we have throughout the game” will be beneficial, Jones said. “We know a lot of very talented hockey people with great minds who are not just acquaintances, but in some cases are very good friends. We’re going to use every resource we have to do this well. We’re not going to stop working; I can guarantee you that.”
Briere, 45, has experience as an interim GM and as a special assistant to Fletcher. He paid his dues with Comcast Spectacor’s Maine Mariners – serving as the ECHL team’s president, and running the day-to-day operations — and worked closely with Fletcher, who was fired on March 10.
“I love his mind. I love his spirit,” Jones said of Briere. “He’s a tough little guy. He’s a grinder at heart. I appreciate that about him, and I love his work ethic. I love that he’s excitable. I love the fact he’s calm under pressure. I love what he did as a player in the playoffs here in Philadelphia. I love that he chose to be here and that he stayed here.
“He’s doing it for all the right reasons,” Jones said. “He wants to do a great job for our fans and this organization.”
Briere is a student of hockey. During his 17-year playing career, no one was better at instantly analyzing a game than the high-scoring little forward.
“He does have the ability to see the game and simplify it for everybody because his hockey mind is so strong,” Jones said.
Briere said similar things about Jones, one of the NHL’s most respected hockey analysts.
“I’ve always admired his mind and the way he thinks the game,” Briere said.
Both know the Flyers’ strengths and weaknesses as well as anyone. Jones got an up-close look as a broadcaster, while Briere has been working in the Flyers’ front office.
“I was fortunate to have seen and been around the organization the last few years, and I know what areas we need to improve on,” Briere said, “So that makes me feel comfortable in the job.”
Some fans were upset that two former Flyers got the jobs, saying the organization needed outside voices. That said, Fletcher was an “outsider,” and the Flyers mostly struggled during his tenure.
Flyers coach John Tortorella was puzzled that some fans didn’t like the hires.
“Why do people think [former Flyers] are diseased?” he said. “… I’m proud that they’re ex-Flyers.”
In the past, Jones said, he had a couple of opportunities from other teams to work in “different roles” in the front office. “But never at the same level as this job.”
At the time those opportunities arose, he wasn’t interested in working for another organization.
“But this one just came at the right time,” Jones said. “I thought about it for about 10 seconds, and then I said yes.”
It was expected that the Flyers would name a seasoned front-office person as their president – Ray Shero, who was interested in the job, was among the candidates – to help Briere ease into his position.
Jones’ vast knowledge of the organization, however, trumped Shero’s experience.
“If there’s one job I would take, it was this job,” Jones said. “It’s the only job [Jones wanted], because of my relationship with the fans here in Philadelphia.”
Jones has worked in the Philly media for 23 years, including time on WIP’s popular morning radio show.
He is thrilled with “the opportunity to get this right. That’s what has me really excited about what’s in front of us. It’s challenging – there’s no question about that – but I think a big part of this is that our fans are ready for us to regroup and rebuild. They’re words you really don’t want to say. And it’s that type of timing that tells me we have a window to get the Flyers back on track and get the fans back who have left us.”
The Flyers are coming off a 31-38-13 season under their new coach, Tortorella. But several of the young players, such as Owen Tippett, Noah Cates, Morgan Frost, and Cam York, showed promise.
Jones knows the fans have become disenchanted. The Flyers have missed the playoffs in each of the last three seasons, the first time that has happened since the early ‘90s. They have won one playoff series in the last 11 years.
“As you know, this city supports their teams when they give them something to support,” Jones said. “That’s what we want to do here.”
Briere was named the interim general manager on March 10. Just over two months later, he was promoted as the full-time GM. He called it an “incredible honor” to serve as an interim general manager, “and it’s only made me hungrier to turn this thing around.”
The June 28-29 draft was the first way the Flyers were trying to get better, but those selections will take time to develop. The Flyers aren’t expected to be big players in the free-agent market, but they hope to improve themselves with trades.
Briere says he will listen to all offers, and he caused a stir when he said no player was untouchable, even their MVP, goalie Carter Hart.
“Most likely, Carter will be our goalie for the future, but I’m not in a position to turn down anything,” Briere said on WIP.
“We’re definitely open for business,” Jones said, “and we’re not in a position where we can look away from anything.”
The Provorov deal showed that.
At the press deadline, there were rumblings Hart would be dealt. But it seemed more likely the Flyers would try to move expensive players like Kevin Hayes and Tony DeAngelo.
“There’s no question we’re going to be looking to change the trajectory of where we’re going over time, and I wouldn’t rule out trades as being a part of that,” said Jones, while not referring to any specific players who could be moved.
As for the 2023-24 season, Jones has set some goals.
“We want to continue to have our younger players develop into more than what they’ve already demonstrated,” he said. “We want improvement. We want our player development to become a really high standard for where we want to go. Those are the type of things that are going to show our fan base that we mean what we say – that we’re going to do this the right way.”
“And when it’s [our] time down the road, start to add the free agents,” he said. “We want to have the cap space to do that because we’ve managed things properly.”
For the upcoming season, Jones said there’s a chance the Flyers will add some inexpensive free agents who “can help us, but without locking up a bunch of money. Guys who can help with their style of play and their effort and accountability – and are great in the room. But we’re not going to throw money at players of a certain age with long-term contracts. This year is not about that.”
Jones says the Flyers need a sniper such as they’ve had in the past like former draft picks Simon Gagne or Jeff Carter.
“That’s the type of talent we need to acquire by whatever means we have,” he said. “We would prefer to draft them, obviously. It’s much better when you’re developing those players. Those are the type of players we need; guys who are skyrocketing on the way up. We need more skill. We had some players emerge and show us there’s a lot there, but we need more of those guys.”
Jones believes “We have a pretty good nucleus of guys who do the intangibles well; we need some players who can really do some incredible things out there, like 100-point guys. Those aren’t going to be easy to find, but we want to make sure we draft them and develop them well – to the point where they are those types of players.”
Let the rebuild begin.
A FUN rebuild.
(Left to right) Flyers Head Coach John Tortorella, Keith Jones, Comcast Spectacor Chairman Dan Hilferty, Danny Briere, and Valerie Camillo, President of Comcast Sports and Entertainment.