The last 48 hours have been a whirlwind for Philadelphia Flyers interim general manager Danny Briere. He admitted as much during his first media availability under his new title Sunday morning. But in the midst of the chaos following the firing of former general manager Chuck Fletcher, Briere already has his sights set on making big changes to the Flyers.
Just don’t expect the changes to be fast and furious.
Sunday morning, Briere finally muttered the sinful word Fletcher had danced around throughout his tenure with the Flyers.
For the first time in a long time — or possibly ever — a high-ranking team executive admitted that a rebuild is necessary to make the Flyers competitive again. No more aggressive retools and knee-jerk reactions.
For Briere, this has been a long time coming.
“I believe it’s needed,” said Briere.
“We’re gonna look at every possible option out there to improve the team. But I don’t think this is a quick fix. That’s my belief, and that’s why I’m not afraid to use the word ‘rebuild.’”
For many fans, a rebuild consists of selling every single asset that carries any significant value. This is what the Chicago Blackhawks have done in recent years.
Patrick Kane? Alex DeBrincat? Brandon Hagel? Kirby Dach? In the last year, they’ve all been traded for future assets. Now, the Blackhawks are in the running to finish the season as one of the absolute worst teams in recent NHL history. But in doing so, they are also in position to potentially earn the right to select prodigy Connor Bedard in the upcoming draft.
This could be an effective approach for the Blackhawks. But it could also be an excruciating one.
Briere, meanwhile, is planning on taking a slightly different path, though it’s certain to take several years to materialize.
“That’s my belief,” he said.
“It needs to be done the right way. At this point, I think that’s what’s needed, that’s what’s gonna be important moving forward. Not rushing to things. We’re gonna keep evaluating players, we’ll have a lot of discussions in which direction we’re gonna move. But there’s no doubt that this is not a quick fix in my mind. I believe it’s gonna take a little while. But at the same time, it doesn’t mean that we’re gonna do a full fire sale and have a complete new team next year. There’s a lot of good players. There’s a lot of young players on this team.
“We’ve definitely gone on a younger side, and I think it shows at times. It showed this year, and it’s gonna show until the end of the year. We’re a younger team. We maybe lack a little bit of experience, but I think it’s the right way to go at this time.”
The Flyers’ younger players may lack experience, but they offer great potential — particularly two of their budding forwards.
Noah Cates has become a staple at center for head coach John Tortorella. The 24-year-old plays a reliable 200-foot game that’s been turning heads in his first full campaign as an NHLer, and it’s becoming clear that he’s wise beyond his years.
“This guy here stuck out right away as far as — I like calling it just what it is to be a pro,” said Tortorella after the Flyers’ February 5 win over the Detroit Red Wings.
“A little bit older than some guys, coming out of college, but I think he understands what it is, and the intangibles you need, to be a pro. He’s ahead of the game there.”
Cates has logged 10 goals and 27 points in 66 games this season.
Owen Tippett has also impressed this season. After being the centerpiece in the return for Claude Giroux at last year’s trade deadline, Tippett’s faced a lot of pressure to deliver on the ice. And while there have been some bumps in the road, he appears to be developing into quite a dynamic player.
Tippett has posted 18 goals and 34 points in 61 games this campaign while taking on extra minutes as he continues to earn more trust from Tortorella.
The Flyers’ young players have made great strides all year, but while their value steadily increases, the Flyers do not plan on moving the kids just for the sake of making changes as they enter this new era. If they’re going to do so, it needs to be for the right reason.
“Our young guys have a lot of value to us. At the same time, we’re not in the position to not listen to anyone, but the young guys are not the guys that we would be shopping, obviously,” said Briere.
“I’ve been really impressed in the development of (the Flyers’ young players) under John Tortorella. And that’s the really exciting part for me. Seeing some of the young guys take a step this year, and the last few days seeing also guys like Elliot Desnoyers and Tyson Foerster come up and hold their own gives us a lot of hope going forward. They’re all gonna be part of the evaluating process.
“You’ve seen, there’s no one that’s untouchable anywhere. If Wayne Gretzky can be traded, anyone can. But obviously some players have more value than others, and I’m not gonna deny that.”
Before Briere can trade anyone, though, he’ll probably need to be given the green light by Dave Scott, the current chairman of Comcast Spectacor and governor of the Flyers. After all, Briere still hasn’t locked up the full-time role as general manager. As of now, he’s still the interim GM.
Briere is unsure of what the timeline looks like for a full-time general manager to be named, but he is confident in his abilities to lead the Flyers into this rebuild.
And make no mistake — it is a rebuild.
“I think it’s the right thing to do. I’m okay with it. I don’t have a problem with the interim tag. I like that Dave and his staff are gonna 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.
“I’m honored to be here and to be in this position, and I want to do everything possible to help put this franchise on the right track at this point.”