(Photo: Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)
By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor
One day after officially being named a special assistant to the general manager, Danny Briere met with the media on Wednesday morning to discuss the new role and how he factors into those plans. In the short term, not much changes.
Briere has already been involved in the Flyers organization in many areas, working in player development, scouting, helping evaluate talent, and will continue working in those areas.
“I know the organization pretty deeply from all my time and years here,” Briere said. “It’s probably over the years, or the next few years going to increase. I’m not sure yet at this point how deep it’s going to go, but from what I was told, I expect to be more and more involved as time goes on.”
Briere also figures to be involved in decisions made at the NHL Draft.
“That’s the plan. For us with the situation we’re in and unfortunately with the way the season has gone, the focus coming up will be what we decide to do at the trade deadline,” Briere said. “That will be the first focus coming up shortly. A re-shift maybe towards the amateur draft coming and the position we’re in. Again, it’s unfortunate right now but it might be an opportunity that we have to take advantage of. We have to be prepared for that. That will probably be the next step after the trade deadline.”
Briere has risen through the ranks over the years, so much so that he was on the Montreal Canadiens radar for their GM vacancy a few weeks ago. The job ultimately went to Kent Hughes, but Briere’s value was certainly noted, and the Flyers felt the need to give him an official title for his duties with the team.
“It started with Paul Holmgren bringing me aboard, along with Shawn Tilger,” Briere said. “Valerie [Camillo] believing in me to keep doing that. Mike Shane has been great in teaching me the last few years. I had a lot of help from Adam Goldberg in Maine, and that’s one thing I want to say. Our staff in Maine, this last season has grown in revenues, our season ticket base by up to 25, maybe even more percent. Our staff there has been tremendous in making me look good, so I definitely want to give a shout out to them in all that they’ve done.
“Building an organization from all aspects, but at the same time, the situation that I’m coming in here with the people that are already in place that I’ll be working closely with. When I think of, obviously Dave Scott and Chuck Fletcher, but also Brent Flahr and Barry Hanrahan, who have been in those positions for years. They have a lot of experience. It’s a pretty cool situation for someone who’s starting in the business. I feel very, very fortunate to have people that have that experience all around me.”
Briere joins that group tasked with getting the Flyers back on course as an organization. It will require a lot of work, but how soon does the former Flyers player see the franchise making a turn back in the right direction.
“It’s tough to tell how long it could take for that turnaround,” Briere said. “Obviously, we would love to see the turnaround starting tonight. Being realistic, it might be next year or the following year. Who knows?
“I think there's a lot that comes into play. Let’s say we don’t make a push here to make the playoffs and we become sellers. Well, it becomes who’s available to sell at the deadline, and it also depends on what's available on the other side of the table. When you get a draft pick, it might take a little longer. If you get guys who are coming to the lineup right away to help you out, that might rush it a little bit more. It’s tough to tell at this point. One thing I know is there’s a lot of good players and I don’t think we’re a team that’s as bad as what the standings are showing at this point.”
Briere cited the injuries to centermen like Sean Couturier and Kevin Hayes as a key reason for the struggles in the standings.
In terms of helping the turnaround, Briere is focusing on developing players who are already in the system, but also not denying that the Flyers’ greatest need is more impact talent.
“I agree with Chuck when he said high end talent. Difference makers that can on a nightly basis come in,” Briere said. “Obviously, Coots not being there really hurts. [Claude Giroux] has pulled more than his weight. He’s been awesome, but they’ll need support.”
Among players in the system where development is crucial, Briere cited recent picks like Tyson Foerster, Zayde Wisdom, Cam York, and Bobby Brink.
There is some irony that Briere enters this position and may even be a future general manager in training at a time when the Flyers franchise is due to undergo some significant changes. When Briere signed with the Flyers after the 2006-07 season, the team had just completed its worst season in franchise history. Are there similarities to this season’s team?
“I certainly hope so,” Briere said. “I remember when I signed that year, I think the Flyers were last the previous season. It looked pretty bleak. Sometimes you’ve got to look a little deeper and find the positive. At the time, I believed in what Paul Holmgren was doing. I believed in the players that were in the system coming up. I thought it was a team that was being built for the future, not just for a year or two. That’s why I was so interested in joining the Flyers back then. Hopefully we can have that same kind of turnaround. I said it earlier, sometimes you have a bad season, well you’ve got to take advantage of it. There’s other opportunities that show up in front of you, you’ve got to jump on that.”