Flyers Announce “New Era of Orange” Introduce Danny Briere and Keith Jones into New Roles
The Flyers’ Front Office came out swinging to both markets and defend what they portray as the dawn of a new era of Flyers hockey. It started right as the introduction when Valerie Camillo lauded head coach John Tortorella as the first step to creating this new and improved Flyers franchise.
New Governor of the Flyers, Dan Hilferty, was the first to step up to the podium with a prepared speech. He was complimentary of what the Flyers have been. He lauded the good that former owner Ed Snider did not just for the team, but for the community and the city of Philadelphia.
Through those stories of what the Flyers have been, and what they’ve meant to the fans and the community writ large, Hilferty showed himself as far more connected–and invested–to the essence of the Flyers than its previous owner. It was a good first step to convincing a cynical and downtrodden fanbase that, maybe, help was on the way.
If you allowed yourself to be fully immersed in the stories that the various speakers had to tell, you’d leave the press conference with a sense of hope and optimism. Moments like that have been few and far between. The primary goal of this press conference–this event, really–was to provide that missing spark of belief and of hope.
One wellspring of optimism for the especially skeptical fan? That would be for Comcast to sell the team and to give it to someone else, to someone who seemed more invested in the fate of the franchise.
Hilferty went out of his way to quash that idea, declaring “The Flyers are NOT for sale. Comcast Spectator intends to have a long and successful reign owning the Flyers.”
If you were truly invested in Comcast selling the team, you’d have probably heard Emperor Palpatine declaring that he would never stop clinging to the Galactic Empire. For better or worse, Hilferty certainly didn’t intend to sound villainous. Instead, he wanted to sound transformative.
His point–a theme laden in every sentence of his speech–was that Comcast didn’t need to sell the team to find someone who cared about the fate of the Flyers. They had someone like that already in him. With his taking over for Dave Scott, the necessary “sale” had already transpired.
The Flyers were being controlled by a fan who had attended the parade celebrating the 1976 Stanley Cup, and more importantly, by someone who was personally invested in the long-term health of the franchise.
If anything, Hilferty–to this point–was primarily guilty of sounding like someone who had lost the plot of what it takes to run a successful team in the modern NHL.
That problem reached its boiling point when he declared, “We intend to compete at a high-level year after year.”
Smart fans know that just isn’t possible. If you want to contend in this hard cap era, it will come with moments… no, years… of pain. But that was when Hilferty pivoted, and suggested that he too understood that dilemma.
“It will take time. We aren’t perfect.”
A necessary rebuild that he’s chosen to frame as being necessary because humans are imperfect organisms. Perhaps that’s the right way to look at it. Maybe we should have the same understanding of competition as devout Christians do of their religious following.
You aspire to the highest ideal, even as you remain fully cognizant that it’s impossible to always reach that goal. You don’t embrace failure as meaningful, and you don’t celebrate losses, but you do accept that it’s a meaningful part of the process.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how Comcast Spectacor chooses to justify the Flyers’ situation to themselves. It matters how they intend to solve it. And on that front, Hilferty was clear.
The ultimate goal was, “To eventually deliver a championship or more and to be the envy of the NHL.”
This new initiative–this New Era of Orange–is about recognizing and appreciating the past while charting a new path forward. Hilferty thanked the Alumni for all they’ve done and assured them that the basest traditions would still be honored.
But if anyone was listening for subtext, it would be hard to escape hearing an unspoken: “Good luck in your future endeavors.”
A cynical Flyers fan–which at this point, would be a logical Flyers fan–would be quick to point out that this new era doesn’t feel very new. After all, they just hired two former players!
Hilferty saw the line coming and brought it up himself.
“Here they go again. Hiring two former Flyers isn’t a fresh start!”
Hilferty’s defense was an easy one, perhaps a natural one. It might even be true. He wasn’t going to rule out who he sees as the best candidates simply because they happen to be former Flyers.
It’s hard not to nod your head in agreement, especially when you think about all the other front offices in the NHL–successful front offices, at that–who have former players at the forefront of their org.
Hilferty was sure to sell himself as someone who understands the needs of this modern game. A modern game that requires “speed, power, and strategy like never before.”
The usual refrain is “speed and skill,” but Hilferty went a step further than the cliché. Power is still very much at a premium in this modern game. Just look at the players who stand atop this great game. Leon Draisaitl, Matthew Tkachuk, Nathan MacKinnon, and even Connor McDavid, all provide varying levels of strength and power.
A lot of what people think of as “skill” could be more aptly described as a strategy. A cool deke is one part using your hands in a fancy way, and two parts having the cunning to manipulate and wrongfoot your opposition.
If Hilferty’s objective was to show that he understands–at least at a base level–how the modern game is played? That one line did a better job of it than any I’ve heard in some time.
Before he departed, Hilferty was sure to describe the point of the President of Hockey Ops. It’s mostly a front-facing position. It’s a person who mostly centers around “collaboration.”
To collaborate with hockey ops. To collaborate with business ops. To collaborate with the league when that’s necessary. To collaborate with Comast on high.
The POHO would be the interface that manages all of that. It’s a hub of communication with all sorts of sources. Someone whose job is to smooth out the various jobs of everyone around him.
For that, it would make sense that a broadcaster like Keith Jones was a desirable candidate. After all, as Keith himself pointed out, everyone in a front office nowadays is his friend!
From Joe Sakic to Chris Drury to Rick Tocchet, he’s played with–and further met as a broadcaster–essentially every important figure of authority in the league today. Keith said little of what his plans are next. Perhaps it’s hard to have plans in this position. But he did lay out one goal of his.
He wants to make Philadelphia the preferred destination for players around the league. He wants the Flyers to be the team that everyone wants to come to. It’s an exciting idea.
Many people eschew the Rangers’ strategy of rebuilding as unworkable because Artemi Panarin and Adam Fox pulled every string to get themselves to New York.
Keith Jones sees things slightly differently. Why not just make Philadelphia into New York? Why can’t we be the place that everyone wants to come to? Whether he succeeds or fails in that quest, one thing that people can’t question is his communication abilities. The man knows how to clearly state his goals and objectives:
It’s a fun, tantalizing, and risky proposition that Jones laid out. It’s a proposition that risks destroying the limited goodwill brought into the franchise because the Flyers decided to eschew rebuilding in favor of another decade of chasing shiny objects with no plan and no greater thought process.
The man whose responsibility it will be to stop that from happening? Daniel Briere, the newly christened official GM of the Philadelphia Flyers. As we all expected, the interim label was removed. And there was no second thought or further process. He was the guy from day 1.
Dan Hilferty volunteered this information when he said Danny was the right man for the job… because he watched him doing the job, and it sure as hell seemed right to him. If he was going to be a bit more cagey, he’d have accurately summarized the idea as: “Danny just gives off GM vibes.”
It’s an assessment that’s extremely difficult to take umbrage with. Danny Briere does seem groomed for this job. The orange tie was a nice touch that seemed straight out of a politician’s wardrobe, using his suit garments to express unity with the people he’s meant to represent.
The words and the cadence in which those words come only further amplify the “GM vibes” that Briere emits.
Valeri Camillo described him as data-driven and analytical, an assessment with a backstory.
Look no further than his summer work with Travis Konecny, using Ian Anderson’s analytics and tracking data to diagnose Konecny’s sudden lack of scoring touch as a failure to work the inside of the ice.
With Briere’s help, Konecny re-engineered his routes on the ice. Simple loops around the net and skating displays along the side wall became purposeful drives to the front of the net, precisely timed with the arrival of the puck.
A man who scored 16 goals in the last full season, who had never scored more than 24 goals in a full season, scored 31 in 60 games. He notched over a point per game, with 61 points in 60 games. It tied his career high, and he did that in 6 fewer games than a 19-20 season thought to be magical.
Briere used data and his own experience as an offensive forward in hockey to help Konecny reach a new level. More than that, he showed how dangerous offensive weapons are built.
That story is more than just a cool anecdote. It’s proof of concept. It’s an indication that Briere does know how hockey teams are built, just as he’s repeatedly claimed he does.
Briere has been unafraid to use the word “rebuild,” and has actually carved it into the lexicon of ownership–when it was previously as taboo as the name Voldemort was to Hogwarts.
He hasn’t committed to any 5-year tear-downs, but nobody ever will. Rebuilds are a year-by-year thing, where you do it… until you don’t need to do it anymore.
Perhaps that will take 3 years from today. Perhaps it will take 1 year from today. Perhaps it will take less than that, or maybe it will take a decade from this very day.
Danny doesn’t know. It’s that recognized uncertainty that should be a comfort to Flyers fans. If he gave you a timeline, he’d be giving you a deadline. And if he had a deadline? He’d be pressured to make moves that were rushed and ill-timed, returning this team to the mediocrity that crippled it from 2012 to 2021.
Rebuilding can become an excuse. It can turn into a crutch, where you never even attempt to field a winning team or pay out the money necessary to build one. Just look at the Arizona Coyotes, who have been “rebuilding” for the last decade plus.
But premature action is equally as devastating as negligence. Just look at the Buffalo Sabres, whose rebuild will ultimately have taken 12-14 years to truly bear any fruit. Because they pulled the plug too quickly.
Ownership is trusting Danny to manage this rebuild without becoming the Coyotes and without becoming the Sabres. It’s his first day on the job, and he’s been given a tightrope to walk. His success or failure will chart the course of the Flyers for a decade to come.
They believe he can walk that tightrope. And he seems eager to prove that he can. Why not be just a little optimistic while we give him a chance to step his foot on the wire?
Mandatory Credit: Johnny Ulecka