What we learned about the Flyers’ plan under Jones, Briere: Is a real rebuild coming?

Elliotte Friedman joins the Jeff Marek Show to discuss how the Flyers hiring Keith Jones as president and Daniel Briere as GM highlight's how important legacy is to this organization and the fans, and how Briere will be the guy making all the calls.

Missing the playoffs for three seasons in a row now — their longest drought in 29 years — the Philadelphia Flyers are stuck in the last place you want to be in the NHL: the mushy middle.

Their direction is largely undefined. Were they supposed to be making a playoff push in 2023 after last summer’s addition of Tony DeAngelo to the top four, and Nic Deslauriers for more toughness? When the team pushed ahead with the young-ish players of promise they do have instead of shuffling the deck chairs after back-to-back post-season misses, were they thinking they’d finish closer than 17 points behind the cut-off line?

And how will this latest disappointing finish inform what they plan to do from here?

On Friday, the Flyers officially announced their new braintrust structure, headed by Keith Jones as president of hockey operations and directed by Daniel Briere as general manager. Head coach John Tortorella, hired last summer, remains in a key role as well. That his role was defined in the team’s press release announcing the new front office, and his attendance at their introductory press conference, says a lot about how he’ll factor into the team’s decisions and directions from here.

In a way, this hockey department seems like it will be a three-headed team and the word “collaboration” came up often when describing how they would work together. But aside from wondering how this team will function, the Flyers are heading into a very important summer where returning status quo again in 2023-24 just can’t be an option.

So what is the plan now and who does the buck really stop at? Here’s what we gleaned from Friday’s press conference as to how Jones, Briere and Tortorella will operate and what sort of moves could be on the table for them in the summer months.


The Flyers have been leaning into the slogan ‘A New Era of Orange’ where they’ve committed to “new ways to work, new ways to train and new ways to win.” But, of course, those on the outside see the two major hires (president of hockey ops and GM) once again being a couple of former Flyers players…which is not at all new for an organization that has employed the likes of Bobby Clarke, Ron Hextall and Paul Holmgren in front office jobs before.

CEO Dan Hilferty, himself new to the position vacated by Dave Scott on April 17, said the decision to hire Jones came after a wide search that involved three recruiting companies before they made their choice. Briere had a few months on the job with the interim tag where he did work closely with Tortorella and under the watch of the organization, so they decided to keep him on board from there full time.

“I know some people are thinking ‘here they go again, hiring two former players isn’t a fresh start.'” Hilferty said. “Let me share with you that during the process our goal was to hire the two best candidates. It just happens they’re former Flyers. We were inspired by the titans who won us championships in 1974 and ’75. We need to channel the spirit of those early years as we build anew. Equally, we need to embrace today’s modern game, one that requires speed, power, and strategy like never before.”

Alumni involvement and remembering their history has always been an important part of the Flyers franchise, and rightfully so. But for a team that’s in such disarray on the ice and desperately in need of a meaningfully new direction to find positive results again, this can sound like they’re conducting business the same and have the same goals as ever before.

The vision for the team that was painted on Friday was all about doing things differently, embracing modern tactics and figuring out a new way forward. But there was no mistaking how the past will always be part of this picture, too.

Are Jones and Briere the right leaders to set this team on the right path, or are the Flyers still clinging to their traditional way of operating? This crucial summer will start to give us an idea if anything is really new here.

“I don’t get sometimes in this process when people start talking about Flyers alumni — Jones an ex-Flyer, Danny an ex-Flyer. What has happened?” Tortorella expressed. “Why do people think they’re diseased? That you shouldn’t be in this organization, that we should look outside? It’s the person you’re looking at. I’m proud they’re Flyers. I’m proud of these guys over here and other alumni that care about this organization. I think we have strong personalities and I think they care. And I don’t get some of the thinking out in this city ‘oh they got an ex-Flyer again they’re doing it the same way.’ God damn. It is so important to have that belief.”

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“Collaboration” was the word of the day and best describes how Jones, Briere and Tortorella intend to operate. But their job titles still beg the question: who is in charge of this whole thing?

As it was explained, Jones as president of hockey operations will be in charge of the “big picture” and “implementing the organization’s vision and plan.” He is to collaborate not only with Briere and Tortorella, but those on the business side and with the NHL when necessary.

Briere is to “oversee all hockey decisions” and that he will “apply the data and analytics along with coach Tortorella’s view of the eye test to make the best decision.” When it comes to trades, signings, draft decisions, etc., Briere seems to have the reins. And this would fall in line with something Elliotte Friedman described about the Flyers’ process when he appeared on the Jeff Marek Show Thursday.

“The Philadephia Flyers are all-in on Daniel Briere as GM,” he said. “He is making the calls.

“I’m aware of one person they interviewed (for president of hockey ops) and that person was ‘I’d like to make decisions’ or ‘I’d like a lot of say in decisions’ and they were like nope. You’ll consult with (Briere) and be part of the process, but he is making the calls and that person didn’t want that. And I think it was made very clear if you weren’t willing to accept that structure then you weren’t going to be there.”

That said, while it is Briere’s responsibility to put the on-ice product together and that he will have the freedom to act as he feels is best, it seems to still be Jones’ vision that this whole operation will be defined by.

“Keith is the leader of the team,” Hilferty said. “That would include all aspects of team building, setting a vision and also hiring and firing.”

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As the rival Pittsburgh Penguins search for a new GM — and more — to rebuild their front office, long-time coach Mike Sullivan is playing an influential role. Similarly, the Flyers are leaning in on Tortorella being part of taking this thing forward. Sometimes a new GM and front office spells doom for the bench boss, but the team made it clear that he would have a voice in this process.

When the Flyers announced these two hires on Thursday, they described what the roles of president of hockey operations and GM would be and how they would work together to calm any concerns about what the chain of command would be.

Interestingly, Tortorella’s role was also described in that release and how “he’ll provide input on various management topics.”

On Friday, Hilferty called Tortorella the team’s “spiritual leader.”

“Everybody has the personality to voice their opinion and not just agree along the way. I think that’s what the process is about. I’m thrilled. The time I’ve spent with Danny I’m so excited to work with him because he’s got such a great mind,” Tortorella said Friday. “(Jones) has followed the league for years, talking to coaches, GMs, understanding systems, all that, it’s so important to get his view. We’re going to have some arguments along the way and that’s healthy. To know we’re in it together, I’m thrilled.”


Here we are with a brand new front office, a supposed new era, and a lot of excitement (at least from within the team) about how it’s all going to bring success again.

However, the work on the roster is about to begin and questions remain about what to do with players who have come up in trade rumours before (namely Ivan Provorov and Rasmus Ristolainen) or with other members of a core that just hasn’t gotten it done (such as Travis Konecny, or Joel Farabee or Morgan Frost, among others). Under the past regime, the Flyers tried to keep their younger players together, banked on improvement and providing that group support in depth, muscle, etc.

And there could be a built in excuse to not react too wildly this summer, given key players Sean Couturier, Cam Atkinson and Ryan Ellis (who likely won’t play again) all missed the entire season. The Flyers of the past may have pushed ahead.

So if this is indeed a new era, what is that going to mean for the core of the past?

It’s very early days for Jones on the job so his plan wasn’t discussed much in depth on Friday. But the way Hilferty described the expectations from the top — “sometimes things can get worse before they can get better” — seemed to open the door to a meaningful rebuild of the team.

Of course, saying you’re going to rebuild isn’t as easy as actually going through the pain of one — especially if felt at the ticket office. Aside from running back the same group again in 2023-24, the next worst outcome may be to try a rebuild early, but not have the organizational fortitude to patiently see it through.

So what kind of leeway will this group have from the CEO, and what will ownership be looking for to ensure the team is on the path it intends to be?

“We all are aligned that this effort, this new era, will take time,” Hilferty said. “We’re gonna do it the right way. We’re going to be calculated in everything we do and be measured in taking steps forward.

“We are all committed to bringing our fan base along. Frankly, having a positive dialogue with those in the media so you can see what we’re doing and why we’re doing it and that, yes, it’ll be a multi-year process. I believe, optimistically so, that if we share that with the fans and meet them where they are, they’ll come along on that journey.”

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As the Ottawa Senators go through the sale process and are set to top $1 billion from whatever the winning bid is, and two years after the Penguins were sold for $900 million, Hilferty said many people through the interview process asked him if Comcast Spectacor would be selling the Flyers.

It was a topic the CEO brought up unprompted, telling those in attendance that the team was not for sale and that Comcast planned to own the Flyers for a long time to come.

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