Angst at hiring former Flyers is a tired narrative

Flyers' GM Daniel Briere, Laperrière
FILE – Philadelphia Flyers NHL hockey team newly appointed Special Assistant to the General Manager, Daniel Briere, arrives for a news conference in Philadelphia, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022. The Flyers have named long-time television analyst Keith Jones team president of hockey operations and have removed the interim tag from general manager Danny Briere’s title. Jones was a surprise choice Thursday, May 11, 2023, after he spent the last 23 years as an analyst for Flyers telecasts on NBC Sports Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

‘Why are they hiring former Flyers?!’

Again, the Philadelphia Flyers are restocking the front office with people who had former ties to the organization. The exclamation from the fanbase when a new executive or advisor with a history in Philadelphia joins the brain trust is a tired narrative.

The last regime featured fewer fingerprints from the Flyers’ history. Bobby Clarke, Paul Holmgren, and Bill Barber played in Philadelphia on the same roster between 1975-1984. Dean Lombardi was a Western Conference scout for the Flyers from 2003-2006. Chuck Fletcher held onto the President of Hockey Operations and GM positions.

John Tortorella will enter his second year as the head coach. Daniel Briere, Keith Jones, Patrick Sharp, and John LeClair were all former Flyers. The stigma behind restocking the front office with former Philadelphia influence was well addressed by Tortorella:

“I don’t get, in this process, when people start talking about Flyers Alumni. Jonesy, an ex-Flyer. Danny, an ex-Flyer. What has happened? Why do people think that they’re diseased; that they’re an ex-Flyer, if you come from the organization that you shouldn’t be in the organization, that you need to look outside?”

John Tortorella; 5/12/2023

Tortorella makes sense. Just over a month as GM, Briere seems better equipped to guide a rebuild than Fletcher, who wouldn’t mention the word. Jones is vastly connected throughout the NHL, a great face to represent the Flyers in the NHL. Sharp, recently a coaching advisor at the University of Vermont, focuses on player development with LeClair, an alumnus who maintained a presence with the organization. The heavy influence from former Flyers already established their direction instead of the unnecessary pivoting.

When a trade or contract negotiation smoothly executes, no one cares if the front office has former Flyers influence. As the interim GM, Briere signed Emil Andrae to an entry-level contract. Then, he netted a great haul when dealing Ivan Provorov to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Fletcher was the GM at the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline, unable to move James van Riemsdyk. As his track record shows, Fletcher put the Flyers against the cap ceiling, as he did formerly with the Minnesota Wild. In 2019-2020, the Flyers captured lightning in a bottle, coached by Alain Vigneault during a season interrupted by the COVID-19 virus. Until the bitter end, Fletcher scrambled to play catch up, spending draft capital in poor trades to follow with an expensive, unattractive extension.

That outside influence didn’t do the Flyers well, but now a new cast is excited and refreshed to bring hockey back to Philadelphia.

Briere studied the underbelly of successful rebuilds. Jones is the line of communication, keeping Dan Hilferty in touch.

Sharp understands the patience and approach to player development, as does LeClair. A former third-round pick with the Flyers, Sharp matured his game with the Chicago Blackhawks. LeClair, a former second-round pick, understands how to accentuate strengths and improve weaknesses. Ironically, both played for the University of Vermont and won a Stanley Cup with another NHL team. The influence is different; these former players won a Stanley Cup across three decades (1990s, 2000s, 2010s) while embracing evolution instead of falling behind.

Look at the state of the Flyers. Fans should be excited about the energy Hilferty, Briere, Jones, Tortorella, Sharp, and LeClair bring. A ton remains to be seen, but before generating the buzz of a tired narrative, give them a chance. Outside influence doesn’t mean better; it doesn’t correlate to success. If it did, Fletcher would still be in Philadelphia and Ron Hextall wouldn’t have capsized the Pittsburgh Penguins.

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)