Briere’s authority, Jones’ hire, and more from Flyers “New Era of Orange” leadership

Philadelphia Flyers (Ethan Grugan)
Philadelphia Flyers (Ethan Grugan) /

The Flyers ushered in the “New Era of Orange” on Friday more as the five-person leadership group took the stage together for the first time. They welcomed in the new hires, spoke about the process to get there, and what the process may look like moving forward.

It was Danny Briere and Keith Jones who stood in an unfamiliar position. They were on the Wells Fargo Center floor, as opposed to the ice they once played on. They weren’t wearing the jerseys they once donned, though they were each handed one to celebrate the occasion.

This was to welcome Briere as the new GM and Jones the President of Hockey Operations. This was to welcome in the new era for the Flyers.

Briere was always the GM

Named the interim GM when Chuck Fletcher was fired in March, Briere had approximately two months to get his feet wet and make an impression.

Turns out to did exactly that.

"“I got to know Danny, I can tell you from a personal point of view, watching him as a leader, as a well-organized, experienced person in the space, interim tag or not, I can tell you from the first day that we really interacted, I viewed him as the next GM of the Philadelphia Flyers.” Dan Hilferty said. “So, the process went on in my head, conversations with Valerie, just watching how he and Torts interacted, we just felt strongly there was no need for a process. We had our General Manager.”"

But with Briere’s inexperience as a GM, the expectation was that he would need someone alongside him that had more experience around the league.

Or so everyone thought. That didn’t end up being the way that Hilferty viewed it. They wanted to get the best person that would be able to combine with Briere and Tortorella to form a collaborative group.

"“So for me, it was about finding that person who was the third part of that triumvirate that would make the collective more successful. I would say in that regard, I never considered what the job was before, I just considered what the three together could do.”"

But why will each of them do individually? Briere doesn’t have the GM experience and Jones doesn’t have the POHO experience either. The President typically rules over the GM. How is it going to work with two individuals who lack any experience?

"”I believe in teamwork, just like Jonesy has said. Having someone of his stature come in being involved with our team – everybody that’s going to be part of it – but to add Keith there in the room, I’m ecstatic about it,” Briere said. “I’m so excited just listening to his opinion over the years, having a chance to be around him with some alumni stuff that we’ve done over the years, I can’t be any happier than to have them around there. So, I have no worries that it’s going to work.”"

Having a leadership group like this is still a fairly unique thing around the league. Prior to this season, the Flyers had the GM and POHO jobs as one. Now moving into a new style and new structure, there isn’t a lot to look at in terms of something like this working.

But in Hilferty’s experience, he has seen structures like this work before. If it works here though, he joked that he doesn’t want to see other teams following in the Flyers footsteps.

"“It’s about both understanding our roles, and being willing to let others lead when they have an expertise or a talent that can lead us. I know it sounds trite, maybe, but it really has worked for me in other industries.”“But I do know that the most successful organizations in the world are organizations where people band together and understand each other’s skills and let each other lead when it’s their turn to lead.”"

This was “the only team” Jones wanted

In Jones’ long-lasting broadcasting career, he never once thought about using it to campaign for a position such as this. But it was only ever going to be for the Flyers if the job came along.

"“It was not an easy decision, but this is the only team that I would have ever thought about doing something like this. I would not have interviewed anywhere else. I have only done my job on television to do my job on television. I never campaigned to get in a position to take a job like this. I just wanted to do the best job I could in relaying the message to our fans here in Philadelphia on what our team was doing on the ice.”"

For the Flyers, Jones’ lack of experience in a front office role didn’t matter. He’s spoken to plenty of people around the league and has developed numerous relationships that can help him and Briere moving forward.

Having that kind of insight is something that Jones himself believes will help him in this kind of position. Within those relationships, Jones will be able to help Briere as he makes those kind of tough decisions within the organization over the next few months.

"“I’m here for Danny Briere, whatever he needs whenever he needs it. I will give my opinion to Danny and Danny will make the final decision on player personnel, trades, etc. He’s going to be on the phone a lot. He’s going to be busy, there’s no doubt, but I will be there for him at all times. That will be my role.”"

Tortorella’s evolving role

So where does Tortorella fit into all of this. He’s just the head coach, right?

It seems as if he is going to be more than that in this group. He’s already developed a solid relationship with Briere. Toward the end of the season, Tortorella had his assistants coaching games so he was able to watch from above and discuss things with Briere.

While Tortorella was his usual blunt self in saying he hating watching from above, Briere enjoyed getting to have those conversations. In speaking with Anthony San Filippo, Briere talked about what those conversations were like.

"“It was awesome,” Briere said. “How many GM’s have the chance to sit down during a real regular season game to talk about different ways to look at a game? To me, it was fantastic. To see the way he was looking at it, the way he was breaking it down and what was important to him as a coach in real time – it was a great move. I really enjoyed watching a game with him. There was some frustration for him too, because being up there you lose a little bit of a sense of what is going on down on ice level. But, it allowed him to see what we see and why we say some of the things we say by watching from upstairs and not from where he normally is, right in the thick of it where things are going 100 miles per hour. So, it was great and beneficial for both of us.”"

While head coaches often have a seat at the table in one way or another, this feels different. This feels as if Tortorella will have more influence than most coaches do on how this team is run.

And with Tortorella, you’re always going to get honesty no matter what. And that’s something that will have to work all ways in order to make this collaboration a possibility.

"“The way I look at this hire, which is just a fantastic hire both ways – Danny was the GM for me, interim tag or not,” Tortorella said. “We have gone about our business that way from day one. Bringing on Jonesy here, the thing – and Danny just touched upon it – I think what you have here are two strong hockey minds, and personalities not being afraid to shed their opinion in discussions. I think that is going to be so productive.“"

“This is Mr Snider’s team”

This talk of a new era feels like it could be something that moves this team forward. It’s going to take time and that’s the important thing to note. It won’t be an easy fix and it has to be done the right way.

So how can Hilferty consider things to be a success this season?

"“My barometer for success will be just making sure that we continue to work as a team, and that these three professionals working with – I believe – the best leader in sports and entertainment in Valerie, that we are truly moving in the right direction.“ Hilferty said."

There is a buzz and excitement surrounding the Flyers. It’s something that hasn’t been felt since the late Ed Snider was around. There is an importance to honor what Snider did for this organization. And that is the lasting messages Jones wanted to leave with everyone.

"“This is Mr. Snider’s team. This is the Philadelphia Flyers. We’re going to work hard to honor that. To get out there for him. He did a lot for all of us, so we’re not going to lose sight of that. That’s one of the most important messages you can get from leaving here today.” Jones said at the end of the press conference."