Now that the dust has mostly settled on the Cutter Gauthier situation, it's time for a reflection on the events of the past week. The Gauthier camp has decided to keep the matter private. Jamie Drysdale has arrived in Philadelphia, providing an immediate jolt to the Flyers back end. We had our first real "Torts moment" with a member of the local media. Flyers fans traveled in bunches to a Boston College hockey game to give Gauthier a piece of their mind. While I don't condone the latter, you can't argue Philly fans don't travel well.
Most significantly though, the management triumvirate, consisting of General Manager Daniel Briere, President of Hockey Operations Keith Jones, and CEO/Chairman of Comcast Spectacor Daniel Hilferty, demonstrated a firm understanding of what this fan-base needs from them.
Truthfully, they did not have to act as quickly as they did. The Flyers could have played hardball with the former fifth overall pick, opting to wait until 2026 --- the year they would no longer own his rights --- to see if the youngster would perhaps have a change of heart. After all, that was the approach they initially took when it was first revealed Gauthier was not interested in playing for the club. Had things played out that way and Gauthier still remained firm, the Flyers would have received just a second round pick in compensation for not signing their 2022 first round selection. Quite a far cry from the return they ultimately got from Anaheim in Jamie Drysdale and a 2025 second round pick.
After news of the trade broke midway through the first period of Monday's match-up against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Briere, Jones, and Hilferty all made themselves available to the media in a bit of an unusual move. Briere held an emergency press conference. Jones appeared during the first intermission on the Flyers TV broadcast with announcers Jim Jackson and Brian Boucher. Hilferty joined the Snow the Goalie podcast, a team-sponsored podcast held in the Assembly Room section of the Wells Fargo Center, during the second intermission.
The message was simple and coordinated: Cutter Gauthier did not want to play in Philadelphia and would not tell us why. They were open about the timeline, the process, and the result. We were given insight into how many teams they engaged with and the lines of communication they tried unsuccessfully to open with Gauthier's camp. We learned quite a bit about the player and the individual that Jamie Drysdale is, and why we should be excited to see him in orange and black.
In his appearance with Snow the Goalie, Hilferty made it clear that this plan of attack was no accident.
"What I'm most proud of is this: We said to the fans as we came in, this new regime, this new era of orange, that we would be upfront and honest with you."- Daniel Hilferty
I'd say, so far, they've kept their promise and then some. When the group first joined the organization, they were honest about the state of the team, appropriately set expectations, and finally used the once taboo term "rebuild." Something the last regime, in Chuck Fletcher and Dave Scott, could never bring themselves to do.
Speaking of, it’s worth revisiting Scott and Fletcher's tenure to illustrate some of the lessons learned. During a mid-season "state of things" presser in the 2021-2022 season, Dave Scott, Chairman of Comcast Spectacor at the time, prematurely claimed that the Flyers would somehow be right back in the playoff race the following year, despite sporting a 13-22-8 record. Unsurprisingly, that never panned out. Earlier that year, in a now infamous attempt to not use the dreaded "rebuild" word, then GM Chuck Fletcher referred to their plan as an "aggressive retool", only serving to further muddy the waters. Fletcher would later refuse to back off that strategy in the 2022 off-season.
Compare that to what Tortorella said on the matter just six months after Fletcher doubled down, and you get a much different picture.
"This team needs to be built and it needs to be built from the footers. We're not even in the foundation, we're in the footer position as far as I'm concerned to just try and build this foundation the proper way."- John Tortorella
Add to that the lack of transparency surrounding injury timelines to key Flyers players (namely, Ryan Ellis, Sean Couturier, and Cam Atkinson). In all cases, day-to-day turned to week-to-week to eventually season ending injuries and, in Ellis' case, the end of a career. I understand player privacy and bad luck played some role here, but with each instance, you couldn't help but feel like you were getting the run around. I could excuse one occurrence, but three indicates a pattern. It quickly became difficult to trust management.
When the new management team was introduced, you got the sense that they were hyper aware of where they stood and that trust had been shattered. It would take a different approach to restore that once sacred bond between team and fan that existed in the Ed Snider era. And, it would not happen overnight. No one knew that more than Keith Jones.
"When fans become apathetic to an organization, they stop listening and stop paying attention. We want to give them a reason to come back. We also hear the ones that are disgruntled. We hear the ones that are still interested but angry. We want you. We want your opinion. We're listening and we want to make it right. We're not there right now, we understand that."- Keith Jones
National media has also begun to notice this shift. After Briere appeared on the Jeff Marek show to offer further insight on the Gauthier trade, Jeff thanked Briere for his time and noted, "Listen, the Philadelphia Flyers are a fascinating team to cover...From our perch and anyone in media will tell you, it's not very often you get teams that are willing to be as transparent and offer as much as you, and Keith Jones, and Dan Hilferty do."
We're just as grateful.