At the end of one of the most abysmal seasons in the history of the Philadelphia Flyers franchise, I scored two center ice seats right above the glass. In the typical scenario, there would be no reason to be excited about watching the 2006-07 Flyers face off against the Buffalo Sabred, one of the best teams in the league.
In this case, though, I was there to unofficially scout the team’s leading point-getter, Danny Brière, who was set to hit the free agent market after the playoffs. We felt confident he would land in Philadelphia and greeted him with optimistic heckling along the lines of, “Danny, you’d look good in orange,” or “I know a realtor who can find you a place,” and “Help us, Danny B, you’re our only hope.”
It came as no shock that he signed in Philadelphia. It was still the Ed Snider era, where the organization gave a crap about both the team and its players. It was a warm, welcoming, but also brutal climate; one that Brière welcomed with open arms. He also, somehow felt he would have some anonymity here, as opposed to his hometown team, Montreal Canadiens. Maybe he was not under the same microscope here but he was certainly still under one.
It was hard to dislike Brière. He was a salt-of-the-earth, egoless player who did what he could to mentor young players, like Claude Giroux, as they worked their way through the ranks. Sure, he may have underperformed during the regular season but he crushed it where it mattered most, during the playoffs. So, if any animosity did exist with him, it was immediately wiped away during the postseason.
He is calm, soft-spoken, intelligent, and embodies all of the qualities of a true leader. Most of all, he embodied exactly what the Flyers have been missing for the last six years so: the culture Ed Snider worked so hard to build.
If for nothing else, rebuilding that environment is the first big step the Flyers need to take to return to the storied franchise they once were. I have full faith that he will do this, and with a sense of urgency.
That culture kept players here, made other players want to come here, and there was always room for a retired player to find work somewhere within the organization. To breathe life back into that entity that Dave Scott, Chuck Fletcher, et al. crushed would pay massive dividends.
Does that mean Brière will be a great General Manager? Not necessarily. While there are always indicators of how good or bad one may be at the helm of a team, there is no concrete way to answer that question. GMs and coaches who thrived in one environment, fell flat on their face in others — with the reverse also being true.
Do I believe he will even be the GM? It is possible. One of the right moves Dave Scott made was to decouple the roles of GM and President of Hockey Operations. This allows the team to hedge their bets, bring more experienced managers to the table, and would (hopefully) mean the person in each role would have the other as a sounding board; a way to think through and solve problems.
Assuming Brière is given one of those two roles beyond the current interim position, I expect the other person to be a more seasoned and battle-tested veteran team managers. This will allow Brière to grow into whichever position he is given — and one has to assume he will be given one — with some guidance but without as much pressure.
So, where does Danny Breeze fit into the grand scheme of things? I believe is his demeanor, maturity, and leadership skills make him a good candidate for the GM role. In this capacity, I believe he can have a direct impact on the players, the locker room, and all negotiations from new contracts to trade conversations with other organizations.
Assuming the interim tag is removed, Brière would be the 10th GM in franchise history. That may seem like a low number for a team that has been around for over half a century, but closed inspection would reveal that half of those changes occurred in this 16 or so years. For all of Dave Scott’s flaws and Comcast’s lack of concern, I do think they are targeting a candidate who will be here longterm and properly rebuild the team.
So far, they are off to a great start. That is the approach Brière is taking and has been quick to point out that a rebuild is not a fire sale. Trading young players the team can build around is not logical and I, for one, am relieved he is taking this approach. What is the benefit of trading someone like Travis Konecny only to hopefully draft a player they hope will blossom into another Travis Konecny? If he was in his 30s, it would make some sense but that is not the case.
When Brière was promoted to the Assistant to the General Manager role last year, I am sure he knew how this would play out at some point. Being the intelligent person that he is, I do not doubt he has spent the last year plotting the course for the future of the Flyers. Now, we must play the waiting game to see how it turns out. I think we will have a good indication of that after this offseason.