Danny Briere

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Daniel Briere on starting up an ECHL franchise, his future in management (PHT Q&A)

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It didn’t take long for Danny Briere to get back into hockey following his August 2015 retirement. Two months later, he was working for the Philadelphia Flyers learning the ropes of management under the guidance of Paul Holmgren.

That experience prepped him for the next step in his post-playing career: management.

This past summer, Comcast Spectacor, parent company of the Flyers, bought the ECHL’s Alaska Aces, who were ceasing operations, and moved them to Portland and renamed them the Maine Mariners. Briere was named vice president of hockey operations and has been helping the franchise get prepared for its start for the 2018-19 season.

Portland had AHL hockey as recently as two years ago, but the Pirates were sold and moved to Springfield, Mass., which caught many in the community by surprise. Briere and his staff have been working to re-connect with the fanbase. They also now have a head coach after hiring Riley Armstrong. And while the franchise is owned by Comcast Spectacor, the Mariners are not affiliated with the Flyers or any NHL team at the moment.

We recently spoke to Briere about his move into management, what a day in his life looks like now and his future working in hockey.

Enjoy.

Q. How did this opportunity with Mariners come about?

BRIERE: “I always had a good relationship with Paul Holmgren. He’s the one who signed me with the Flyers when I was a free agent back in 2007. After I retired he approached me and gave me the opportunity to get involved on the business side with the Flyers, kind of learning a different facet of the organization that I didn’t know much or anything about. It’s been amazing. It’s really gotten me out of my comfort zone. At first, I was completely clueless to what was going on around me, but they have amazing people in the office that have helped me learn the business side and feeling more and more comfortable every day. It’s been a fun challenge; very uncomfortable at times, but that all started with Paul Holmgren bringing me aboard and giving me the chance to learn first-hand how it works behind closed doors.”

What are your duties now and will they change once the franchise is up and running next fall?

“I followed Paul around for a couple of years, along with [Flyers Chief Operating Officer, Alternate Governor] Shawn Tilger, they’ve been great at integrating me on the business side. When this opportunity came and Comcast Spectacor, who owns the Flyers, bought this ECHL franchise, Paul and Shawn approached me about running the business side of the hockey department for that franchise. I thought it was a great opportunity for me to get my toes wet a little bit, to learn first-hand and really move forward to make my own decisions a little bit. It’s not just about following and seeing how things work, but now I have a little bit more of a say and I have to make decisions. It’s been great. I don’t know moving forward what the deal will be. I’m just kind of running with this at this point and trying to make the best of it and trying to enjoy it as much as I can.”

Run me through a typical day for you as you’re getting things up and running?

“It’s checking in with the people up in Maine at this point. Because we don’t have a hockey team going, it’s mostly building the front office, checking in with [vice president of business development] Adam Goldberg up there, making sure everything is working right, that he has all the tools to function. It’s trying to get our name out in the community in Portland, letting people know that we have the team coming back, trying to get people back on board. And also some stuff on the hockey department, especially here in the second half looking at hockey games, trying to find players that might be enticing to add to our group and to bring to Portland for next year.

“I think it’s a job that evolved because we’re starting from scratch. You’re building a front office, now we’re going to start building the hockey side and then we have to put the team together before we start playing. There’s different stages and we’re moving towards every stage so far without too many problems. It’s been good. It’s been a lot of fun, but it’s a role that evolves as we moved forward.”

Did you have an idea of what you wanted to do after playing?

“No, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I’ve always liked the finance field. It’s something that I was always drawn into from an early age. But I also had no clue how much involvement it entailed [working in an] organization, how much work needed to be done on the business side. When I played I was worried about meetings on the teams I was going to face, on the power play we were going to bring up that night, the goalies I was going to face, the defensemen. So I had no idea how many people it needed, how much work needed to be done to get a game ready, to get people in the stands, to get advertising for a franchise to function. It’s been really cool to see a different side of hockey that I didn’t know much about.”

Do you see this as a first step into NHL management someday?

“Honestly, I hope so, but at this point I’m not looking too much forward. I want to enjoy what’s going on now. I’m having a blast, I’m having fun with this. I’m trying to soak it all in as much as I can to get some experience. It’s not very often that you have the chance to start an organization from scratch. We saw Vegas do it last year and they’ve been extremely successful, so they’re a good example as well. But it doesn’t happen very often. I’m trying to gather as much experience and information as I can as I’m going through it. I believe that moving forward it’s probably going to benefit me. It’s probably going to help me moving forward. That’s the way I see it, but I don’t have any long-term goals that I’m trying to get to or achieve. I’m just trying to enjoy this as much as I can and make this team and this franchise as successful as we can.”

What’s the response been like from the Portland community about the franchise coming back?

“It’s been good. I feel like the people in Portland have been burned a few years ago with what happened and the team leaving at the last second. We’re trying to make them believe in us, make them believe that we’re there for the long haul, it’s not a one-and-done. Because it’s such a big organization that Comcast Spectacor is, we’re serious about putting a good, solid organization there. But I have the feeling that they’ve been without hockey for a couple of seasons now and I feel like they are excited about this team coming back in their community and I’m hoping that people reach out and really decide to support it. We want that as well. We want to include the fans as much as possible. We want it to be their team and be there for the long haul, kind of like the old Maine Mariners, the reputation that they built over the year, we’re hoping it goes back to that and they can look at their team and be proud of the Maine Mariners, just like they were of the old Maine Mariners. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

With Avs’ playoff hopes dwindling, is it time to start selling?

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Here’s the deal for the Colorado Avalanche. To make the playoffs, they’ll need to go in the neighborhood of 17-6-4 in their final 27 games. And the way the team is playing, that’s very unlikely to happen.

“Our confidence is not there, no doubt about it,” coach Patrick Roy said, per the Denver Post, in the wake of last night’s loss to the Rangers, the fourth straight defeat in regulation for the Avs.

“It’s my job to remain patient and continue to practice it and hopefully, eventually it will turn and help us to win some hockey games.”

And it’s the job of management to face reality leading up to the March 2 trade deadline.

Veteran defenseman Jan Hejda, a pending unrestricted free agent, is a player that could be turned into a draft pick or prospect. Forward Danny Briere is another pending UFA, though his trade value is minimal.

Of course, forward Ryan O’Reilly would make a good addition to a playoff team. However, he’s a more complicated situation. If the Avs are really going to trade the 24-year-old, his contract status (can’t sign an extension until July 1) may make that more likely in the offseason.

Stepan returns for Rangers in Game 5

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Suffering a broken jaw sidelined New York Rangers center Derek Stepan for Game 4, but apparently he received clearance to play in Game 5. He’ll suit up for the Rangers as they attempt to eliminate the Canadiens in Montreal on Tuesday.

Much was made of the Brandon Prust hit that injured Stepan, with the former Rangers forward expressing regret about hurting his friend while Danny Briere professed more than a little bit of doubt about the validity of Stepan’s injury.

It was obviously enough to sideline Stepan for one big game, so does that just leave it half-fishy? Will the Canadiens try to target that jaw? Do people retract their mockery of Briere or is it just a wash? There are so many questions, yet we’ll have to wait for the answers.

If you’re wondering how the Rangers will line up with the 23-year-old forward back in the mix, here’s an early look:

Consider how the past few days have gone for Stepan and it would be remarkable if he was his usual top-center self, although stranger things have happened in the playoffs:

Habs survive Ovechkin’s two goals, beat Capitals 3-2

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The Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals each started their backups against each other tonight and it was Peter Budaj who came out on top with a 3-2 win in Washington.

Best part of his night? He can say he survived a full-on onslaught from Alex Ovechkin.

The Capitals captain scored two goals but couldn’t come away with a third to tie things up. The goals were his 18th and 19th on the season, giving him the league lead ahead of St. Louis’ Alex Steen.

Danny Briere scored what turned out to be the game-winner at 13:40 of the first period, a tally that put the Canadiens up 3-0, but Ovechkin scored once in the first and again in the third to whittle away at the Habs lead.

Budaj made 25 saves for Montreal while Michal Neuvirth stopped 28 for Washington. Now the Capitals get to tangle with the Maple Leafs on Saturday night. If Caps forward Mikhail Grabovski needed a reason to be motivated, he’s got it facing the team that bought him out over the summer.

Quick hits: Crosby stays hot, Sabres win, Oilers coach questions hockey gods

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There are a ton of games this Tuesday, so let’s not shortchange anyone. Here are some quick summaries of tonight’s other games. Click here for the Leafs win against the Wild and Vancouver topping Philadelphia. This post will be updated later on with various strays, too.

Buffalo 4, NY Islanders 3 (SO)

Huzzah, the Sabres finally won their first game of the season. A ton of people will decry the fact that they needed to win it via a “skills competition,” but Buffalo probably won’t. Somehow Ryan Miller wasn’t listed as one of the game’s three stars despite stopping 41 out of 44 shots and two of the Islanders’ three shootout attempts. Let’s chalk that up to the universe being geared to make Miller strangely miserable.

Pittsburgh 3, Edmonton 2

Sidney Crosby assisted on all three of the Penguins’ goals on Tuesday, giving him a ridiculous seven points (three goals, four assists) in the past two games. Ales Hemsky and Jordan Eberle were Edmonton’s goal scorers while Jason LaBarbera curiously played back-to-back games.

Dallas Eakins cried out to hockey’s Mount Olympus after the game.

“The hockey gods aren’t lined up with us right now,” Eakins said.

Chicago 3, Carolina 2 (SO)

The Chicago Blackhawks won their first game in Carolina since 1998 (!). New father Patrick Sharp provided an interesting bit of analysis to the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc.

Tampa Bay 5, Los Angeles 1

Jonathan Quick’s up-and-down start to the 2013-14 season continued on Tuesday, as he was pulled after allowing four goals on 17 shots. New Bolts captain Martin St. Louis had two goals and an assist while Ben Bishop made 31 out of 32 saves.

Nashville 4, Florida 3

The Predators won and Shea Weber might finally be awake (two points on Tuesday after collecting one in his first five contests). Still, it’s not the best sign when Mike Fisher just pulled ahead in your team’s goal-scoring category with his second tally.

Detroit 2, Columbus 1

The two relocated division “rivals” produced the usual Red Wings win. Daniel Alfredsson finally got a goal for the Red Wings tonight.

Ottawa 4, Phoenix 3 (OT)

The Phoenix Coyotes took a 2-0 lead very early in the game, but Jason Spezza made his presence/former absence felt by scoring three unanswered goals. Mike Ribeiro finally found the net for his first Coyotes goal, but the Senators won it in OT on Cory Conacher’s wrister.

Montreal 3, Winnipeg 0

All kinds of good things for the Canadiens: Carey Price got a shutout (36 saves), P.K. Subban continues to have a great/probably going to be really expensive year and even slow-starter Danny Briere scored tonight. As the Winnipeg Free Sun’s Ken Wiebe points out, Evander Kane’s Tuesday wasn’t so hot.