Flyers name Jones team president, Briere general manager

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PHILADELPHIA — The Flyers had been drubbed in yet another loss in April 2021 – a dreary preview for two more adrift seasons ahead – when analyst Keith Jones went on the televised postgame show and cut loose on the sorry state of the franchise.

“This is a team that’s in need of a major makeover, ” Jones said. “This is not something you fix overnight, this is not something you fix in a week and this is something I don’t think any of us saw coming.”

Two years later, the Flyers did at least finally complete their major front-office makeover, but the franchise still can’t be fixed overnight or in a week. Oh, and as for something no one saw coming, how about this – without a lick of management experience, Jones – affectionately known as “Jonesy” – was called out of the booth and into the front office and tasked with turning the Flyers from their rock-bottom state into Stanley Cup champions.

From calling the action to calling the shots, the Flyers named Jones team president of hockey operations.

“I consider the Philadelphia Flyers organization the gold standard of the NHL and professional sports,” Jones said in a statement. “I’ve seen how this city and these fans can rally around their team and there is nothing that compares to that feeling.”

The popular Philly sports website Crossing Broad wrote, “ This is not The Onion,” in a story about Jones as he makes the surprising career change after two decades cracking jokes as part of a talk radio morning show, all while juggling hockey broadcast gigs at NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBC, and most recently for TNT’s coverage of the NHL in each of the last two seasons.

The Flyers will hold a press conference to explain the decision. It will be a crowded dais at the Wells Fargo Center.

Jones was expected to be joined by general manager Danny Briere, who officially had the interim tag removed from his title, and other executives including Dan Hilferty, Valerie Camillo and second-year coach John Tortorella.

The Flyers billed the presser as the first time all five members of the “unified Flyers leadership group” will be together.

And here people in Philly thought Taylor Swift in town was exciting.

The Flyers had long been knocked for relying on former players to try their hand at the front office – see, Bobby Clarke, Paul Holmgren, Ron Hextall – and are back in the alumni well after an ill-fated stint with former GM and franchise outsider Chuck Fletcher. Briere led the Flyers to their last Stanley Cup appearance in 2010 when they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks and Jones spent parts of three seasons with the Flyers from 1998-2001 (where he notably helped save former star Eric Lindros’ life).

Not only are the Flyers leaning hard on former players, Briere is still learning the ropes in his new job and Jones has no previous management experience. The most veteran member of the construction of the franchise is now the 64-year-old Tortorella.

Jones and Briere have plenty of help behind the scenes with the salary cap and other business workings of the team. At best – for now – they are popular faces of the franchise that can get out among the fans and sell a vision of a promising future. Briere admitted when he was promoted in early March the franchise – which hasn’t won a Stanley Cup since taking consecutive championships in 1974 and 1975 – faces a long rebuilding process. Fletcher was loathe to admit the Flyers needed one.

“There is a lot of work to be done, but these last few months have only strengthened my resolve and made me even more eager to rebuild this team and deliver this city a Stanley Cup,” Briere said.

The Flyers are coming off one of the worst seasons in franchise history and have missed the playoffs for three straight years. Briere and other members of a revamped power structure insist the Flyers have a cohesive plan for the future. Hilferty was named chairman late last season of the Flyers’ parent company, Comcast Spectacor, and was expected to have greater pull.

“This is a storied franchise with the most passionate fans in the National Hockey League. Our ultimate goal is to deliver them a championship. Achieving that goal will take time,” Hilferty said.

With an old-school coach, and two former Flyers, the franchise is back to its old-days methodology even as it unveiled a “New Era of Orange” slogan ahead of the announcements.

The Flyers hold key pieces needed for a rebuild. They hold the No. 7 pick in the NHL draft and are $9 million under the salary cap for next season. The Flyers have scores of veterans such as Cam Atkinson, Kevin Hayes, Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov all on the hook for hefty salaries for multiple seasons. Moving some could be a challenge – and are among Jones’ first priorities.

Briere has said while some younger players such as Noah Cates, Owen Tippett and Cam York could be foundational pieces, no Flyer is untouchable in trade talks this summer.

Jones will certainly get time to prove his mettle in the front office and there’s no doubt he’s a smart hockey guy who knows his way around the league. But Matt Millen and Mike Mayock in the NFL, Ken Harrelson in baseball and Pierre McGuire in the NHL are among the scores of former broadcasters whose inside knowledge in the booth couldn’t help them in failed transitions to the front office. The Flyers can only hope Jones won’t need a new headset any time soon.

“We are unanimously committed to rebuilding and sustaining a winning culture,” Hilferty said, “and doing it the right way.”

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    Defenseman Justin Braun retires after playing 13 NHL seasons

    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    TORONTO — Defenseman Justin Braun has decided to retire at age 36 after 13 NHL seasons.

    The NHL Alumni Association announced Braun’s retirement a week and a half after he played in Philadelphia’s season finale.

    Braun skated in 961 regular-season and playoff games with the San Jose Sharks, Flyers and New York Rangers. He was a key player for the Sharks when they reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2016, playing in all 24 games of their run and averaging more than 21 minutes of ice time.

    Braun also helped the Rangers make the Eastern Conference final last year after they acquired him at the trade deadline from Philadelphia. He returned to the Flyers on a one-year deal, serving as mentor to many of the team’s younger players.

    The Minnesota native was a seventh-round pick of San Jose’s in 2007. He made his NHL debut in 2010 and finished with 199 career points during the regular season and 16 more in the playoffs.

    Flyers chairman Scott to retire; Hilferty becomes successor

    Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    PHILADELPHIA — Dave Scott will retire as chairman of the Philadelphia Flyers’ parent company Comcast Spectacor and be replaced by Dan Hilferty.

    Hilferty, who was recently named CEO of Comcast Spectacor, will succeed Scott as chairman of the company on April 17 and as the team’s governor on July 1.

    Scott joined Comcast Spectacor in December 2013 and the Flyers have struggled under his reign. They will miss the playoffs for a third straight season and haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1975.

    “Our number one goal for the Flyers will be to consistently compete for the Stanley Cup,” Hilferty said. “It is going to be a process that will take time to get on that path, but I’m confident we are headed in the right direction with Danny Briere as interim GM, Coach Tortorella, and our hiring of a President of Hockey Operations soon. Our leadership team will be fully focused to deliver on this for our fans while also continuing to make the sports complex the best location for sports and entertainment in the nation.”

    As Chairman and CEO of Comcast Spectacor, Hilferty will lead the company’s entire portfolio, including the Philadelphia Flyers. Spectacor Sports and Entertainment CEO Valerie Camillo will continue to work directly with Hilferty, overseeing the Wells Fargo Center, including its continued transformation, and lead the Flyers’ business operations.

    Tortorella earns 700th career win, Flyers top Wild 5-4

    flyers wild
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    PHILADELPHIA — John Tortorella needed one word to sum up if 700 career wins meant anything to the Flyers coach.


    OK, then. Good thing the brusque Stanley Cup winner isn’t paid by the word.

    James van Riemsdyk scored the only goal in a shootout, and Philadelphia beat the Minnesota Wild 5-4 on Thursday night for Tortorella’s 700th victory.

    Tortorella is 700-573-181 in 1,454 games as an NHL head coach. His 700 wins rank 12th in NHL history and his career games rank ninth in NHL history. He led Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup in 2004. In his first season coaching the Flyers, Tortorella joined Peter Laviolette as the second American-born coach to win 700 games.

    “I think the culture’s kind of changed around here,” Flyers forward Joel Farabee said. “I think he’s done a really good job of keeping the group together.”

    Farabee, Scott Laughton, Rasmus Ristolainen and Tyson Foerster scored for Philadelphia. The Flyers have two straight games for the first time since Jan. 9-14 when they won three straight. Yeah, it’s been that kind of season.

    “Farabee’s starting to pop, he’s looking real good. Tyson is looking real good,” Flyers defenseman Tony DeAngelo said. “This is all about laying the foundation for next year but we get a lot of money to do this job. It’s something we love, so we’re gonna go out and give it our best every night.”

    Matt Boldy had two goals for the Wild, and Oskar Sundqvist and Marcus Foligno also scored.

    “We weren’t very good. They were good,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “We knew they were playing well, they played well tonight. We were loose. We were not firm, turnovers, it didn’t look like our hockey club.”

    The Flyers and Wild were tied 1-all at the end of the first period, 3-3 at the end of the second and 4-4 headed into OT.

    The rebuilding Flyers have been plucky of late. They had won two of three coming into the game, with the lone loss in overtime. They showed some of that grit in the final two periods, scoring late tying goals.

    “It’s a credit to their group, to their coaching staff, that they’ve got them playing the right way,” Evason said.

    Boldy poked a backhander past Carter Hart with 6:28 left for a 4-3 lead. The Flyers, playing more for the No. 1 pick and for pride, tied the game on Foerster’s second goal of the season.

    Farabee tipped in Cam York’s shot early in the second for a 2-1 lead.

    The Wild got going when Boldy ripped one top shelf past Hart for his 24th goal of the season that tied the game 2-all. Foligno scored his seventh goal for the 3-2 lead.

    Ristolainen buried a hard slapper from the blue line on the power play for the tying goal with 23 seconds left in the second.

    “I think it’s good to try to lay this foundation, kind of get ready for next year. You see guys getting confidence,” DeAngelo said.

    The Flyers only played ahead in the first period.

    Laughton scored off the rush for his 17th goal of the season and a 1-0 lead. Sundqvist celebrated his birthday with a deflection for the tying goal with 3:24 left in the period.

    The Flyers had been one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NHL until the start of this seven-game homestand (3-2 so far). They have scored at least three goals in every game and at least four in the last four.

    “We have definitely gotten to the net better,” Tortorella said. “We have spent a lot of time on the ice and with tape as far as getting to that area.”


    Wild: Host Chicago on Saturday.

    Flyers: Host Detroit on Saturday.

    Flyers interim GM Danny Briere believes franchise needs a rebuild

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    PHILADELPHIA — Danny Briere is not reluctant to say the word his predecessor willfully avoided when plotting the best course for the forlorn Flyers: rebuilding.

    Briere knows the Flyers are a mess – the depressed state of the team a topic former general manager Chuck Fletcher rarely addressed head-on – and is using what time he has as the interim GM to show he’s the right person to fix them.

    That starts with the hard truth.

    “I don’t think this is a quick fix,” Briere said. “That’s my belief and that’s why I’m not afraid to use the word rebuild.”

    Briere was promoted to interim general manager and replaced Fletcher after he was fired following 4 1/2 seasons and only one playoff appearance. The Flyers have just 24 wins, their 59 points are third-fewest in the Eastern Conference and they will miss the playoffs for a third straight season.

    Yes, the record was abysmal, but what ultimately doomed Fletcher was his inability to settle on a true plan to turn the Flyers into a perennial playoff team. He touted the Flyers this season as a playoff team, even with a mismatched roster of aging, overpriced veterans, too few prospects and so many injured players – such as Cam Atkinson and Ryan Ellis – it was easy to see it was going to be a long season in Philadelphia.

    Well, easy for everyone except Fletcher.

    Coach John Tortorella has been blunt about the hard days ahead from his first day on the job and never backed down from saying the Flyers need a multiyear process to become a playoff team. The low point came in December when on the same day at different news conferences, Tortorella said the team was “not even in the foundation, we’re at the footer,” while Fletcher said the Flyers were still in play for a wild-card spot and he expected them to remain competitive the rest of the season.

    The Flyers, who open a seven-game homestand this week, have won two games since Feb. 9 and are on a three-game losing streak.

    Briere championed Tortorella’s hiring and the pair are on the same page when it comes to the hard work needed to at least make the Flyers competitive, much less in the hunt for Philadelphia’s first Stanley Cup since 1975.

    “What was really striking for me was how he was going to rebuild the culture over here,” Briere said. “Looking at the last couple of years, it was tough to watch, at times. I felt we were an easy team to play against. You don’t realize how important culture is until you lose it.”

    The 45-year-old Briere, a beloved former Flyer who led the team to its last Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2010, has one caveat when it comes to rebuilding.

    “I want to make sure rebuild doesn’t mean fire sale,” he said. “We’re not going to get rid of everybody.”

    Briere seemingly will have a major say in the direction of the franchise. The interim tag isn’t expected to stick and his fast rise through the organization likely means he gets the job full time. Briere said the interim tag for now “was the right thing to do,” and team chairman Dave Scott said a “restructuring” of the front office was in the works. Fletcher also served as team president. The Flyers will now use two people in those roles.

    Briere also was quick to say he respected the Flyers’ veteran consiglieres of Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber, Paul Holmgren and Dean Lombardi but didn’t know how the foursome would factor into any future decision-making.

    The Flyers have only three free agents – and Fletcher’s failure to deal James van Riemsdyk at the trade deadline was an organizational black eye – and loads of veterans such as Atkinson, Kevin Hayes, Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov all on the hook for hefty salaries for multiple seasons. Moving them could be a challenge. Briere said while some younger players such as Noah Cates, Owen Tippett and Cam York could be foundational pieces, no Flyer is untouchable in trade talks this summer.

    It’s now up to Briere to think ahead, not just this offseason, but to map out a future for many seasons beyond this one.

    Draft the right prospects. Sign and trade for healthy, productive players. Keep their own talent from regression. Don’t take shortcuts. It’s a rewarding cocktail that has eluded the Flyers for a decade.

    Briere is up for the challenge.

    “Oh, there’s no doubt in my mind that I can do the job,” he said.