Flyers News & Rumors: Jones, Briere, Former Flyers

The “New Era of Orange” will begin after the Philadelphia Flyers finalized the changes to their organizational structure. Keith Jones will become the new President of Hockey Operations, and Danny Briere will become the full-time general manager (GM) after serving as the interim GM since March 11. The news comes shortly after the hockey gods passed over the Flyers in the NHL Draft Lottery.

Keith Jones

Jones has spent the last 17 years as a broadcaster, most notably for local NBC Sports Philadelphia/Comcast Sportsnet Flyers coverage and league-wide NHL coverage. He played 554 combined regular-season and playoff games in nine NHL seasons. He spent his final 155 games in orange and black before retiring in 2000.

“The President of Hockey Operations will lead the strategic direction for all aspects of the hockey operations department while collaborating on business goals,” according to the organization’s official press release.

Jones maintains an endless list of relationships around the NHL. He is an articulate speaker and an eccentric personality lauded by virtually anyone he comes in contact with. Newly appointed CEO of Comcast Spectacor Dan Hilferty spoke about the skill set of his new President.

“As a former player whose career concluded in Philadelphia, ‘Jonesy’ understands the value of creating chemistry and enabling leadership within a team. He has extensive experience analyzing and evaluating talent, and knows first-hand how important collaboration is on and off ice – a key factor for us moving forward,” Hilferty said.

While Jones brings specific strengths to the organization, he has no formal experience in an NHL front office.

New Dynamic with Briere

The Flyers made an unsurprising move by ripping the interim tag off Briere. Comcast Spectacor will place ultimate trust in a quick riser with minimal experience compared to other NHL front-office executives. A new President with significant front-office experience who could serve as an advisor would’ve made sense to complement Briere.

Danny Briere Philadelphia Flyers
Danny Briere, Philadelphia Flyers (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

However, Elliotte Friedman dropped a surprising nugget on the 32 Thoughts podcast about the extent of the control Briere will have within the new structure of the organization.

“There’s at least one candidate (for President of Hockey Operations) who wasn’t crazy about whatever role it was going to be because Briere was going to have the power,” he said.

The organization’s press release announced Briere’s responsibility for “all hockey decisions as it pertains to signings, trades and draft picks as well as overseeing scouting, player development, roster construction and more.” Flyers play-by-play announcer Jim Jackson also spoke on 97.5 The Fanatic about Jones accepting a role as “a liaison with the business side” who will also have an “advisory role” to the GM. Jones isn’t likely to factor into the daily tasks related to roster construction very often.

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The new power dynamic puts ultimate trust in Briere as the mastermind who can catapult the first long-term rebuild in franchise history. The four-time 30-goal scorer has shown promise in his ascension into the big seat. His knowledge of analytics is an encouraging sign for a franchise that hasn’t always adapted to new eras quickly. However, it’s fair to question the decision to hire a President of Hockey Operations with no front-office experience to advise a novice GM with no proven NHL track record.

Former Flyers in Key Positions

The Flyers have kept their alumni involved throughout their history as much as any other organization in the NHL. It became a hallmark of the organization under founder Ed Snider, but their loyalty has become a fault at certain points in the modern era with occasional overreliance on senior advisors and franchise heroes Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber, and Paul Holmgren.

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Charlie O’Connor wrote about how the “New Era of Orange” is already somewhat of a missed opportunity for a fresh start because Jones and Briere will not give the Flyers a full reset.

“When Comcast Spectacor removed Fletcher, they had an opportunity to reshape and restructure the Flyers’ organization, bringing in those fresh perspectives into the mix and a brand-new approach to team building — a different approach from the one that has failed to produce a consistent contender since the implementation of the salary cap back in 2005. Instead, they filled the two open spots with former Flyers.”

-Charlie O’Connor (from The Athletic, O’Connor: With Keith Jones and Daniel Briere, Flyers’ front-office hires look a lot like business as usual, 5/10/23)

Experience playing for the Flyers certainly isn’t a black mark on a front-office candidate’s resume. Jones and Briere have built strong relationships within the organization and around the league, and their familiarity will help them acclimate to the new positions quickly. However, the Flyers continue to draw from a tradition that hasn’t won them a Stanley Cup in nearly half a century.

The franchise had already started to slip out of the spotlight across the NHL and in the big picture on the Philadelphia sports scene, and three consecutive dismal seasons have made the problem worse. However, they continue to emphasize a tradition that doesn’t work for them. Both new hires have appealing qualities and a chance to build a winner, but they also came from a limited scope of vision.

NHL Draft Lottery

The news of the front-office restructuring pushed the disappointment of the 2023 NHL Draft Lottery to the backburner. The Chicago Blackhawks lucked into the first-overall pick and the opportunity to select Connor Bedard after a blatant tank job during the 2022-23 season. The news reminded Flyers fans of the 2007 NHL Draft Lottery when Chicago jumped Philadelphia and landed the chance to select Patrick Kane.

The Flyers remained in the seventh spot after finishing with the seventh-worst record in the league. The consensus suggests that the 2023 NHL Entry Draft is the deepest in two decades, so Briere will have the opportunity to select a potential franchise building block when the first round takes place on June 28 in Nashville. Zach Benson, Will Smith, and Oliver Moore will all come up in conversation as attractive prospects, but Matvei Michkov will be discussed most frequently over the next seven weeks.

The Russian center will play in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) for the remainder of his contract through the 2025-26 season. The uncertainty of the political turmoil in Russia and the alarming circumstances surrounding goaltender Ivan Fedotov will make the Flyers think twice about taking arguably the second-best player in the draft even if he is available in the seventh-overall spot.