The season before Daniel Briere signed as a free agent in 2007, the Flyers were the worse team in hockey.
The season after Briere came aboard, the Flyers reached the NHL’s Eastern Conference finals.
That, hockey fans, was no mere coincidence.
Briere, along with the arrivals of Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell, had an immediate impact on Philadelphia’s fortunes.
It just showed how quickly things can turn around.
Fast forward some 15 years and Briere sort of finds himself in a similar situation.
As a new special assistant to general manager Chuck Fletcher, Briere will be helping out in all aspects of the game – from trades, to free agency, to drafts and so forth. Scouting, both pro and amateur, will be a big part of his job description.
With the Flyers firmly entrenched near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the immediate outlook doesn’t look too bright.
But during a press conference to discuss his new position on Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Center, Briere made it clear the Flyers aren’t necessarily that far off from getting back into the mix.
“I remember when I signed that year the Flyers were last the previous season,’’ Briere recalled. “It looked pretty bleak. You know sometimes you have to look a little deeper and find the positive. At the time, I believed in what (GM) Paul Holmgren was doing. I believed in the players that were in the system coming up. I thought it was a team that was being built for the future, not just for a year or two. That’s why I was so interested in joining the Flyers back then.’’
If not for extensive injuries and illness, the 2022 Flyers might not be having this conversation right now. But, as they say, it is what it is.
“Hopefully (now) we can have that same kind of turnaround,’’ Briere said. “I said earlier, sometimes you have a bad season, you have to take advantage of it. There are opportunities that show up in front of you. You have to jump on that.’’
As for a timeframe to seeing the Flyers back in contention again, Briere left that topic open for discussion.
“It’s tough to tell how long it can take for that turnaround,’’ he said. “Obviously we would like to see it start tonight (a home against the Detroit Red Wings). Being realistic, it might be next year or the following year. Who knows? I think there are a lot that comes into play.’’
If the Flyers don’t show progress by the March 21 NHL trade deadline, obviously the Flyers aren’t going to be buyers.
“So let’s say we don’t make a push here,’’ Briere said. “We don’t make the playoffs and we become sellers. It depends on who’s available to sell at the deadline. It also depends on what’s available on the other side of the table. When you get a draft pick, it might take a little longer. Guys coming into the lineup right away might rush it a little bit more.’’
There’s been a lot of speculation the Flyers will trade captain Claude Giroux, provided he waives his no-movement clause, which could very well happen.
Briere still likes the Flyers’ nucleus.
“One thing I know, there’s a lot of good players (here),’’ he said. “I don’t think we’re a team that’s as bad as what the standings are showing at this point. Just look at the beginning of the year. We were supposed to have (Sean) Couturier, (Kevin) Hayes, (Derick) Brassard and (Patrick) Brown as our number one through four centermen. How many games have these players played?’’
The Flyers have endured winless streaks of 10 and 13 games, yet they’ve remained competitive in a lot of those games.
“That’s why I believe we’re not as bad as what’s showing on paper,’’ Briere said.
Briere cited young prospects such as Tyson Foerster and Bobby Brink as key to the Flyers’ future. Cam York and Morgan Frost also figure prominently in the Flyers’ plans.
“There are a lot of guys you’re waiting to see how they develop,’’ Briere said. “They’re going to be critical for the Flyers’ future.’’
Briere wants to play in those players’ development.
“It starts from us, from the management side,’’ he said. “Making sure they go in the right direction. We have to help them out, take the next step, become difference-makers. That’s definitely an area we can do a better job to get the Flyers where they belong.’’
Briere has made his home in Philadelphia so this position looks like a good fit. He’s been working with the ECHL Maine Mariners but it was time to come home.
“I played here, I had a lot of success with the Flyers,’’ he said. “When I retired, this became home. The family, the kids love it here. We made it our home. I was very fortunate to get involved with the organization. I don’t have to move. I’m staying home. I get to keep working for an organization I love.’’
Interim head coach Mike Yeo said Brassard, returning from injury, would play about 15 minutes vs. Detroit. . .Carter Hart was scheduled to start in goal.