VOORHEES, N.J. – Daniel Briere was known as a crafty player who, at 5-foot-10, 181 pounds, used his smarts to find a way to navigate through the NHL defense redwoods to post a memorable 20-year career.
After Monday’s practice at the Flyers Training Center, both coach John Tortorella and several players noted how the new interim GM’s high hockey IQ should have impact on the way the team does business.
That’s not to say things will be all that much different from the way they were during the previous regime of Chuck Fletcher.
It just means the 45-year-old Briere’s persona might be felt more on a “I played the game and I know what you’re going through” level.
“He’s played the game,” Tortorella said. “Danny and I have talked a lot on the weakest part of our organization, the offensive part of it. I’ve asked a number of questions of him with some of our guys as they’ve struggled offensively – what does he see.
“The thing I think we will see with Danny, he’s a deep thinker. I don’t think it’s reactionary. I think he’ll see things and I think he has the ability to transform to what he was doing at that time as a player. Because he was such a good player, maybe he will understand a little bit better.”
Being able to relate to younger players would seem to be especially important at this transition period in the Flyers’ growth.
“Especially in the evaluation process,” Tortorella said. “I would like to see how guys are moving along.”
Tortorella was an assistant coach with the Coyotes back in the late ‘90s when Briere began his NHL career. So the two have a working knowledge of how each other thinks.
“I’ve known him for so long,” the coach said. “He’s a student (of the game) also. He doesn’t think he has all the answers. As disappointed as I am with not being with Chuck (Fletcher), I’m just that excited to be working with Danny.
“He had no clue when he broke in. He had a lot going on. Kids very young. And he was on a team full of characters out there in Phoenix. The thing I always respected about Danny not being a big man, he played in the (dirty) areas all the time. Not only a very skilled guy but he had the wherewithal that you can’t be on the outside.”
Some of that emphasis on grit could be seen in Briere’s work with Travis Konecny, who was enjoying a career year this season until he was injured last month.
“He brought it to TK’s attention that he was on the outside,” Tortorella said. “He could play the game a lot of different ways and I’ve respected that about him.”
Scott Laughton went so far as to say Briere is “perfect” for this position.
It wouldn’t be a reach to say Briere’s presence will be felt in the final stretch of the season.
“I think so,” Laughton said. “Even with just skating with him a couple times. The tips and the little insights he has. His knowledge is so valuable. Just the way he presents himself in front of all of us. Guys are excited and I think it’s a great opportunity for him. He’s a perfect guy for the job.”
A young player such as center Morgan Frost can learn a lot from someone such as Briere, who also played center.
“When Danny was working with the development team through the course of the year, it was always nice to hear from him how he thought I was playing,” Frost said. “He’s a really smart hockey guy. I think he’s going to do really well in the position.
“Whatever I can learn from him, whatever happens, I’m here for it.”
One other little thing: Briere’s personality is very upbeat. Always smiling, always encouraging, trying to maintain a positive front, especially when things might not be going so well.
“He’s always in a good mood,” Frost pointed out. “Always open, like if I had any questions about what he thought about something I did in a game or how what I needed to work on, I wasn’t afraid to go up to him. He’s helped me a lot.”
Tony DeAngelo has known Briere a long time and believes this promotion is a move in the right direction.
“I’m really happy for Danny,” DeAngelo said. “I’ve known him a long time. He’s more than ready for the job, more than capable for the job. Great guy, great Flyer. Good to see him get a chance to do the job here. Hopefully the interim tag comes off pretty quick.
“When he was a Flyer, he was one of my favorite players. ‘Mr. Playoff’ and stuff. You look around the league now, the way it’s shifted, he’s a guy who knows how to build a team, how to win. I have a lot of confidence in him.”