Like a lot of keys to seeking upward mobility in a business such as professional sports, it’s not always just what you know but who you know.
So plenty of Daniel Briere backers had to be smiling a bit the other night when the Flyers interim general manager happened to be seated next to head coach John Tortorella upstairs at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa.
Perhaps “happened to be seated” might be the wrong choice of words.
Tortorella indicated he wanted to get a look at his team from up top because he’s in the process of making some evaluations about what sort of personnel he wants for next season.
Without a doubt, having Briere sitting to his right at press level must have created some interesting conversations.
Now that recently dismissed GM Chuck Fletcher is out of the picture, Tortorella would appear to have even more say with which direction this franchise could be heading.
And it says here, the only direction has to be up because you can’t get much lower than the past few years of futility.
Because Tortorella has already spoken glowingly about Briere, that has to carry some weight as the Flyers head into the 2023-24 season.
Of course, it would also appear that getting the interim tag off Briere’s position won’t take place until new Comcast Spectacor CEO Dan Hilferty and his staff make up their minds regarding a new president of hockey operations.
Tortorella and Briere probably talk for hours at a time behind closed doors but when they choose to let themselves be shown on camera at a Flyers-Senators game, that’s a bit more of a vote of confidence.
It’s hard to imagine the Flyers won’t make a decision on a new president and the status of Briere for too long after the season ends on April 13.
There are plenty of important decisions to make, including the NHL Entry Draft in June, free agency in July as well as contract renewals where needed.
For sure, Briere already must be making plans for those activities.
Having Tortorella in his corner should only make Briere feel more confident about his future in Philadelphia.
>Fighting on way out?
For a franchise which built its brand on the Broad Street Bullies rough-house style of play, the Flyers must have been reading with a bit of bemusement that the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League recently decided to outlaw fighting.
Fighting has already been declining at all levels of hockey in recent years and some say a day will come when the NHL considers such a ban.
Those who say there is still a necessary place in the sport for fisticuffs point out it’s the only way to protect skill players. If not for some vigilante justice, headhunters will roam free to target stars.
The 2022-23 Flyers apparently are not ready to retire their knuckles just yet.
A couple of bouts in Thursday night’s game put the Flyers into the NHL lead with 35 (Minnesota is second with 33) and Nick Deslauriers has moved into the penalty minute lead (131, a career high).
The Islanders’ Matt Martin, an enforcer who has had his share of scrapes with the Flyers over the years, insists there is a need for dropping the gloves when an opponent targets a specific star player with a questionable hit.
“I think it’s still, at this point, necessary in terms of it’s a physical game,” Martin told the New York Post. “If there’s absolutely no repercussions for dirty hits or cheap shots or anything on your guys, then I think you will see more and more guys throwing those types of (dirty) hits.
“I do think in some ways it’s controlled by the fact that there’s guys that don’t want to fight and they aren’t going to throw the hits because they don’t want to end up in that situation.”
Left unsaid is the unspoken risk of head injury/brain trauma from such behavior.
The sport could be heading in a different direction simply because too many players have been diagnosed with this life-threatening situation.
A study at Ohio State University found fighting in the NHL was down significantly over the decade ending four years ago, dropping about 65 percent from .52 fights per game in the 2010-11 season to .18 in the 2018-19 season.
Currently, there really is no deterrent at the NHL level for fighting other than a game misconduct or, in rare instances, fines or a short suspension.
You can bet NHL players will be keeping an eye on the “Q” to see how its plan works out.
Let’s not forget the fan angle to the whole situation. Show us an NHL building where the fans don’t get out of their seats with big grins on their faces when a fight breaks out.
As long as fighting, and its image, help keep selling tickets, the old donnybrook probably won’t be going away anytime soon.