VOORHEES, N.J. – Not since the summer of 2020 has the Flyers fan base gotten a whiff of playoff hockey and things are starting to get a little stale around here.
Ownership and management thought things were on the right track when the Flyers beat the Montreal Canadiens in the Toronto bubble for their first postseason series win since 2012.
Since then, things have gone steadily downhill.
The Flyers have sort of been half-in, half-out on a rebuild. But when long-time captain Claude Giroux was traded at the deadline in 2022, it perhaps signaled the team was starting to get serious about an overhaul.
Faithful followers of the team say “that’s nice, but when are we going to start some seeing some results?” Being part of the NHL draft lottery confirms you still have some distance to cover before you get back into serious contention.
Interim general manager Daniel Briere was asked about the timeline during his end-of-season press conference at the Flyers Training Center on Monday.
“It started with me with the rebuild,” he said. “I didn’t hide behind it. I came in, I said it. Now, how fast or how long it’s going to take, the players will dictate that.
“But everyone’s on board. Everyone agrees that we need to do this the right way. We might need a little bit of patience from the fans in that regard. There might be some growing pains to go through.”
One could use the New Jersey Devils as an example of a quick turnaround. Last year the Devils finished with 63 points, just two ahead of the last-place Flyers.
This year? The Devils had 112 points, 37 ahead of the Flyers.
Could the Flyers execute a similar jump?
“I don’t expect that to happen next year,” Briere said. “But one day we certainly hope to be one of those teams that jumps into a contending team. I hope we’re there. I don’t know exactly when that’s going to happen.”
Briere said that process is already showing some positive movement, especially with the core group of young players.
“When you look at how some of our young players got better this year, that was really impressive,” Briere said. “And exciting for the future.
“But I don’t know a timeline (for contending status). It could be two years, five years, I don’t know at this point.”
One of the aspects of the game Briere has going for him is that he had an illustrious playing career of his own.
Known for his intelligent style of play, his career reached its zenith during the 2010 run to the Stanley Cup Final when he registered a team-record 30 points for the playoffs.
“If I’m going to make some decisions, I need to have an opinion,” he said. “My opinion comes from years of playing and looking at how organizations are being built. It’s understanding how a locker room works, the ins and outs of a locker room. Those are things we are going to try to use.
“But there are other areas I’m going to need help with when it comes to scouting and analytics.”
>Left side help needed
Briere was asked what positions he wants to fortify in the offseason.
With the expected return of center Sean Couturier, the Flyers would seem to be OK with Noah Cates, Morgan Frost, Scott Laughton and possibly Kevin Hayes among the other candidates in the middle.
The team is well stocked on the right side with Cam Atkinson on the mend after missing a season. He will join Travis Konecny, Owen Tippett and Wade Allison on that flank.
Where the Flyers could use some help is at left wing. James van Riemsdyk figures to leave via free agency. Joel Farabee, possibly Hayes and maybe someone like highly regarded prospect Tyson Foerster (if he slides over) could bolster that side but it could still use some help.
“There are going to be some changes,” Briere acknowledged. “We’re really strong on the right side. On the left side, we might need some help there. But we’re not looking to go out and sign a big-time free agent with lots of term on a contract.
“We want to give our young players a chance to develop. We want to see what we have before we block some of the young guys.”
>Thoughts on Hayes, Provorov, DeAngelo
Hayes, along with defensemen Ivan Provorov and Tony DeAngelo, all seemed to “butt heads” at times with Tortorella this season.
All teams have these types of situations. Briere is confident an accord can be reached with these players.
“We’ll see what happens, I think it’s a little too early to jump to conclusions,” Briere said. “With Kevin, I saw the report that he doesn’t know where he stands. We can’t forget Kevin is a 6-foot-5 centerman who can put up a lot of points. They’re not easy to find.
“We’ll figure out what needs to be done with Kevin, if he’s here or somewhere else. But I hope at the moment, he’s our property, we assume he’s going to be part of the team next year.”
DeAngelo was benched for the final five games of the season. What can be read into that?
“Tony had an up and down season,” Briere said. “At times he was dominant, at times he was struggling. So it’s going to be a big summer for him. Right now I plan on bringing him back. We’ll see where that goes. It’s definitely not a fun situation for him, the way things ended.”
Briere revealed he expects last year’s first-round Cutter Gauthier to return to Boston College for a second year before considering joining the pro ranks.