Briere impressed with the progress Flyers made

Daniel Briere

      VOORHEES, N.J. – For a first-year general manager, Daniel Briere couldn’t have asked for much more from a rebuilding team.

      Well, maybe a playoff spot — like the one they held for 124 days — but who’s counting?

      Briere’s Philadelphia Flyers far exceeded expectations this season and he deserved a slice of the credit.

      The question might now become: Can the Flyers take the next step and become a contender, not only for one year but on an annual basis?

      “I’m very proud of the way the team handled themselves this year,” Briere said on Friday at the Flyers Training Center. “The players, the coaching staff, it’s been an impressive year.

      “I know we focused on the last two weeks, the slide and not getting into the playoffs. And it would have been awesome to get into the playoffs. Believe me, that’s a huge disappointment.”

      The GM said he knows it’s the media’s job to remind everyone that the Flyers did slip at the end.

      “But it’s also my job to make sure that we don’t just focus on that part of it,” he said. “There were a lot of good strides that we made from a lot of different players this season. I’m proud of how our guys battled. The way they were torn apart before the season, being told they didn’t have a chance, supposed to be at the bottom of the standings.”

      That feeling of “we’ll show them” hopefully carries over into next season.

      “I’m very proud they didn’t let that (underrating) affect them,” Briere said. “They went out, got together, they were a team and they battled together.”

      At the start of the season, Briere and president of hockey operations Keith Jones made it a point to say the rebuild will take time. Maybe the players managed to speed up the process a bit but there’s still a lot of work to be done.

      “A lot of players have opened our eyes,” Briere said. “They realized they might be more ready than we thought. There are guys who jump out at you when you say that. A Tyson Foerster (rookie with 20 goals), we didn’t think he’d have that big of an impact. I don’t think we expected Bobby Brink to be a regular for most of the season for us. Cam York, the way he’s taken his game to another level.”

      The list goes on and on.

      “That’s the exciting part,” Briere said. “I’m still not quite there as saying we’re a contender. I don’t believe we’re at the point where it’s time to let some young assets go to try to get better quicker. We’re not there yet. But there are certainly a lot of players who have brought optimism as far as believing we’re going in the right direction.”

      Briere believes the expectations of the Flyers’ fan base will be sky-high next season. Playoffs or bust?

      “I don’t know if we’re there yet,” he said. “It was a great year but there’s still a long ways to go. We have to be very careful. We’re not at the point where we’re going to trade young assets for players who are going to get us there (the playoffs).”

      That said, adding more talent (especially in areas like the power play) would appear to be a very high priority.

      “We’re going to be having discussions with different teams,” Briere said. “The bulk of it still needs to be done through our young guys, mostly through the draft. If there’s a trade that brings more talent and makes sense, we’re definitely open for business.”

      More talent, of course, plays into the rather large task of repairing the league’s worst power play.

      “It might take a little bit of time,” the GM said. “It’s not good enough. It’s going to be an area we’re going to focus on. I don’t know if it will be done from the outside. It might have to be done with what we have.”

      >Impact of Colorado/Walker trade

      The Flyers sent defenseman Sean Walker to Colorado for a first-round draft pick at the March 3 trade deadline. Just another example of the Flyers looking to the future.

      “I knew it wouldn’t help the team make the playoffs,” Briere said. “And it might have cost us. That’s an example of not trying to be short-sighted. It’s thinking long-term.”

      >Short shots

      Briere indicated potential unrestricted free-agents Marc Staal and Denis Gurianov probably won’t be back next season. . .Briere said he was really happy with coach John Tortorella and his staff. “How they were able to get the players to believe in themselves,” Briere said. . .Cam Atkinson has one more year left on his contract. The Flyers will discuss his future. . .Ryan Johansen, picked up in the Walker trade, is not expected to be back, according to Briere. . .Briere said there’s nothing new on goaltender Carter Hart’s legal situation. Right now it looks like Samuel Ersson and Ivan Fedotov will be Nos. 1-2 going into training camp in September. “I was impressed with how Sam handled a tough situation,” Briere said. . .Regarding Rasmus Ristolainen’s torn pectoral surgery: The operation was delayed because there was a sense he might come back after rehab. . .According to Briere, defenseman Jamie Drysdale might need offseason “core” surgery.

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About Wayne Fish 2452 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.