Public Enemy are a successful hip hop group, and it’s also a title that can affectionately be given to Philadelphia Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher, who is responsible for icing a team in the midst of yet another 10+ game losing streak, the third such streak in the last two seasons. It has led many to wonder how much longer he has left as the man in charge of a team clearly off the rails. Unfortunately for the Flyers, the cries for salvation aren’t as simple as just removing Fletcher; who replaces him is the biggest question right now. There are a few front runners from within the organization, but if they decide to look elsewhere for a new GM, the list of names could get intriguing.
The seemingly natural heir to the throne after Fletcher meets his maker is Danny Briere, who has been in the Flyers’ front office since his retirement in 2015. In 2017 he was named GM of the Maine Mariners of the ECHL and was promoted to Special Assistant to the GM of the Flyers in late 2021. He’s clearly being groomed for a full-time management role sooner or later, but his current inexperience raises some red flags for a team in troubled waters.
Do you give a rookie GM the reins during the most tumultuous time in franchise history? Adding high end talent, clearing millions in cap and overseeing the development of some crucial prospects is a tall task for a top GM in the league, let alone a guy with zero previous experience. Could Briere succeed in the role? Sure, it’s possible. Are the odds not in his favor? Also yes.
The Flyers have a former GM right under their nose that has had quite a bit of NHL success. Dean Lombardi, who led the LA Kings to two Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014 after gaining notoriety for rebuilding the San Jose Sharks throughout the early 2000’s, is currently a Senior Advisor to the GM in Philly, a role he’s held since 2017. He’s been a shadowy figure during his days in the Flyers’ front office, never really facing the public or being associated with the rest of the scum that inhabits the same office space. His track record as GM with two franchises previously may be some of the best of most of the available names, but on the flip side, there’s probably a reason he’s been out of the scene for so long, whether self imposed or he’s exiled for a reason. Lombardi could serve in an interim role until they deem Briere ready if they want to give him more time to learn. An interesting option worth keeping an eye on, but maybe not the most likely.
Flahr is the current assistant GM and VP of the Flyers, serving as Chuck Fletcher’s right hand man dating back to their days with the Minnesota Wild. When Fletcher was canned by the Wild back in spring on 2018, Flahr was given the interim GM tag for a full 28 days before they hired Paul Fenton as the next full time GM. So theoretically, Flahr could serve as interim GM once again if Fletcher is axed but they don’t want to throw Danny Briere in the deep end immediately. Flahr’s drafting has been his biggest contribution to the franchise, and the Flyers probably want his expertise heading into the critical 2023 entry draft, so if Fletcher does get the boot before summer time, it’s totally possible Flahr is elevated for at least a brief amount of time before a real hunt for a replacement begins.
Rumor has it the Flyers were in on Barry Trotz as a head coach before ultimately going with John Tortorella, mainly because Trotz sat out the season and may be considering a jump to a front office role in the future. If Trotz is serious about stepping out from behind the bench and utilizing his talents in the front office, maybe a line of communication is kept open. Trotz has never held an official front office role, but he does have 23 seasons and over 1,800 games as a head coach under his belt, so there should be plenty of respect and at least a basic understanding on how the front office side operates. In the battle of rookie GMs would you rather pick Danny Briere or Barry Trotz? One’s a young up-and-comer with very little front office experience, or a grizzled vet who may lack some direct experience, but more than makes up for it with his longevity as a coach?
All eyes will be on the Toronto Maple Leafs and GM Kyle Dubas, who currently doesn’t have an extension with the club beyond this season. If they part ways with the 37-year-old he’ll be a hot commodity on the market for any team looking for a front office boost. While the Leafs have struggled in the postseason, failing to get out of the first round under his watch, his general handling of the team has been looked at with general positive acclaim and has also received praise for building and diversifying his front office, which would be a huge area of need for the Flyers. There is an obvious air of skepticism with Dubas being able to push the team over a certain limit that he can’t figure out in Toronto, but for a team a stuck in mediocrity as the Flyers, he could be a very interesting option to help guide the franchise through the turmoil they find themselves in. Whether he can build a team to win the big one would be a problem many years down the road.
Son of former legendary Flyers coach Fred Shero, Ray served as GM of the Devils from 2015 to 2020 and currently hold a senior advisor role with the Minnesota Wild. He was also a key factor in building the Penguins up to their Cup winning status in 2009 as their GM. He’s got the loose ties to the Flyers which the old heads would love and does seem to have plenty of skill at crafting a team, especially through drafting and trades, the two only feasible options for the Flyers at the moment. He laid a very solid foundation in New Jersey that they’re building on now that he’s gone. Does he have the same killer instinct he had back in the late aughts with Pittsburgh? Maybe, maybe not, but he did try his best to overhaul the Devils during his time there and did possess the guts to take Nico Hischier over Nolan Patrick. Risk taking like that could be a sign of enough determination to start the process of turning the Flyers around.
Maybe the biggest wildcard on this list, former Canadiens’ GM Marc Bergevin may not be the best calming presence out there for the Flyers. All three coaches during his tenure, Michel Therrien, Claude Julien and Dominique Ducharme all had wildly different approaches to the game that saw an unlikely run to the Cup in 2021 to finishing bottom of the division with less than 30 wins. Bending to the coach’s style may not be the worst thing in the world with Tortorella at the helm, but trying to build a team around something that can change course quick may not be a feasible style either. Though, he is widely considered great at trading, but often fails to re-sign players, which are two admirable traits given Chuck Fletcher’s inability to trade and willingness to sign everybody to max-term deals. He’s a huge risk-huge reward kind of hiring, It’d be all about whether that kind of cowboy shit is what the Flyers are looking for at this point in time.
Realistically, the list of names of potential people next in line to serve as general manager is practically endless if they choose to look outside the organization for help. They could wait until the offseason and see if any current GMs lose their jobs, dig up some other random name that is currently or previously associated in another team’s front office role.
There are underwhelming options like former Sabres GM Jason Botterill. Maybe find a sneaky good add like Hurricanes current assistant GM Eric Tulsky or former Rangers GM Jeff Gorton whose currently in Montreal, or take a batshit crazy option like Peter Chiarelli or former Canucks GM Jim Benning.
The gut feeling seems to be Briere is going to be the GM sooner or later, it’s just a matter of whether or not they find someone either in an interim role or a short-term basis before coronating the 45-year-old. Lombardi or Flahr could take that role in the short term to at least finish out the season and reassess in the summer, but for a team so incestuous, looking outside the organization for a real breath of fresh air is probably the best way to go.
Dubas, who seems to prioritize the culture of the front office may be an interesting option when it comes to righting the listless ship in Philly. It’s far beyond time the Flyers sever ties with some skeletons in the closet and bring in some new, fresh faces with modern ideas.
Though if management decides to cater to the boomers, Ray Shero provides an interesting option of new school risk taking while the family name brings comfort to the older crowd.
Someone like Barry Trotz is just an inherently interesting option considering his track record as a head coach, but can he replicate that success as a general manager?
Unfortunately for the Flyers, there doesn’t appear to be that perfect fit available at the moment. They need a best-of-the-best option like a Steve Yzerman or Jim Rutherford to truly sort this team out from top to bottom and put them back in a successful track, but those guys just don’t pop up everyday. At this point, all we can do is hope that Danny Briere is up to the task of salvaging the Philadelphia Flyers, because he’s probably the next man up, whether it’s the right move or not.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com / tsn.com / thefourthperiod.com