Former Players vs Outsiders as General Managers

Now that Chuck Fletcher’s reign of terror has come to an end and the dust begins to settle, the questions of what comes next for a battle-strewn Philadelphia Flyers organization emerge. Danny Briere was named interim general manager in the wake of Fletcher’s firing in a move that surprised absolutely no one, but there are still questions as to whether or not he ends up with the full-time gig eventually and what the rest of the potential overhaul in the front office could look like.

Removing Fletcher, splitting the President and GM roles as well as a potential shakeup of the advisor group is a golden opportunity for the Flyers to seriously revamp their front office. To take some time, assess all their options and search far and wide to employ the people best suited for the job. Especially now that the organization has finally admitted they’re rebuilding, they can scope out executives that have a track record carrying other organizations through their own rebuilds.

Though naming Briere the interim GM takes some wind out of those sails. He’s the odds on favorite to be the next full-time general manager, a role he’s been groomed for over the last few years, but he doesn’t exactly have bountiful experience when it comes to leading a franchise, let alone guiding them though critical years with the turbulence the Flyers are currently dealing with.

Fans have gotten so hung up on whether or not the next GM is an “outsider” or former player, but the thing is, it really doesn’t matter. When Ron Hextall got canned, fans voiced their displeasure of former players filling the role, now that Fletcher’s gone, it’s now the outsiders that are bastardized. It’s like the American political system swinging from party to party every four years after one side doesn’t achieve the desired results.

Here’s the thing with Briere, it you attached his résumé to an “outsider” people would be absolutely furious at the hire. A guy who has a few years of ECHL experience and was apart of a really bad front office for the last calendar year wouldn’t be appealing at all if the heroics of his on-ice career didn’t inflate opinions on the guy.

Though Briere carries himself well. This is clearly a guy who is used to handling the media and isn’t afraid convey confidence. The Flyers deployed the same tactic with John Tortorella. After a run of coaches that lacked personality, Torts knows exactly how to preach to the masses and get his message through unlike anybody else. Briere appears to be the same kind of person. He’s well spoken and simultaneously confident yet calming. There’s a level of credence when he speaks and that good guy vibe he gives off amplifies his delivery. A charming guy that is going to play the fan favorite character perfectly.

Fans have already pointed to extreme comparisons for Briere, citing players-turned-general managers such as Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic, two of the better general mangers of our era as comparisons.

It’s a bit far-reaching considering Briere has held the interim tag for all of four days as of this writing.

Reality is, a vast majority of the players that end up stepping into the general manager role have had copious years of experience in front offices before getting the call.

  • Yzerman served as the Red Wings’ vice president from 2006 to 2010 before earning the Lightning’s GM job, not to mention his copious experience composing teams for Hockey Canada.
  • Sakic served in the Avalanche front office since 2011, originally in an advisor and governor role, and later VP of Hockey Ops until officially being named GM in late 2014.
  • Tom Fitzgerald in New Jersey served as an assistant GM with the Penguins and Devils from 2009 until his promotion to full time GM until 2020.
  • Bill Guerin in Minnesota served various roles for the Penguins since 2011 including a development coach, assistant GM (which he helped secure two Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017) and GM of their AHL club the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins before taking the Wild GM job in 2019.
  • Even Ron Hextall worked his way up the front office ladder, starting as a scout with the Flyers in 1999, was promoted to Director of Player Personnel three years later. He left in 2006 to take the VP and AGM manager role with the Kings where he’d win a Cup in 2012 before returning to the Flyers for one season as AGM and Director of Hockey Ops before being named GM in 2014.

Go ahead, pick your preferred example of former player and there’s a good chance his track record is longer and more decorated than Briere before earning the promotion to general manager.

And for what it’s worth, Briere doesn’t need a list of accommodations to have success, but throwing somebody with practically no experience into the deep end given the mass amount of work the Flyers have to overcome to be successful is a tall task for the best minds in our sport, let alone someone with very little experience to build off of.

If the Flyers are hellbent on keep Briere as GM, it puts a significantly higher amount of pressure on their pursuit of a President of Hockey Ops. There needs to be a solid veteran leadership presence to balance out the overly green Briere. Ray Shero’s name has been thrown around, and he fit’s that bill perfectly. He’s been working in NHL front offices since 1993 and carried the Penguins to a Stanley Cup in 2009. He most recently guided the New Jersey Devils through the early part of their rebuild adding Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier through the draft. The young up-and-comer in Briere learning from one of the best in the game is not only good for the Flyers, but it’s good for Briere’s career as well.

Maybe Briere ends up doing a good job. At this point, it’s hard to actively root against the guy less than a week into his run as interim GM. We don’t even know what the rest of the front office shakeup will look like. That being said, there are better, more qualified options out there and Briere leading the organization through the most tumultuous time in their history without any kind of track record to go off of doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that he is the guy to save the Philadelphia Flyers.

Godspeed, Danny.

By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)

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