Forget about Dwight Schrute.
When he spoke to the media on Friday, Philadephia Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher likened his new special assistant to the general manager, Danny Briere, to a previous protegé, Andrew Brunette.
Now knocking it out of the park in his first year as head coach of the Florida Panthers, Brunette started his post-playing career as Fletcher’s special assistant in 2012. He spent seven seasons with the Minnesota Wild organization, where he’d had two tours of duty as a player, shuffling through various roles in both management and coaching.
In 2019, after Fletcher had moved on to Philadelphia, Brunette joined the Florida Panthers as an assistant coach. He was promoted to the head job after Joel Quenneville resigned in late October.
Brunette’s record through 40 games is 25-10-5, for a points percentage of .688. Pretty, pretty good.
“(Assistant GM Brent Flahr) and I had this experience with Andrew Brunette in Minnesota at the end of his career,” Fletcher said Friday, when asked about Briere’s new position. “We brought him in and Andrew did player development, spent time with the farm team. He did pro scouting. He ended up coaching a little bit with Mike Yeo as he determined his career path and what he wanted to pursue. Now, he’s head coach in Florida.
“I kind of see a similar type of path for Danny. He’s going to have a bright future in this game. He has to see what areas he likes, but he’s got a tremendous knowledge of the game. He knows players. I think this is a great opportunity for us and for him.”
Briere’s Executive Star Is Rising
Briere, 44, played 364 of his 973 NHL games with the Flyers — more than with any other team, and made his full-time home in Philadelphia. After his retirement in 2015, he spent two seasons as special assistant to then-GM Ron Hextall. Then, in 2017, he signed on with the ECHL’s Maine Mariners.
Over the next several years, Briere wore a number of hats. He learned all aspects of the minor-league business while also attending an executive business program at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
He returned to the Flyers in the 2019-20 season and worked closely with Flahr on the 2020 draft — and everything since.
“He’s been in every meeting we’ve had since that season, whether it’s free agency, trade deadline, draft, end of the season strategic meetings,” Fletcher said. “He’s been involved with our player development staff, even spent a few games on the bench with(Ian Laperriere) in Lehigh this year when we lost some coaches to COVID.”
Briere earned his new promotion to full-time status after being a finalist for the Montreal Canadiens’ GM job last month.
“I think interviewing with the Canadiens really showed him that this is something he really wants to pursue and jump into,” Fletcher said. “I think the timing is great for him and for us.”
Needs To Know It All
“I’m staying home and I get to work for an organization that I love. It couldn’t be a better set up.” -Danny Briere on being named the Special Assistant to the General Manager. pic.twitter.com/7ng6mJvpJL
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) February 9, 2022
Briere feels his jack-of-all-trades approach, both in Maine and in Philadelphia, is an important foundation for his career evolution.
“You look at how the players now, all the revenues are tied to the players’ contracts. It’s more important. It’s more critical,” he said. “I think it’s going to keep expanding and growing.
“For my own development and my own understanding, I remember when I stepped off the ice — I had no idea all that it entailed on the business side. I had no clue at the time, seven years ago, all the work that was done on the business side.
“It opened my eyes. I think it was great experience and I have the chance to practice it. Not just learn it but really experience it with the Mariners and oversee it, making tough decisions at the time on the business side. That experience alone was good for my development.”
The Future Is Bright
While Briere is reluctant to put a timeline on turning the Flyers’ fortunes around, he is optimistic about the prospects that are currently in the pipeline.
“That’s another key, the development of those guys,” he said.
“Tyson Foerster, I believe he eventually could be a great player for us, but there’s a lot of guys that you’re waiting to see how they develop. That’s going to be critical for the Flyers’ future.
“Bobby Brink is having a great season. Samu Tuomaala, that we drafted last year, showed some great promise about being a kid that can make a difference. Zayde Wisdom. Morgan Frost, we’ve seen him here. He’s going in the right direction but he’s got to keep doing it. And on defense, we’re seeing Cam York playing more and more minutes. I think he’s going to get better. At the end of the day, it’s the development of all those young kids that are going to make it or not for the future of the Flyers.”
Playing opportunities for the kids will keep on coming. Fletcher announced Friday that Sean Couturier has undergone successful back surgery. He’ll be sidelined for the rest of the offseason, but should be healthy in time to go through a full offseason of training, so that he’ll be 100% next fall.
Meanwhile, two prospects who have missed all season are getting closer to being game ready.
After undergoing hip surgery in October, Fletcher reported that forward Tanner Laczynski is about a week away from returning to action. The timeline for forward Ryan Fitzgerald, who suffered a lower-body injury during September’s development camp, is a couple of weeks longer.
The Road Ahead
After dropping a 6-3 decision to the Detroit Red Wings at Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday, the two teams wills square off again in a noon start at Little Caesars Arena on Saturday. The Flyers’ brief road trip will then conclude on Tuesday in Pittsburgh.
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