Flyers Fire Chuck Fletcher; Danny Briere is Interim GM
The Philadelphia Flyers on Friday did what fans have been suggesting for two years.
They fired general manager Chuck Fletcher.
Fletcher, 55, who also served as president of hockey operations, was passive in the trade and free-agent markets, and his last three teams have performed miserably, though injuries played a factor.
The Flyers will miss the playoffs for three straight seasons, the first time that has happened since the early 1990s. They had three double-digit losing streaks in a one-year period over the last two seasons, and currently own a 24-30-11 record.
The Inquirer was first to report the firing.
Fletcher was with the Flyers for four-plus years. Danny Briere will be the interim general manager. Briere, 45, lauded by coach John Tortorella earlier this season, will be with the team for its game Saturday in Pittsburgh.
PHN: Could Ray Shero Interest the Flyers?
The Philadelphia Flyers said they are starting the process of filling Fletcher’s two positions with two people.
Fletcher was the eighth general manager in franchise history. Only one Flyers GM — Russ Farwell — had fewer playoff appearances (none from 1990-94) than Fletcher’s teams (one).
The last straw was when Fletcher was unable to deal pending free agent James van Riemsdyk at the trade deadline.
Asked to comment on the situation, Fletcher’s boss, Dave Scott, declined at the time.
But he obviously was stewing.
“The Philadelphia Flyers organization has always been defined by grit, determination, and a standard of excellence,” Scott said in a statement Friday. “Over the past several seasons, our team has simply not lived up to that standard, so today we will begin to chart a new path forward under a new leadership structure for Hockey Operations.”
Fans were happy with the decision. Here’s a sampling:
Should’ve fired this guy two years ago. It is a little bit too late considering this team is in the toilet. But it is great news.
— Larry Brittingham (@LarryBrittingh1) March 10, 2023
They need to clean house and stop going to old players leading the team They need a fresh start
— A View from the cheap Seats 1 (@jimbomedic) March 10, 2023
Good News!!! While on vacation EVEN better!!! pic.twitter.com/WMaRhFsFdI
— edward mcglinn (@Edmon188) March 10, 2023
Briere, a former Philadelphia Flyers star, had been a special assistant to Fletcher last year. Before the Flyers hired him, he was a finalist for the Montreal Canadiens’ GM job.
In his statement, Scott — who is chairman of Comcast Spectacor, the Flyers’ parent company — said Briere will oversee Hockey Operations for the time being.
“He is ideally suited for this role, having served as special assistant to the general manager of the Flyers for the past year,” Scott said, adding that Briere has spent more than 25 years as a player and in management.
It would not be surprising if the analytical and energetic Briere is eventually named the permanent general manager. In fact, it would be surprising if he wasn’t named.
Besides his poor trade record and his inability to sign the right free agents, Fletcher handed out some expensive, long-term contracts that caused the Flyers to be in cap hell. Among them were deals he gave Travis Sanheim, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Kevin Hayes.
He also gave up second-, third-, and fourth-round draft picks for defenseman Tony DeAngelo, and then signed him to a two-year deal with an annual $5 million cap hit. DeAngelo was basically a right-handed version of Shayne Gostisbehere, a player he traded to Arizona — and had to give the Coyotes second- and seventh-round picks to take him.
Since then, Gostisbehere, now with Carolina, has had two quality seasons — and his contract is cheaper than DeAngelo’s.
Scott said he was “grateful” for Fletcher’s “hard work and dedication to the organization, and we wish him nothing but the best moving forward.”
He said Fletcher had faced “significant challenges” and that “some were outside his control. But we have reached a point at which we must move in a different direction and look to the future under new leadership.”
Prior to being hired by the Flyers, Fletcher spent nine seasons as the general manager of the Minnesota Wild.
When he was hired, Scott was effusive with his praise.
“At the conclusion of a rigorous review of GM candidates, Chuck Fletcher clearly stood out from the field of talented and capable executives we considered,” Scott said at the time.
Fletcher called it a “dream come true” when he was hired in December of 2018.
The son of a Hall of Fame hockey executive, Cliff Fletcher, the younger Fletcher had been fired by the Wild after their first-round playoff exit the previous season. Minnesota made six straight playoff appearances under Fletcher, but advanced to the second round only once.
Fletcher, whose Flyers teams had a 141-145-43 record in his tenure, graciously turned down a request for a comment.
Brent Flahr, a Flyers assistant general manager, did not respond to a request to comment. He presumably will still run the team’s draft in June. Flahr and Fletcher were also together in Minnesota.
Counting this season, the Flyers have one playoff series win in the last 11 years.
In other words, the problems didn’t arrive when Fletcher was hired; they just got worse.