Daniel Briere, the Philadelphia Flyers’ general manager since March, will orchestrate one of the most important drafts in franchise history starting tonight.
Nearly every draft is important in professional sports. When your team hasn’t been in the playoffs for three consecutive seasons — and once in five seasons — the stakes in this draft are enormous.
As is the pressure on Briere.
When you’re in the Philadelphia Flyers’ situation — desperately needing to upgrade the roster — Briere needs success with not only their top two picks, but some of their other eight picks. They need help up and down the lineup.
Briere has to pick the right player at 7. A guy who can make a difference in the near future. A guy who can be a franchise cornerstone. A guy who can sell tickets. They don’t need a glue guy with the first-round pick.
At 22, the Flyers need a player — someone who can start and contribute in the NHL in the next few years.
Briere was named interim general manager on March 10, replacing Chuck Fletcher, who was fired for cause. Briere, coach John Tortorella and president of hockey operations Keith Jones will be in charge of the Flyers’ rebuild. There will be other voices who are part of the scouting and draft planning.
But Briere is the GM. Ultimately, this is on him.
“Oh, there’s no doubt in my mind that I can do the job,” Briere said at his introductory news conference.
“Even when I played … I was always someone that studied my opponents, also studied my GMs, and what they were doing and the other GMs were doing.
“My journey has started a long, long time ago. I’ve always been someone that pays attention to what’s going on, how processes are being done, and how I could use it if one day I’d be in that position.
“I’m not gonna lie, it’s something that I saw myself do from early on when I was playing. I always believed that I could be in this position one day.”
Philadelphia is riding a rare wave of sporting success. The Eagles are coming off a Super Bowl appearance and have a roster primed to do the same next season. Howie Roseman has become the most beloved general manager in Philly history — a remarkable turnaround.
The Phillies are coming off a World Series appearance and still have a loaded lineup, despite a slow-ish start this season. GM Dave Dombrowski is hailed as a prescient genius — pushing the right buttons, not afraid to go out and sign high-quality free agents.
The 76ers have a new coach in Nick Nurse and renewed hope they can advance past the second round — someday. And they have the league MVP in Joel Embiid.
All of that success is swell, but when you’re the one team in town not producing, fans react accordingly — with vitriol.
The April night when Bruins fans took over the Wells Fargo Center and chanted “We want the Cup” was a major embarrassment to the Flyers and Philadelphia sports fans.
Or, it should have been.
From Player To GM
Fans remember fondly Danny Briere the undersized, gritty player with a knack for scoring clutch goals. As GM Daniel Briere, he is relatively new at his job, a position you don’t want to learn on the fly.
Fans hope Briere is clutch at this job, too.
“It’s my first time. It’s been exciting,” Briere said recently about running his first draft.
“There’s been a lot of activity and I’m excited. First draft, having a chance to have two first-round picks on top of it, I think it’s good.
“You can kind of feel the energy, too, from our staff and our amateur scouts having to dig in a little deeper. You prepare going into it thinking about the seventh pick, but now all of a sudden, you’re telling them all you got to know the list all the way down because there might be something different.
“It was good because they got a little bit of prep — they were in town, we were together in Buffalo [for the combine], they were in town after that — so it forced them to dig in a little deeper for their list, so you can feel the excitement on their part.”
Flyers fans want to feel some excitement, too. They’re overdue. High hopes abound for a successful draft and maybe even a trade or two.
The Flyers are on the clock … And so is Daniel Briere.