Danny Briere had seen this tactic before. A veteran reporter asking him one question where the answer is known to set up another question where the answer isn’t as clear.

So, on the day he was officially announced as the new GM of the Philadelphia Flyers along with longtime broadcaster Keith Jones as the new President of Hockey Operations, Briere could have used his veteran savvy and dodged the question deftly with some non-answer, or by toeing the political line or even by flat out lying.

Instead, he did something that no one in these parts has done for quite some time.

Be honest and transparent:

Q: Was the team better than the record showed (in 2022-23)?

DB: I would agree with that, yes.

Q: So, if you get a couple of players back from injury, etc. Anything close to a playoff team next year?

DB: I would probably err on the side of caution and say no at this point. A lot will depend on what happens this summer. I’ve been having discussions with certain teams and as teams get knocked out of the playoffs I’ll have more discussions leading up to the draft, but I’m not going to hide it. We’re going to get even younger than we were last year. Ultimately the players will decide (how good we are) but it’s going to depend on their development.

How’s that for a breath of fresh air?

And it’s  not even just about the state of the team. Briere was honest about other changes that are coming as well.

I asked him about potential changes in the front office. And he was blunt and honest about them as well.

“There will be some changes that will occur in the next few months,” Briere said. “That’s where having the chance to be on the inside the last two-plus years and dealing with every department on the hockey side, I was able to find out where our strong spots are, where our weaker spots are, and what we need to improve on.

“You haven’t seen too much yet because I wanted to get Keith’s opinion on it. I didn’t want to get too ahead of myself because I wanted to respect the process. But yeah, things are going to happen everywhere.”

Russ and I had a chance to talk to Jonesy for Snow the Goalie and he echoed Danny’s sentiments to a tee.

(Note: Episode coming Monday)

Honesty. Transparency. A fierce commitment to getting it right. It’s all part of this new regime:

And it’s all about collaboration – which is the buzzword we heard from Comcast-Spectacor CEO Dan Hilferty Friday.

The pomp and circumstance of the press conference to announce Jones and Briere in their new roles felt like the old days of the Flyers. It had pageantry. It had panache. It had a celebratory feel. It generated excitement. It was a reminder of a time when the organization could do whatever it wanted because they were the fucking Philadelphia Flyers.

At his first press conference involving the Flyers, Hilferty accomplished something that hasn’t been done for the better part of a decade – fuse together optimism with excitement, direction, and connectivity with the city and do it by using the successes of the past to shape a new approach for the success of the future.

I know some people are thinking “here they go again, hiring two former Flyer players isn’t a fresh start,” Hilferty said. “Let me share with you that during the process, our goal was to hire the two best candidates. It just happens that they’re former Flyers. We were inspired by the titans who won us championships in 1974 and ‘75. We need to channel the spirit of those early years as we build anew. Equally, we need to embrace today’s modern game, one that requires speed, power, and strategy like never before.”

The skeptics will say that’s the same approach that have plagued the Flyers for years. But those people are incredibly shortsighted, because Briere and Jones do not believe building a winner in the same mold as before. They believe in doing things a lot differently than the Flyers have ever done them. Their approach will be to build a team that is young, fast, skilled, and still has relentless determination.

They know they can’t do things like they were done before – and they won’t.

It should be noted here at the conspicuous absence of Bob Clarke, Paul Holmgren, and Bill Barber from Friday’s press conference. They were invited and welcome and even referred to in Hilferty’s comments with absolute reverence, calling them “titans” and saying that moving forward the organization needs to embody their spirit.

But a Flyers press conference without them – at least one of them – is an indication that the important decisions that were announced yesterday were done so without their fingerprints.

That’s not to so that the relationship is frayed. It’s not. Hilferty is a bridge builder, not a bridge burner. The point is, he believes in the power of the alumni. He referenced them several times during his press conference. And he believes there should always be a place for them whenever they want to be there.

Hell, Joe and Jimmy Watson, Brad Marsh, Todd Fedoruk, and Chris Therien all made appearances Friday.

The importance of connection and belonging with the alumni is paramount for a team’s success, even if the approach to doing business on the ice is different than maybe they would like.

But, that doesn’t mean bringing back the mystique of the Flyers past is a bad thing. In fact, it’s a great selling point for free agents. It’s a great bit of gamesmanship when playing an opponent. Don’t you want the other team thinking, “Oh man, we have to play the Flyers tonight. They are a hard team to play against“? It’s a mental advantage.

That’s the premise behind this new marketing slogan – A New Era of Orange.

“Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate, and I have a bit of a talent – the ability to assemble collaborative teams that achieve great things together,” Hilferty said. “My philosophy is simple. We are stronger when we are together. Magic. Magic happens. It takes time, but magic happens when talented leaders unify toward a collective goal. For us, it’s about winning, or developing a winning culture for our beloved Flyers.”

Another concern that seems to be out there in Flyerville is that Jones and Briere together are too inexperienced to work together. It’s a fair question. How can two guys with little to no front office experience make this a success. Jones had an immediate answer.

“Teamwork,” he said. “It’s one of the most important things, I think, in anything that we do in life, and I always encourage kids to play sports because you learn how to be a member of a team. No matter what your role is and whatever level you’re at in your life, your role may increase as you get better at what you’re doing, as you become a more important person. I want to make sure that people within our organization can grow.

“I want you to be patient in your willingness to grow, and I think it’s important that you do your job that you’re being asked to do right now and then when it’s time for you to advance, we’re going to make sure you can advance, but I want people to love working here. I want that to translate to great messaging from leaving our building when they walk out of here. So, I think that’s probably something, but the most important thing I think, is collaboratively working together, and that’s something I’ve done in every job that I’ve had in my life. Whether I was playing or my post playing career in television, I’m quite confident that if you asked anyone I worked with, that’s the message that you’re going to get.”

But from this chair, it’s more than that. Why can this be successful? Because it’s different, in a league that forever struggles with things being different.

The NHL is too stuck in it’s ways sometimes. It’s why there is a prevailing nature of a carousel of individuals who go from team to team doing similar jobs and never quite leaving the sport. Whether it’s coaching, or management, or keeping jobs as advisors until someone is willing to let them back in the game at a better position, everything is too traditional.

This, is unconventional. This is different. This is not what anyone expected.

And that’s a good thing.

“I want to make a point,” Tortorella said when I asked him about the unconventional aspect of him, as a coach, having a little more input in decision-making than coaches traditionally are used to having. “I don’t want to speak out of turn, but I don’t get sometimes in this process when people start talking about Flyers alumni, Jonesy, an ex-Flyer, Danny, an ex-Flyer, what has happened? Why do people think that they’re diseased? If you’re an ex-Flyer and you come from the organization that you shouldn’t be in this organization, that we need to look outside?

“I’m not sure who said it here, but it’s the person you’re looking at. I’m proud that they are Flyers. I’m proud of these guys over here, and other alumni that care about this organization. That’s what thrills me the most. I think we have strong personalities and I think they care, and I don’t get some of the thinking out in this city. ‘Oh, it’s an ex-Flyer again, they’re doing it the same way.’ God damn. It is so important to have that belief. I’m thrilled. I can’t wait to get to work and we already starting to do it.”

There have been rumblings around the league about Tortorella letting his assistants coach games down the stretch and spending time in the GM’s box with Briere toward the end of the season.

When I asked Briere about it, he broke it down in a more polite fashion, but you can tell he doesn’t care what anyone else thought of it, and felt it was a beneficial perspective for both he and Torts.

“It was awesome,” Briere said. “How many GM’s have the chance to sit down during a real regular season game to talk about different ways to look at a game? To me, it was fantastic. To see the way he was looking at it, the way he was breaking it down and what was important to him as a coach in real time – it was a great move. I really enjoyed watching a game with him. There was some frustration for him too, because being up there you lose a little bit of a sense of what is going on down on ice level. But, it allowed him to see what we see and why we say some of the things we say by watching from upstairs and not from where he normally is, right in the thick of it where things are going 100 miles per hour. So, it was great and beneficial for both of us.”

Again, something different. Something frowned upon. Something that traditionally isn’t supposed to happen.

But do you think Torts care what they think? Do you think Danny cares what they think? Do you think Jonesy cares what they think?

Again, the response is, “We’re the fucking Philadelphia Flyers.”

OK… no one said those words specifically, but it’s that attitude – long missing in this organization – that seems to be back.

Jones told Russ and I that a little more than a year ago, he wouldn’t have even considered this job. But it’s amazing what a little bit of juice, energy and direction provided by Hilferty, Briere and Torts can do as opposed to what the previous regime offered.

Hilferty keeps calling it a leadership triumvirate – and it is. Jones is the boss and Briere and Torts are under him, but that’s only important when it comes to hiring and firing. When it comes to the day-to-day task of building this team back into a consistent contender with a winning culture, it’s the three of them together, giving the old musketeer cry, “All for one and one for all.”

They’ll do it together. With a focused determination. With a well-laid out plan. And with an openness and honesty and transparency unlike any time before.

After the press conference was over, Hilferty walked up to me and said, “If this all works, will you write the book?”

If it works, Dan. You have a deal.

And my instinct is, I better start sharpening my pencils.

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