After John Tortorella provided the coaching perspective to the Flyers performance from the 2023-24 season, GM Danny Briere officially put the finishing touches on his first season in the role. Briere addressed the media on Friday and addressed the state of the team, the feelings surrounding its ending, and what the path forward is.

‘I’m Very Proud of the Way the Team Handled Themselves’

Briere started focusing on the team playing above expectations. Amid many unexpected scenarios and challenging situations, they made all 82 games matter.

“I think the first thing I want to say about that is that I'm very proud of the way the team handled themselves this year, the players, the coaching staff, it's been an impressive year,” Briere said. “Now, I know we focus a lot on the last two weeks, the slide, and not getting into the playoffs; it would have been awesome to get in the playoffs. Believe me, that's a huge disappointment. I know it's your job to remind us that we slipped and we didn't make it. It's also my job to make sure that we don't focus on just that part.

“There's a lot of good strides that were made from a lot of different players this season. It was an impressive season. I'm proud of how our guys battled, the way they were torn apart before the season, being told that they didn't have a chance to compete, supposed to be at the bottom of the standings in the whole league.”

‘I Don’t Even Know That We’re There Yet’

With the Flyers falling just short of the playoffs, certainly something that was unexpected at the start of the season, the natural next step is to look ahead and start preparing for next season. Briere was candid in his remarks about how far away the team is from contending.

On the surface, that sounds like an obvious statement. Of course, the team is not ready to be a contender. But Briere had a different view of where he thinks the team is.

I still am not quite there as far as saying that we're a contender. I don’t believe we’re at the point where it’s time to let some young assets go to try to get better, quicker. We're not there yet,” Briere said. “There's certainly a lot of players that have brought some optimism as far as believing that we're going in the right direction.

“We have to be careful, and I know the expectation next year will be that ‘oh, we got to get into the playoffs.’ I don't even know that we're there yet. It was a great year, but there's still a long ways to go. We have to be very careful with that going into next year. We're not at the point where we're going to trade young assets for older veterans that are going to get us over the board. I still don't think we're a Stanley Cup contender, but you know it's one of those questions where it's not black and white like maybe it was last summer.”

‘We’re Still Going to Respect That Timeline That We’ve Put in Place’

It remains clear that the Flyers still need plenty of high-end talent on the roster. Of course, after just falling short of the playoffs, the team is now likely to hold the 12th or 13th pick in the NHL Draft, not a Top-5 pick where the choice could be more of a slam dunk.

Briere admitted that makes acquiring high-end talent tougher, but remains focused on the big picture and how helping the players within the organization can help bridge the gap.

The bulk of it still needs to be done through our young guys, mostly through the draft,” Briere said. “I still believe with the pick that you mentioned, that we can get a very talented player. Outside of that, it's tough when teams have talented players, they don't want to trade them away.

“What I'm saying is more that we're probably not going to throw a lot of money at a free agent to come in and take us overboard. We're not going to trade young players for older veterans that are going to bring more talent. We're still going to respect that timeline that we've put in place. That hasn't changed. If there's a trade that makes sense that can bring more talent, and there's a way that makes sense. Maybe it's a hockey trade. We're definitely open for business and we're gonna keep exploring that.”

Briere also added that trading Sean Walker at the deadline was a move that he certainly thought had the potential to cost the team the playoffs. He added that it’s an example of making a move not to be short-sighted but stay focused on the big picture and long-term thinking.

“The players are gonna guide us in that. I don't think we're quite there yet,” Briere said. “I still think there's more that we need to do before we can take that next step and start pushing the envelope, taking some risks a little bit more. I still think we're at a stage where we need to think about the future. We need to build the right way to give us the best chance to be serious contenders for years to come and not just for a year or two.”

‘If There’s an Opportunity, We Would Jump on It to Get Him Here Quicker’

Briere also touched on the future of several players, both currently within the Flyers locker room on expiring contracts and others who are more part of the future.

First, he essentially confirmed that players like Marc Staal and Denis Gurianov would not be returning. But Briere made clear that, unlike last offseason, there would be less addition by subtraction and more looking for opportunities where young players could step up.

“I don't think we have the same issue as far as the locker room,” Briere said. “I think we took a huge step

forward with that, just look at how the players stuck together and how they wanted to play for each other. The culture has taken a huge turn. I think we took a huge step in that direction. We have to be careful. We're going to take a good hard look at that, but we're also hoping now that some of the younger guys keep taking the steps. A lot of them took a step forward. We're gonna need more guys to take another step next year for us to keep advancing in the right direction.”

Briere also provided insight to the future of the team’s goaltending. Just like Tortorella stated, the Flyers appear to be moving in the direction of a tandem between Sam Ersson and Ivan Fedotov at the NHL level.

“That's what we're planning on. It would be Ersson and Fedotov next season,” Briere said. “It could always change, especially with the history of this organization with goaltending. It seems there's always some drama there. It would be nice to get away from the drama. The way I see it is that most likely it's going to be Ersson and Fedotov. I'm going to have the chance to go watch [Alexei] Kolosov in person this weekend.

“I'm really excited about that. He's obviously a very high-end prospect for us. We're excited because we have some good young goaltenders coming up the ranks as well in [Carson] Bjarnason and [Yegor] Zavragin. It's exciting in that sense, we do have in the back some good young goalies that are getting better and turning themselves into high-end prospects.”

Briere also added that Jamie Drysdale may need surgery for a lower-body injury around the core area.

“All I can tell you is he might need surgery on the lower-body, core area. Jamie was pretty banged up,” Briere said. “It was impressive, the character that he showed. Coming back from the off-season surgery that he had, being traded, trying to adapt to a new team, couldn't skate at a hundred percent and that's the key to his game. I'm excited to see Jamie Drysdale fully healthy next season. I think we're going to see a different player.”

Finally, Briere also addressed any possibility that Matvei Michkov, the team’s 2023 first-round pick, could come over to join the team sooner.

“Look, if there's an opportunity, we would jump on it to get him here quicker,” Briere said. “But as far as I know, at the moment, it's still the same timeline. He has two years left on his deal. I think on his end, he would have to find a way out of his deal before we can do anything. That's out of our control, so as far as I know we have to wait two more years.

“Believe me, we keep watching him. We have a heavy interest in what he does and he's had a tremendous year. It was fun to see some of the highlights, but at this time, I don't hold too much hope that we'll be able to get him out sooner.”

‘We Have a Great Relationship’

Between rumors that Tortorella was going to eventually make his way to the front office side of things or some of the decisions made, particularly down the stretch, there are always questions about how Tortorella’s part of the puzzle fits into place and aligns with everyone else in the organization. Briere made clear that lines of communication are not only open, but that the relationship is strong and allows for some different perspectives in thinking from both sides.

“We're talking almost every day and more than once a day. Torts is fantastic to work with. We have a great relationship,” Briere said. “It was easy to talk to him, very open as far as you know, taking some suggestions. It was a blast.

“I would always say I provide the roster, but Torts is in charge of who plays, who's in and out of the lineup and how much ice time they get. He was very open, if we saw something there was never any push back as far as you don't know what you're talking about or you're not around. Actually it was the opposite. He was fantastic to work with and wanted Jonesy and I's opinion. We made it clear at the end of the day. He's the one that makes the decision and that's his department.”

Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN. Follow him on social media @Kevin_Durso.

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