Sources: Three Flyers legends had no say in Danny Brière’s promotion or Chuck Fletcher’s firing
A new day dawns: CEO Dave Scott did not consult the Three Wise Men, Flyers blue bloods for 50 years and now advisers. And if you think Briere is a product of institutional nepotism, think again.
For five decades the Flyers have been stuck in a toxic trap of nostalgia. They’ve been held hostage to Three Wise Men, legends as players who now sit in secluded offices, operating without accountability, peddling favors and favoritism to connections who see the game through the same mottled, last-century lenses as they still see it.
Last week, after 45 years of institutional nepotism, the Flyers had a chance to turn the page.
The sports wing of parent company Comcast Spectacor had a chance to ignore the Three Wise Men — Bob Clarke, Paul Holmgren, and Bill Barber — all former players and front office executives now ensconced as “senior advisers” along with latecomer and outsider Dean Lombardi. CEO Dave Scott had a chance to fire general manager Chuck Fletcher and promote someone from outside the Flyers’ inbred bloodlines — ideally, someone who would deviate from the incestuous progressions that ruined a once-proud hockey club.
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As it turns out, Scott did just that.
Scott fired Fletcher on his own, according to two league sources. Then he named Danny Brière interim general manager — again, on his own. Brière is expected to have the “interim” removed at the end of the season, according to a league source.
But wait. Brière wore the Orange and Black, right? So, same old, same old, right?
Wrong. Brière might be a former Flyer, and he’s close to Holmgren, but he is no Golden Child in the eyes of the Three Wise Men. In 2017, Holmgren sent him to run Spectacor’s ECHL team in Maine, but it was Valerie Camillo, president of Spectacor’s sports wing, who in 2020 sent Brière to the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania, which is something of a GM factory. Brière has spent the last year or so tailing Fletcher, but he always was an interloper.
The Three Wise Men would not have approved of the firing, nor the promotion, said one league source.
Scott knew this. So, they were not asked. No consultation. Nothing. He just did it.
Only then did Scott call the Three Wise Men and tell them. It sent shock waves through the organization.
For the first time since the late 1970s, the Flyers’ holy trinity had no say in a major move. No input. Just a phone call, telling them how things were going to be.
Scott and the Three Wise Men preferred not to comment on the momentous occasion.
This is a sea change in South Jersey. It’s an earthquake on Broad Street.
Ever since Clarke became a playing assistant coach in 1978, one of the trio of Flyers demigods has had a hand in how the franchise moved forward. Clarke is the club’s Babe Ruth, but all three were favorites of late owner Ed Snider, revered for their loyalty as much as for their skill and toughness and intelligence. That loyalty went both ways. Now, though, it is waning. The Three Wise Men will probably never have a meaningful voice in Flyers affairs again.
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Brière, when asked if the three legacy advisers would continue to influence policies, made clear that he does not need and will not heed those voices.
“I don’t know at this point. I am not sure,” he said. “We’ll see moving forward with what happens there.”
There’s no way the Flyers unceremoniously will ever defrock their most respected elders, but they have stopped listening to them. Finally.
“It’s not the ‘Broad Street Bullies’ from the 70′s and 80′s,” Brière told 97.5 The Fanatic in an interview Friday.
Brière watched, dismayed, as Fletcher and the Wise Men kept grasping at straws as the barn burned down.
“We were trying to do some patchwork instead of facing the truth,” Brière said.
If this review seems harsh, then consider recent history.
The new style
As Snider’s health regressed before his death in 2016, their advice became decrees.
When, in 2014, Holmgren lost his job as GM, the trio decided to hire Ron Hextall, a former Flyers goalie legend who learned front-office duties with the Flyers before heading to the Kings. They also persuaded Snider to promote Holmgren to president. Seriously.
When, early in his fifth season, with a burgeoning pipeline of prospects, they decided to fire Hextall, they hired Fletcher, an outsider, yes, but an old-school GM agreed upon by the Three Wise Men. A year later Fletcher replaced Holmgren as president when Holmgren moved on to his advisory role.
The descent of the team has been dizzying.
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Fletcher quickly fired first-time NHL coach Dave Hakstol and promoted 20-year-old goalie Carter Hart, and the Three Wise Men beamed.
To their delight Fletcher in the following spring hired old-school coach Alain Vigneault, which was unwise. After Vigneault’s inevitable firing three seasons later, he hired Clarke and Holmgren favorite John Tortorella, which has been even less wise.
Will this last? Brière is a mini-computer geek and the most analytics-friendly executive the club has had. Tortorella carries a rusty abacus and says, “Most analytics are trash.” Hmm.
In between there have been innumerable bad trades and absurd contracts, all transacted with the old “win now” ethic falling from the lips of the Three Wise Men. Injury, to some degree, and ineptness, to a much larger degree, have kept the Flyers from winning.
They have just one playoff series win in the last decade. They wasted the career of Claude Giroux, arguably the second-best player in franchise history.
All along, the Three Wise Men sat, secluded and untouchable, and watched their whims be met.
The Three Wise Men, they are like Russian war heroes. They will always be respected. They will always be revered. They have acted in good faith, and they have given their wisdom, their souls, their lives to the betterment of a hockey team in a hockey town.
But even heroes have their flaws. Even heroes fade away.
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