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Flyers: Hilferty and Jones 2023-2024 Exit Interview

Dan Hilferty, president and chief executive officer of Independence Blue Cross, speaks during Caron Treatment Center's Executive Luncheon on the Opioid Crisis at the headquarters of Independence Blue Cross in Philadelphia, Thursday, May 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Earlier today, Dan Hilferty and Keith Jones gave their 2023-2024 Exit Interviews. They reflected on the end of the Philadelphia Flyers season, and before the 2024 NHL Stanley Cup Finals, Hilferty and Jones met with the media.

Establishing the ever-refreshing sense of transparent communication between the franchise and fanbase, Hilferty set a precedence that the media will meet with the head coach, general manager, president of hockey operations, and himself at the end of each season.

“The truth of the matter is, across the board, people feel better about where we are. They feel that the things that Keith [Jones], and Danny [Brière] in his role as GM, have done over the course of this year are about building for the long haul and doing it in a way that is as transparent as possible in an environment where not everything can be transparent.” – Dan Hilferty; 6/5/2024

Hilferty is a man of the people. You can find him at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, NJ. That’s one way he knows people are feeling better about where the team is. Another way is, as a businessman, ticket sales. According to Hilferty, ticket renewals are up between 92%-95%, and beyond that, they’re routinely in discussions with potential sponsors and suite purchases at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Flyers are on the upswing, and that helps Philadelphia reclaim its hockey market.

“I long for a day that people are so excited, that not a Ranger fan can get a ticket at a home game at the Wells Fargo Center. We’re not there, yet. We are seeing more enthusiasm when we talk to people.” – Dan Hilferty; 6/5/2024

In all of the feeling better about where the team is, the focus remains squarely on the rebuild. A team Hilferty and Jones follow are the Florida Panthers, who square off against the Edmonton Oilers for the Stanley Cup. The Panthers are a blend of younger players and seasoned veterans. They’re a balanced group that thrives on a consistent hard work ethic.

On a season-to-season basis, Hilferty will assess how the team progresses. He isn’t focused on wins and losses as much as the overall progression on and off the ice. Progression, as Hilferty explained, isn’t exclusive to making the postseason.

“Let’s take a Tyson Foerster, for example. If you look at the year he had. I’m hoping players like that continue to impress and the next wave of young folks that these guys feel that yeah, it’s gonna’ take time for them to get to reach their potential, but they’re on the right track. They’re paying attention to their training, they’re fitting well in the locker room. They’re the types of things that I’m talking about.” – Dan Hilferty; 6/5/2024

Another example would be Ivan Fedotov. If he has an encouraging training camp before entering next season in tandem with Sam Ersson, that’s progression. That goaltending duo is still new, and Ersson had a solid showing at the 2024 IIHF Worlds for Sweden.

Jones and Hilferty sang all the notes about remaining patient and putting themselves in a position ‘further down the line’ to make a key decision. This aligns with the times Daniel Brière said he would make a move if it made sense. Before adding players, the Flyers need a stronger foundation; they must hit on their two first-round picks at the 2024 NHL Entry Draft and multiple firsts in 2025.

“I think the one indicator on the timeline that’s out there for everyone to see is the money that we have tied up right now, for players that aren’t playing for our team. A lot of that is going to start to come off the cap. I do think that if you’re looking further down the line, that is where we’re going to start to have some real key decisions to make. We have to get them right. There’s no room for error on whatever players we add to the mix in a couple of years. Those are things that we have to pay a lot of attention to right now.” – Keith Jones; 6/5/2024

Keeping with the informative and very transparent introspective, Jones used the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline as an example. Trading Sean Walker wasn’t a way of saying the Flyers weren’t a playoff team. They got a first-round pick, even if trading Walker contributed to missing the postseason. Philadelphia still competed against good teams but overlooked the bad ones. That is the lesson the team learned.

“We were all sad to see Sean [Walker] go. But the truth is, there’s a pick that came from that, and there’s an opportunity to build towards the future.” – Dan Hilferty; 6/5/2024

The conversation eventually landed on the Matvei Michkov bingo number. He’s a hot topic with the fanbase, and Hilferty, a man of the people, is waiting alongside. Of course, the Flyers are open to Michkov joining the team earlier in North America, but they’re prepared to wait, too. Jones added his insight on the topic:

“When we drafted him, the expectation was that he would finish his contract with SKA [St. Petersburg]. We are listening, as well as reading many of your articles, and kind of following along. We have no update on it. We would welcome him with welcome arms. We absolutely love what he is going to bring to the Flyers. If that timeline is sped up, that would be wonderful, but we don’t know.” – Keith Jones; 6/5/2024

Overall, the season served the purpose of a rebuild, never losing sight of putting the team in the best position to be better. It’s too early to make any rash takes about Philadelphia making the postseason in 2024-2025, but that isn’t the only metric judging progress. The Flyers are still a young, growing team, and many on the roster will have the honor of bringing hockey back to Broad Street with Oliver Bonk, Denver Barkey, and Michkov. This offseason might not be the busiest, but it’s a calculated decision to be patient.

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