It sounds more and more likely that the inevitability of Daniel Brière becoming the full-time general manager is on the horizon, and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman believes there is a good chance that the announcement could come within the next week or so as the Philadelphia Flyers have reportedly narrowed down their search for the President of Hockey Operations position to 3-5 candidates.
They have done their due diligence since the dismissal of Chuck Fletcher and many names have been tossed around, including some former Flyers in Chris Pronger, Eric Lindros, Robert Esche, and Dave Poulin, but there have also been some outside names like Émilie Castonguay, Eddie Olczyk, Cammi Granato, and Doug Wilson to keep an eye on.
Whoever they decide to choose, it seems like they are going for a more modern and diversified approach than anything they have done in the past, and there’s also a good chance that some of the names that are currently involved in the hiring process as the President, could get positions elsewhere in the organization.
Friedman and Jeff Marek had a small segment on 32 Thoughts: The Podcast earlier Friday and the former detailed what exactly is going on with the Flyers’ search and what we should expect in the coming days, maybe weeks:
“It sounds to me like there’s been some movement in the sense of “we’re getting down to the last 3-5 people”. Billy King, who was kind of like the person who ran the first part of this search, I believe it was his role to submit like the 3-5 names around now and they’ll go from there…that’s what he’s supposed to do and I believe they’re in the process of doing that right now.
“I think that Daniel Brière is gonna stay the GM, I don’t think that’s news, we’ve all talked about it. I wouldn’t be surprised if Daniel Brière is involved in the final part of the process. To me the biggest question here is, Brière is going to have a big say on hockey, is it gonna be a hockey person in this role or is it gonna be somebody who’s basically going to say “you know what Daniel you don’t need to worry about this, I’ll handle it… you worry about the hockey and I’ll handle this stuff,” because if that’s the case I think it bodes well for an Ed Olczyk, whose name has surfaced in the last couple of days, even a Doug Wilson who won’t be a day-to-day GM, or if it’s more of a hockey person, you know Scott Mellanby’s name has been around there.
“I’m really curious to see if they go hockey person or somebody else who is just there to handle everything that Brière doesn’t need to worry about. I’ve also wondered if it’s possible, for example Cammi Granato’s name has been around this, I think it’s also possible that there is going to be a hire – I don’t know if it’s gonna be her specifically or someone with a similar background – just to diversify or modernize their front office. I’ve had people say to me that we could be…maybe thinking end of next week but I don’t want to say that for sure.”
The Fourth Period’s Anthony Di Marco also tweeted that he has heard Chris Pronger mentioned again as a possible target for the president’s vacancy, and although he isn’t technically a favourite for the position he still remains in the mix.
Wouldn't be shocked to see Chris Pronger's name surface in regards to the #Flyers President of Hockey Ops search.
Don't know how much of a favorite he is, but he's in the mix.#fueledbyphilly
— Anthony Di Marco (@ADiMarco25) May 5, 2023
Pronger doesn’t have as much experience as some of the other candidates like Mellanby or Wilson, but he has been around as an executive shortly after his career came to a close. He was a fierce defenseman on the ice but the Hall-of-Famer spent some time as a Senior Advisor for a couple years in Florida before taking on their Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations role in 2019-20. He then moved on to take a position within the Department of Player Safety for the NHL.
Eddie Olczyk has been connected to the Flyers for as long as this position has been vacant and it sounds more and more likely that he will be hired in some way, shape, or form – even if it isn’t for this specific position. Nevertheless, he is one of the favourites and while he doesn’t have as much experience in the front offices like some of his competitors, he is a very well-respected name in the hockey world.
Olczyk has spent years upon years inside the booth for NBC and NBCSN, for the Chicago Blackhawks, the Seattle Kraken, and has covered lots of high profile tournaments including the Olympics and of course the Stanley Cup Playoffs and Final. He was also hired as the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins for parts of 2 seasons (2003-04 and 2005-06) but struggled severely to the tune of a record of 31-64-8-10.
Since Brière will be focused solely on the “hockey stuff”, Olczyk won’t have to worry too much about the on-ice product as he would have more to do with the business aspect of things, which is seemingly up his alley.
Scott Mellanby is another former Philadelphia Flyer and while that may not be as attractive as some might think, he has been around several front offices since he retired after 2006-07. From 2010-11 to 2011-12, Mellanby was an assistant coach for the St. Louis Blues, from 2012-13 to 2013-14 he was the director of player personnel for the Montreal Canadiens, from 2014-15 to 2021-22 he was the assistant general manager for the Canadiens, and he most recently became a Senior Advisor for the Blues.
Then you have the venerated name of Doug Wilson who was first hired as a Director of Player Personnel all the way back in 1997-98 for the San Jose Sharks. Wilson held onto that position until 2002-03 when he was then named assistant coach of the Sharks. The following season he was promoted to Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations and general manager and he held both positions simultaneously between 2003-04 to 2016-17. He lost the title of Executive Vice President, but he remained the GM until 2021-22 when he had to step down from to focus on his health as he was dealing with a non-COVID related illness for months.
Friedman touched on the fact that Cammi Granato – or someone similar – could be hired to diversify and modernize the front office. Émilie Castonguay reportedly was interviewed earlier for the position, and both women currently work for the Vancouver Canucks and seem like a package deal.
Granato has been around hockey for decades and it all started as a decorated U.S women’s hockey player who collected 16 silver medals and 4 gold medals during her playing career. She is also very well connected in the hockey world as she is the sister of Tony Granato and Don Granato, and she is also married to former NHLer-turned-analyst Ray Ferraro.
She was a hired as a scout for the Seattle Kraken from 2019-2021 before joining Castonguay with the Canucks in 2021-22. Even if she isn’t hired as the President, look for her to potentially get a position elsewhere within the organization.
The decision could come anytime within the next week or so, and it sounds like the Flyers are enamoured with a couple high-profile options to take over a very important role for the team during a very tumultuous period in their history. Brière will finally permanently get the general manager’s position, one that he has sought after for a few years, and he has already made a move – albeit a minor one in signing Egor Zamula.
He will have his hands full heading into the lottery, the draft, and free agency as the Flyers have to figure out their rebuilding plans, extend RFAs like Cam York, Noah Cates, and Morgan Frost, all while finding trade partners for the many players they are trying to “subtract”.