The Flyers kicked off the NHL’s pink season on Friday, announcing that Chuck Fletcher is out as general manager and Danny Briere is now in the big chair.
There are few nicer people in the game than Fletcher. He is total class. But it’s fair to say it wasn’t a shocking decision. Since last summer, it has felt like time is running out for Fletcher as Philadelphia general manager after a few disappointing seasons.
Step into Briere, and don’t let that official “interim” tag as a GM fool you – he’s truly blessed to be the full-time GM there. I’d be pretty surprised if he wasn’t at the end of the Flyers’ process.
Even in his days as a player, Briere was a thoughtful guy who looked like he would one day become general manager material, just like his former Sabers teammate Chris Drury.
If people can stay away from Briere in Philadelphia, he could be very good. But it’s the Flyers, so who knows?
My buddy Scott Burnside wrote a great profile on Brière for Athleticism three years ago, which certainly left the impression that Brière was climbing the executive ranks. And that’s exactly what he did, rise through the ranks.
Then came the GM interviews in Montreal last season, when Briere found himself a final-round contender for the job won by Kent Hughes, impressing the Habs throughout those interviews.
So that day was coming at some point. It was just a matter of when.
We also had a general manager change in Nashville, where Barry Trotz will replace David Poile (the winningest general manager in NHL history) on July 1.
Both of these moves are changing the league’s executive landscape. Could they be just the start? Let’s take a look at other GM situations in the league:
Hey, did you know the Leafs general manager has an expiring contract?
Toronto is finally trying to get out of the first round of the playoffs, is having another great regular season and no GM was busier before the trade deadline. Everything is there. That’s it, anyway.
Personally, I believe Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment should have made this decision last summer. Extend Dubas or release him. (I would have extended it.) Putting your general manager in a lame duck situation in the NHL’s biggest market wasn’t ideal. It’s OK in most NHL markets, but not in Toronto. For the same reason, Habs owner Geoff Molson couldn’t let Marc Bergevin run with the wind all season a year ago and felt compelled to make the directional changes he did when he did it. Montreal and Toronto are not markets where being in a lame duck situation can easily be ignored.
The question is, what does the MLSE council see as worthy of extension now for Dubas? Win a playoff? Two? Go to the Stanley Cup final? I guess we will find out this spring. But I can assure you, based on how other front offices view Dubas, he wouldn’t be out of work for very long.
Brad Treliving, Flames
For the second time in his tenure as GM in Calgary, Treliving is working on an expiring deal. It happens. Don Sweeney in Boston and Don Waddell in Carolina worked on deals expiring in 2021-22 before resuming after the season.
But that expiring contract comes at an interesting time for Treliving, who is finishing his ninth season at the helm after being named the Flames’ general manager in April 2014. He’s been around for a while. They are in a grind of a playoff race. The unique part of it all is that head coach Darryl Sutter was signed to a two-year extension before the season. It is my understanding that Flames ownership also had extension talks with Treliving around the same time, before the season, and for some reason those talks did not result in an agreement. I believe both parties have mutually agreed to speak to each other again at some point.
I suspect those conversations will happen again before the end of the regular season. So we’ll see where that leads.
Dorion is signed for the 2024-25 season with a club option for 2025-26. He has been general manager of the Senators since April 2016, completing his seventh season. His squad certainly appears to be finally on the rise after a painstaking rebuild and the signing of young core players. But he’s on this list because there are new owners on the horizon.
The hope is to have a sale of the Senators around July, although these things may drag on. But anyway, there are new owners on the way.
What does this mean for Dorion? It wouldn’t be surprising if new owners wanted to reshape the organization, and that could include a change at GM. What I think would make the most sense if the sale doesn’t end until July or later is to let Dorion have another year at least, because by then most major decisions on hockey will have been taken in the June draft anyway. It would give the new owner a chance to get to know Dorion next season, when he’s under contract anyway, before he decides.s what to do.
That’s how I would play it, but we’ll see if the new owners feel the same way. Sometimes owners come in and want their own management put in place immediately.
Hextall was hired as Pens GM in February 2021, agreeing to a four-year contract which also includes a squad option for the 2024-25 season.
What’s important to remember is that the team’s ownership group, led by Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle, hired him. Then Fenway Sports Group took over as of December 2021. Say what you will, whenever a team changes hands, the outgoing GM is someone to watch.
Hextall has come under fire in Pittsburgh, with local media issuing strong criticism, particularly over the past month. What baffles me a bit, watching from afar, is that the Penguins are sitting exactly where I thought they would be before the season: in a wildcard spot. They are no longer a top team.
Now they could miss the playoffs as well, which I think would be bad for Hextall.
But I also think the job Hextall was hired for by the previous owner has changed for him. I think he was hired to make tough decisions on an aging core – maybe start rebuilding, maybe part ways with a legacy player like Evgeni Malkin or Kris Letang, for example. It seems pretty clear to me that the new owners wanted the band to stay together. So here we are.
And finally, it goes without saying that playoff results have a way of upsetting the apple basket. So let’s see what the first round brings in this regard.
(Photo by Kyle Dubas: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)