Flyers appreciative of Fletcher's benevolence, see ‘deep thinker' in Briere


VOORHEES, N.J. — On the day of the trade deadline in 2020-21, Scott Laughton had to sweat out the morning, uncertain if his days with the Flyers were done.

Chuck Fletcher was unsure, too.

"I woke up this morning not knowing whether we would trade Scott Laughton or sign him," the Flyers' general manager said then.

By the afternoon, the Flyers had Laughton inked to a five-year contract extension.

Now, at 28 years old, Laughton is the team's de facto captain and recently played his 500th career game in a Flyers jersey.

Three days ago, Laughton woke up to the news that Fletcher had been fired as president of hockey operations and GM. He'll always appreciate the faith he received from Fletcher and the decision to keep him in Philadelphia.

"I talked to him yesterday, gave him a call," Laughton said Monday after practice. "I just said thanks for everything he's done in my career. He treated me with respect. I just said thank you because he was such a great guy to talk to and lean on in different situations.

"Really helped me out in my career and kind of jump-started the opportunity that I got here. He was a big part of that. A guy that will be missed around here."

The Flyers had played in Raleigh, North Carolina, the night before Fletcher's firing. They were then headed to Pittsburgh the day the news broke.

"It was surprising," Laughton said. "We were on the road, so woke up and the phone was blowing up a little bit just from all the stuff. A little bit surprised at, I guess, the timing of it. But it's a business. We all know that. Chuck knows that. And we move on.

"But he had a great impact on a lot of young guys here and that will be remembered, for sure."

Fletcher was in his fourth full season running the Flyers. The club is in a major transitional phase as it's set to miss the playoffs for the third consecutive season. Danny Briere will take over the reins in the interim and sure seems like a front-runner for the full-time gig while the Flyers look to hire a president of hockey ops.

In Laughton's fifth career game as a Flyer during January 2013, Briere was on the ice alongside him as a teammate.

"Even just skating with him a couple of times throughout the years, the tips and the little insight he has, the knowledge is so valuable," Laughton said. "It's a great opportunity for him. I think he has put in the work. He's a perfect guy for the job."

With his local ties, Tony DeAngelo has known Briere for a while. He also grew up watching him.

"When he was a Flyer, he was one of my favorite players," DeAngelo said Monday. "I didn't know him then, but he was 'Mr. Playoffs.'"

Fletcher traded for DeAngelo last offseason and signed him to a two-year, $10 million deal.

"I was disappointed for Chuck," the 27-year-old defenseman said. "Not because he signed me, people are going to think it's because he signed me. I think he's a really good guy, I think he's a good GM. I think he had a little bit of a tough go here. There were a lot of things that went against him. Not to be his pickup guy here, but a lot of things went against him, a lot of injuries.

"Seeing a guy like that go, a good man, it's tough to see. On the other side, Danny's a great guy, a great Flyer. It'll be good to see him get a chance to do the job here. Hopefully the interim tag comes off pretty quick and looking forward to see what he does."

On Sunday morning, Briere said he was "not afraid to use the word rebuild" but didn't see the Flyers in need of a "fire sale."

"I know everybody is looking for a big rebuild, fire sale," DeAngelo said. "I hope that's not the case but it's not my call."

John Tortorella has been honest about the long road ahead for the Flyers. He came to Fletcher's defense after the former GM came under heavy criticism for his performance at the trade deadline, a week before he was fired.

"As much as I'm disappointed in not being with Chuck, I'm just that excited working with Danny," the Flyers' head coach said Monday. "The organization has been very fortunate to have Chuck and Danny here together. Now, Chuck is gone and Danny's here. Anxious to work with him."

Tortorella was an assistant coach with the Coyotes when Briere was a 20-year-old just starting his NHL career in Phoenix. The head coach's transition to working with Briere shouldn't be difficult. He sought out Briere often this season when the former Flyer was the club's special assistant to the GM.

"Danny and I have talked a lot on — in the weakest part of our organization — the offensive part of it," Tortorella said. "I've asked a number of questions to him with some of our guys as they're struggling offensively, what does he see."

As a 5-foot-9, 174-pound forward, Briere was never the biggest or strongest on the ice. But he often had the mental edge. He went on to have a long career and enjoyed rich success during the playoffs, putting up 116 points (53 goals, 63 assists) in 124 career postseason games.

What makes Briere's hockey intelligence stand out?

"The thing I think we'll see with Danny, he's a deep thinker," Tortorella said. "I don't think it's reactionary. He'll see things and I think he has the ability to transform it back to what he was doing at that time as a player because he played in the league and was such a good player in the league, to maybe understand it a little bit better. Especially in the evaluation process, to see how guys are moving along.

"I've known him for so long. ... He doesn't think he has all the answers. He's a student, also."

Briere is only 45 years old.

"Young man's game," Tortorella said with a smile. "Young man's game in the business part of it, in the front office part of it. But you know what, your age is your number. I think he has done his time in really working at this part of it."

Cam York is viewed as one of the Flyers' key pieces to the future. At 22 years old, the defenseman is expected to fuel the Flyers' youthfulness. He was the first draft pick of Fletcher's tenure back in the first round of 2019.

"He brought me into the league," York said Monday, "gave me a lot of great opportunities. ... To see him go, it sucks. But it's obviously part of the business. I know things weren't going really well, so we get it."

York appreciated Fletcher's caring style.

"I could go to him about anything, whether it was hockey related or just life in general," York said. "He was always open with me. A lot of GMs in this league I feel like are kind of hard on you, you don't see them very often or they're talking crap about you. Chuck was never like that."

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