1/24 Presser: BRIERE

Flyers General Manager Daniel Briere met with the media on Wednesday at Flyers Training Center in Voorhees to conduct the annual midseason state-of-the-team press conference. He spoke for roughly 25 minutes on the club's play so far this season, outlook for the NHL trade deadline and big picture progress toward building a sustainable team culture (or "standard", as Head Coach John Tortorella prefers).

Briere started the press conference by reading a statement regarding goaltender Carter Hart's indefinite leave of absence.

Here are five takeaway quotes from the rest of the press conference.

1. "We go into every game feeling like we're going to win."

In the bigger picture of the season, Briere is pleased by the team's overall competitiveness. He pointed out that the club has earned victories over the likes of the defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights, Colorado (in Denver), Winnipeg (ending an eight-game winning streak for the Jets), Vancouver (a season-series sweep), Edmonton, Carolina and more. 

Briere said that the team's current second place status (25-17-6) in the Metropolitan Division standings is ahead of where he expected the team to be at this stage of the season. The primary value, as Briere sees it, is for the team's players who are currently age 24 or younger to get a taste of what it's like to play competitively against the league's top opposition.

"Our young guys are acquiring a lot of experience, having the chance to play in some really meaningful games," Briere said."It's going to keep on going, for at least the next couple months. This is great experience. I really feel we're moving in the right direction."

2. "We're still thinking about the future."

Briere said in no uncertain terms that the Flyers will not switch to "buyer mode" at the NHL trade deadline this season. They are still primarily focused on the bigger picture beyond the current season, and will not expend assets for rentals or short-term fixes in the interest of bolstering a playoff push.

"We've said for the beginning that we want to build a team that will become a Stanley Cup contender for years to come, and not just a one-in, one-out, one-in, one-out [pattern of playoff and non-playoff season as happened in the late 2010s].  The eye is still on the future," Briere said.

3. "We won't make trades just to make trades."

While the Flyers are still interested in continuing to acquire assets -- draft picks, prospects, possibly even young NHLers -- Briere said that the team will not trade off valuable veteran pieces (including impending unrestricted free agents) just for the sake of making deals. 

"We'll see what the marketplace looks like," Briere said. "We won't make trades just to make trades...I think our players understand where our focus is."

Briere was asked specifically about whether the organization will attempt to sign an impending unrestricted free agent such as Nick Seeler to a contract extension given his on-ice value and locker-room presence. The GM said that it's a possibility, as Seeler has played mostly a top-four role with the team this season and handled it well, along with frequent defense partner (and fellow impending UFA) Sean Walker.  

There are various ways that things could play out over the next couple months, according to Briere. Nothing is set in stone.

"The one thing I won't be doing is trading prime assets to make a run," Briere reiterated. "If there's a hockey trade that will make us better (for the immediate and long-term) future, we'll certainly look at it."

4. "We believe Ersson can be a No. 1 goalie."

During the media availability, Briere expressed confidence that Samuel Ersson is capable of handling the primary starting goaltending chores. There are two games left before a weeklong schedule bye and the NHL All-Star break. The current plan is for Ersson to start both games, backed up by Cal Petersen. 

Briere said that the organization is thrilled with Ersson's progress in what has been his first full NHL season and feels comfortable with him starting against any team in the league. The 24-year-old Swedish netminder can handle the workload of being a primary starting goalie in the NHL.

"He's a No. 1.  I believe that. At the same time, we have to be careful. You don't want to put too much pressure on him. He's still young. He's still developing and acquiring experience. This is a great opportunity for him to shoulder a lot of heavy load. We'll see, but I do believe so, yes," Briere said.

In terms of organizational depth in the broader picture, Briere noted that there is bolstered organizational depth between Belarusian goalie prospect Alexei Kolosov (who is under an entry-level contract) along with 2023 second-round pick Carson Bjarnason and 2023 third-rounder Yegor Zavragin (who is having a phenomenal season in Russian junior and pro-minor league hockey at age 18). 

5. "A lot of guys have developed in Lehigh Valley."

Briere was asked to assess the progress of the Flyers' player development goals with the AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms preparing players for the NHL and then emerging as NHL contributors. That vision continues to take shape with an overhauled hockey operations department since Briere ascended to the general manager's role.

"I'm happy with it," Briere said. "If you look at players who were with the Phantoms last year -- [Cam] York, [Tyson] Foerster, [Egor] Zamula, and Ersson is also one of them. [Bobby] Brink. [And going back earlier], [Morgan] Frost. A lot of guys have developed in Lehigh Valley," Briere said.

"When I got the job, one of the things I wanted to improve was the development program with Lehigh Valley but also with our [junior, collegiate and European] development guys, starting with Riley Amstrong, Nick Schultz and company. They've done a great job with our guys, and it's going to be critical."