Despite upheaval, Flyers in position to win

Flyers forward Daniel Briere controls the puck in a game against the Red Wings in Detroit, Mich.,...

Flyers forward Daniel Briere controls the puck in a game against the Red Wings in Detroit, Mich., Jan. 2, 2011. (CLAUS ANDERSON/Getty Images/AFP)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:50 PM ET

VOORHEES, N.J. - Daniel Briere looked at the stall to his immediate left Monday at the Philadelphia Flyers practice facility and saw Jaromir Jagr sitting there.

Across the way was goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.

Down the row were the stalls of Brayden Schenn, Max Talbot and Jacob Voracek and, on the other side of Jagr, Wayne Simmonds.

Those half-dozen players were brought in during a summer of remarkable upheaval for the Flyers, just a year removed from a trip to the Stanley Cup final. It was a summer in which they shipped out captain Mike Richards and star forward Jeff Carter in blockbuster trades, two guys who were the faces of the franchise.

"If someone would have told me when I signed here that Richards and Carter would be gone and Jagr, (new captain Chris) Pronger and Bryzgalov would be sitting in the same dressing room as me, I would have said, 'c'mon, now let's not push our luck too much,' " Briere said with a smile and a shake of his head.

Briere, one of the longest-tenured Flyers, should be used to turnover by now. He signed in 2007 and there are only four players still left from his first season in Philly.

But there's turnover and then there's foundation-shaking.

Briere was visiting home in Ottawa-Gatineau June 23, in the wake of the Flyers being swept by the Boston Bruins in the second round, when he heard the news about Richards and Carter.

One of those guys going? OK.

Two?

"There were a lot of rumours going around," Briere said. "What surprised me was that we traded both of them, both Mike and Jeff. You hear rumours and 95% of them aren't true or they don't go through. I expected maybe one would go, but I was surprised to see both of them go. But then you sit back and you look at what we got in return, it's a huge return. It sets up this organization for many years again. You're getting, what, five guys in return for those two? Five young guys with a lot of upside."

The Flyers used a first-round pick they got in the Carter trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets (eighth overall last summer) to add centre Sean Couturier.

"That's the beauty of the Flyers," Briere said. "They do that (trade Richards and Carter), but on the flipside, they sign Bryzgalov, and they sign Jagr, they sign Talbot. At the same time, they're telling you, 'look, we made those moves because we believe it was better for the organization, but it doesn't mean we're sitting back and not trying to win. We're going after it still.

"That's one of the reasons why I wanted to come here in the first place. This organization is committed to winning.

"Like (general manager) Paul (Holmgren) said, this was a good hockey move. You can't disagree with that. You look at the moves they made after that and it tells you they are still going after it this year."

There were rumours about friction in the Flyers dressing room, a need for some fresh air, boys being boys. Briere dismissed it.

"I don't want to throw those guys under the bus," he said. "They were good teammates. I really have nothing bad to say against them as teammates, you know? For their careers, I think (the trade) might be a good thing for them, as well. All of a sudden now the pressure is on them to start performing. It's good for both sides. If everything turns out, it could be one of those trades where it worked out for the team and it worked out for the player."

Now we wait and see how everyone touched by the Flyers' summer of upheaval does in their new digs.

"There are a lot of question marks," Briere said. "How much can Jagr give us? How ready is Brayden Schenn? Those are question marks. Is Jake Voracek ready to take the next step?

"Those are risks, but if it works out it will be a big payoff."

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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