Keith Jones joined The Anthony Gargano Show in studio on Tuesday to discuss a new era for the Philadelphia Flyers.

The President of Hockey Operations talked about the new front office, confidence in head coach John Tortorella, his relationship with the city of Philadelphia, and even some Eagles football.

Keith Jones

Jones played 554 combined regular-season and playoff games in nine NHL seasons. He spent his final 155 games with the Flyers before retiring in 2000.

He has spent over two decades as a national and local broadcaster since retiring from the NHL.

The Flyers have missed the playoffs in three consecutive seasons for only the second time in franchise history.

They’ve slipped into a tense situation under pressure to succeed for a fan base starved for playoff success.

Jones is well-versed in the 56-year history of the franchise. He will now face the uphill battle of fixing an unfavorable salary cap position and reversing a multilayered mess in Philadelphia.

The “New Era of Orange”

Newly-appointed franchise governor Dan Hilferty has ushered in a “New Era of Orange” under the leadership of Jones and general manager (GM) Danny Briere.

The Flyers have already taken intense criticism for hiring more alumni to executive positions.

However, the new mission for Jones and the front office is to solve the problem that Anthony brought up on Tuesday.

“Growing up in this town, that Flyer family thing was legit, and when Ed (Snider) passed, it felt like part of that went away.” -Anthony Gargano

Despite all the backlash Flyers fans have given to the team and the organization during a truly disastrous three-year period, all they really want is to see the Orange and Black raise the Stanley Cup once again.

How does Keith Jones plan to make that happen? He discussed seven key points with Anthony.

  • The Flyers Brand

    “I say this all the time, and this is fact. There’s (the) Original Six, which you know we have to have great respect for. That’s what got us to where we are today, and then there’s the seventh team (the Flyers).” -Keith Jones

    “(Lack of success) silences your fans because they don’t have that that pride that you want them to feel when they leave the rink from winning a game.”

    The Flyers threw the entire hockey world into oblivion when they became the first expansion franchise ever to defeat an Original Six franchise in a playoff series on their way to their first Stanley Cup in 1974.

    As much as other fan bases like to taunt Philadelphia for celebrating the long-gone history of the Broad Street Bullies, the legacy of the Flyers still carries significant weight around the NHL.

    The Flyers have maintained an excellent reputation with their treatment of players’ families, their willingness to spend whatever money they think is necessary to win, and their continued tradition of keeping players around the organization after their careers are over.

    Jones is a former player and broadcaster with a conscious pulse on the entire league. He fully understands how the organization’s history and reputation will make Philadelphia an attractive home for free agents when the Flyers finally reemerge as a contender.

    “That’s something that’s really been embedded in me. I think it’s one of the most important things about being a Flyer. We are the Philadelphia Flyers. I get it’s not like a team that doesn’t have a great history, and that should never be forgotten. It should be incorporated into who we are and who we’re going to become. It doesn’t mean we have to play the same way as those teams played. It’s obviously a different game, but what’s inside does matter, and having pride and putting that jersey on matters.”

  • The Salary Cap Era

    “We can’t quick fix things with money.”

    It’s possibly the simplest reason why the Flyers have fallen apart during the salary cap era. Relentless spending under the direction of Ed Snider carried the Flyers for decades, but the strategy will no longer translate to success following the 2004-05 lockout.

    Paul Holmgren overspent during his tenure as GM from 2007-2014, which handcuffed his successor Ron Hextall’s ability to put together a roster with enough depth to compete for a Stanley Cup.

    Chuck Fletcher kept spending aggressively in 2021-22 and 2022-23 while playoff hopes started to look unrealistic. The new front office will have to handle the consequences of the long-term contracts he negotiated without enough consideration to the long-term effect on the salary cap.

    Jones talked about a goal of getting younger, which might also include getting cheaper if the opportunities come along to move high-priced veterans like Kevin Hayes or Travis Sanheim.

    The salary cap might limit the amount a team can spend on player salaries, but Comcast still provides the Flyers with deep pockets in all other realms of hockey operations.

    Jones recognizes the financial advantage, and he’ll need all the help he can get to fix arguably the toughest restriction the new front office faces with the current roster.

    “We have the resources to do what we need to do. We’re going to spend. So in a cap world, you can spend on different things, right? Even when you’re bumping up against the cap, which we have been for a long time, we’re going to reduce that. That is going to change, but at the same time, we have and I’ve been given the okay to do whatever it takes to get us better.”

  • Building the Blue Line

    “You have a back end in hockey, your blue line, you’re going to be around a long time. That’s how it ends. So that’s a big focus for us, no doubt about it.”

    Jones talked about how strong defensemen can become a foundation for an NHL team, something he learned playing under GM David Poile with the Washington Capitals during the 1990s.

    He pointed to the resurgence of the Flyers after a dismal 2006-07 season. They added Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn to help become key contributors on their blue line.

    Both defensemen played roles at the top of the lineup when the Flyers reached the Eastern Conference Final in 2008.

    The addition of Chris Pronger two years later spring loaded them to an incredible run to the Stanley Cup Final. Jones also emphasized the strength of the blue lines for the Vegas Golden Knights and the Florida Panthers during the 2023 postseason.

    However, the Flyers have an expensive group of defensemen locked into long-term money who didn’t perform well enough to help the team toward postseason contention in 2022-23.

    The new front office inherits the albatross contract of Ryan Ellis, who likely won’t play another game in his NHL career, the questionable stylistic fit of Tony DeAngelo, and complex issues surrounding Ivan Provorov.

    Reshaping the defense will be a major obstacle in bringing the Flyers back into contention. They must develop their most valuable piece, 22-year-old Cam York, and add multiple other defensemen to build a championship-caliber unit.

    Chris Pronger, Philadelphia Flyers, 2010 Stanley Cup Final

    (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

  • Confidence in John Tortorella

    “John Tortorella is a Flyer coach that didn’t have a chance to coach the Flyers until now.”

    The Flyers have given as much influence on roster construction to Tortorella as any other head coach in the NHL has.

    The two-time Jack Adams Award winner earned respect and admiration from everyone in the organization by setting a new standard for performance in 2022-23.

    His demanding attitude resonated in Philadelphia, and he’ll play a key role in the “triumvirate” of the hockey operations department along with Jones and Briere.

    “I think we have an excellent coach here in Philly in John Tortorella, That to me is one of the most appealing things about this job that he is here, that he gets the city. He understands it. He’s similar to what fans of Philadelphia are like. He’s going to tell you like it is, sometimes you may not like it, but he’s going to tell you, and I like that. I like his honesty. I like him as a person away from the game, but I really like how hard he is, how driven he is to get things right and represent his team and his city in the right way.”

  • The Eagles: The "Gold Standard"

    Keith Jones has been in Philadelphia for a long time, long enough to remember Jeffrey Lurie referring to the Philadelphia Eagles as the “gold standard” of NFL franchises in 2003.

    The Tampa Bay Lightning might’ve established themselves as the NHL’s gold standard, but Jones also praised his neighbors across the street in South Philly.

    “I’ve watched what they’ve (the Eagles have) done. I understand how good they are and why they’re so important in this city. Number one, it’s football, but more importantly, they’re a damn good team. They do a great job. When things go wrong, they fix it quickly. That’s really impressive what’s happened.”

    He lauded how quickly the Eagles recovered from the fallout from Carson Wentz leaving by finding a better option in Jalen Hurts.

    “You have to recognize what you know. You really have to watch for those signs, and the Eagles did a really good job of eventually getting to that point (with Wentz), even though they had committed a lot of money to him, and they managed to kind of get out of that.”

    It might not always seem like it, but the Eagles are one of the best organizations in the NFL and undoubtedly the best of the four major professional teams in Philadelphia. Seven conference championship game appearances in the 21st century haven’t happened by accident.

  • Acquiring Star Talent

    “Number one for us is getting talent…We want some 100-point players.”

    The Flyers simply don’t have the same level of talent playing at the top of their lineup as the best teams in the NHL. Only the Chicago Blackhawks averaged fewer goals per game than the Flyers in 2021-22 and 2022-23 combined.

    “It’s about cultivating the young players, making sure your player development is allowing these players to progress. We have had a lot of players that have gone stale and have looked like they’ve got something and flat-lined. It’s been too many.”

    Jones talked about Owen Tippett as a player with the size, speed, and skill to become a star with the right coaching and development.

    He also believes Travis Konecny took a major step toward becoming a player the Flyers can count on as a core contributor through the rebuild.

    He spoke practically about the impressive talent of both wingers without giving any sense that the organization will overvalue them.

    “In specialized situations, you need talented players that want to grab it by the horns and make something happen and have the skill set to be able to do that. We have some guys that can, but we need more, and that’s something that is really going to be at the forefront of what we’re trying to do here.”

    The Flyers have finished last in the league on the power play in consecutive seasons. Meanwhile, the Edmonton Oilers set a new NHL record converting 32.4% of their power plays in 2022-23.

    Anthony didn’t create 4-for-4 with the idea that his own son would rather play a video game as a team that defeated the Flyers in two Stanley Cup Finals in three seasons during the 1980s.

    Something needs to change, and Jones recognizes that just as much as the Cuz.

  • The Philadelphia Fan Base

    “We just want to be part of the conversation again. And we want to make sure that we eventually become a perennial Stanley Cup contending team. What’s that mean? It means make the playoffs. Be there every year.”

    Jones echoed Dan Hilferty’s statement on May 12 that the new leadership group hopes to make the Flyers “the envy of the NHL” once again.

    He spoke about the salary cap bind, identified some elements of organizational culture, and emphasized the Flyers brand.

    However, Jones is fully aware that there’s only one thing that will satisfy the fan base and reestablish the culture that seems to dominate all conversations surrounding the Flyers.

    They just need to win.

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