When GM Marc Bergevin and the Montreal Canadiens announced the UFA signing of Daniel Briere, there were mixed responses among the media and fan base. On one hand, Briere was a born and bred Quebecer who grew up idolizing the bleu-blanc-rouge and signing with the Canadiens was a dream come true.
On the other hand, Montreal handed him a two-year deal at $4 million dollars per season – a rich contract for a player recently bought out of his contract by the Philadelphia Flyers. Briere’s game dropped off considerably in Philly as he dealt with injuries, including concussion, wrist, and back issues.
It’s no question that Briere has been on the hot seat in Montreal. With David Desharnais clearing out of Michel Therrien’s doghouse, Daniel Briere has checked in for what the maligned veteran hopes to be a temporary residence.
The 36-year-old saw his icetime diminish to only 4:27 against Phoenix Coyoes before being made a healthy scratch against the St. Louis Blues. In the Canadiens’ final game before the holiday break, Briere returned to the lineup and played a respectable 14:06, but the jury is still out on whether or not he can contribute on a regular basis.
Meanwhile, at 41-years of age, Jaromir Jagr is enjoying what could prove to be his most productive season since 2008 when he posted 71 points through 82 games with the New York Rangers.
Both Daniel Briere and Jaromir Jagr carry an annual average salary of $4 million dollars (Jagr’s base salary of $2 million dollars can be doubled through bonuses). Briere is younger, Jagr has more points. Jagr’s deal is only for one year, Briere’s for two. Briere is fast, but small. Jagr is big, but slow. Briere is French Canadian, Jagr is Czech.
So, did the Habs sign the right veteran to shore up the top nine? Hindsight is 20/20, but the season is still young. I took the question to the HabsWorld writers and community on the Forums:
Answers from HW’s writers:
Alex Létourneau: I always thought the Briere signing was done a few years too late. He picked Philadelphia in his prime and his decline has been worse than Jagr’s – and I use decline in terms of Jagr’s production in the nicest way possible. Jagr is a first ballot hall of famer, and, that aside, he has displayed excellent chemistry with Tomas Plekanec in international tournaments. Throw in the $2 million [base salary] for Jagr compared to the $4 million Briere commands over the next two seasons, I would have to think Jagr would’ve been the no-brainer. The only saving grace here is if, and that’s a big if, Briere continues to do what he is known to do in the playoffs, and that’s provide momentum shifting, series defining goals. We all remember Jagr pitching a doughnut in the goals scored department during Boston’s ill-fated cup run last season. Time will tell, but right now, I’d take an aging #68 over #48. Montreal would be lucky to see Briere hit 48 points this season while Jagr is on pace for 71 points.
Kevin Meldrum: That is an easy no for sure. The Canadiens needed size up front and Jagr would have been a perfect fit on the second line. A big body with a few miles left, he is still in great shape with so much skill. He wanted to play for the Habs and would have been awesome for the younger players with his knowledge and veteran leadership. They should have signed him over Briere – all we heard was how we need to get bigger.
Mitchell Tierney: I think statistics alone dictate that Jaromir Jagr would have been the better acquisition for the Canadiens. He has been fantastic this season as the relative “go to” player with New Jersey. The 33 points in 37 games for Jagr doesn’t even compare to the 10 in 27 posted by Daniel Briere. Most telling is that Jagr has four game winning goals, underlining the fact that he scores a lot of crucial goals. I have always dreamt of Jagr playing next to Plekanec on the Canadiens, as history dictates that would be a lethal combination. Furthermore, I’ve always seen Jagr as an excellent team guy who is embraced by nearly everyone in the room.
At the same time, I don’t think the Briere acquisition was a bad one for the Canadiens. Sure, the financial aspect of the deal isn’t great, as Briere is definitely overpaid. But the term is manageable, and I think the passing and leadership that the Frenchman has brought to the team has been underrated. At times this season he has demonstrated that he has the potential to be a beneficial player for the club. Hopefully his recent trip to the pressbox will inspire him going forward.
Responses from the HW community:
Link67: We obviously made the wrong choice. We wanted to bring in the washed up, bought-out, poster boy for the fans and forgot that the fans rather see a productive top-six acquisition. We are a few seasons, a couple concussions, and nine minutes more of ice time per game away from that version of Briere. What we needed was size, strength, and a productive winger for our top-six. Jagr was the closest thing to that within our means.
The Chicoutimi Cucumber: Briere is completely useless and his last good playoff was two years ago – exactly the same as Jagr. The Pleks-Jagr chemistry is an added bonus. By contrast, everything about Briere’s profile was the exact opposite of what the Habs needed, except for this supposed playoff excellence. Add to that that Jagr is a “glamourous” player whose presence would likely have pleased the fan base just as much as a washed-up Briere.
Machine of Loving Grace: I have no doubt that with Jagr in the lineup right now, we’d be definitely scoring more. That said, we’re not at the half point yet. If Briere pots only 20-30 points and come playoff times does nothing, I’ll be right there with people agreeing that the signing was a bust. But if he pots 20-30 points (which is where I thought he’d be when we signed him) and helps us score in the playoffs? Worth every dime.
Stogey24: $4 million for a guy who might perform in the playoffs? Ya, that’s well worth the money. I’m going to start calling him Bri-where? because he’s invisible on a nightly basis.
DON: In Jagr’s last few years in the NHL he’s gone from: Rangers-Philly-Dallas-Bruins-Devils. Take a guess why. It’s not because he is a “team” player and just wants to help a team win. It’s more like the track record of a mercenary looking for whomever will pay the most.