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- January hasn't been a kind month for Lars Eller. He has just 12 points in 44 games, his lowest PPG average of any month.
The Daniel Briere signing is one of the most polarizing acquisitions the Habs have made in quite some time. Some are upset that the former Flyer spurned the team six years ago when he was last on the UFA market, others don't like the fact that he is another smaller player when the team is looking to get bigger, and then there are those who are pleased with the deal. Which of these categories do our writers fall into?
Matt Gauthier: I think there are mixed feelings about him because the fans would have loved him a few years earlier. However, he's still probably the most talented offensive player the team has had since Pierre Turgeon. He's very smart and the kind of player that will fit well in Montreal's offensive structure.
Brian La Rose: Although I'm not Briere's biggest fan, I prefer the Habs going this route over paying a younger 40-50 point player upwards of $5 million for four or five years which is what players of that ilk seem to be getting on the UFA market. No, he isn't a top line star any more but they don't need him to be. Ideally, they want him to replace the production that Michael Ryder brought to the team. Even though he has struggled the last couple of seasons, Briere - if healthy - should be able to get 40-50 points which is what around what Ryder has averaged over the past several seasons. (Coincidentally, Ryder wound up signing for less than Briere; New Jersey got one of the better contracts on the opening day of free agency in my opinion.)
I'm not as concerned about Briere's smaller stature as some are as it's not as if Ryder was a punishing power forward or anything of the sort - he, like Briere, is a softer, more perimeter oriented player so the team isn't really losing much in that regard. Briere's health is always an issue though, having suffered concussions in each of the past two years and seems to have some sort of ailment slow him down on an almost annual basis. Fortunately, the depth that this team has can help insulate against the minor maladies that plague Briere - if (when) he can't go, that will open up a spot for one of the teams' younger offensive forwards to take on a higher workload, something that a lot of people would probably like to see anyways. When he is healthy, his ice time still will be somewhat capped because of the Habs' ability to roll three quality offensive lines.
The Habs essentially replaced one top six forward with certain strengths and weaknesses with another top six forward with somewhat similar strengths and weaknesses. Should this then be an acquisition to get all excited about? No. Should it be one to get all that upset about? No. It's a pretty lateral move at the end of the day and I feel there shouldn't be much more thought given to it than that.
Norm Szcyrek: While Briere does add some depth to the Habs, he is very much a one way player with good offensive skills. However, his scoring has dropped significantly the last two seasons. A lot of his contribution will depend on his health, since he's had two concussions in the last two seasons. He had an okay start last season with 12 points in February in 15 games, after missing the first 4 games in January with a wrist injury and being shutout for the other 3 games. Something happened in March, where he registered 1 point in 8 games, then was concussed. After missing 10 games he came back and managed 3 points in 7 games. At this point in his career he is a winger, not a center; his faceoff percentage was around 45% for the Flyers last season, so hopefully the Habs do not start him in the middle.
A lot has been mentioned about his clutch scoring in the playoffs, as he's produced at just over a point a game. Unfortunately he's also been a non-plus player in 2 of the 9 seasons he's been in the playoffs, indicating that while he can score, he can also be on the ice when his team is scored against more often. Basically, Briere is a smaller replacement for Michael Ryder, able to help on the power play. Whoever his linemates will be, they may be relied on heavily for defensive responsibilities. It will be interesting to see how Michel Therrien can use him in the Habs systems, and if he will be able to adapt to them or if he'll end up a frequent minus player and frustrate Habs fans, teammates and coaches.
Moshé Weizman: Putting aside the professional/performance aspect of the Danny Briere signing, I love it mainly because of the image this signing gives the the Canadiens. The mix of local Quebec pride and a naturally enthusiastic persona have been missing from the Canadiens' organization of late (Maxim Lapierre and Mathieu Darche were the last ones to come close) and the fact that you get that and a high calibre player in Briere is an accomplishment.
Can someone remember a Quebec native, French speaking core player in a Canadiens' uniform in recent years? I think you have to go back to the Pierre Turgeon and Vincent Damphousse days for that, even if the latter was at his prime with the Habs which isn't the case with Briere, but still...
This is a move that reflects the change Marc Bergevin is bringing to Montreal - more 'local' faces, more emotional engagement with the fans, more players, other than Galchenyuk and Subban, that actually jump around and lift up the fans after a goal.
The flip side to this is naturally Briere's physical condition. Injuries and age brought him to just over 15 minutes of ice time per game last season making him potentially a limited role player. That is, unless he surprises everybody and is back to being fit and be a truly amazing comeback story. The two year contract is also a good fit for both sides to test the waters without over commitment to one another.
Around the Boards
Naturally, the addition of Briere elicited a variety of reactions among our posters on the HW Forums. Here is a sampling of their reaction:
Habsfan84: "I think the Habs should have got him cheaper. Maybe the market set the price but at that price Habs shouldn't have been in the market. There has to be a trade coming. Don't see where Desharnais fits on this team anymore."
Habsy: "Bergevin, Dudley, Carriere, Mellanby, Lapointe. All in the office, and this is what they come up with? We're easier to play than last season."
Machine of Loving Grace: "Not a fan. That said he isn't a bad player. There isn't a better playoff performer on the market. I don't know how Gionta is health wise and if he'll start the season with us. I would have preferred to stay put. I don't see this as Bergevin's final move of the summer so I'm waiting to see what happens next."
lazy26: "I think Briere could be a decent asset if surrounded by the proper players."
Neech: "We miss out on a big old declining French centre and get the small old declining French centre. When you compare the cap hit, it looks really bad. But at least it's only two years... still expect to see a lot of Briere jerseys by the time October rolls around."
Habinator33: "Not a huge fan of this move individually but have to see the whole picture first before fully judging it. Honestly was hoping for some 3rd/4th liners possibly a defensemen and putting faith in Eller, Gallagher, and Galchenyuk to make up for the lost offence of Ryder."
HabsTrick450: "The price isn't that high and if Briere can stay healthy and consistent he will be a big help."
The Chicoutimi Cucumber: "We dumped Cole to avoid being on the hook for $4.5 mil for the next two years. Now we're on the hook for $4 mil for the next two years. So much for the brilliant cap move of dumping Cole. Indeed, unless Briere significantly outperforms Cole over that span, we got smaller for no reason."
Suffice it to say, this acquisition has garnered the most attention that any single move has for Marc Bergevin during his tenure as GM. The amount and variety of reactions remind me of the Mike Cammalleri mid-game trade. The reaction was swift and mostly negative, similar to this move. As it turns out, the trade has panned out better than most thought so far. Will Briere's acquisition follow a similar path? In two years or less, we'll have our answer.