GM Marc Bergevin’s biggest signing this offseason, Daniel Briere, joins the Montreal Canadiens amidst criticism. The contract is a two-year pact that carries a $4M cap hit, a steep price tag for a team laden with forwards under the six foot mark. There are also questions as to whether or not Briere, who turns 36 years old on October 6, can remain healthy. The 5’10 Gatineau native has missed 16 games in the last two seasons due to concussions, including Philadelphia’s final 10 games last season. Determined to prove he can contribute at this stage of his career, Briere will have plenty of competition among the Habs’ top nine forwards to keep him sharp.
Briere remained active during the lockout and played with Eisbaren Berlin of the DEL in Germany. In 21 games he posted 10 G and 24 A for 34 PTS, with just under half of those totals coming on the powerplay. Briere’s production didn’t continue when he rejoined the Philadelphia Flyers for an abbreviated NHL campaign. Briere finished the season tied for seventh in team scoring with 16 PTS in 34 games. The Flyers surely expected more than the six goals they received from Briere, which certainly factored into their decision to cut ties with the forward via buyout.
Season Stats: GP 34, G 6, A 10, PTS 16, +/- -13, PIM 10, PPG 3, SHG 0, GWG 1, SOG 87, ATOI 16:03
5 Year Averages
(Because of the lockout-shortened season, we are pro-rating all of 2012-13’s numbers over a typical 82-game year.)
Head Coach Michel Therrien will have a new tool in his arsenal for the coming season. Daniel Briere will likely start the season at right wing, but he is also comfortable at centre. As a right-handed shooter, don’t be surprised to see the veteran in the faceoff circle from time to time. Given his salary, both the Habs and Briere anticipate he’ll be one of the top six forwards. That said, the team is primed to roll three lines next season capable of playing accountable hockey at both ends of the ice. Briere may very well find himself on the first line one night and the third line another night, making him a player you’ll want to keep a close eye on if you’re looking to dress him in any fantasy pools. He’ll receive quality powerplay minutes as long as he produces. With Gallagher and Gachenyuk entering their sophomore seasons, Briere’s presence in the lineup will take pressure off of them and allow them to continue their development. This bodes well for Briere’s ice time as Therrien prefers to utilize his veterans late in games that are tight.
Ultimately, the Habs addressed a need exposed during the first round series against the Ottawa Senators. Briere is a playoff performer, averaging a point per game in 108 playoff games during his career (50 goals, 59 assists). Captain Brian Gionta is the only other top nine forward with significant playoff experience. If Therrien can orchestrate a balanced, three line attack throughout the season, the Habs will be well poised to exploit Briere’s playoff abilities.
Briere will most likely find himself centered by David Desharnais or Lars Eller during the season, with Gionta remaining on a line with Tomas Plekanec. If Max Pacioretty keeps his scoring pace up from the last two years, it bodes well for Briere. On the other hand, Lars Eller was an underrated player last season and may find more offensive success if paired with Briere. It’s unlikely that Briere will reach the 30 goal plateau again, but it wouldn’t be overly optimistic to assume he could hit 20. With powerplay time included, he should see between 16 and 19 minutes a night – an improvement from last year with the Flyers. If you’re drafting in a deeper fantasy league, he’d be a safe second line pick, and a potential sleeper pick for the third line slot.