|08/09 Regular Season||29||11||14||25||-1||26||15:39||3:22||46.2||6||16||8|
A lot of people have opinions about Danny Briere, and a lot of them start with either his injury history or his salary - usually both. The story has already been told, but the Flyers were desperate when they signed Briere and they paid market price. Too much? Maybe. It was a large contract they certainly understood would be a large chunk of their salary cap for the duration of his contract. Last year, they got burned by it as Briere only played in 29 games while he was in and out of the lineup due to groin injuries. But that doesn't mean the contract is forever a noose around their necks. While he was in the lineup, he did play well. Toward the end of the season, he began to click with Claude Giroux, creating many highlight-reel plays. In order for the Flyers to succeed next year, Briere needs to return to his old self.
What often gets lost in the griping about Briere is that he scored 25 points in 29 games. That .86 points per game ranked fourth on the team behind - who else - Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, and Simon Gagne. In terms of on ice efficiency, Briere was fourth in goals per 60 mins, third in points per 60 mins, and third in team goals for per 60 mins. Offensively, Briere's biggest problem was that he didn't play. Going into next year, if he continues to play on the third line - which is unlikely - the Flyers will likely get something similar out of Briere since he played against poor competition. His qualcomp rating was ahead of only Darroll Powe, Asham, and Riley Cote at -0.05. Having Giroux at -0.04, the two of them were able to embarrass lesser opponents. Briere is no Jeff Carter - who had his amazing season with worse teammates and against better competition - but his qualteam rating of 0.11 ranks below Richards, Scott Hartnell, and Gagne. If Briere moves up to a first or second line wing, he would drastically improve his teammates (Knuble led the team with a 0.33 qualteam rating and Joffrey Lupul came in second with a 0.26) and theoretically also improve his production. EIther way, the Flyers cannot lose. If they keep Briere with Giroux on a third line - balancing their top six forwards across three lines - he'll be slightly less than a point per game player. Move him up to Richards or Carter's line, and his linemates will be more than twice as good and lead to more opportunities. Briere can and should still make a large positive impact on this team, no matter where he plays.
There is obviously much room for improvement from 08-09 for Briere though. Besides staying healthy, Briere needs to cut down on his penalties (13 minors in 29 games), improve his turnover ratio, and increase his face-off percentage. None of these are glaring problems because Briere isn't likely to take many draws this year as a winger and his negatives did not suddenly get worse - he's always averaged 1 PIM per game played and he's never had a good turnover ratio. This isn't meant to make you optimistic, but rather to state that his weaknesses have always been his weaknesses - he's the same player he always was when healthy. What does need to change, however, is his goals against per 60 minutes. He averaged 2.92 last year, fourth worst on the team ahead of only Lasse Kukkonen, Ryan Parent, and Andreas Nodl. No one expects Briere to be Pavel Datsyuk or Joe Nieuwendyk, but he can't be giving up that many goals.
No matter where Stevens puts Briere next year, the key to his success will be his health. If he's healthy, he'll produce. For Danny, it's as simple as that.
Videos after the jump.
Up next in our Grading the Flyers series: Kimmo Timonen