During the Flyers historic postseason run to the Stanley Cup Finals last season, many players raised their play to a different level. The player who best fits that description is Flyers Forward Danny Briere. Prior to last season’s postseason run, there were many Flyers fans, including myself, who never thought Briere lived up to his contract or his ability. But he was a dominate player during the postseason, setting the Flyers playoff record for most points in a postseason with 30 (12 goals, 18 assist). He has taken the momentum he gained from the post season and has had an impressive season thus far. When the all-star team was originally announced this season, Briere was not on the list and was seen as the major “snub” of this season’s team. But after some injuries Briere found himself on the team and even scored a goal during the game. He currently leads the team in goals with 28 and is third on the team in points with 51. His playmaking ability and great skating earns him a spot at #17 on our rankings.
Briere was drafted by the Phoenix Coyotes with the 24th pick in the 1996 draft. After working his way up through the juniors and eventually the AHL, he played his first full season with the Coyotes during the 2001-02 season. He had a solid season and recorded 60 points in 78 games. The following season he was traded to the Buffalo Sabers at the trade deadline in exchange for former Flyer Chris Gratton. Briere didn’t live up to his potential with the Sabers until the 2006-2007 season when he earned a spot as a starter in the all-star game en route to recording a career high 95 points. He finished the postseason with 15 points while leading the Sabers to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Briere’s career year was perfect timing, as he was set to become a free agent after the season. It was widely expected that he would sign in his home province with the Montreal Canadians. But he shocked all of Montreal and signed an 8 year $52 million contract with the Flyers. The deal was majorly front loaded and the deal made Briere one of the highest paid players in hockey. The Flyers were coming off of a horrible season and were thought to be rebuilding around young players like Richards and Carter. Briere’s first season with the Flyers was a solid but not great season. He failed to live up to the expectations that he set with his contract and his play the previous season.
But he was a big part of the team’s bounce back season where they went from one of the worst teams in the NHL to losing in the Eastern Conference Finals. Danny finished his first season with the team with a solid 72 points. The next two years where filled with injuries and underproduction. He was limited to only 29 games during the 2008-2009 regular season where he only registered 25 points. Briere was healthy for most of last year but only managed to total 53 points. Most fans saw Briere as a soft, streaky and under producing player. He had not lived up to the huge contract he was given.
He spent most of his time with the team as a winger because most thought he was too small to be a Center. He is only 5-10 181 and can be easily pushed off the puck at times when facing the bigger defenders. Due to an injury to Jeff Carter, Laviolette put Briere at Center to start the playoffs. He is a play maker who can skate by anyone on the ice. He is a very dangerous player with the puck on his stick and is capable of threading the needle to a teammate or hitting the back of the net himself. During the post season last year, he finally lived up the huge expectations that we all had for him. He set a team record with 30 points and recorded a team record 12 points in the 6 game finals. It was one shy of the Gretzky’s NHL record and the most since Lemieux in 1992. If the Flyers would have been able to win the Cup last season, it was assumed that he would win the MVP.
Briere isn’t the prototypical player that Philadelphia loves. He would rather skate around you then run over you and he isn’t going to earn his paycheck on the defensive end. But he will make the play that is needed and he shows a lot of effort on the defensive side. Briere is one of the most dangerous goal scorers in the NHL and a very exciting player to watch. He is a part of the new NHL, an NHL where the strongest don’t always survive and the most skilled players will thrive. Briere is going to be a crucial part of the team’s playoff success and they will need him to continue to be the play maker that he can be. If Briere plays the way he did last post season, the Flyers are going to be very hard to beat!