Danny Briere came here as a prized free agent from the Buffalo Sabresafter that horrible, horrible season we had. For the most part, we’ve called him overpaid, a bust, and a bit overhyped. He didn’t put up huge numbers, didn’t score a ton of crucial goals, and has been injured a lot. Then came the 2010 playoffs, and he was a beast. He consistently lit everyone up, and finished as the league leader in points. He had 12 points in the finals alone, one point short of Gretzky’s record. What is it that clicked in April, May and June?
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The answer is pretty damn simple: He needs to play in the middle. He’s spent most of his time with the Flyers playing on the wing, and it’s obvious that he’s not comfortable there. He’s fast, shifty, opportunistic, creative, has good vision, and soft hands. But for him to be effective, he needs to control the puck. He’s not a sniper that can get a few touches and light the lamp all the time. He’s not a not big or physical enough to go into the corner after the puck. Like it or not, it’s just not his style.
His numbers skyrocketed as soon as Jeff Cartergot hurt and Briere had to move to the middle. He is arguably our most talented center (I’d go with Giroux), but not a good wing. He cannot make the adjustment after spending so much time in the middle. When Carts came back in the finals, they put him on wing, and left Briere alone, and he continued to produce. He’s not the greatest faceoff man, and he’s a defensive liability. But we knew that when we got him. I’m tired of people expecting every single player we get to be a perfect two way player. It’s an unrealistic expectation. Briere is a playmaking, offensive CENTER.
So of course, we have a dilemma this season, as once again we have a stockpile of centers. Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Danny Briere, Claude Giroux, Blair Betts, Ian Laperriere all normally play in the middle. Giroux has managed to convert to wing and remain effective, same with Betts and Lappy. If want to see consistently high numbers from Briere, keep him in the middle. We don’t necessarily have to have a clear cut 1st, 2nd, and 3rd line. We don’t exactly have a standout superstar at all, so spread the wealth. Roll the lines evenly, whoever is hot on a given night gets more playing time. Coach Laviolette is a smart guy, and I hope he doesn’t let all of our talent go to waste.
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