Danny Briere has been the subject of trade rumors for thepast month, which I suppose in a way is actually a good thing for the two-timeAll Star. Theyve taken some of the focus off the fact that hes having hisworst season in the NHL since he was 21 years old.
Not that people havent taken notice of Brieres lack ofproduction, were just not sure everybody has taken stock of how bad it is. Hehas five goals and eight assists while supposedly centering the Flyers secondline, and even for a guy whos posted a career minus, a -13 through 26 games isugly in fact only five players have a worse ratio.
Perhaps most troubling of all is the shot percentage. Brierehas made 14.5 of the shots hes taken in his career, but this year that numberhas been slashed in half, down to a meager 7.2. That would easily set a newpersonal low.
Plus, now hes out indefinitely with a concussion, yetanother impediment to making a trade even if the Flyers could. Briere of coursehas the no-movement clause in his contract, so theres a chance he wasnt goinganywhere regardless, but not too many teams are going to be interested in aninjured player whos had virtually no impact this season.
At this point, the real question is whether or not Brierecan snap out of it. How much of his struggles are due to age and naturaldecline, and how much can be attributed to issues that can be fixed and smallsample size?
Sample size is something were going to be looking at for along time with relation to this season. You can extrapolate the numbers over afull 82 games, but a normal season has ebbs and flows. Briere could return tothe ice, get hot, and suddenly this discussion becomes moot.
Its also worth noting that the Flyers frustrations rundeeper than Briere, so its not necessarily equitable to single out one person.
And if were being fair about this, how much has the wristinjury he suffered while playing in Germany during the lockout affected hisshot? One week doctors are telling him not to take slap shots at practice, thenext week Briere is back in the lineup. Its certainly something that could betaking its toll even if Briere wouldnt necessarily admit it himself.
But then the writing was on the wall last year already. His16 goals and 33 assists were his fewest over a full season since 2002-03 whenhe was traded from Phoenix to Buffalo, and his 9.2 shot percentage was wellbelow normal, lowest since 98-99 actually.
Briere is 35. Its only natural for his ability to startfalling off.
Yet somehow he still turns it on during the playoffs. Brierescored eight goals in 11 postseason games last year, potting an incredible30.8 of his shots. Clutch performances are nothing new to Briere, but it wouldseem to fly directly in the face of an athlete-in-decline storyline.
Assuming Briere is still in Philadelphia after the tradedeadline passes on April 3, which is pretty much a given at this point, theorganization is going to have a tough decision to make in the offseason. He hastwo more years on his contract at 6.5 million against the cap money theFlyers could desperately use and regardless of whether he can bounce back, Breiresbest days are obviously behind him.
If hes not amenable to a trade, amnestying the contract is always on the table. One way or the other though, it might be time for the Flyers to consider moving on from Danny Briere.