If Danny Briere was five years younger and paid $1.5M less per year, there's an argument to be made that Marc Bergevin was going for a moneypuck signing. Briere is coming off a season where he converted shots into goals at less than half the rate of his career average, shooting at just 6.9%, far away from the 14.39% he's accustomed to.
Unfortunately though, Briere is 36 years old in seven days, and he's paid very well for the role he's able to play. That isn't to say that he won't work out though. His last two seasons have been plagued by concussion problems and other nagging injuries, but by all accounts he is healthy now.
Briere could be in for a bounceback season of sorts, but it would be tough to not do better than his dismal performance last year. But what kind of bounceback can we actually expect?
In the following graph, the blue line is Briere's even-strength Fenwick percentage from 2007 to 2013, the red line is his team's even-strength Fenwick percentage without him on the ice, and the green line is Briere's offensive-zone start percentage, giving us insight into his usage and role. All statistics are at even strength, and all are rolling 10-game averages. What this means is that aside from the first 10 points in the graph, every point represents a 10-game sample, giving us a better grasp of trends.
With all that information on one graph, it can look a little messy and be tough to decipher, so I've included trend lines for each statistic. To understand the trend lines, blue turns into black, red turns into yellow, and green turns into purple. The x-axis is simply the games to represent time, and the y-axis is the percentage in decimal form, and the placement of the y-axis is the beginning of the 2013 season.
Briere is a surprisingly interesting case to look at. Over time, he's actually been used in a less and less sheltered role, and his possession numbers have slowly improved over time, even as his point production has deteriorated. It's possible that Briere has been given better and better linemates as he's gotten older, and that's how his possession has improved, but even so he'll get some good possession-oriented linemates (at least to start) in Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais.
What is troubling when you look at the graph though, is that Briere's possession has been experiencing bigger and bigger dips through the years, especially last season. Last season could be an anomaly, but at Briere's age I would be hesitant to ignore it.
Briere's production decline is very real, but it may not be as severe as we initially thought, especially if he's boosted by Max Pacioretty. Where Briere's game has really slowed is his goal scoring. He's not going to hit 30 goals in a Habs jersey, so put that out of your mind immediately. What he can provide though, is 15 goals, maybe even 20 if he has a good year, and 40-45 points. If Briere gets lots of powerplay time (very likely), and sticks with Pacioretty all year, he could get up past 50 points, but don't count on that by any means.