This summer Marc Bergevin traded extremely expensive fourth liner Daniel Briere to the Colorado Avalanche for positive possession player Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau. While neither player has scored much on their new teams, one has been more effective possession player, even considering the offensive push he is getting. Acquiring a player who is more useful for the same amount of dollars, even with an extra year tacked on to the contract is a good move.
Parenteau has a history of being good offensive player. He is a defensive wizard and Therrien has recognized that by giving Parenteau more offensive zone starts, but he has not given Parenteau the right linemates to help Parenteau reach offensive success. Parenteau has bounced around lines like a bingo ball bounces around in a bingo cage. This makes it harder for players to have defined roles and develop chemistry with their linemates. Parenteau does not drag down possession for his teammates. Instead of being a player that can damage a lineup by being in it, Parenteau can positively influence teammates when on the ice. But he needs to have the proper linemates and usage. Parenteau should not be lower in the lineup than Dale Weise. Weise is useful NHL player, but he is nothing more than a fourth liner. To consistently play Weise higher in the lineup is unfair to both Weise and his linemates. Parenteau is a better player playing with worse players for some strange reason.
Was trading Briere for Parenteau a bad move? No. Parenteau has had a positive impact on almost every teammates possession numbers when he is on the ice with them. Daniel Briere has generally dragged down teammates possession, unless they are not good players. Possession wise, Parenteau has been a major help to the Canadiens, even though he is not scoring much at all. Why is Parenteau not scoring? For the past four seasons, Parenteau's average shooting percentage has been at 13.25%, a number inflated by his first year with the Colorado Avalanche when he scored on an absurd 17.1% of the shots he took. This year Parenteau has only scored on 8.3% of the shots he has taken. While this is not a bad number, the Montreal Canadiens take few enough shots that it has a major impact on his scoring totals. On the other hand, Briere has scored on 14.8% of the shots he has taken this year, up from 11% last year. It is not like the Avalanche take more shots than the Canadiens either, so the uptick on shooting percentage is purely luck driven. How bad has Briere been this year? Look at the difference in possession for the each players' respective team. Note that Parenteau is getting more favourable zone starts.
As you can tell, even with more favourable zone starts, Parenteau has been a major asset to the Canadiens as a whole. His ability to drive possession in relation to his teammates is an asset. Briere's inability to drive possession relative to his teammates is a detriment to the Avalanche. Bergevin's ability to turn a non-asset into a useful player and a fifth round pick. There is no evidence than the Canadiens lost this trade, yet the spin is it was a bad trade because Parenteau has not put up many points. While this is valid, there are flaws in this argument.
Hockey is a results driven business, which is why this trade is a dud for both teams. By going beyond surface analysis, one can see how good Parenteau has been for the Canadiens. How can Michel Therrien continue to use Parenteau to best maximize his value as a player? By keeping Parenteau in an offensive zone role, but playing him with more offensively inclined players, Parenteau is more likely to turn his luck around than if he continues to skate with the likes of Manny Malhotra. This is not maximizing the Parenteau's skillset.
The problem with Parenteau is he was traded to Montreal with the expectation that he would be a massive upgrade on Briere scoring wise. Parenteau has not been seen as an upgrade because of the bad luck he has suffered. This is the problem with evaluating players in a results based business; luck is often ignored for prior results. The amount of luck in hockey is higher than a sport like basketball, which makes statistical analysis harder because the stats should be used to help work through the noise that luck creates around players. Analysis in the media should be about shifting the narrative to explain why the results do not match the process.
The narrative around the Parenteau/Briere trade is that the Montreal Canadiens lost the trade because they traded for a player that is putting up about the same amount of points that the player they traded away is, has the same cap hit, and is signed for one more year. Without looking beyond boxcar stats, the trade looks very bad for the Canadiens. With a little bit of digging, the trade starts looking a lot worse for the Avalanche and a lot better for the Canadiens. Boxcar stats are little more than a quantification of luck. They show the result, but do not show the process. Even when Parenteau is not putting up points in games, he does things that help them win. The same cannot be said for Briere, who tends to hurt the Avalanche more than help them.
The Briere for Parenteau trade has been a boon for the Montreal Canadiens, even if the offence provided by Parenteau has been limited in the first half of the season. The problem with the trade is how the narrative has been spun to make it seem like Parenteau is a bad player. Sometimes players suddenly show a downtick in point production that warrants deeper investigation. There are more components to a players production than just points. There is how they impact their teammates when they are on the ice. Luck is a huge part of hockey and it is not given enough attention