By now, most Habs fans have read or heard of NJ.com writer Randy Miller’s “3 reasons why Canadiens’ Daniel Briere could be traded to Devils” piece. Posted last Tuesday, the day of Montreal’s latest game against Jersey—another disappointing defeat in a season marred by them—the piece outlines why a Briere-for-Anton Volchenkov deal would make sense.
The three reasons are that Briere is currently unhappy in Montreal, he would be a good fit in New Jersey and he has three sons who still live in Haddonfield, just 90 minutes south of Newark. To be clear, Miller is quite open in regard to how there is no factual basis for this hypothetical transaction, instead opting for a clear, concise and logical argument as to why this deal should be made.
However, in a world where a team in an English-speaking league continually insists on making signing Francophone free agents a priority and still staying competitive, is there really room for a thing like logic? Logic was thrown out the Bell Centre window a long time ago…to be fair, way before Marc Bergevin ever became general manager.
Still his Briere signing—because he has to take ownership of this quagmire, nevertheless—has been so awful, the deal so ridiculous, that it’s inherently unmovable, literally due to the no-movement clause Bergevin ill advisedly gave him.
Apparently, $8 million over two years wasn’t enough of an incentive to get a 36-year-old with a history of concussions to come to a city for which he supposedly really wanted to play—that is, if you believe all Briere had been saying immediately after the signing. Who knew?
Admittedly, the no-trade clause becomes irrelevant if Briere wants to get traded, and that appears to be the case, according to Luc Chenier at 104.7 FM. But all that becomes irrelevant in turn when one considers Briere’s 13 points in 35 games. Who would want him? And if the 5'9", 174-pound, French-speaking Briere can't fit in with the small-in-stature Montreal Canadiens, where can he?
While the Devils can certainly use help on offense, having scored just 113 goals in 49 games, it’s not as if the Habs are lighting the lamp excessively, with just 123 goals in one less contest. Briere just hasn’t helped an offense that averaged over three goals per game last year (149 in the same amount of games). He’s arguably become a detriment to it.
Furthermore, who would want a player so out of sync with reality that he’s incapable of understanding his limitations or why he's consequently getting less ice time and, on top of that, allegedly asks for a trade? Yeah, general managers all across the league, especially experienced ones like Lou Lamoriello, are already lining up around the block.
Really, all due respect to Miller, the only one of his three reasons that makes sense is that Briere's sons still live in Jersey, meaning he would welcome a trade to the Devils to be closer to his kids. However, that is only a reason why Briere would want to go to Jersey—and after he played just 10:48 against the Ottawa Senators, he probably would be willing to go anywhere. That isn’t a reason why the Devils would want him, and there’s just no evidence to suggest they should.
Looking at the other side of this transaction, Volchenkov is a 6’1”, 225-pound defenseman with a penchant for shot-blocking and hitting. Those are his only assets, and, while the Habs could use the extra size on the back end, one has to question the potential acquisition of a skater who’s only valuable when the other team has the puck.
Yes, that does seem to be the winning strategy the Habs are going for this year, with Montreal tops in the league in blocks (497) but fifth worst in terms of Corsi, getting outshot, game after game. Sure, the Habs have a 27-16-5 record. However, it’s unsustainable if their latest victory against the Ottawa Senators, in which they got outshot 44-23 and gave up a three-goal lead, is anything to go by.
On the surface, Volchenkov may be the type of player Montreal would want, but he’s not the player Montreal needs, so much so that trading Briere for him would just mean trading one problem for another. And, seeing as Volchenkov isn’t exactly French, why would they?
Really, what the Canadiens need is just the opposite—a forward to help their floundering offense, with a wicked shot, decent possession stats and, ideally, a familiarity with Montreal. A player named Michael Ryder.
Ryder is, of course, the missing link between Montreal’s high-octane offense last year and its problems this one. And the Habs let him go, determined to replace him via free agency, ultimately with Briere.
Ryder ended up signing with the Devils for $500,000 less per season, is two-and-a-half years younger and has way less of an injury history than Briere. He also has three more goals (16) than Briere has points and 25 total (nearly double Briere’s point total).
Additionally, Briere’s Fenwick For rating is currently 47.3 percent, meaning 47.3 percent of shots taken when he is on the ice have been by the Habs. It has consistently been below 50 percent since that stat was first tracked, back in 2007. Ryder’s is currently 52.8 percent.
This all isn’t to suggest the Habs should pursue a trade with the Devils for Ryder, nor that they should have re-signed him last summer. Ryder has his fair share of issues, including a lack of consistency, and he definitely needed to go. However, to replace him with Briere was unconscionable. And now the Habs are paying for their mistake.
It wasn’t their only one, seeing as Jaromir Jagr, another Devils signee making $2 million less than Briere, wanted to play in Montreal and now has nearly three times the amount of points with Jersey. His Fenwick For rating is even higher than Ryder’s at 55.5 percent, and that’s actually below Jagr’s career average.
Miller makes a good case for a Briere-to-Jersey deal, but forget Volchenkov. The only potentially available Devil in whom the Habs should be interested is Jagr, and it would take a whole lot more than Briere to get him. And Jagr doesn’t necessarily want to be traded, according to TSN. That’s all the more reason why a deal—any deal—with the Devils just won’t happen.