Daniel Briere a healthy scratch for the Canadiens

Al Bello

It was bound to happen sooner or later with the way the Canadiens were using him, but Briere is on the outside looking in for the first time this season.

After being played only 4:27 in the Montreal Canadiens' win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday night, Marc Bergevin's prize free agent, Daniel Briere, will be a healthy scratch against the St. Louis Blues.

Briere has seen his ice time fall from 13:47 in October, to 13:11 in November, to just 11:03 in December. In his post game press conference, Michel Therrien was asked why Briere saw so little ice time, to which he responded that he was using the players who were most likely to contribute to a win.

A damning comment if ever there was one, especially considering the hype created by the Habs organization for Briere when he was signed this summer. There was a lukewarm reaction to the signing from both media and the fanbase, especially considering the salary given to Briere at an advanced age and after two seasons of obvious decline. In the summer, when asked whether he thought Briere was an upgrade on the departed Michael Ryder, Bergevin bristled and responded that of course he is.

Unfortunately for Bergevin, that hasn't proven to be true.

Briere hasn't been as bad as his ice time would indicate, coming in at fifth on the Canadiens in points per 60 minutes at even strength with 1.33, though he has comparatively struggled on the power play with 2.63 points per 60 minutes, good for 10th on the roster.

Briere's usage has been confounding from the outset, starting just 39.3 percent of his non-neutral zone shifts in the offensive zone, the second lowest mark on the team. Briere is historically an offense-only player, so using him in the defensive zone most of the time seems to be an odd decision.

That decision seems to come from Briere not fitting in with the other Hab who's used in the same role, though, as David Desharnais also needs heavy offensive usage in order to be a useful player. This brings us back to when Briere was signed in the first place, and the analytical sector of Canadiens fans noted that he is not a fit on this team.

There has been a tendency among Habs fans to blame Briere for all the ills plaguing the team, and though he isn't putting the puck in the back of the net, it's difficult to blame a guy who's being bounced around on three different lines a night. Briere hasn't been given the same security blanket that Desharnais has in Max Pacioretty, and he has yet to be given a chance to play at center, which is his natural position in the first place.

The constant juggling of Briere's usage could be in part due to his terrible defensive game, which is a serious liability that Michel Therrien has to deal with. This usage has led to rumors that after just under half a season, Briere already wants out of Montreal.

The veracity of those rumours are in serious question, but the situation Briere finds himself in lends credence to them. However, even if they were true, Briere's exorbitant salary and no trade clause limit the Habs' options. Perhaps this misstep will be a lesson to Bergevin and the Montreal Canadiens about signing players for political, instead of hockey reasons.


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