Daniel Briere has been a member of the Philadelphia Flyers for 2 seasons now. Over the last two years, many Flyers fans have been debating and quarreling over whether or not Briere is a) living up to his contract and b) whether or not the Flyers should deal him. Currently, Briere has 6 seasons left at an average of 6.5 mill on his hefty contract, and many are still wondering whether or not his production will level up with his paycheck. From the Flyers' perspective, is Briere a diamond or a dud?
So far, in 108 games as a Flyer, he has recorded 42 goals, 55 assists for 97 points. In the post season, he has recorded 20 points in 23 games. His plus-minus rating with the Flyers is -23, which, believe it or not, is slightly better than his career -28 and, it should be noted that in his 29 game season last year, he was only a -1, which isn't too shabby.
So what does all of this mean? His point per game ratio is pretty good and has been consistent as of the last four or five seasons, but does his production match his paycheck?
Let's dig a little deeper and look at other similar players around the league whose production vs. salary can also be put into question:
Brad Richards: Currently has a contract for another 2 years with Dallas at an average of 7.8 mill per season. Richards has had very similar career stats to Briere and is similar in age as well. He also has a similar situation to Briere where he has only played for Dallas for a total of 68 games, amassing 59 points in that time. And his plus minus with Dallas totals to -6. Is Richards an elite player? Many would say yes. Is he living up to his contract? Within the last two or three full seasons, many would say no. His age, point production and salary level, along with his career plus minus of -61 do not play to his favor. Briere comes ahead in this one. Verdict: BRIERE BETTER VALUE
Scott Gomez: Currently has a contract for another five years with Montreal at an average of 7.35 mill per season. His point totals have always been consistent, which certainly justifies his contract length. However, he only has one season where he scored more points than games played (84 points in 82 games). His plus minus, however has been quite good over the last several years and has put together a career +60. His consistency and plus minus play to his favor, though it seems he does not have the potential to amass more than about point per game production over the course of a season. It can be argued that Briere still has this potential. This decision was really close. Verdict: BRIERE BETTER VALUE
Marian Gaborik: Just signed a contract with the Rangers for 5 years at an average of 7.5 mill per season. Gaborik's career has been up and down mainly because of various injuries keeping him from playing more than 2 or 3 full seasons. When he is healthy, he is a consistent 30+ goal scorer. However, the same can be said about Briere. Gaborik does have a good plus minus total and has scored more points than games played in about half of his seasons. However, his salary plays against him when being compared to Briere, as it is about 10 mill more per season. Briere has had an injury history as well, but seems to be able to recover more efficiently than Gaborik, with the exception of last season's groin struggle. In the end though, Briere comes out on top with a lower salary. Verdict: BRIERE BETTER VALUE
These are just a few examples of players who have higher contracts and may not be producing as much as they should be. Don't get me wrong, they are all outstanding players, but it can be argued that they are not necessarily living up to their contracts.
Obviously, there are probably several players who are a better value than Briere, for example, Hossa at 5 mill per season, Elias at 6 mill per season, Savard at 5 mill per season, etc.
The point I am trying to make is that there are going to be great players who are not necessarily playing up to the standards of their contracts when compared to other players around the league. It is very difficult to find a player who produces consistently, who produces a lot, who doesn't get injured, and who is cheap. In fact, it is nearly impossible.
So is Briere a diamond or a dud? I would lean more towards diamond, but I would rather wait to see Briere play a full 82 games with the Flyers before making more judgments about his playing ability. Yes, he comes up short on defense and is a little lazy at times, but he has speed, he can score and he can feed great passes. He also has leadership ability.
Is Briere a great player? Most definitely. Does he deserve his salary? He has the potential to. Will he deserve it? My crystal ball is in the shop. There's no way to tell at this time. We'll just have to wait and see.
Constructive thoughts and criticism much appreciated.