MONTREAL – The only thing better than landing Daniel Briere is landing him with something to prove.
Coming off a career-low 16-point season in 34 games with Philadelphia last year, Briere wasn’t shocked when the Flyers decided to buy out the remaining two seasons of his contract on June 20. But with plenty of gas left in the tank and a chip planted squarely on his shoulder, he’s coming to his fourth NHL team ready to show that 2012-13 was the exception, not the rule.
“I’d be lying if I said I was happy about it when I heard the news [of the buyout]. It’s like someone closed the door on you and you’re not happy about it,” explained Briere via conference call from Hearst, ON. “But after a few minutes you realize it can open the door for new opportunities.
“My whole career has been about finding the motivation to bounce back,” added the Gatineau, QC native. “Coming to Montreal makes it really easy. There’s no better motivation than having the chance to play for the Canadiens. Last season was definitely one where I wasn’t happy with the way things went and I’m going to do everything in my power to turn that around. I’m hoping I can prove to everyone it was just a fluke.”
With 659 points in 847 career NHL games, Briere has proven he can be the offensive powerhouse the Habs have been looking for up front. Currently sixth among all active NHLers in postseason scoring with 109 points in 108 playoff games, the two-time All-Star is looking forward to bringing his big-game production to an even bigger stage.
“There’s pressure in Philly, too – not as much as there is in Montreal, maybe, but it’s still there. I think I matured a lot there,” explained Briere, who has enjoyed seven 20-plus goal seasons, including a career-high 34-goal haul in 2010-11. “I was really impressed with Marc [Bergevin] and Michel [Therrien] when we talked. We didn’t talk ice time; we talked more about the team concept and the Canadiens family and what they’re trying to build here.”
His new Canadiens family members weren’t the only ones who helped tip the scales in Montreal’s favor, however.
“To be able to come home and have my family and friends close was a big factor in my decision,” he admitted. “It’s special. We all grew up watching and cheering for the Canadiens. There’s no question everyone was pushing in this direction.”
This isn’t the first time the 35-year-old forward has had a chance to fulfill his childhood dream. A free agent in the summer of 2007, Briere came within a dotted line of becoming a Hab, but opted instead to sign a long term deal with Philly that July. The veteran forward immediately started feeling the heat from the Montreal faithful every time the Flyers came to town. Watching Briere drop to one knee for one of his trademark fist pumps used to bring out the Bell Centre boo birds, but that celebration is about to become a fan favorite in Montreal.
“Deep down, I’ve always been a kid from Quebec who wanted to play for the Canadiens,” shared Briere. “I’m lucky to be able to have a second chance like this to be able to [sign with] Montreal. It’s a huge honor for me to play here. For me, Montreal Canadiens fans are probably the most passionate fans in the NHL. It’s an honor to be playing for them and in front of them and all I’m hoping is we’ll all be cheering in the same direction when the season starts. We’ll be pushing along together to rack up some wins.”
About to embark on what could be the final step in his NHL career, Briere knows exactly what he’s getting into in Montreal – and he can’t wait to get it going.
“The more I thought about it and the more I talked about it, the more excited I got about it. It was an emotional decision. It’s the Montreal Canadiens,” he stressed. “I realized this was my last chance to be able to play for the Canadiens and I seized that opportunity. I’m looking forward to getting the season started as soon as possible.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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