Stubbs: Brière keeps “good memories” of short time with Canadiens

 

 
 
 
 
Montreal Canadiens Daniel Brière speaks with the media after a team practice at the Brossard Sports Complex in Montreal on Monday April 14, 2014.
 
 

Montreal Canadiens Daniel Brière speaks with the media after a team practice at the Brossard Sports Complex in Montreal on Monday April 14, 2014.

Photograph by: Allen McInnis, The Gazette

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MONTREAL —Daniel Brière hustled into the Colorado Avalanche dressing room at noon Thursday, tugging off his helmet and wading into a Bell Centre gaggle of curious.

He had a few minutes to spare, quite literally — he spoke for three minutes and 21 seconds before he’d return to the ice, having been off skates for a couple of days.

A lightning visit, but still seven seconds longer than the ice time Brière was given by Canadiens coach Michel Therrien in Game 7 of last season’s Eastern Conference semifinal against Boston.

Brière was a preseason-game spectator here on Thursday, but was to play when the clubs met again Friday night in Quebec City. He was given a couple of days this week to return home to Philadelphia, where a son who had broken a femur playing hockey was recovering at home after surgery.

How the veteran from Gatineau was used by Therrien last season remains a puzzle, an insult, or something in between.

Brière was lauded by Habs general manager Marc Bergevin when he was signed to a two-year, $8-million contract on July 4, 2013.

“Daniel Brière brings a great deal of skills, experience and leadership to our team and he is a significant addition to our group of forwards,” Bergevin said in announcing the signing.

“Daniel showed a great desire to pursue his career in Montreal and we are very happy that he committed to playing in Montreal for the next two seasons.”

A week after signing, in a talk from Arizona, it was with great enthusiasm that Brière considered the opportunity and, yes, a high-profile francophone’s challenge of playing in Montreal.

“The team is in a good position to take it to the next level,” he said. “It’s a new organization starting with (owner) Geoff Molson and Marc Bergevin. They’re heading in the right direction. I feel very fortunate that I have the chance to be part of their solution, as they see it.”

But early on, the Canadiens’ vision changed. Brière’s ice time in his one season here would be paltry at best — a concussion he suffered in October sidelined him for 10 games — and when the playoffs rolled round, historically his forté, he was almost a bystander.

On June 30, he was shipped to Colorado for forward P.A. Parenteau and a 2015 fifth-round draft choice.

In only three of his 16 postseason games with the Canadiens did Brière reach double-digit ice time — in Game 1 against both Tampa Bay and Boston, and in Game 2 vs. the New York Rangers. Nine times, he played less than eight minutes.

Still, Brière produced, scoring three goals and adding four assists in the playoffs while averaging 10:05 time on ice. He’d had 13 goals and added 12 assists in 69 regular-season games, averaging 12:46 per game; that was his least amount of ice since 1999-2000 with Phoenix, during his third of 17 NHL seasons.

Brière’s time on ice did not mirror the respect he had among teammates, centre Lars Eller one of several this preseason to remark that his professionalism and leadership skills in Montreal would be sorely missed in the dressing room.

Brière said he wasn’t surprised when the trade came down, given how he’d been used — or sat — during the playoffs. But if he felt any bitterness, or wanted to use this brief platform with the media to criticize the Canadiens, it remained fully cloaked.

“I’m excited by the new opportunity,” Brière said of the Avalanche, spinning a negative into a positive. “It’s been a blast so far this first week of training camp and I hope it stays that way.

“All good,” he added of his short detour in Montreal. “I feel fortunate that I had the chance to play here, to wear that uniform for a season. It’s something I’ll keep with me for a long time.

“Having a chance to play in front of the fans here was amazing. The playoff run that we had, playing Boston, winning in seven games, an Original Six series, that was really cool.

“I have a lot of good memories. All I want to say is thank you to the fans and the Montreal organization for giving me the chance.”

Anything he’d like to have changed in Montreal, whether or not it had been in his control?

“To beat the Rangers in the third round,” he replied quickly, “and have the chance to play in the (Stanley Cup) final.”

An hour earlier, Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy had expressed happiness with the trade that netted him the veteran.

“All the comments we heard were than Daniel is a great leader. We thought it was important for us to have leadership and that’s exactly what he brings to our team,” Roy said. “We’re very excited to have him. We weren’t necessarily looking for guys to be the top players on our team but looking for veterans who could help our younger guys to continue to grow.”

Roy suggested that Parenteau wouldn’t get top-six ice time in Colorado, something that he says awaits the forward in Montreal.

That’s a matter of fact. And perhaps a subtle dig at the Canadiens?

“You want players that are happy with you,” Roy said. “I’m not saying that P.A. (was) not happy with us, but this year it would have been tough for him to play on the top two lines. I think he would have been unhappy.

“I believe this trade will serve him very well. He can play on the top two lines with Montreal and on the power play. He’s a very good hockey player. I’m sure the people in Montreal will love him. He has a lot of skills. And we bring in a player (Brière) who’s going to bring leadership to us and that’s what we were looking for.”

Brière has been around long enough to know that nothing is guaranteed in hockey. Not ice time, not a happily-ever-after final chapter when you seem to have found your ideal situation.

“We’ll see what happens on the ice,” he said. “As players, we’re all very competitive. We always want more, we want more responsibilities, and that happens then yes, I’ll be ready for it.”

A shame, it was mentioned to him, that he’d not play that evening at the Bell Centre, in front of Canadiens fans.

“Woulda been nice,” Brière called over his shoulder with a grin, dropping his helmet back on his head and heading out to the Montreal ice his skates rarely grooved.

And then, like his career in Montreal, he was gone in a flash.

dstubbs@montrealgazette.com

Twitter: Dave_Stubbs

 
 
 
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Montreal Canadiens Daniel Brière speaks with the media after a team practice at the Brossard Sports Complex in Montreal on Monday April 14, 2014.
 

Montreal Canadiens Daniel Brière speaks with the media after a team practice at the Brossard Sports Complex in Montreal on Monday April 14, 2014.

Photograph by: Allen McInnis, The Gazette

 
Montreal Canadiens Daniel Brière speaks with the media after a team practice at the Brossard Sports Complex in Montreal on Monday April 14, 2014.
Montreal Canadiens centre Daniel Brière ponderers a reporter’s question in the dressing room of the Bell Sports Complex in the Brossard district of Montreal on Tuesday May 13, 2014.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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