Just had to get this off my chest after a discussion over on Russo's blog.
A while back, I'd posted a list of the goaltending situation throughout the NHL with the goal of pinpointing the most likely trade partner for the Wild in regards to Josh Harding. I labeled Philadelphia as most in need of a "goalie of the future" and mentioned Danny Briere as one player Philadelphia would love to get rid of because of his supersized contract.
This became a topic recently on Russo's Rants and Briere was given the "he's nowhere near what we need" label.
So someone fill me in. What exactly do the Wild need? When I asked that question, I did not get a response. When I mentioned Briere, I said he scores goals (204 in 591 games, including three seasons of 30+); he picks up assists (four times with 30+); he produces on the power play (195 of 473 points on the power play); and that he's a playoff performer (23 goals, 57 points in 63 games.)
Never once did I refer to him as God or the reason Philadelphia will win a Stanley Cup. I did not compare him to centers like Sidney Crosby, Pavel Datsyuk or Evgeni Malkin, or Joe Thornton or Vincent Lecavalier.
What I believe is that Briere is a quality player who would be a significant upgrade for a team like the Wild, who currently lack a No. 2 (some would even argue a legit No. 1) center. Briere is a center forced to the wing because Philadelphia has Mike Richards and Jeff Carter down the middle.
If that doesn't fit the Wild's needs, then what does?
It's quite understandable and even expected to not want the guy because of his bloated contract ($6.5 million through 2015.) I have no problem with citing that as a reason to stay away from him. But the argument seemed to stem mainly from the fact that he's an awful player. To say he's "nowhere near what the Wild needs" is just ignoring the facts. When I look at the Wild players, I don't see too many who have scored multiple 30-goal seasons in the NHL.
I don't see that trade happening, nor am I pushing for it. But for a Minnesota team that features James Sheppard or Pierre-Marc Bouchard at center behind Mikko Koivu, Briere would be an upgrade. Briere certainly isn't "the missing piece" but he represents another building block. Hopefully, for those fans' sakes, Sheppard shakes off the bust label or Bouchard succeeds in making the position switch. Maybe they'll develop into better players than Briere.
Briere's contract makes a trade unlikely. But ignore that for now. Would you rather have Briere, Sheppard or Bouchard as your second-line center?