Briere and Gagne flying with Philly
Sunday, 24 August 2008
Originally published in Eishockey News in 2007
By Lucas Aykroyd
Let’s face it: you won’t find the “Flying Frenchmen” with the Montreal Canadiens anymore. Last year’s dynamic duo of Quebec-born snipers was Vincent Lecavalier (108 points) and Martin St. Louis (102 points) of the Tampa Bay Lightning. This year, Daniel Briere and Simon Gagne have started off at close to a two-points-per-game clip for the Philadelphia Flyers.
If the Flyers hope to divert attention from the bad press they’ve gotten for Steve Downie’s headshot on Ottawa’s Dean McAmmond and Jesse Boulerice’s crosscheck to the face of Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler, it’ll probably be through the brilliant offensive play of Briere and Gagne.
Briere was the hottest commodity on the free agent market this summer after racking up 95 points with Buffalo in 2006-07. The diminutive 30-year-old Gatineau native signed an eight-year, $52-million deal with Philadelphia on July 1. Although he won’t replace the departed Peter Forsberg’s grit at center, he’s a more threatening scorer at this stage of his NHL career.
“When you play with a guy like Mike Knuble for a couple of years and then add Daniel Briere in the middle, it’s not too hard to adjust,” said Gagne of his linemates. The speedy winger, a veteran of two Olympics, is gunning for his third season of 40-plus goals.
“Looking back to training camp, the first four games were not the way we wanted,” Briere said. “But after that, it started coming. Every game it feels like it’s getting better and better.”
In an 8-2 thrashing of Vancouver on October 10, Gagne and Briere combined for five points. Gagne made it 3-1 on a perfect Briere set-up, simply tapping the puck into the open side of the net on the power play. It perfectly illustrated their chemistry.
It’s been an amazing turnaround for Briere, who bottomed out when Phoenix put him on waivers in 2000. But now that he’s among the NHL’s elite pay-wise and points-wise, he hasn’t changed his off-season workout routine or fundamental approach toward successful hockey.
“I faced a lot of pressure last year when the judge awarded me a $5 million contract in arbitration, and I’m taking the same approach as I did last year,” Briere said. “I’m a competitor, and I want to prove to people that I deserve [the contract]. At the same time, you’ve just got to keep playing your game. You don’t want to change.”