Thanks for joining us for another installment of Bar Stool Debates, where Joe and Brandon go back and forth on the hottest topics floating around the Buffalo sports scene.
In light of recent news that the Philadelphia Flyers will buy out the remaining two years of the eight-year, $52 million deal Daniel Briere signed on that fateful day in 2007, one of the most influential Buffalo athletes of the past decade is set to hit the open market next week.
Naturally, Briere’s buyout has prompted many Sabres fans to suggest he would be welcomed back to Buffalo with open arms if he should choose. But would he?
Do you want Briere to sign with the Sabres? To join in on the conversation you can follow Brandon (@b_schlag) and Joe (@JoeBuffaloWins) on Twitter.
Brandon: Few players have made First Niagara Center (er, HSBC Arena) buzz the same way Daniel Briere once did. Briere, more affectionately referred to as Captain Clutch, delivered as many memorable goals over his three-and-a-half seasons in Buffalo as anyone else in Sabres history
Briere’s 95-point season in 2007 still stands as his most productive season and was one of the most impressive offensive performances by a Sabres player since Alexander Mogliny and Pat LaFontaine roamed the ice.
But, for as many fond memories Sabres fans share of Briere, few moments in franchise history sting more than July 1, 2007, when he bolted town with fellow fan favorite Chris Drury to the tune of $52 million, directly affecting the quality of hockey that would be player at 1 Seymour H. Knox Plaza for the next six seasons.
Sabres fans can’t help but be overtaken by the nostalgic undertones that come along with Briere pulling the blue and gold over his head once more. But, with 2007 permanently implanted into the back of our minds, would we really want him back? Let’s debate.
Joe: Brandon, I’m very conflicted about this debate. It can go either way for me. I love Danny Briere. I loved that era of hockey in Buffalo and go into a comatose of sadness whenever I come across a YouTube clip of that season, especially when it involves No. 48. It was a great time in Sabres history that most fans, myself included, have not been able to get over because of the way Darcy/Tom/Quinn screwed it all up.
I’d always be the first person to yell at my TV or at my Twitter feed whenever I’d see Briere do well with Philly. The playoffs against us in 2011 come to mind and the way he finds the back of the net whenever the stakes are at its highest. I’d yell at anyone who told me to get over it because the Sabres were never able to replace him. If they replaced him, I’d get over it. It has been a topic I’ve written about numerous times and have gotten so many reactions about it.
But guess what?
This year was different because Danny and the Flyers didn’t do much of anything. There was no jealousy of seeing your ex-high school sweet heart on TV with Brad Pitt while we were on Pornhub.
He was largely ineffective and the Flyers were terrible. No more reminders about how great he was or how we are filled with a bunch of bozos in the organization because of his play. It was as if the ghosts had finally left us. And that’s the thing, Danny is just a shadow/ghost of his own playing self and, as fans, we are just chasing that ghost.
His numbers have gone down since the Finals against the Blackhawks. Sure, I’d love to see him retire here and it would feel so good to see him score a goal here again, but that’s the thing: it is more about nostalgia for me and not about actual hockey. That is wrong and I think sometimes we need to turn the page on the past as Buffalo fans.
Brandon: Ah, nostalgia.
I was lucky enough to be at HSBC Arena for Games 1 and 7 of that 2006 quarterfinal series against Philly. Those games, between Brian Campbell’s hit on RJ Umberger to open things up and Briere’s winner in Game 7, for my money, are the greatest sports memories I have experienced in my short 21 years.
I still recall those feelings vividly, sitting in Section 322, Row 11, with my father, and the crowd’s reaction when Briere tipped in the winner to send the Flyers packing. I have the chills right now, watching that replay. As such, full disclosure: Danny Briere holds a special place in my heart.
I remember when the debate raged on who the Sabres should keep, Briere or Drury. I was adamant that Drury needed to be the one to stick around, thinking scoring would come from Vanek or elsewhere. Boy, was I wrong. Imagine how different the next few years would have been with Briere still on the team. Who knows how many more huge playoff goals he would have scored.
Alas, we kept neither and the Sabres have sucked since, all while Briere has scored those gigantic goals, though none recent, for another team.
I completely agree, though, that it is wrong to live in the past when it comes to building for success in the future. With Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek likely heading out the door sooner rather than later, why would Briere want to come back, anyhow, all remnants of the success the team had pre-2007 and Briere’s old friends now entirely dissipated.
Then again, I don’t know of one Sabres fan who wouldn’t take him back for, say, a three-year deal at a manageable $3.5-4 million per. The issue is, of course: “Would he want to come play here?”
Joe: I doubt he would. First off, his family is in Philly and he’s separated from his wife. So, she’s not going to come back here so his kids can hang out with him. Second, and probably most importantly, he still hasn’t won a Cup and he’s going to want to go to a place where he has a shot at winning it.
As we’ve repeated on the site numerous times, this is hockey hell. No way he would want to come here unless we gave him a ton of money, which I don’t know that he’d chase since he’s made a ton of it with the Flyers.
The only reason he’d come here would be if other teams weren’t interested in him. Here’s the thing though, do you think he could contribute? That’s the biggest question for me when it comes to thinking he should come back. He’d be a decent second center if he’s healthy. IF…
Brandon: Though the NHL has taken a toll on his 5-foot-10 frame at 35, I do still think Briere has one or two series-clinching goals to give before he leaves hockey for good. People forget that he played really well over in Europe during the lockout this past season. He played in at least 70 games each season he was in Philly except 2008-09 and appeared in 34 of 48 this year.
Obviously injuries are a concern, but I think that’s a drum that gets beaten a little too much. You could do much worse than Briere, especially in a weak free agent class. The ideal situation for Briere is on the roster of a contending team where he do his thing under the radar as a team’s third-line center, surrounded by a group of big dudes. Teams like Boston or Los Angeles come to mind.
This is obviously not the Sabres.
The only reason a 35-year-old Danny Briere signs with this present Buffalo Sabres team is because he has no other relevant options, so he returns to a familiar place to ride into the sunset. That’s not going to happen. It’s guaranteed that at least one team in a better state than the Sabres is willing to take a flier on Briere.
Then again, here’s a little contrarian situation: Say Darcy Regier does a complete 180 this summer in a last-ditch effort to keep Vanek and Miller on board. Briere could provide a little incentive for them to stick around. I’m not a fan of that scenario, but it’s a little food for thought. Other than that, he has very little to give to a non-contending Sabres team other than a few rah-rahs for the younger kids.
Joe: I get that. I understand all the positives in what he could bring to the table, but there’s a part of me that just feels like I’m such a loser for wanting him to come back here.
In a way, it is like being in a relationship with someone who was the girl of your dreams, and she did the Harlem Shake on your heart and you were left devastated. You couldn’t find anyone to take your sorry ass to bed and all you have left is your ex, and she doesn’t look remotely the same as she did years ago. You want her back, but you know it wouldn’t be right or healthy for you guys. Just picture an episode of Young and the Restless.
It feels like putting lipstick on a pig because the Sabres are so far removed from being competitive that we need something nice to focus on that doesn’t include Pegula asking why Darcy should be fired or Darcy killing everyone’s fantasy in trading for the top pick.
Plus, Danny is just not the same guy.
The nostalgia is a double-edged sword for me. I love the memories and would want to make new ones, but it still feels like typical Buffalo, where we get some asshole calling into WGR and asking for Ted Nolan to return or that Bill Polian should be the GM, or they can’t wait until the Guns N’ Roses concert kicks off the summer. Just so fricken dated sometimes.
Just we have to move on, man.
If he signs, great. I’ll put up a piece about how its great that he is back and it will bring warm and fuzzy feelings to me — and it would. However, it would be fake because we are falling in love with something that occurred years ago and not now. Again, I’m conflicted.
Brandon: Yeah, like I said, I agree that I don’t think bringing him back is the right move. I think we’re both in the same boat there. He’s different than he was six years ago, and so are the Sabres. Both sides moved on and that should be that.
I like your point about folks wanting Briere back so that we can finally have that feel-good story surrounding hockey in Buffalo. I think that’s is exactly the case, and if that’s the only reasons folks want Briere back, the move would be made for all the wrong reasons. Regier and the Sabres need to be focused on trading/drafting the next Danny Briere, not living in the last.
Quite frankly, when Regier was asked about bringing Briere back at last week’s presser, he sounded very resigned to the notion, like you would expect him to.
I don’t think it’s a move that interests the Sabres all that much, and it’s not something that you would imagine would pique Briere’s interest all that much, either. I think Sabres fans should probably put the idea of a Briere return to bed before it gets started. But, then again, like you, I wouldn’t kick and scream if he wound up signing here because he, for whatever reason, didn’t like his other options.
The Sabres probably won’t win with him or without him. If they bring him aboard, no harm, no foul. If not, that’s one more roster spot for a young player to prove his worth to what will hopefully amount to a winning future for the franchise, a future that’s still three or four years down the line, and that likely doesn’t include Briere.
Joe: Again, Im not sure.
Honestly, it is just my psyche as a whiny Buffalo fan and just knowing what my intuition craves, and that’s the past. I have to let go of it for my own sake. Hell, for our own sanity. He may end up playing well next year and we will start crying the blues about how we should have signed him…and that’s the thing, I don’t wanna go through that feeling again. But that’s just typical “This is the end of the world” Buffalo rhetoric.
Honestly, if he had a decent year this season, Id be on board, but we are rebuilding. We suck and we need younger guys here. It hurts to say no to Danny, but honestly, it is the right choice. I think. Maybe. Flip a fuckin’ coin, Brandon!
Brandon: All right. Heads, Darcy offers Briere another eight years, $52 million for no reason other than to make Sabres fans feel all warm and fuzzy again. Screw winning in the next five years. Tails, they let him walk to Boston, where he signs for a manageable cap hit, remains healthy all season and scores the series-clinching goal in the first round to put an end to a surprisingly successful Sabres season, haunting Buffalo one last time before riding off into the sunset.
Look, I think most Sabres fans are right where we are on this one. On one hand, man, was he fun to watch. We haven’t had a player with the same finesse and scoring touch since Briere left, save the occasional Thomas Vanek streak (he still isn’t quite the player Briere was).
On the other, why is it so damn hard to find another Chris Gratton to trade for the present-day equivalent to Danny Briere — a player who has had marginal success, ready to blossom into someone who can help return the Sabres to the days when Briere was scoring some of the greatest goals in franchise history, because that’s all we really want.