Danny Briere

Habs give Briere a shot on first line

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The Montreal Canadiens appear eager to give Danny Briere every opportunity to prove that he has plenty left in the tank after being bought out by the Philadelphia Flyers this summer. Early on, they’re giving him a look on the first line alongside David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty, TSN reports.

Habs head coach Michel Therrien managed to give credibility to the trio sticking together while also leaving the door open to juggle things if needed.

“We’ll try different lines during the camp,” Therrien said on Thursday. “But we already have a good idea of what we want to do.”

Briere, 35, signed a two-year, $8 million contract with Montreal, so the Canadiens would love to see him put it together after a tough couple seasons.

The other new combo featured Christian Thomas skating with Rene Bourque and Tomas Plekanec, although that might have something to do with Brian Gionta sitting out that session because he’s still recovering from surgery on his left biceps tendon.

Flyers’ front office faces pivotal season

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Whether you blame the players, the front office or several other factors, the bottom line is that the 2013 campaign was a disaster for the Philadelphia Flyers. GM Paul Holmgren and head coach Peter Laviolette survived that wretched season with their jobs intact, but it’s tough to imagine them surviving if 2013-14 is similarly dour.

Let’s look at each front office member’s situation.

Holmgren might be running low on chances

It’s tough not to place a lot of the blame on Holmgren.

After all, many of his home run swings have actually turned out to be big whiffs. Huge transactions often involve coaches and other staff members, yet in the minds of many, the Ilya Bryzgalov train wreck and other gaffes have Holmgren’s stamp on it.

As often as Philly seems to pull about-faces personnel-wise, the team’s actually been fairly patient with general managers. Still, there’s a key difference (beyond money wasted buying out Bryzgalov and Danny Briere) this summer: they hired potential heir apparent Ron Hextall as assistant GM.

Laviolette tasked with a challenge

While he isn’t often mentioned among the NHL’s elite coaches, Laviolette has done some great things in his stints with the Flyers and Carolina Hurricanes, going 1-for-2 in Stanley Cup Final appearances.

Fair or not, this could be a make-or-break season for the opinionated bench boss after some rumblings in 2013.

He was fired during his fifth season with Carolina and enters season No. 5 with Philly, although two of those campaigns were for fewer than 82 games.

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The Flyers are among the league’s biggest spending team and they’re certainly not afraid to make big moves. That can be a double-edged sword for coaches and general managers, as Holmgren and Laviolette might find out if the team suffers through another dud.

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Holmgren stands up for Laviolette

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Philly looks for improvements from young forwards

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List: Five Habs under the microscope in 2013-14

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Montreal Canadiens day on PHT continues with a look at five players that will be under the microscope in 2013-14…

Danny Briere — Signed to a two-year, $8 million contract as a replacement for Michael Ryder, Briere comes to the Canadiens as a proven scorer, particularly in the playoffs. However, the diminutive forward is also 35 with a history of concussions, and he only had 16 points in 34 games last year while playing for Philadelphia. On being bought out by the Flyers, Briere said: “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.”

Andrei Markov — Finally healthy, the 34-year-old defenseman played all 48 games in 2013, scoring 10 goals and adding 20 assists. Markov’s return to the lineup was a big reason the Habs saw their power play improve to fifth in the NHL from 28th the previous season. But with just one year left on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent, and with his best days behind him, it’s not totally clear how he fits into the club’s future plans. It should be interesting to see how his body holds up to a full 82-game schedule, plus the playoffs (if Montreal qualifies).

Jarred Tinordi — Unlike Markov, Tinordi is a young d-man with practically his entire pro career ahead of him. The 21-year-old son of former NHL defenseman Mark Tinordi, he’s expected to compete for a roster spot in 2013-14 after being called up for eight regular-season and five playoff games last year. At 6-foot-6, Tinordi gives the Habs some much-needed size, not to mention a willingness to stick up for teammates. “Obviously I’m a big presence on the ice. I’m a big guy, and I try to be physical,” Tinordi told CBC Hamilton. “I think that’s something that helped Montreal when I got called up. That was kind of the role I wanted to play and where I fit in with the team.”

George Parros — He won’t be expected to produce much in the way of offense, but the big enforcer was acquired in a trade with Florida for a reason. “He brings an element of respect, not only on the ice but with his teammates,” Habs GM Marc Bergevin said of Parros. “We did our due diligence. He’s a good person, a high-character guy that is well liked by his teammates and protects his teammates.” The acquisition may also allow physical forward Brandon Prust to spend more time on the ice and less in the penalty box.

Alex Galchenyuk — If there’s a future superstar on the team, chances are it’s this guy. Still only 19, the third overall pick in the 2012 draft played all 48 games for the Habs last year, finishing with an impressive 27 points. Galchenyuk’s best month was April, when he scored 12 points in 14 games. In 2013-14, he’ll be expected to maintain that level of play, if not exceed it.

Related: Habs need bounceback from Price

It’s Montreal Canadiens day on PHT

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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team?  The Montreal Canadiens.

After the Montreal Canadiens finished 2011-12 with a disastrous 78 points, they shook up their front office by bringing in Marc Bergevin to serve as the new general manager. Bergevin in turn hired former Canadiens and Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Michel Therrien to once again serve as the team’s bench boss.

Bergevin and Therrien’s first season saw the Canadiens improve by leaps and bounds for a number of different reasons. For one thing, top-tier offensive defenseman Andrei Markov enjoyed his first healthy campaign in years and P.K. Subban took another step forward en route to winning the Norris Trophy. The duo played a prominent role in Montreal going from one of the worst power-play teams in 2011-12 to the fifth best last season.

Montreal was also led by a youth movement, including rookie forwards Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk. In fact, four of the team’s top six scorers and five of their top eight are 24 years old or younger.

With their improved offense, Montreal managed to capture the Northeast Division title, but they imploded against the Ottawa Senators in the first round. Goaltender Carey Price struggled towards the end of the season and that carried over into the playoffs.

After dropping three of Montreal’s first four games against Ottawa, Price was held out of Game 5 due to a knee injury. Backup Peter Budaj proved to be equally ineffective against the Senators and thus the Canadiens’ postseason run ended with a 6-1 defeat.

Offseason recap

The Canadiens have plenty of young players in their core and they’re on an upward trajectory, so Bergevin wasn’t inclined to make major changes this summer. That being said, they did make one big splash by signing Danny Briere to a two-year, $8 million contract after his previous deal was bought out by the Philadelphia Flyers.

At the same time, they watched 2013 midseason acquisition Michael Ryder walk as an unrestricted free agent. He ended up signing a two-year, $7 million deal with the New Jersey Devils.

Montreal claimed forward Michael McCarron with the 25th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

Related:

Introducing: PHT’s ‘Team of the Day’ summer series

Briere excited to get his Canadiens career underway

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Danny Briere’s return home to Quebec has him gushing over getting to play for the team he grew up adoring.

Stu Cowan at the Montreal Gazette hears from the 35 year-old veteran who is feeling like a kid again after making his first visit to the team facilities.

“I grew up a Canadiens fan so pulling on that jersey for the first time today was special,” Briere said.

“Today was my first time in the dressing room. I’ve seen the Bell Centre a lot but it’s nice to see it from the good side.”

Briere will be donning his familiar No. 48 with the Canadiens and looking to step into a lineup that’s not lacking in offensive talent.

Montreal may not be run-and-gun the way the Flyers have been, but skating alongside Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty could help Briere get back in the goal column more often.