Laviolette demotes Briere at practice, promotes Read

Image via Zimbio.com

Ugh, it’s about time.

Sam Carchidi of the Inquirer reported that at Friday’s practice, Danny Briere had been demoted from the second line to the third, paired with Scott Hartnell and Max Talbot. Matt Read was promoted to the top line. I’m praying that this change carries over to the starting lineup on Sunday against the Penguins. Despite the terrible fact that the average yearly salary of the three forwards on the third line would would be $4.15 million, this change should have been made a month ago.

In Laviolette’s defense, the delay is somewhat understandable: Despite netting a mere 5 goals in 26 games, Briere’s been getting about 2.6 shots per game on net, which is roughly in line with his career average, and he’s suffering from the worst shooting percentage of his career (7.8%, half his 14.8% career average). So there’s some bad luck involved on the offensive end.

But Briere, who always carried a reputation as a bit of a defensive liability, has recently become such a problem in 5v5 play that his time on the ice is doing more damage than good. Opposing teams consistently take more shots than the Flyers while he is on the ice (his Corsi rating is -5.57 despite facing mediocre opposing lines). If Briere were paired with two possession-driving players this might be surmountable, but pair him with Wayne Simmonds – who has similar issues (-2.06 Corsi) but provides a physicality that cements his spot on the 2nd line – and you have a recipe for failure. Brayden Schenn is good, but he’s not good enough to make up for the defensive deficiencies of both linemates. (Learn about Corsi here, stats via behindthenet.ca)

Happily, all is not lost. Enter Matt Read. Not only is he scoring at even strength – he netted 6 of his 7 goals during 5v5 play – but he is also driving possession (or at least keeping it even). He’s recorded a .57 Corsi rating against the same level of competition as Briere. It seems to me that it would have worked fine if Read jumped to 2nd line wing, but Hartnell has earned his spot in the doghouse after taking a few inexcusably idiotic penalties in the last game, a 4-2 loss against the Lightning. Simon Gagne will presumably be bumped to 2nd line wing, but we’ll find that out for sure on Sunday.

As minor of a change as it might sound, this move really could be the key to unlocking this team’s scoring potential. Briere best season as a Flyer came with Scottie Hartnell as a linemate, and though Max Talbot is no Jeff Carter or Ville Leino in the offensive zone, this will be a very productive third line if they can rekindle any of that chemistry. Meanwhile Read’s speed and passing ability on the top line should lead to more fast carries through the neutral zone and fewer dump-ins. I expect a bit more movement and cycling on the offensive zone. If I’m right and Gagne replaces Briere on the 2nd line, his relative defensive competence should take some pressure off of Brayden Schenn.

Look, I know I’m painting a very rosy picture here, and no line combination is going to make up for the poor performances of every defenseman not named Kimmo or Luke. But Briere’s demotion is long overdue, and I have trouble believing that the 2nd line won’t be better off without him at this point.

The Flyers play next on Sunday at 7:30pm in Pittsburgh.

Posted on March 23, 2013, in Flyers, Hank Mushinski, Posts, Stats Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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