Daniel Briere, the popular high-scoring center and clutch co-captain of two powerhouse Buffalo Sabres teams, has retired from the NHL.
Briere knew the end was coming. During a Dec. 20 visit to Buffalo with the Colorado Avalanche, his third team in three seasons, he said he wanted to enjoy his remaining days in the NHL and hinted he would retire following the season.
“I know I don’t have a lot of time left, so I don’t want to look too far ahead,” he said. “I’m trying to live in the moment, try to embrace what I have now. The end is going to come fast enough, and I don’t want to look back and regret it and say, ‘Oh, I should’ve enjoyed it.’ …
“Instead of looking out in the future, I’m trying to live in the moment, enjoy those moments.”
The diminutive Briere created plenty of special moments in Buffalo, becoming arguably the city’s most electrifying athlete after the Sabres acquired him late in 2002-03 from the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for Chris Gratton.
The trade ranks as one of the most lopsided in recent memory. Briere’s talents helped transform a moribund franchise. The Sabres reached the Eastern Conference final in 2006 and again in 2007, when they won the Presidents’ Trophy (most regular-season points) and Briere scored 95 points, the team’s highest total in 22 years.
But the Sabres didn’t re-sign Briere or co-captain Chris Drury following the season, and the team sank. The Sabres haven’t won a playoff series since their leaders left.
Briere signed an eight-year, $52 million contract with the Flyers, quickly becoming a fan favorite in Philadelphia, where he kept scoring. Briere has more playoff goals (40) than the entire Sabres team since 2007.
He cemented his reputation as a clutch performer in Philadelphia, leading the Flyers to the 2010 Stanley Cup final. He had 12 goals and 30 points in 23 games that postseason and 53 goals and 116 points in 124 career playoff appearances.
Briere spent 2013-14 with the Montreal Canadiens after the Flyers bought out his contract. The Habs traded him to Colorado last season, where he scored only eight goals and 12 points in 57 games.
His production in Buffalo – 92 goals and 230 points in 225 games – hasn’t been matched since he left. He had 307 goals and 696 points in 973 NHL appearances.