Fourth-liners Daniel Briere and Dale Weise, who combined to score the overtime winner or the Montreal Canadiens in their series opener against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night, have more in common than you may think.
How can that be? There is 11 years age difference between the 25-year-old Weise and the 36-year-old veteran Briere. The latter has, for the most part, enjoyed a brilliant career, especially when it comes to the post-season, while Weise has had to scratch and claw for a few shifts a game.
Briere has 50 goals and 110 points in 109 career Stanley Cup playoff games. Weise, meanwhile, suited up for only the seventh time in the NHL post-season on Wednesday. His overtime winner was his first career Stanley Cup playoff goal.
Briere was a 1996 first-round pick (24th overall) by the Phoenix Coyotes. He won a world junior title with Canada in 1997, added a QMJHL scoring championship, and his number 14 hangs in the rafters of the Marcel Dionne Centre in Drummondville, Que.
The native of Gatineau, Que., later won back-to-back world championships with Canada in 2003 and 2004, which turned out to be a premonition for NHL playoff success with the Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers. With the Sabres and Flyers, Briere made four trips to the East final in five years and led the league in playoff scoring when the Flyers lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2010 Stanley Cup final.
Adapt or die
Weise, on the other hand, was no sure thing. The native of Winnipeg was passed over in the 2007 NHL entry draft and was not taken until the fourth round the following year by the New York Rangers.
He spent 165 regular-season and playoff games in the AHL before he played in his first NHL game for the Rangers in Dec. 2010. But then he was waived before the start of the following season and picked up by the Vancouver Canucks.
"Dale always has had some grease to his game and I think he went into pro thinking he could score the way he did in junior," said Lake Erie Monsters head coach Dean Chynoweth, who was Weise's junior coach for three seasons with the Swift Current Broncos. "It was in Vancouver he really adapted to that fourth-line role.
"This has been a long process for him, just like in junior. When he first came to Swift Current we initially butted heads. Both he and [current Ottawa Senators forward] Zack Smith returned for that year after not being drafted, worked hard and took off. Both guys came back with something to prove. They trained like pros. You didn't have to stay on them and they helped out the younger players."
For the second time in Weise's pro career, a John Tortorella-coached team had given up on him. With Tortorella in charge, the Rangers waived Weise. Then the Canucks traded him to the Canadiens in exchange for defenceman Raphael Diaz this past February.
Weise was a good playoff performer in junior with seven goals in 12 games for the Broncos in 2008. But he just hasn't had the opportunity in the NHL.
Even though Briere was a star in junior, his transition to the NHL wasn't easy because of his diminutive size. He spent his first four seasons as a pro travelling back and forth between the Phoenix Coyotes and the AHL Springfield Falcons.
Briere also was put on waivers, but unlike Weise no other team bothered to pick up Briere. It wasn't until he was dealt to the Sabres at the 2003 trade deadline that he made an impact in the NHL.
His time in Buffalo, especially his play in the playoffs, made him a hot commodity when he became an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2007. He wound up inking an eight-year, $52-million US contract with a no-trade clause with the Flyers.
But after enduring a bitter divorce with his ex-wife, Briere's play dropped off. He was bought out last summer and signed by the Canadiens to a two-year deal.
In Montreal, Briere's time hasn't been rosy. At $4 million a season, he's probably the highest-paid fourth liner in the NHL. But the Canadiens received their money's worth on opening night and it will be interesting to see how much Briere and Weise can contribute to the cause in the weeks to come.
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