Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How to deal with Ilya Bryzgalov (hint: kidnapping)

At the risk of beating a dead goalie, I'd like to take this opportunity to continue to rip on Ilya Bryzgalov. Most of all, I'd like to try to explore some of the ways in which we might be able to move him off the roster--and off our payroll--before 2020, when his contract expires (seriously, 2020. Chew on that number).

First, the ripping.

I don't want to take anything away from a great win against the Jets, one of the best all-around games I've seen the Flyers play in weeks. But to completely dominate the puck possession, outshoot your rival by greater than a 2-1 margin, and still need a last-second goal to tie and an overtime tally to win is absolutely criminal.

Andrej Pavelec, the Jets goaltender, made several saves last night that Bryzgalov couldn't make in his imagination right now. The Byfuglien and Kane goals, in particular, were bad--no screen, no deflection, and not from in close.

How this team plays with any confidence at all right now is incredible. It's impossible to trust Bryzgalov to make even the most routine saves. The Flyers need to play an absolutely flawless game in front of him just to give themselves a shot, and even then, nothing is guaranteed. As we've seen, that strategy doesn't fly against the Bostons and New Yorks of the NHL.

On top of, and perhaps worse than the poor performance, is the fact that Bryzgalov is an absolute space cadet. He seems totally unfocused much of the time, doesn't seem to care nearly as much as he should, and, as we know, loves to make snide or cryptic remarks to the media about his play or how he's being treated by the fans and the team. It's hard to believe the other players don't just roll their eyes every time he opens his mouth.

It's truly a testament to Peter Laviolette and every other player on the team that the Flyers continue to say the right things and skate hard every night.

That said, let's be constructive. As I see it, there are a couple of ways we can get rid of Bryzgalov. Remember that he has a no-movement clause, so he can't simply be shuffled to the minors, and would have to approve any trade.

1. Kidnapping. I'm only half joking. Also, I'm not sure about the NHL's collective bargaining agreement's stance on this, and whether he would continue to count against the cap. But I can guarantee that there wouldn't exactly be a public outcry to bring the kidnappers to justice, and there are probably enough Flyers fans among the Philadelphia Police Department that they'll conduct a token investigation and call it a day. Really, the bigger risk any kidnappers incur is the risk of having to listen to Bryzgalov make inane comments for the next eight years. "I'm going to have to find the peace in my soul to stay tied up in this basement." Guh. It's like Chinese water torture.

2. Tricking everyone else into thinking he's good. This is less illegal than kidnapping, but is going to require a serious collective effort. First of all, we really need to start talking up Bryzgalov. "Did you see the game last night? Sure we lost 5-2, but without Bryzgalov I bet it would have been 7-2 at least!" Fans, journalists, and bloggers are all going to have to be in on this, and it's going to require a lot of dedication. Second, we need to cut a highlight reel of other goaltenders playing really well, Photoshop Bryzgalov's jersey onto them (you can do that, right? That's a thing?) and mail the DVD to all the other GMs. Between the media love affair and the phony highlights, I have to imagine some less intelligent GM (cough, Brian Burke, cough) would jump once we made Bryzgalov available. Finally, we'd just have to trick Bryzgalov into thinking the universe was magically telling him to go to Toronto, or Dallas, or Florida, or wherever, and by the time anybody figured out he still sucked it would be too late!

3. Cut Bryzgalov outright. This is a technical possibility, but unlikely. Because Bryzgalov's contract qualifies as an "over-35" contract, since the bulk of his contract falls after he turns 35, the Flyers would be forced to pay two-thirds of the remaining value of his contract over twice the remaining number of years. So, for example, if the Flyers cut Bryzgalov after this season, they would owe him $30.2 million over 16 years, or about $1.9 million per year for the next 16 years. Ed Snider is a pretty dedicated owner, but that's Bobby Bonilla money.

4. Exercise the amnesty clause. This one, of course, is pure speculation. The NHL collective bargaining agreement expires after this season, and some are predicting an ugly labor battle. If the new CBA ends up containing an NBA-style amnesty clause, it's not far beyond the pale that the Flyers would exercise such a clause on Bryzgalov and wash their hands of Holmgren's biggest mistake once and for all.

Of course, the real travesty is that the Flyers are only half a season into a nine-year deal and we're already discussing ways to get out of it. But sadly, that's what it's come to. And hey, a fella can dream.


  1. All my Flyers comments must be taken with a grain of salt as I only watch them play a few times a month right now, but as we already discussed, goalies are up and down players. Kind of like relief pitchers. There are a handful of elite guys, and everyone else either sucks outright or has their brief moments. Maybe these guys are still good, but I think of one time "stars" like JS Giguere, Nabokov, Kiprusoff... Obviously giving Bryz that kind of contract was a risky and probably bad move, but it seems that this is a guy who has had some success in the NHL before and is more than capable of having some success again - maybe even later this season. I understand the backlash against him, and the little I have seen him he has failed to impress me. And I know his quotes are painful. But I'd like to think he is more than capable of getting hot and figuring things out.

  2. Based on his entire career, I don't believe he's any more capable of catching fire than any other mid-level goaltender we could sign. And I think it's clear that he has obvious mental difficulties playing in a high-pressure market, which he's never had to do before. There's a general consensus among a lot of people in the NHL that you pay for top-5 goaltenders, but that 6-20 is such a crapshoot it's not worth shelling out extra for one guy over another. I think we can all agree that it would be laughable to suggest he's anywhere near the top 5, and if I were offered the opportunity to unload his contract completely and sign some other middling-but-starting-caliber goaltender at market value, I would do it before you could say "Bryzgalov."

  3. All good points. He is probably a middle-tier guy. Meaning he is just as likely to suck as to go all J.S. Giguere on us. The major market thing is a bit concerning, I'll give you that one.