Friday, March 16, 2012

Why I don't owe Ilya Bryzgalov an apology

Before we start, let's make a couple of things clear. I hold these truths to be self-evident:

1. For the first five months of the season, Bryzgalov was terrible. Not just mediocre, terrible. As in, not-starting-caliber terrible. And he was at his worst against the Bruins and Rangers. So he earned every word of derision he got during that time.

2. Six games does not a season make. As phenomenal as he has looked--and I watch just about every game, and he has truly been superb--none of this matters if he doesn't sustain it through the playoffs. He doesn't need to post four shutouts every six games, but he does need to sustain the success he's had in the second half as a whole.

That said, I'm rooting for the guy. Because of all the negative press I've given him, it may seem like I don't want him to succeed. But I do, because like any other team, these Flyers are going to need strong performance from their goaltender if they want to contend for a Cup.

Since the All Star break, Bryzgalov has gone 11-3-2 with a 1.67 GAA and a .937 SV%. By comparison, for the season, Henrik Lundqvist is 32-14-5 with a 1.88 GAA and a .935 SV%.

Granted,  Lundqvist is running away with the Vezina race right now, but the point is that the kind of play the Flyers have gotten from Bryzgalov in the last month is the kind of play the Rangers have enjoyed from Lundqvist all season. That's how a franchise goaltender plays, and that's how you earn $51 million.

But in four full NHL seasons prior to this one, Bryzgalov has posted a GAA below 2.44 just once. So it's far from clear that he can sustain this kind of performance long-term.

If he does, and particularly if he helps carry the Flyers in the playoffs, then I'll owe him an apology. But if we see him swing back the other way, and start letting in bad goals and getting in his own head, then I'll be more right than ever.

As usual, the ball is in Bryzgalov's court (or is the puck in Bryzgalov's zone?). Until he wins a Stanley Cup or that contract expires, he's always going to be on the hot seat.

If he keeps playing well, I'll be the first to congratulate him. But if he doesn't, then we're paying him too much to be a detriment to this team.


  1. Here is where you lost me: In the 2nd half, Bryz's numbers are BETTER THAN THE BEST GOALIE IN THE NHL! In the first half Bryz was terrible and you were ready to kill him and declared his contract to be an albatross that would kill the team for years to come. Now, I'm not pretending Bryz was good in the 1st half, but your overreaction was insane. Players often struggle upon moving to a new team and being rewarded a large contract. I maintained at the time of his struggles, and still maintain, that goalies are streaky. Bryz could very well start sucking again, but for a goalie that was sooooo bad, this streak is not just a hot streak. This streak looks more like a turn-around into the goalie he is capable of being. Yes, his GAA wasn't fantastic in Phoenix, but isn't it possible that that stat had more to do with his team than his play? I like to trust that management knows what they are doing, and they obviously saw something in Bryz.

  2. Let me clarify: You don't owe him an apology for being angry with his play. But you do owe him an apology for losing all faith in him, declaring signing him essentially unconscionable, and wanting to run him out of town just a few months into his 9 year deal. As we have gone over many times, the Flyers probably overpaid, but given the lack of elite goaltenders in the NHL, Bryz has the ability to be above average, and you wrote him off before he ever showed this ability (which he is currently showing).

  3. I have thought since the Flyers signed him that Bryz's regular level of performance is closer to what we saw in the first half (though not that bad) than what we've seen in the last six games. He hasn't disproven that in any way. He's shown in the past that his ceiling is certainly very high, and the last month or so is evidence of that. But to justify being the highest-paid goaltender in the league, you need to perform that well on a consistent basis.

    So no, I don't owe Holmgren an apology for this contract, or Bryzgalov an apology for being on his case, until Bryz wins a Vezina or a Stanley Cup. That's the kind of money we're paying him, and he hasn't come close to earning it. The last six games have been like the amuse bouche of a really, really expensive meal. Yeah, it was delicious, but the rest of the dinner sure as hell better live up to that standard.

  4. Did my contracts post teach you nothing? It is not Bryz's fault that he is the highest paid goalie in the league. It is the Flyers fault for paying him that much money. If you always compare his play to his contract, you will never be able to embrace him unless he is the best in the league. I'm not saying this is an unfair approach for you to take. Just keep it in mind. Keep in mind that less than a month ago, you called for his outright release on this blog. You are certainly more of an expert on his past and present play than I am, but come on! Release him 3 months into a 9 year contract because he is overpaid and playing poorly?

  5. To be fair, I don't think I advocated releasing him outright. I merely explored the options for getting him off the roster, if he continued his poor play. And when you consider the cap situation the Flyers are typically in, paying a backup-caliber goalie (which is what Bryz was for the first half of the season) more than $6 million a year is a totally untenable situation.

    And whether or not it's Bryzgalov's fault that he's the highest paid goaltender in the league, how else do you want me to evaluate his place on the team? Just because he's playing like a mid-tier goalie doesn't mean I can pretend he's being paid like one. And if we were only paying him $2 million this year, I doubt I'd be as critical. But we're not, so there's a significantly higher standard for his performance.

  6. If Jeremy Lin was being paid as the best point guard in the league, Linsanity would have not been as big a deal. As of right now this is a 2 week hot streak. And yes it has been fun. But look at the Knicks and Jeremy Lin now.

    So while this could be the signs of things to come (God I hope so)it doesn't mean anything. If fact the only thing this proves is that Bryz got hot while you were on Spring Break and were able to catch all his games. You weren't watching for most of the season and missed his truly atrocious games. As I said Haas doesn't owe anyone an apology, but maybe,just maybe we don't need to break his knee with tire iron.