Is Flyers Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov Talking His Way out of Philadelphia?

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Is Flyers Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov Talking His Way out of Philadelphia?
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov has once again become a distraction for his team by making comments about the club's place in the standings.

Prior to Wednesday's embarrassing 5-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils, the 32-year-old netminder spoke to Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer about the home-and-home series with New Jersey.

"You win both games, you are tied with them, and you have a good chance to continue to battle for the playoffs," he said after Tuesday's practice in Voorhees. "You lose both games, you are done. You are done. That's it. This is it. This is, probably, the reality. You're going to be eight points behind [after losing both games in regulation] . . . and not many games are left to catch up. It would be very, very difficult. It's not going to depend only on you. It's going to depend more on other teams than you. That's how important these games [are]."

Even if Bryzgalov's comments are valid, it's counterproductive to make these kinds of statements in the media because they add even more pressure to a team that is already facing high expectations in the second half of the season.

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You don't talk about your team's possible demise when there's still enough time to make up ground in the playoff race. That doesn't send a good message to fans and season ticket holders who aren't sure if they want to support a team playing this poorly over the final month-and-a-half of the season.

Throughout his brief Flyers career that began last season, Bryzgalov has not handled the media well. He has caused too many distractions with his comments, whether they were about the team's performance, his own play or topics completely unrelated to hockey (like the universe, for example). To his credit, he has been a little quieter this season, but over the last two weeks, he's answered questions more candidly.

Thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement reached during the recent NHL lockout, all 30 teams have two buyouts to use before the 2014-15 season commences.

Due to his failure to perform at the level expected of a No. 1 goaltender on a playoff team, in addition to the distractions he's created, Bryzgalov is one of the first names people bring up when discussing which players are the most likely to be bought out this summer.

If the Flyers don't buy him out over the next two years, then there will be six more seasons left on his contract, which also has a $5.67 million salary cap hit (per Capgeek).

Unless Bryzgalov dramatically improves, which is unlikely, that's not a contract that the Flyers can afford to have, especially when Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and other important young players will be eligible for free agency over the next three years.

As the chart below shows, Bryzgalov's statistics are actually worse in 2013 than they were in his first season with the Flyers.

Year W/L/T SV% GAA SO
2011-12 33-16-7 .909 2.48 6
2012-13 12-12-1 .896 2.86 1

Luckily for the Flyers, they have an owner in Ed Snider who can afford an enormous buyout to end the Bryzgalov era in Philadelphia. This is what his buyout would look like, according to Capgeek:

Ilya Bryzgalov buyout from CapGeek.com

  • 2013-14: -$690,476
  • 2014-15: $1,309,524
  • 2015-16: $1,309,524
  • 2016-17: $1,809,524
  • 2017-18: $1,809,524
  • 2018-19: $5,059,524
  • 2019-20: $6,059,524
  • 2020-21: $1,642,857
  • 2021-22: $1,642,857
  • 2022-23: $1,642,857
  • 2023-24: $1,642,857
  • 2024-25: $1,642,857
  • 2025-26: $1,642,857
  • 2026-27: $1,642,857

 

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

It would be unfair to blame all the Flyers' problems on Bryzgalov, but he has been too inconsistent this season and gives up too many soft goals.

The lack of talent and depth on the Flyers' blue line has put Bryzgalov in a difficult situation this season, but when the defense breaks down, you need your goaltender to make big saves at important times, and Bryzgalov has not made very many of these saves in 2013.

If the team doesn't play a defensive-minded style of hockey, then Bryzgalov won't be successful. He played well for the Phoenix Coyotes earlier in his career because Dave Tippett's teams play a fundamentally strong defensive game, and Bryzgalov didn't have to face a ton of shots each night or bail out his defensemen because of breakdowns in the neutral zone.

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This isn't the case in Philadelphia because head coach Peter Laviolette plays a run-n-gun style of hockey that focuses too much on scoring goals. Bryzgalov is a system goalie and doesn't fit the style of play that the Flyers are built for.

Making a big signing to bring Bryzgalov to Philadelphia was worth the risk two years ago because the Flyers had just been swept by the Boston Bruins in the second round of the playoffs after goaltending was a major issue for them during the 2010-11 season.

Unfortunately for the Flyers, Bryzgalov has not played well over the last year-and-a-half and isn't a good fit in Philadelphia.

It's time for the Flyers to part ways with Bryzgalov (even if they make the playoffs), buy him out and find a more dependable goaltender that will be more consistent, excel in the team's style of play and not create distractions with his comments to the media.

 

Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs.

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