Philadelphia Flyers: Did the Team Keep the Wrong Goaltender?

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Philadelphia Flyers: Did the Team Keep the Wrong Goaltender?
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Flyers traded away young goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to the Columbus Blue Jackets during the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and decided to stick with its current goalie, Ilya Bryzgalov, for the long run.

But was it the right move?

In the summer of 2010, Bobrovsky, an undrafted free agent, signed with the Flyers and was quickly thrown into the spotlight. Philly's starting goalie, Michael Leighton, went down with an injury—forcing the young netminder to start opening day against the rival Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Flyers won 3-2, as the 22-year-old stopped 29 of 31 shots.

Bobrovksy was the buzz around town and would finish the regular season with a 28-13-8 record, 2.59 average goals against and .915 save percentage (via ESPN).

Meanwhile, the 30-year-old Bryzgalov was posting monster stats with the Phoenix Coyotes ending the season with a 36-20-10 record, 2.29 goals against average and .920 save percentage (via ESPN). In the prior season, Bryz ended as a finalist for the Vezina Trophy in Arizona. 

Dale MacMillan/Getty Images
Bryz was an elite goalie with the Coyotes

Bryz was considered one the best goalies in the NHL.

Unfortunately for Bob, his luck ran out in the playoffs—largely due to head-scratching decisions by his coach Peter Laviolette. The netminder started the opening game against the Buffalo Sabres and lost a hard-fought 1-0 game. 

He was then benched and replaced with Brian Boucher, who reserved Bob throughout the regular season. Boucher started seven games, while Bob started in only three. The Flyers ended up beating the Sabres, but eventually lost to the Boston Bruins in the next round.

Disappointed with the Flyers' outcome and determined to squash Philadelphia's poor goalie reputation, general manager Paul Holmgren made a drastic move and traded for Bryzgalov.

If that wasn't a big enough slap in the face to Bobrovsky, Holmgren wasted little time signing Bryz to one of the most lucrative contracts in Flyers' history at $51 million over nine seasons.

Bob was now taking the back seat.

The two players cordially dealt with the situation, as Bryz took over the reigns in net and Bob played sparingly through the 2011-2012 season. Bryz, needless to say, did not live up to his contract in his first season in Philly and drew heavy criticism from the fans and analysts.

Did the Flyers keep the wrong goalie?

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In a highly publicized decision, Laviolette decided to start Bob in net during the highly-anticipated Winter Classic against the New York Rangers. Even after Bryz gained national popularity from his work on HBO's "24/7" series leading up to the game.

Yet nothing came of the start and Bryz remained the main goalie in Philly. 

Instead of keeping the then 23-year-old goalie, Holmgren sent him to the Columbus Blue Jackets in return for three draft picks. At least it was something.

And in a blink, the Bobrovsky era came to an end.

Currently, the Blue Jackets' netminder is playing some of the best goalie in the NHL. In the month of March, Bobrovsky has gone 8-1-3 with a .960 save percentage. According to BlueJackets.com, Bobrovsky was named one of the NHL's top three stars in consecutive weeks.

As for Bryzgalov, he's played much better hockey than his first season in Philadelphia, but is still struggling for consistent quality play.

Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Bob has been excellent for the Blue Jackets in March

Both goalies play for sub-par hockey clubs but at this stage in the season, Bobrovsky is playing much better goalie than his replacement. The Flyers are stuck between a rock and a hard place with Bryz's monstrous salary and average play, while the Blue Jackets may have a future star in the league for years to come.

Paul Holmgren made a brash decision trading for an established, older goalie and then quickly signing him for an enormous amount of money over a lengthy period of time. The Flyers are now strapped for cash and playing extremely poor hockey.

Yes, the Flyers did keep the wrong goalie. 

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