Philadelphia Flyers: 5 Reasons Why Ilya Bryzgalov Was the Best Goalie Option

Jason Sapunka@moreSapunkaCorrespondent IIJuly 20, 2011

Philadelphia Flyers: 5 Reasons Why Ilya Bryzgalov Was the Best Goalie Option

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    Heading into this offseason, the Philadelphia Flyers' biggest need was to address a goaltending problem that had cut short many playoff runs over the past decade.

    The top free agents available were Ilya Bryzgalov of the Phoenix Coyotes and Tomas Vokoun of the Florida Panthers.

    The Flyers traded for and signed Bryzgalov to a nine-year contract averaging $5.67 million per season.

    When the Washington Capitals signed Vokoun for a one-year deal at $1.5 million, many began to wonder if the Flyers had paid too much to solve their problems.

    However, even with a $4 million higher cap hit than his closest competitor, Bryzgalov was by far the best option in net.

Other Options Were Either Too Old...

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    Tomas Vokoun is 35 years old.

    Tim Thomas has shown that age is sometimes not a factor by winning two Vezina Trophies, a Conn Smythe, and a Stanley Cup all after the age of 35 despite doing none of the above prior to then.

    However, Thomas is a rare case and contradictory to the standard decline which players tend to see as the age of 40 approaches.

    While Vokoun may very well be capable of continuously delivering seasons above a .920 save percentage and is undoubtedly still a quality goaltender, he is a short-term solution.

    The Flyers have a young offense including Claude Giroux, James van Riemsdyk, Brayden Schenn, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, and potentially Sean Couturier. On the defensive side, Andrej Meszaros, Braydon Coburn, and Matt Carle are all aged 25 or younger.

    In five years when Vokoun nears retirement, these players will still have half a career left, and the Flyers would find themselves in the exact situation prior to this offseason; a quality team without a guaranteed starting goaltender.

    Imagine if Vokoun showed his age in a Flyers uniform? Holmgren would be criticized for being cheap and not finding a real solution, just as he was in the 2010 offseason.

...or Unproven

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    Before Washington signed Vokoun, Semyon Varlamov was dealt to the Colorado Avalanche for two draft picks (a first rounder and a second rounder).

    Had the Flyers been interested, they surely could've dealt for Varlamov.

    When the Flyers traded Mike Richards to Los Angeles, the Kings probably could have sent one of their two young goalies in return.

    Between Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier, the Kings would likely trade away the older Quick, as both young goalies have produced similar statistics up to this point.

    The issue with getting Varlamov or Quick is that neither would not have improved the situation the Flyers had in net.

    Career Regular Season Statistics
      Games Save % Goals Against Average
    Semyon Varlamov 59 .917 2.39
    Jonathan Quick 180 .912 2.44
    Sergei Bobrovsky 54 .915

    2.59

    The goalies all fall in a range of save percentage separated by no more than .005%, and a goals-against-average different by no more than 0.2.

    Acquiring Varlamov or Quick would provide no more certainty in net than starting Bobrovsky would.

    The Flyers would be trading for what they already had, and either giving away two draft picks for Varlamov, or likely missing out on Brayden Schenn in the L.A. trade.

This Settles the Issue Without Doubt

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    At age 30, Bryzgalov is neither old nor unproven.

    During the 2010 season, Bryzgalov gathered a .920 save percentage, 2.29 goals-against-average, along with eight shutouts.

    The performance earned him a Vezina Trophy nomination along with Martin Brodeur and Ryan Miller.

    In a career spanning 326 regular season games, Bryzgalov has a .916 save percentage and 2.53 goals-against-average.

    His playoff statistics are nearly identical; in 27 games he has a .917 save percentage and 2.55 goals-against-average.

    During the 2010-2011 season, Bryzgalov's .921 save percentage was 9th among starters, and better than two recent Stanley Cup-winning goalies, Antti Niemi (.920) and Marc-Andre Fleury (.918).

    Bryzgalov's career resume has proven him to be a legitimate starting goaltender, something younger options cannot claim.

    With roughly half a career left to play, this goalie is a long-term solution in Philadelphia, an amenity not shared by an antique option such as Vokoun.

He Was Affordable

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    A common misconception about the Bryzgalov signing is that it resulted in the Mike Richards and Jeff Carter trades.

    However, General Manager Paul Holmgren did not make those trades in order to clear cap space for the goalie. (Reasons behind those trades were explained here and here).

    Furthermore, the Flyers could have signed Bryzgalov and kept Richards and Carter if desired.

    In order to do so, Holmgren simply had to not sign Jaromir Jagr or Maxime Talbot, and trade Sergei Bobrovsky.

    Here is the 22-man roster including Richards, Carter, and Bryzgalov, courtesy of CapGeek.com:

    FORWARDS
    Scott Hartnell ($4.200m) / Daniel Briere ($6.500m) / Michael Testwuide ($0.900m)
    James Van Riemsdyk ($1.654m) / Claude Giroux ($3.750m) / Andreas Nodl ($0.845m)
    Ben Holmstrom ($0.750m) / Mike Richards ($5.750m) / Jeff Carter ($5.272m)
    Jody Shelley ($1.100m) / Blair Betts ($0.700m) / Zac Rinaldo ($0.544m)
    / / Ian Laperriere ($1.166m)

    DEFENSEMEN
    Matt Carle ($3.437m) / Chris Pronger ($4.921m)
    Kimmo Timonen ($6.333m) / Braydon Coburn ($3.200m)
    Andrej Meszaros ($4.000m) / Andreas Lilja ($0.737m)
    Oskars Bartulis ($0.600m)

    GOALTENDERS
    Ilya Bryzgalov ($5.666m) / Johan Backlund ($0.800m) 

    CAP PAYROLL: $64,231,933;
    CAP SPACE (22-man roster): $68,067

He Wants To Win the Cup

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    In a conference call, Bryzgalov stated his intention to "be the guy" Philadelphia has been looking for.

    Philadelphia has been longing for the goalie possessing not only the ability, but the drive to bring the cup back to one of hockey's most passionate, dedicated groups of fans.

    Everybody understood the accolades received by this Russian netminder were earned during his career thus far; playing ability was not a question.

    Uncertainty lay in whether or not he can perform when necessary

    Fans of the Broad Street hockey team should be happy to hear where their new goalie's mind rests.

    "I want to help this team win the Stanley Cup," Bryzgalov said. "Because people in Philadelphia and the organization have waited long enough."

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