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PHT’s top 13 of ’13: Flyers buy out Bryzgalov

Dec 25, 2013, 5:00 PM EDT

Ilya Bryzgalov Getty Images

After falling just shy of winning the Stanley Cup in 2010, the Philadelphia Flyers were swept in the second round of the 2011 playoffs.

At that point, the Flyers thought they were one good goaltender short of a parade. Sergei Bobrovsky had been solid in his rookie campaign, but the inexperienced netminder struggled in his first playoff run and the organization wasn’t prepared to take a chance with him leading the charge again.

Instead, they dealt forwards Jeff Carter and Mike Richards in separate trades to free up the cap space necessary to sign Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year, $51 million contract in June 2011.

“He does give us stability,” Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said at the time, per TSN.ca.

Yeah, that didn’t happen.

Instead, what the Flyers got was one of the most remarkable blunders in recent history. Bryzgalov wasn’t always bad, but never justified his paycheck. Despite that, it was stunning to see the plug being pulled on the experiment after just two seasons as Holmgren called Bryzgalov a “costly mistake” after buying him out.

Part of Holmgren’s motivation might have come from Bryzgalov’s interviews as much as his struggles on the ice. After just one campaign, the Flyers GM had already complained that his goaltender shouldn’t act like he was on Comedy Central.

In that vein of not taking things seriously, Bryzgalov also reportedly fell asleep during a team meeting, took issue with the Philadelphia media during an interview and had some problems with the Russian media as well.

When he was bought out, Bryzgalov did thank the Flyers, but his agent Ritch Winter blasted the team’s defensive system and claimed it was “terrible for goaltenders in Philadelphia.”

Goaltender Steve Mason might disagree with that. He’s just one of the many players that has been positively impacted, some more bizarrely than others, by Bryzgalov’s move to Philadelphia. In the end, perhaps that’s the weirdest part of this story.

Carter and Richards obviously won the Stanley Cup within a year of getting traded, but they weren’t the only ones that could be called winners in all of this.

Bobrovsky was dealt eventually too because of Bryzgalov’s presence and he went on to win the Vezina Trophy. His rise combined with Bryzgalov’s ongoing struggles in Philadelphia, led to Mason finally getting a change of scenery that has, for the most part, been a plus for him.

You could even say it helped Mike Smith as he got a golden opportunity with the Coyotes after Bryzgalov snubbed them in favor of Philadelphia. Smith took full advantage of that opportunity and that led to him getting a six-year, $34 million contract.

In the end, it’s hard to even call Bryzgalov a loser in all of this because, while he obviously had different expectations in mind when he left the small market Phoenix Coyotes in pursuit of the Stanley Cup, he’s still going to make roughly $1.6 million annually through 2026-27.

So the only obvious losers in all of this were the Flyers, for two reasons: 1) they’ll be writing checks for over a decade to a goaltender they barely got any use out of and no longer want anything to do with, and 2) he completely failed provide the stability that Holmgren sought.

As such, Philadelphia’s quest for its first Cup since 1975 goes on.

  1. icelovinbrotha215 - Dec 25, 2013 at 5:26 PM

    Never a dull moment here in Philadelphia…

  2. blomfeld - Dec 25, 2013 at 6:23 PM

    “He does give us stability” …

    this statement by Holmgren is almost as idiotic as Neville Chamberlain in ’38 sounding off about ‘peace in our time’ etc … the bottom line is that Holmgren should be fired immediately and sent to a local authority for a ‘comprehensive’ mental health assessment … in addition, the Flyers should cancel any further payments to Bryzgalov due to gross ‘breach of contract’ on his part … and failing that, an invitation to a ‘spaghetti dinner’ with some of the boys, might be an idea …

    MERRY CHRISTMAS FLYER FANS AND GOD SPEED TO YOU

  3. ray2013 - Dec 25, 2013 at 6:54 PM

    He hasn’t been with the Oilers long, but he has brought stability to their goalie situation. They were horrible with Dubnyk and LaBarbera.

    Too bad he signed late to the Oilers.They might still be in the playoff hunt had he been signed in the off-season.

    • narfmoo12 - Dec 26, 2013 at 10:33 AM

      So 2.80/.915 is stability? Low standards.

      • ray2013 - Dec 28, 2013 at 12:47 AM

        If you watch the Oilers at all, in the pre-season, they were excited because they were in the playoff hunt until the last few weeks of the season last year, so they were hoping to make the jump this year.

        So to get around .880 sv% blew their chances to do anything. So the jump to .915 from .880 is pretty big. The standards are low in Edmonton.

    • flyerspsu - Dec 26, 2013 at 12:07 PM

      You seriously think Bryzgalov starting the season w/ the Oilers would have them in the playoff hunt?

      • ray2013 - Dec 28, 2013 at 12:42 AM

        I’m not saying he’ll win the Vezina. He’s just better than the league’s worst (which is what the Oilers had). And if you watched the team, it really messed with their confidence. Now that they’re getting average goaltending, they’re playing much better.

  4. kastout11 - Dec 26, 2013 at 8:15 AM

    I like Bryzgalov, but buying out his contract was the right move for the Flyers. I think he will be an OK goalie for a franchise that really has no expectations for the next few years. The Oilers are building and should be good in a few years, but Bryzy should be gone by then.

    • biasedhomer - Dec 26, 2013 at 11:54 AM

      He is bad as a starter and even a backup. He is done. Unless he is playing in a system that shelters goalies.

  5. joey4id - Dec 26, 2013 at 8:39 AM

    from tsn.ca

    Flyers chairman, and founder, Ed Snider told The Associated Press the team is closer to winning a Stanley Cup now, rather than before the shakeup.

    “Yes, I do,” he said. “I like our goaltending, I like our defence, I like our forwards. We moved things around a little bit. I really think we’re stronger.” – Ed Snider after trading Richards & Carter, & and signing Bryzgalov.

    Here is Bryz talking about the weather in Edm which according to him is worse than in his home town and is the reason Pronger asked to be traded.

    Sounds like his jock was a bit tight on that day.

  6. phillyphanatic77 - Dec 26, 2013 at 12:26 PM

    Despite the Flyers mediocre record I’m thankful every day that this clown is no longer manning our crease. Ppl could blame the D all they want but I’ve watched enough hockey to know when a goalie is nothing more than average (even at his best). If he wasn’t 6’3″ his GAA would be around 4 every season because he’s slow as molasses post-to-post.

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